In the last eleven years, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has circled the globe thirteen times to talk on Krsna consciousness with disciples, reporters, professors, and public officials. What follows is a sampling of highlights from Srila Prabhupada's tour of America this summer.
On June 1 Srila Prabhupada arrived in Los Angeles, and he spent ten days at ISKCON's world headquarters there before flying to Detroit. At Detroit's ISKCON center he met with Mr. George Gullen, president of Wayne State University.
Mr. Gullen: I think we are terribly caught up in things not of the spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Material things, like your body or my body, are temporary. They will not last. The body has taken birth at a certain date, it will endure for a certain number of years, and then it will be finished. But the spirit that will continue. It will accept another body. Just as I gave up my childhood body and accepted the body of a boy, then gave up my boyhood body and accepted the body of a young man, similarly, my present body (I am now an old man) will soon be finished, and I will accept another body. So the spirit soul is eternal and the body is temporary. We are taking care of the body very much, and that is required, but what about the spirit soul? This education is lacking.
Mr. Gullen: Yes, this is true.
Srila Prabhupada: The human body is especially important because, unlike the cats and dogs, it has complete consciousness by which we can understand God. Therefore, if we do not use this developed consciousness for understanding God and our relationship with Him, then we are no better than cats and dogs. The distinction between animals and man is that we can be educated about God. But modern education is keeping people in ignorance about God. It is keeping them on the level of cats and dogs. And how can you have peace among cats and dogs? If you bring all the dogs of your city together, will they sit down peacefully? No, it is not possible. So, if we keep our citizens on the level of cats and dogs, how can we expect peace? The leaders of society must take to Krsna consciousness, or God consciousness, if they are serious about the advancement of civilization.
Mr. Gullen: We do not teach these things in public schools because we do not know about them.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Now you must decide whether to remain in ignorance or learn this science and teach it. This Krsna consciousness is not sectarian; it is a science for the whole human society.
Mr. Gullen: Personally, I would like to learn more. I think this is good for the whole world. It is needed.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the opportunity of the human form of life must be utilized for self-realization. There is no alternative; otherwise, human life will be spoiled. Suppose a person is due to receive his father's money. If someone checks him so that he does not get it, that's a heinous act. The actual inheritor must get it; that is justice. Similarly, in this human form of life one can receive education about God. If it is lacking, then one misses the opportunity to fulfill the mission of human life. Then, after death, there is a chance of falling down into the lower species of life. Although anyone can see that the body is changing at every moment, even highly educated men don't believe the soul continues after death. If one does not understand this simple truth, he is not even a gentleman, what to speak of a learned scholar.
Mr. Gullen: Thank you.
June 12. Michigan state congressman Jackie Vaughn works in Detroit's inner city to improve relationships between blacks and whites. He talked with Srila Prabhupada about some of the city's social problems.
Congressman Vaughn: I have been trying to do good to people, especially poor people.
Srila Prabhupada: Everyone tries to help others. The cat is anxious to give protection to her kittens. The birds bring food to their offspring, and the little ones are so engladdened when the mother comes: "Here is food! Here is food!" So this sentiment of doing good is also there in the animals, but these are not actual welfare activities. Animals are interested only in their body, while humans are interested in the extensions of their body wife, children, society, community, or the whole nation. When there is some national crisis, the separate communities forget their small interests and lay down their lives for the nation. In this way there is progress, but this progress is not perfection. If you water the branches of a tree, someone else waters the leaves, someone the fruits, someone the twigs it is all imperfect. One who waters the root is perfect. And the root is God. Otherwise, all partial endeavors are a failure. The history of the world shows different nations trying for their separate interests, and all unsuccessful in the end.
Congressman Vaughn: It appears that progress is slow in improving black-and-white relationships. I guess it's because we're not taking first things first.
Srila Prabhupada: That means we're acting in ignorance. We do not know what is the first thing. But if we pour water on the root, that is, if we make God the center of our activities, then everything is all right. Otherwise, it is a failure.
In America a common slogan is "In God we trust." But unless we know scientifically how God is the only trustworthy person, how can we trust in Him? If I do not know what God is, how can I trust in Him? So everything should be understood scientifically. We should study what God is and how we should put our faith and trust in Him. Krsna consciousness teaches this science of God. The government should cooperate with us in teaching the people the science of God.
June 15. Today, Srila Prabhupada received a visit from Monsignor Clement Kern and Rev. Edward L. Scheuerman. The priests expressed their concern about the worldwide lack of God consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: People in general are out of God consciousness. Is this not so?
Msgr. Kern: Yes, I would agree. Consciousness of God is definitely on the wane. It is difficult even to speak about God. There is no willingness to listen.
Srila Prabhupada: Why have people come to this condition? They are not prepared even to hear about God. A priest in Boston said to me, "Your disciples come from Christian and Jewish families. Yet they were not coming to our church. They never inquired about God. But now the same boys and girls are mad after God." In Los Angeles we purchased a big church. It was vacant; no one was coming. But now, although the church is the same and the people are the same (residents of Los Angeles), it is always packed.
Msgr. Kern: Hopefully, that is a sign that young people are seeking to change their lives for the better.
Devotee: The reason why Krsna consciousness attracts us, whereas Western religion did not, is that Srila Prabhupada is giving specific information about the Supreme Person not just that God is great, but how God is great, what His name is, what His form is. Generally, this information is lacking. But the Vedic books give specific information about God.
Msgr. Kern: God reveals Himself to us in many ways, but many people do not wish to see Him.
Srila Prabhupada: There is one verse in the Bhagavad-gita [7.28] which says that those who are addicted to sinful life cannot understand God. Therefore, sinful activities must be stopped. If you allow people to continue their sinful activities, how can you expect them to understand God? How can you expect that God will be revealed to them? It is not possible.
Father Scheuerman: Yes, I agree. We, too, see sin as that which separates us from God.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because people are entangled in sinful activities, they are unable to understand God. And one of the worst sins in human society is animal killing. There is a verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [10.1.4] that states, "The glorification of the Lord is done by the liberated person. Such glorification is so sublime. Therefore, who except the animal killer can refrain from glorification of the Lord?"
So human beings should stop killing animals and learn to cooperate with each other. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna orders that human society must be divided into four divisions, and that they should cooperate to understand God. Just as in our body we have the head, the arms, the belly, and the legs, and all the parts cooperate for maintaining the body, so society should also have a "head," "arms," and so forth.
Father Scheuerman: So, you are seeking to train the intelligent men to be first-class so that they can teach others?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Here are the qualities of a first-class man: peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness [Bg. 18.42].
Father Scheuerman: Yes, these are worthy goals.
Srila Prabhupada: So where is the institution that is teaching this? Most institutions teach technology. But if there are no first-class men no brain in society who will guide the others, the hands and legs?
Father Scheuerman: Yes. Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all other things will be added."
Srila Prabhupada: If the first-class man is at the head of society, everything will be done properly.
Father Scheuerman: What about the downtrodden, the poor?
Srila Prabhupada: A man is really poor when he is in ignorance. The food problem can be solved. In America, Australia, Africa there is so much land lying vacant. Men are not engaged in growing food grains, but are instead brought to Detroit to manufacture automobiles.
Father Scheuerman: You want to correct the problems of the world by the indirect approach by training men who will be qualified to execute a solution. We believe in direct, person-to-person help feeding the hungry.
Srila Prabhupada: In Bengal we are daily supplying at least one thousand people with food. Here in Detroit, and at all our other centers, we feed everyone who comes.
Father Scheuerman: So you utilize the direct approach as well.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Anyone who comes is getting not only food and shelter but also spiritual education. We are teaching people to be first-class, how to avoid being implicated in sinful activity. I have not imported these boys and girls from India. They are all recruited here.
Father Scheuerman: Your Eastern program seems to have great appeal for young people.
Srila Prabhupada: It is not Eastern or Western. To become peaceful is that Eastern or Western? Peaceful is peaceful. Krsna consciousness is meant for everyone.
June 16. Srila Prabhupada flew to Toronto, where his disciples gave him a warm reception at the airport. The following day, Kathy Kerr of the Toronto Star asked Srila Prabhupada to explain what the Krsna consciousness movement is.
Kathy Kerr: I understand that your movement is an extension of the Hindu religion.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is not correct. You will not even find the word Hindu in the Vedic scriptures. Real religion, or dharma, is not a kind of faith. It is the eternal characteristic of all living entities. It is compared to a chemical composition. For example, the chemical composition of sugar makes it sweet. If something is pungent, you can know for sure that it is not sugar. Similarly, the eternal characteristic of all living entities is the same to serve the Supreme Lord and the Vedic system is meant to train human beings to come to this ultimate goal of life. That system is called the varnasrama-dharma, which gradually trains one how to be a perfect human being and understand the goal of life. It is not for a particular sect or nation, but for the whole human society.
Kathy Kerr: How do you teach people to become perfect?
Srila Prabhupada: The first thing is to understand our spiritual identification we are not this body. But at present everyone all over the world is under the bodily concept of life. This misconception is the defect of modern civilization. They are taking care of the body but have no information of the soul, the living force within the body. The whole human society is going on in ignorance, so we are trying to give knowledge. Our books are being well received; we are printing and distributing millions. This is our service, and it is meant for all human beings, not just Hindus or Christians or Muslims. Krsna consciousness is a science meant for everyone. I have not come to preach Hinduism. What is the use of changing Christians to Hindus? We want to make all human beings perfect in knowledge.
Kathy Kerr: Is there more than one way to do this?
Srila Prabhupada: There is only one way: to realize our spiritual identity. A spirit soul is within you and within me. Your skin may be white and mine may be colored, but within, the soul is the same. And there is a process to understand the soul. It is very simple: you were once a child, but now that body is gone. So where is that child's body? You have changed bodies, but you are the same. Why can't people understand this simple truth? Suppose I see you in this dress, and the next day I see you in another dress. If I know you, I will not be confused; I will know that you have simply changed your dress. Similarly, we are changing our bodily "dress" from child to youth to adult. Medical science confirms that our body is changing at every moment.
Kathy Kerr: Does that mean you deny your body?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Your dress is not unimportant, but you are more important than your dress.
Kathy Kerr: Would you say that your movement is more educational than religious?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is educational. It is also a religion, but not a man-made religion. As I have explained, the soul is the same everywhere, just as sugar is the same whether you are in Europe or America. The soul is suffering because of the material body. We are teaching everyone how to get out of the material body and stay in the original, spiritual body.
Kathy Kerr: Why is there so much attraction to this movement?
Srila Prabhupada: Because we are giving the real spiritual facts. We do not bluff by saying "Meditate and become God." Krsna consciousness is the science of how to understand God, how to understand yourself, and how to reestablish your relationship with God.
June 18. Professor Sivaraman of McMaster University asked Srila Prabhupada, "Do you think that bhakti [devotion to God] is the solution to the problems of the world? "Here is Prabhupada's answer:
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Bhakti is your natural position. You are protected, and God is the protector. That is a fact. You cannot live a moment without His protection. Therefore, your real identification is that you are the eternal servant of Krsna.
The relationship between God and us is like the relationship between a father and his children. The father's duty is to maintain the children, and the children's duty is to remain obedient to the father. That is bhakti. Then the family is peaceful. Modern civilization is missing the father. They see only the children and the mother, the material nature. The root cause of all problems is that we are missing the father. Our research work cannot help us understand the father. One must take knowledge through theVedas to understand. Here in the Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Father personally comes to teach. Krsna says, "I am the Supreme Father."
June 21. Srila Prabhupada arrived in New Vrindavan, ISKCON's thousand-acre farm in Moundsville, West Virginia. Here are some of his opening words to the devotees there:
Srila Prabhupada: The prominent trend in modern civilization is to improve the economic condition in other words, to improve the standard of sense gratification. Lower grades of life, like aquatics, insects, birds, and beasts, are only interested in sense enjoyment eating, sleeping, sex, and defense. And we mistakenly think that our standard of happiness is higher than that of these other living entities. But in any kind of sex life, whether between dogs or between human beings, the pleasure is the same. Don't think that when the dogs enjoy sex life on the public street, their pleasure is any less than ours when we have sex life in a luxurious apartment. No. The pleasure is the same. We think that our pleasure in eating nice food is greater then the pig's pleasure in eating stool. But no, the pig is also getting the same pleasure. So economic development cannot improve the quality of pleasure. That is not possible.
Therefore, economic development is unnecessary. By God's arrangement everything is provided for. As anyone can see, He is providing for all the animals, from the ant to the elephant; and they are not endeavoring for economic development. So does that mean we don't have to work? No. We must work, but not for eating, sleeping, sex life, and defense. Rather, we must work for Krsna and try to understand Krsna. The human being's business is to understand Krsna. If you don't try to understand Krsna but simply try to improve your eating, this is not civilization. The Krsna consciousness movement is presenting a new life for civilization: how to become a servant of Krsna. After that, everything else will come automatically.
June 30. Mike Darby of the Wheeling Intelligencer talked with Srila Prabhupada about religionists who don't believe in God, and about scientists who believe that life comes from chemicals.
Mike Darby: I understand that your movement is trying to educate people.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We are just coming from Detroit. They have so many factories there for automobiles, but nothing to educate people to the right path.
Mike Darby: Aren't the Christians also trying to guide people along the spiritual path?
Srila Prabhupada: The Christians are passing resolutions according to time and circumstances, and they are changing the instructions of the Bible. How can they be called followers of Christ? For example, the Bible states, "Thou shall not kill." But the Christians are killing; they are maintaining slaughterhouses. Why? It is clearly stated in the Commandments, "Thou shall not kill." So what is their qualification? If they are violating the law themselves, how can they guide anyone?
Mike Darby: I have met people who call themselves Christians, but who deny the existence of God.
Srila Prabhupada: Not only Christians, but the whole world is now denying God. Religion has become a subject for laughter, and if someone is God conscious, he is considered fool number one not very advanced. The rascal scientists think in this way, and they bluff you into believing that life is produced from chemicals. But when we challenge them, "Can you make an egg with chemicals and put it in the incubator until a chicken hatches?" they will not answer. Anyone can see the composition of an egg a little white and yellow substance. There are many chemicals that are white, and many that are yellow. We challenge the scientists to combine the right ones into an egg, put a shell around it, and produce a chicken. They cannot do this, and they will never be able to do it. But still they assert that life is coming from chemicals, and people accept this bluff.
Mike Darby: The scientists say life comes from chemicals, but they haven't begun to prove it.
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, any sane man can understand that life is not produced from chemicals. He simply has to analyze his body to try to find out the source of life. The first analysis is the breathing. Suppose a man has just died. Someone may say, "Because his breathing has stopped, he is dead." But what is this breathing? Simply air. With a machine you can make air pass through his lungs, but will that bring him back to life? Similarly, you can analyze anything the blood, the skin, the muscles, the bone, the stool, the urine but you will fail to find the source of life. Then why do the scientists say life is a combination of chemicals? Can they take all the elements of the body and produce another body? They are talking nonsense, and foolish people are accepting. And they are being paid a high salary for this at the cost of the taxpayer.
Now they claim to have gone to the moon. Whether they have actually gone is doubtful, but in any case, why are they coming back again? That is our challenge. If they have gone to the moon, they should colonize there. Why come back to the earth? Why not live there? Then the overpopulation problem will be solved, and they can start their industry, drill for oil, and so on. Why do they not do that? They simply spend billions of dollars and bluff people into thinking that they have gone to the moon. And the people are so satisfied that now they are paying for another excursion to Mars.
Mike Darby: Scientists say the moon's atmosphere is unsuitable for life.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why do the rascals spend so much money to go there?
Mike Darby: To impress the people.
Srila Prabhupada: That means they are bluffers, and people are so foolish that they do not challenge them. Now they are going to Mars to bring back some more dust and rock at the taxpayers' expense. They are spending so much money for nothing! If one tenth of the money was given to us to spread Krsna consciousness, not a single penny would be wasted. But no, they would rather spend millions of dollars to bring back some dust. Is that a very sane government? Why don't the people challenge the government? They have this power. When they found that they had been cheated by Nixon that he had captured the presidential post for his own satisfaction they agitated and got him down. The people are blind, and they are being led by blind leaders. The result is catastrophe.
July 3. After a short flight, Srila Prabhupada arrived at the ISKCON center in Washington, D.C. In his quarters there he talked again about scientists, this time with Sadaputa dasa, one of his Ph.D. -holding disciples.
Sadaputa dasa: Many scientists claim that life comes from the molecules of a primordial chemical soup made of water, ammonia, and hydrocarbons, and influenced by ultraviolet radiation. After the radiation has bombarded the chemicals for a long time, amino acids, then proteins, form by chance. In other words, the scientists say life is the result of chance molecular forces acting over a long time span.
Srila Prabhupada: They would have us wait millions of years before life comes. But I can see practically that after a bird lays an egg, life comes within a week. A bird can create life within a week, but a scientist will say, "Oh, no, it takes millions of years."
Sadaputa dasa: Yes. This theory that life comes from molecules makes life appear meaningless, and therefore we feel it is the root cause of the moral breakdown we are experiencing in society today.
Srila Prabhupada: We don't condemn the scientists. We say, "Take credit for as much as you like, but do not deny the existence of God. You have created the 747 jet. All right, take the credit. But you can't create a mosquito. A mosquito is nothing but a small airplane, with a pilot. So just admit that there is a supreme creator. You cannot see Him, but He exists nonetheless."
July 5. Mr. David Loomis, Presbyterian minister and chaplain at the University of Maryland, came to see Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada: Our philosophy is that endeavors for material happiness result in loss of time and energy, with no actual profit. But endeavor for Krsna consciousness results in self-realization, the highest goal of life. In Indian civilization there are so many books of knowledge, vast libraries but there is no instruction for starting factories and industries. This drinking, gambling, meat-eating, and prostitution only help us to forget the real business of life.
Mr. Loomis: I see that this room is pleasing. It is tastefully decorated. So, when is sense gratification helpful?
Srila Prabhupada: Only when it is absolutely necessary. Take sleeping, for instance. Sleeping is required because the material body must rest. But sleeping is a waste of time: as long as you sleep, you cannot do any work. Therefore, sleep should be minimized. That is austerity: to voluntarily accept some hardship for the advancement of spiritual life. Eating, sleeping, sex, and defense should all be minimized by practice. And the more we minimize these, the more we can advance in spiritual life.
Mr. Loomis: Why is it better to have a human body than a dog's body?
Srila Prabhupada: Because you can utilize the human body for a higher purpose. Since you have a human body, you are sitting here and listening to me. A dog cannot hear about spiritual life. Therefore, the human body should be engaged in inquiring about the Absolute Truth. Unfortunately, in the modern civilization people are only interested in the comforts of the body.
July 7. Author Bill Sauber and Dr. Dinesh Sharma, of the National Institute of Art, talked with Srila Prabhupada about travel to other planets.
Bill Sauber: I met your disciples in the airport, and I found the things they said interesting. I agree with you that human society has to adopt a life-style that is a little simpler. We cannot use our material resources unnecessarily. Also, I spoke to the devotees about going to other planets. This, I think, is very important.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is possible to go to other planets. You can go to the higher planets, where the duration of life is very long. Our six months is equal to one day there. And everyone there lives ten thousand years composed of such days. But they also die; life is not permanent there, either. Although the standard of life is very high, there is still birth, death, old age, and disease. But if you transfer yourself to the spiritual world, then you do not get another material body. You do not die.
Bill Sauber: Don't you have to carry your material body to other planets?
Srila Prabhupada: That is in the material world. But we each have a spiritual body, without any material covering. With it you can transfer to the spiritual world. Everything in the material world will be destroyed, but there is another nature, a spiritual world, where you don't require this material body. There you remain in your spiritual body.
[At this point Drs. Sharma and Sauber began a short discussion of their ideas and philosophies.]
Do not try to understand the inconceivable by argument. In whatever way we go on arguing, we cannot come to a conclusion. In Krsna consciousness our process is to take knowledge from the authority. The modern scientists and philosophers argue, but they come to no conclusion. They are just like two lawyers arguing in court: no conclusion is reached until the decision is given by the authority, the judge. And his decision they have to accept. It is final. So we accept the authority of Krsna, who is accepted as the authority by all the acaryas [spiritual teachers] and the sastras [scriptures]. His authority is confirmed, and if we take His conclusions then we benefit. Otherwise, if we go on arguing with our limited knowledge, we cannot understand the conclusion. If you are perplexed, you should accept the proper authority. And that is Krsna.
Before leaving the United States for ISKCON's European headquarters, near London, Srila Prabhupada stopped to visit the Hare Krishna Building, in New York. On July 16. George Orwell of Associated Press came to do an interview.
Mr. Orwell: Are you saying that this material life is like an evil prison, and that the real goal is another life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Now you have understood. This material life, with its repeated birth, disease, old age, and death, is not a desirable life. To live in this jail is not desirable.
Mr. Orwell: In other words, in a sense, one should repudiate this life, this world.
Srila Prabhupada: Not repudiate understand.
Mr. Orwell: That it is not a good life?
Srila Prabhupada: That it is not a good life. The material world means false identification of the body with the self.
Mr. Orwell: Well, isn't it important to try to improve this life so it won't be a prison?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and to improve it means to understand that I am not a person of the jail; I am a person of freedom. The trouble is that, after living in the jail for a long time, one tends to think, "Outside the jail I cannot live."
Mr. Orwell: Well, I hope we all get out of it somehow, some way.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and that is why we are trying to educate the prisoners: "Your life is not perfect within the jail. Your perfect life is outside the jail." This is our education.
Mr. Orwell: Life cannot be perfect in the jail?
Srila Prabhupada: No, but when we try to instruct them, the persons in the jail are thinking, "What is this? He is not working to improve the jail life?" They are such fools and rascals that they cannot understand that one can live outside the jail.
Mr. Orwell: If you are not working for the jail life, why are you here?
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose a man has gone to jail and he becomes reformed. He may take up the task of giving education to the prisoners: "My dear brothers, this life is not good. Become honest. Then you will be released from jail and not have to return." So the other prisoners are working hard. They are hammering bricks. But instead of taking his advice, they resent him: "This man is not hammering bricks. He is only talking."
Mr. Orwell: In other words, you think people should get away from what they are doing in the world?
Srila Prabhupada: No, don't misunderstand. As long as you are in the jail, you have to work according to the principles of the jail. But you must know that jail life is not good, that it is not all in all.
Mr. Orwell: Well, when you get through instructing the men hammering the bricks, are they going to lay down their hammers, too?
Srila Prabhupada: No, they don't need to. Try to understand. They may continue hammering, but their knowledge will be complete. At least they must know, "This hammering is not our real business; it is our punishment." That is knowledge.
Mr. Orwell: Isn't that a rather negative way to look at it?
Srila Prabhupada: Why negative? That is a positive understanding. If you are suffering, and I say, "Don't suffer," is that negative, or is that positive?
Mr. Orwell: Why is work in the world necessarily suffering? It is a mixture of pain and joy. It seems negative to look upon it as all punishment.
Srila Prabhupada: That is why people are envious of Krsna conscious men. People say, "These men are not hammering like us. They must think there is no value in our hammering." In this way, most people think hammering is the real business of life. So, our business is to educate them: "Your hammering is not your real business. Freedom is your real business."