Whether communist or capitalistic,
a society not divided by the four
natural divisions will be in chaos.
This conversation with Professor C. G. Kotovsky took place in Moscow in 1971. Professor Kotovsky was then head of the India Studies Department of the University of Moscow.
Srila Prabhupada: The other day I was reading the paper Moscow News. There was a Communist congress, and the president declared, "We are ready to take others' experience to improve." So I think the Vedic conception of socialism or communism will much improve the idea of communism. . . . Modern society takes the people as a whole as the proprietor of a certain state, but the Vedic conception is isavasyam idam sarvam everything is owned by Krishna, the supreme controller. Tena tyaktena bhunjithah you may enjoy what is allotted to you by Him. Ma grdhah kasya svid dhanam: but do not encroach upon others' property. This is the Isopanisad Veda. The same idea is explained in the different Puranas. There are many good concepts in the Vedic literature about communism. So I thought that these ideas should be distributed to your most thoughtful men. There fore I was anxious to speak.
Prof. Kotovsky: It is interesting that here in our country there is now great interest in the history of old, old thought. From this point of view, our institute translated into Russian and published many literary monuments of great Indian culture. . . .It seems to me that in Moscow and Leningrad libraries we have nearly all the major texts of ancient Indian culture, beginning from the Vedas, the original texts in Sanskrit. For instance, in the Leningrad branch of our institute there are six or eight editions of Manu-smrti.This institute was founded in Imperial Russia in Leningrad, so in Leningrad we now have a branch of our institute dealing mainly with the history of Asiatic culture. You will find here an account of what is being translated and what studies are being done on the history of Indian religion and also the state of Indian religion, Hinduism, in Hindu India today.
Srila Prabhupada: Hinduism is a very complex topic.
Prof. Kotovsky: Oh, yes. [They laugh.] Really, to my understanding, it is not a religion from the European point of view; it is a way of life religion, philosophy, a way of life, whatever you want.
Srila Prabhupada: This word "Hindu" is not a Sanskrit word. It was given by the Mohammedans. You know that there is a river Indus which in Sanskrit is called Sindhu. The Mohammedans pronounce s as h. Instead of Sindhu, they made it Hindu.So "Hindu" is a term that is not found in the Sanskrit dictionary, but it has come into use. But the real cultural institution is called varnasrama. There are four varnas (social divisions) brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra and four asramas (spiritual divisions brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. According to the Vedic concept of life, unless people take to this system or institution of four varnas and four asramas, actually they do not become civilized human beings. One has to take this process of four divisions of social orders and four divisions of spiritual orders; that is called varnasrama. India's culture is based on this age-old Vedic system.
Prof. Kotovsky: Varnasrama.
Srila Prabhupada: Varnasrama. And in the Bhagavad-gita perhaps you have read the Bhagavad-gita.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: There, in the Bhagavad-gita [4.13], is the statement catur-varnyam maya srstam: this system was created by Visnu [God]. So since varnasrama is the creation of the Supreme, it cannot be changed. It is prevalent everywhere. It is like the sun. The sun is a creation of the Supreme. The sunshine is there in America, in Russia, and in India everywhere. Similarly, this varnasrama system is prevalent everywhere in some form or another. Take, for example, the brahmanas, the most intelligent class of men. They are the brains of society. The ksatriyas are the administrative class; then the vaisyas are the productive class, and the sudras are the worker class. These four classes of men are prevalent everywhere under different names. Because it is created by the original creator, so it is prevalent everywhere, varnasrama-dharma.
Prof. Kotovsky: It is interesting that in the opinion of some European and old Russian scholars, this varnasrama system is a later creation, and if you would read the old texts of Vedic literature, you would find a much more simple and agrarian society. It is the opinion of these scholars that the varnasrama system was introduced in Indian society in the late age of the Vedic era but not from the beginning. And if you would analyze the old texts, you would find that in the old classical India it was not so prevalent.
Srila Prabhupada: As far as we are concerned, it is mentioned in Bhagavad-gita. Catur-varnyam maya srstam. The Bhagavad-gita was spoken five thousand years ago, and in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, "This system of the Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Me to the sun-god." So if you take an estimation of that period, it comes to forty million years ago. Can the European scholars trace back history five thousand years? Can they go back forty million years? We have evidence that this varnasramasystem has been current at least five thousand years. The varnasrama system is also mentioned in the Visnu Purana [3.8.9]. Varnasramacaravata purusena parah puman. That is stated in the Visnu Purana. Varnasrama-dharma is not a phenomenon of a historical period calculated in the modern age. It is natural. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam the comparison is given that just as in the body there are four divisions the brain division, the arms division, the belly division, and the leg division so by nature's way these four divisions are existing in the social body. There exist a class of men who are considered the brain, a class of men who are considered the arms of the state, a class of men who are called the productive class, and so on. There is no need of tracing history: it is naturally existing from the day of creation.
Prof. Kotovsky: You have said that in any society there are four divisions, but they are not so easy to distinguish. For instance, one can group together different social classes and professional groups into four divisions in any society; there is no difficulty. The only difficulty is, for instance, in the socialistic society in our country and other socialist societies how you can distinguish the productive group from the workers.
Srila Prabhupada: For example, we belong to the intellectual class of men. This is a division.
Prof. Kotovsky: Intelligent class, brahmanas. And you can also put together all the intelligentsia in that department.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: And administrative class.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: But who are the vaisyas and sudras? That is the difficulty. Because all others are workers factory workers, collective farm workers, and so on. So from this point of view there is a great distinction, in my opinion, between socialist society and all societies preceeding socialism because in modern Western society you can group all social and professional classes in these particular class divisions brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras: intellectuals, productive class, owners of the productive class, owners of the productive system (factory workers, for instance), and menial workers. But here you have no vaisyas because you have administrative staffs in factories, and you can call them ksatriyas, and then there are the sudras, the workers themselves, but no intermediate class.
Srila Prabhupada: That is stated. Kalau sudra-sambhavah. In this age practically all men are sudras. But if there are simply sudras, the social order will be disturbed. In spite of your state of sudras. the brahmana is found here, and that is necessary. If you do not divide the social order in such a way, there will be chaos. That is the scientific estimation of the Vedas. You may belong to the sudra class, but to maintain social order you have to train some of the sudras to become brahmanas. Society cannot depend on sudras. Nor can you depend on the brahmanas. To fulfill the necessities of your body, there must be a brain, arms, a stomach, and legs. The legs, the brain, the arms are all required for cooperation to fulfill the mission of the whole body. So in any society you can see that unless there are these four divisions, there will be chaos. It will not work properly. It will be maya, and there will be disturbances. The brain must be there, but at the present moment there is a scarcity of brains. I am not talking of your state or my state; I am taking the world as a whole. Formerly the Indian administration was a monarchy. For example, Maharaja Pariksit was a ksatriya king. Just before his death, he renounced his royal order. He went to the forest to hear about self-realization. If you want to maintain the peace and prosperity of the whole world society, you must create a very intelligent class of men, a class of men expert in administration, a class of men expert in production, and a class of men to work. That is required: you cannot avoid it. That is the Vedic conception, mukha-bahuru-pada-jah [Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.17.13]. Mukha means "the face," bahu means "the arms," uru means "the waist," and pada, "the legs." Whether you take this state or that state, unless there is a smooth, systematic establishment of these four orders of life, the state or society will not run very smoothly.
Prof. Kotovsky: Generally it seems to me that this whole varnasrama system to some extent created a natural division of labor in the ancient society. But now division of labor among people in any society is much more complicated and sophisticated. So it is very confusing to group them into four classes.
Srila Prabhupada: Confusion has come to exist because in India, at a later day, the son of a brahmana, without having the brahminical qualifications, claimed to be a brahmana; and others, out of superstition or a traditional way, accepted him as abrahmana. Therefore the Indian social order was disrupted. But in our Krsna consciousness movement we are training brahmanas everywhere because the world needs the brain of a brahmana. Although Maharaja Pariksit was a monarch, he had a bodyof brahmanas and learned sages to consult, an advisory body. It is not that the monarchs are independent. In history it is found that if some of the monarchs were not in order, they were dethroned by the brahminical advisory council. Although thebrahmanas did not take part in politics, they would advise the monarch how to execute the royal function. This is not too far in the past. How long ago was Asoka?
Prof. Kotovsky: That would be equal to what we call, in our terminology, ancient and medieval India.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: In old and feudal India you are right it was very open, and the major part of the high administrative staff in the legislative department were brahmanas. Even in the Mogul era there were brahmanas to advise the Muslim emperors and administrators.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a fact the brahmanas were accepted. They formed the advisory committee of the king. For example, Candragupta, the Hindu king, was in the age of Alexander the Great. Just before Candragupta, Alexander the Great went from Greece into India and conquered a portion. When Candragupta became emperor, he had Canakya as his prime minister. Perhaps you have heard this name Canakya?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he was a great brahmana-politician, and it is by his name that the quarter of New Delhi where all the foreign embassies are grouped together is called Canakya Puri. Canakya Pandita was a great politician and brahmana. He was vastly learned. His moral instructions are still valuable. In India, schoolchildren are taught Canakya Pandita's instructions. Although he was the prime minister. Canakya Pandita maintained his brahmana spirit: he did not accept any salary. If a brahmanaaccepts a salary, it is understood that he has become a dog. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He can advise, but he cannot accept employment. So Canakya Pandita was living in a cottage, but he was actually the prime minister. This brahminical culture and the brahminical brain is the standard of Vedic civilization. The Manu-smrti is an example of the standard of brahminical culture. You cannot trace out from history when the Manu-smrti was written, but it is considered so perfect that it is the Hindu law. There is no need for the legislature to pass a new law daily to adjust social order. The law given by Manu is so perfect that it can be applicable for all time. It is stated in Sanskrit to be tri-kaladau, which means "good for the past, present, and future."
Prof. Kotovsky: I am sorry to interrupt you, but to my knowledge all of Indian society in the second half of the eighteenth century was, by order of the British administration, under a law divergent from Hindu law. There was a lot of change. The actual Hindu law that was used by the Hindus was quite different from the original Manu-smrti.
Srila Prabhupada: They have now made changes. Even our late Pandita Jawaharlal Nehru introduced his own Hindu code. He introduced the right of divorce in marriage, but this was not in the Manu-samhita. There are so many things they have changed, but before this modern age the whole human society was governed by the Manu-smrti. Strickly speaking, modern Hindus are not strictly following the Hindu scriptures.
But our point is not to try to bring back the old type of Hindu society. That is impossible. Our idea is to take the best ideas from the original idea. For example, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a description of the communist idea. It is described to Maharaja Yudhisthira. If there is something good, a good experience, why shouldn't you adopt it? That is our point of view. Besides that, modern civilization is missing one important point the aim of human life. Scientifically, the aim of human life is self-realization, atma-tattva. It is said that unless the members of human society come to the point of self-realization, they are defeated in whatever they do. Actually it is happening in modern society, despite all economic advancement and other advancement: instead of keeping peace and tranquillity, they are fighting individually, socially, politically, and nationally. If we think about it in a cool-headed way, we can see that in spite of much improvement in many branches of knowledge, we are keeping the same mentality that is visible in the lower animal society. Our conclusion is that this human body is not meant for working hard for sense gratification. But people do not know anything beyond that. They do not know about the next life. There is no scientific department of knowledge to study what happens after this body is finished. That is a great department of knowledge.
In the Bhagavad-gita [2.13] it is said, dehino 'smin yatha dehe. Deha means "this body." Dehinah means "the one who owns this body." Dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara. The dehi, the owner of the body, is within, and the body is changing from one form to another. The child has a certain type of body that changes to another type when he is older. But the owner of the body still exists throughout. Similarly, when this body is completely changed, we accept another body. People do not understand this. We are accepting different bodies, even in this life, from babyhood to childhood to boyhood to youth. That is a fact everyone knows it. I was a child, but that childhood body is no more. I have a different body now. What is the difficulty in understanding that when this body will be no more, then I will have to accept another body? It is a great science.
Prof. Kotovsky: As you know, there are two quite opposite approaches to this problem. The approach is slightly different according to different religions, but at the same time, any religion recognizes and searches for the change-of-place experience, or transmigration of spirit. In Christian religion, in Judaism, in …
Srila Prabhupada: I am not talking religions with you. I am talking science and philosophy. One religion may accept one way; that is not our concern. We are concerned with the point that if the owner of the body is permanent in spite of different changes of body, there should be no difficulty in understanding that when this body changes entirely, the owner of the body will have another body.
Prof. Kotovsky: Another approach is that there is no separation. There are no two phenomena the body and the owner of the body are the same.
Srila Prabhupada [emphatically]: No.
Prof. Kotovsky: When the body dies, the owner also dies.
Srila Prabhupada: No. no. But why is there no department of knowledge in the university to study this fact scientifically'? That is my proposition they are lacking. It may be as you say or it may be as I say, but there must be a department of knowledge to study this. Recently a cardiologist in Toronto, a doctor, has accepted that there is a soul. So there is another point of view, but our process is to accept knowledge from authority. We have Krsna's statement on this subject, and He is authoritative. Krsna is accepted as the authority by all the acaryas. The Bhagavad-gita is accepted by scholarly and philosophical circles all over the world. Krsna says:
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
"Just as the soul gives up the childhood body and comes to the boyhood body and then to youth, the soul also gives up this body and accepts another body." [Bg. 2.13] This statement is given by Krsna. the greatest authority according to our tradition of knowledge. We accept such a statement without argument. That is the way of Vedic understanding.
This propaganda is meant for creating brahmanas all over the world because the brahmana element is lacking. One who seriously comes to us has to become a brahmana. so he should adopt the occupation of a brahmana and give up the occupation of a ksatriya or sudra. But if one wants to keep his profession and also at the same time understand our movement, that is allowed. We have many professors following our movement. There is Howard Wheeler. He is a professor at Ohio State University. He is my disciple. He is continuing with his professorship, but almost all the money he is getting he is spending for this Krsna consciousness. Grhasthas, those who are in householder life outside, are expected to contribute Fifty percent of their income for our Society, keep twenty-five percent for family, and keep twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. But Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that it does not matter whether one is a grhastha (householder), or in the renounced order, or a brahmana, or asudra. Lord Caitanya says, "Anyone who understands the science of Krsna becomes My spiritual master." The actual words in Bengali are kiba vipra kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya. Do you understand a little Bengali?
Prof. Kotovsky: A little.
Srila Prabhupada; Yes, as a vibration. Yei krsna-tattva-vetta, set 'guru' haya. "Anyone who understands this science of Krsna can become a spiritual master." [Cc., Madhya 8.128]
Prof. Kotovsky: But by creating brahmanas from different social classes of society, you deny the old prescription of the Hindu scriptures.
Srila Prabhupada: No, I establish it.
Prof. Kotovsky: According to all scriptures the Puranas, etc. every member of one of these four classes of varnas has to be born within it.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, no, no.
Prof. Kotovsky: That is the foundation of all the varnas . . .
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. I am sorry.
Prof. Kotovsky: The foundation of all the varnas . . .
Srila Prabhupada: You have spoken incorrectly. With great respect I beg to submit that you are not speaking correctly. In the Bhagavad-gita [4.13] it is stated, catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah. "These four orders ofbrahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras were created by Me according to quality and work." There is no mention of birth.
Prof. Kotovsky: I agree with you that this is the addition of later brahmanas who tried to perpetuate these qualities.
Srila Prabhupada: That has killed the Indian culture. Otherwise there would have been no necessity of the division of part of India into Pakistan. Not only that, but from the historical point of view this whole planet was Bharata-varsa, and it was controlled by one flag up to the time of Maharaja Pariksit. Then it gradually separated. This is history. Lately they have separated Pakistan. So Bharata-varsa is now crippled into a small piece of land. Otherwise, according to Vedic scripture, this whole planet is called Bharata-varsa. Formerly it was named Ilavrta-varsa. But since Emperor Bharata ruled this planet, it is called Bharata-varsa. So this culture, Krsna consciousness, was always existent. Consider any religion Christian, Mohammedan, Jewish they are at most two or three thousand years old. But you cannot trace out the beginning of this Vedic scripture. It is therefore called sanatana, eternal. This culture is for the whole human society. It is not a religious faith. Religious faith you can change, but realdharma you cannot change. Try to understand Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita [18.66] He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up all other forms of religion and just surrender to Me." That is real knowledge to surrender to the Supreme. You or I anyone is surrendered to someone. That is a fact. Our life is by surrender, is it not? Do you agree with this point?
Prof. Kotovsky: To some extent you have to surrender.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to the full extent.
Prof. Kotovsky: You surrender to the society, for instance. Or to the whole people.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to the whole people, or to the state or to the king or the government or whatever you say. This surrender must be there.
Prof. Kotovsky: The only difficulty is that we cannot half surrender to a government or a king. The principal difference is of surrender to a king, to a person, or to the society.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is only a change of color. But the principle of surrender is there. Whether you surrender to monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, or dictatorship, you have to surrender; that is a fact. Without surrender there is no life. It is not possible. So we are educating people to surrender to the Supreme, wherefrom you get all protection, just as Krsna says.
No one can say, "No, I am not surrendered to anyone." Not a single person. The difference is where he surrenders. The ultimate surrendering object is Krsna. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita [7.19] Krsna says, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: "After surrendering to so many things birth after birth, when one is factually wise he surrenders unto Me." Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah: "Such a mahatma is very rare."
Prof. Kotovsky: But at the same time it seems to me that surrender is to be accompanied by revolt. The history of mankind has proved that mankind has developed only by revolt against some kind of surrender. In the medieval age there was the French Revolution. It was revolt against surrender. But this revolution itself was surrender to the rank and file of the people. You are agreed?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: So it is not enough to come to a full stop. Surrender is to be accompanied with revolt against some and surrender to other people.
Srila Prabhupada: But the surrender will be fully stopped when it is surrender to Krsna.
Prof. Kotovsky: Ah, ah.
Srila Prabhupada; That is full stop no more surrender. Any other surrender you have to change by revolution. But when you come to Krsna, then it is sufficient. You are satisfied. I'll give you an example: a child is crying, and people move him from one lap to another. Oh, he does not stop. But as soon as the baby comes to the lap of his mother
Prof. Kotovsky: It stops.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, full satisfaction. So this surrender, these changes, will go on in different categories. But the sum total of all this surrender is surrender to maya. Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita it is said that this is surrender, neglecting Krsna, is all maya. Either you surrender to this or to that, but final surrender is surrender to Krsna; then you will be happy. The process of surrender is there, but surrender to Krsna keeps one quite satisfied, transcendentally.
Prof. Kotovsky: Haven't you come across hostile attitudes to your teachings from orthodox Hindus or brahmanas in India?
Srila Prabhupada: We have subdued them.
Prof. Kotovsky: Ah.
Srila Prabhupada: Any orthodox Hindu may come and challenge, but we have our weapons the Vedic literatures. So no one has come. Even Christian priests in America love me. They say, "These boys are American, Christian, Jewish, and now they are so much after God. But we could not deliver them." They are admitting it. Their fathers and their parents come to me, offer their obeisances, and say, "Swamiji, it is our great fortune that you have come here to teach God consciousness." So on the contrary, I have been well received. In India also, since you inquired of India, all other sects are admitting that before me many kinds of swamis went to the Western countries, but they could not convert even a single person to Krsna consciousness. They are admitting that. As far as I am concerned, I don't take any credit, but I am confident that because I am presenting the Vedic knowledge as it is, without adulteration, it is being effective. That is my confidence. If you have the right medicine and you administer it to a patient, you must be sure that he will be cured.
Prof. Kotovsky: How many of your one thousand disciples do you have in India itself? How many of your community do you have in India?
Srila Prabhupada: In India?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: In India there are many Krsna conscious persons hundreds, thousands, millions. In India there is no question. There is not a single Hindu who is not Krsna conscious.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, I understand.
Srila Prabhupada: Vaisnavas. This is called the Vaisnava cult. You have been in India, so as it is commonly known, there are many millions of Vaisnavas. For example, this gentleman [an Indian gentleman present] is the commander of Air India airlines. He is not my disciple, but he is a Vaisnava. Krsna conscious. Similarly, in India there are millions of Krsna conscious persons. There are even Mohammedans who are Krsna conscious. At Gorakhpur University there is a Mohammedan professor who is a great devotee of Lord Krsna. So this is natural. It is said in the Caitanya-caritamrta that Krsna consciousness is everywhere, in everyone's heart. It simply has to be awakened by this process. That is all. It is there in your heart also. It is not that it is foreign to you. In everyone's heart there is Krsna consciousness. By this process we have to awaken it. It is just like the way the sun rises. It is not that all of a sudden the sun comes from nowhere. It is there, but it rises in the morning. Similarly, this Krsna consciousness is everywhere, but some way or another it is now covered. By this process it is reawakened and aroused through association.