We continue an exchange between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Australia's director of research for the Department of Social Welfare. It took place at the Melbourne ISKCON center on May 21, 1975.
Director: Then, Your Grace, to stay with your example, you think that because the patients in the doctor's office don't know medicine the way he does, therefore they have no mind of their own?
Srila Prabhupada: They have their mind, but insofar as medical science is concerned, theirs is a mind of depreciated value. Or take the example of a madman. He has got his mind, but what is the value of that mind? You are not going to take the opinion of a madman. He has his mind, but he is a madman. Mudha, ass. Mayayapahrta-jnana: his knowledge has been taken away. His mind being in a disordered condition, his opinion has no value.
Director: But what if the brahmanas start to rule the world simply in their own interest?
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm? A genuine brahmana advises the government not for his own interest but for everyone's interest. That is honesty.
Director: What if he's misguided? The world changes, and since your scriptures were recorded, conditions have changed for the worse.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes simply because people have not followed the scriptures. For instance, in India gradually the culture and the character of the brahmanas has become lost over the last thousand years, because most of the time India has been subjugated by foreigners. The Muhammadans introduced some of their culture. Then the Britishers came and introduced some of theirs. Everyone wanted an interest. When British rule came, Lord Macaulay reported back to London, "If you allow these Indians to remain as followers of the Vedic culture, you will never be able to rule them." So the British government's policy became to condemn everything Indian.
Director: But didn't you say before that the British didn't allow drinking?
Srila Prabhupada: No. The British allowed drinking. Very carefully, of course, because they did not want to apppear to be directly putting their hands on India's culture. But they introduced drinking underground. And so all these years later, now that the people of India have been trained up in drinking, now they are openly drinking. But the training was done by the Britishers. After all, in sophisticated society there must be drinking. So the British provided the introduction.
Director: But in Indian society, drinking alcohol is forbidden.
Srila Prabhupada: In Indian society, people did not know how to drink tea, even. In our childhood we saw that the Britishers started tea gardens. There were no tea plants before the Britishers. The Britishers saw that Indian labor was very cheap, and they wanted to do business, so they started introducing tea. Just as they did in Africa so many coffee and tea gardens. So they started introducing tea, and the tea they produced in India they exported for sale to America.
The Britishers were after business. Now, though, with more tea being produced than they could sell to America, who would con-sume it? So by heavily taxing the tea-garden holders, the British government pressed them to canvass street to street and get the Indian people to start drinking tea. The tea-garden holders' business became canvassing, preparing tea very nice, palatable tea and advertising, "If you drink tea, then you will not feel very hungry, and your malaria will go away." And so on and so forth.
So the Indian people began to drink tea. They began wanting a nice cup of tea. I have seen it. Now they had gotten a taste. Now, gradually, you would see the street sweeper early in the morning, waiting in the tea shop to get a cup of tea.
During our childhood, tea was taken only if somebody was coughing. Sometimes people would resort to tea, but otherwise it was unknown. Drinking tea, drinking wine, smoking, eating flesh these things were unknown. Prostitution. There was prostitution, but not that, as today, every woman would be pressured to dress and act like a prostitute. Very strong restrictions. So these things should be taken care of. At least, a class of men must be ideal, so that other people will see.
And this training should go on, just as we are doing. We are inviting people to come and chant Hare Krsna with us, dance with us, and take prasada, food offered to Krsna. And gradually people are becoming devotees. The same people who had been addicted to drinking, addicted to prostitution, addicted to meat-eating they are becoming saintly persons. This is practical. You can see what was these people's previous history and what they are now.
Director: But how do we reconcile what you recommend with the fact that our doctors tell us we should eat meat because of the protein?
Srila Prabhupada: That is foolishness. My disciples here have not been eating meat for several years. Do you think they are reduced in their health? Rather, people say, "What bright faces!" In Boston one priest wearing plain dress said, "Swamiji, how is it your students look so bright?" And often we are portrayed by the press as having bright faces. Recently some ladies were so struck by my students' appearance that they asked, "Are you American?"
Director: But how would you react if somebody breaks into this place and tries to steal?
Srila Prabhupada: If a thief came in, we would punish him.
Director: You would be violent?
Srila Prabhupada: Why not? A thief should be punished.
Director: You would punish him yourself? What would you do? Would you start attacking him?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Whether by ourselves or someone else, a thief has to be punished. A thief has to be punished. By ourselves or yourselves, the government men it doesn't matter. A thief is a thief, and he should be punished.
Director: What if he breaks in because he is hungry?
Srila Prabhupada: Well, we advertise, "Everyone come and eat." Why should this man remain hungry? We invite everyone, "Come here and eat no charge." We don't charge. Why should he remain hungry? Let us increase this program. "All hungry men of Melbourne city, come here. You take your meals sumptuously." We invite, "Come on. Why should you remain hungry?"
Director: What if he's an alcoholic and he's hungry?
Disciple: Some alcoholics come here, and we give them a meal every night.
Director: You do?
Disciple: Yes. And each week they visit our Sunday feast, and we give them a meal then, too.
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna consciousness requires a little time to practice. Otherwise, it is open to everyone for his reformation.
Director: But you would have your limitations as to how far you can go in feeding people.
Srila Prabhupada: We can feed people unlimitedly, provided the government helps.
Director: You could make a place where destitute people could come and have a free meal.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Everyone we open our doors to everyone. "You come and take prasada."
Director: Could the government, in a word, use you …
Srila Prabhupada: No, we cannot be used by the government. We can use the government. The government cannot dictate to us. That will not help.
Director: Just a moment. Just a moment. It is a fact that we have a lot of destitutes to look after. And you feel your religious order would like to help people. If the government subsidizes you to provide these services …
Srila Prabhupada: That we can do.
Director: That you can do. As long as they don't contradict your …
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Our principle is this pure, Krsna conscious way of life. You can see one day. If you kindly come early in the morning and stay for the entire day, you can see our activity, how nicely we are doing. And then you can do the needful.