Here 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. The meeting took place at the Melbourne ISKCON center on May 21, 1975.
Srila Prabhupada: We get so many new persons coming here to our center, and after some time they become cultured, dedicated devotees. The thing is, the definite method must be there: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxication, no gambling, and always chanting the Lord's holy names. Because we have this definite method, we are increasing; our movement is not decreasing. For instance, we have opened a temple here. Not long ago, there was no temple, but now we have got a nice temple. In this way, all over the world our movement is increasing; it is not decreasing.
I came from India alone. After arriving in New York, in 1965, for one year I had no place to stay. I had no means to eat. I was loitering, practically, living at one friend's house and then at another friend's house. Then gradually everything developed. People came forward. I was chanting at a square in New York alone, for a full three hours in the afternoon. What was that Tompkins Square? Yes. You have been to New York? So that was my beginning. Then gradually people came. [To a disciple:] You were in some club. What was that?
Disciple: Oh, in California?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Disciple: I was at Morningstar Ranch. [Laughs.]
Srila Prabhupada: Ah hah. [Chuckles.] That was another brothel.
Disciple: A hippie farm. You came there.
Srila Prabhupada: So you were there, and I went there. The proprietor, the organizer he took me there.
[Turning again to the director:] So I think that if you are serious, let us combinedly open an institution where people can be trained up in how to become first-class. Children should be trained up. That will make a solution.
Director: We must change society, then.
Srila Prabhupada: No. No attempt to change society all at once. Let society be what it is. We simply have to train upsome children. And, of course, some men, also just as we have trained these men. So it is possible. This is a practical example. [Glancing at disciple:] Just like you were in that den, Morningstar.
Director (to disciple): Have many of your gentlemen been in delinquency in your life?
Director: Yeah. Have you been involved in troubles with the law before you joined?
Disciple: Oh, many of the devotees.
Director: Have you?
Disciple: Oh, yes.
Disciple 2: We have one boy here who spent nine months in a penitentiary.
Srila Prabhupada: This is practical. We can stop delinquency. Just like these boys have become saintly persons. Everyone can become saintly. In India they are surprised: "How have you made these uncivilized Europeans and Americans so saintly?" They are surprised. Because in India the brahmanas and others were under the impression that "These Western people they are hopeless. They cannot become any kind of advanced religionists or spiritual persons." So when they see we have got many temples in India and that Westerners are now worshiping the Lord, managing everything, and chanting and dancing, they are surprised. After all, many swamis had gone to the West before me, but they had been unable to transform anyone's life. But it is not I who have transformed these persons. The method is so nice that they have become transformed.
Director: But people will say this is transforming only a very small percentage of the population.
Srila Prabhupada: No. To undertake our method there is no question of high percentage. As I said, even if there is only a small percentage, there must be some ideal men. That way, at least people will see, "Here is the ideal man."
Just consider the experience we are having here at our center. Because our young people are chanting and dancing, many outsiders are coming, and they are also learning. They are also offering the Lord their obeisances. And gradually they are offering their service: "Please accept me."
Example is better than precept. If you have an ideal group of men, then people will automatically learn. That is wanted. But rest assured at the present moment, in general I also don't find any ideal group of men in society. Even the Christian priests they are going to the hospital for curing their drinking habit. Some time ago at a sanitarium, there were five thousand alcoholic patients, largely priests. Priests should be of ideal character. What's more, some priests are advocating homosex. So in modern society, where are the ideal-character men? If even the priestly class are going to the sanitarium for their drinking habit and they are allowing man-to-man marriage and homosex, then where is the class exemplifying ideal character?
Director: But homosexuality is a sickness. It's an illness. It's just like a person who can't see you wouldn't punish him for not seeing. You can't punish a person for being homosexual. That's what our society says.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, anyway, the priestly class are sanctioning homosex.
Srila Prabhupada: Sanctioning. They are condoning homosex. And there was a newspaper report that a man and another man were actually married by a priest. Just imagine a priest performing a man-to-man marriage. And some priests are even advocating the passage of a resolution that homosex is all right. And my disciples tell me that in Perth, university teachers are discussing homosex with their students, in favor of homosex. So where is the group with ideal character? If you want some tangible improvement in society, train some people to have ideal character. That is the purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement.
Director: How do you people respond when someone says, "What is ideal to you is not ideal to somebody else"?
Srila Prabhupada: I am upholding the principle of ideal character.
Director: Yeah, but that's just one opinion.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Principles and standards do not depend on public opinion. Opinion what is the value of public opinion if the people are all asses? There is no question of public opinion. One should take what is enjoined in the sastras, the scriptures. Not opinion. What is the use of taking the opinion of an ass?
So as long as the people are trained up just like dogs and asses, then what is the use of their opinion? If you are to uplift them, you must take this approach. For instance, when I introduced this principle "No illicit sex," I never cared about public opinion. If you ask for people's opinion, immediately they will discuss their views. But what is the use of their views, their opinion? "It must be done." The principle must be followed.
This is the defect of Western civilization: vox populi taking the opinion of the public. But what is the value of this public? Drunkards, smokers, meat-eaters, woman hunters. They are not first-class men. So what is the use of such third-class, fourth-class men's opinion? We do not listen to such opinion. What Krsna has said that is the standard. That's all. Krsna is the Supreme, and His version is final. No public opinion, no democracy.
When you go to a physician for treatment, does the physician submit his prescription to the other patients for their opinion? "I am prescribing this medicine for this gentleman now please give me your opinion." Does he do that? All the other patients what do they know? The physician is the ideal person. Whatever he has written is the proper prescription. That's all. But here in the Western world, everything depends on public opinion. What is the use of such opinion?