An interview with Srila Bhavananda Goswami Visnupada,
Hare Krsna spiritual master in New Zealand.
Srila Bhavananda Goswami Visnupada is one of the leaders of the Hare Krsna movement. He oversees the movement's projects in the Indian pilgrimage cities of Mayapur and Vrndavana. And he is the spiritual master of hundreds of Hare Krsna devotees in Australia and New Zealand, which he visits three times a year. BACK TO GODHEAD interviewed him in New York City during a recent visit to the United States.
Bhavananda Goswami: My first impression was that New Zealand had all the makings for an idyllic society. It's so green, there's so much grass, there are gentle rolling hills, and the weather's very mild. I thought, "This is a perfect place for dairies and agriculture. It's just wonderful!" And the people are very gentle and peaceful. At least they appeared that way to me.
BTG: And honest also.
Bhavananda Goswami: Very honest. I was amazed at the honesty boxes you just drive along the road and a man will leave out bushels of fruit, and you just stop and put the money in the box and take the fruit and go. To buy a newspaper in downtown Auckland, you can just take it from the rack, put in your change, and go. No one steals. It's honest. New Zealand is one of the last places that people are so honest.
BTG: Then what's the difficulty?
Bhavananda Goswami: The difficulty is that although originally it was a dairy place, now, due to economic pressure, they've turned to cow slaughter and sheep raising and not for wool. They used to have a lot of sheep for wool New Zealand wool is famous but now they raise them for slaughter. Because they're not satisfied. No one is satisfied with the simple things in life. Even in New Zealand, where they can't get so much anyway, they still want more than is necessary.
The last time I was in Indonesia, the government they're a very unusual government banned all television commercials. They said, "Why agitate the people into wanting something they'll never be able to get? Let them be satisfied with the simple things." And they gave the example of shampoo. There were so many shampoo commercials; "Buy this shampoo. Buy that shampoo." But the country shampoo the village women have been using for centuries to wash their hair is perfectly nice made from coconut oil and different things like that. Right? But suddenly everyone wanted this commercial shampoo, which was expensive. And the village people are poor, and they can't afford it. So they become frustrated and filled with anxiety: "Oh, I have to have . . ." And the result is you're going to have a revolution over some shampoo. So the government said, "No more commercials on television." Why? "Why agitate them by holding up a standard which we cannot promise them they'll ever meet?" Very intelligent.
BTG: But in New Zealand . . .
Bhavananda Goswami: In New Zealand, of course, you have the Western-English-American mentality. "More and more and more." Originally they were farmers wool merchants and dairy farmers.
BTG: So you'd keep it that way?
Bhavananda Goswami: Oh, definitely. New Zealand ghee [clarified butter] is famous as the very best ghee you can get. They're one of the biggest producers of ghee and dairy products.
BTG: So you think the people should capitalize on the advantages of the land.
Bhavananda Goswami: Oh, yes. Even in the commercial market, they should capitalize on their butter and their milk. When you live by the land and the cow, you can have everything. The residents of Vrndavana, like Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yasoda, had so much opulence. All the residents had gold and jewels and silk. They were simple cowherd people. But they got it all by trading their butter and milk products. By trading milk and butter you can have everything. There's a great need for butter. Russia wants butter. There's always a need for grains and butter and milk. Always. Big countries of the world want it. So New Zealand can actually be just like a big Vrndavana. You just need someone in charge who's very clever in your commercial market and can use all the natural opulences of the cows and the land to increase the prosperity of the citizens.
But now they're rapidly changing over to slaughter, to meat. Because there's quick money in it.
BTG: What will that do?
Bhavananda Goswami: That will completely distort people's minds. You know, even now the favorite pastime of the New Zealanders is reading. But that won't last as they become more and more implicated in the sinful activity of cow slaughter. And it will result in more and more prostitution, more and more perversity, more and more sex murders. All of these things come from this meat-eating.
BTG: Why? One wouldn't see, on the surface, a connection. Why should meat-eating result in more perversity or an increase in prostitution?
Bhavananda Goswami: Because meat-eating increases passion passion and ignorance. Meat-eating, intoxication, and prostitution all go hand in hand. First you want to satisfy your tongue and your belly by eating meat. And to digest it you drink wine, alcohol. And then from alcohol you lose control over your senses. Then everything breaks down. You go out hunting for prostitutes. It's a famous thing that a man will go out and drink and then go searching for a prostitute to satisfy his genitals. And when you're very drunk, you're crazy. You may even kill someone and not even remember it.
So everyone should just cool off. Just stay on the land, chant Hare Krsna, eat a vegetarian diet, a diet of krsna-prasadam, and become peaceful. People are going here and there, flying all over the place, wasting so much money, wasting so much time just for sense gratification. When I was in Hong Kong, there was a whole plane of geriatrics eighty- and ninety-year-old people, taking their last world tour. You know, hobbling on crutches and wheelchairs in Hong Kong. What is the use of it?
Let everyone cool off. What does it matter if Britain and Argentina are having a battle over some crummy islands? Why does the whole world have to know about it immediately? Every action. Every blink of the eye. The anxiety level increases. Centuries ago, if one country had a war with another country, the war would be over before anyone in the world knew about it. And it wasn't very important, ultimately. But this modern communication has made everyone an armchair philosopher, an armchair politician, an armchair president. So everyone just has to cool off. Just stay on the land and become peaceful. The whole world is so fevered. Let them just cool off.
BTG: So this fever, you'd say, is the greatest problem facing the people of New Zealand.
Bhavananda Goswami: The greatest problem is that they are becoming more and more implicated in cow slaughter and this slaughterhouse mentality. That's the biggest problem. They don't understand it, but that is actually their biggest problem. And in Christchurch note the name of the town. Christchurch, one of the biggest cities in New Zealand, is in the center of the slaughterhouses. Practically everyone you meet in Christchurch works in the slaughterhouse, killing. Everyone is implicated in Christ Church, which has a big Christian community. They're very proud that they're Christians. But they all work in the slaughterhouses. That's the biggest problem. Not the economy. What economic problem do they have? They're so worried if they can't get a car or this or that. But they have so much ghee and butter and milk, wonderful land, fruits like anything apples, strawberries, blueberries, plums, grapes, peaches. So many nice vegetables cauliflowers, eggplants, tomatoes, broccoli. It all grows there splendidly. Our farm is right in the middle of it. And it's very enlivening to the heart when you can see all these orchards. Why do they have to
BTG: Ruin everything?
Bhavananda Goswami: Yes. And because of this seventy thousand people leave New Zealand every year.
BTG: How's that?
Bhavananda Goswami: Because they're not happy. They're frustrated, and they can't understand why they're frustrated. Life in New Zealand is relatively peaceful. It has a quiet, country atmosphere. Even the biggest city, Auckland, is like a country town. So for reaching the perfection of life they have more facility, I think, than anywhere in the world. But although they have all the facility, they don't have the philosophy. People are becoming agitated, wanting more and more. So they're seeing the simplicity of New Zealand as detrimental, rather than seeing that it's the most wonderful place. Therefore they're all going to Australia, which is completely caught up in gross sense gratification. That standard of sense gratification is not so available yet in New Zealand, so they're all leaving seventy thousand people a year leaving New Zealand.
BTG: For Australia and the United States.
Bhavananda Goswami: And that's out of a country of three million people. If a country is losing seventy thousand of its youth, that's not a good sign. The people who are leaving are not hippies. Mostly they're respectable young people, in their twenties and thirties. But they're leaving Why? Because somehow they've come to think that they'll have more advantages in Australia. And in terms of gross sense gratification they may be right. But in terms of reaching the perfection of life they're wrong. To achieve perfection, everything they need is in New Zealand.
BTG: If you could give advice to people in New Zealand in a very simple message to sum up your feelings about New Zealand what would you advise them?
Bhavananda Goswami: Of course, I could say the obvious chant Hare Krsna. But also I would advise them to look to what Krsna, God, has given them, use it to its fullest advantage, and not be implicated in sinful activity. And hear the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. They will not be the losers. They have a perfect situation of simple living and lofty philosophy. And if they make the right use of this perfect situation, they'll become happy.