This exchange between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a student took place at Srila Prabhupada's first temple, a storefront on New York City's Second Avenue, on November 20, 1966, following a class on the Bhagavad-gita.
Srila Prabhupada: (summing up the class): So there is no rule, no hard-and-fast rule, for chanting. You just take to it as recommended by Krsna here: sarvesu kalesu always, twenty-four hours. You'll be completely safe, even in this dangerous position.
You should always know that this material world is always a dangerous position. For instance, you started the peace movement. Why? You were thinking, "Danger is coming. Danger is coming." Yes, at any moment, there may be danger of war declaration, and all these innocent youths may be called to fight. So however much you may think, "We are an independent nation," and this and that, you should always remember that this material world is full of danger. It is a dangerous spot.
Therefore, those who are Krsna conscious, who are devotees of Krsna for them, this dangerous place is not suitable. Padam padam yad vipadam na tesam. Padam padam: in every step there is danger. This place is not suitable for the devotees of the Lord. Padam padam yad vipadam na tesam. They are not meant for remaining in this miserable, dangerous place. Yes.
So we have got this nice body this human form of life, with an advanced consciousness. Just merge it into Krsna consciousness and be happy. This is the sum and substance of this movement. Take advantage of it and be happy. Thank you very much.
Student: What is the function of the chanting?
Srila Prabhupada: Chanting the chanting process is just to cleanse your mind. You have got so many misunderstandings about yourself, about this world, about God, and about the interrelationship between these things. We have got so many misgivings. We are in the position of complete ignorance. This chanting will help you to cleanse your mind. Then you'll understand that this chanting Hare Krsna is not different from Krsna.
Yes. So in the beginning we have to chant. We may be in whatever position we are; that doesn't matter. If we begin chanting, then the first benefit will be ceto-darpana-marjanam: the mind will be clear of all dirty things. Ceto-darpana-marjanam.
And then the next stage will be bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam. The next stage will be that the sufferings, the miseries of this material world, will subside. So we'll have to make progress, stage after stage. But at any stage you can adopt this means at any stage. There is no necessity of some preliminary qualification, that "You have to come to this stage and then chant." From any stage you can chant. Yes.
Student: Well, secondly, I don't quite understand what the material world is.
Srila Prabhupada: The material world is full of suffering and miseries. Don't you understand it? Are you happy?
Student: Sometimes I'm happy and sometimes I'm not.
Srila Prabhupada: No. You are not happy. That "sometimes" is your imagination. Just like a diseased man says, "Oh, yes, I am well." What is that "well"? He's going to die and he's well?
Student: I don't claim any ultimate happiness.
Srila Prabhupada: No. You do not know what is happiness.
Student: Admittedly, the feeling is greater or lesser.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You do not know what is happiness.
Student 2: Well, of course, that sorrow or that suffering might add the spice. You might want some suffering to go in between the happiness.
Srila Prabhupada: No. The thing is that there are different kinds of miseries. That we should understand. But due to our ignorance, we don't care about it just like a man who has been suffering for a very long time. He has forgotten what is happiness. He has forgotten what is real happiness.
Similarly, even though you may not care about it, the sufferings are there already. Now, take, for example: You are now a young man. Now, would you like to become an old man?
Student: I will become an old man in the process of . . .
Srila Prabhupada: Now, you will become an old man. You'll be forced to become an old man. But you don't like to become an old man.
Student: I'm not going to be forced to become old man.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. Forced. You'll be forced.
Student: I don't see why.
Srila Prabhupada: Even if you don't like to become an old man, you'll be forced to become an old man.
Student: It's one of the conditions of
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That condition is miserable.
Student: I find it not miserable.
Srila Prabhupada: [Chuckles.] No. You don't find it miserable because you are a young man. But ask any old man how he's suffering. You see. A diseased man do you want to be diseased?
Student: I wouldn't search it out.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Just answer me. Do you like to be diseased?
Student: What is disease?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh? You have never suffered from disease?
Student: I've had the mumps and the measles and whooping cough . . . [laughter] . . . which is what everyone has, and you get over it.
Srila Prabhupada: "Everyone has." Everyone is now suffering from this winter season, but that does not mean that this is not suffering. So we have to admit that we are always in suffering.
Student: If I've never known happiness, I feel sure I've never known suffering either.
Srila Prabhupada: That is due to your ignorance. We are in suffering. We don't want to die. The death is there. We don't want to be diseased. The disease is there. We don't want to become old. The old age is there. So many things we don't want, but they are forced upon us. And any sane man will admit that these are sufferings. But if you are accustomed to these sufferings, you say, "It is all right." That is a different thing. But naturally, any sane man, he won't like to be diseased. He won't like to be old. He won't like to die. You see. Why this peace movement? Because if there is war, there will be death. So people are afraid. They're making agitation: "There should be no war." So do you think that death is a very pleasurable thing?
Student: I have never experienced it.
Srila Prabhupada: You have experienced. But you have forgotten. Several times you have died you have experienced but you have forgotten. Forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is no excuse. Suppose a child has forgotten some suffering. That does not mean that he did not suffer.
Student: No, I agree. I agree.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So suffering's there. You have to take the verdict of realized souls, of authorities. For instance, in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, duhkhalayam asasvatam: "This place is full of miseries." So one has to realize it. Unless we understand that this place is miserable, there is no question how to get out of it. Similarly, a person who does not develop a sense of the miserable condition of this world he is not fully developed. Just like the animals. Animals they do not understand what is misery. They do not understand. They are satisfied.