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Interview with Trans-India Magazine

July 17, 1976, New York
Prabhupada: My first daughter's age is fifty-five. She was born in 1923. You were also born? (pause)
Interviewer: Prabhu, we want to ask you some questions. It's a monthly magazine we have, Trans-India. It circulates northern Indian immigrants in North America and North American, Canadian friends of ours. You know ever since Swami Vivekananda came here in 1896...
Prabhupada: Ninety-three.
Interviewer: His first one was 1896, I think, his first visit.
Prabhupada: No, 1893.
Interviewer: Ninety-three, I see. Since then there has been a lot of interest in this country in Indian philosophy. Recent gurus have come, they have talked about meditation. My own view is that all of these things have influenced the American people, but in a kind of intellectual fad, a kind of fashion. And it seems to me that your intention and aim is not merely to cater to the mind, cater to reason, cater to the intellect, but to effect a kind of transformation of man himself. Is this why you have introduced a whole way of living, a whole way of life, is it? Am I right in suggesting that?
Prabhupada: Yes. It is a different platform of lifea spiritual. Generally people are on the material platform, in the bodily concept of life, and the whole world is going on with that wrong conception of life. Actually, as soon as we think that we are this body, we are immediately on the platform of animal life. So in the Bhagavata it is stated, yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke [SB 10.84.13]. Anyone who is thinking, identifying himself with this body, and similarly with other references, yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma-ijya-dhih. In relation with body, we think of family, community, nationality. In this way our civilization is dog civilization. That is not human civilization. Human civilization begins when one understands that he is not this body. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma [Bg. 18.54]. Aham brahmasmi. Perhaps you have heard this word...
Interviewer: Yes.
Prabhupada: ...the Vedic mantras. "I am not this body. I am spirit soul." That is the beginning of Bhagavad-gita. Dehino 'smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara [Bg. 2.13]. Asmin dehe, within this body there is the soul. So on account of presence of the soul we are transmigrating to different bodies. Just like from childhood to boyhood. The body of a boy is different from the body of a child, but the same soul who was within the body of a child has now come within the body of a boy. And the same soul again, he will go in the body of a young man. And the same soul again will go in the body of an old man. And the same soul, when the body of old man is finished, then he enters another body. Tatha dehantara-praptih [Bg. 2.13]. So the soul is transmigrating from one body to another. A part of it we can see in this life. I was in the child's body, I was in the boy's body, I was in the young man's body, now I am an old man's body. Similarly, as my child's body being finished, I have entered into the boy's body; my boy's body being finished, I have entered young man's body. Similarly, when this body will be finished, I shall enter another body, new body. That will be given to me by nature according to the mental condition at the time of my death. Yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram [Bg. 8.6]. This is the law of nature. So people are not educated in the law of nature. They are educated in animalistic life. As the dog is thinking "I am dog," and barking, similarly, if a person thinks "I am Indian" or "I am American," so there's not much difference between the dog and the man. The man must think otherwise, that "I am not this body," then the civilization, human civilization, begins. Athato brahma jijnasa. Unfortunately, there is no education. This education was little there. Even in India that is now becoming finished on account of this Western influence. So that is now practically finished. But this Krsna consciousness movement begins from the understanding that "I am not this body." Therefore its activities are different from the activities of bodily conception of life. People cannot understand. That is the difficulty.
Interviewer: Prabhu, you, in this country you have a whole body of religious thought which does not subscribe to the Hindu assumptions about the transmigration of the soul, and the culture itself is a very secular kind of culture.
Prabhupada: Which one?
Interviewer: The American. And about eighteen months ago or more, if I remember right, there was a film, a documentary, on your school in Texas, on the National Broadcasting Company's program, which was very hostile, if not vicious, attack on your whole movement, the rearing of the small children. So my question is, what is it that made you bring your movement into a culture and a religious ethos which is hostile to begin with, with most of your major assumptions?
Prabhupada: So this is education. The Western people are not educated in the spiritual life. So our predecessors, our gurus, they are for educating people in the spiritual life. Caitanya Mahaprabhu, five hundred years ago, He advised Indians to go, first of all, make his life..., Indian should make his life perfect, and then he should go outside India and preach the perfectional life, how to become perfect in life. That was His mission. He said prthivite ache yata. You understand Bengali?
Interviewer: Yes.
So Indian life means para-upakara. They are in the darkness, others, in the darkness. They have no such culture, spiritual culture. India has got that culture, this Bhagavad-gita. So one should make his life a practically Bhagavad-gita life. That is Krsna conscious movement. And preach it to the world. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's order. And this order was not only... Because Caitanya Mahaprabhu happened to be a Bengali... He appeared in Nadia district, a district in Bengal. But He does not say the Bengalis; He said the bharatis. Bharata-varsa janma haila yara. So it is India's mission to become exactly on the line of Bhagavad-gita. That is also spoken by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, that perfection of life means to understand Bhagavad-gita. He said amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa: [Cc. Madhya 7.128] "You just become a guru and deliver this country." "This country" means wherever you are livingit doesn't matter whether in India or America or anywhere elseyou just deliver them. So to become guru means to save a person from the conditional life of matter. So long you become a materialistic person, that means you are under condition of material nature. So you have to get your freedom from the laws of material nature. That is your perfect life. But people in the Western countries, they do not know much of this freedom. India knew it, or some of Indians, they know it. But at the present moment they, being conquered or influenced by the Western culture, they are also losing their identity. Therefore my Guru Maharaja ordered me to do something about the spiritual life in the Western countries. On account of this I came here.
Interviewer: Can you briefly tell us what the difference, how your approach is different from the approaches of the other gurus who have come? You seen to have rather a unique place in...
Prabhupada: First of all, we do not accept anyone as guru if he's not competent to understand Bhagavad-gita and preach it also. He's not a guru. The guru's definition given in the Bhagavad-gita, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam [Bg. 4.1], in the Fourth Chapter you'll find, vivasvan manave praha manur iksvakave 'bravit.
Krsna said to Arjuna, "My dear Arjuna, this Bhagavad-gita philosophy or yoga system, first of all I spoke to the sun-god. And then he spoke to his son, Manu. Then Manu spoke to his son Iksvaku." In this way the knowledge comes down from the spiritual master to the disciple or from the father to the son. So unless one comes in this disciplic succession, he cannot become guru. Therefore I do not know all of them. All the swamis and yogis who came here, they do not belong to this parampara system, so therefore they are not bona fide guru. They are presenting themselves as guru, but they are not guru. Therefore people are misled. People are misled, and this is the first time that we presented India's traditional philosophy and life as it is understood by the parampara system. Therefore it is being so well received. Vivekananda came here, as you said, 1893, before my birth. I was born in 1896. But they have worked for, say, eighty-five years. What they have done? But I have worked here for seven or eight years. And it is now worldwide movement. Why? Because we presented the things as they are. Evam parampara-praptam [Bg. 4.2]. Therefore it is effective. So if the things are presented as they are, the customers will automatically come.
Interviewer: Yesterday in my talks with your disciples I gathered that you have at least three of the asrama-dharmas in practice: brahmacarya, grhastha, and sannyasa. Did you do this to suggest that your movement does not involve renunciation in the Western sense, in which they understand it, asceticism only, to retreat, to withdraw from society, to form a different, small spiritual community or fraternity, not interacting with the rest of society, not influencing society, not being influenced by society? In other words, was it your aim to suggest that the daily life of ordinary people can be built on the foundations of your philosophy?
Prabhupada: The thing is that human life, the system of society should be divided... Just like you are journalist, so you are not motor mechanics. But there is necessity of motor mechanics also and the journalist also. Is it not?
Interviewer: Yes.
Prabhupada: And you are journalist, you are not expected to become a motor mechanic or a medical man. But your function is also required in the society. Similarly, the Vedic society was divided into different sections. That is called varnasrama-four varnas, four asramas. That is very scientific. Brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra and brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. So Krsna consciousness movement includes this system of division of society. It is perfect society. Therefore we are trying to introduce the varnasrama system, although it is very difficult nowadays. But if one becomes a devotee, which is above varnasrama-dharma, then the purpose is solved. In this age, although varnasrama-dharma is very scientific, and Krsna consciousness movement includes this, but we are mostly trying to get to the topmost part of varnasrama, sannyasa, or above that. That means Vaisnava. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate [Bg. 14.26]. One can immediately transcend the jurisdiction of three modes of material nature if he engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord.
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunan samatityaitan
brahma-bhuyaya kalpate
[Bg. 14.26]
So actually this varnasrama system is meant for bringing the man in the lower status of life to the higher status of life. It doesn't matter one is born in a low-grade family. That is also said by Krsna: mam hi partha vyapasritya ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah [Bg. 9.32]. Papa-yoni, lower grade. Striyo vaisyas tatha sudrah [Bg. 9.32]. In the human society, woman, the vaisya and the sudra, they are considered in the lower status, not very intelligent. Te 'pi yanti param gatim. They can also become... So in the Western countries, according to Vedic calculation, they are mlecchas, yavanas, low grade. But Krsna says ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah, "He can also be elevated, to that extent as he can go back to home, back to Godhead." So this movement is directly giving the opportunity of Krsna's service so that they can become immediately bona fide to the position in the highest grade of life, Vaisnava, so that he can go back to home, back to Godhead.
Interviewer: The almost the whole world, and all civilizations, look down upon the varnasrama-dharma as a system in which hierarchical and stratified conditions prevent human beings from progressing. They think of our system as...
Prabhupada: They do not know what is progress. That I was talking with your Associated Press, press reporter. Just like they do not know that their material life means they are in the prison house for being punished. They are so dull headed they are taking the activities of punishment as regular life. A man is put into the prison house, and his engagement is breaking the bricks. So he has forgotten that "This breaking of bricks is not my business. I am meant for living freely outside the prison house." So these people, less intelligent people, they think that this material life of working hard day and night, just like the hogs and dogs, is general life. That is due to their ignorance. In the Bhagavata it is said, nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye [SB 5.5.1], that this human form of life, although we have got this body, and the hog has also got the body, the hog is working day and night... Perhaps you have seen in Indian village, the hog is loitering in the village. His only business is where to find stool, and eat it. And as soon as he eats, he becomes strong in sense, and then sex. The hog has no discrimination of sexeither mother or sister or anyone. So this sort of life, working day and night for stool, and then as soon as the body is strong, find out sex, never mind whether mother, sister or anyone... This is not human life; this is hog's life. Do you think it is human life?
Interviewer: No.
Prabhupada: So we are not meant for that civilization. We are meant for the civilization by which one can understand his position, constitutional position, aham brahmasmi. Therefore our activities are different from the hogs and dogs.
Interviewer: So what is generally taken here... I mean, this is the American bicentennial year, and the Declaration of Independence talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Are you suggesting then that what is taken to be life is actually the antithesis of life? What is taken to be liberty is actually enslavement? And what is assumed to be the pursuit of happiness is nothing more than a rat race in which you try to make the best of what you can?
Prabhupada: They do not know what is happiness. Bhagavad-gita points out what is your distress. Can anyone say what is the actual distress? They do not know it. Distress they are taking as usual part of life. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam [Bg. 13.9]. This is philosophy, to find out what is distress. This is directly said by Krsna, that these are distresses, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi, to take birth, to die, to become old and to become diseased. But they do not know it. Not only they, everyone, all over the world, they take it as part of life. Janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi. When a man becomes diseased, when a man becomes old, or when a man dies, they take it it is usual. They have been accustomed to these distresses so much that they do not take it as distress. So this is their ignorance. This is their ignorance. They do not know what is distress and they are struggling for moving the distress. Just like this independence. They do not know what is meaning of independence. Real independence is when you are free from these four kinds of distress. Does it mean that observing this kind of independence is real independence? It is simply fictitious. If you are not free from the laws of nature, nature will enforce you to die. Then where is your independence? Nobody wants to die, so why he's enforced to die? Nobody wants to become old man. Why he's enforced to become old man? But they have no brain to understand what is independence, what is happiness. They have taken distress as happiness. So that is due to lack of knowledge. So the Krsna consciousness means to elevate a person to the real standard of knowledge. Without knowledge a madman can say anything. A child can speak all nonsense. That is not knowledge. Knowledge is different. So the struggle for existence means to get out of distress, but the real distress they have set aside. The problem that "I do not want to die, but I'll be enforced to die," so what is the advancement in this connection? They might have, so big, big scientists, they have discovered many, many things, but where is that thing that "Take a pill and you'll never die. Take a pill, you'll never become diseased"? They can offer me... I had some abdominal pain, so they have given me dozens of medicine. But still they are not sure whether the pain will be cured. This is their science. So in this way things are going on, in ignorance, mudha. Therefore they have been described in the Bhagavad-gita as mudha.
So this is the civilization of the asuras, and without Krsna consciousness, without any knowledge of Krsna or without any knowledge of the Krsna's instruction, people are grouped as duskrtina, miscreants; mudhas, rascals; naradhama, lowest of the mankind. And if you say that "So many people, they are educated highly in the university, how they can be taken as miscreants, rascals and lowest of the mankind?" the answer is mayayapahrta-jnanah. They have got knowledge, so-called knowledge, but they are lacking in real knowledge. Knowledge means to get out of distress. That is knowledge. But the real distress remains as it is. They cannot avoid death, they cannot avoid birth, they cannot avoid old age. And still they are claiming they are making progress in happiness. So that is called illusion.
Interviewer: Prabhu, the... Can you tell us a little bit about the plans you have for your project in India?
Prabhupada: Yes, I wanted to start this movement from India. I even requested Mahatma Gandhi, that "Mahatmaji, you have got some respect all over the world, and you are known as a great student of Bhagavad-gita. Now you have got your sva-rajya, the Britishers have gone away. Let us preach Bhagavad-gita." But I don't think I got any reply from him. Of course he was very busy man. My letter might have reached him or not reached him. The secretaries might have rejected. I think received from secretary, like that. But then after few days he was killed. So I was trying for this purpose in India. I approached many friends, that "You have got four sons. Give me one son so that I can train him how to become a real preacher of Bhagavad-gita, how one can understand." Because Bhagavad-gita is being misinterpreted. So I wanted to preach it as it is. That was my mission. So practically nobody joined me. Then I decided to come here. And these boys cooperated. So I have got great desire to... Because India is by nature Krsna conscious, but our modern leaders keeping them suppressed. That is the difficulty. There are so many other difficulties, and leaders are misinterpreting Bhagavad-gita. To tell you frankly, there are so many commentaries on Bhagavad-gita by Dr. Radhakrishna, by Gandhi, by Tilak, by Aurobindo, or many others. But nobody has said that "Here is God, Krsna." Do you admit or not? Has anybody said that, "Here is God, Krsna. You are searching after God. Here is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Worship Him"? Nobody has stated. Am I right or not?
Interviewer: I am not that... I have not read all the, I have read Gandhiji's, I have read Radhakrishna's, I have.
Prabhupada: Gandhiji has preached or Dr. Radhakrishna has written, but who has preached that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He is to be worshiped? Just like we are preaching. Here in America, you have seen our temple? How they are worshiping Krsna. So Bhagavad-gita, main purpose is that. Krsna says sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66]. So who has preached this? So, although they came, so many swamis, yogis, and politicians, they came, but they talked, what can I say? All irrelevant. Nobody spoke that "Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You worship Him." Nobody has said. This is the first time, I am saying. Do you agree or not?
Interviewer: Yes. Do you think that this is because of the Western influence under which they have gone and you are...?
Prabhupada: No, no, they wanted to compromise with the Westerners. They did not come to teach, but they wanted to be victimized by the Western people. They had no strength to save themselves. They have no strength. They have no determination. Hodgepodge, that's all. Therefore it was not successful. Not a single man became Krsna conscious. Even nowadays. Now Vivekananda is famous in India that "He preached in America, all Americans have become Vedantists," something like that. Now, practically, you have gone in Vrndavana?
Interviewer: Yes.
Prabhupada: Recently?
Interviewer: No, not recently.
Prabhupada: You have seen our temple?
Interviewer: No, I have not.
Prabhupada: So we have got our temple, that is considered the best temple in Vrndavana. You can show the pictures. So thousands and thousands of Americans went to Vrndavana for our temple and other temples. But there is another Vivekananda, Ramakrishna asrama, nobody went there. Not a single. So what preaching they have done, from practical point of view? So many men went to our temple. They had no inquiry even that "We have heard that there is a Ramakrishna Mission Temple here. Where it is?" It is not..., Vrndavana is not a very big city. Everyone knows. Nobody, not a single person went there. And they visited other temples. So what kind of preaching, hmm? What do you think?
Interviewer: It seems to me that what you are saying is that you cannot have a religion, you cannot expect a religion to survive or prosper when the culture which is supposed to serve it is its opposite, is its antithesis. And that's why your movement, you are trying to suggest that the only way you can attain moksa, or liberation, or whatever, is through a particular kind of culture that you are propagating.
Prabhupada: It is not..., it is the culture, it is the culture. Because you are suffering under material conditions and you are struggling for existence, that means you are struggling to get liberty. So this is the liberty. As it is said in the Bhagavad-gita, tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti kaunteya [Bg. 4.9]. Mam upetya, find out this.
Prabhupada: Huh?
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna."
Prabhupada: Yes, this is liberty. But they do not know it. They simply make a show that they are scholar of Bhagavad-gita, but they do not know. They are reading Bhagavad-gita, but they do not know how to get liberty. Neither they are interested. They want to stay here and subjected to the natural material condition, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi [Bg. 13.9]. There is another verse, mam aprapya? Aprapya mam nivartante mrtyu-samsara-vartmani, in the Ninth Chapter, I think. Aprapya mam nivartante mrtyu-samsara-vartmani. Asraddadhanah purusa dharmasyasya, asraddadhanah purusa... [Bg. 9.3].
Prabhupada: Aprapya mam nivartante mrtyu-samsara-vartmani. "The teachings that I am giving, if one is not faithful to accept it, the result will be aprapya mam, he'll never get Me, and he'll remain in the cycle of birth and death." They do not know it, what is cycle of birth and death, how one can get out of it. Going on. Just like the flies with great force falls in the fire. They are very busy. What is their busy-ness? Falling in the fire. So this is going on. So this Krsna consciousness movement is just to save the people who go down by the force, enforced by the laws of material nature in the cycle of birth and death. Krsna says, tatha dehantara-praptih: [Bg. 2.13] "You have to accept another body." But suppose you have got now Indian body; next birth if you get a dog's body, then what is your success? But nature will work. You do not know what is the nature's law. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah [Bg. 3.27]. Neither you can check nature's law, so what is the value of your so-called activities, jumping? There's no value.
Interviewer: One last question then. What you are saying, the thrust of your movement is that true religion is not something that you just believe, it is what you are.
Prabhupada: You believe or not believe. A fool man's, fool's belief is different from a learned man's understanding. So if he says that "I believe in it," nature's law is different. Nature will not care whether you believe or not believe. It will work. Just like if you have infected some disease, so you are getting fever. Now if I say "My dear Mr. such and such, now you infected smallpox. Therefore symptoms are there." And if you say, "No, no, I don't believe in it." So will you be protected from the laws of nature? So this is rascal's proposal, "I believe," "I don't believe." You believe or not believe, who cares for you? If you have infected, karanam guna-sango 'sya sad-asad-janma-yonisu [Bg. 13.22]. Find out. After death you are going to get another body. Tatha dehantara-praptih [Bg. 2.13]. So how you can know what kind of body you are going to get? First of all generally they don't believe transmigration. So they believe or not believe, the process is going on. So this is going on in the modern world, "I don't believe it." You believe or not believe, you cannot check the nature's law. But their dull brain cannot understand it that nature's law is very, very strong. Daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya [Bg. 7.14], but thinking that they'll conquer over nature. That is their proposal, is not, Bali-mardana? They think that they'll conquer over the laws of nature.
Bali-mardana: Oh, yes.
Prabhupada: Such foolish things are going on. So we are trying to save, by presenting Bhagavad-gita as it is, to save these fools and rascals from a dangerous type of civilization. This is the sum and substance.
Interviewer: Thank you, Prabhupada. Ananda-mohana
Prabhupada: Ananda-mohana. Jaya (end)

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