During the summer of 1975, in Hawaii, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada received a visit from a well-known yogi who professes the Sikh tradition. Their conversation follows.
Yogi: Will you be in a position to come to the conference?
Srila Prabhupada: Which conference?
Yogi: This “Unity of Man” conference, in New Mexico. We have confirmation of leaders coming from all around the world.
Srila Prabhupada: They have not invited me, I don’t think.
Yogi: An invitation must have gone to you.
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm?
Yogi: We invited everybody. Your invitation may be on the way. We have decided that this is a time for everybody to get together and get their scene together and merge together.
Srila Prabhupada: They will never. [Laughs.] You may hold unity conferences—hundreds and thousands. But the leaders will never unite, because they have no common platform.
Yogi: A common platform. That’s what we’re trying to provide.
Srila Prabhupada: You are trying that’s nice. But it will never be successful. You can write it down in your notebook.
Yogi: Well, the question is very simple. Somebody has to break the ice.
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm?
Yogi: Somebody has to break the ice. Somebody. It doesn’t matter who. Somebody has to go out and say, “You are welcome. Come in.” So we are carrying that spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: The thing is, everyone is trying to be “united.” The United Nations started in 1945, and for thirty years, what have they done? The best men of the whole world—and no unity. Simply disunity. They have no common platform; they are not agreeable. They do not accept God—that is the difficulty. No central point. “You have got your own philosophy, I have got my own philosophy, he has got his own philosophy . . . ” Now, how will we agree?
Yogi: Oh, I may not agree with your philosophy, and you may not agree with my philosophy, but one thing we both have agreed: that you are you and I am I, and both can have respect and love for each other. And there has to be a place where everybody can
Srila Prabhupada: That is going on…. When I meet you I say, “Yes, sir.” And you say, “Yes, sir.”That is all right. That is social etiquette. But real unity is on the platform of spirit soul:
brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees a learned scholar , a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater all on an equal level.” [Bhagavad-gita5.18]
Now, how can you see a learned scholar and a dog on an equal level? But you can see in that way. Panditah sama-darsinah. If you see on the spiritual platform, then you can see that every one of us is spirit soul. It is just that because of our different karma, our different past activities, we are now covered with different kinds of material dress. The dog is actually a soul, and a learned scholar is also a soul, but they are covered with different bodies. So one who sees the soul—he can see all living beings on the same level. But one who sees only their different bodies—he cannot see properly. Spiritual vision is the basic principle of equality and unity. Otherwise, I am seeing you are Sikh, you are seeing I am Hindu, someone else is seeing “He is Christian,” “Muhammadan,” and so on and so on … But nobody is seeing that nobody is Sikh, nobody is Hindu, nobody is Christian—that everyone is pure soul. So unless people attain that vision, how can they have equality and unity? There is no possibility.
Yogi: That’s agreed, but—
Srila Prabhupada: So that requires education. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksatisamah sarvesu bhutesu [Bg. 18.54]:When one is spiritually realized, then he can see equally. But that requires training in how to attain the spiritual platform. At the present moment everyone is on the bodily platform. Everyone is thinking, “I am this body.” So how can you have unity? We may attempt, but it is not possible.
Yogi: There are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions given against each other.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Misconceptions…. For instance, you have got a different kind of body from mine, and I have got a different kind of body from yours. So I may say, “No, I don’t like you. .. .” Naturally, when we see superficially, then this tendency will go on. But when we see inside—introspectively—then there will be unity. That requires education. So …
Yogi: All right. Come and educate.
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.] That education is already there in the Bhagavad-gita. In the beginning Krsna immediately says, dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptih [Bg. 2.13]. Asmin dehe: each of us is actually a soul—this is the beginning of education. But there are many “learned scholars” who do not believe in the soul. They don’t agree on anything else, but they agree that there is no soul…. Big, big professors. In Moscow I met one Professor Kotovsky, and he said, “No, there is no soul. After the body is finished, everything is finished.”
Yogi: But they don’t have any experience of the soul.
Srila Prabhupada: That is their position. So if you assemble some spiritually inexperienced men, then how will they come to the point of unity?
Yogi: What we are trying to do is … we are giving out a call to all … the learned, the unlearned. The basic fact is, there is a desire somewhere in the ether … that everybody wants to feel each other. And they have not done anything good by negating each other, talking negatively. They have not gained anything … they are realizing now. Otherwise
Srila Prabhupada: What will be the basic principle of unity? That is the point.
Yogi: The point of basic unity is respect for each other.
Srila Prabhupada: That is going on. Suppose you come here-I welcome you. If I go to your place, you welcome me. That respect is going on.
Yogi: Yes … that’s right … That is between two individuals.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, whenever people come together in a big assembly, they show one another respect. That is no problem. But how will you unite them?
Yogi: Gradually … one by one, one by one … they will understand. Love is the main point. That’s what they don’t understand. But when they find love from you and they find love from me … love from people, love from everybody else … You know. You can take a mango stick and beat somebody, but you can take mango pulp and eat…. I’m a member of an interreligious council, and finally … after two years … the president admitted, “I was a fanatic. I could never understand how my God and anyone else’s God could be the same. But now I understand that God is one.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you see. So if God is one, and if every one of us is concerned with God, then why is there disagreement?
Yogi: Well, everyone has a limited ego. So we understand that.
Srila Prabhupada: No. The conference should ask the question, If there is a God, and if God is one, then who is that God-what are His characteristics? That should be discussed.
Yogi: That’s what I say … that what we are trying to do is provide a platform. The fundamental idea is, What you are doing is God’s will. These people who are following you … this is God’s will. And those who will receive it … that is God’s will…. But it is not that everybody sees God’s will.
Srila Prabhupada: Why not? God’s will is open. Krsna says, mana-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru [Bg. 9.34]. God says, “Always think of Me. Just become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your respect to Me.” This isGod’s will. And, “If you do this, you are coming back to Me.” God’s will is not secret; it is open. He declares it. But the thing is that everyone has got his different God.
Yogi: Well, the question is very fundamental. Everybody has his own God, so let everybody bring their own God and understanding
Srila Prabhupada: No! God’s understanding is that He is one—one God for everybody. So we should come to that understanding and just do what God requests. For instance, He says man-mana: “Alwaysthink of Me.”
Yogi: Mm-hmm. That’s true.
Srila Prabhupada: So people should think of Him. Mad-yaji mam namaskuru: “You become My devotee, and worship Me, and offer respect to Me.” That’s all. So we are teaching our students, “Here is God: Krsna. You chant Hare Krsna; always think of Him. Just offer your respect and worship Him. In this way become a devotee . We do not teach any thing else. That’s all. And they are doing that, and they are getting the result. We do not say, “Sit down, press your nose, and meditate on this, or . . .” No. It’s a simple thing. We say, “Chant Hare Krsna. Here is God, so please think of Him.” As soon as you chant “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna…” everyone has got the beat. That means you are thinking of Krsna…. And then we are offering respect. We go to the temple and offer obeisances…. It is a very simple thing. So we accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Now, if you don’t accept, then you must be concocting your own idea of God. Do that, if you like. But I think Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism—he accepted Krsna as the Supreme. Is it a fact?
Yogi: We have in our main scripture the Grantha-sahib a lot of things about Lord Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: How is Krsna accepted? Is He accepted as the Supreme Lord?
Yogi: Krsna is accepted as an incarnation of God.
Srila Prabhupada: An incarnation of God and God—there is no difference.
Yogi: Also there is a fundamental message in that, that as God created everyone … God created all of us … soGod (whatever we want to call it … “ultimate reality,” “beyond … .. the truth”) … What our problem at this time is … isthat humanity is divided in many forms, and it is the inner hatred which people Want to expel out.
Srila Prabhupada: So if Guru Nanak has accepted that Krsna is God and we have accepted that Krsna is God, then why not put forward this God—one God?
Yogi: “One God” is all right. That everybody will agree on.
Srila Prabhupada: That one God—Krsna—says, “I amthe one Supreme Lord”:
mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre mani-gana iva
“There is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” [Bg. 7.7] And all the great spiritual masters—Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnusvami, Sankaracarya, Guru Nanak—they have accepted that God is Krsna. So why not present this God all over the world?
Yogi: But the question is very simple. Present it along with the other Gods. The time has come for a mutual presentation.
Srila Prabhupada: No. A “mutual presentation”—simply talking—will not do. If Krsna is God, why not present, “Here is God—His name is Krsna”?
Yogi: Yes, but understand one thing. Everybody here in this world … four billion people … everybody does not have that spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: I mean to say that every religious sect believes in God. If we present, “Here is God-, you are seeking after God—here is God,” now, what will they say?
Yogi: Well, some will say, “Yes, it is.” Some will say no.
Srila Prabhupada: If they say no, then we have to ask, “Why do you say no? What is your conception of God?”
Yogi: Well, that is what we want to understand, basically. That is what we are talking about … this one thing. Your realization about God is a very universal realization. Somebody else on this human level may be very imperfect. But after all, the imperfect and the perfect have to be brought together
Srila Prabhupada: No. The imperfect are imperfect. Unless one has a perfect understanding, he cannot understand God. God is perfect. So you have to come to that platform to understand. Those who are imperfect—they cannot understand. That is not possible. God says,
kascid yatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanam
kascin mam vetti tattvatah [Bg. 7.3]
Siddha means one who has become perfect, spiritually realized. So Krsna says, manusyanam sahasresu: “Outof many millions of persons. . .” kascid yatati siddhaye: “. . . perhaps only one is trying to become perfect.” And yatatam api siddhanam: “Outof millions of those who have become perfect, perhaps one can understand Me—Krsna.”
Understanding God is for the perfect, not for the common man. Acaryopasanam: the common man should accept the perfect spiritual teachers. For instance, the Sikhs should follow Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak says, “Yes, Krsna is God.” So they should accept, that’s all. Not that every Sikh is expected to be as perfect as Guru Nanak. It is not expected that every Sikh will understand Krsna. But they should follow Guru Nanak—then they’ll understand. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: the paths the great spiritual teachers have shown—these paths will show us the way. All the great spiritual teachers—they accept Krsna. So we have to follow-, otherwise, what will we understand? We must follow the great spiritual teachers.
Yogi: That doesn’t solve the problems of the world.
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, if we accept, “Here is God,” then it will solve our problems. But we have to accept…. A student accepts that his teacher has knowledge, and he solves his problems with that knowledge. But if we do not accept the great spiritual teachers …
Yogi: No … we may be perfect or imperfect. The question is very simple. There are four billion people on this earth
Srila Prabhupada: And therefore, not all four billion are expected to understand God. They should follow the leaders.
Yogi: That is what we are trying to do. We are going to get the leaders together.
Srila Prabhupada: The real leaders—the great spiritual teachers—are already there. Now, for instance, Guru Nanak says, “Krsna is God.” So will you and your followers follow Guru Nanak or your own whims?
Yogi: No, no … We will follow the instructions of …
Srila Prabhupada: Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak says, “Krsna is God.”
Yogi: That’s very true. Krsna is God.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why don’t you follow Krsna’s instructions?
Yogi: We are not disobeying any instructions of God.
Srila Prabhupada: What Krsna—says that is written in Bhagavad-gita. Why don’t you take that instruction? What is wrong there” Every problem is solved. For instance, to solve economic problems Krsna says, annad bhavanti bhutani: “if you simply grow enough food grains, then both animals and man will be happy and satisfied.” [Bg. 3.14] So who will disagree with this point” Follow this.
To solve social problems Krsna says, catur-varnyam maya srstamguna-karma-vibhagasah: “Human society should be divided into four classes, according to their qualities and the different kinds of work ascribed to them.” [Bg. 4.13] And everywhere you go, you’ll find that four classes there are. Some people feel inclined to study and teach, others want to administrate and protect, another class does best in agriculture and trade, and others want to be workingmen and craftsmen. All this is already going on. “So,” Krsna says, “make it systematic.”
Now, how will you know who is in what group” By, their different qualities. For instance, in the Gad Krsna says,
samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness—these are the qualities by which the intellectual class works.” [Bg. 18.42] And from that information you can train a real intellectual class. They must be truthful, they must be self-controlled—controlling the mind, controlling the senses—they must have full knowledge of the world. And they must know how to apply their knowledge in practical situations.
So Krsna’s instructions aren’t sectarian. Where is the question of “I am Sikh,” “I am Hindu,” “I am Muslim”?
Yogi: No, no … the question is very simple. People will ask you … the caste system … what it did to India.
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna doesn’t recommend a “caste system”—classifying people by the families they’re born in. No. That is a perversion of the real system, which is to classify people scientifically, by their qualities. Now, we are training these American boys as brahmanas, priests and scholars. Do you think they belong to “the brahmana caste”?
Yogi: No, but that is only
Srila Prabhupada: We are showing people how to acquire priestly and scholarly qualifications. It doesn’t matter whether they are coming from Christian families or Muhammadan families. For instance, if you show someone how to become an engineer, it doesn’t matter what family he’s coming from. It doesn’t matter. So anyone from any family can come and be trained in satyam—truthfulness, how to speak truthfully … and in samah—controlling the mind … and damah—controlling the senses. You may be Hindu, Muslim, Christian. Now, if I say, “Please come here, learn these things: how to control the mind, how to control the senses,” who will object to it? So if anyone is trained—it doesn’t matter which sect or which family he is coming from—if he has learned how to control the mind, how to control the senses, then he becomes a brahmana, a real scholar and spiritual leader.
So all the information we need—everything is already spoken by God. If you accept it, then there is unity. But you don’t accept. You manufacture something. That is the difficulty.
Yogi: Yes. Well, there is another difficulty—
Srila Prabhupada: No. Our difficulty is that you don’t accept. If I say, “Come here be educated,” and if you don’t accept—”No, no, I don’t want to”—then how can you be educated? You must agree to what God says. But you say, “I believe … We believe. . .” What is this, “I believe … We believe”?
All the information we need is already there in the Bhagavad-gita. Perfect information—but people do not accept it. We don’t require any conference. You imply accept Krsna’s words, the standard knowledge—then everything will be all right. I am speaking to you because you are a leader. Now, if we take Bhagavad-gita very seriously and train people from all over the world—not that Bhagavad-gita ismeant only for the Hindus or for the Indians, but for everyone—then everything will be all right. Otherwise it is not possible.
Yogi: No, I definitely agree that you must be successful in that mission, and you have practically and honestly taught what you believe in. My idea
Srila Prabhupada: I ”honestly believe.” Why don’t you “honestly believe”?
Yogi: I believe that you honestly believe—
Yogi: Then you also try in this way.
Yogi: That’s what I am saying … this is the time—
Srila Prabhupada: Accept the Bhagavad-gita as the standard knowledge and preach it.
Yogi: What I’m trying to say is that this concept which you honestly believe as an individual—
Srila Prabhupada: Again, why do you say I “honestly believe”? Why do you honestly disbelieve?
Yogi: Well, every honest, understanding person will believe what you are saying. There’s no divergence on that. But still there is divergence.
Srila Prabhupada: No divergence. Now, you are the leader of a group. If you honestly believe, teach them—they will accept you. If we accept Krsna’s instructions, if we try to convince people that we haven’t got to research how to unite the whole world—”This information is already in the Bhagavad-gita. Accept it and follow it”—then everything will be taken care of.
Yogi: That requires a message.
Srila Prabhupada: The message is already there. I am giving you the message.
Yogi: Well, they are coming to the conference … a lot of people … and they would like to understand, and … What, especially, will we—
Srila Prabhupada: No. Just carry this message to your followers. It is not my message; it is the message of Krsna. I am not manufacturing this message. I may be imperfect, but I am presenting the perfect message. That is my duty. I don’t say I am perfect. I am simply a carrier, a peon. When a postal peon delivers some money, it is not his money—he simply carries it. So my duty is to carry Krsna’s message, that’s all. Whatever I’ve said, I’m quoting from Bhagavad-gita. You have seen it. I never say, “In my opinion … I think … No. We are not introducing anything new.
Yogi: It is very kind of you, and if you carry this message to New Mexico … to all those guys … it will be a great joy. That’s what the whole event was … to provide a platform where everyone
Srila Prabhupada: Now, first of all, you and all the other leaders should accept Krsna’s message. Otherwise, everyone will simply come, and say something, and go away. That’s all. There will be no understanding. I know that. There’ll be no understanding. You can write it down in your notebook.