The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place on an early-morning walk in December 1973 at Venice Beach, California.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, sometimes we argue that although the laws of nature are very powerful, we can overcome such things as disease and death if we surrender to Lord Krsna, since He is controlling nature. But skeptics say we can gradually come to control the laws of nature on our own, without God.
Srila Prabhupada: No, we are forced to accept the laws of nature. How can anyone say he has conquered the laws of nature?
Devotee: Well, the doctors and biologists have conquered so many diseases.
Srila Prabhupada: But people are still becoming diseased. How have the doctors stopped disease?
Devotee: In Africa and India, for instance, they are inoculating everyone against smallpox, and they’ve saved many thousands of children from dying.
Srila Prabhupada: But the children will grow up and get old and die eventually in any case. So death has not been stopped. And besides, why do they bother about these children? They don’t want overpopulation, so logically the doctors should let them die. But the doctors are illogical. On one side they want to check the death of children, and on the other side they recommend the use of contraceptives and kill the children in the womb by abortion. Why? Why are they killing? To check the increase in population. Then when children are dying in another part of the world, why are they anxious to save them?
Devotee: Once the child is born, they want to save him. But when the child is still in the womb they feel they can kill him. They say he is not yet a human being.
Srila Prabhupada: But the child is already born as soon as a woman becomes pregnant. Pregnancy means the child is already born. How can they say there is no child? What is this nonsense? When a woman is pregnant, why do we say she is “with child”? This means the child is already born. Therefore, I say this abortion business is simply rascaldom.
Devotee: Well, they’ve rationalized it.
Srila Prabhupada: How?
Devotee: Sometimes they say they’re just doing what they feel is best. And of course they deny that there’s any such thing as karma to punish them later. It seems like they have a kind of “rabbit philosophy.” When a rabbit closes his eyes so he doesn’t see the wolf bearing down on him, he may actually think he’s safe.
Srila Prabhupada: So, the abortionists believe in rabbit philosophy. It is not a man’s philosophy. It is rabbit’s philosophy, frog’s philosophy, ass’s philosophy. And they have been described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.3.19): sva-vid-varahostra-kharaih samstutah purusah pasuh. The leaders, who often support abortion, are rascals, and they are glorified by another set of rascals and fools—the people in general. Because the whole population is made up of rascals, they elect a rascal as their leader. Then, being dissatisfied, they throw the first rascal out of office and elect another rascal. This is called punah punas carvita-carvananam: chewing the chewed. The people do not know whom to elect. Therefore they have to be educated to choose a leader who is God conscious, who is actually fit to be a leader. Then they will be happy. Otherwise, they will go on electing one rascal and rejecting him, electing another rascal and rejecting him, and so on.
In America there is a slogan “In God we trust.” So, we don’t say, “Elect me president.” We simply say that the standard for a leader should be that he knows who God is and that he trusts in Him. And if people actually want to know who God is, they can read Bhagavad-gita. They should read it with intelligence and try to understand, and then for further progress they may study Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is not that we are theorizing. We are taking our information about God from authorized books.
Devotee: In our leaflet about politics, we list the qualifications of a leader. First we say he must follow the four regulative principles: no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no gambling, and no indulging in intoxicants. And the one positive injunction we give is that the leader chant the holy name of the Lord. But someone might argue that these requirements violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
Srila Prabhupada: If you believe in God, why should you have any objection to chanting the holy name of God? If you say, “In God we trust,” then you must know the name of God and the address of God. Then you can actually trust Him. And if you don’t know these things, then learn them from us. We are giving you God’s name, address, qualities—everything. And if you say there is no God, then what is the meaning of “In God we trust”?
Devotee: They have made propaganda to separate church and state, but they’ve also separated God and country.
Srila Prabhupada: Those who are making this propaganda do not understand what God is. God cannot be separated from anything, because everything is God (maya tatam idam sarvam). If they study the Bhagavad-gita they will understand that God is present everywhere. It is not possible to separate anything from Him. Just as your consciousness is present in every part of your body, so the supreme consciousness, God, is present everywhere in the universe. Krsna says, vedaham samatitani: “I know everything that has happened.” Unless He is everywhere, how can He know everything? What do you say?
Devotee: This is logical, Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada: How can you separate God from the government? You may reject any so-called church, any so-called religion that agrees, “Yes, God and the state should be separate.” And that is God’s instruction—that we reject such so-called religions. Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Give up all kinds of so-called religion and simply surrender to Me,” Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita. People may say they believe in God, but you can know they are ignorant of what God is when they try to separate God from government.