Srila Prabhupada and poet Allen Ginsberg—Conversations


[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following conversations between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and poet Allen Ginsberg took place at the Radha Krishna Temple in Columbus, Ohio May 11, 12 and 14, just before and just after the meeting with the Ohio State student body. These conversations, packed with gems—anecdotes, theology, reminiscences, candid remarks, exhortations, Vedic allusions, wisdom, humor, prophecy and joy—are important because they contain succinct yet complete answers to questions many Westerners, and especially young Americans, find themselves asking—either verbally or emotionally—about Krishna Consciousness. They are also important because they reveal some of the major concerns of the most important ambassador of The Bhagavad Gita to ever come to the West and this century’s most famous American poet. The conversations are directly transcribed from tape recorder and are included in their entirety in two installments.]

[It is about 9:30 at night, May 11, 1969 at the Radha Krishna Temple, a large three-story house, in Columbus, Ohio, the “All-American City.” Disciples of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada usher Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky into Prabhupada’s room. Allen has just flown in from Louisville, Kentucky and is concluding a long tour of college poetry readings before retiring to his upstate New York farm. Prabhupada, recently arrived from the Boston temple, is initiating the new Columbus center. When Allen enters, Prabhupada smiles broadly.]

ALLEN: Hare Krishna. [He offers obeisances.] So, we will sing tomorrow.


ALLEN: Is this your first visit here?

PRABHUPADA: The first visit, yes.

ALLEN: Do you have the whole house?

PRABHUPADA: Yes, they are doing very nicely. At noon we had some meeting in the university [Ohio State]. Kirtan. Wherever we go, kirtan and speaking. You have seen our book Lord Chaitanya’s Teachings? [He hands Allen a copy.]

ALLEN: No, I haven’t seen that. That’s new.


ALLEN: ISKCON published. Printed where?


ALLEN: Printed in Japan. Beautiful. Very industrious. It’s marvelous.

PRABHUPADA: The next book is coming. Nectar of Devotion.

ALLEN: What will that be, your own writing?

PRABHUPADA: No. It is authorized translation of Rupa Goswami’s book Bhakti-Rasamrita Sindhu.

ALLEN: Whose?

PRABHUPADA: Rupa Goswami. Lord Chaitanya’s principal disciple. There are six Goswamis, direct disciples of Lord Chaitanya, and three other confidentials. So amongst the six Goswamis, Rupa Goswami is the principal. He was finance minister in the government of Nawab Hussain Shah in Bengal. But when Lord Chaitanya started His movement he was captivated and he resigned from government service and joined. He wrote immense literature. I was just saying, Narottam Das Thakur says, “Ruparaghunatha pade haive akuti kave hama bujhava se jugalapiriti.” One can understand the conjugal love of Radha and Krishna when he goes through the literature presented by these Goswamis. So this first book is Bhakti-Rasamrita Sindhu, The Ocean of Nectar of Devotion. That is a very authorized book using quotations from various Vedic literatures about Radha Krishna, and of the different stages of relationships with Krishna, shantarasa, vatsalya, admiration. God is great. This is also one stage, appreciating the greatness of God. Then further development, dasya, willing to serve. “Oh, God is so great. I must serve.” Because every one of us is serving somebody. Why not serve the Supreme? Nobody is free from service because we are constitutionally servants. Either you become a servant of the great or maya. Just like in any condition of our lives we have to abide by the laws of the state. If we say that we won’t abide, then we come to the prison house. We will be forced. Similarly, maya and Krishna. If we don’t abide by Krishna, then come to maya. We cannot be free. That is not our position. Freedom is frustration.

ALLEN: Do you remember a man named Richard Alpert?


ALLEN: He used to work with Timothy Leary in Harvard many years ago. Then he worked in India and found a teacher and is now a disciple of Hanumanji, a devotee of Hanuman. We were talking about maya and the present condition of America and he said that his teacher in India told him that LSD was a Christ of the Kali Yuga for Westerners in that as the Kali Yuga got thicker and thicker that also salvation would have to be easier and easier and—

PRABHUPADA: That is a very nice testament, that in the Kali Yuga salvation is very easier. That is the version of Srimad Bhagavatam also. But that process is this kirtan, not LSD.

ALLEN: Well, the reasoning there was that for those who would only accept salvation in purely material form, in chemical form finally, completely material form, Krishna had the humor to emerge as a pill.

PRABHUPADA: The thing is that when it is material form, then where is the salvation? It is illusion.

ALLEN: The subjective affect is to cut out attachment. During the—

PRABHUPADA: If you have attachment for something material, then where is this cutting attachment? LSD is a material chemical. So if you have to take shelter of LSD, then you take help from matter. So how are you free from matter?

ALLEN: The subjective experience is that while in the state of intoxication of LSD, you realize that LSD is a material pill, and that it does not really matter.

PRABHUPADA: That is risky. That is risky.

ALLEN: So, if LSD is a material attachment, which it is, I think, then is not the sound, the sabda [sound incarnation], also a material attachment?

PRABHUPADA: No. Sabda is spiritual. Originally, just like in Bible it is said, “Let there be creation.” This is sound. This is spiritual sound. Creation was not there. The sound produced the creation. Therefore sound is originally spiritual. And from sound, sky developed, from sky air developed, from air fire developed, from fire water developed, from water land developed.

ALLEN: Sound is the first element?


ALLEN: What was the first sound, traditionally?

PRABHUPADA: The Vedas say OM. So, at least we can understand from your Bible that God said, “Let there be creation,” so this is sound, and there is creation. God and His sound are nondifferent … Absolute. I say, “Mr. Ginsberg.” This sound and you are a little different. But God is not different from His energy. Sakti saktimatorabheda. Shakti (energy) and shaktimakt (the energetic) are nondifferent. Just like fire and heat. They are nondifferent, but heat is not fire. You cannot differentiate heat from fire or fire from heat. But fire is not heat.

ALLEN: Well, the sound Krishna—

PRABHUPADA: Yes, is not different from Krishna.

ALLEN: Under all circumstances?

PRABHUPADA: All circumstances, yes. But it is a question of my appreciation, of my realization. That depends on my purity. Otherwise this Krishna sound and Krishna are nondifferent. Therefore, if we vibrate the sound Krishna, then immediately we are in contact with Krishna, and Krishna is pure spirit and immediately I become spiritualized, just like if you touch electricity, immediately you are electrified. And the more you become electrified, the more you become Krishnized. So when you are fully Krishnized, then you are on the Krishna platform. Tvaktadeham punarjanma naiti mameti kounteya. Then when you are fully Krishnized, you no more come back to this material existence. You remain with Krishna. The impersonalists say “merging.” That is less intelligent. Merging does not mean losing individuality. Just like a green bird enters a green tree. It appears to be merging, but the bird has not lost his individuality. There is still individuality. Similarly, Krishna says in the Second Chapter of Gita that “I, you, Arjuna, and all these people assembled—it is not that they did not exist previously, neither is it that they will not exist.” This means I, you and all these persons were all individuals in the past. In the present we see, practically, and in the future they remain individuals. And individually we are, in our present existence, every one of us, individual. You have your individual views; I have my individual views. We agree on a common platform … that is a different thing … but we are individuals. That is our nature. Therefore there is disagreement sometimes. So the individuality is never lost. But our proposition, bhakti marga, is to keep individuality and agree. Our surrender means we agree with Krishna in everything, although we are individual. If Krishna says that we have to die, we die, out of love. But we are individual—that we cannot deny. But, “Why should I die?” That prerogative I have got. Just like Arjuna was told, “Now I have taught you Bhagavad Gita. Now whatever you like, you do.” Yatha ecchasi tatha kuru. “As you like.” He doesn’t touch individuality. But Arjuna voluntarily surrendered—”Yes!” Karisye vacanam tava. “Yes, I shall do what you ask.” He changed his decision. First he decided not to fight, but then he agreed. Karisye vacanam tava. This agreement—this is oneness. That oneness does not mean to mix up homogeneously. No. He keeps his individuality and Krishna keeps His individuality. This is oneness—not to lose individuality. We cannot lose our individuality. We are individually made, originally. Krishna is individual, we are individual, everyone is individual. Merging means merging in that total agreement. That is liberation. Totally, without any disagreement. And that is the perfection: to keep individuality and agree with God in total agreement. That is perfection. And imperfection? So long as we are in rebellious condition, that is material. Because one who has a slightest desire to disagree with Krishna cannot live there [in Krishna’s abode]. There the only predominant figure is Krishna. So those who are trained fully to agree with Krishna are accepted as associates. Bhagavad Gita says, Bahunam janmanamante jnanavan mam prapadyate. “After many, many births of cultivating knowledge in spiritual life, the fully conversant wise person surrenders unto Me.” Bahunam janmanam. “Fully unto Me.” How does he surrender? Vasudevah sarvamiti. “Ah! Krishna is everything!” The Vedanta Sutra gives hint: janmadyasya yatah. What is Brahman? What is the Supreme? Janmadyasya yatah. The answer is “Brahman is That or He who is the original Source of everything.” But we have to find out Who is the original Source. So that requires wisdom. So when one is perfectly wise after many, many births, after culture, he sees, “Here is the Origin—Krishna!” Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah. “That mahatma, that great soul, is very rare to be seen.” So we are giving the short cut process. What one has to attain after many, many births, we are simply saying surrender to Krishna. That is Krishna Consciousness. This is the greatest boon or contribution to the human society. And if actually one is wise, then he will take our word that if one has to come to this point after many, many births, that Krishna is everything, Vasudeva sarvamiti, why not accept it immediately?

ALLEN: Do you take rebirth literally?

PRABHUPADA: Yes. What is the difficulty?

ALLEN: I just don’t remember having been born before.

PRABHUPADA: You don’t remember your childhood? That does not mean you had no childhood. Do you remember when you were a small boy? What did you do?

ALLEN: Certain things. Not very small, but—

PRABHUPADA: Or when you were in the womb of your mother? Do you remember?


PRABHUPADA: Does it mean that you were not?

ALLEN: No, it does not mean that I was not.

PRABHUPADA: Then that you do not remember is not a reason. That is explained in Bhagavad Gita:

dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
dhiras tatra na muhyati
(Bg. 2.13)

Although I do not remember what I did in my mother’s womb, it does not mean that I had no little body. The body changes. I am there. Therefore I change this body, I remain. That is just common sense reasoning. I’m changing my body every day, every moment. Your childhood body and this body are not the same. You have changed this body. But that does not mean you are a different person.

ALLEN: But I have really never seen or heard anything but what I see and hear now. What I see and hear is what I can remember. I have never heard any reasonable or even thrilling description of previous incarnation or previous births.

PRABHUPADA: You have never heard?

ALLEN: I have never heard anything sensible sounding about it, anything that actually makes me think, “Ah, that must be.”

PRABHUPADA: And why not? Your body in the mother’s womb from the first day of the father and mother’s sex life comes just like a pea. Then it develops. So from the pea you have come to this point. The body is changing, so what is the astonishment if you change this body and again take another pea body? What is the difficulty to understand?

ALLEN: Well, the difficulty to understand would be to understand that there is any permanent being, or any continuity of any form of consciousness from one body to another.

PRABHUPADA: Then you have to consult. Just like when you cannot understand something, you consult some great authority. Is it not?

ALLEN: Not enough to make me dream of it at night. No. Not enough to make me love it. Words are not enough. Authority is not enough to make me love it.

PRABHUPADA: You do not accept authority?

ALLEN: [Emphatically] Not enough to love.

PRABHUPADA: No. … love, apart from love—consult, consult.

ALLEN: No, it’s not that I don’t accept authority—it’s just that I can’t even understand an authority that says that I am there when I don’t feel myself there.

PRABHUPADA: Suppose when you are in some legal trouble you go to a lawyer. Why do you say you cannot understand? When you are diseased you go to a physician. The authority you accept.

ALLEN: In America we have had a great deal of difficulty with authority. Here it is a special problem.

PRABHUPADA: No, that is misunderstanding. Our authority we have to accept. The child has to accept authority. He always asks, “Mother, what is this? Father, what is this?” That is the beginning point. Ask, ask, ask. That is the way of acquiring knowledge. Tat vijnartham sagurum ebam abhigacchet. The Vedic injunction is that if you want to understand that science you must go to guru.

ALLEN: And you understand your previous lives from the descriptions in authoritative texts or from introspection?

PRABHUPADA: No. We have to collaborate. Just like in The Bhagavad Gita it is said sucinam srimatam gehe yogabhrasto ‘bhijayate. “One who could not finish this Krishna Consciousness takes birth in two places, either in a very rich family or in a very pure brahmin family, a brahminical culture family.” So from my life I experienced that when I was a very little child, six or seven years old, I was very much fond of Krishna, and I got the opportunity of these two things. Although my father was not very rich, he was pure Vaishnav. He was a great devotee of Lord Krishna.

ALLEN: In Calcutta?

PRABHUPADA: In Calcutta. And accidentally, I was born in a very rich family. You have seen that picture in my Calcutta, dancing? Kashi Molik’s family? They are very aristocratic family. I did not belong to that family, but I was born in that family. And from the very beginning the Kashi Molik family has a nice Radha Krishna temple. So I was standing before the Deity and I said, “Ah, here is Krishna. Ah, people say He is dead. How is that?” And then I asked my father, “Oh, I shall worship Krishna. Give me Deity.” So my father gave me Radha Krishna and whatever I was eating, I was offering. So the statement of the Shastras and my factual experience collaborate. We have to take an instance like that, you see. Sadhu shastra guru vakya. We have to test everything from three physicians: the spiritual master, scripture and holy man. Scripture means a writing just like the Bible. What is the Bible? Scripture. Why is it scripture? It fully contains the instruction of sadhu, holy man, of a spiritual master, Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore it is scripture. Scripture means the statement of a liberated holy man. That is sadhu. Therefore scriptures should be tested through the holy man and the spiritual master. The spiritual master should be tested through scripture and holy man, and holy man should be tested through spiritual master and scripture.

ALLEN: What is the difference between holy man and scripture?

PRABHUPADA: No difference. But one has to test whether he is holy man. Then he has to collaborate it with the statement of the scripture. A spiritual master has to be tested whether he is holy man and whether there is collaboration with the statements of the scripture. Sadhu sastra guru vakya tinete kariya aikya. Just like in the law court, the experienced lawyer is speaking and giving evidence. Sadhu Sastra. And the judge is giving judgment. Here is a statement, here is a law book. So the judge is also testing how the lawyer is speaking and how it is collaborating with the law book. Similarly, everything has to be tested in that way. The scripture should be consulted, and we should not accept any man as spiritual master or holy man if he does not collaborate with the statements of the scripture. He should be rejected.

ALLEN: What should we sing tomorrow? Have you thought of an arrangement for the program?

PRABHUPADA: As you like.

HAYAGRIVA: We have the auditorium which will seat at least one thousand. Then maybe five hundred or more can stand or sit on stage.

PRABHUPADA: So how are you feeling about chanting?

ALLEN: I have been chanting steadily all along now. I enjoy it more and more. Lately Peter and I have been chanting together on stages and lately we have been singing Ragupati Raghava Raja Ram. Is that part of your canon also?

PRABHUPADA: No, there is no harm, but this chanting of Hare Krishna mantra is recommended in the scripture.

ALLEN: The Hare Krishna is the most pleasing of the chanting as far as I am concerned. Do you want to do that continuously or do you want any other, like Gopala?

PRABHUPADA: I think that this Hare Krishna should be chanted.

ALLEN: See, we have two and a half hours.

PRABHUPADA: In the beginning we should have kirtan and at the end we should have kirtan and in the middle we can speak. You can speak about Krishna Consciousness.

ALLEN: I think you had better speak because you are more eloquent on it, and you understand in the language what you want to say.

PRABHUPADA: I will speak. You will also speak.

ALLEN: You might not like what I say. [laughs]

PRABHUPADA: So you say how you are experiencing. That is all right. Yat yat bibhutimat sattva. You have Krishna’s blessings upon you. You are not ordinary man.

ALLEN: I am not certain that I am worthy of that.

PRABHUPADA: That’s all right. But I know that you are not ordinary man.

ALLEN: Well … I recently stopped smoking, by the way, finally. With a car crash I quit. But I haven’t stopped eating meat. So what is the—

PRABHUPADA: You remain with us for about three months. Then you forget. You remain with us. [everyone laughs] With your associates just come to New Vrindaban and we shall live together.

ALLEN: You have a farm there?

PRABHUPADA: Yes. And you will forget everything. Fully Krishna conscious.

ALLEN: We have a farm also now in upstate New York. We have a vegetarian table also in the farm. We have a cow, goats. But—

PRABHUPADA: From an economic point of view, if one man has a cow and four acres of land he has no economic problem. That we want to start. He can independently live in any part of the world. Simply he must have one cow and four acres of land. So let the people be divided in four acres of land and a cow and there will be no economic question. All the factories will be closed. [everyone laughs]

[At this point, Allen and some of the New Vrindaban members discuss some of the problems of farming.]

PRABHUPADA: There is a proverb that agriculture is the noblest profession. Is it not?


PRABHUPADA: And Krishna was a farmer, cowherd boy. Yes, and in Vedic literature you will find that the richest man is estimated by the possession of grains and cows. If he has sufficient quantity of grains, then he is rich. And actually that is a fact. Keep cows and have sufficient grains and the whole economic problem is solved. As for eating and sleeping … you can take some wood and four pillows. Of course in your country it is cold, but in India all year they are lying under the sky.

ALLEN: Men lived this way for 20,000-30,000 years. Till the 19th Century.

PRABHUPADA: We have to think, “Plain living, high thinking.” The necessities of this bodily existence should be minimized—not unhealthy, but healthy to keep oneself fit. But the time should be utilized to develop Krishna Consciousness, spiritual life. Then his whole problem is solved.

ALLEN: So tomorrow we will be chanting. Now the next question I had in mind, we’ll be doing kirtan, then language, speech, then end with kirtan.

PRABHUPADA: Language is also kirtan. Kirtan means glorifying. That is kirtan. Just like Sukhadeva Goswami continually spoke to Maharaj Parikshit. That is also stated: Sri visnu sravane pariksit avavad vaiasakikirtane. The son of Vyasadeva, Sukhadeva Goswami, became liberated simply by kirtan. But what is that kirtan? He never played musically; he simply explained Srimad Bhagavatam. This is also kirtan. This is called samkirtan.

[At this point,. Allen and Hayagriva discuss the technical plans and the music for the chanting scheduled at Ohio State the next night. Finally Allen changes the subject to poetry.]

ALLEN: Let’s check the pitch of the harmoniums tomorrow. [to Prabhupada] I have been learning to write music. My guru was a poet named William Blake. You know Blake?

PRABHUPADA: Yes, I know Blake.

ALLEN: So, I have been writing music. He is a lot like Kabir. I have been learning to meditate music in singing songs by William Blake, which I have written music to. So those are in the wind.

PRABHUPADA: I can give you so many songs.

ALLEN: Would you like to hear one of the Blake songs?


[Allen and Peter harmonize and sing Blake’s “To Tirzah.” Prabhupada listens with open-eyed amusement and delight.]


Whate’er is born of mortal birth
Must be consumed with the earth,
To rise from generation free;
Then what have I to do with thee?

Thou, Mother of my mortal part,
With cruelty didst mould my heart,
And with false self-deceiving tears
Didst bind my nostrils, eyes and ears;

Didst close my tongue in senseless clay,
And me to mortal life betray:
The death of Jesus set me free:
Then what have I to do with thee?
It is raised—a spiritual body!

PRABHUPADA: He believed in spiritual body. That is nice. That is Krishna Consciousness.

ALLEN: He apparently fits into the West into what is called the Gnostic tradition, which has similar bhakti ideas related to the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Similar cosmology. He was my teacher.

PRABHUPADA: He did not give much stress to this material body?

ALLEN: No, at the end of his life he didn’t.

HAYAGRIVA: Blake died chanting.

[Allen and Peter then sing Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper.” Afterwards one of Prabhupada’s disciples announces that it is five to eleven.]

ALLEN: Let everybody retire.

PRABHUPADA: So, Mr. Ginsberg, you take first of all.

[Prabhupada offers him two flower garlands from the picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. They are put around Allen’s neck and Allen offers obeisances.]

ALLEN: Thank you.

[The next day, May 12th, Allen comes in early in the morning, having spent the night at the temple. Prabhupada immediately suggests that he write poetry on the subjects and pastimes of Krishna. He mentions one of the peculiar qualifications of a devotee, that of lunacy.]

PRABHUPADA: The poet, the lover and the lunatic. [He laughs] So the Krishna lover is also another kind of lunatic or poet, you see.

ALLEN: Except that it [writing of Krishna] would mean concentrating all my consciousness on the one single image of Krishna.

PRABHUPADA: Not image.

ALLEN: Or the one single thought or name or feeling or awareness.

PRABHUPADA: So for that we have varieties of duties. You are seeing that all these boys are always engaged. Similarly, everywhere they are always engaged in Krishna. We even want extra time for the service of Krishna. Twenty-four hours are not sufficient for us. Yes, then we shall see that we are sleeping, wasting time. The Goswamis used to sleep for one half hour only, and that was sometimes forgot.

ALLEN: [laughs] To dream?

PRABHUPADA: Always engaged! Thousands of books they have written. If there was no writing, there was chanting, dancing, talking … engaged in Krishna Consciousness always. That we have been taught by our Guru Maharaj—twenty-four hours engagement with Krishna. So maya has no scope to enter in our minds. She always remains here, therefore here is fire, I cannot touch. Bhaktidas says, Bhakti yadistaee bhagaban sthiratarasyat daivena phalatidivya kishora murti. Mukti mukulitanjali sevate asman dharmartha kama samaya pratiksa. Vilvamangala, a great devotee, executed devotional service for seven hundred years. He lived for seven hundred years in Vrindaban. In that picture you have seen Surudas?

ALLEN: Surudas? The poet?

PRABHUPADA: Yes, he is known as Surudas.

ALLEN: Teacher of Tulsidas? Or student of Tulsidas?

PRABHUPADA: He may be different, but Vilvamangala Thakur was also blind. You know the story of Vilvamangala? Vilvamangala Thakur, in his previous-life, elevated himself to the loving stage of Krishna. Not exactly … the stage just previous—bhava, ecstasy. But somehow or other he could not finish, so according to the instruction of Bhagavad Gita he was given birth in a nice brahmin family. Sucinam srimatam gehe … a rich family and at the same time a brahmin family. But richness generally or sometimes leads down to wine, women and intoxication. So by bad company he became a woman hunter, prostitute hunter. He was too much addicted to one woman—Chintamani. So his father died and he did not marry what in your country is called a girl friend and in our country is called a prostitute. So he was nuts about that prostitute, Chintamani. He was performing the rituals, but he was thinking of his girl friend Chintamani—”When I shall go there—” So he asked his servants, “Oh, give me some food and I shall go to Chintamani.” Anyway, he performed rituals, or did not perform, for his mind was there, and he took some nice foodstuffs, and then he went. There was a big river and it was raining heavily, and the river was flooded, so he thought, “How shall I go to the other side?” One dead body was floating and he thought it was a log, so he took the help of the dead body and went to the other side. And it was heavily raining, and then when he reached Chintamani’s home, he saw the door was locked. So he jumped over the wall by taking the tail of a serpent, and when he reached inside the locked door, Chintamani was astonished and asked, “How did you come?” So he told her he had to cross the river. He said everything like, “Oh, I cannot stay without you.” So, she was very much inquisitive. “Oh, how did you come? How did you jump over this wall?” He told her everything. So at that time Chintamani thought, “Oh, this man is so much addicted to me.” Then she told him, “If this much attraction you have for Krishna, oh, how nice your life would be.” So immediately he took to sannyas because he was addicted to that position in his previous life. Immediately he left. He was going alone to Vrindaban, and on the way he saw another beautiful woman. His business was to be attracted by woman, so he again became attracted, and he followed her. This woman, after entering her home, told her husband, “This man has been following me from a distant place.” Then the husband asked him, seeing he was a rich man, a brahmin, “What is this?” And he said, “Oh, I’ve been attracted by your wife, by the beauty of your wife!” “All right, come on! You enjoy my wife. You are brahmin.” So he was received well, and at night he was given a place. Then he asked that woman, “Mother, will you give me your hairpin?” So he took the hairpin and pushed it in his eyes. “Ah, these eyes are my enemy.” Then he became blind, and in that blindness he was worshipping Krishna and Krishna was coming to him, and he’d sing, dance and supply milk. So this Vilvamangala Thakur wrote one book, Krishna Karnamritam, which is very valuable. That was very highly esteemed by Lord Chaitanya.

ALLEN: What century is that?

PRABHUPADA: Vilvamangala Thakur was some seven hundred years ago. There are many poets. He was a great poet. If you read this Krishna Karnamritam poetry, oh you will find … [laughs] There are many nice poets.

ALLEN: Jayadev I know. And I know some Baul poetry.

PRABHUPADA: You just try to read this Narottamdas Thakur especially. That song you were reading last night, “Nitai Pada Kamala,” is Narottamdas Thakur’s. Oh, for the Vaishnav, to become poet is another qualification. Vaishnav has twenty-six qualifications. [laughs] And one of them is to become poetical. All the Vaishnavas are poets. [laughs]

REKA: Because they are so deep in love with God.

PRABHUPADA: Poetry comes out of deep love for something.

[One of Prabhupada’s disciples, Hrishikesh, reads a list outlining the twenty-six qualifications for a devotee.]

ALLEN: Whose list is that? Is that an old list or did you make that up for young Americans?

PRABHUPADA: No. It is taken from Vaisnava Shastra. This is a test to see whether you are becoming Krishna conscious or not. You have to test yourself, whether you are developing these qualities.

ALLEN: I am slowly developing all qualities except sanity. [all laugh]

PRABHUPADA: Insanity for seeking Krishna, that is required. Yes, unless you become insane after Krishna … Just like Lord Chaitanya. His wish was to become insane after Krishna.

ALLEN: Is Kabir in the Vaishnav tradition? What tradition is he in actually?

PRABHUPADA: He is impersonalist on the whole. And he has some Vaishnav thought, that’s all. Perverted thoughts.

ALLEN: So who is the most perfect of the Vaishnav poets? Mirabai? Have you used her songs here?

PRABHUPADA: Yes. In India she is very popular. Most of her poems are written in Hindi and some of them have been interpreted. Mirabai was a devotee. She saw Rupa Goswami and she has written many poems.

ALLEN: Oh, she was a contemporary of Chaitanya?


ALLEN: Did they meet?

PRABHUPADA: No. She appreciated the fact that Lord Chaitanya is Krishna, and she has written a song that “Now You have left aside Your flute and now have taken a sannyasi garb.” In that way she has written nice poetry. “And where is Your hair and peacock feather? Now You are bald headed.” In this way she appreciated. Her life was also excellent. Her father gave her a small Krishna doll to play with and she developed love of Krishna as husband.

ALLEN: What position does Ananda Mayima have now?

PRABHUPADA: She is also impersonalist. She is not a devotee. There are many impersonalists. They take advantage. They say, “Chaitanya’s path and Sankara’s math.” Follow the principle of Chaitanya, but ultimately take the conclusion of Sankara. That means—

ALLEN: What was the conclusion of Sankaracharya?

PRABHUPADA: Sankaracharya’s conclusion was to defeat Buddhism. They did not know it, but actually when there was too much animal killing and people became almost atheists under the shadow of Vedic rituals, Lord Buddha appeared. He wanted to stop man from the sinful activities of killing unnecessarily under the plea of Vedas. So he invented ahimsa, non-violence. And because people will give evidence, so they use the Vedas. They are not following actually the Vedic rituals, but they are just like crooked lawyers who take advantage of law books. So Lord Buddha said, “I do not follow Vedic rituals; I have nothing to do with Vedas. This is my own formula.” Jayadeva has written one prayer, so Vaishnavas will understand how God is great: Nindasi yajnabidhe rahaha sruti jatam. “My dear Lord, now You have appeared as Lord Buddha. You are decrying the Vedic rituals.” Sruti jatam means Vedic. Why? Sadaya hridaya darsita pasughatam. “You are so compassionate to see the poor animals being killed unnecessarily.” Kesava dhrite buddha sarira jaya jagadisa hare. “All glories to Jagadisa. You have now assumed the form of Lord Buddha. And You are playing His pastimes.” So Lord Buddha is accepted as an incarnation of Krishna. In Srimad Bhagavatam it is stated that He is the ninth incarnation.

ALLEN: Who was eighth?

PRABHUPADA: Eight was Valadeva, Krishna’s elder brother, Balaram.

ALLEN: Buddha is ninth and Valadeva is eighth.

PRABHUPADA: The tenth is KaIki.

ALLEN: What is Kalki’s nature?

PRABHUPADA: Kalki’s nature is described in Bhagavatam. He’ll come just like a prince, royal dress with sword and on horseback, simply killing, no preaching. All rascals killed. No more preaching. [Allen laughs.] You laugh, but they will have no brain to understand what is God.

ALLEN: There’ll be no brain to understand God?

PRABHUPADA: They’ll be so dull … so dull.


PRABHUPADA: It requires brain to understand, just like in the Bhagavat it is stated Evem prasanna manaso bhagabat bhakti yogatah … fully joyful by Bhakti Yoga. Bhagavat tattva vijnam muktasamgasya jayate. And freed from all material contamination. He can understand God. Do you think God is such a cheap thing that everyone will understand? Because they do not understand they present some nonsense. “God is like this, God is like that, God is …” And when God Himself comes and says, “Here I am. Krishna,” they don’t accept it. They create their own God.

ALLEN: So, Kalki comes at the end of Kali Yuga?


ALLEN: Is Kalki connected with the Kali Yuga cycle?

PRABHUPADA: Yes, Kalki. Yes.

ALLEN: So He would come at the end of the Kali Yuga to end the Yuga.

PRABHUPADA: Then Satya Yuga will begin.

ALLEN: Which is?

PRABHUPADA: Satvic means pious. People will be pious, truthful, long living.

ALLEN: Are those the people who remain or whatever new creation comes out of destruction?

PRABHUPADA: Some of them will remain. It will not be completely extinguished. Some of them will remain, the pious. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskritam. All miscreants will be killed and out of them there must be some pious to remain.

ALLEN: Do you think of this in terms of an historical event that will occur in the lifetime of your disciples?

PRABHUPADA: No. This will happen at least 400,000 years from now, at least. So at that time my disciples will be with Krishna. [Everyone laughs joyfully.] And those who will not follow them … they will see the fun. [laughs]

ALLEN: Will people still be chanting Hare Krishna in 400,000 years?

PRABHUPADA: No. Hare Krishna will be finished within 10,000 years. There will be no more Hare Krishna.

ALLEN: So what will be left?

PRABHUPADA: Nothing. There will be I shall kill you and eat you, and you shall kill me and eat me. That will be left. There will be no grain, no milk, no sugar, no fruit, so I will have to eat you, and you will have to eat me. Full facility for meat eating. [Everyone laughs.] Krishna is very kind. [Laughter again] He will give facility. “All right, why cows and calves? You take your own son.”


PRABHUPADA: Just like serpents, they eat their own offsprings. Tigers. So this will all happen. There will be no brain to understand, no preacher, nothing else. So, go to the dogs. And then Krishna will come. “All right, let me kill you so that you are saved.”

ALLEN: Do you see it as actually a historical thing in 10,000 years for the chanting or the diminishing chanting of Hare Krishna?


ALLEN: Well, then do you think that more people would chant Hare Krishna? Or fewer?

PRABHUPADA: Oh yes, more people.

ALLEN: Until?

PRABHUPADA: Up to 10,000 years.

ALLEN: Then?

PRABHUPADA: Then diminish.

ALLEN: So what is the purpose of right now in a world increase?

PRABHUPADA: People will take advantage of this, up to 10,000 years.

ALLEN: This is like the last rope.


ALLEN: The last gasp. [laughter]

PRABHUPADA: So, the sooner we take shelter of Krishna Consciousness …

ALLEN: Then according to Vedic theory, when did this Yuga begin?

PRABHUPADA: Kali Yuga has begun 5,000 years ago.

KIRTANANANDA MAHARAJ: This wave within Kali Yuga in which Hare Krishna increases and then diminishes lasts about 10,000 years, and that began five hundred years ago.

PRABHUPADA: The duration of Kali Yuga is 432,000 years. Out of that we have passed 5,000 years. There is balance of 427,000 years. Out of that, 10,000 years is nothing.

ALLEN: Yes. Where is all this stated?

PRABHUPADA: Vedic literature. Bhagavat Purana.

ALLEN: Bhagavat Purana has the detailed analysis of what goes on in the Kali Yuga? There are some translations of that?

PRABHUPADA: In the Twelfth Canto, Kali Yuga descriptions are there, and you will find now all the descriptions are coming true. There is one statement: Svikarameva hi udbahe. “Marriage will be performed simply by agreement.” And that is being done. And, Labanyam Kesadharanam. “People will think that one becomes very beautiful by keeping a bunch of hairs.” That is coming true. These are written there. All things are there.

ALLEN: In the Bhagavat Puranam is there also provision for the Chaitanya cult?

PRABHUPADA: Oh yes. Krisna barnam tvisa a Krisnam. That is in the book Teachings of Lord Chaitanya. It is the first quotation there.

ALLEN: So it is on this quotation from Bhagavat Puranam that Chaitanya built His system?

PRABHUPADA: No, no. That is a program already presented, and He came to execute the program, just like our meeting is already programed. I come and execute it. That’s all.


PRABHUPADA: It is said, “In the Kali Yuga the Supreme Lord comes as One Who always chants the Holy Name of Sri Krishna, Who is Sri Krishna Himself, Whose complexion is yellow.” You’ll see this in Srimad Bhagavatam, 11th Canto, 5th Chapter, 32 verse. So we have accepted Lord Chaitanya as Krishna not impractically. There are evidences in Upanishads, Mahabharata, Puranas, in Bhagavat, all Vedic scriptures.

ALLEN: Well, then within this period of 10,000 years, only those who hear Krishna’s Name can worship Krishna by chanting.

PRABHUPADA: Kirtanateva Krisnasya muktasamga param brajet. That is also stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam.

ALLEN: So also only those who practice Krishna chanting can get moksha?

PRABHUPADA: Can be immediately liberated and go back to home, back to Godhead.

ALLEN: And everybody else gets involved deeper and deeper in the Yuga.

PRABHUPADA: Yes. So if anyone believes in the Shastras, he should take to this Krishna Consciousness. That is intelligence—to take advantage of authorized scriptures. You will find in the Bhagavata that there is history of Chandragupta and that Germans will become kings, that means English occupation, Mohammedan occupation, Kikitesu, meaning the Bihar province in India. Bhavisyati … because Bhagavat Puranam was written 5,000 years ago and Lord Buddha appeared about 2,600 years ago. So therefore it is stated Bhavisyati. “In future, just in the beginning of the Kali Yuga, the Lord will appear as Buddha, his mother’s name will be Anjanasuta and his business will be to cheat the atheists.”

ALLEN: To cheat the atheists?

PRABHUPADA: Yes. Sanmohaya suradvisam. Suradvisam means atheist. Suradvisam—those who are envious of the Lord’s devotees … that means atheists. So, to bewilder … what is that bewildering? The atheists became so much absorbed in this animal killing that they forgot everything about God. So they say, “What is God? It does not matter.” Lord Buddha says, “Yes, there is no God. There is no God. Void. But what I say, you follow. Yes, that is all right.” But He is God. Is this not cheating? [laughs]

ALLEN: Well, yes, except that He claims to neither be God nor not God.

PRABHUPADA: But He does not say that I am God; He says that there is no God.

ALLEN: No, He doesn’t saythat there is no God either. He says—

PRABHUPADA: That’s it, that’s it anyway. [laughs]

ALLEN: All conceptions of the existence of the Self as well as all conceptions of the non-existence of the Self as well as all conceptions of the existence of the Supreme Self, as well as all the conceptions of the non-existence of the Supreme Self are equally arbitrary, being only conceptions.

PRABHUPADA: Yes, that is jugglery of words, but the principle is that they did not believe in God. So still the Buddhists say they don’t believe in God. But they are worshipping God, Lord Buddha. There are so many temples. In the same way as we worship. This is transcendental cheating.

ALLEN: Transcendental cheating. [laughter]

PRABHUPADA: Just like sometimes the father has to cheat his child. That is not cheating. That is welfare. But apparently he likes cheating, you see. The child is insistent on some point. “Yes, yes, you are right. But you do it like this and you are a very good boy.” But in Vaishnav Vedic literature He [Buddha] is God. The godless are worshipping God in a different way. If there is nothing, why should they worship Buddha?

ALLEN: Well, strictly speaking, one does not worship Buddha.

PRABHUPADA: There are big, big temples in Burma and Japan—

ALLEN: But the practice in the temples is—

PRABHUPADA: Maybe. That is a little different, that is all. But the temple worship, the God is there.

ALLEN: In Zen Buddhism and in—

PRABHUPADA: That is later invention. Originally, the statue of Lord Buddha was worshipped all over.

ALLEN: Originally there was no Buddha, there was a wheel for the doctrine, the dharma, a wheel and then a parasol.

PRABHUPADA: But we can see from historical, archaeological evidences that—

ALLEN: Then when the Europeans came to India—

PRABHUPADA: It is not a question of Europeans.

ALLEN:—then they made a statue of a human faced Buddha.

REKA (Bengali lady): No, no. It was much different than that. Because I saw the great posture of Buddha, the way He died in a little village, I saw Buddha in the nirvana, a twenty-two foot gold statue, just the way he lied when He died. Paranirvana pose, exactly twenty-two feet long. And it was made just after His death.

ALLEN: What I had understood was that like the Jews and the Muslims, in the original first few centuries of Buddhist meditation, made use of a wheel for the dharma or parasolor a bo tree as the image of Buddha, but no—

REKA: When Buddha died, they started making statues of Him.

PRABHUPADA: Yes, that is the archaeological evidence. Archaeological evidence is that Buddha statues are worshipped.

ALLEN: The museum at Mathura has the earliest human statues which—

PRABHUPADA: Buddha is worshipped by the statue. That is historical. And there are many temples in Burma, China, Japan, Buddhist temples. But these Buddhist temples began not exactly after Buddha’s disappearance, at least 1,000 years later. That is a fact.

ALLEN: Yes, that is much later.

PRABHUPADA: Yes, much later. Because when Buddhism was driven out of India, then in Japan and China the Buddhists became Taoists. That is almost after 1,000 years. Otherwise, all India was Buddhist, the whole of India. Sometimes the Jagannath temples are sometimes interpreted (actually it is not so) to be Buddhist.

ALLEN: I think I told you I had darshan with Jagannath.


ALLEN: Yes, I got inside the temple. I was silent and made believe I was a madman. I had long hair and white pajamas.

PRABHUPADA: Just like some Punjabi.

ALLEN: So I went inside and when anybody came to ask me anything I was afraid of opening my mouth.

PRABHUPADA: There is no enemy of the dumb. Bobarsatrunai.

ALLEN: So I just kept my mouth closed and got down on my knees and touched their feet, so they all thought that I was crazy and they kept away from me. [Laughter]

PRABHUPADA: So you had a nice view of Jagannath?

ALLEN: Yes. It was very beautiful. I was there, with Peter also, for about a week. Yes.

PRABHUPADA: So, you were there several times?

ALLEN: One time. I was afraid to go in and out many times. I figured I got away with it once and I didn’t went to—

PRABHUPADA: In that Aquarian Gospel it says that the Lord Jesus Christ lived in the Jagannath Temple. He was thick and thin with the priests. One preacher was very friendly. And he was discussing philosophical subjects with them.

ALLEN: So according to the Aquarian Gospel Christ was in Jagannath Puri.

PRABHUPADA: Yes. And He saw Rathayatra, as we are performing in San Francisco.


PRABHUPADA: So Lord Jesus Christ saw.

ALLEN: We went to Mathura also. We were on the road several days. In Vrindaban for about a week.

PRABHUPADA: You stayed there in Vrindaban?

ALLEN: Yes, for about a week.

PRABHUPADA: You have seen Vrindaban nicely?

ALLEN: Well, we went from one temple to another, sang, sat by the River, went to the little garden where the tree is and met two bhakti devotees I mentioned, Sri Mata Krishnaji and Banki Behari.

PRABHUPADA: Banki Behari?

ALLEN: Yes. They translated from Mirabai into English. Good translations. They were published in the Barati Vidya Bhavan series. They have about four or five books. One Sufis, Yogis, Saints, Poets, like Muktesvara. And then another of Mira, two volumes of Mira and then a life of Mira. And one on the Kumbha Mela.

PRABHUPADA: They’re good scholars?

ALLEN: Yes, good scholars. They know Blake also. They know English.

PRABHUPADA: In which year have you been in Vrindaban?

ALLEN: Oh, 1962 in Vrindaban.

PRABHUPADA: Oh, at that time I was there.

ALLEN: Yes, we probably passed on the street. [both laugh] You were there then? 1962?

PRABHUPADA: Yes, I left Vrindaban in 1965. From 1956 I was there.

ALLEN: I would like to go and live there for a while and stay. I liked it when I was there. It would be a good place to live.

HAYAGRIVA: Are you going there next year?

ALLEN: I think pretty soon I will be going back. I have to stabilize the farm. Hare Krishna.

[Allen offers obeisances and takes leave.]

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