Many observers feel that with corruption so common and scandal nearly standard, society is in a bad way and getting worse. What’s really happening, and what to do? India’s Bhavans Journal interviews His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Interviewer: The first question is this: “Is the influence of religion on the wane? And if so, does this factor account for the increase in corruption and the widespread deterioration of moral values?”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, religion is on the wane. This is predicted in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [12.2.1]: tatas canudinam dharmah satyam saucam ksama dayal kalena balina rajan nanksyaty ayur balam smrtih “In the Kali-yuga [the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy] the following things will diminish: religiosity, truthfulness, cleanliness, mercifulness, duration of life, bodily strength, and memory.”
These are human assets, which make the human being distinct from the animal. But these things will decline. There will be no mercifulness, there will be no truthfulness, memory will be short, and the duration of life will be cut short. Similarly, religion will vanish. That means that gradually we will come to the platform of animals.
Interviewer: Religion will vanish? We’ll become animals?
Srila Prabhupada: Especially when there is no religion, it is simply animal life. Any common man can distinguish that the dog does not understand what religion is. The dog is also a living being, but he is not interested to understand the Bhagavad-gita or the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He is not interested. That is the distinction between man and dog: the animal is not interested.
So when the human beings become disinterested in religious things, then they are animals. And how can there be happiness or peace in animal society? They want to keep people as animals, and they are making a United Nations. How is it possible? United animals, society for united animals? These things are going on.
Interviewer: Do you see any hopeful signs?
Srila Prabhupada: At least they have detected that religion is declining. That is good. “Declining” means they are going to be animals. In logic it is said that man is a rational animal. When the rationality is minus, then he is simply an animal, not a human being. In the human society either you become Christian, Mohammedan, Hindu, or Buddhist; it doesn’t matter. There must be some system of religion. Human society without religion is animal society. This is a plain fact. Why are people so unhappy now? Because there is no religion. They are neglecting religion.
One gentleman has written me that Tolstoy once said, “Unless dynamite is put underneath the church, there cannot be any peace.” Even now the Russian government is very strictly against God consciousness, because they think that religion has spoiled the whole social atmosphere.
Interviewer: It seems there could be some truth in that.
“A dog comes when there are some eatables; I say ‘Hut!’ and he goes away. But again he comes he has no memory. So when our memory of God is reducing, that means that our human qualities are reducing.”
Srila Prabhupada: The religious system might have been misused, but that does not mean that religion should be avoided. Real religion should be taken. It does not mean that because religion has not been properly executed by the so-called priests, religion should be rejected. If my eye is giving me some trouble on account of a cataract, it does not mean that the eye should be plucked out. The cataract should be removed. That is Krishna consciousness.
Interviewer: I think history shows that many people have misused religion. Isn’t that a fact?
Srila Prabhupada: These people have no conception of God, and they are preaching religion. What is religion? Religion means dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: “The path of religion is directly enunciated by the Supreme Lord.” God’s order. They have no conception of God-they do not know what God is-and they are professing some religion. How long can it go on artificially? It will deteriorate.
That has become the present condition. They have no idea of God, so how will they know what is the order of God? Religion means the order of God. For example, law means the order of the state. If there is no state, then where is the order? We have got a clear conception of God—Krishna. And He is giving His order, and we accept it. It is clear religion. If there is no God, no conception of God, no order of God, then where is religion? If there is no government, then where is the law?
Interviewer: Well, there wouldn’t be any law. It would be an outlaw society.
Srila Prabhupada: Outlaw—everyone is an outlaw, manufacturing his own concocted system of religion. That is going on.
Just ask—in any religious system, what is their conception of God? Can anybody tell clearly? Nobody can tell. But we shall immediately say,
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept in playing on His flute, whose blooming eyes are like lotus petals, whose head is bedecked with a peacock’s feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness charms millions of cupids” [Brahma-samhita 5.30]. Immediately, we can give a description of God.
If there is no idea of God, then what kind of religion is that?
Interviewer: I don’t know.
Srila Prabhupada: It is bogus. They have no conception of God, and therefore there is no understanding of religion. That is the decline, and because religion is declining, the human beings are becoming more and more like animals.
“Animal” means one has no memory. A dog comes when there are some eatables; I say “Hut!” and he goes away. But again he comes—he has no memory. So when our memory of God is reducing, that means that our human qualities are reducing. In the Kali-yuga these human qualities will be reduced. That means that people are becoming like cats and dogs.
Interviewer: Here’s the second question: “The traditional charge against Vedic (Indian] culture is that it is fatalistic, that it makes people slaves to the belief in predestination, and that it therefore inhibits progress. How far is this charge true?”
Srila Prabhupada: What is that progress? Is a dog’s jumping progress? Is that progress? A dog is running here and there on four legs, and you are running here and there on the four wheels of the automobile. Is that progress? That is not the Vedic system. According to the Vedic system, the human being has a certain amount of energy, and since the human being has better consciousness than the animals, therefore the energy of the human being is more valuable than the energy of the animals.
Interviewer: Probably no one would dispute that the human being has more freedom or, I suppose, responsibility than the animals.
Srila Prabhupada: So human energy should be utilized for spiritual advancement, not that the energy should be employed to compete with the dog. The saintly person is not busy like the dog. Today people think that “dogness” is life, but actual life is spiritual progress. Therefore, the Vedic literature says,
tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido
na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah
tal labhyate duhkhavad anyatah sukham
kalena sarvatra gabhira-ramhasa
“Persons who are actually intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet (Brahmaloka) down to the lowest planet (Patala). As far as happiness derived from sense enjoyment is concerned, it can be obtained automatically in the course of time, just as in the course of time we obtain miseries even though we do not desire them” [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.18].
Interviewer: Could you explain that a little further?
“The dog is busy for sense gratification: Where is food, where is shelter, where is a female, where is defense? The man is also doing the same business, in different ways. This business is going on life after life .”
Srila Prabhupada: The human being should exert his energy for that thing which he did not get in many, many lives. In many, many lives the soul has been in the form of dogs, or demigods, or cats, birds, beasts, and many others. There are 8,400,000 different types of bodies. So this transmigration of the soul is going on. The business in every case is sense gratification.
Interviewer: Which means?
Srila Prabhupada: For example, the dog is busy for sense gratification: Where is food, where is shelter, where is a female, where is defense? The man is also doing the same business, in different ways. This business is going on life after life. Even a small insect is trying for the same thing. Birds, beasts, fish—everywhere the same struggle is going on. Where is food, where is sex, where is shelter, and how to defend. The Vedic literature says that these things we have done for many, many lives, and that if we don’t get out of this struggle for existence, we will have to do them again for many, many lives.
Interviewer: I’m beginning to see.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, so these things should be stopped. Therefore, Prahlada Maharaja makes this statement:
“My dear friends born of demoniac families, the happiness perceived with reference to the sense objects by contact with the body can be obtained in any form of life, according to one’s past fruitive activities. Such happiness is automatically obtained without endeavor, just as we obtain distress” [Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.3].
A dog has got a body and I have got a body. So, my sex pleasure and the dog’s sex pleasure-there is no difference. The pleasure derived out of sex is the same. A dog is not afraid of having sex pleasure on the street before everyone, and we hide it. That’s all. People are thinking that to have sex pleasure in a nice apartment is advanced. However, that is not advanced. And they are making a dog’s race for this so-called advancement. People do not know that according to whatever kind of body one has acquired, the pleasure is already stored up.
Interviewer: What do you mean, “the pleasure is already stored up”?
Srila Prabhupada: That is called destiny. A pig has got a certain type of body, and his eatable is the stool, You cannot change it. The pig will not like to eat halvah [a sweetmeat made of wheat toasted in butter]. It is not possible. Because he has got a particular type of body, he must eat like that. Can any scientist improve the standard of living of the pig?
Interviewer: I doubt it.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, Prahlada Maharaja says that it is already stored up. The pleasure is basically the same, but a little different according to the body. The uncivilized man in the jungle is having the same thing.
Now people are thinking that civilization means constructing skyscraper buildings. But Vedic civilization says, No, that is not advancement. The real advancement of human life is self-realization, how much you have realized your self. Not that you have constructed skyscraper buildings.
Interviewer: But wouldn’t what you’re saying make sense to most people?
Srila Prabhupada: Sometimes people misunderstand. In a high court, a judge is sitting soberly, apparently doing nothing, and he is getting a high salary. Someone else is thinking, “I am working so hard in the same court, rubber stamping-and not getting one-tenth of the salary of the judge.” He is thinking, “I am so busy, working so hard, and I am not getting as good a salary as the man who is just sitting on the bench.” The situation is like that: the Vedic civilization is meant for self-realization, not for a dog’s race.
Interviewer: Still, isn’t it usually considered honorable to work hard, to struggle and eventually “get ahead” in life?
Srila Prabhupada: The karmis, fruitive workers, have been described in the Bhagavad-gita as mudhas, asses. Why are they compared to the asses? Because the ass works very hard with loads on his back, and in return his master gives him only a little morsel of grass. He stands at the door of the washerman and eats grass while again the washerman loads his back. He has no sense that if I go out of the cottage of the washerman I can get grass anywhere—why am I carrying so much?
Interviewer: That brings to mind some people I know.
“There is no religion, simply a dog’s race: The dog is running on four legs, and you are running on four wheels–that’s all. And you think that the four-wheel race is advancement of civilization.”
Srila Prabhupada: The fruitive worker is like that. He is very busy in the office, and if you want to see him he will say, “I am very busy.” So what is the result of your being so busy? He takes two pieces of toast and one cup of tea. And for this purpose you are so busy? He does not know why he is busy. In the account books he will find that the balance was one million dollars and now it has become two million. He is satisfied with that, but he will take only two pieces of toast and one cup of tea, and still he will work very hard. That is what is meant by karmi. Asses—work like asses, without any aim in life.
But Vedic civilization is different. The accusation is not correct—people in Vedic civilization are not at all lazy. They are busy for a higher subject matter. Prahlada Maharaja stresses that this busyness is so important that it should begin from the very childhood. Kaumara acaret prajnah one should not lose a second’s time. That is Vedic civilization. The asses see, “These men are not working like I am”—like dogs and asses—and they consider that we are escaping. Yes, escaping your fruitless endeavor. The Vedic civilization is meant for self-realization.
Interviewer: Could you give us more of an idea what the Vedic civilization is like?
Srila Prabhupada: The Vedic civilization begins from the varnasrama system. In the varnasrama system there is this arrangement: brahmanas [intellectuals, advisors], ksatriyas [administrators], vaisyas [merchants, farmers], sudras [workers], brahmacaris [students], grhasthas [householders], vanaprasthas [retired married people], and sannyasis [renounced monks].
The ultimate goal is that Krishna, the Supreme Lord, should be worshiped. So if you worship Krishna, then you fulfill all your occupational duties, either as a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmacari, anything. Take to it immediately—take to Krishna consciousness. This is so important.
Interviewer: If people really knew about a lifestyle that was more natural, more fulfilling, what would be the problem? They actually would, as you say, take to it.
Srila Prabhupada: But because they do not know, therefore there is no religion, simply a dog’s race. The dog is running on four legs, and you are running on four wheels—that’s all. And you think that the four-wheel race is advancement of civilization.
Therefore, modern civilization is practically said to do nothing. Whatever is obtainable by destiny, you will get it, wherever you are. Rather, take to Krishna consciousness. The example is given by Prahlada Maharaja, that you do not want anything distasteful and yet it comes upon you. Similarly, even if you do not want happiness which you are destined, it will come upon you. You should not waste your energy for material happiness. You cannot get more material happiness than you are destined.
Interviewer: How can you be so sure of that?
Srila Prabhupada: How shall I believe it? Because you get some distressful condition although you do not want it. For instance, President Kennedy died by the hand of his own countryman. Who wanted it, and why did it come? He was a great man, he was protected by so many, and still he was destined to be killed. Who can protect you?
So if the distressful condition comes upon me by destiny, then the other position, the opposite number—happiness—will also come. Why shall I waste my time for this rectification? Let me use . my energy for Krishna consciousness. That is intelligent. You cannot check your destiny. Everyone will experience a certain amount of happiness and a certain amount of distress. Nobody is enjoying uninterrupted happiness. That is not possible.
Just as you cannot check your distressed condition of life, so you cannot check your happy condition of life. It will come automatically. So don’t waste your time for these things. Rather, you should utilize your time for advancing in Krishna consciousness.
Interviewer: Would a Krishna-conscious person not try for progress?
Srila Prabhupada: The thing is that if you try for progress vainly, then what is the use of that? If it is a fact that you cannot change your destiny, then what is the use of that? We will be satisfied with the amount of happiness and distress that we are destined.
Vedic civilization is meant for realization of God. That is the point. You’ll still find in India that during important festivals many millions of people are coming to take bath in the Ganges, because they are interested how to become liberated. They are not lazy. They are going thousands of miles, two thousand miles away to take bath in the Ganges. They are not lazy, but they are not busy in the dog’s race. Rather, they are busy right from their childhood trying to become self-realized. Kaumara acaret prajno dharman bhagavatan iha. They are so busy that they want to begin the business from their very childhood. So it is the wrong conception to think that they are lazy.
Interviewer: Then the question may be raised that if destiny cannot be checked, then why not let every newborn child simply run around like an animal, and whatever is destined to happen to him will happen?
Srila Prabhupada: No, the advantage is that you can train him spiritually. Therefore it is said, tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovidah: You should engage your energy for self-realization. Ahaituky apratihata: Devotional service, Krishna consciousness, cannot be checked. Just as material destiny cannot be checked, your advancement in spiritual life cannot be checked if you endeavor for it.
Actually, Krishna will change destiny—but only for His devotee. He says, aham tvam sarva-papebhyomoksayisyami [Bhagavad-gita 18.66]: “I shall give you all protection from all reactions of sinful activities.”
For instance, if one is condemned by the law court to be hanged, nobody can check it. Even the same judge who has given this verdict cannot check it. But if the defendant begs for the mercy of the king, who is above all the laws, then the king can check it.
Therefore, our business is to surrender to Krishna. And if we artificially want to be more happy by economic development, that is not possible. So many men are working so hard, but does it mean that everyone will become a Henry Ford or a Rockefeller? Everyone is trying his best. Mr. Ford’s destiny was to become a rich man, but does it mean that every other man who has worked as hard as Ford will become a rich man like Ford also? No. This is practical. You cannot change your destiny simply by working hard like an ass or a dog. But you can utilize that energy for improving your Krishna consciousness.
Interviewer: Exactly what is Krishna consciousness? Could you tell us more?
Srila Prabhupada: How to love God—that is Krishna consciousness. If you have not learned to love God, then what is the meaning of your religion? When you are actually on the platform of love of God, you understand your relationship with God-that “I am part and parcel of God.” Then you extend your love to the animal, also. If you actually love God, then your love for the insect is also there. You understand, “This insect has got a different body, but he is also part and parcel of my father; therefore, he is my brother.” Then you cannot maintain a slaughterhouse. If you maintain a slaughterhouse and disobey the order of Christ, “Thou shalt not kill,” and you proclaim yourself as Christian or Hindu, that is not religion. Then it is simply a waste of time—because you do not understand God, you have not got any love for God, and you are labeling yourself under some sect, but there is no real religion. That is going on all over the world.
Interviewer: How can we cure the situation?
Srila Prabhupada: Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If you do not accept that Krishna is the supreme entity, then try to understand. That is education: there is somebody supreme; Krishna is not Indian; He is God. Just like the sun rises first in India but that does not mean that the sun is Indian, similarly, although Krishna appeared in India, now He has come to the Western countries, through this Krishna consciousness movement.