A lecture by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Delivered in Calcutta, India, on January 31, 1973
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for your kindly inviting me to speak something about East and West. Actually, I have considerable experience now because I have been traveling between the East and the West—not only once but at least twice or thrice every year.
As far as the Krsna conscious movement is concerned, there is really no such thing as East and West. For instance, the sun rises from the eastern horizon and sets on the western horizon, but the sun is the same. You cannot say “the eastern sun and “the western sun.” That is not possible. This planet earth is moving, and we are thinking that the sun is moving from east to west. But the sun is fixed in its position. Similarly, this Krsna consciousness movement makes no such distinction between East and West. If one makes such a distinction, it is due to lack of knowledge.
Why this lack of knowledge? Because we are in the bodily concept of life. According to Vedic culture, anyone who accepts the material body to be the self is not considered a human being. It is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [10.84],
yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij
janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah
“One who accepts this bodily bag of three elements (bile, mucus, and air) as his self, who desires an intimate relationship with his wife and children, who considers the land of his birth worshipable, who bathes at the holy places of pilgrimage but never takes advantage of those persons who are in actual knowledge-he is no better than an ass or a cow.”
Go-kharah. Go means “cow,” and khara means ass.” This is how the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes any person who is accepting this body as himself. For example, if someone asks us, “Who are you?” generally we say, “I am Mr. Such-and-such; I am American.” Or “I am Indian,” or “I am African.” These are all bodily designations, because I am identifying myself with this body.
Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke. Kunape means “bag.” This body is a bag—a bag of bones, flesh, blood, urine, and so many other things. You cannot manufacture a living entity by combining bones, flesh, blood, urine, and stool. That is not possible. You are great scientists, you are going to the moon, but if I give you some ingredients like these bones, flesh, blood, and urine, can you manufacture a human being? Can you? Can anyone? Is there any scientist in the world who can manufacture a human being by combining bones, flesh, blood, urine, and stool? No. Then why are you identifying with this body?
From your country have come so many scientists and great leaders. From our country, also, come many big leaders—Mahatma Gandhi and others. Do you think these men are merely combinations of bones and flesh and urine? According to the Ayurvedic system of medicine, this body is made chiefly of three elements, kapha pitta vayu: mucus, bile, and air Actually, this body is like that. As soon as the spirit soul leaves this body, the body is nothing but bones, flesh, urine, and stool, and it has to be disposed of. While the man was living he was acting so nicely, so intelligently. Now, as soon as the soul is gone, immediately all of his good qualities are gone. So do you think he was simply a combination of bones and flesh? Will any sane man accept this?
You may say that it is because something is lacking for generating life in this body that the body is called dead. But that is not a fact, because after this body’s death—after the soul has gone out of the body—innumerable microbes will come out. Decomposition. So you cannot say that the ingredients that give impetus to the generation of life are lacking. They are not lacking.
So if there is any difference between East and West, this is the difference. In the Eastern part of the world, especially in India, the people know, “I am not this body.” And in the Western part of the world, they do not know. That is the difference. That is the distinction between East and West.
In India, go to a village and ask any man, “What are you?” He will say, “Sir, I am a soul suffering or enjoying according to my past karma.” In other words, “I was living in the past. So according to my past actions I am suffering or enjoying the reactions in this life.” He believes in the transmigration of the soul. And he believes in the future life also. He is very cautious not to commit sins, because he knows, “If I commit sins in this life, I’ll have to suffer in my next life.” This is Eastern life. And in the Western countries, no one knows this, even big, big professors. In Moscow I talked with one Professor Kotofsky. He said, “Swamiji, after death everything is finished.” This is the difference between East and West.
In the Eastern countries, especially in India, a common man will understand the existence of the soul. And in the Western countries, a topmost man—a professor—does not know about the soul. That is the difference. Otherwise, as far as your eating is concerned, it is the same, either in Eastern countries or Western countries. You eat something very nice on a plate; they also eat something. You sleep in a nice apartment; they also sleep in something. You try to defend with your atomic weapons; they also try to defend. You are after sex; they are also after sex. And this is true not only of Eastern and Western people: the animals are also after these things. Ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca/ samanyam etad pasubhih naranam. Eating, sleeping, sex life, and defense. These are common to the animal and the human being. You may improve the cooking process or eating process, but, after all, it is still eating. Your eating is meant for maintaining your body. That is done by the animals, also. These things are not cultural advancement. Real cultural advancement is to know, “I am not this body. I am spirit soul.” Aham brahmasmi. That is the difference. So this education is in India.
In the beginning of Bhagavad-gita [2.l3], Krsna says,
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” This is the Eastern gift.
So I have come to the Western countries to give this Eastern gift. And it is being accepted by your children. So many American and European boys and girls are accepting it. Not only hundreds, but thousands. People say, “Swamiji, you are doing wonderfully.” I tell them I am not doing wonderfully. I do not know any magic. I have no mystic power. I am simply presenting the Eastern culture to the West. That’s all. It is not unreasonable. Any child can understand that there is the soul within the body. There is one doctor in Montreal by the name of Dr. Bigelow who is now speaking about the existence of the soul. He’s a cardiologist. I had some correspondence with him, and he admitted, “Swamiji, your people know much more about these things than we know.” But there is no question of East and West. It is simply education. Take these boys, for example. Four or five years ago they did not know anything about Krsna consciousness. But because they have been educated in the science of Bhagavad-gita, they are now also teaching others about the soul. And they are very sound in their conviction.
Actually, any knowledge—any scientific knowledge—is meant for the whole world. For instance, Professor Einstein discovered the law of relativity, but it is not just for the Western people. It is for the Eastern people also. When there is culture, when there is knowledge, there is no question of Eastern and Western. The Eastern people may know something very nicely, and the Western people may take some time to learn it; or the Western people may know something very nicely, and the Eastern people may take a little time. For example, in order to learn about technology, an Easterner will go to the Western countries to learn how a certain machine works. In India, they are also learning.
So now the time is ripe for us to stop thinking in terms of Eastern and Western. We should be hankering after real knowledge. That is needed. That is the point of unity. Now, for lack of knowledge, the Eastern and Western people are trying to find a solution to the world’s problems through the United Nations. But they are unable to do so. My headquarters is in New York. I go to First Avenue, and occasionally I see the United Nations building. But instead of diminishing the number of flags, they’re increasing them. They’re increasing. Then what is the meaning of this “United Nations”? Big politicians and big learned scholars are speaking. Then why are the nations not united? It is due to lack of knowledge.
What is that lack of knowledge? Yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke. Everyone is thinking, “I am this body.” They are trying to unite, but the basic principle of their disunity is that they are all thinking, “I am this body.” The American is thinking, “I am this American body,” and the Russian is thinking, “I am this Russian body.” So they are fighting. Why? Due to this identification with the body. But if we understand this very simple principle, that “I am not this body,” then everyone will be united. Until the lack of knowledge is eradicated, how will we be united, culturally or in any other way? It is not possible, because we are missing the point.
This is the point: dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati. Asmin dehe: in this body, there is a proprietor of the body. That is the soul. This proprietor of the body is constantly trans-migrating to different types of bodies. The example is given: kaumaram yauvanam jara. A small child is changing his body to boyhood, the boy is changing his body to adolescence, and the young man. is changing his body to an old man’s body. Similarly, when the old man’s body dies, the soul accepts another body. This is knowledge. Dhiras tatra na muhyati. One who is actually in knowledge is not disturbed by the death of the body, because he knows the soul is not dead.
Another example is how you change your dress. Now, some of you are present here with a coat of black color. And tomorrow you can change into a white coat. But that does not make any difference; you still remain the same person. So it is the same when we change our body. For instance, I was once a baby. I remember that I had a little body’. But that body is missing now. Then I remember that I was a young man; I had a very youthful body. But that body is also missing now. And as an older person, I know that I have again changed my body. I have simply changed my body, but I am still living. I remember the different bodies. Similarly, when we change into a completely different body, it does not mean that we are dead. It is further explained in the Bhagavad-gita, na hanyate hanyamane sarire. The living entity, after the annihilation of this body, does not die.
How does the living entity transmigrate from one body to another? By the subtle body. There is a subtle body. The flesh, bones, and blood form the gross body. The subtle body works when we are asleep. While dreaming, we go outside our bedroom and we see so many things; we work in so many ways. That is the subtle body. So after the destruction of this gross body, that subtle body carries us to another gross body. It is a great science. A great science. And it is explained very nicely in the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures. So why do the scientists of the Western countries not take. this matter seriously?
I was invited to speak in Boston, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. First I inquired of all the students, “Where is your technological department by which, when the body stops, you can again give it vitality and make it work? Where is that technology?” The students all liked that, and we had a very nice discussion.
We are very much advanced in technology, but we do not know the technology of the soul transmigrating from one body to another. That is ignorance. And this ignorance prevails in animals also. The animals do not know of the soul, because they are not advanced in knowledge. But they are also souls evolving or transmigrating from one body to another. There is a system. Jalaja nava-laksani sthavara laksa vimsati: from the aquatics everything is coming. The whole world was merged into water, devastation. Therefore, the beginning of the living entities is the aquatics. From the aquatics, they come to the forms of plants and trees. Then from plants and trees to insects. From insects to birds. Then from birds to beasts, and from beasts to human beings. Asatims caturams caiva laksams tan jiva-jatisu. They’re all mentioned.
The evolutionary theory is not a new thing, as stated by Darwin. It is there in the Visnu Purana. But it is very perfectly explained there. Darwin has not very perfectly explained it. In his theory, there are so many defects. But the real point is that the living entity, the soul, is transmigrating from one body to another, and the chance of developed consciousness is in the human form of life. In this human form of life, we must come to understand, “What am I, where have I come from, where am I going next, and why have I taken this body, which is subjected to so many miserable tribulations I do not want?”
Ultimately, all of our miserable conditions have been summarized into four—birth, death, old age, and disease. Janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam. We are trying to become happy by our scientific knowledge, by advancement of knowledge, but Lord Krsna says that you cannot make any material solution to these four problems. That is not possible. So our happiness is false happiness. This is called maya. Maya means we are falsely happy. We are thinking, “Now I am well situated,” but I am not thinking that at any moment—perhaps the next moment—I may be kicked out of the situation I am in and everything will be finished. “Why am I being kicked out? I want to stay here permanently.” Nobody wants to leave his present body. Then why do we? Where is the solution? This is lack of knowledge. But there is a solution. That is Eastern culture.
The Eastern culture knows how to make the solution. Therefore, you’ll find so many groups—the karmis (performers of ritualistic activity), the jnanis (philosophers), the yogis, and the devotees—they are all trying to make a solution to these four problems of birth, death, old age, and disease. That is the Eastern gift. And in the Bhagavad-gita- [4.9], there is the solution:
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” That is culture. That is the real business of the human being—to understand, “I am put into this material condition of life. I am changing from one kind of body to another. Who can guarantee that I am not going to become a tree in my next life?”
There is no guarantee. There is no scientific guarantee that you are not going to be a tree, that you are again going to become an American. No, there is no guarantee. Because the so-called scientists cannot find a solution to this problem, they do not believe in the next life That is their defect in their knowledge. They want to live permanently, but by the laws of nature they cannot Therefore, they cannot find a solution. But we can give the solution. Nobody wants to become old, but we are forced to become old. We can also give the solution to this problem. This is Eastern culture.
I request all of you ladies and gentlemen to take to this Krsna consciousness movement. It is not a sentimental movement. It is a very authorized, scientific movement.
Already we are combining East and West socially, politically, religiously, philosophically, economically—in every way. The solution is here, if you take it seriously. It is not a sentimental movement. It is most scientific. If any scientist comes to me, I can convince him that it is a scientific movement.
I asked Professor Kotofsky in Moscow, “My dear professor, what is the difference between your communist movement and my movement? You have selected Lenin as God; I have selected Krsna as God. Where is the difference of principle? You cannot live without a leader, or God. I cannot live without a leader, or God.
That’s a fact. Then where is the difference? Now it is to be judged whether Lenin is good or Krsna is good. That is another thing. But your position is that you have to accept one leader, either Lenin or Jawaharlal Nehru or Hitler or Churchill. You have to accept. You cannot work independently. Therefore you have got so many parties. So here is another party, the Krsna party. So where is the difference in philosophy? There is no basic difference in philosophy. Now let us study whether the Lenin party is better or the Krsna party is better. Then the whole solution will be realized.” Thank you very much. Hare Krsna