Questions and Answers
On the Science of Transcendence
A conversation with
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
This conversation with guests took place at the Hare Krsna center in Los Angeles in the late sixties.
Guest: What is the outcome of the continual chanting of om?
Srila Prabhupada: Like the Hare Krsna mantra, om is a manifestation of the Supreme Lord in the form of sound vibration. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita. So, Hare Krsna and om have practically the same value, but chanting Hare Krsna is easier. Another reason we chant Hare Krsna is that it was specifically chanted by Lord Caitanya. * [“Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee. He appeared in Bengal, India, five hundred years ago to teach love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra.]
Om is generally chanted at the beginning of Vedic mantras: om tad visnoh paramam padam sada. . . . om purnam adah purnam idam. Om addresses the Lord, and Hare Krsna also addresses the Lord. But chanting Hare Krsna is easier, and it is recommended for this age. Otherwise, transcendentally, or spiritually, there is no difference.
Guest: What do you think of kundalini-yoga and raja-yoga?
Srila Prabhupada:Raja-yoga means “the king of yogas.” But we are practicing the emperor of yogas, bhakti-yoga, so raja-yoga is included in it. In the Bhagavad-gita [6.47], Lord Krsna says,
yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam sa me yuktatamo matah
“Anyone who is always thinking of Me within himself is the topmost yogi.” Therefore a person who is in full Krsna consciousness has surpassed all other kinds of yogic principles.
What is your understanding of kundalini-yoga? Do you know what it is?
Guest: It’s very dangerous.
Srila Prabhupada: Why do you want to practice such a dangerous thing?
Guest: I just wanted to know what you thought of it.
Srila Prabhupada: It is not possible to practice such a difficult process of yoga in this age. It is too difficult. So we recommend that you not waste your valuable time trying to follow something that is not possible for you. That is our recommendation.
Of course, if you want to maintain some “yoga hobby,” that is a different thing. But you will never be successful, because kundalini-yoga is very difficult to perform. In the present age, bhakti-yoga, or Krsna consciousness, is recommended as the only possible way for self-realization. And it is very simple: Just chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Anyone can do it, in any part of the world. One may be of any age; it doesn’t matter whether you’re an old man or a child. The many children of our devotees are chanting Hare Krsna, and old men like me are also chanting Hare Krsna. And these young boys and girls, my disciples, are also chanting Hare Krsna. So it is universal.
My disciples are neither Hindus nor Indians, nor have they any knowledge of Sanskrit. But they have easily picked up this Hare Krsna chant, and they are gettingthe result. So chanting Hare Krsna is the easiest, most universal method of self-realization in the present age. No other yoga practice will be successful. It will simply be a waste of time.
Guest: May I ask this, Swami: Have you yourself reached the superconscious state, or the Christ-conscious state?
Srila Prabhupada: It is not very difficult. You can also do that. Just follow the easy process of chanting Hare Krsna. What is Christ consciousness? What did Christ teach? That you surrender to God. Isn’t this his essential teaching?
Guest: Well, the understanding I have of Christ consciousness is when one’s mind reaches the state where it is within all the atoms and all the flowers—
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is within your self, within your heart, within the atoms—everywhere. So if Christ taught that God is like that, then there is no difference between Christ consciousness and Krsna consciousness.
Guest: When I say Christ consciousness, I mean to get your mind on the same level as the atoms—actually, on a higher level, beyond the atoms, as pure spirit. These two levels of consciousness, in the atoms and beyond—
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, there aren’t two levels of consciousness. There is only one. Consciousness is like the sky, but when part of the sky is overcast with clouds, you divide it: “This is the friendly sky, and this is the unfriendly sky.” The airlines like to advertise, “Fly in the friendly sky.” Wherefrom has this “friendly sky” come? The sky is one, but the part of the sky that is covered with clouds we call “the unfriendly sky,” and the part that is sunny we call “the friendly sky.”
Similarly, everything, without exception, is spirit (sarvam khalv idam brahma), but the portion of spirit that is covered by ignorance—by the cloud of ignorance—is called matter.
What is material civilization? All our usual activities, minus God. And as soon as we add God to all our activities, our civilization is spiritual. So, all activities minus God means trouble, and all activities plus God means the spiritual world, all-pleasing. Krsna consciousness means all activities should be done with God in the center. That is the sum and substance of Krsna consciousness.
We are doing the same things as you. We are burning candles here, and you also burn candles at your home. This is an apartment, and you also have your apartment. What is the difference between this apartment and your apartment? Here there is a relationship to Krsna. So, you make everything in your life related to Krsna, and your life will become spiritual. That is the technique you learn in Krsna consciousness.
Actually, there is nothing but Krsna consciousness. We have artificially covered Krsna consciousness with something else, which is called maya, or illusion. You have to get out of this maya consciousness and stand in your original Krsna consciousness. Then your life is perfect. That is what we are teaching—nothing artificial or extraordinary. Nor is it very difficult. It is very plain and simple.
Guest: Is there a regression in your system of reincarnation? In other words, after his body dies can a man regress and become an animal or an insect of some sort?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. There are 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies, and after this life we can enter any one of them.
As far as my constitutional position is concerned, I am not the body: I am a spirit soul. We are changing our body even at the present moment. When you were born from your mother’s womb, your body was very small. Now it has grown. You were a small boy, now you are a young man, and soon you will become an old man like me. So, your body is changing; this is a simple fact. And Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [2.13], tatha dehantara-praptih: “After death you will pass into another body.” That body may be a human body, a dog body, a cat body, a plant body—it all depends on your consciousness at the time of death.
Guest: What is it that you take with you?
Srila Prabhupada: I will explain. Our change of body is taking place according to our mentality. For example, all these boys and girls and ladies and gentlemen sitting here in this room have different clothes, different bodily features, different modes of life. Why? Because of their different mentalities. Somebody likes to keep his hair dirty, somebody likes to cleanse it. Why? Because of a difference of mentality. Similarly, your next body will be determined by the state of your mind at the time of your death. If your mind is God conscious, you will get a body like God’s. And if your mind is dog conscious, you will get the body of a dog.
So, it is a question of training your mind in such a way that at the point of death you can keep yourself Krsna conscious. Then you will get a body as good as Krsna’s. This is the whole philosophy of Krsna consciousness. Krsna’s body is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha: full of bliss, full of knowledge, and eternal. We should hanker after an eternal, blissful body full of knowledge. That should be our aim. And to fulfill that aim, we should practice Krsna consciousness.
Guest: When we get our next body, does our mind retain much of what it learned in the life before? Or does it start all over again and gain its knowledge through that body?
Srila Prabhupada: Death means forgetfulness. It is something like sleep. Or, sleep is partial death. When you sleep you forget your day’s activities, and you also sometimes think that you have a different body or that you are floating in the air or that you have gone somewhere you have never been before.
Similarly, as soon as your body changes, your mind also changes. The mind’s functions are thinking, feeling, and willing. We think, feel, and will according to circumstances. For example, now you have an American body, so you are thinking like an American, and someone else has a Russian body, so he’s thinking like a Russian. Similarly, a soul who has a dog’s body thinks like a dog. So the mind changes according to the condition of the body.
Guest: In the supreme state of Krsna consciousness, is it possible to remember your previous life?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is possible. If you come to the supreme state of Krsna consciousness, you can remember. There are instances in the scripture. King Bharata died thinking of a deer, so his next body was a deer’s. But he remembered, “I was such-and-such a person.” Sometimes even ordinary people can remember their past lives. Occasionally the newspaper reports that a child is saying, “I have my home in another town,” and when the child goes there he says, “Such-and-such boy is my son. Here in this box I kept such-and-such a thing.” There are many instances of this.
Guest: Could you tell me why I have so much trouble concentrating when I meditate on the astral world?
Srila Prabhupada: Because your mind is always disturbed, full of anxieties. Therefore you cannot concentrate. But the process of chanting Hare Krsna automatically lets you concentrate. When you chant or I chant loudly, you hear “Hare Krsna,” and your mind is immediately turned to Krsna. That is meditation.
After all, meditation means to concentrate on the Supreme. The Supreme is Krsna, and Krsna is nondifferent from His name. So when you hear the name Krsna, you immediately remember the person Krsna, and you associate with Krsna.
What will you accomplish by silent meditation? You’ll think of your office or your home or your dog or your cat. That’s all. Therefore, even five thousand years ago this silent meditation was not recommended. When Krsna advised Arjuna, “Take to this practice of silent meditation,” Arjuna said, “Oh, it is not possible for me. I am a warrior. I have so many things to do. How can I concentrate my mind?” So Krsna excused him and recommended that Arjuna simply surrender to Him. But we are trying to be more than Arjuna. This silent meditation is simply a waste of time; it is not possible. Chanting the holy name of God is the only process of meditation for the present age.
Guest: I have known some people who have meditated on the astral world, and they’ve contacted the discarnate souls there. And when the mind is left open, these discarnate souls, which are not good, will take over the mind of a person. How can one avoid this?
Srila Prabhupada: By Krsna consciousness. You can avoid all these rubbish things by simply keeping your consciousness on Krsna. That’s all. It is a very simple thing. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, satatam kirtayanto mam: “The great souls always glorify the Lord.” Then there is no opportunity for engaging the mind in nonsense.
We are teaching our students to chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They are becoming practiced at this. So even when they go onto the street, they chant Hare Krsna and are in samadhi [full concentration on the Supreme]. They don’t have to struggle to attain samadhi: the samadhi is going with them. They aren’t practicing breathing exercises or sitting exercises. No. They are ordinary boys and girls. But simply by chanting Hare Krsna, they are making spiritual progress. Their health, their character, their mode of living—everything is improving, developing.
Spiritual advancement means that onealways acts in the mode of goodness. A man who is spiritually advanced cannot do all kinds of nonsense. That is contradictory. How can a pure thing produce impurity? Can one who is addicted to all kinds of nonsensical habits be practicing meditation and elevating himself? Is it possible? All this is bogus. As soon as one becomes purified, his character and his mode of living will be purified. That is the test of spiritual advancement.
If you’re cured of a disease, there is no longer a fever; the temperature is at the normal point. You cannot say, “I’m cured, but my temperature is 105.” Then your so-called cure is bogus.
Advancement in self-realization means purification from material contamination. That is real advancement. And Krsna consciousness is a practical means of purification. In your country, smoking, drinking, keeping boyfriends and girlfriends, meat-eating—all these are common affairs. How are my disciples avoiding all these things? None of them has been associating with me for more than a year, yet just see their character! You cannot induce them to smoke even one cigarette. Krsna consciousness is so purifying.
We don’t say, “Go on with all your nonsense, and at the same time you can become spiritually advanced.”No. You must actually show that you are advanced in spiritual consciousness. Yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincana sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah: “All good qualities develop in a devotee of Lord Krsna.” So, developing good qualities is the evidence of spiritual advancement.
Of course, it may be that because of your past bad habits you sometimes commit mistakes and fall down. But Krsna says, ksipram bhavati dharmatma: Even if a devotee falls down out of ignorance, still he’ll very soon become purified. The process of Krsna consciousness is so powerful. When a fan is running and you turn off the switch, the fan will continue to move. But you can rest assured that it will stop, because the switch is off. Similarly, a person who has taken to Krsna consciousness immediately turns off the switch of his material life. And even though we can see that some of his material activities continue, they will stop very soon.
Guest: Do you think that drugs can help one attain Krsna consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is nonsense. They’ll not help. We don’t allow any kind of intoxication.
Guest: Do drugs interfere with the soul’s advancement?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Drugs are artificial. Your situation is already artificially complicated by your body, and you want to make your situation more complicated? Do you mean to say that this is advancement? You have to get free of material contamination, not increase it.
Suppose you want to get free of a certain disease. You have to take the proper medicine and eat the proper diet. Similarly, to get free of material contamination you have to chant Hare Krsna, the proper medicine, and eat krsna-prasadam [food offered to Krsna], the proper diet. Then the disease of material contamination will be cured. This is the simple and practical method of purification.
When my disciples first came to me, what did I give them? A little fruit—krsna-prasadam—and the chanting of Hare Krsna. That was all. And now their faces, their activities, their habits, their character—everything has improved. What is the treatment? The medicine of Hare Krsna and the diet of krsna-prasadam. That’s all. There is no surgical operation. You take to it and see the result.
Guest: What is the main qualification for attaining self-realization?
Srila Prabhupada: To become a devotee of Krsna. We are part and parcel of Krsna, but we have forgotten this. So when we come again to the understanding that we are part and parcel of God, that is our greatest qualification.
What is the greatest qualification of a good citizen? When an American thinks, “I am an American citizen; therefore I have to look after the interests of the United States,” that is the best qualification of good citizenship. Similarly, when you transcend all artificial designations—”I am American,” “I am Indian,” “I am this or that”—and you understand, “I am part and parcel of the Supreme,” that is the greatest qualification for becoming self-realized.
Guest: When you surrender to Krsna, do you still have any obligation to worldly affairs, to making the world a better place?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. My obligation is to give you an education in Krsna consciousness. That is the best service anyone can give to humanity. Why have I come to your country? I am an old man, but just to fulfill my obligation to my spiritual master, I have come here to teach Krsna consciousness. When one becomes Krsna conscious, he feels a very extensive obligation to humanity. Such a person is called mahatma, or “broadminded.” He’s not cripple-minded.
Krsna consciousness makes your mind broader. You become a mahatma. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [7.19],
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah
“After many lives of cultivating knowledge, one comes to the point of understanding that Vasudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is everything—that He is the cause of all causes. Then one surrenders unto Him. But such a surrendered soul, such a mahatma, is very rare.”
We do not expect that everyone can join this Krsna consciousness movement. But it is to be understood that anyone who does join has completed his cultivation of knowledge in his previous lives. Otherwise, he could not surrender to Krsna.
But there is another way to understand this verse. The verse says, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: “One who has become wise after many, many births of cultivating spiritual knowledge—he surrenders to Vasudeva, or Krsna.” So, you don’t know whether you cultivated knowledge in your past life, but if it is a fact that surrendering to Krsna is the result of many, many births of cultivating knowledge, why not surrender immediately and become the most learned man? Take the opportunity.
Suppose you are accumulating, say, ten million dollars by depositing money in the bank little by little. Then somebody offers, “All right, immediately take ten million dollars.” Would you refuse it? Therefore, if it is a fact that one comes to Krsna consciousness after many, many births, why not take to it immediately? Using a little intelligence, we should think, “Even if I did not cultivate knowledge in my past life, let me take to Krsna consciousness immediately.”
This is the opportunity we are offering. Take Krsna consciousness. There is no tax. There is no loss. But everything is gained. Try it. At least make an experiment for a week or a fortnight. It is not difficult. You must simply be willing. That’s all. Every one of us is independent—not fully, but a little. So, we can use our independence properly, or we can misuse it. Here is the offering: Take up Krsna consciousness. Now it is your choice. If you take it up, that will be good for you. If you don’t, that is your misfortune.
Is there any difficulty in accepting our formula? I ask all of you, is there any difficulty? You have asked so many questions of me. Now I am asking. Is there any difficulty in accepting this formula?
Srila Prabhupada: So why don’t you take it? Thank you.