A conversation between
Tamal Krishna Goswami,
one of the spiritual masters of the Hare Krsna movement,
and Cardinal Jaime Sin, Archbishop of Manila.
Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami gurudeva oversees the affairs of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in the south-central United States and parts of the Far East. He is the author of Servant of the Servant, a memoir about his involvement in Krsna consciousness.
Srila Gurudeva: The members of our Society follow some basic principles. We abstain from gambling, all types of intoxication—even tea, cigarettes, and coffee—and we don’t engage in illicit sex. Only married members engage in sex, and then only for procreating children. We are also vegetarian. All of our full-time members follow these principles. And every day they also chant the holy names of the Lord. That’s why we carry these bead bags. We have prayer beads, which are similar to the rosary, and we chant God’s name every day.
Cardinal Sin: What is your position about Jesus Christ?
Srila Gurudeva: We accept Jesus as the son of God.
Cardinal Sin: You have room for Christianity, yes?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, we do, because we accept that Christianity will actually be able to bring God’s message to the whole world, and our purpose is only to help people, not to convert them from one religion to another. We try to reinforce a person’s original faith. As far as chanting God’s names, we chant especially the name Krsna. We accept Lord Krsna as God the Father, and therefore we see no contradiction at all. We worship Jesus as the son of God, and we also worship God the Father.
Cardinal Sin: And your concept of the Holy Spirit?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, we believe that God’s mercy is all-pervasive and that by leading a pure, spiritual life one is always in touch with the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Sin: So Jesus has come to the world as the Messiah?
Srila Gurudeva: The Messiah, yes, to deliver the message of God to the world.
Cardinal Sin: And what about the salvation of man?
Srila Gurudeva: The salvation of man lies in accepting the teachings of God.
Cardinal Sin: But Jesus’s death as an act of redemption for the sins of man—you don’t accept that?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, we do. We accept that Jesus died to free men from their sins, but people should accept Jesus by accepting his teachings.
Cardinal Sin: This is correct.
Srila Gurudeva: Too often we find that people believe that because Jesus died to save men from their sins, that gives them a license to continue sinning.
Cardinal Sin: That belongs to the belief of some Protestants, but in the Catholic Church we have to accept his teachings. We have to practice what he teaches.
Srila Gurudeva: We find that by constantly studying the word of God and trying to mold our lives according to that word very literally, our lives are becoming purified. Especially we find great power in the holy name of God.
Cardinal Sin: So you’re all over the world right now?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes. Our Society is in approximately fifty different countries. We have temples, smaller centers, and also farming communities. We believe that God realization is facilitated by a simple way of life. This is a special feature of our farming communities, where we are developing self-sufficient God conscious communities.
Cardinal Sin: You are also in Germany?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes.
Cardinal Sin: And in Italy?
Srila Gurudeva: In Italy also.
Cardinal Sin: What about Spain?
Srila Gurudeva: In Spain also, in many cities.
Cardinal Sin: And what about the Soviet Union?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, we are in the Soviet Union. There was recently a newspaper article in The New York Times. It reported that the Soviet government is very concerned about Western influence, and especially two things were giving them cause for fear: the introduction of rock music and the Hare Krsna movement.
Cardinal Sin: They aren’t persecuting you?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, they are persecuting us, because many of the intellectuals there are taking interest in our books. This has made the government fearful. Actually, we’re not politically minded. We are not trying to create any disturbance for the government, but it seems that just being religious and God conscious is something that they find . . .
Cardinal Sin: Marxism is atheism. So your belief in God is for them something that is against their principle. Naturally, India must be your original place, no?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes. In India we have millions of followers.
Cardinal Sin: I believe your members rise very early for prayer and meditation?
Srila Gurudeva: Our spiritual discipline requires us to rise very early. We get up every morning at 4:00, and by 4:30 we come to the temple for prayer.
Cardinal Sin: I’ve been rising about 4:00 every morning since I’ve come here. I do some exercises, and then I pray for two and a half hours, because during the entire day—no time. Then at night—prayer before going to sleep.
They will say that a man who does not pray is like a bird without wings: he cannot fly. He’s like a soldier without weapons: he cannot fight the forces of evil. He’s like a garden without roses: no beauty. This is one way of saying things. But when you pray, you feel that you become strong. I think that is your principle?
Srila Gurudeva: Our principle is that we should feel ourselves totally dependent and maintained by the Lord.
Cardinal Sin: Cardinal Spellman says you should pray as if everything depends on God, and you should work as if everything depends on you.
Srila Gurudeva: We say, “Don’t try to see God, but act in such a way that God will show Himself to you.”
Cardinal Sin: That is good, very good. So with this life, you feel very happy. You feel very secure.
Srila Gurudeva: Actually, there is no anxiety for one who gives himself over to the service of God.
Cardinal Sin: No, no, you feel so happy. There is never a day when I am not so happy, so happy.
Srila Gurudeva: Actually, there’s a very nice statement in one of our books we brought you today. Para-duhkha-duhkhi krpambudhih: A pure devotee of the Lord is unhappy to see the unhappiness of others.
Cardinal Sin: Yes, yes. Mother Teresa says people are already unhappy and miserable, so you should make them happy by your presence. And that is why this woman is so popular, because she is an instrument of peace wherever she goes.
Srila Gurudeva: The Vedic literature tells us of a great devotee who was requested to come back to God’s kingdom, but who said, “How can I leave now, with the world in such turmoil? Unless I can arrange to deliver these people, I don’t feel that I can leave this world.”
Cardinal Sin: So, really that’s what you said in the beginning: we need to apply ourselves to the teachings of God. That’s what St. Augustine says. So there is a need for the grace of God, but the individual’s cooperation with that grace is important.
Srila Gurudeva: Sometimes people say, “Yes, if God wills, then I’ll take up His teachings.” So we have to explain to them God does will it, but they have to help themselves also.
Cardinal Sin: The invitation is there. God cannot force you to go to heaven if you like to go to hell. The invitation is there. Now they must accept the invitation, because God is a God of democracy. He will never force you. He will only invite you. Is that your teaching?
Srila Gurudeva: Oh, yes, because love must be voluntary. Actually, God works through the person when he completely purifies himself and allows God to use him as a tool. We pray like that, that we should not have any personal motivations to stop God from using us as His instrument.
Cardinal Sin: Would you like to pray now?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, thank you. [Leads a small group of devotees in singing the Hare Krsna mantra for a short time. Then:]
Cardinal Sin: This is beautiful. One can feel God’s presence. It is just like our Gregorian chant. [He sings a Gregorian chant.] I am very happy that you came, Guru. I address you as Guru, Your Excellency the Guru, no? To all of you, my deep gratitude for your coming and sharing the beauty of spirituality.