What follows is a conversation between David Shapiro, Director of ISKCON TV, and Srila Hrdayananda dasa Goswami Acaryadeva, one of the devotees Srila Prabhupada designated as spiritual masters qualified to initiate disciples. Their talk took place last September 1 at ISKCON’s New Vrindaban community in West Virginia.
David Shapiro: You’ve called for quite a different approach to education in this country—and for a new kind of leadership. Can you explain just what your approach would be?
Srila Acaryadeva: Yes, our approach is to teach people the purpose of their life. Instead of letting students waste their time carving up their desks, shooting up heroin in the lavatory, and raping their teachers, or leaming atheistic nonsense, why not actually give them an education? Let’s teach them about the purpose of life.
Our leaders are blind mice leading other blind mice on a treadmill. What do we really learn? If I don’t know. what I am, if I don’t know what God is, if I don’t know the purpose of my life, then what is my education? Simply technical training for financial improvement. And this financial improvement is to gratify the bodily senses. We want money, and with money sense gratification. But that sense gratification is also available to hogs and dogs. Without getting degrees in business administration or engineering, without working for a big firm, without arranging a large bank account, without renting a nice penthouse or purchasing a fashionable condominium, without all these elaborate arrangements, the pig or the dog enjoys sex daily. And in his sexual activity the pig or dog experiences essentially the same pleasure that we do. So our whole educational system aims at economic advancement, for sense gratification. And that means sophisticated dog life, pig life.
Why so much trouble for low-grade pleasures? Real education means to understand God and, by understanding God, to feel unlimited spiritual bliss. Americans aren’t feeling unlimited happiness. They’re frustrated. Pills to sleep, pills to wake up. They’re totally frustrated, because their heart’s been cut, out of their body. The heart and soul of human life is God and love of God. And this modern culture has cut the heart out of the American people.
David Shapiro: Well, certainly the leadership of this country leaves something to be desired.
Srila Acaryadeva: It leaves everything to be desired. There is no leadership. Misleadership.
David Shapiro: What qualifications do you expect in a leader?
Srila Acaryadeva: That he not be a fool. Without knowing what the purpose of human life is, how can you direct a large country like America—a large aggregation of human beings? The purpose of life is spiritual enlightenment.
By understanding God, we can go back to the kingdom of God. God has His kingdom; He’s not living in the street, He’s not floating in the clouds. He has a kingdom. And the purpose of human life is to go to that kingdom. So, if a leader doesn’t direct people toward that goal, he’s wasting their time.
We don’t need big political parties, congress, and judiciary procedures, just to fill bellies. Among the pigs, dogs, hogs, camels, asses, pigeons, grasshoppers there’s no judicial branch, no legislative branch, and no executive branch. No public debate, no nothing. But all these creatures fill their bellies. We don’t need these fools in Washington to fill our bellies. We need leaders who can help people understand the purpose of life and how to achieve it. And that purpose is spiritual.
Separation of church and state means there is no state church. Isn’t it obvious? But that doesn’t mean the state should not be spiritual. When you talk about separation of church and state, “church” means a specific religious institution. The state can never be separated from the laws of God.
After all, the laws of God are those laws that govern the functions of this universe. Whether biological, anatomical, psychological, political, historical, or social—all natural laws at all levels of physical and mental organization are under God’s direction. If we understand God’s purpose and God’s laws, then we live peacefully and harmoniously.
Otherwise, there will be conflict. And politicians will struggle to resolve conflicts that they themselves have created by neglecting God’s laws. Materialistic solutions create ten thousand more conflicts. For example, if I drive my car without knowing the state traffic laws, then my method of driving will contradict the state law, and that contradiction will inflict upon me a punishment. In the same way, if we contradict God’s laws, we suffer in a corresponding way. For instance, there are laws of God regulating sex. If we contradict those sexual laws; sexual misery will be inflicted upon us. If we contradict the political laws of God, political problems will be inflicted. So at any level of human society, if we contradict the laws of God, we provoke a misery in human society. The politicians try to solve the problem with another contradiction of God’s laws. Thus they aggravate the problem.
David Shapiro: Well, I think that if you were to ask the American people whether or not they believe in God, a majority of them would say yes.
Srila Acaryadeva: That’s not enough—just to believe in God. You have to obey Him. Belief is an insignificant thing. Everyone also believes in China, but who wants to live in China? So you may believe in God, but who actually wants to live in God’s kingdom? Belief—we believe in so many things. But who is prepared to obey God? Simple belief is not significant.
David Shapiro: Many psychologists would claim that one takes to a religious belief—in particular, the Hare Krsna philosophy—as a crutch to divert oneself from the real problems of life. What do you say to that?
Srila Acaryadeva: Crutch? But we are dependent on God. Some claim they have no crutch, but aren’t they dependent on the air, on the light of the sun and the moon, and on the vegetation of the earth? Actually, everyone is dependent on the crutch of nature’s gifts. But atheists ignore God’s gifts and depend on the crutch of false prestige and arrogance. They pretend they’re in control when actually they aren’t. They talk big words that no one understands, so that everyone will assume they know something. What is this bogus “rugged individualism”? No one is rugged. Everyone is a fragile thing that can be crushed in a second. Instead of falsely pretending we’re rugged, why not admit that we’re eternal servants of God and accept Him?
David Shapiro: In America, traditionally, heroes have always had an indomitable kind of strength. They’ve always gone it alone.
Srila Acaryadeva: Yes, and where have all the heroes gone? They’ve become food for the worms. Why pretend? Admit that we’re eternal servants of God! Why not have that strength, to give up false prestige—to teach God consciousness, without worrying about our material reputation? Why not have that strength? Why just the strength of clicking spurs and jumping on a bucking bronco? Then death comes and bucks us in the head, and we’re finished. So this material strength of spur clicking and bronco busting and mountain climbing—this kind of materialistic strength is a phantasmagoric, ephemeral thing, isn’t it? Actual strength means to give up all of one’s false prestige and surrender to God. That’s strength.