The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a priest took place in July 1973 in London.
Srila Prabhupada: In our temples there are regular Krsna conscious programs so that one may be purified internally and externally. Yah smaret pundarikaksam sa bahyabhyantarah sucih. If you constantly remember the lotus-eyed Supreme Lord, you automatically become purified, internally and externally, because the Lord is absolute.
The best way to remember the Lord is to chant His holy name. The Lord and the Lord’s name are identical. Because the Lord is absolute, when we chant Hare Krsna the name Krsna and the person Krsna are identical. In the material world, the world of duality, the name is not the same as the substance. If you require water, simply by chanting “water, water” you will not quench your thirst. You require the substance water. But in the spiritual world the Lord and His name are the same thing. If you chant Krsna, or any other name of the Lord, that name is identical with the Lord Himself. Therefore, by chanting the holy name of the Lord you are associating with the Lord, and as soon as you associate with the Lord you become purified, because the Lord is all-pure. If you associate with fire, you become warm. Similarly, if you constantly associate with the Lord, you’ll remain purified. Therefore, our devotees are always chanting (just as I’m also chanting), or reading some book about Krsna, or talking about Krsna. In this way we are always connected with Krsna, or God, in all our activities. Throughout the whole temple you’ll find my disciples engaged in some sort of work that has a connection with Krsna. There is no other work. Nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe. Anything related to God is also godly.
Priest: You see, I don’t think that spiritual activities, which are external, can really, in and of themselves, change the internal man.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. One changes internally and externally. And you can actually see: my disciples here have changed.
Priest: But a person can go to church every Sunday and say he’s pure—
Srila Prabhupada: No. Our program is not like that—once every seven days. We are engaged twenty-four hours a day in Krsna’s service. Suppose you are washing the floor of the temple. It is not only external; because you are also thinking of Krsna, you are in Krsna consciousness. One may be washing the floor, but he is in pure Krsna consciousness. If your full consciousness is only of God, then you will always remain godly. There’s no doubt about it. If you make a division—so much for worldly things and so much for God—then you will remain impure. But if you dovetail everything towards the service of the Lord, then everything you do is godly.
Priest: Would you think it possible for a devotee to come to hate Krsna?
Srila Prabhupada: Hate Krsna?
Priest: Yes. Is it possible?
Srila Prabhupada: No. A devotee cannot hate Krsna. Then how could he serve Krsna?
Priest: He could come to see Krsna as too strong, repressive, taking away his freedom, and so he could come to hate Him.
Srila Prabhupada: Spiritualism means to sacrifice your freedom for God. That is spiritualism.
Priest: Then why were we created free?
Srila Prabhupada: You are not free. You are thinking you’re free, but you are not; you are under the stringent laws of nature.
Of course, you are free to some extent, because you are part and parcel of God, who is completely free. Therefore you have minute freedom. You may serve the Lord, or you may not serve Him—that is your freedom. If you serve the Lord you become happy; if you do not serve Lord you become unhappy.
Priest: But if I serve the Lord, do I lose that little bit of freedom?
Srila Prabhupada: No, serving the Lord is real freedom. For example, my finger is part and parcel of my body. As long as the finger is healthy it serves the body, but if it is full of pain, if it is unhealthy, it cannot serve. Similarly, when a living entity does not serve God, that is his material condition, his unhealthy condition. When he serves God, that is his natural, healthy condition, because he is part and parcel of God.
Priest: When did we lose contact with God?
Srila Prabhupada: When you misused your minute freedom. For example, suppose a small child wishes to become independent of his father and he leaves home and wanders in the streets. He will soon become sick from improper food, being dirty, and so on. He will not remain healthy. Similarly, we must be dependent on God. In your Christian Bible also, you pray, “O God, please give us our daily bread.” You are recognizing your dependence on God. So it is better to remain dependent on God than to misuse your little independence. To remain dependent on God is our healthy state. As soon as we declare ourselves independent of God, that is our unhealthy state. This is our philosophy, and your philosophy also.
Priest: Oh, yes, I accept that. But within this world, within the limits of time and space, can’t you be a healthy person without admitting your dependence on God?
Srila Prabhupada: Our definition of being healthy is being God conscious. That is healthy life. Otherwise, do you think that because someone is very strong, that means he is healthy?
Priest: Well, I would say my body can be healthy.
Srila Prabhupada: That is temporary. Everyone is subject to death. You may be very strong and healthy, but you cannot avoid death.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, ultimately, whether you are so-called healthy or not healthy, you die. That is a fact. So we do not want that kind of ‘healthy” life. Our proposition is to go back home, back to Godhead, and remain with God eternally, enjoying blissful life. This is our healthy life.