This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and social worker Ashoka Chugani took place in Bombay, India.
Mr. Chugani: I feel that your Krsna consciousness movement is doing very valuable work here in India. Perhaps you know of our success, also. We are making arrangements for many villagers in the outlying areas around Bombay to receive greatly needed eye operations. We have facilities for 5,200 patients.
Srila Prabhupada: We are following Bhagavad-gita as it is. Bhagavad-gita doesn’t teach that you help the people by taking care of their eyes. Krsna does not give us any such philosophy in Bhagavad-gita. That is your own idea. But we are applying Bhagavad-gita as it is. That is the difference between your work and ours. Our program is, instead of giving relief only to the eyes, we give people real relief. If you give a man Krsna consciousness, he won’t have to take another birth in this material world. That means no more material bodies-no more eyes, no more disease. This is real relief from suffering.
Somebody’s taking care of the eyes, somebody’s taking care of the stomach, somebody the teeth, somebody something else, on and on. But this will not solve the problem. The real problem, Bhagavad-gita says, is janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi—birth, death, old age, and disease. Because you took birth, you have these eyes, so you’re bound to have eye disease. Birth, death, old age, and disease: because you have accepted birth, you must accept old age, disease, and death. Hospitals may give some temporary relief, but that is not the solution. The solution is to stop birth, death, old age, and disease. If you are able to give that solution, then there will be no more eye trouble, ever.
Suppose a diseased man goes to a doctor for treatment. His symptoms are sometimes headache, sometimes eye-ache, sometimes stomachache. Now, if the doctor gives medicine only for the symptoms, is that the cure? No. This man has a disease, and if you cure the disease, the symptoms will be cured automatically. Similarly, everyone within this material world is suffering from repeated birth and death. But Bhagavad-gita is meant for giving the real cure—how not to take another birth in this material world.
Krsna’s advice in the Bhagavad-gita is that we tolerate this temporary suffering. Just as your body is not permanent, so your diseases are also not permanent. You should tolerate the temporary suffering and solve the real problem—you must stop your repetition of birth and death. But people do not know that birth and death can be stopped, so they are simply busy with the temporary problems.
The Bhagavad-gita explains how, on leaving his body at the time of death, one can go back home, back to Godhead—tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti. No more birth in this material world—that is the real cure for all suffering.
Mr. Chugani: What about the problem of starvation? We are working to solve…
Srila Prabhupada: Starvation? This is not a problem. The Vedas say, nityo nityanam cetanas cetanana/ eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. God is perfectly providing food for all living beings. If someone is not getting any food, that is a blessing. It is God’s arrangement to correct him.
Suppose a child is diseased and his father does not give him any food to eat. That is not starvation—it is his father’s blessing. It is the cure. Why should the child complain? The so-called starvation problem is just a mental concoction. But we don’t concoct anything; we get our knowledge from the scriptures.Tat te ‘nukampam susamiksamano bhunjana evatma-krtam vipakam: if a devotee of the Lord is starving, he doesn’t complain. He takes it as God’s blessing. “I did something wrong, so God has put me into this difficulty. It is His blessing.” This is our view; this is scripture.
People often ask this question: “How can God be unkind to some people and kind to others? It’s unjust.” But this is foolishness. God is not unjust; God is good, but people do not understand God. Because you are unintelligent, when you see that people are starving you say that God is not good. But the fact is that you are not good. Each man’s suffering is simply his own fault. So a devotee takes suffering as Krsna’s blessing, and because a devotee is thinking like that, his liberation is guaranteed (mukti-pade sa daya-bhak).
Mr. Chugani: The ways of God in the world are difficult for us to understand. They do seem unjust.
Srila Prabhupada: Actually, you don’t believe in God. And this godlessness is the real problem. You only believe in God if God is your servant and order supplier. “God, if You don’t help me, I won’t serve You.” People think of God as their servant and order supplier.
One of my Godbrothers—from Germany—told me that in the Second World War, when the men of Germany went to fight, all the women were left at home. So, they went to the church and prayed to God that their husbands, their fathers, and their sons would return home. But none of them returned home, and the people all became atheists. “Ah, it is useless to go to the church! I prayed so much for my husband, but he did not come. It is useless!”
So this is their understanding of God. When the war was declared, they didn’t consult God. But when their husband is going to die, then they petition God. They order God to make their husbands return from the war unharmed. “God did not bring him back. He did not carry out my order. So God is unjust. We’re not interested in God.”
And this is the attitude here, also. When people act sinfully, God is never consulted. But when they suffer, then they cry to God. And if He doesn’t supply their order, they become atheists. “God is unjust!” they say. This is their rascaldom.