An interview in Moscow with
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
World teacher of Krsna consciousness, the science of understanding God.
[This is an excerpt from a conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and author of Bhagavad–gita As It Is, and Professor Kotovsky, head of the India Studies Department of the University of Moscow, that took place during Srila Prabhupada’s recent visit to the Soviet Union to introduce the philosophy of Krsna consciousness.]
Prabhupada: The other day I was reading the paper, MoscowNews. There was a Communist congress, and the President declared, “We are ready to take others’ experience to improve.” So I think the Vedic concept of socialism or communism will much improve the idea of communism. For example, In a socialistic state the idea is that no ;one should starve; everyone must have his food. Similarly, in the Vedic concept of grhastha (householder) life it is recommended that a householder see that even a lizard or a snake living in his house should not starve. Even these lower creatures should be given food, and certainly all humans should. It is recommended that the grhastha, before taking his lunch, stand on the road and declare, “If anyone is still hungry, please come! Food is ready!” If there is no response, then the proprietor of the household takes his lunch. Modern society takes the people as the whole or proprietor of a certain state, but the Vedic conception is isavasyam idamsarvam—everything is owned by isa, the supreme controller. Tena tyaktena bhunjitha—you may enjoy what is allotted to you by Him. Ma grdhah kasya svid dhanam: but do not encroach upon others’ property.¹ [1. Sri-Isopanisad-Mantra One]. This is the Isopanisad Veda. The same idea is explained in the different Puranas. There are many good concepts in the Vedic literature about communism. So I thought that these ideas should be distributed to your most thoughtful men. Therefore I was anxious to speak.
Prof. Kotovsky: It is interesting that here in our country there is now great interest in the history of old, old thought. From this point of view, our Institute translated into Russian and published many literary monuments of great Indian culture. You will be interested to discover that we published some of the Puranas and parts of the Ramayana. There are volumes in Russian of Mahabharata and also a second edition of Mahabharata, translated in full. We have also published the full translation of Manu-smrti with Sanskrit commentaries. Interest in these publications was so great that they sold out in a week. They are now completely out of stock. It was impossible to get them in the book market after a month. There is great interest among reading people here in Moscow and the USSR towards ancient Vedic culture, and from this point of view we published many such books.
Prabhupada: Among these Puranas, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is called the Maha-purana.
Prabhupada: Yes. We have translated the full text—first we present the original Sanskrit text, its transliteration, the English equivalent for each word, then the translation, and then a purport or explanation of the verse. In this way, there are 18,000 verses in Srimad-Bhagavatam. We are translating everything literally. You can see. Each and every verse is being done like that for the whole Bhagavata Purana. The opinion of the acaryas, the great saintly sages who are the preachers of the Bhagavata philosophy, is nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam. (Bhag. 1.1.3) This is the ripened fruit of the Vedic desire tree. It is accepted by all the Indian scholars, and Lord Caitanya especially preached this Bhagavatam. So we have the complete Bhagavatam in its English translation. If you want to see it, I can show you.
Prof. Kotovsky: It seems to me that in the Moscow and Leningrad libraries we have nearly all of the major texts of ancient Indian culture, beginning from the Vedas, the original texts in Sanskrit. For instance, in the Leningrad branch of our Institute there are six or eight editions of Manu-smrti. This institute was founded in Imperial Russia in Leningrad, so in Leningrad we now have a branch of our Institute dealing mainly with the history of Asiatic culture. You will find here an account of what is being translated and what studies are being done on the history of Indian religion and also the state of Indian religion, Hinduism, in Hindu India today.
Prabhupada: Hinduism is a very complex topic.
Prof. Kotovsky: Oh yes. [they laugh] Really, to my understanding, it is not a religion from the European point of view; it is a way of life—religion, philosophy, a way of life, whatever you want.
Prabhupada: This word “Hindu” is not a Sanskrit word. It was given by the Mohammedans. You know that there is a river, Indus, which in Sanskrit is called Sindhu. The Mohammedans pronounces s as h. Instead of Sindhu, they made it Hindu. So Hindu is a term that is not found in the Sanskrit dictionary, but it has come into use. But the real cultural institution is called varnasrama. There are four varnas (social divisions)—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra—and four asramas (spiritual divisions)—brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. According to the Vedic concept of life, unless people take to this system or institution of four varnas and four asramas, actually they do not become civilized human beings. One has to take this process of four divisions of social orders and four divisions of spiritual orders; that is called varnasrama. India’s culture is based on this age-old Vedic system.
Prof. Kotovsky: Varnasrama.
Prabhupada:Varnasrama. And in Bhagavad-gita—perhaps you have read Bhagavad-gita?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Prabhupada: There, in Bhagavad-gita, is the statement catur-varnyam mayasrstam-this system was created by Visnu [God] (Bg.4.13) So since varnasrama is a creation of the Supreme, it cannot be changed. It is prevalent everywhere. It is like the sun. The sun is a creation of the Supreme. The sunshine is there in America, in Russia and in India-everywhere. Similarly, this varnasrama system is prevalent everywhere in some form or another. Take, for example, the brahmanas, the most intelligent class of men. They are the brains of the society. The ksatriyas are the administrative class; then the vaisyas are the productive class, and the sudras are the worker class. These four classes of men are prevalent everywhere under different names. Because it is created by the original creator, so it is prevalent everywhere, varnasrama-dharma.
Prof. Kotovsky: It is interesting that in the opinion of some European and old Russian scholars, this varnasrama system is a later creation, and if you would read the old texts of Vedic literature, you would find a much more simple and agrarian society. It is the opinion of these scholars that the varnasrama system was introduced in Indian society in the late age of the Vedic era but not from the beginning. And if you would analyze the old texts, you would find that in the old classical India it was not so prevalent.
Prabhupada: As far as we are concerned, it is mentioned in Bhagavad-gita. Caturvarnyam maya srstam. Bhagavad-gita was spoken five thousand years ago, and in Bhagavad-gita it is said, “This system of Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Me to the sun-god.” So if you take an estimation of that period, it comes to 40,000,000 years ago. Can the European scholars trace back history 5,000 years? Can they go back 40,000,000 years? We have evidence that this varnasrama system has been current at least 5,000 years. The varnasrama system is also mentioned in the Visnu Purana. Varnasramacara-vata purusena parah puman.(4)[4. Visnu Purana 3.8.9]
That is stated in the Visnu Purana. Varnasrama-dharma is not a phenomenon of a historical period calculated in the modern age. It is natural. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam the comparison is given that just as in the body there are four divisions- the brain division, the arms division, the belly division and the leg division—so by nature’s way these four divisions are existing in the social body. There exist a class of men who are considered the brain, a class of men who are considered the arms of the state, a class of men who are called the productive class, and so on. There is no need of tracing history; it is naturally existing from the day of creation.
Prof. Kotovsky: You have said that in any society there are four divisions, but they are not so easy to distinguish. For instance, one can group together different social classes and professional groups into four divisions in any society; there is no difficulty. The only difficulty is, for instance, in the socialistic society—in our country and other socialist societies-how you can distinguish the productive group from the workers.
Prabhupada: For example, we belong to the intellectual class of men. This is a division.
Prof. Kotovsky: Intelligent class, brahmanas. And you can also put together all the intelligentsia in that department.
Prof. Kotovsky: And then the administrative class.
Prof. Kotovsky: But who are the vaisyas and sudras? That is the difficulty. Because all others are workers—factory workers, collective farm workers and so on. So from this point of view there is a great distinction, in my opinion, between socialist society and all societies proceeding socialism because in modern Western society you can group all social and professional classes in these particular class divisions—brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras: intellectuals, productive class, owners of the productive system (factory owners, for instance) and menial workers. But here you have no vaisyas because you have administrative staffs in factories, and you can call them ksatriyas, and then there are the sudras, the workers themselves, but no intermediate class.
Prabhupada: That is stated. Kalau sudra-sambhavah. In this age practically all men are sudras. But if there are simply sudras, the social order will be disturbed. In spite of your state of sudras, the brahmana is found here, and that is necessary. If you do not divide the social order in such a way, there will be chaos. That is the scientific estimation of the Vedas. You may belong to the sudra class, but to maintain social order you have to train some of the sudras to become brahmanas. Society cannot depend on sudras. Nor can you depend on the brahmanas. To fulfill the necessities of your body, there must be a brain, arms, a stomach and legs. The legs, the brain and the arm are all required for cooperation to fulfill the mission of the whole body. So in any society you can see that unless there are these four divisions, there will be chaos. It will not work properly. It will be maya, and there will be disturbances. The brain must be there, but at the present moment there is a scarcity of brains. I am not talking of your state or my state; I am taking the world as a whole. Formerly the Indian administration was a monarchy. For example, Maharaja Pariksit was a ksatriya king. Just before his death, he renounced his royal order. He came to the forest to hear about self-realization. If you want to maintain the peace and prosperity of the whole world society, you must create a very intelligent class of men, a class of men expert in administration, a class of men expert in production and a class of men to work. That is required; you cannot avoid it. That is the Vedic conception, mukha-bahuru-pada-jah. (Bhag. 11.17.13) Mukha means the face, bahu means the arms, uru means the waist, and pada, the legs. Whether you take this state or that state, unless there is a smooth systematic establishment of these four orders of life, the state or society will not run very smoothly.
Prof. Kotovsky: Generally it seems to me that this whole varnasrama system to some extent created a natural division of labor in the ancient society. But now division of labor amongst people in any society is much more complicated and sophisticated. So it is very confusing to group them into four classes.
THOUGHTFULNESS. Take the best idea from the original idea.
Prabhupada: Confusion has come to exist because in India, at a later day, the son of a brahmana, without having the brahminical qualifications, claimed to be a brahmana; and others, out of superstition or a traditional way, accepted him as a brahmana. Therefore the Indian social order was disrupted. But in our Krsna consciousness movement we are training brahmanas everywhere because the world needs the brain of a brahmana. Although Maharaja Pariksit was a monarch, he had a body of brahmanas and learned sages to consult, an advisory body. It is not that the monarchs were independent. In history it is found that if some of the monarchs were not in order, they were dethroned by the brahminical advisory council. Although the brahmanas did not take part in politics, they would advise the monarch how to execute the royal function. This is not too far in the past. How long ago was Asoka?
Prof. Kotovsky: That would be equal to what we call, in our terminology, ancient and medieval India.
Prof. Kotovsky: In old and feudal India—you are right—it was very open, and the major part of the high administrative staff in the legislative department were brahmanas. Even in the Mogul era there were brahmanas to advise the Moslem emperors and administrators.
Prabhupada: That is a fact—the brahmanas were accepted. They formed the advisory committee of the king. For example, Candragupta, the latest Hindu king, was in the age of Alexander the Great. Just before Candragupta, Alexander the Great went from Greece into India and conquered a portion. When Candragupta became emperor, he had Canakya as his prime minister. Perhaps you have heard this name Canakya?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Prabhupada: Yes, he was a great brahmana politician, and it is by his name that the quarter of New Delhi where all the foreign embassies are grouped together is called Canakya Pun. Canakya Pandita was a great politician and brahmana. He was vastly learned. His moral instructions are still valuable. In India, school children are taught Canakya Pandita’s instructions. Although he was the prime minister, Canakya Pandita maintained his brahmana spirit; he did not accept any salary. If a brahmana accepts a salary, it is understood that he has become a dog. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He can advise, but he cannot accept employment. So Canakya Pandita was living in a cottage, but he actually was the prime minister. This brahminical culture and the brahminical brain is the standard of Vedic civilization. The Manu-smrti is an example of the standard of brahminical culture. You cannot trace out from history when Manu-smrti was written, but it is considered so perfect that it is the Hindu law. There is no need for the legislature to pass a new law daily to adjust social order. The law given by Manu is so perfect that it can be applicable for all time. It is stated in Sanskrit to be tri-kaladau, which means good for the past, present and future.
Prof. Kotovsky: I am sorry to interrupt you, but to my knowledge all of Indian society in the second half of the Eighteenth Century was, by order of the British administration, under a law divergent from Hindu law. There was a lot of change. The actual Hindu law that was used by the Hindus was quite different from the original Manu-smrti.
Prabhupada: They have now made changes. Even our late Pandita Jawaharlal Nehru introduced his own Hindu code. He introduced the right of divorce in marriage, but this was not in the Manu-samhita. There are so many things they have changed, but before this modern age the whole human society was governed by the Manu-smrti. Strictly speaking, modern Hindus are not strictly following the Hindu scriptures.
But our point is not to try to bring back the old type of Hindu society. That is impossible. Our idea is to take the best ideas from the original idea. For example, in Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a description of the communistic idea. It is described to Maharaja Yudhisthira. If there is something good, a good experience, why shouldn’t you adopt it? That is our point of view. Besides that, modern civilization is missing one all-important point-the aim of human life. Scientifically, the aim of human life is self-realization, atma-tattvam. It is said that unless the members of human society come to the point of self-realization, they are defeated in whatever they do. Actually it is happening in modern society, despite all economic advancement and other advancement: instead of keeping peace and tranquility, they are fighting-individually, socially, politically and nationally. If we think about it in a cool-headed way, we can see that in spite of much improvement in many branches of knowledge, we are keeping the same mentality that is visible in the lower animal society. Our conclusion, according to Srimad-Bhagavatam, is that this human body is not meant for working hard for sense gratification. But people do not know anything beyond that. They do not know about the next life. There is no scientific department of knowledge to study what happens after this body is finished. That is a great department of knowledge.
In Bhagavad-gita it is said, dehino ‘smin yatha dene. Deha means this body. Dehinah means the one who owns this body. Dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara. The dehi, the owner of the body, is within, and the body is changing from one form to another. (Bg. 2.13) The child has a certain type of body that changes to another type when he is older. But the owner of the body still exists throughout. Similarly, when this body is completely changed, we accept another body. People do not understand this. We are accepting different bodies, even in this life, from babyhood to childhood to boyhood to youth. That is a fact—everyone knows it. I was a child, but that childhood body is no more. I have a different body now. What is the difficulty in understanding that when this body will be no more, then I will have to accept another body? It is a great science.
Prof. Kotovsky: As you know, there are two quite opposite approaches to this problem. The approach is slightly different according to different religions, but at the same time, any religion recognizes and searches for the change-of-place experience, or transmigration of spirit. In Christian religion, in Judaism, in …
Prabhupada: I am not talking religions with you. I am talking science and philosophy. One religion may accept one way; that is not our concern. We are concerned with the point that if the owner of the body is permanent in spite of different changes of body, there should be no difficulty in understanding that when this body changes, the owner of the body will have another body.
Prof. Kotovsky: Another approach is that there is no separation. There are no two phenomena—the body and the owner of the body are the same.
Prabhupada: (emphatically): No.
Prof. Kotovsky: When the body dies, the owner also dies.
Prabhupada: No, no. But why is there no department of knowledge in the university to study this fact scientifically? That is my proposition—they are lacking. It may be as you say or it may be as I say, but there must be a department of knowledge to study this. Recently a cardiologist in Toronto, a doctor, has accepted that there is a soul. I had some correspondence with him, and he strongly believes that there is a soul. So there is another point of view, but our process is to accept knowledge from authority. We have Krsna’s statement on this subject, and He is authoritative. Krsna is accepted as the authority by all the acaryas. Bhagavad-gita is accepted by scholarly and philosophical circles all ever the world. Krsna says:
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“Just as the soul gives up the childhood body and comes to the boyhood body and then to youth, similarly, the soul gives up this body and accepts another body.” (Bg. 2.13) This statement is given by Krsna, the greatest authority according to our tradition of knowledge. We accept such a statement without argument. That is the way of Vedic understanding.
Prof. Kotovsky: The difficulty is that our approach is that we do not believe in anything without argument. We can believe only things based on argument.
Prabhupada: Yes, that is allowed. That is stated in Bhagavad-gita. Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya. (Bg. 4.34) Pari-prasnah, argument, is allowed-but not in the challenging spirit, but rather with the spirit to understand. Argument is not denied. But as far as Vedic statements are concerned, they are infallible, and the scholars of the Vedas accept them in that way. For example, cow dung is the stool of an animal. Now, the Vedic statement is that as soon as you touch the stool of any animal—even if you touch your own stool—you are impure and have to purify yourself by taking a bath. According to the Hindu system, after evacuating one has to take a bath.
Prabhupada in Red Square. Krishna Consciousness is everywhere.
Prof. Kotovsky: That is quite understandable hygienic knowledge.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, that is right.
Prabhupada: But in another place it is stated that cow dung, although the stool of an animal, is pure. Even if you apply it to an impure place, that place becomes purified. This is superficially contradictory. In one place it is said that the stool of an animal is impure and as soon as you touch it you have to be purified, and in another place it says that cow dung is pure. According to our knowledge, it is contradictory—but still it is accepted by those who are followers of the Vedas. And the fact is that if you analyze cow dung, you will find that it contains all antiseptic properties.
Prof. Kotovsky: This I don’t know.
Prabhupada: Yes, one professor in a medical college has analyzed it, and he found it full of antiseptic properties. So Vedic statements, even if found contradictory, if analyzed scrutinizingly will prove correct. There may be an exception. But it is accepted, and when scientifically analyzed and examined, it is found to be correct.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, if you analyze from the scientific point of view, that is right.
Prabhupada: There are other instances—for example, the conch shell. The conch shell is the bone of an animal, and according to Vedic instruction if you touch the bone of an animal you become impure and have to take a bath. But this conch shell is kept in the Deity room because it is accepted as pure by the Vedas. My point is that we accept Vedic laws without argument. That is the principle followed by scholars. If you can substantiate your statements by quotations from the Vedas, then they are accepted. You are not required to substantiate them in other ways. There are different kinds of pramanas, or evidences. Proof by Vedic quotation is called sruti-pramana. As in the legal court if you can give statements from the law book your statement is accepted, so all statements you give, if supported by sruti-pramanas, are accepted by scholars. I think you know the Vedas are known as srutis.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Prabhupada:Sruti-smrti-puranadi-pancaratra-vidhim vina aikantiki harer bhaktir utpatayaiva kalpate. Any system we accept must be supported by evidences of sruti, smrti, the puranas and pancaratra. That which is not proved by these pramanas is a disturbance. (9) [9. Brahma-yamala]
Prof. Kotovsky: Could I just say one thing? What is in the Vedas could also have been proved in a scientific way. Today, suppose there is a scientific laboratory. What is said by that lab is true. That it is true you accept, without going into the propriety of it. Suppose you have a scientific workshop or institution; if this workshop or scientific institution said, “This is not good,” the general body would take it for granted: “Yes. The scientific body has said so, so it is understood.”
Prabhupada: Similarly, Vedic authoritative statements are accepted by the acaryas [great teachers]. India is governed by the acaryas—Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Sankaracarya. They accept the Vedas, and their followers accept them. The benefit is that I do not waste my time to research whether cow dung is pure or impure, but because it is stated in the Vedas to be pure, I accept it. I save my time by accepting the sruti-pramana. In that way there are different statements in the Vedas for sociology and politics or anything, for Veda means knowledge.
sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto
mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham Bg.15.15
Prof. Kotovsky: May I put one question to you? Have you many branches of your society in the world?
Prof. Kotovsky: Where is your main center, and where are the branches of the Krsna consciousness society?
Prabhupada: Of course, I have over sixty-five branches.
Prof. Kotovsky: Sixty-five branches.
Prabhupada: Yes, and I have made my main center in Los Angeles. And now we are establishing an important center in Mayapura, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya. Have you been to India?
Wonderful Programs. Bangladesh refugees receive spiritual food at Krishna center in Calcutta.
Prof. Kotovsky: Six or seven times. Now there is a very difficult situation in Calcutta because of the influx of refugees from Bangladesh.
Prabhupada: Yes, but we had our sankirtana for ten days, and it was very wonderful. The gathering was not less than thirty thousand people daily. They were much interested in hearing our lectures, since we lecture from Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, So people are responding from every part of the world, especially the American boys and girls. They are especially interested, and England and also Germany and France. From here I plan to go to Paris. What is the name of that place?
A disciple: In Paris? Oh, Fontenay-aux-Roses?
Prabhupada: Yes, they have taken a whole house, a nice house. So our process is very simple. We ask our students to observe four prohibitive principles-no illicit sex life, no eating of meat, fish or eggs, no gambling and no intoxication, including cigarettes, tea and coffee. One has to obey these four principles and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and you will find how, by this process only, these boys and girls are quickly improving. The process is very simple. Besides that, we have books—volumes of books—Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita. Throughout all these years, I have written about one dozen 400-page books—Krsna in two parts, Srimad-Bhagavatam in six parts. Teachings of Lord Caitanya in one part, Nectar of Devotion in one part. So we are trying to push this Krsna consciousness. Krsna is a historical personality, as much as Lenin is a historical personality. Just as you are trying to understand his philosophy, we are trying to understand Krsna’s philosophy.
Prof. Kotovsky: Are there many participants in your sixty-five branches?
Prabhupada: Oh yes, more than one thousand initiated, and outside there are many. The one thousand have accepted the principles. Just like these boys. [Srila Prabhupada points to his two secretaries.]
Prof. Kotovsky: But does that mean that these students abstain from normal Western, European universities? For instance, can a normal student from one of the various universities who is attending lectures in the normal way also be initiated and admitted to your community?
Prabhupada: If you want to live in our community and be initiated, we welcome you. If not, come try to understand our philosophy, read our books—there are so many books, magazines, questions and answers. Try to understand the philosophy. It is not that all of a sudden a student comes and becomes our disciple. He first of all comes, associates and tries to understand. We do not canvass. He voluntarily says that he wants to be a disciple.
Prof. Kotovsky: What happens if, for instance, one is not a student but a young worker or the young son of a farmer? Would he renounce his whole life and join your community in a given center? How would he maintain himself in his day-to-day life, in material life?
Prabhupada: As I told you, this propaganda is meant for creating brahmanas all over the world because the brahmana element is lacking. One who seriously comes to us has to become a brahmana, so he should adopt the occupation of a brahmana and give up the occupation of a ksatriya or sudra. But if one wants to keep his profession and also at the same time understand our movement, that is allowed. We have many professors following our movement. There is Howard Wheeler, a professor at Ohio State University. He is my disciple. He is continuing with his professorship, but almost all the money he is getting he is spending for this Krsna consciousness. Grhasthas, those who are in householder life outside, are expected to contribute fifty percent of their income for our society, keep twenty-five percent for family, and keep twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. But Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that it does not matter whether one is a grhastha, householder, or in the renounced order, or a brahmana ora sudra. Lord Caitanya says, “Anyone who understands the science of Krsna becomes My spiritual master.” The actual words in Bengali are kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya. Do you understand a little Bengali?
People are responding. Srila Prabhupada addresses a crowd of thousands at a Hare Krishna festival in Bombay.
Prof. Kotovsky: A little.
Prabhupada: Yes, as a vibration. Yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya. “Anyone who understands the science of Krsna can become a spiritual master.” (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 8.128)
Prof. Kotovsky: But by creating brahmanas from different social classes of society, you deny the old prescription of the Hindu scriptures.
Prabhupada: No, I establish it.
Prof. Kotovsky: According to all scriptures—the Puranas, etc.—every member of one of these four classes of varnas has to be born within it.
Prabhupada: No, no, no, no.
Prof. Kotovsky: That is the foundation of all the varnas… Prabhupada: No, no. I am sorry.
Prof. Kotovsky: The foundation of all the varnas…
Prabhupada: You have spoken incorrectly. With great respect I beg to submit that you are not speaking correctly. In Bhagavad-gita it is stated, catur varnyam mayasrstam guna-karma-vibhagasah. “These four orders of brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras were created by Me according to quality and work.” (Bg. 4.13) There is no mention of birth.
Prof. Kotovsky: I agree with you that this is the addition of later brahmanas who tried to perpetuate these qualities.
Prabhupada: That has killed the Indian culture. Otherwise there is no necessity of the division of part of India into Pakistan. Not only that, but from the historical point of view this whole planet was Bharata-varsa, and it was controlled by one flag up to the time of Maharaja Pariksit. Then it gradually separated. This is history. Lately they have separated Pakistan. So Bharata-varsa is now crippled into a small piece of land. Otherwise, according to Vedic scripture, this whole planet is called Bharata-varsa. Formerly it was named Ilavrta-varsa. But since Emperor Bharata ruled this planet, it is called Bharata-varsa. So this culture, Krsna consciousness, was always existent. Consider any religion-Christian, Mohammedan, Jewish. They are at most two to three thousand years old. But you cannot trace out the beginning of this Vedic scripture. It is therefore called sanatoria, eternal. This culture is for this whole human society. It is not a religious faith. Religious faith you can change, but real dharma you cannot change. Try to understand Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Give up all other forms of religion and just surrender to Me.“ (Bg. 18.66) That is real knowledge—to surrender to the Supreme. You or I—anyone—is surrendered to someone. That is a fact. Our life is by surrender, is it not? Do you disagree with this point?
Prof. Kotovsky: To some extent you surrender.
Prabhupada: Yes, to the full extent.
Prof. Kotovsky: You have to surrender to the society, for instance. To the whole people.
Prabhupada: Yes, to the whole people, or to the state or to the king or the government or whatever you say. This surrender must be there.
Prof. Kotovsky: The only difficulty is that we cannot half surrender to a government or a king. The principal difference is of surrender to a king, to a person, or to the society.
Prabhupada: No, that is only a change of color. But the principle of surrender is there. Whether you surrender to monarchy, democracy, aristocracy or dictatorship, you have to surrender; that is a fact. Without surrender there is no life. It is not possible. So we are educating people to surrender to the Supreme, wherefrom you get all protection, just as Krsna says (sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja). (Bg. 18.66) No one can say, “No, I am not surrendered to anyone.” Not a single person. The difference is where he surrenders. The ultimate surrendering object is Krsna. Therefore in Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate. “After surrendering to so many things birth after birth, when one is factually wise he surrenders unto Me.” (Bg. 7.19) Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah. “Such a mahatma is very rare.” (Bg.7.19)
Prof. Kotovsky: But at the same time it seems to me that surrender is to be accompanied by revolt. The history of mankind has proved that mankind has developed only by revolt against some kind of surrender. In the medieval age there was the French revolution. It was revolt against surrender. But this revolution itself was surrender to the rank and file of the people. You are agreed?
Prof. Kotovsky: So it is not enough to come to a full stop. Surrender is to be accompanied with revolt against some and surrender to other people.
Prabhupada: But the surrender will be fully stopped when it is surrender to Krsna.
Prof. Kotovsky: Ah, ah.
Prabhupada: That is full stop—no more surrender. Any other surrender you have to change by revolution. But when you come to Krsna, then it is sufficient. You are satisfied. I’ll give you an example: a child is crying, and people change laps. Oh, he does not stop. But as soon as the baby comes to the lap of his mother—
Prof. Kotovsky: It stops.
Prabhupada: Yes, full satisfaction. So this surrender, these changes, will go on in different categories. But the sum total of all this surrender is surrender to maya. Therefore, in Bhagavad-gita it is said that this surrender, neglecting Krsna, is all maya. Either you surrender to this or to that, but final surrender is surrender to Krsna; then you will be happy. The process of surrender is there, but surrender to Krsna keeps one quite satisfied, transcendentally.
Prof. Kotovsky: Haven’t you come across hostile attitudes to your teachings from orthodox Hindus or brahmanas in India?
Prabhupada: We have subdued them.
Prof. Kotovsky: Ah.
Prabhupada: Any orthodox Hindu may come and challenge, but we have our weapons—the Vedic literatures. So no one has come. Even Christian priests in America love me. They say, “These boys are American, Christian, Jewish, and now they are so much after God. But we could not deliver them.” They are admitting it. Their fathers and their parents come to me, offer their obeisances and say, “Svamiji, it is our great fortune that you have come here to teach God consciousness.” So on the contrary, I have been well received. In India also, since you inquired of India, all other sects are admitting that before me many kinds of svamis went to the Western countries, but they could not convert even a single person to Krsna consciousness. They are admitting that. As far as I am concerned, I don’t take any credit, but I am confident that because I am presenting the Vedic knowledge as it is, without adulteration, it is being effective. That is my confidence. If you have the right medicine and you administer it to a patient, you must be sure that he will be cured.
Prof. Kotovsky: How many out of your one thousand disciples do you have in India itself? How many of your community do you have in India?
Prabhupada: In India?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Prabhupada: In India there are many Krsna conscious persons—hundreds, thousands, millions. In India there isno question. There is not a single Hindu who is not Krsnaconscious.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, I understand.
Prabhupada: Vaisnavas. This is called the Vaisnava cult. You have been in India, so as it is commonly known, there are many millions of Vaisnavas. For example, this gentleman [an Indian gentleman present] is the commander of Air India Airlines. He is not my disciple, but he is a Vaisnava, Krsna conscious. Similarly, in India there are millions of Krsna conscious persons. There are even Mohammedans who are Krsna conscious. At Gorakhapura University there is a Mohammedan professor who is a great devotee of Lord Krsna. So this is natural. It is said in Caitanya-caritamrta that Krsna consciousness is everywhere, in everyone’s heart. It simply has to be awakened by this process. That is all. It is there in your heart also. It is not that it is foreign to you. In everyone’s heart there is Krsna consciousness. By this process we have to awaken it. It is just like the way the sun rises. It is not that all of a sudden the sun comes from nowhere. It is there, but it rises in the morning. Similarly, this Krsna consciousness is everywhere, but some way or another it is now covered. By this process it is reawakened and aroused by association.
Ancient Festival in San Francisco. Deity of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the original father of the Hare Krishna movement, dances above a river of people at the annual Rathayatra car festival.
Prof. Kotovsky: You came yesterday to Moscow. Have you seen something here in Moscow?
Prabhupada: No, I am not very much interested in sightseeing.
Prof. Kotovsky: But in any case, just to stay in an old-style hotel is not interesting-not many people to see. And you are leaving the day after tomorrow.
Prabhupada: That is my program.
Prof. Kotovsky: You are leaving forthe United States orfor Europe?
Prabhupada: Yes, for Europe. Paris. And we have two very big ceremonies in London and San Francisco. They are making arrangements for the Rathayatra Car Festival. This car festival is observed in Jagannatha Puri. You have been to Jagannatha Puri?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, the car festival has been held from immemorial times. A very old tradition. Huge cars.
Prabhupada: Yes, and it has now been introduced in the Western countries in London and San Francisco, and gradually maybe we will introduce it in other countries also.
Prof. Kotovsky: In London there is a large Indian community.
Prabhupada: No, no. This is organized by the Englishmen and Americans. The Indian communities in London and San Francisco are trying to become—you know the word?—saheb?
Prof. Kotovsky: [Laughs] Westernized. [They both laugh.] A very great social anthropologist at the University has written something very interesting. He says there are two processes-the process of Westernization among brahmanas, mainly the upper class, and the process called Sanskritization, which is the process of adopting brahmana rituals, etc., by so-called lower classes, even untouchables. It is a very interesting process in India just now. But India’s position, unfortunately, is problematic.
Prabhupada: The difficulty is that India is nowhere. They are trying to imitate Western life, but from a materialistic or technical point of view, they are one hundred years back.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, that is right. But what to do for India?
Prabhupada: There is one thing I am experiencing. If India’s spiritual asset is distributed, that will increase India’s honor. Because everywhere I go, people still adore Indian culture. If this treasure house of India’s spiritual knowledge is properly distributed, at least people outside of India will think that they are getting something from India.
Prof. Kotovsky: Of course, you’re right. The Indian cultural heritage is to be made known everywhere. But at the same time, in what way would this benefit the Indian masses themselves? They are sitting in India, and they have nothing to gain from the spreading of the Indian cultural heritage all over the world. Indian villages have to have fertilizers, tractors, etc.
Prabhupada: Yes, we do not object to that.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, I don’t think that you object, but at the same time, something has to be done in India. One may call it Westernization, but this introduction of an industrial-technological revolution is needed in all fields of Indian life—agriculture, industry, etc.
Prabhupada: Arjuna, before understanding Bhagavad-gita, was a fighter, and after understanding Bhagavad-gita he remained a fighter. So we don’t want to change the position. For example, you are a respectable professor, a teacher. We don’t say that you must change your position. We have come to convince you about our philosophy. That is all. Arjuna was refusing to fight. “Krsna, I don’t want to kill my relatives. I do not want this kingdom.” But he was taught Bhagavad-gita, and at the end when Krsna inquired, “What is your decision now?” he said, karisye vacanam tava—“Yes, I shall act as You say.” (Bg. 18.72) That means that his consciousness changed. He was a fighter, and he remained a fighter, but he changed his consciousness. We want that. We don’t want to disturb the present condition of society. We are not against technology. No, but we try to make them understand this Krsna consciousness. That is our program.
Prof. Kotovsky: Of course, at the same time the final goal of any consciousness is to change the society—to make it a better society.
Prabhupada: That is automatic.
Prof. Kotovsky: I am not really so happy that the ultimate goal is not to disturb society because in modern society there are many things to be changed through consciousness.
Prabhupada: That preliminary change is to follow rules and regulations of austerity. For example, don’t take intoxicants.
Prof. Kotovsky: No indulging in intoxicants, simplicity, etc.
Prabhupada: So if one takes to this process. . .
Prof. Kotovsky: Then the others will come automatically.
Prabhupada: One’s whole life will change because these four things—illicit sex life, intoxicants, meat eating and gambling—are very great impediments to social improvement.
Prof. Kotovsky: That will automatically make life simpler because a person who does not indulge in illicit sex, intoxicants and such other things has to lead a comparatively simple life.
Prabhupada: The other day I was speaking in Bombay with a respectable gentleman. I was telling him that Krsna says:
mam hi partha vyapasritya
ye ‘pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudras
te ‘pi yanti param gatim
“Even those who are low-born (papa-yonayah)—striyas, vaisyas and sudras—are also included by accepting Me. By accepting My shelter they are also elevated to the transcendental position.” (Bg. 9.32) Now why have the higher classes of Hindu society neglected this injunction of Bhagavad-gita? Suppose one is papa-yonayah, lowborn. Krsna says that he can be “elevated to the transcendental position if he accepts Me.” Why wasn’t this message propagated by the higher class people so that the so-called lowborn could be elevated? Why did they reject them? The result was that instead of accepting the Mohammedans, the Indians rejected them, and now they are partitioned off. They have become eternal enemies of India. So for the first time we are trying to elevate persons to the higher position of Krsna consciousness, even if one is lowborn. Because the soul is pure. In the Vedas it is said that the soul is untouched by any material contamination; it is simply temporarily covered. This covering should be removed. Then one becomes pure. That is the mission of human life—to uncover ourselves from this material environment, come to spiritual understanding and surrender to Krsna. Then life is perfect.