These exchanges between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and organic chemist Thoudam D. Singh, Ph.D., took place in Los Angeles in 1973, during early-morning walks along the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
Dr. Singh: Many scientists hope that in the future they will be able to make babies in test tubes.
Srila Prabhupada: If they begin with living entities—the sperm cells—what is the purpose of the test tube? It is only a place for combination with the ovum. But so is the womb. Where is the credit for the scientists if this is already being done in nature’s test tube? It is already being done by nature, but when some scientist does it, people will give him the Nobel Prize. The scientists are rascals. They are speaking nonsense, and because they are juggling words, others are being misled.
Dr. Singh: Nobel is the person who invented dynamite.
Srila Prabhupada: He has created great misfortune, and he has left his money for creating further misfortune. [Laughter.]
Chance and Necessity
In the Same Breath
Srila Prabhupada: [holding a rose in his hand]:Can any scientist create a flower like this in the laboratory?
Dr. Singh: That is not possible.
Srila Prabhupada: No, it is not. Just see how wonderfully Krsna’s energy is working! No scientist can create a flower like this in his laboratory. They cannot create even a few grains of sand, yet they claim to possess the most advanced intellects in the universe. What foolishness!
Dr. Singh: They take matter, manipulate it, and then claim that they have created something wonderful.
Srila Prabhupada: How have they created anything? They take the sand and mix it with some chemicals and make glass. They have not created the sand or the chemicals, they have taken them from the earth. How have they created anything?
Dr. Singh: They say, “We have taken the materials from nature.”
Srila Prabhupada: Then they are foolish. Where does nature come from? As soon as we speak of nature, the next question should be, ” Whose nature?” Is it not so? For instance, I speak of my nature, and you speak of your nature. Therefore, as soon as we speak of nature, the next inquiry should be, ” Whose nature?” Nature means energy. And as soon as we speak of energy, we must inquire into the source of that energy. For example, if you speak of electric energy, you must accept its source, the powerhouse. How can you deny it?
Dr. Singh: The French scientist Dr. J. Monod got the Nobel Prize in 1965. He says that everything started by chance—that by chance certain chemicals combined and formed the basic molecules.
Srila Prabhupada: But where did the chemicals come from?
Dr. Singh: According to him, they were created simply by chance, and when the necessity arose, molecules of the chemicals reorientated themselves.
Srila Prabhupada: If everything was happening by chance, how can there be necessity? How can he speak of chance and necessity in the same breath? It is nonsense.
Dr. Singh: It would certainly be stupid to say that a beautiful instrument like a violin was made by chance.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. It is most regrettable that such a rascal can get recognition. He is talking foolishness and getting recognition.
Darwin Kicked Out
Dr. Singh: What you have been saying also completely contradicts Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Srila Prabhupada: Darwin is a rascal. What use is his theory? We kick out Darwin’s philosophy. The more we kick out Darwin’s philosophy, the more we advance in spiritual consciousness.
Dr. Singh: Many scientists doubt Darwin’s theories. But Darwin’s supporters say that life started from matter and evolved from unicellular organisms to multicellular organisms. They believe that higher species like animals and men did not exist at the beginning of creation.
Srila Prabhupada: Darwin and his followers are rascals. For example, at the present moment we see both the intellectual person and the foolish ass. Why do both these entities exist simultaneously? Why hasn’t the ass form evolved upward and disappeared? Why do we never see a monkey giving birth to a human?
The Darwinists’ theory that human life began in such and such an era is nonsense. Bhagavad-gita says that you—the eternal soul—can directly transmigrate to any species of life you like, according to your efforts. Sometimes I travel to America, sometimes to Australia, and sometimes to Africa. The countries already exist. I am simply traveling through them. It is not that because I have come to America, I have created or become America. And there are many countries I have not yet seen. Does that mean they don’t exist? The scientists who support Darwin are nonsensical. Bhagavad-gita explains that all the species exist simultaneously, and that you can go to whichever species you like. You can even go up to the kingdom of God.
Evolution … and Devolution
Dr. Singh: Srila Prabhupada, what is the difference between the transmigration of souls in animal bodies and the transmigration of human souls?
Srila Prabhupada: Animals transmigrate in only one direction—upward—but human beings can transmigrate to either a higher or a lower form of life. The body is awarded according to the living entity’s desire. The lower animals have one kind of desire, but the human being has thousands and millions of desires—animal desires as well as human desires. By nature’s law, the lower species are coming up from animal forms to the higher, human forms. But once you come to the human form, if you don’t cultivate spiritual awareness you may return to the body of a cat or dog.
Dr. Singh: The scientists have no information that you can travel up to or down from the human platform.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore I say they are rascals. They have no knowledge, yet they still claim to be scientists. Real science is in the Bhagavad-gita [9.25], where Krsna says, yanti deva-vrata devan pitrn yanti pitr-vratah. This means that whatever one focuses his consciousness on in this life will determine the type of body he gets in his next life. But if one focuses his consciousness on Krsna, he ends the process of transmigration entirely. Yam prapya na nivartante tad dhama: “When one goes to that supreme abode of Mine, he never returns to this material world of birth and death.” [Bg. 8.21] Promotion to the spiritual world (samsiddhim paramam) is the ultimate perfection of human life. Read Bhagavad-gita; everything is there. But the scientists have no idea of this perfection; they do not even know anything about the existence of the living entity apart from the gross body.
Dr. Singh: Must the spirit soul necessarily have a body—either spiritual or material?
Srila Prabhupada: The soul already has a spiritual body, which the material body covers. My material body grows upon me—my spiritual body—but my material body is unnatural. The real body is spiritual. I am accepting various bodies that are unnatural to my constitution. My real, constitutional position is to be a servant of Krsna. As long as I do not come to that position, I remain a servant of matter and get many material bodies according to the laws of material energy. I get one body and then give it up. I desire something else and then get another body. This process is going on under the strict laws of material nature. People think they completely control their destinies, but they are always under nature’s law of karma:
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by nature.” [Bg. 3.27] The source of this bewilderment is that the living entity thinks, “I am this body.”
In this verse the word yantra, or “machine,” means that in any species of life, we are traveling in bodies that are like machines provided by material nature. Sometimes we are moving to higher species, sometimes to lower species. But if, by the mercy of the spiritual master and Krsna, one gets the seed of devotional service and cultivates it, he can become free from the cycle of birth and death. Then his life is successful. Otherwise, he has to travel up and down through the different species of life, becoming sometimes a blade of grass, sometimes a lion, and so forth.
Dr. Singh, can you tell me where that university is that teaches this knowledge?
Dr. Singh: There is none.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the scientists’ position: no knowledge. They simply advertise their ignorance as knowledge.. They do not even know who they are!
Dr. Singh: But if the scientists knew that they were not their bodies, their whole outlook would change.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we want that.
Dr. Singh: But they don’t want to admit their failure.
Srila Prabhupada: Then that is further foolishness. If you are a fool and you pose yourself as intelligent, that is further foolishness. Then you cannot make progress. And if you remain in ignorance and advertise yourself as a man of knowledge, you are a great cheater. You are cheating yourself, and you are cheating others. The scientists are so mad after materialistic progress that they have progressed to the level of cats and dogs.
“. . . But I Am Not Changing”
Srila Prabhupada: The first lesson in self-realization is that we are not these bodies, but eternal spirit souls. Once you were a child. Now you are a grown man. Where is your childhood body? That body does not exist; but you still exist, because you are eternal. The circumstantial body has changed, but you have not changed. This is the proof of eternality.
You remember that you did certain things yesterday and certain things today, but you forget other things. Your body of yesterday is not today’s body. Do you admit it or not? You cannot say that today is the thirteenth of May, 1973. You cannot say that today is yesterday. The thirteenth was yesterday. The day has changed. But you remember yesterday; and that remembrance is evidence of your eternality. The body has changed, but you remember it; therefore you are eternal, although the body is temporary. This proof is very simple. Even a child can understand it. Is it difficult to understand?
Dr. Singh: People want more proof.
Srila Prabhupada: What more is required? The eternality of the soul is a simple fact. I am an eternal soul. My body is changing, but I am not changing. For example, sometimes I think, “Oh, I used to jump and play, but now I cannot jumps because my body has changed.” I want to jump, but I cannot do it. That jumping propensity is eternal, but because of my old body I cannot do it.
Dr. Singh: The scientists say that consciousness comes into being only when your material body comes into being—and that it lasts for only one body.
Srila Prabhupada: That is foolishness. In Bhagavad-gita [2.13] Krsna explains,
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from childhood to youth to old age, so the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” Just as in this lifetime I am going from body to body (I can see this happening year by year), so at the time of death there is a similar change.
Dr. Singh: But according to the scientists, we cannot actually observe this last change. Scientists find it very hard to see the spirit soul. They say its existence is very doubtful.
Srila Prabhupada: Their eyes are so imperfect that they cannot observe many, many things. Their ignorance does not make the Bhagavad-gita unscientific. They must first admit the imperfection of their senses.
Dr. Singh: And because our senses are defective, the technological enlargements of our senses must also be defective, of course. The microscopes with which we detect things must also be defective.
Srila Prabhupada: Material existence means defective existence. If you construct something with defective knowledge and imperfect senses, whatever you construct must be defective.
Dr. Singh: Even if scientists devised a perfect microscope, they would still have to look through it with defective eyes.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is right. Therefore we conclude that whatever the scientists may say is defective.
Dr. Singh: Still, they want to sense the soul by some means.
Srila Prabhupada: How can they see it? It is too small to see. Who has that seeing power? If you inject someone with just one hundredth of a grain of very venomous poison, he dies immediately. No one can see the poison or how it acts, but it is acting nevertheless. So why don’t the scientists see the soul by its action? In such cases we have to see by the effect. If I pinch myself I immediately feel it, because I am conscious throughout the whole of my skin. But as soon as the soul is out of my body, which is the case when my body dies, you could take the same skin and cut and chop it, and nobody would protest. Why is this simple thing so hard to understand? Is this not detecting spirit?
Dr. Singh: We may detect the soul in this way, but what about God?
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, let us understand the soul. The soul is a sample of God. Once you understand the sample, then you can understand the whole.
“What Is This Nonsense?”
Dr. Singh: Scientists are in the process of trying to create life.
Srila Prabhupada: “Process of”! “Trying to”! That we kick out. That we don’t accept. A beggar is saying, “I am trying to be a millionaire.” We say, “When you become a millionaire, then talk. Now you are a poor beggar; that’s all.” The scientists say they are trying, but suppose I ask you, “What are you?” Will you say, “I am trying to be. . .”? What are you now? That is the question. “We are trying” is not a proper answer, what to speak of a scientific proposition.
Dr. Singh: Well, although they haven’t been able to create life so far, they say they will create life in the future.
Srila Prabhupada: What future? When this crucial point is raised, they reply, “We shall do it in the future.” Why in the future? That is nonsense. “Trust no future, however pleasant.” If they are so advanced, they must demonstrate now how life can be created from chemicals. Otherwise what is the meaning of their advancement? I say to them, “If life originated from chemicals, and if your science is so advanced, then why can’t you create life biochemically in your laboratories?” They are talking nonsense.
Dr. Singh: They say that they are right on the verge of creating life.
Srila Prabhupada: That’s only a different way of saying the same thing: “In the future.” The scientists must admit that they still do not know the origin of life. Their claim that they will soon prove a chemical origin of life is something like paying someone with a postdated check. Suppose I give you a postdated check for ten thousand dollars but I actually have no money. What is the value of that check? Scientists are claiming that their science is wonderful, but when a practical example is wanted, they say they will provide it in the future. Suppose I say that I possess millions of dollars, and when you ask me for some money I say, “Yes, I will now give you a big postdated check. Is that all right?” If you are intelligent, you will reply, “At present give me at least five dollars in cash so I can see something tangible.” Similarly, the scientists cannot produce even a single blade of grass in their laboratories, yet they are claiming that life is produced from chemicals. What is this nonsense? Is no one questioning this?
Dr. Singh: But once they are successful they are going to make superbeings, superhuman beings.
Srila Prabhupada: They cannot create even an ant—and now they are going to make “superbeings.” And we have to believe them. [Laughter.]
A Scientific Method For Drawing Money
Dr. Singh: Well, yes. The scientists say, “After all, we’ve already done so much in the past, and we’ll accomplish more in the future.”
Srila Prabhupada: In the past there was death, and people are dying now. So what have the scientists done?
Dr. Singh: Helped them.
Srila Prabhupada: Scientists have helped to minimize the duration of life! Formerly men lived one hundred years; now they seldom live more than sixty or seventy years. And the scientists have discovered atomic energy; now they can kill millions of people at once. They have simply cleared the way for death. And yet they dare to declare that they will make life!
Dr. Singh: But now we have airplanes and televisions and—
Srila Prabhupada: If they can make things, why don’t they make an imitation sun to save electricity? These rascals say everything, but they cannot do anything. That is their position. Yet they speak big, big words, simply to take money from the taxpayers. They say they know the composition of the moon and the composition of the sun, so why can’t they make them? Why can’t they create an artificial sun so that the people of Iceland and Greenland can be saved from so much cold?
How long can science cheat people? One hundred years, two hundred years? You can cheat all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time. But you cannot cheat all of the people all of the time. [Laughter.]
Dr. Singh: This cheating has been going on since time immemorial, so perhaps they think they can continue forever.
Srila Prabhupada: Not since time immemorial! Science has been cheating people for only the past two or three hundred years, not before that.
Dr. Singh: Oh, really?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, for the last two hundred years they have been preaching that life comes from matter—not for thousands of years. And the cheating will be finished within fifty years.
Dr. Singh: Yes. Now people are rebelling against science.
Srila Prabhupada: And what is that science? It is not science! It is ignorance. Ignorance is passing for science. But this cheating cannot go on for long, because some people are becoming intelligent.
Dr. Singh: They say that in the future they want to go to the subsurface of Mars.
Srila Prabhupada: They are all becoming “big men” with their statements about the future.
Dr. Singh: They say that it will happen in about ten years.
Srila Prabhupada: So what if they say one year? They may say ten years or one year, but we do not accept such propositions. We want to see what they are doing now.
Dr. Singh: They are developing their technology by using small-scale models.
Srila Prabhupada: They are simply childish. In my childhood I used to watch the tramcars go along the rail. Once I thought, “I shall take a stick and touch it to the wire, and I shall also go along the rails.” The scientists, with all their plans, are just as childish. They spend so much money, and politicians are financing them, but the result is zero.
Dr. Singh: That is how they discover things—by research.
Srila Prabhupada: And what is the cost of the research? It is a scientific method for drawing money from others, that’s all. In other words, it is cheating.
Scientists juggle words like “plutonium,” “photons,” “hydrogen,” and “oxygen,” but what good will people get from this? When people hear this jugglery of words, what can they say? One scientist explains something to some extent, and then another rascal comes along and explains it again, but differently, with different words. And all the time the phenomenon has remained the same. What advancement has been made? They have simply produced volumes of books.
Dr. Singh: After spending all that money to go to the moon and bring back just a few rocks, the scientists on the space project decided that there was nothing more to do there. Now they want to go to other planets. That costs millions and billions of dollars.
Srila Prabhupada: People work very hard while the rascal government takes taxes and spends money unnecessarily. There should be no sympathy when so much hard-earned money comes from the public and is spent so foolishly.
Dr. Singh: Now the scientists have organized a whole department in science called gerontology, in which they study how to prolong life. That is what they do with heart transplants.
Srila Prabhupada: It is nonsense! Their real aim should be to stop the suffering. The scientists cannot stop death, they cannot stop birth, they cannot stop disease, and they cannot stop old age. So what have they done? Formerly people used to become old, and nowadays they are becoming old. Formerly people used to become diseased, and now they are becoming diseased. Now there is more medicine—and more disease. So what have they accomplished?
Suppose an old man is in great pain, suffering from many diseases, and suddenly the doctors increase his life span with a heart transplant. What is the profit? Let them stop death; that would be an achievement. They cannot do these things! Therefore, I say that all their research is simply a struggle for existence. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita [15.7],
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.”
Dr. Singh: Now there is a big petrol problem, a shortage of oil.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The scientists have created it. They have built a civilization that is dependent on oil. This is against nature’s law, and therefore there is now an oil shortage. When the petrol supply dwindles away, what will these rascal scientists do? They are powerless to do anything about it. By nature’s law, winter is coming. Scientists cannot stop it and turn it into summer. They wrongly think they are in control of nature.
They do not realize that if they really want to conquer nature, they should try to conquer birth, death, old age, and disease. In Bhagavad-gita [7.14] Krsna says,
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is very hard to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.”
Dr. Singh: So, is it very hard to overcome nature’s laws?
Srila Prabhupada: For the materialists, it is impossible. But if one surrenders to Krsna, it becomes easy.