Why are Atheists Successful in the World?


The editors of Back to Godhead welcome correspondence pertaining to the subject matter of Krsna consciousness. All letters will be personally replied, and correspondence of special interest will be published regularly.

Dear Sir:

Let me first say that I am deeply moved by the Hare Krsna movement, and as a devotee of Lord Krsna it makes me feel overjoyed to see so many of you, all members of ISKCON, all under one spiritual leader, doing so much to spread the good name of the Lord.

If you do not mind, I should like to ask you some questions. Firstly, it has been said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that in this age of Kali-yuga one who calls upon the Lord with a true heart, who calls upon Him sincerely, shall surely get His “darsana” [personal audience]. And yet how many of you, or for that matter, how many of us, have had it? I am sure that when you all chant the maha-mantra, that chant is sincere; I know this because some of your fellow brothers and sisters have performed kirtana at our house in Bombay. Then why does the Lord not appear? Or is He too busy and has forgotten His children?

One more thing I have noticed is that in this world the people who lie, who cheat and who are atheists are the ones successful, whereas those who are the opposite suffer. You may argue that after death it shall be a different story, but you cannot simply explain that to the atheists because they do not believe in what they cannot see. So it makes it hard to teach them to worship God. Why is God making it hard for people to follow Him? Why does He make it appear that those who worship Him will suffer hardships? Why not make it the other way around?

Yours very truly,
Sham Daswami
Manila, Philipines

Dear Sham Daswami:

Hare Krsna! I was very glad to receive your letter, especially because you have appreciated the sincere chanting of the Hare Krsna devotees. You have asked two questions in your letter which I shall try to answer. First you ask why the Lord does not appear to the devotees who chant His name. But you should know that the holy name of Krsna is nondifferent from Krsna Himself. This is the philosophy of Krsna consciousness as taught by Lord Caitanya and indeed all the previous spiritual masters, including Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedic literatures.

Krsna Himself declares this when He says in the Adi Purana, “I am not in the heart of the yogi meditating, I am not to be found in the forest, but I am present where My devotees are chanting My holy name.” The Supreme Personality of Godhead further states, “Anyone who chants My transcendental name must be considered to be always associating with Me. And I may tell you frankly that for such a devotee I become easily purchased.”

The sincere chanter of the Hare Krsna mantra does receive the Lord’s blessings, for the Lord appears by sound vibration. Lord Caitanya prays in His Siksastakam prayers, “O my Lord. Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings … You have invested all Your transcendental energies in Your name…” Krsna is coming in His holy name, and all the benefit that one can derive from the personal association of the Lord can be had simply by vibrating the holy name: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

You are overjoyed to see so many members of ISKCON spreading the name of the Lord. But how is it that these devotees are able to give up all material pleasures and take to this selfless service? The answer is that they are getting the Lord’s blessings by chanting the holy names and serving their spiritual master, who is himself always chanting the Lord’s glories. Indeed, the Hare Krsna chant is the Lord’s blessing, His “prime benediction.” There is no question of the Lord’s being “too busy.” One can have His association twenty-four hours a day simply by chanting His holy name. You have to try it! One cannot simply look on and say, “The Lord is not appearing. He is too busy. He is forgetting.” In Bhagavad-gita Krsna promises that when one becomes His devotee, “He is never lost to Me, and I am never lost to him.” There is no question of the Lord’s “forgetting” His children. There is no question of neglect on the part of the Lord; rather, the neglect is ours. If we at all desire Krsna’s association, we just have to chant Hare Krsna.

Regarding your second question, actually we devotees in the Society for Krsna Consciousness are experiencing that as soon as we take to devotional service there is no lack in any facility at all. We have many nice buildings, the ISKCON temples in which we reside to perform our devotional service, and if you have ever visited these temples you must have experienced that devotees eat very nice food (prasadam). On Sunday hundreds of guests always visit to taste the sumptuous feasts. There are nice marriages in Krsna consciousness for raising children as devotees of the Lord, and we are traveling all over the world to distribute the sankirtana movement. So there is no question of our being bereft of material necessities upon taking to devotional service.

It is true that sometimes if a sincere devotee maintains some material attachment, Krsna will crush his material success so that he is left only with his attachment to Krsna. After all, material opulence in this world is temporary. We may keep something in this world for ten or twenty years, but then we have to give it up. So the real importance to life is not whether one is materially opulent. The cheaters and atheists may amass a lot of wealth, but this does not make one successful in the true sense. For example, despite its advancement, the richest country in the world, the United States, is turning out disturbed and unhappy people such as hippies. We cannot say that an atheist is successful just because he has some wealth or a big position. We have to know how to actually judge happiness and success. Real success is to develop self-realization, become a devotee of Krsna and within this lifetime go back home, back to Godhead. But even while on the path of devotional service, we devotees in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness feel no diffculty for lack of material necessities. If we suffer any hardships, we can understand that it is Krsna’s mercy that we are only receiving token suffering for all the wrongdoings that we have committed in so many lifetimes. Once one surrenders to Krsna through the bona fide spiritual master, all past sinful activities are washed away, and the Lord protects him personally. This can be personally realized by one who takes to devotional service.

Your servant,
Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami

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