Perspectives on Science and Philosophy
Plato: Goodness and Government
In 1972 and 1973, Śrīla Prabhupāda held a series of philosophical discussions with his personal secretary, Śyāmasundara, while traveling around the world. These sessions were recorded and published to provide an understanding of Western philosophy, psychology, and science from the viewpoint of the timeless teachings of India’s Vedic literature. In the following conversation, the striking similarities between Plato’s ideal state and that outlined in the Bhagavad-gīta prompt one to ask, “Could Plato have gotten his ideas from India’s ancient Vedas?”
Śyāmasundara: Plato believed society can enjoy prosperity and harmony only if it places people in working categories or classes according to their natural abilities. He thought people should find out their natural abilities and use those abilities to their fullest capacity – as administrators, as military men, or as craftsmen. Most important, the head of state should not be an average or mediocre man. Instead, society should be led by a very wise and good man – a “philosopher king” – or a group of very wise and good men.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This idea appears to be taken from the Bhagavad-gītā, where Kṛṣṇa says that the ideal society has four divisions: brāhmaṇas [intellectuals], kṣatriyas [warriors and administrators], vaiśyas [merchants and farmers], and śūdras [laborers]. These divisions come about by the influence of the modes of nature. Everyone, both in human society and in animal society, is influenced by the modes of material nature [sattva-guṇa, rajo-guṇa, and tamo-guṇa, or goodness, passion, and ignorance]. By scientifically classifying men according to these qualities, society can become perfect. But if we place a man in the mode of ignorance in a philosopher’s post, or put a philosopher to work as an ordinary laborer, havoc will result.
In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says that the brāhmaṇas – the most intelligent men, who are interested in transcendental knowledge and philosophy – should be given the topmost posts, and under their instructions the kṣatriyas [administrators] should work. The administrators should see that there is law and order and that everyone is doing his duty. The next section is the productive class, the vaiśyas, who engage in agriculture and cow protection. And finally there are the śūdras, common laborers who help the other sections. This is Vedic civilization – people living simply, on agriculture and cow protection. If you have enough milk, grains, fruits, and vegetables, you can live very nicely.
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam compares the four divisions of society to the different parts of the body – the head, the arms, the belly, and the legs. Just as all parts of the body cooperate to keep the body fit, in the ideal state all sections of society cooperate under the leadership of the brāhmaṇas. Comparatively, the head is the most important part of the body, for it gives directions to the other parts of the body. Similarly, the ideal state functions under the directions of the brāhmaṇas, who are not personally interested in political affairs or administration because they have a higher duty. At present this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is training brāhmaṇas. If the administrators take our advice and conduct the state in a Kṛṣṇa conscious way, there will be an ideal society throughout the world.
Śyāmasundara: How does modern society differ from the Vedic ideal?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Now there is large-scale industrialization, which means exploitation of one man by another. Such industry was unknown in Vedic civilization – it was unnecessary. In addition, modern civilization has taken to slaughtering and eating animals, which is barbarous. It is not even human.
In Vedic civilization, when a person was unfit to rule he was deposed. For instance, King Vena proved to be an unfit king. He was simply interested in hunting. Of course, kṣatriyas are allowed to hunt, but not whimsically. They are not allowed to kill many birds and beasts unnecessarily, as King Vena was doing and as people do today. At that time the intelligent brāhmaṇas objected and immediately killed him with a curse. Formerly, the brāhmaṇas had so much power that they could kill simply by cursing; weapons were unnecessary.
At present, however – because the head of the social body is missing – it is a dead body. The head is very important, and our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is attempting to create some brāhmaṇas who will form the head of society. Then the administrators will be able to rule very nicely under the instructions of the philosophers and theologians – that is, under the instructions of God conscious people. A God conscious brāhmaṇa would never advise opening slaughterhouses. But now, the many rascals heading the government allow animal slaughter. When Mahārāja Parīkṣit saw a degraded man trying to kill a cow, he immediately drew his sword and said, “Who are you? Why are you trying to kill this cow?” He was a real king. Nowadays, unqualified men have taken the presidential post. And although they may pose themselves as very religious, they are simply rascals. Why? Because under their noses thousands of cows are being killed, while they collect a good salary. Any leader who is at all religious should resign his post in protest if cow slaughter goes on under his rule. Since people do not know that these administrators are rascals, they are suffering. And the people are also rascals because they are voting for these bigger rascals. It is Plato’s view that the government should be ideal, and this is the ideal: The saintly philosophers should be at the head of the state; according to their advice the politicians should rule; under the protection of the politicians, the productive class should provide the necessities of life; and the laborer class should help. This is the scientific division of society that Kṛṣṇa advocates in the Bhagavad-gītā [4.13]: cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ. “According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me.”
Śyāmasundara: Plato also observed social divisions. However, he advocated three divisions. One class consisted of the guardians, men of wisdom who governed society. Another class consisted of the warriors, who were courageous and who protected the rest of society. And the third class consisted of the artisans, who performed their services obediently and worked only to satisfy their appetites.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, human society does have this threefold division, also. The first-class man is in the mode of goodness, the second-class man is in the mode of passion, and the third-class man is in the mode of ignorance.
Śyāmasundara: Plato’s understanding of the social order was based on his observation that man has a threefold division of intelligence, courage, and appetite. He said that the soul has these three qualities.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is a mistake. The soul does not have any material qualities. The soul is pure, but because of his contact with the different qualities of material nature, he is “dressed” in various bodies. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement aims at removing this material dress. Our first instruction is “You are not this body.” It appears that in his practical understanding Plato identified the soul with the bodily dress, and that does not show very good intelligence.
Śyāmasundara: Plato believed that man’s position is marginal – between matter and spirit – and therefore he also stressed the development of the body. He thought that everyone should be educated from an early age, and that part of that education should be gymnastics – to keep the body fit.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This means that in practice Plato very strongly identified the self as the body. What was Plato’s idea of education?
Śyāmasundara: To awaken the student to his natural position – whatever his natural abilities or talents are.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: And what is that natural position?
Śyāmasundara: The position of moral goodness. In other words, Plato thought everyone should be educated to work in whatever way is best suited to awaken his natural moral goodness.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But moral goodness is not enough, because simple morality will not satisfy the soul. One has to go above morality – to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Of course, in this material world morality is taken as the highest principle, but there is another platform, which is called the transcendental (vasudeva) platform. Man’s highest perfection is on that platform, and this is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. However, because Western philosophers have no information of the vasudeva platform, they consider the material mode of goodness to be the highest perfection and the end of morality. But in this world even moral goodness is infected by the lower modes of ignorance and passion. You cannot find pure goodness (śuddha-sattva) in this material world, for pure goodness is the transcendental platform. To come to the platform of pure goodness, which is the ideal, one has to undergo austerities (tapasā brahmacaryeṇa śamena ca damena ca). One has to practice celibacy and control the mind and senses. If he has money, he should distribute it in charity. Also, one should always be very clean. In this way one can rise to the platform of pure goodness.
There is another process for coming to the platform of pure goodness – and that is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If one becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious, all the good qualities automatically develop in him. Automatically he leads a life of celibacy, controls his mind and senses, and has a charitable disposition. In this age of Kali, people cannot possibly be trained to engage in austerity. Formerly, a brahmacārī [celibate student] would undergo austere training. Even though he might be from a royal or learned family, a brahmacārī would humble himself and serve the spiritual master as a menial servant. He would immediately do whatever the spiritual master ordered. The brahmacārī would beg alms from door to door and bring them to the spiritual master, claiming nothing for himself. Whatever he earned he would give to the spiritual master, because the spiritual master would not spoil the money by spending it for sense gratification – he would use it for Kṛṣṇa. This is austerity. The brahmacārī would also observe celibacy, and because he followed the directions of the spiritual master, his mind and senses were controlled.
Today, however, this austerity is very difficult to follow, so Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given the process of taking to Kṛṣṇa consciousness directly. In this case, one need simply chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare and follow the regulative principles given by the spiritual master. Then one immediately rises to the platform of pure goodness.
Śyāmasundara: Plato thought the state should train citizens to be virtuous. His system of education went like this: For the first three years of life, the child should play and strengthen his body. From three to six, the child should learn religious stories. From seven to ten, he should learn gymnastics; from ten to thirteen, reading and writing; from fourteen to sixteen, poetry and music; from sixteen to eighteen, mathematics. And from eighteen to twenty, he should undergo military drill. From twenty to thirty-five, those who are scientific and philosophical should remain in school and continue learning, and the warriors should engage in military exercises.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Is this educational program for all men, or are there different types of education for different men?
Śyāmasundara: No, this is for everyone.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This is not very good. If a boy is intelligent and inclined to philosophy and theology, why should he be forced to undergo military training?
Śyāmasundara: Well, Plato said that everyone should undergo two years of military drill.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But why should someone waste two years? No one should waste even two days. This is nonsense – imperfect ideas.
Śyāmasundara: Plato said this type of education reveals what category a person belongs to. He did have the right idea that one belongs to a particular class according to his qualification.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, that we also say, but we disagree that everyone should go through the same training. The spiritual master should judge the tendency or disposition of the student at the start of his education. He should be able to see whether a boy is fit for military training, administration, or philosophy, and then he should fully train the boy according to his particular tendency. If one is naturally inclined to philosophical study, why should he waste his time in the military? And if one is naturally inclined to military training, why should he waste his time with other things? Arjuna belonged to a kṣatriya [warrior] family. He and his brothers were never trained as philosophers. Droṇācārya was their master and teacher, and although he was a brāhmaṇa, he taught them Dhanur Veda [military science], not brahma-vidyā. Brahma-vidyā is theistic philosophy. No one should be trained in everything; that is a waste of time. If one is inclined toward production, business, or agriculture, he should be trained in those fields. If one is philosophical, he should be trained as a philosopher. If one is militaristic, he should be trained as a warrior. And if one has ordinary ability, he should remain a śūdra, or laborer. This is stated by Nārada Muni in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: yasya yal-lakṣaṇaṁ proktam. The four classes of society are recognized by their symptoms and qualifications. Nārada Muni also says that one should be selected for training according to his qualifications. Even if one is born in a brāhmaṇa family, he should be considered a śūdra if his qualifications are those of a śūdra. And if one is born in a śūdra family, he should be taken as a brāhmaṇa if his symptoms are brahminical. The spiritual master should be expert enough to recognize the tendencies of the student and immediately train him in that line. This is perfect education.
Śyāmasundara: Plato believed that the student’s natural tendency wouldn’t come out unless he practiced everything.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, that is wrong – because the soul is continuous, and therefore everyone has some tendency from his previous birth. I think Plato didn’t realize this continuity of the soul from body to body. According to the Vedic culture, immediately after a boy’s birth astrologers should calculate what category he belongs to. Astrology can help if there is a first-class astrologer. Such an astrologer can tell what line a boy is coming from and how he should be trained. Plato’s method of education was imperfect because it was based on speculation.
Śyāmasundara: Plato observed that a particular combination of the three modes of nature is acting in each individual.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then why did he say that everyone should be trained in the same way?
Śyāmasundara: Because he claimed that the person’s natural abilities will not manifest unless he is given a chance to try everything. He saw that some people listen primarily to their intelligence, and he said they are governed by the head. He saw that some people have an aggressive disposition, and he said such courageous types are governed by the heart – by passion. And he saw that some people, who are inferior, simply want to feed their appetites. He said these people are animalistic, and he believed they are governed by the liver.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is not a perfect description. Everyone has a liver, a heart, and all the bodily limbs. Whether one is in the mode of goodness, passion, or ignorance depends on one’s training and on the qualities he acquired during his previous life. According to the Vedic process, at birth one is immediately given a classification. Psychological and physical symptoms are considered, and generally it is ascertained from birth that a child has a particular tendency. However, this tendency may change according to circumstances, and if one does not fulfill his assigned role, he can be transferred to another class. One may have had brahminical training in a previous life, and he may exhibit brahminical symptoms in this life, but one should not think that because he has taken birth in a brāhmaṇa family he is automatically a brāhmaṇa. A person may be born in a brāhmaṇa family and be a śūdra. It is a question not of birth but of qualification.
Śyāmasundara: Plato also believed that one must qualify for his post. His system of government was very democratic. He thought everyone should be given a chance to occupy the different posts.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Actually, we are the most democratic because we are giving everyone a chance to become a first-class brāhmaṇa. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is giving even the lowest member of society a chance to become a brāhmaṇa by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious. Caṇḍālo ’pi dvija-śreṣṭho hari-bhakti-parāyaṇaḥ: Although one may be born in a family of caṇḍālas [dog-eaters], as soon as he becomes God conscious, Kṛṣṇa conscious, he can be elevated to the highest position. Kṛṣṇa says that everyone can go back home, back to Godhead. Samo ’haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu: “I am equal to everyone. Everyone can come to Me. There is no hindrance.”
Śyāmasundara: What is the purpose of the social orders and the state government?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The ultimate purpose is to make everyone Kṛṣṇa conscious. That is the perfection of life, and the entire social structure should be molded with this aim in view. Of course, not everyone can become fully Kṛṣṇa conscious in one lifetime, just as not all students in a university can attain the Ph.D. degree in one attempt. But the idea of perfection is to pass the Ph.D. examination, and therefore the Ph.D. courses should be maintained. Similarly, an institution like this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement should be maintained so that at least some people can attain and everyone can approach the ultimate goal – Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Śyāmasundara: So the goal of the state government is to help everyone become Kṛṣṇa conscious?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the highest goal. Therefore, everyone should help this movement and take advantage of it. Regardless of his work, everyone can come to the temple. The instructions are for everyone, and prasādam is distributed to everyone. Therefore, there is no difficulty. Everyone can contribute to this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. The brāhmaṇas can contribute their intelligence; the kṣatriyas their charity; the vaiśyas their grain, milk, fruits, and flowers; and the śūdras their bodily service. By such joint effort, everyone can reach the same goal – Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the perfection of life.
Shortcomings of Marxism
Twenty years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains why communism must fail and predicts the end of the Soviet Union. “A classless society is possible only when Kṛṣṇa is in the center,” says Śrīla Prabhupāda. “The real change occurs when we say, `Nothing belongs to me, everything belongs to God.’ … So Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the final revolution.”
Śyāmasundara: Karl Marx contended that philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it. His philosophy is often called “dialectical materialism” because it comes from the dialectic of George Hegel – thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. When applied to society, his philosophy is known as communism. His idea is that for many generations, the bourgeoisie [the property owners] have competed with the proletariat [the working class], and that this conflict will terminate in the communist society. In other words, the workers will overthrow the capitalistic class and establish a so-called dictatorship of the proletariat, which will finally become a classless society.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But how is a classless society possible? Men naturally fall into different classes. Your nature is different from mine, so how can we artificially be brought to the same level?
Śyāmasundara: His idea is that human nature, or ideas, are molded by the means of production. Therefore everyone can be trained to participate in the classless society.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then training is required?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: And what will be the center of training for this classless society? What will be the motto?
Śyāmasundara: The motto is “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The idea is that everyone would contribute something, and everyone would get what he needed.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But everyone’s contribution is different. A scientific man contributes something, and a philosopher contributes something else. The cow contributes milk, and the dog contributes service as a watchdog. Even the trees, the birds, the beasts – everyone is contributing something. So, by nature a reciprocal arrangement is already there among social classes. How can there be a classless society?
Śyāmasundara: Well, Marx’s idea is that the means of production will be owned in common. No one would have an advantage over anyone else, and thus one person could not exploit another. Marx is thinking in terms of profit.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: First we must know what profit actually is. For example, the American hippies already had “profit.” They were from the best homes, their fathers were rich – they had everything. Yet they were not satisfied; they rejected it. No, this idea of a classless society based on profit-sharing is imperfect. Besides, the communists have not created a classless society. We have seen in Moscow how a poor woman will wash the streets while her boss sits comfortably in his car. So where is the classless society? As long as society is maintained, there must be some higher and lower classification. But if the central point of society is one, then whether one works in a lower or a higher position, he doesn’t care. For example, our body has different parts – the head, the legs, the hands – but everything works for the stomach.
Śyāmasundara: Actually, the Russians supposedly have the same idea: they claim the common worker is just as glorious as the top scientist or manager.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But in Moscow we have seen that not everyone is satisfied. One boy who came to us was very unhappy because in Russia young boys are not allowed to go out at night.
Śyāmasundara: The Russian authorities would say that he has an improper understanding of Marxist philosophy.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That “improper understanding” is inevitable. They will never be able to create a classless society because, as I have already explained, everyone’s mentality is different.
Śyāmasundara: Marx says that if everyone is engaged according to his abilities in a certain type of production, and everyone works for the central interest, then everyone’s ideas will become uniform.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Therefore we must find out the real central interest. In our International Society for Krishna Consciousness, everyone has a central interest in Kṛṣṇa. Therefore one person is speaking, another person is typing, another is going to the press or washing the dishes, and no one is grudging, because they are all convinced they are serving Kṛṣṇa.
Śyāmasundara: Marx’s idea is that the center is the state.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But the state cannot be perfect. If the Russian state is perfect, then why was Khrushchev driven from power? He was elected premier. Why was he driven from power?
Śyāmasundara: Because he was not fulfilling the aims of the people.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Well, then, what is the guarantee the next premier will do that? There is no guarantee. The same thing will happen again and again. Because the center, Khrushchev, was imperfect, people begrudged their labor. The same thing is going on in noncommunist countries as well. The government is changed, the prime minister is deposed, the president is impeached. So what is the real difference between Russian communism and other political systems? What is happening in other countries is also happening in Russia, only they call it by a different name. When we talked with Professor Kotovsky of Moscow University, we told him he had to surrender: either he must surrender to Kṛṣṇa or to Lenin, but he must surrender. He was taken aback at this.
Śyāmasundara: From studying history, Marx concluded that the characteristics of culture, the social structure, and even the thoughts of the people are determined by the means of economic production.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: How does he account for all the social disruption in countries like America, which is so advanced in economic production?
Śyāmasundara: He says that capitalism is a decadent form of economic production because it relies on the exploitation of one class by another.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But there is exploitation in the communist countries also. Khrushchev was driven out of power because he was exploiting his position. He was giving big government posts to his son and son-in-law.
Śyāmasundara: He was deviating from the doctrine.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But since any leader can deviate, how will perfection come? First the person in the center must be perfect, then his dictations will be correct. Otherwise, if the leaders are all imperfect men, what is the use of changing this or that? The corruption will continue.
Śyāmasundara: Presumably the perfect leader would be the one who practiced Marx’s philosophy without deviation.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But Marx’s philosophy is also imperfect! His proposal for a classless society is unworkable. There must be one class of men to administer the government and one class of men to sweep the streets. How can there be a classless society? Why should a sweeper be satisfied seeing someone else in the administrative post? He will think, “He is forcing me to work as a sweeper in the street while he sits comfortably in a chair.” In our International Society, I am also holding the superior post: I am sitting in a chair, and you are offering me garlands and the best food. Why? Because you see a perfect man whom you can follow. That mentality must be there. Everyone in the society must be able to say, “Yes, here is a perfect man. Let him sit in a chair, and let us all bow down and work like menials.” Where is that perfect man in the communist countries?
Śyāmasundara: The Russians claim that Lenin is a perfect man.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Lenin? But no one is following Lenin. Lenin’s only perfection was that he overthrew the czar’s government. What other perfection has he shown? The people are not happy simply reading Lenin’s books. I studied the people in Moscow. They are unhappy. The government cannot force them to be happy artificially. Unless there is a perfect, ideal man in the center, there cannot possibly be a classless society.
Śyāmasundara: Perhaps they see the workers and the managers in the same way that we do – in the absolute sense. Since everyone is serving the state, the sweeper is as good as the administrator.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But unless the state gives perfect satisfaction to the people, there will always be distinctions between higher and lower classes. In the Russian state, that sense of perfection in the center is lacking.
Śyāmasundara: Their goal is the production of material goods for the enhancement of human well-being.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is useless! Economic production in America has no comparison in the world, yet still people are dissatisfied. The young men are confused. It is nonsensical to think that simply by increasing production everyone will become satisfied. No one will be satisfied. Man is not meant simply for eating. He has mental necessities, intellectual necessities, spiritual necessities. In India many people sit alone silently in the jungle and practice yoga. They do not require anything. How will increased production satisfy them? If someone were to say to them, “If you give up this yoga practice, I will give you two hundred bags of rice,” they would laugh at the proposal. It is animalistic to think that simply by increasing production everyone will become satisfied. Real happiness does not depend on either production or starvation, but upon peace of mind. For example, if a child is crying but the mother does not know why, the child will not stop simply by giving him some milk. Sometimes this actually happens: the mother cannot understand why her child is crying, and though she is giving him her breast, he continues to cry. Similarly, dissatisfaction in human society is not caused solely by low economic production. That is nonsense. There are many causes of dissatisfaction. The practical example is America, where there is sufficient production of everything, yet the young men are becoming hippies. They are dissatisfied, confused. No, simply by increasing economic production people will not become satisfied. Marx’s knowledge is insufficient. Perhaps because he came from a country where people were starving, he had that idea.
Śyāmasundara: Yes, now we’ve seen that production of material goods alone will not make people happy.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Because they do not know that real happiness comes from spiritual understanding. That understanding is given in the Bhagavad-gītā: God is the supreme enjoyer, and He is the proprietor of everything. We are not actually enjoyers; we are all workers. These two things must be there: an enjoyer and a worker. For example, in our body the stomach is the enjoyer and all other parts of the body are workers. So this system is natural: there must always be someone who is the enjoyer and someone who is the worker. It is present in the capitalist system also. In Russia there is always conflict between the managers and the workers. The workers say, “If this is a classless society, why is that man sitting comfortably and ordering us to work?” The Russians have not been able to avoid this dilemma, and it cannot be avoided. There must be one class of men who are the directors or enjoyers and another class of men who are the workers. Therefore the only way to have a truly classless society is to find that method by which both the managers and the workers will feel equal happiness. For example, if the stomach is hungry and the eyes see some food, immediately the brain will say, “O legs, please go there!” and “Hand, pick it up,” and “Now please put it into the mouth.” Immediately the food goes into the stomach, and as soon as the stomach is satisfied, the eyes are satisfied, the legs are satisfied, and the hand is satisfied.
Śyāmasundara: But Marx would use this as a perfect example of communism.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But he has neglected to find out the real stomach.
Śyāmasundara: His is the material stomach.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But the material stomach is always hungry again; it can never be satisfied. In the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement we have the substance for feeding our brains, our minds, and our souls. Yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādaḥ. If the spiritual master is satisfied, then Kṛṣṇa is satisfied, and if Kṛṣṇa is satisfied, then everyone is satisfied. Therefore you are all trying to satisfy your spiritual master. Similarly, if the communist countries can come up with a dictator who, if satisfied, automatically gives satisfaction to all the people, then we will accept such a classless society. But this is impossible. A classless society is only possible when Kṛṣṇa is in the center. For the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, the intellectual can work in his own way, the administrator can work in his way, the merchant can work in his way, and the laborer can work in his way. This is truly a classless society.
Śyāmasundara: How is this different from the communist country, where all sorts of men contribute for the same central purpose, which is the state?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The difference is that if the state is not perfect, no one will willingly contribute to it. They may be forced to contribute, but they will not voluntarily contribute unless there is a perfect state in the center. For example, the hands, legs, and brain are working in perfect harmony for the satisfaction of the stomach. Why? Because they know without a doubt that by satisfying the stomach they will all share the energy and also be satisfied. Therefore, unless the people have this kind of perfect faith in the leader of the country, there is no possibility of a classless society.
Śyāmasundara: The communists theorize that if the worker contributes to the central fund, he will get satisfaction in return.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, but if he sees imperfection in the center, he will not work enthusiastically because he will have no faith that he will get full satisfaction. That perfection of the state will never be there, and therefore the workers will always remain dissatisfied.
Śyāmasundara: The propagandists play upon this dissatisfaction and tell the people that foreigners are causing it.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But if the people were truly satisfied, they could not be influenced by outsiders. If you are satisfied that your spiritual master is perfect – that he is guiding you nicely – will you be influenced by outsiders?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Because the communist state will never be perfect, there is no possibility of a classless society.
Śyāmasundara: Marx examines history and sees that in Greek times, in Roman times, and in the Middle Ages slaves were always required for production.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The Russians are also creating slaves – the working class. Joseph Stalin stayed in power simply by killing all his enemies. He killed so many men that he is recorded in history as the greatest criminal. He was certainly imperfect, yet he held the position of dictator, and the people were forced to obey him.
Śyāmasundara: His followers have denounced him.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That’s all well and good, but his followers should also be denounced. The point is that in any society there must be a leader, there must be directors, and there must be workers, but everyone should be so satisfied that they forget the difference.
Śyāmasundara: No envy.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Ah, no envy. But that perfection is not possible in the material world. Therefore Marx’s theories are useless.
Śyāmasundara: But on the other hand, the capitalists also make slaves of their workers.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Wherever there is materialistic activity, there must be imperfection. But if they make Kṛṣṇa the center, then all problems will be resolved.
Śyāmasundara: Are you saying that any system of organizing the means of production is bound to be full of exploitation?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, certainly, certainly! The materialistic mentality means exploitation.
Śyāmasundara: Then what is the solution?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa consciousness!
Śyāmasundara: How is that?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Just make Kṛṣṇa the center and work for Him. Then everyone will be satisfied. As it is stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [4.31.14]:
प्राणोपहाराच्च यथेन्द्रियाणां तथेव सर्वार्हणमच्युतेज्या ||
If you simply pour water on the root of a tree, all the branches, twigs, leaves, and flowers will be nourished. Similarly, everyone can be satisfied simply by acyutejyā. Acyuta means Kṛṣṇa, and ijyā means worship. So this is the formula for a classless society: Make Kṛṣṇa [God] the center and do everything for Him. There are no classes in our International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Now you are writing philosophy, but if I want you to wash dishes, you will do so immediately because you know that whatever you do, you are working for Kṛṣṇa and for your spiritual master. In the material world different kinds of work have different values, but in Kṛṣṇa consciousness everything is done on the absolute platform. Whether you wash dishes or write books or worship the Deity, the value is the same because you are serving Kṛṣṇa. That is a classless society. Actually, the perfect classless society is Vṛndāvana. In Vṛndāvana, some are cowherd boys, some are cows, some are trees, some are fathers, some are mothers, but the center is Kṛṣṇa, and everyone is satisfied simply by loving Him. When all people become Kṛṣṇa conscious and understand how to love Him, then there will be a classless society. Otherwise it is not possible.
Śyāmasundara: Marx’s definition of communism is “The common or public ownership of the means of production, and the abolition of private property.” In our International Society for Krishna Consciousness, don’t we have the same idea? We also say, “Nothing is mine.” We have also abolished private property.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: While the communist says, “Nothing is mine,” he thinks everything belongs to the state. The state, however, is simply an extended “mine.” For example, if I am the head of a family, I might say, “I do not want anything for myself, but I want many things for my children.” Mahatma Gandhi, who sacrificed so much to drive the English out of India, was at the same time thinking, “I am a very good man; I am doing national work.” Therefore, this so-called nationalism or so-called communism is simply extended selfishness. The quality remains the same. The real change occurs when we say, “Nothing belongs to me; everything belongs to God, Kṛṣṇa, and therefore I should use everything in His service.” That is factual.
Śyāmasundara: Marx says that the capitalists are parasites living at the cost of the workers.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But the communists are also living at the cost of the workers: the managers are drawing big salaries, and the common workers are dissatisfied. Indeed, their godless society is becoming more and more troublesome. Unless everyone accepts God as the only enjoyer and himself simply as His servant, there will always be conflict. In the broad sense, there is no difference between the communists and the capitalists because God is not accepted as the supreme enjoyer and proprietor in either system. Actually, no property belongs to either the communists or the capitalists. Everything belongs to God.
Śyāmasundara: Marx condemns the capitalists for making a profit. He says that profit-making is exploitation and that the capitalists are unnecessary for the production of commodities.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Profit-making may be wrong, but that exploitative tendency is always there, whether it is a communist or a capitalist system. In Bengal it is said that during the winter season the bugs cannot come out because of the severe cold. So they become dried up, being unable to suck any blood. But as soon as the summer season comes, the bugs get the opportunity to come out, so they immediately bite someone and suck his blood to their full satisfaction. Our mentality in this material world is the same: to exploit others and become wealthy. Whether you are a communist in the winter season or a capitalist in the summer season, your tendency is to exploit others. Unless there is a change of heart, this exploitation will go on.
I once knew a mill worker who acquired some money. Then he became the proprietor of the mill and took advantage of his good fortune to become a capitalist. Henry Ford is another example. He was an errand boy, but he got the opportunity to become a capitalist. There are many such instances. So, to a greater or lesser degree, the propensity is always there in human nature to exploit others and become wealthy. Unless this mentality is changed, there is no point in changing from a capitalist to a communist society. Material life means that everyone is seeking some profit, some adoration, and some position. By threats the state can force people to curb this tendency, but for how long? Can they change everyone’s mind by force? No, it is impossible. Therefore, Marx’s proposition is nonsense.
Śyāmasundara: Marx thinks the minds of people can be changed by forced conditioning.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is not possible. Even a child cannot be convinced by force, what to speak of a mature, educated man. We have the real process for changing people’s minds: chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam: This process cleanses the heart of material desires. We have seen that people in Moscow are not happy. They are simply waiting for another revolution. We talked to one working-class boy who was very unhappy. When a pot of rice is boiling, you can take one grain and press it between your fingers, and if it is hot you can understand all the rice is boiling. Thus we can understand the position of the Russian people from the sample of that boy. We could also get further ideas by talking with Professor Kotovsky from the India Department of Moscow University. How foolish he was! He said that after death everything is finished. If this is his knowledge, and if that young boy is a sample of the citizenry, then the situation in Russia is very bleak. They may theorize about so many things, but we could not even purchase sufficient groceries in Moscow. There were no vegetables, fruits, or rice, and the milk was of poor quality. If that Madrasi gentleman had not contributed some dahl and rice, then practically speaking we would have starved. The Russians’ diet seemed to consist of only meat and liquor.
Śyāmasundara: The communists play upon this universal profit motive. The worker who produces the most units at his factory is glorified by the state or receives a small bonus.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Why should he get a bonus?
Śyāmasundara: To give him some incentive to work hard.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Just to satisfy his tendency to lord it over others and make a profit, his superiors bribe him. This Russian communist idea is very good, provided the citizens do not want any profit. But that is impossible, because everyone wants profit. The state cannot destroy this tendency either by law or by force.
Śyāmasundara: The communists try to centralize everything – money, communications, and transport – in the hands of the state.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But what benefit will there be in that? As soon as all the wealth is centralized, the members of the central government will appropriate it, just as Khrushchev did. These are all useless ideas as long as the tendency for exploitation is not reformed. The Russians have organized their country according to Marx’s theories, yet all their leaders have turned out to be cheaters. Where is their program for reforming this cheating propensity?
Śyāmasundara: Their program is to first change the social condition, and then, they believe, the corrupt mentality will change automatically.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Impossible. Such repression will simply cause a reaction in the form of another revolution.
Śyāmasundara: Are you implying that the people’s mentality must first be changed, and then a change in the social structure will naturally follow?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. But the leaders will never be able to train all the people to think that everything belongs to the state. This idea is simply utopian nonsense.
Śyāmasundara: Marx has another slogan: “Human nature has no reality.” He says that man’s nature changes through history according to material conditions.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: He does not know the real human nature. It is certainly true that everything in this cosmic creation, or jagat, is changing. Your body changes daily. Everything is changing, just like waves in the ocean. This is not a very advanced philosophy. Marx’s theory is also being changed; it cannot last. But man does have a fundamental nature that never changes: his spiritual nature. We are teaching people to come to the standard of acting according to their spiritual nature, which will never change. Acting spiritually means serving Kṛṣṇa. If we try to serve Kṛṣṇa now, we will continue to serve Kṛṣṇa when we go to Vaikuṇṭha, the spiritual world. Therefore, loving service to Lord Kṛṣṇa is called nitya, or eternal. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, nitya-yuktā upāsate: “My pure devotees perpetually worship Me with devotion.”
The communists give up Kṛṣṇa and replace Him with the state. Then they expect to get the people to think, “Nothing in my favor; everything in favor of the state.” But people will never accept this idea. It is impossible; let the rascals try it! All they can do is simply force the people to work, as Stalin did. As soon as he found someone opposed to him, he immediately cut his throat. The same disease is still there today, so how will their program be successful?
Śyāmasundara: Their idea is that human nature has no reality of its own. It is simply a product of the material environment. Thus, by putting a man in the factory and making him identify with the state and something like scientific achievement, they think they can transform him into a selfless person.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But because he has the basic disease, envy, he will remain selfish. When he sees that he is working so hard but that the profit is not coming to him, his enthusiasm will immediately slacken. In Bengal there is a proverb: “As a proprietor I can turn sand into gold, but as soon as I am no longer the proprietor, the gold becomes sand.” The Russian people are in this position. They are not as rich as the Europeans or the Americans, and because of this they are unhappy.
Śyāmasundara: One of the methods the authorities in Russia use is to constantly whip the people into believing there may be a war at any moment. Then they think, “To protect our country, we must work hard.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If the people cannot make any profit on their work, however, they will eventually lose all interest in the country. The average man will think, “Whether I work or not, I get the same result. I cannot adequately feed and clothe my family.” Then he will begin to lose his incentive to work. A scientist will see that despite his high position, his wife and children are dressed just like the common laborer.
Śyāmasundara: Marx says that industrial and scientific work is the highest kind of activity.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But unless the scientists and the industrialists receive sufficient profit, they will be reluctant to work for the state.
Śyāmasundara: The Russian goal is the production of material goods for the enhancement of human well-being.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Their “human well-being” actually means, “If you don’t agree with me, I’ll cut your throat.” This is their “well-being.” Stalin had his idea of “human well-being,” but anyone who disagreed with his version of it was killed or imprisoned. They may say that a few must suffer for the sake of many, but we have personally seen that Russia has achieved neither general happiness nor prosperity. For example, in Moscow none of the big buildings have been recently built. They are old and ravaged, or poorly renovated. Also, at the stores the people had to stand in long lines to make purchases. These are indications that economic conditions are unsound.
Śyāmasundara: Marx considered religion an illusion that must be condemned.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The divisions between different religious faiths may be an illusion, but Marx’s philosophy is also an illusion.
Śyāmasundara: Do you mean that it’s not being practiced?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: In the sixty years since the Russian Revolution, his philosophy has become distorted. On the other hand, Lord Brahmā began the Vedic religion countless years ago, and though foreigners have been trying to devastate it for the last two thousand years, it is still intact. Vedic religion is not an illusion, at least not for India.
Śyāmasundara: Here is Marx’s famous statement about religion. He says, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, just as it is the spirit of the spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: He does not know what religion is. His definition is false. The Vedas state that religion is the course of action given by God. God is a fact, and His law is also a fact. It is not an illusion. Kṛṣṇa gives the definition of religion in Bhagavad-gītā [18.66]: sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja. To surrender unto God – this is religion.
Śyāmasundara: Marx believes everything is produced from economic struggle and that religion is a technique invented by the bourgeoisie or the capitalists to dissuade the masses from revolution by promising them a better existence after death.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: He himself has created a philosophy that is presently being enforced by coercion and killing.
Śyāmasundara: And he promised that in the future things will be better. So he is guilty of the very thing that he condemns religion for.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: As we have often explained, religion is that part of our nature which is permanent, which we cannot give up. No one can give up his religion. And what is that religion? Service. Marx desires to serve humanity by putting forward his philosophy. Therefore that is his religion. Everyone is trying to render some service. The father is trying to serve his family, the statesman is trying to serve his country, and the philanthropist is trying to serve all humanity. Whether you are Karl Marx or Stalin or Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Christian, you must serve. Because we are presently rendering service to so many people and so many things, we are becoming confused. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa advises us to give up all this service and serve Him alone:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of service and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” [Bhagavad-gītā 18.66]
Śyāmasundara: The communists – and even to a certain extent the capitalists – believe that service for the production of goods is the only real service. Therefore they condemn us because we are not producing anything tangible.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: How can they condemn us? We are giving service to humanity by teaching the highest knowledge. A high court judge does not produce any grains in the field. He sits in a chair and gets $25,000 or $30,000. Does that mean he is not rendering any service? Of course he is. The theory that unless one performs manual labor in the factory or the fields he is not doing service would simply give credit to the peasant and the worker. It is a peasant philosophy.
There is a story about a king and his prime minister. Once the king’s salaried workers complained, “We are actually working, and this minister is doing nothing, yet you are paying him such a large salary. Why is that?” The king then called his minister in and also had someone bring in an elephant. “Please take this elephant and weigh it,” the king said to his workers. The workers took the elephant to all the markets, but they could not find a scale large enough to weigh the animal. When they returned to the palace the king asked, “What happened?” One of the workers answered, “Sir, we could not find a scale large enough to weigh the elephant.” Then the king addressed his prime minister, “Will you please weigh this elephant?” “Yes, sir,” said the prime minister, and he took the elephant away. He returned within a few minutes and said, “It weighs 11,650 pounds.” All the workers were astonished. “How did you weigh the elephant so quickly?” one of them asked. “Did you find some very large scale?” The minister replied, “No. It is impossible to weigh an elephant on a scale. I went to the river, took the elephant on a boat, and noted the watermark. After taking the elephant off the boat, I put weights in the boat until the same watermark was reached. Then I had the elephant’s weight.” The king said to his workers, “Now do you see the difference?” One who has intelligence has strength, not the fools and the rascals. Marx and his followers are simply fools and rascals. We don’t take advice from them; we take advice from Kṛṣṇa or His representative.
Śyāmasundara: So religion is not simply a police force to keep people in illusion?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. Religion means to serve the spirit. That is religion. Everyone is rendering service, but no one knows where his service will be most successful. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, “Serve Me, and you will serve the spiritual society.” This is real religion. The Marxists want to build a so-called perfect society without religion, yet even up to this day, because India’s foundation is religion, people all over the world adore India.
Śyāmasundara: Marx says that God does not create man; rather, man creates God.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is more nonsense. From what he says, I can tell he is a nonsensical rascal and a fool. One cannot understand that someone is a fool unless he talks. A fool may dress very nicely and sit like a gentleman amongst gentlemen, but we can tell the fools from the learned men by their speech.
Śyāmasundara: Marx’s follower was Nikolai Lenin. He reinforced all of Marx’s ideas and added a few of his own. He believed that revolution is a fundamental fact of history. He said that history moves in leaps, and that it progresses toward the communist leap. He wanted Russia to leap into the dictatorship of the proletariat, which he called the final stage of historical development.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. We can say with confidence – and they may note it carefully – that after the Bolshevik Revolution there will be many other revolutions, because as long as people live on the mental plane there will be only revolution. Our proposition is to give up all these mental concoctions and come to the spiritual platform. If one comes to the spiritual platform, there will be no more revolution. As Dhruva Mahārāja said, nātaḥ paraṁ parama vedmi na yatra vādaḥ: “Now that I am seeing God, I am completely satisfied. Now all kinds of theorizing processes are finished.” So God consciousness is the final revolution. There will be repeated revolutions in this material world unless people come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Śyāmasundara: The Hare Kṛṣṇa revolution.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The Vedic injunction is that people are searching after knowledge, and that when one understands the Absolute Truth, he understands everything. Yasmin vijñāte sarvam evaṁ vijñātaṁ bhavati. People are trying to approach an objective, but they do not know that the final objective is Kṛṣṇa. They are simply trying to make adjustments with so many materialistic revolutions. They have no knowledge that they are spiritual beings and that unless they go back to the spiritual world and associate with the Supreme Spirit, God, there is no question of happiness. We are like fish out of water. Just as a fish cannot be happy unless he is in the water, we cannot be happy apart from the spiritual world. We are part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, Kṛṣṇa, but we have left His association and fallen from the spiritual world because of our desire to enjoy this material world. So unless we reawaken the understanding of our spiritual position and go back home to the spiritual world, we can never be happy. We can go on theorizing for many lifetimes, but we will only see one revolution after another. The old order changes, yielding its place to the new. Or in other words, history repeats itself.
Śyāmasundara: Marx says that there are always two conflicting properties in material nature, and that the inner pulsation of opposite forces causes history to take leaps from one revolution to another. He claims that the communist revolution is the final revolution because it is the perfect resolution of all social and political contradictions.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If the communist idea is spiritualized, then it will become perfect. As long as the communist idea remains materialistic, it cannot be the final revolution. They believe that the state is the owner of everything. But the state is not the owner; the real owner is God. When they come to this conclusion, then the communist idea will be perfect. We also have a communistic philosophy. They say that everything must be done for the state, but in our International Society for Krishna Consciousness we are actually practicing perfect communism by doing everything for Kṛṣṇa. We know Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer of the result of all work (bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasām). The communist philosophy as it is now practiced is vague, but it can become perfect if they accept the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gītā – that Kṛṣṇa is the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer, and the supreme friend of everyone. Then people will be happy. Now they mistrust the state, but if the people accept Kṛṣṇa as their friend, they will have perfect confidence in Him, just as Arjuna was perfectly confident in Kṛṣṇa on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. The great victory of Arjuna and his associates on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra showed that his confidence in Kṛṣṇa was justified:
yatra pārtho dhanur-dharaḥ
tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir
dhruvā nītir matir mama
“Wherever there is Kṛṣṇa, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.” [Bhagavad-gītā 18.78] So if Kṛṣṇa is at the center of society, then the people will be perfectly secure and prosperous. The communist idea is welcome, provided they are prepared to replace the so-called state with God. That is religion.
Psychoanalysis and the Soul
Presenting a Vedic perspective on psychology, Śrīla Prabhupāda discusses the subject with his disciple Śyāmasundara in the following conversation, recorded in Calcutta on October 5, 1971. Śrīla Prabhupāda says, “By speculating on some shock that may or may not have occurred in childhood, one will never discover the root disease. … He [Freud] did not know the basic principle of spiritual understanding, which is that we are not this body. … We are different from this body, and we are transmigrating from one body to another.”
Śyāmasundara: Sigmund Freud’s idea was that many psychological problems originate with traumatic experiences in childhood or infancy. His method of cure was to have the patient try to recall these painful events and analyze them.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But he did not know that one must again become an infant. After this life, one will be put into another womb, and the same traumatic experiences will happen again. Therefore it is the duty of the spiritual master and the parents to save the child from taking another birth. The opportunity of this human form of life is that we can understand the horrible experiences of birth, death, old age, and disease and act so that we shall not be forced to go through the same things again. Otherwise, after death we shall have to take birth in a womb and suffer repeated miseries.
Śyāmasundara: Freud treated many people suffering from neuroses. For instance, suppose a man is sexually impotent. By recalling his childhood, he may remember some harmful experience with his father or mother that caused him to be repelled by women. In this way he can resolve the conflict and lead a normal sex life.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: However, even in the so-called normal condition, the pleasure derived from sexual intercourse is simply frustrating and insignificant. For ordinary men attached to the materialistic way of life, their only pleasure is sexual intercourse. But the śāstras [Vedic scriptures] say, yan maithunādi-gṛhamedhi-sukhaṁ hi tuccham: the pleasure derived from sexual intercourse is tenth class at best. Because they have no idea of the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the materialists regard sex as the highest pleasure. And how is it actually experienced? We have an itch, and when we scratch it, we feel some pleasure. But the aftereffects of sexual pleasure are abominable. The mother has to undergo labor pains, and the father has to take responsibility for raising the children nicely and giving them an education. Of course, if one is irresponsible like cats and dogs, that is another thing. But for those who are actually gentlemen, is it not painful to bear and raise children? Certainly. Therefore everyone is avoiding children by contraceptive methods. But much better is to follow the injunction of the śāstras: Simply try to tolerate the itching sensation and avoid so much pain. This is real psychology. That itching sensation can be tolerated if one practices Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then one will not be very attracted by sex life.
Śyāmasundara: Freud’s philosophy is that people have neuroses or disorders of their total personality – various conflicts and anxieties – and that all these originate with the sexual impulse.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That we admit. An embodied living being must have hunger, and he must have the sex impulse. We find that even in the animals these impulses are there.
Śyāmasundara: Freud believed that the ego tries to restrain these primitive drives, and that all anxieties arise from this conflict.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Our explanation is as follows: Materialistic life is no doubt very painful. As soon as one acquires a material body, he must always suffer three kinds of miseries: miseries caused by other living beings, miseries caused by the elements, and miseries caused by his own body and mind. So the whole problem is how to stop these miseries and attain permanent happiness. Unless one stops his materialistic way of life, with its threefold miseries and repeated birth and death, there is no question of happiness. The whole Vedic civilization is based on how one can cure this materialistic disease. If we can cure this disease, its symptoms will automatically vanish. Freud is simply dealing with the symptoms of the basic disease. When you have a disease, sometimes you have headaches, sometimes your leg aches, sometimes you have a pain in your stomach, and so on. But if your disease is cured, then all your symptoms disappear. That is our program.
Śyāmasundara: In his theory of psychoanalysis, Freud states that by remembering and reevaluating emotional shocks from our childhood, we can release the tension we are feeling now.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But what is the guarantee that one will not get shocked again? He may cure the results of one shock, but there is no guarantee that the patient will not receive another shock. Therefore Freud’s treatment is useless. Our program is total cure – no more shocks of any kind. If one is situated in real Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he can face the most severe type of adversity and remain completely undisturbed. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, we are giving people this ability. Freud tries to cure the reactions of one kind of shock, but other shocks will come, one after another. This is how material nature works. If you solve one problem, another problem arises immediately. And if you solve that one, another one comes. As long as you are under the control of material nature, these repeated shocks will come. But if you become Kṛṣṇa conscious, there are no more shocks.
Śyāmasundara: Freud’s idea is that the basic instinct in the human personality is the sexual drive, or libido, and that if the expressions of a child’s sexuality are inhibited, then his personality becomes disordered.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Everyone has the sex appetite: this tendency is innate. But our brahmacarya system restricts a child’s sex life from the earliest stages of his development and diverts his attention to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As a result there is very little chance that he will suffer such personality disorders. In the Vedic age the leaders of society knew that if a person engaged in unrestricted sex indulgence, then the duration of his materialistic life would increase. He would have to accept a material body birth after birth. Therefore the śāstras enjoin that one may have sexual intercourse only if married. Otherwise it is illicit. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness society, we prohibit illicit sex, but not legal sex. In the Bhagavad-gītā [7.11] Kṛṣṇa says, dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kamo ’smi bharatarṣabha: “I am sexual intercourse that is not against religious principles.” This means that sex must be regulated. Everyone has a tendency to have sex unrestrictedly – and in Western countries they are actually doing this – but according to the Vedic system, there must be restrictions. And not only must sex be restricted, but meat-eating, gambling, and drinking as well. So in our Society we have eliminated all these things, and our Western students are becoming pure devotees of Kṛṣṇa. The people at large, however, must at least restrict these sinful activities, as explained in the Vedic śāstras.
The Vedic system of varṇāśrama-dharma [four social orders and four spiritual orders] is so scientific that everything is automatically adjusted. Life becomes very peaceful, and everyone can make progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If the Vedic system is followed by human society, there will be no more of these mental disturbances.
Śyāmasundara: Freud says that sexual energy is not only expressed in sexual intercourse, but is associated with a wide variety of pleasurable bodily sensations such as pleasures of the mouth, like eating and sucking.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is confirmed in the śāstras: yan maithunādi-gṛhamedhi-sukham. The only pleasure in this material world is sex. The word ādi indicates that the basic principle is maithuna, sexual intercourse. The whole system of materialistic life revolves around this sexual pleasure. But this pleasure is like one drop of water in the desert. The desert requires an ocean of water. If you find one drop of water in a desert, you can certainly say, “Here is some water.” But what is its value? Similarly, there is certainly some pleasure in sex life, but what is the value of that pleasure? Compared to the unlimited pleasure of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, it is like one drop of water in the desert. Everyone is seeking unlimited pleasure, but no one is becoming satisfied. They are having sex in so many different ways, and the young girls walking on the street are almost naked. The whole society has become degraded. Now the female population has increased everywhere, and every woman and girl is trying to attract a man. The men take advantage of the situation. There is a saying in Bengal: “When milk is available in the marketplace, what is the use of keeping a cow?” So men are declining to keep a wife because sex is so cheap. They are deserting their families. And the more that men become attached to women, the more the female population of the world will increase.
Śyāmasundara: How does that result in more women?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: When men have more sex, they lose the power to beget a male child. If the woman is sexually more powerful, a girl is born, and when the man is more powerful, a boy is born. This is Āyur-vedic science. For instance, in the Punjab State of India, there are fewer women because the men are very stout and strong. So when women are very easily available, the men become weak and beget female children. Sometimes they become impotent. If sex life is not restricted, there are so many disasters. And now we are actually seeing them: impotency, no marriage, increased female population. But no one knows why these things are happening or how human psychology can be controlled to avoid them. For this they must look to the perfect system of Vedic civilization.
Śyāmasundara: Freud says that as the child grows up, he begins to learn that by giving up immediate sensual satisfaction, he can gain a greater benefit later on.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But even this so-called greater benefit is illusory, because it is still based on the principle of material pleasure. The only way to entirely give up these lower pleasures is to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gītā [2.59], paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate: “By experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” And as Yāmunācārya said, “Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Kṛṣṇa, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl in distaste.” That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Our prescription is that in the beginning of life the child should be taught self-restraint (brahmacarya) and when he is past twenty he can marry. In the beginning he should learn how to restrain his senses. If a child is taught to become saintly, his semen rises to his brain, and he is able to understand spiritual values. Wasting semen decreases intelligence. So from the beginning, if he is a brahmacārī and does not misuse his semen, then he will become intelligent and strong and fully grown.
For want of this education, everyone’s brain and bodily growth are being stunted. After the boy has been trained as a brahmacārī, if he still wants to enjoy sex he may get married. But because he then has full strength of body and brain, he will immediately beget a male child. And because he has been trained from childhood to renounce materialistic enjoyment, when he is fifty years old he can retire from household life. At that time naturally his firstborn child will be twenty-five years old, and he can take responsibility for maintaining the household. Household life is simply a license for sex life – that’s all. Sex is not required, but one who cannot restrain himself is given a license to get married and have sex. This is the real program that will save society. By speculating on some shock that may or may not have occurred in childhood, one will never discover the root disease. The sex impulse, as well as the impulse to become intoxicated and to eat meat, is present from the very beginning of life. Therefore one must restrain himself. Otherwise he will be implicated.
Śyāmasundara: So the Western system of bringing up children seems artificial because the parents either repress the child too severely or don’t restrict him at all.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is not good. The Vedic system is to give the child direction for becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious. There must be some repression, but our use of repression is different. We say the child must rise early in the morning, worship the Deity in the temple, and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. In the beginning, force may be necessary. Otherwise the child will not become habituated. But the idea is to divert his attention to Kṛṣṇa conscious activities. Then, when he realizes he is not his body, all difficulties will disappear. As one increases his Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he becomes neglectful of all these material things. So Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the prime remedy – the panacea for all diseases.
Śyāmasundara: Freud divided the personality into three departments: the ego, the superego, and the id. The id is the irrational instinct for enjoyment. The ego is one’s image of his own body, and is the instinct for self-preservation. The superego represents the moral restrictions of parents and other authorities.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: It is certainly true that everyone has some false egoism, or ahaṅkāra. For example, Freud thought he was Austrian. That is false ego, or identifying oneself with one’s place of birth. We are giving everyone the information that this identification with a material body is ignorance. It is due to ignorance only that I think I am Indian, American, Hindu, or Muslim. This is egoism of the inferior quality. The superior egoism is, “I am Brahman. I am an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa.” If a child is taught this superior egoism from the beginning, then automatically his false egoism is stopped.
Śyāmasundara: Freud says that the ego tries to preserve the individual by organizing and controlling the irrational demands of the id. In other words, if the id sees something, like food, it automatically demands to eat it, and the ego controls that desire in order to preserve the individual. The superego reinforces this control. So these three systems are always conflicting in the personality.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But the basic principle is false, since Freud has no conception of the soul existing beyond the body. He is considering the body only. Therefore he is a great fool. According to bhāgavata philosophy, anyone in the bodily concept of life – anyone who identifies this body, composed of mucus, bile, and air, as his self – is no better than an ass.
Śyāmasundara: Then these interactions of the id, the ego, and the superego are all bodily interactions?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, they are all subtle bodily interactions. The mind is the first element of the subtle body. The gross senses are controlled by the mind, which in turn is controlled by the intelligence. And the intelligence is controlled by the ego. So if the ego is false, then everything is false. If I falsely identify with this body because of false ego, then anything based on this false idea is also false. This is called māyā, or illusion. The whole of Vedic education aims at getting off this false platform and coming to the real platform of spiritual knowledge, called brahma-jñāna. When one comes to the knowledge that he is spirit soul, he immediately becomes happy. All his troubles are due to the false ego, and as soon as the individual realizes his true ego, the blazing fire of material existence is immediately extinguished. These philosophers are simply describing the blazing fire, but we are trying to get him out of the burning prison house of the material world altogether. They may attempt to make him happy within the fire, but how can they be successful? He must be saved from the fire. Then he will be happy. That is the message of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and that is Lord Kṛṣṇa’s message in the Bhagavad-gītā. Freud identifies the body with the soul. He does not know the basic principle of spiritual understanding, which is that we are not this body. We are different from this body and are transmigrating from one body to another. Without this knowledge, all his theories are based on a misunderstanding.
Not only Freud, but everyone in this material world is under illusion. In Bengal, a psychiatrist in the civil service was once called to give evidence in a case where the murderer was pleading insanity. The civil servant examined him to discover whether he actually was insane or whether he was simply under intense stress. In the courtroom he said, “I have tested many persons, and I have concluded that everyone is insane to some degree. In the present case, if the defendant is pleading insanity, then you may acquit him if you like, but as far as I know, everyone is more or less insane.” And that is our conclusion as well. Anyone who identifies with his material body must be crazy, for his life is based on a misconception.
Śyāmasundara: Freud also investigated the problem of anxiety, which he said was produced when the impulses of the id threaten to overpower the rational ego and the moral superego.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Anxiety will continue as long as one is in the material condition. No one can be free from anxiety in conditioned life.
Śyāmasundara: Is it because our desires are always frustrated?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Your desires must be frustrated because you desire something that is not permanent. Suppose I wish to live forever, but since I have accepted a material body, there is no question of living forever. Therefore I am always anxious that death will come. I am afraid of death, when the body will be destroyed. This is the cause of all anxiety: acceptance of something impermanent as permanent.
Śyāmasundara: Freud says that anxiety develops when the superego represses the primitive desires of the id to protect the ego. Is such repression of basic instincts very healthy?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. For us repression means restraining oneself from doing something which, in the long run, is against one’s welfare. For example, suppose you are suffering from diabetes and the doctor says, “Don’t eat any sweet food.” If you desire to eat sweets, you must repress that desire. Similarly, in our system of brahmacarya there is also repression. A brahmacārī should not sit down with a young woman, or even see one. He may desire to see a young woman, but he must repress the desire. This is called tapasya, or voluntary repression.
Śyāmasundara: But aren’t these desires given outlet in other ways? For instance, instead of looking at a beautiful woman, we look at the beautiful form of Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, that is our process: paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate. If you have a better engagement, you can give up an inferior engagement. When you are captivated by seeing the beautiful form of Kṛṣṇa, naturally you have no more desire to see the beautiful form of a young woman.
Śyāmasundara: What’s the effect of childhood experiences on one’s later development?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Children imitate whoever they associate with. You all know the movie Tarzan. He was brought up by monkeys, and he took on the habits of monkeys. If you keep children in good association, their psychological development will be very good – they will become like demigods. But if you keep them in bad association, they will turn out to be demons. Children are a blank slate. You can mold them as you like, and they are eager to learn.
Śyāmasundara: So a child’s personality doesn’t develop according to a fixed pattern?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. You can mold them in any way, like soft dough. However you put them into the mold, they will come out – like bharats, capātīs, or kacaurīs [types of Indian pastries]. Therefore if you give children good association, they will develop nicely, and if you put them in bad association, they will develop poorly. They have no independent psychology.
Śyāmasundara: Actually, Freud had a rather pessimistic view of human nature: he believed that we are all beset with irrational and chaotic impulses that cannot be eliminated.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This is not only pessimism, but evidence of his poor fund of knowledge. He did not have perfect knowledge, nor was he trained by a perfect man. Therefore his theories are all nonsense.
Śyāmasundara: He concluded that it was impossible to be happy in this material world, but that one can alleviate some of the conflicts through psychoanalysis. He thought one can try to make the path as smooth as possible, but it will always be troublesome.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: It is true that one cannot be happy in this material world. But if one becomes spiritually elevated – if his consciousness is changed to Kṛṣṇa consciousness – then he will be happy.
Evolution in Fact and Fantasy
Los Angeles, June 1972: Śrīla Prabhupāda asserts that Darwin’s theory of evolution is inconclusive and illogical. But Darwin’s is not the only theory of evolution. The Vedas explain that an evolutionary process governs the progress of the soul. “We accept evolution,” Śrīla Prabhupāda says, “but not that the forms of the species are changing. The bodies are all already there, but the soul is evolving by changing bodies and by transmigrating from one body to another. … The defect of the evolutionists is that they have no information of the soul.”
Devotee: Darwin tried to show how the origin of living species could be fully explained by the purely mechanical, unplanned action of natural forces. By the process he called “natural selection,” all the higher, complex forms of life gradually evolved from more primitive and rudimentary ones. In a given animal population, for example, some individuals will have traits that make them adapt better to their environment; these more fit individuals will survive to pass on their favorable traits to their offspring. The unfit will gradually be weeded out naturally. Thus a cold climate will favor those who have, say, long hair or fatty tissue, and the species will then gradually evolve in that direction.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The question is that in the development of the body, is there any plan that a particular kind of body – with, as you say, long hair or fatty tissue – should exist under certain natural conditions? Who has made these arrangements? That is the question.
Devotee: No one. Modern evolutionists ultimately base their theory on the existence of chance variations.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is nonsense. There is no such thing as chance. If they say “chance,” then they are nonsense. Our question remains. Who has created the different circumstances for the existence of different kinds of animals?
Devotee: For example, a frog may lay thousands of eggs, but out of all of them only a few may survive to adulthood. Those who do are more fit than the others. If the environment did not favorably select the fittest, then too many frogs—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, frogs and many other animals lay eggs by the hundreds. A snake gives birth to scores of snakes at a time, and if all were allowed to exist, there would be a great disturbance. Therefore, big snakes devour the small snakes. That is nature’s law. But behind nature’s law is a brain. That is our proposition. Nature’s law is not blind, for behind it there is a brain, and that brain is God. We learn this from the Bhagavad-gītā [9.10]: mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram. Whatever is taking place in material nature is being directed by the Supreme Lord, who maintains everything in order. So the snake lays eggs by the score, and if many were not killed, the world would be overwhelmed by snakes. Similarly, male tigers kill the cubs. The economic theory of Malthus states that whenever there is overpopulation, there must be an outbreak of war, epidemic, famine, or the like to curb it. These natural activities do not take place by chance but are planned. Anyone who says they are a matter of chance has insufficient knowledge.
Devotee: But Darwin has a huge amount of evidence—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Evidence? That is all right. We also have got evidence. Evidence must be there. But as soon as there is evidence, there should be no talk of “chance.”
Devotee: For example, out of millions of frogs, one may happen to be better adapted to living in the water.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But that is not by chance! That is by plan! He doesn’t know that. As soon as one says “chance,” it means his knowledge is imperfect. A man says “chance” when he cannot explain. It is evasive. So the conclusion is that he is without perfect knowledge and therefore unfit for giving any knowledge. He is cheating, that’s all.
Devotee: Well, Darwin sees a “plan” or “design” in a sense, but—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If he sees a plan or design, then whose design? As soon as you recognize a design, you must acknowledge a designer. If you see a plan, then you must accept a planner. That he does not know.
Devotee: But the “plan” is only the involuntary working of nature.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Nonsense. There is a plan. The sun rises daily according to exact calculation. It does not follow our calculation; rather, we calculate according to the sun. Experiencing that in such-and-such season the sun rises at such-and-such time, we learn that according to the season the sun rises exactly on the minute, the second. It is not by whimsy or chance but by minute plan.
Devotee: But can’t you say it’s just mechanical?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then who made it mechanical? If something is mechanical, then there must be a mechanic, a brain, who made the machine. Here is something mechanical [Śrīla Prabhupāda points to a Telex machine]: Who made it? This machine has not come out by itself. It is made of iron, and the iron did not mold itself into a machine; there is a brain who made the machine possible. So everything in nature has a plan or design, and behind that plan or design is a brain, a very big brain.
Devotee: Darwin tried to make the appearance and disappearance of living forms seem so natural and involuntary that God is removed from the picture. Evolutionary theory makes it appear as if combinations of material ingredients created life, and then various species evolved one from another naturally.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is foolishness. Combination means God. God is combining. Combination does not take place automatically. Suppose I am cooking. There are many ingredients gathered for cooking, but they do not combine together by themselves. I am the cooker, and in cooking I combine together ghee, spices, rice, dāl, and so on; and in this way, nice dishes are produced. Similarly, the combination of ingredients in nature requires God. Otherwise how does the moment arise in which the combination takes place? Do you place all the ingredients in the kitchen and in an hour come back and say, “Oh, where is my meal?” Nonsense! Who will cook your meal? You’ll starve. But take help of a living being, and then we’ll cook and we can eat. This is our experience. So if there is combination, then who is combining? They are fools not to know how combination takes place.
Devotee: Scientists now say life arose out of four basic elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If the basic principle is chemicals, who made the chemicals? That question should be asked.
Devotee: Isn’t it possible that one day science will discover the source of these chemicals?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: There is no question of discovering: the answer is already known, although it may not be known to you. We know. The Vedānta says, janmādy asya yataḥ: the original source of everything is Brahman, Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa says, ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate: “I am the origin of everything.” [Bhagavad-gītā 10.8] So we know that there is a big brain who is doing everything. We know. The scientists may not know; that is their foolishness.
Devotee: They might say the same thing about us.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, they cannot say the same thing about us. We accept Kṛṣṇa, but not blindly. Our predecessors, the great ācāryas and learned scholars, have accepted Kṛṣṇa as the origin of everything, so we are not following blindly. We claim that Kṛṣṇa is the origin, but what claim can the scientist make? As soon as he says “chance,” it means that he has no knowledge. We don’t say “chance.” We have an original cause; but he says chance. Therefore he has no knowledge.
Devotee: They try to trace back the origin by means of excavation. And they have found that gradually through the years the animal forms are evolving toward increasingly more complex and specialized forms, from invertebrates to fishes, then to amphibians, then to reptiles and insects, to mammals and birds, and finally to humans. In that process many species, like the dinosaurs, appeared, flourished, and then disappeared forever, became extinct. Eventually, primitive apelike creatures appeared, and from them man gradually developed.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Is the theory that the human body comes from the monkeys?
Devotee: Humans and monkeys are related. They come from the same—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Related? Everything is related; that is another thing. But if the monkey body is developing into a human body, then why, after the human body is developed, doesn’t the monkey species cease to exist?
Devotee: The humans and the monkeys are branches of the same tree.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, and both are now existing. Similarly, we say that at the time the evolutionists say life began, there were human beings existing.
Devotee: They find no evidence for that.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Why no evidence?
Devotee: In the ground. By excavation. They find no evidence in the ground.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Is the ground the only evidence? Is there no other evidence?
Devotee: The only evidence they accept is the testimony of their senses.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But they still cannot prove that there was no human being at the time they say life originated. They cannot prove that.
Devotee: It appears that in certain layers of earth there are remains of apelike men—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Apelike men or manlike apes are still existing now, alongside human beings. If one thing has been developed by the transformation of another thing, then that original thing should no longer be in existence. When in this way a cause has produced its effect, the cause ceases to exist. But in this case we see that the cause is still present, that there are still monkeys and apes.
Devotee: But monkeys did not cause men; both came from the same common ancestor. That is their account.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: We say that we all come from God, the same ancestor, the same father. The original father is Kṛṣṇa. As Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā [14.4], sarva-yoniṣu kaunteya: “Of as many forms as there are, … ” ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā: “I am the seed-giving father.” So what is your objection to this?
Devotee: Well, if I examine the layers of earth, I find in the deepest layers no evidence—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: You are packed up with layers of earth, that’s all. That is the boundary of your knowledge. But that is not knowledge; there are many other evidences.
Devotee: But surely if men were living millions of years ago, they would have left evidence, tangible evidence, behind them. I could see their remains.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: So I say that in human society bodies are burned after death, cremated. So where does your excavator get his bones?
Devotee: Well, that’s possible, but—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: According to our Vedic system, the body is burned to ashes after death. Where, therefore, would the rascal get the bones? Animals are not burned; their bones remain. But human beings are burned, and therefore they cannot find their bones.
Devotee: I’m just saying that it appears, through layer after layer of deposits in the earth, that biological forms tend to progress from simple and primitive forms to more and more complex and specialized ones, until finally civilized man appears.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But at the present moment both simple and complex forms are existing. One did not develop into the other. For example, my childhood body has developed into my adult body, and the child’s body is no longer there. So if the higher, complex species developed from the simpler, lower species, then we should see no simple species. But all species are now existing simultaneously.
When I see all 8,400,000 species of life existing, what is the question of development? Each species exists now, and it existed long ago. You might not have seen it, but you have no proper source of knowledge. You might have missed it. That is another thing.
Devotee: But all the evidence shows otherwise. Five hundred million years ago there were no land animals; there were only aquatics.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is nonsense. You cannot give a history of five hundred million years! Where is the history of five hundred million years? You are simply imagining. You say “historical evidence,” but where is your evidence? You cannot give a history for more than three thousand years, and you are speaking about five hundred million. This is all nonsense.
Devotee: If I dig far into the ground, layer by layer—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: By dirt you are calculating five hundred million years? It could be ten years. You cannot give the history of human society past three thousand years, so how can you speak of four hundred or five hundred million years ago? Where were you then? Were you there, so you can say that all these species were not there? This is imagination. In this way everyone can imagine and say some nonsense.
We accept evolution, but not that the forms of the species are changing. The bodies are all already there, but the soul is evolving by changing bodies and by transmigrating from one body to another. I have evolved from my childhood body to my adult body, and now my childhood body is extinct. But there are many other children. Similarly, all the species are now existing simultaneously, and they were all there in the past.
For example, if you are traveling in a train, you find first class, second class, third class; they are all existing. If you pay a higher fare and enter the first-class carriage, you cannot say, “Now the first class is created.” It was always existing. So the defect of the evolutionists is that they have no information of the soul. The soul is evolving, transmigrating, from one compartment to another compartment, simply changing place. The Paḍma Purāṇa says that there are 8,400,000 species of life, and the soul evolves through them. This evolutionary process we accept: the soul evolves from aquatics to plants, to insects, to birds, to animals, and then to the human forms. But all these forms are already there. They do not change. One does not become extinct and another survive. All of them are existing simultaneously.
Devotee: But Darwin says there are many species, like dinosaurs, that are seen to be extinct.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: What has he seen? He is not so powerful that he can see everywhere or everything. His power to see is limited, and by that limited power he cannot conclude that one species is extinct. That is not possible. No scientist will accept that. After all, all the senses by which you gather knowledge are limited, so how can you say this is finished or that is extinct? You cannot see. You cannot search out. The earth’s circumference is twenty-five thousand miles; have you searched through all the layers of rock and soil over the whole earth? Have you excavated all those places?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Therefore our first charge against Darwin is this: He says there were no human beings millions of years ago. That is not a fact. We now see human beings existing along with all other species, and it should be concluded that this situation always existed. Human life has always been there. Darwin cannot say there was no human life.
Devotee: We don’t see any dinosaurs existing.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: You do not see because you have no power to see. Your senses are very limited, so what you see or don’t see cannot be authoritative. So many people – the majority of people – say, “I don’t see God.” Shall we accept, then, that there is no God? Are we crazy for being devotees of God?
Devotee: No, but dinosaurs—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But simply by dinosaurs being missing you cannot make your case. What about all the other species?
Devotee: Many, many others are also extinct.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Say I accept that many are extinct – because the evolutionary process means that as an earlier species gradually changes into a later species, the earlier vanishes, becomes extinct. But we see that many monkeys are still here. Man evolved from the simians, but simians have not disappeared. Monkeys are here, and men are here.
Devotee: But still I’m not convinced. If we make geological investigations all over the world, not just here and there, but in many parts of the world, and in every case we find the same thing—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But I say you have not studied all over the world. Has Darwin studied all the continents on this planet? Has he gone down into the depths of the seas and there excavated all the layers of the earth? No. So his knowledge is imperfect. This is the relative world, and here everyone speaks with relative knowledge. Therefore we should accept knowledge from a person who is not within this relativity.
Devotee: Actually, Darwin hit upon his theory because of what he observed on his voyage in 1835 to the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of South America. He found there species that exist nowhere else.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That means he has not seen all the species. He has not traveled all over the universe. He has seen one island, but he has not seen the whole creation. So how can he determine what species exist and don’t exist? He has studied one part of this earth, but there are many millions of planets. He has not seen all of them; he has not excavated the depths of all the planets. So how can he conclude, “This is nature”? He has not seen everything, nor is it possible for any human being to see everything.
Devotee: Let’s just confine ourselves to this planet.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, why should we? Nature is not only on this planet.
Devotee: Because you said that on this planet there were complex forms of living beings millions and millions of years ago.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: We are not talking about this planet, but about anywhere. You are referring to nature. Nature is not limited or confined to this planet. You cannot say that. Nature, material nature, includes millions of universes, and in each and every universe there are millions of planets. If you have studied only this planet, your knowledge is insufficient.
Devotee: But you said before that millions of years ago on this planet there were horses, elephants, civilized men—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, yes.
Devotee: But from hundreds of different sources there is no evidence.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: I say they are existing now – men, horses, snakes, insects, trees. So why not millions of years ago?
Devotee: Because there is no evidence.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That doesn’t mean …! You limit your study to one planet. That is not full knowledge.
Devotee: I just want to find out for the time being about—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Why the time being? If you are not perfect in your knowledge, then why should I accept your theory? That is my point.
Devotee: Well, if you claim that millions of years ago there were complex forms of life on this planet—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Whether on this planet or on another planet, that is not the point. The point is that all species exist and keep on existing by the arrangement of nature. We learn from the Vedic texts that there are 8,400,000 species established. They may be in your neighborhood or they may be in my neighborhood – the number and types are fixed. But if you simply study your neighborhood, it is not perfect knowledge. Evolution we admit. But your evolutionary theory is not perfect. Our theory of evolution is perfect. From the Vedas we know that there are 8,400,000 forms of bodies provided by nature, but the soul is the same in all, in spite of the different types of body. There is no change in the soul, and therefore the Bhagavad-gītā [5.18] says that one who is wise, a paṇḍita, does not see the species or the class; he sees oneness, equality. Paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ. One who sees to the bottom sees the soul, and he does not find there any difference between all these species.
Devotee: So Darwin and other material scientists who have no information about the soul—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: They’re missing the whole point.
Devotee: They say that all living things tend to evolve from lower to higher. In the history of the earth—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That may be accepted. For example, in an apartment building there are different kinds of apartments: first-class apartments, second-class apartments, third-class apartments. According to your desire and qualification, as you are fit to pay the rent, you are allowed to move up to the better apartments. But the different apartments are already there. They are not evolving. The residents are evolving by moving to new apartments as they desire.
Devotee: As they desire.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. According to our mentality at the time of death, we get another “apartment,” another body. But the “apartment” is already there, not that I’m creating the “apartment.”
And the classes of “apartments” are fixed at 8,400,000. Just like the hotel-keeper: he has experience of his customers coming and wanting different kinds of facilities. So he has made all sorts of accommodations to oblige all kinds of customers. Similarly, this is God’s creation. He knows how far a living entity can think, so He has made all these different species accordingly. When God thinks, “Come on, come here,” nature obliges. Prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi [Bhagavad-gītā 3.27]: Nature is offering facility. God, Kṛṣṇa, is sitting in the heart of the living entity as Paramātmā, and He knows, “He wants this.” So the Lord orders nature, “Give him this apartment,” and nature obliges: “Yes, come on; here is your apartment.” This is the real explanation.
Devotee: I understand and accept that. But I’m still puzzled as to why there is no geological evidence that in former times on this planet there were more complex forms.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Why are you taking geological evidence as final? Is it final? Science is progressing. You cannot say it is final.
Devotee: But I have excavated all parts of the world, and every time—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. You have not excavated all parts of the world.
Devotee: Well, on seven continents.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Seven continents is not the whole world. You say you have excavated the whole world, but we say no, not even an insignificant portion. So your knowledge is limited. Dr. Frog has examined his three-foot-wide well, and now he claims to know the ocean.
Experimental knowledge is always imperfect, because one experiments with imperfect senses. Therefore, scientific knowledge must be imperfect. Our source of knowledge is different. We do not depend on experimental knowledge.
Now you see no dinosaurs, nor have I seen all the 8,400,000 different forms of life. But my source of knowledge is different. You are an experimenter with imperfect senses. I have taken knowledge from the perfect person, who has seen everything, who knows everything. Therefore, my knowledge is perfect.
Say, for example, that I receive knowledge from my mother: “Here is your father.” But you are trying to search out your father on your own. You don’t go to your mother and ask; you just search and search. Therefore, no matter how much you search, your knowledge will always remain imperfect.
Devotee: And your knowledge says that millions of years ago there were higher forms of life on this planet.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Oh, yes, because our Vedic information is that the first created being is the most intelligent, the most intellectual person within the universe – Lord Brahmā, the cosmic engineer. So how can we accept your theory that intellect develops by evolution? We have received our Vedic knowledge from Brahmā, who is so perfect.
Dr. Frog has studied his three-foot well, his little reservoir of water. The Atlantic Ocean is also a reservoir of water, but there is a vast difference. Dr. Frog cannot inform us about the Atlantic Ocean. But we take knowledge from the one who has made the Atlantic Ocean. So our knowledge is perfect.
Devotee: But wouldn’t there be evidence in the earth, some remains?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Our evidence is intelligence, not stones and bones. Our evidence is intelligence. We get Vedic information by disciplic succession from the most intelligent. It is coming down by śruti, hearing. Vyāsadeva heard from Nārada, Nārada heard from Brahmā – millions and millions of years ago. Millions and millions of our years pass, and it is not even one day for Brahmā. So millions and billions and trillions of years are not very astonishing to us, for that is not even one day of Brahmā. But Brahmā was born of Kṛṣṇa, and intelligent philosophy has been existing in our universe from the date of Brahmā’s birth. Brahmā was first educated by God, and His knowledge has been passed down to us in the Vedic literature. So we get such intelligent information in the Vedas.
But those so-called scientists and philosophers who do not follow this system of descending knowledge, who do not accept knowledge thus received from higher authorities – they can’t have any perfect knowledge, no matter what research work they carry out with their blunt senses. So whatever they say, we take it as imperfect.
Our method is different from theirs. They are searching after dead bones, and we are searching after living brains. This point should be stressed. They are dealing with dead bones and we are dealing with living brains. So which should be considered better?
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