In 1971, during his historic visit to the Soviet Union, Srila Prabhupada was introduced to Professor Grigoriy Kotovsky, head of the India Department at the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences and chairman of the Indian studies department at the University of Moscow. As they sat informally in Dr. Kotovsky’s office, the spiritual leader and the communist scholar vigorously discussed topics of mutual concern, and Srila Prabhupada proposed a radical reformation within modern communism.
Srila Prabhupada: The other day I was reading the paper, Moscow News. There was a Communist congress, and the President declared, “We are ready to take others’ experience to improve.” So I think the Vedic concept of socialism or communism will much improve the idea of communism. For example, in a socialistic state the idea is that no one should starve; everyone must have his food. Similarly, in the Vedic concept of grhastha [householder] life it is recommended that a householder see that even a lizard or a snake living in his house should not starve. Even these lower creatures should be given food, and certainly all humans should. It is recommended that the grhastha, before taking his lunch, stand on the road and declare, “If anyone is still hungry, please come! Food is ready!” If there is no response, then the proprietor of the household takes his lunch. Modern society takes the people as a whole as the proprietor of a certain state, but the Vedic conception is isavasyam idam sarvam–everything is owned by isa, the supreme controller. Tena tyaktena bhunjithah–you may enjoy what is allotted to you by Him. Ma grdhah kasya svid dhanam: but do not encroach upon others’ property. This is the Isopanisad–Veda. The same idea is explained in the different Puranas. There are many good concepts in the Vedic literature about communism. So I thought that these ideas should be distributed to your most thoughtful men. Therefore I was anxious to speak.
Prof. Kotovsky: It is interesting that here in our country there is now great interest in the history of old, old thought. From this point of view, our Institute translated into Russian and published many literary monuments of great Indian culture. You will be interested to discover that we published some of the Puranas and parts of the Ramayana. There are volumes in Russian of Mahabharata and also a second edition of Mahabharata, translated in full. We have also published the full translation of Manu-smrti with Sanskrit commentaries. Interest in these publications was so great that they sold out in a week. They are now completely out of stock. It was impossible to get them in the book market after a month. There is great interest among reading people here in Moscow and the U.S.S.R. toward ancient Vedic culture, and from this point of view we published many such books.
Srila Prabhupada: Among these Puranas, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is called the Maha-Purana.
Prof. Kotovsky: Maha-Purana.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We have translated the full text–first we present the original Sanskrit text, its transliteration, the English equivalent for each word, then the translation, and then a purport, or explanation of the verse. In this way, there are eighteen thousand verses in Srimad-Bhagavatam. We are translating everything literally. You can see. Each and every verse is being done like that for the whole Bhagavata Purana. The opinion of the acaryas, the great saintly sages who are the preachers of the Bhagavata philosophy, is nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam: this is the ripened fruit of the Vedic desire tree (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.3). It is accepted by all the Indian scholars, and Lord Caitanya especially preached this Bhagavatam. So we have the complete Bhagavatam in its English translation. If you want to see it, I can show you.
Prof. Kotovsky: It seems to me that in the Moscow and Leningrad libraries we have nearly all the major texts of ancient Indian culture, beginning from the Vedas, the original texts in Sanskrit. For instance, in the Leningrad branch of our Institute there are six or eight editions of Manu-smrti. This Institute was founded in Imperial Russia in Leningrad, so in Leningrad we now have a branch of our Institute dealing mainly with the history of Asiatic culture. You will find here an account of what is being translated and what studies are being done on the history of Indian religion and also the state of Indian religion, Hinduism, in Hindu India today.
Srila Prabhupada: Hinduism is a very complex topic.
Prof. Kotovsky: Oh, yes. [They laugh.] Really, to my understanding, it is not a religion, from the European point of view; it is a way of life–religion, philosophy, a way of life, whatever you want.
Srila Prabhupada: This word Hindu is not a Sanskrit word. It was given by the Muhammadans. You know that there is a river, Indus, which in Sanskrit is called Sindhu. The Muhammadans pronounce s as h. Instead of Sindhu, they made it Hindu. So Hindu is a term that is not found in the Sanskrit dictionary, but it has come into use. But the real cultural institution is called varnasrama. There are four varnas (social divisions)–brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra–and four asramas (spiritual divisions)–brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. According to the Vedic concept of life, unless people take to this system or institution of four varnas and four asramas, actually they do not become civilized human beings. One has to take this process of four divisions of social orders and four divisions of spiritual orders; that is called varnasrama. India’s culture is based on this age-old Vedic system.
Prof. Kotovsky: Varnasrama.
Srila Prabhupada: Varnasrama. And in the Bhagavad-gita–perhaps you have read the Bhagavad-gita?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: There, in the Bhagavad-gita (4.13), is the statement catur-varnyam maya srstam: this system was created by Visnu [God]. So since varnasrama is a creation of the Supreme, it cannot be changed. It is prevalent everywhere. It is like the sun. The sun is a creation of the Supreme. The sunshine is there in America, in Russia, and in India–everywhere. Similarly, this varnasrama system is prevalent everywhere in some form or another. Take, for example, the brahmanas, the most intelligent class of men. They are the brains of the society. The ksatriyas are the administrative class; then the vaisyas are the productive class, and the sudras are the worker class. These four classes of men are prevalent everywhere under different names. Because it is created by the original creator, so it is prevalent everywhere, varnasrama-dharma.
Prof. Kotovsky: It is interesting that in the opinion of some European and old Russian scholars, this varnasrama system is a later creation, and if you would read the old texts of Vedic literature, you would find a much more simple and agrarian society. It is the opinion of these scholars that the varnasrama system was introduced in Indian society in the late age of the Vedic era but not from the beginning. And if you would analyze the old texts, you would find that in the old classical India it was not so prevalent.
Srila Prabhupada: As far as we are concerned, it is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita. Catur-varnyam maya srstam. The Bhagavad-gita was spoken five thousand years ago, and in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, “This system of the Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Me to the sun-god.” So if you take an estimation of that period, it comes to forty million years ago. Can the European scholars trace back history five thousand years? Can they go back forty million years? We have evidence that this varnasrama system has been current at least five thousand years. The varnasrama system is also mentioned in the Visnu Purana (3.8.9). Varnasramacaravata purusena parah puman. That is stated in the Visnu Purana. Varnasrama-dharma is not a phenomenon of a historical period calculated in the modern age. It is natural. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam the comparison is given that just as in the body there are four divisions–the brain division, the arms division, the belly division, and the leg division–so by nature’s way these four divisions are existing in the social body. There exist a class of men who are considered the brain, a class of men who are considered the arms of the state, a class of men who are called the productive class, and so on. There is no need of tracing history; it is naturally existing from the day of creation.
Prof. Kotovsky: You have said that in any society there are four divisions, but they are not so easy to distinguish. For instance, one can group together different social classes and professional groups into four divisions in any society; there is no difficulty. The only difficulty is, for instance, in the socialistic society–in our country and other socialist societies–how you can distinguish the productive group from the workers.
Srila Prabhupada: For example, we belong to the intellectual class of men. This is a division.
Prof. Kotovsky: Intelligent class, brahmanas. And you can also put together all the intelligentsia in that department.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: And then the administrative class.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: But who are the vaisyas and sudras? That is the difficulty. Because all others are workers–factory workers, collective farm workers, and so on. So from this point of view there is a great distinction, in my opinion, between socialist society and all societies preceding socialism, because in modern Western society you can group all social and professional classes in these particular class divisions–brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras: intellectuals, productive class, owners of the productive system (factory owners, for instance), and menial workers. But here you have no vaisyas because you have administrative staffs in factories, and you can call them ksatriyas, and then there are the sudras, the workers themselves, but no intermediate class.
Srila Prabhupada: That is stated. Kalau sudra-sambhavah. In this age practically all men are sudras. But if there are simply sudras, the social order will be disturbed. In spite of your state of sudras, the brahmana is found here, and that is necessary. If you do not divide the social order in such a way, there will be chaos. That is the scientific estimation of the Vedas. You may belong to the sudra class, but to maintain social order you have to train some of the sudras to become brahmanas. Society cannot depend on sudras. Nor can you depend on the brahmanas. To fulfill the necessities of your body, there must be a brain, arms, a stomach, and legs. The legs, the brain, and the arms are all required for cooperation to fulfill the mission of the whole body. So in any society you can see that unless there are these four divisions, there will be chaos. It will not work properly. It will be maya, and there will be disturbances. The brain must be there, but at the present moment there is a scarcity of brains. I am not talking of your state or my state; I am taking the world as a whole. Formerly the Indian administration was a monarchy. For example, Maharaja Pariksit was a ksatriya king. Just before his death, he renounced his royal order. He came to the forest to hear about self-realization. If you want to maintain the peace and prosperity of the whole world society, you must create a very intelligent class of men, a class of men expert in administration, a class of men expert in production, and a class of men to work. That is required; you cannot avoid it. That is the Vedic conception, mukha-bahuru-pada jah (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.17.13). Mukha means “the face,” bahu means “the arms,” uru means “the waist,” and pada, “the legs.” Whether you take this state or that state, unless there is a smooth, systematic establishment of these four orders of life, the state or society will not run very smoothly.
Prof. Kotovsky: Generally it seems to me that this whole varnasrama system to some extent created a natural division of labor in the ancient society. But now division of labor among people in any society is much more complicated and sophisticated. So it is very confusing to group them into four classes.
Srila Prabhupada: Confusion has come to exist because in India, at a later day, the son of a brahmana, without having the brahminical qualifications, claimed to be a brahmana; and others, out of superstition or a traditional way, accepted him as a brahmana. Therefore the Indian social order was disrupted. But in our Krsna consciousness movement we are training brahmanas everywhere, because the world needs the brain of a brahmana. Although Maharaja Pariksit was a monarch, he had a body of brahmanas and learned sages to consult, an advisory body. It is not that the monarchs were independent. In history it is found that if some of the monarchs were not in order, they were dethroned by the brahminical advisory council. Although the brahmanas did not take part in politics, they would advise the monarch how to execute the royal function. This is not too far in the past. How long ago was Asoka?
Prof. Kotovsky: That would be equal to what we call, in our terminology, ancient and medieval India.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: In old and feudal India–you are right–it was very open, and the major part of the high administrative staff in the legislative department were brahmanas. Even in the Mogul era there were brahmanas to advise the Muslim emperors and administrators.
Srila Prabhupada: That is a fact–the brahmanas were accepted. They formed the advisory committee of the king. For example, Candragupta, the Hindu king, was in the age of Alexander the Great. Just before Candragupta, Alexander the Great went from Greece into India and conquered a portion. When Candragupta became emperor, he had Canakya as his prime minister. Perhaps you have heard this name Canakya?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he was a great brahmana politician, and it is by his name that the quarter of New Delhi where all the foreign embassies are grouped together is called Canakya Puri. Canakya Pandita was a great politician and brahmana. He was vastly learned. His moral instructions are still valuable. In India, schoolchildren are taught Canakya Pandita’s instructions. Although he was the prime minister, Canakya Pandita maintained his brahmana spirit; he did not accept any salary. If a brahmana accepts a salary, it is understood that he has become a dog. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He can advise, but he cannot accept employment. So Canakya Pandita was living in a cottage, but he was actually the prime minister. This brahminical culture and the brahminical brain is the standard of Vedic civilization. The Manu-smrti is an example of the standard of brahminical culture. You cannot trace out from history when the Manu-smrti was written, but it is considered so perfect that it is the Hindu law. There is no need for the legislature to pass a new law daily to adjust social order. The law given by Manu is so perfect that it can be applicable for all time. It is stated in Sanskrit to be tri-kaladau, which means “good for the past, present, and future.”
Prof. Kotovsky: I am sorry to interrupt you, but to my knowledge all of Indian society in the second half of the eighteenth century was, by order of the British administration, under a law divergent from Hindu law. There was a lot of change. The actual Hindu law that was used by the Hindus was quite different from the original Manu-smrti.
Srila Prabhupada: They have now made changes. Even our late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru introduced his own Hindu code. He introduced the right of divorce in marriage, but this was not in the Manu-samhita. There are so many things they have changed, but before this modern age the whole human society was governed by the Manu-smrti. Strictly speaking, modern Hindus are not strictly following the Hindu scriptures.
But our point is not to try to bring back the old type of Hindu society. That is impossible. Our idea is to take the best ideas from the original idea. For example, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a description of the communist idea. It is described to Maharaja Yudhisthira. If there is something good, a good experience, why shouldn’t you adopt it? That is our point of view. Besides that, modern civilization is missing one all-important point–the aim of human life. Scientifically, the aim of human life is self-realization, atma-tattva. It is said that unless the members of human society come to the point of self-realization, they are defeated in whatever they do. Actually it is happening in modern society, despite all economic advancement and other advancement: instead of keeping peace and tranquillity, they are fighting–individually, socially, politically, and nationally. If we think about it in a cool-headed way, we can see that in spite of much improvement in many branches of knowledge, we are keeping the same mentality that is visible in the lower animal society. Our conclusion, according to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, is that this human body is not meant for working hard for sense gratification. But people do not know anything beyond that. They do not know about the next life. There is no scientific department of knowledge to study what happens after this body is finished. That is a great department of knowledge.
In the Bhagavad-gita (2.13) it is said, dehino ‘smin yatha-dehe. Deha means “this body.” Dehinah means “the one who owns this body.” Dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara. The dehi, the owner of the body, is within, and the body is changing from one form to another. The child has a certain type of body that changes to another type when he is older. But the owner of the body still exists throughout. Similarly, when this body is completely changed, we accept another body. People do not understand this. We are accepting different bodies, even in this life, from babyhood to childhood to boyhood to youth. That is a fact–everyone knows it. I was a child, but that childhood body is no more. I have a different body now. What is the difficulty in understanding that when this body will be no more, then I will have to accept another body? It is a great science.
Prof. Kotovsky: As you know, there are two quite opposite approaches to this problem. The approach is slightly different according to different religions, but at the same time, any religion recognizes and searches for the change-of-place experience, or transmigration of spirit. In Christian religion, in Judaism, in…
Srila Prabhupada: I am not talking religions with you. I am talking science and philosophy. One religion may accept one way; that is not our concern. We are concerned with the point that if the owner of the body is permanent in spite of different changes of body, there should be no difficulty in understanding that when this body changes entirely, the owner of the body will have another body.
Prof. Kotovsky: Another approach is that there is no separation. There are no two phenomena–the body and the owner of the body are the same.
Srila Prabhupada [emphatically]: No.
Prof. Kotovsky: When the body dies, the owner also dies.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. But why is there no department of knowledge in the university to study this fact scientifically? That is my proposition–they are lacking. It may be as you say or it may be as I say, but there must be a department of knowledge to study this. Recently a cardiologist in Toronto, a doctor, has accepted that there is a soul. I had some correspondence with him, and he strongly believes that there is a soul. So there is another point of view, but our process is to accept knowledge from authority. We have Krsna’s statement on this subject, and He is authoritative. Krsna is accepted as the authority by all the acaryas. The Bhagavad-gita is accepted by scholarly and philosophical circles all over the world. Krsna says:
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“Just as the soul gives up the childhood body and comes to the boyhood body and then to youth, the soul also gives up this body and accepts another body.” (Bg. 2.13) This statement is given by Krsna, the greatest authority according to our tradition of knowledge. We accept such a statement without argument. That is the way of Vedic understanding.
Prof. Kotovsky: The difficulty is that our approach is that we do not believe in anything without argument. We can believe only things based on argument.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is allowed. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (4.34). Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya. Pariprasna, argument, is allowed–but not in the challenging spirit, but rather with the spirit to understand. Argument is not denied. But as far as Vedic statements are concerned, they are infallible, and the scholars of the Vedas accept them in that way. For example, cow dung is the stool of an animal. Now, the Vedic statement is that as soon as you touch the stool of any animal–even if you touch your own stool–you are impure and have to purify yourself by taking a bath. According to the Hindu system, after evacuating one has to take a bath.
Prof. Kotovsky: That is quite understandable hygienic knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, that is right.
Srila Prabhupada: But in another place it is stated that cow dung, although the stool of an animal, is pure. Even if you apply it to an impure place, that place becomes purified. This is superficially contradictory. In one place it is said that the stool of an animal is impure and as soon as you touch it you have to be purified, and in another place it says that cow dung is pure. According to our knowledge, it is contradictory–but still it is accepted by those who are followers of the Vedas. And the fact is that if you analyze cow dung, you will find that it contains all antiseptic properties.
Prof. Kotovsky: This I don’t know.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, one professor in a medical college analyzed it, and he found it full of antiseptic properties. So Vedic statements, even if found contradictory, if analyzed scrutinizingly will prove correct. There may be an exception. But it is accepted, and when scientifically analyzed and examined, it is found to be correct.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, if you analyze from the scientific point of view, that is right.
Srila Prabhupada: There are other instances–for example, the conchshell. The conchshell is the bone of an animal, and according to Vedic instruction if you touch the bone of an animal you become impure and have to take a bath. But this conchshell is kept in the Deity room, because it is accepted as pure by the Vedas. My point is that we accept Vedic laws without argument. That is the principle followed by scholars. If you can substantiate your statements by quotations from the Vedas, then they are accepted. You are not required to substantiate them in other ways. There are different kinds of pramanas, or evidences. Proof by Vedic quotation is called sruti-pramana. As in the legal court if you can give statements from the law book your statement is accepted, so all statements you give, if supported by sruti-pramanas, are accepted by scholars. I think you know the Vedas are known as srutis.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
aikantiki harer bhaktir
Any system we accept must be supported by evidences of sruti, smrti, the Puranas, and Pancaratra. That which is not proved by these pramanas is a disturbance.
Prof. Kotovsky: Could I just say one thing? What is in the Vedas could also have been proved in a scientific way. Today, suppose there is a scientific laboratory. What is said by that lab is true. That it is true you accept, without going into the propriety of it. Suppose you have a scientific workshop or institution; if this workshop or scientific institution says, “This is not good,” the general body will take it for granted: “Yes. The scientific body has said so, so it is understood.”
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, Vedic authoritative statements are accepted by the acaryas [great teachers]. India is governed by the acaryas–Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Sankaracarya. They accept the Vedas, and their followers accept them. The benefit is that I do not waste my time to research whether cow dung is pure or impure; rather, because it is stated in the Vedas to be pure, I accept it. I save my time by accepting the sruti-pramana. In that way there are different statements in the Vedas for sociology and politics or anything, for veda means “knowledge.”
sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto
mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham
Prof. Kotovsky: May I put one question to you? Have you many branches of your society in the world?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: Where is your main center, and where are the branches of the Krsna consciousness society?
Srila Prabhupada: Of course, I have over sixty-five branches. accepted the principles. Just like these boys. [Srila Prabhupada points to his two secretaries.]
Prof. Kotovsky: But does that mean that these students abstain from normal Western, European universities? For instance, can a normal student from one of the various universities who is attending lectures in the normal way also be initiated and admitted to your community?
Srila Prabhupada: If you want to live in our community and be initiated, we welcome you. If not, come try to understand our philosophy, read our books–there are so many books, magazines, questions, and answers. Try to understand the philosophy. It is not that all of a sudden a student comes and becomes our disciple. He first of all comes, associates, and tries to understand. We do not canvass. He voluntarily says that he wants to be a disciple.
Prof. Kotovsky: What happens if, for instance, one is not a student but a young worker or the young son of a farmer? Would he renounce his whole life and join your community in a given center? How would he maintain himself in his day-to-day life, in material life?
Srila Prabhupada: As I told you, this propaganda is meant for creating brahmanas all over the world, because the brahmana element is lacking. One who seriously comes to us has to become a brahmana, so he should adopt the occupation of a brahmana and give up the occupation of a ksatriya or sudra. But if one wants to keep his profession and also at the same time understand our movement, that is allowed. We have many professors following our movement. There is Howard Wheeler, a professor at Ohio State University. He is my disciple. He is continuing with his professorship, but almost all the money he is getting he is spending for this Krsna consciousness. Grhasthas, those who are in householder life outside, are expected to contribute fifty percent of their income for our society, keep twenty-five percent for family, and keep twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. But Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that it does not matter whether one is a grhastha (householder), or in the renounced order, or a brahmana, or a sudra. Lord Caitanya says, “Anyone who understands the science of Krsna becomes My spiritual master.” The actual words in Bengali are kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya. Do you understand a little Bengali?
Prof. Kotovsky: A little.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, as a vibration. Yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya. “Anyone who understands the science of Krsna can become a spiritual master.” (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 8.128)
Prof. Kotovsky: But by creating brahmanas from different social classes of society, you deny the old prescription of the Hindu scriptures.
Srila Prabhupada: No, I establish it.
Prof. Kotovsky: According to all scriptures–the Puranas, etc.–every member of one of these four classes of varnas has to be born within it.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, no, no.
Prof. Kotovsky: That is the foundation of all the varnas…
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. I am sorry.
Prof. Kotovsky: The foundation of all the varnas…
Srila Prabhupada: You have spoken incorrectly. With great respect I beg to submit that you are not speaking correctly. In the Bhagavad-gita (4.13) it is stated, catur-varnyam maya-srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah. “These four orders of brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras were created by Me according to quality and work.” There is no mention of birth.
Prof. Kotovsky: I agree with you that this is the addition of later brahmanas who tried to perpetuate these qualities.
Srila Prabhupada: That has killed the Indian culture. Otherwise there would have been no necessity of the division of part of India into Pakistan. Not only that, but from the historical point of view this whole planet was Bharata-varsa, and it was controlled by one flag up to the time of Maharaja Pariksit. Then it gradually separated. This is history. Lately they have separated Pakistan. So Bharata-varsa is now crippled into a small piece of land. Otherwise, according to Vedic scripture, this whole planet is called Bharata-varsa. Formerly it was named Ilavrta-varsa. But since Emperor Bharata ruled this planet, it is called Bharata-varsa. So this culture, Krsna consciousness, was always existent. Consider any religion–Christian, Muhammadan, Jewish. They are at most two to three thousand years old. But you cannot trace out the beginning of this Vedic scripture. It is therefore called sanatana, eternal. This culture is for this whole human society. It is not a religious faith. Religious faith you can change, but real dharma you cannot change. Try to understand Krsna. In the Bhagavad-gita (18.66) He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Give up all other forms of religion and just surrender to Me.” That is real knowledge–to surrender to the Supreme. You or I–anyone–is surrendered to someone. That is a fact. Our life is by surrender, is it not? Do you disagree with this point?
Prof. Kotovsky: To some extent you surrender.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to the full extent.
Prof. Kotovsky: You have to surrender to the society, for instance. To the whole people.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, to the whole people, or to the state or to the king or the government or whatever you say. This surrender must be there.
Prof. Kotovsky: The only difficulty is that we cannot half surrender to a government or a king. The principal difference is of surrender to a king, to a person, or to the society.
Srila Prabhupada: No, that is only a change of color. But the principle of surrender is there. Whether you surrender to monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, or dictatorship, you have to surrender; that is a fact. Without surrender there is no life. It is not possible. So we are educating people to surrender to the Supreme, wherefrom you get all protection, just as Krsna says (sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja). No one can say, “No, I am not surrendered to anyone.” Not a single person. The difference is where he surrenders. The ultimate surrendering object is Krsna. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita (7.19) Krsna says, bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate: “After surrendering to so many things birth after birth, when one is factually wise he surrenders unto Me.” Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah: “Such a mahatma is very rare.”
Prof. Kotovsky: But at the same time it seems to me that surrender is to be accompanied by revolt. The history of mankind has proved that mankind has developed only by revolt against some kind of surrender. In the medieval age there was the French Revolution. It was revolt against surrender. But this revolution itself was surrender to the rank and file of the people. You are agreed?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Prof. Kotovsky: So it is not enough to come to a full stop. Surrender is to be accompanied with revolt against some and surrender to other people.
Srila Prabhupada: But the surrender will be fully stopped when it is surrender to Krsna.
Prof. Kotovsky: Ah, ah.
Srila Prabhupada: That is full stop–no more surrender. Any other surrender you have to change by revolution. But when you come to Krsna, then it is sufficient. You are satisfied. I’ll give you an example: a child is crying, and people move him from one lap to another. Oh, he does not stop. But as soon as the baby comes to the lap of his mother…
Prof. Kotovsky: It stops.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, full satisfaction. So this surrender, these changes, will go on in different categories. But the sum total of all this surrender is surrender to maya. Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita it is said that this surrender, neglecting Krsna, is all maya. Either you surrender to this or to that, but final surrender is surrender to Krsna; then you will be happy. The process of surrender is there, but surrender to Krsna keeps one quite satisfied, transcendentally.
Prof. Kotovsky: Haven’t you come across hostile attitudes to your teachings from orthodox Hindus or brahmanas in India?
Srila Prabhupada: We have subdued them.
Prof. Kotovsky: Ah.
Srila Prabhupada: Any orthodox Hindu may come and challenge, but we have our weapons–the Vedic literatures. So no one has come. Even Christian priests in America love me. They say, “These boys are American, Christian, Jewish, and now they are so much after God. But we could not deliver them.” They are admitting it. Their fathers and their parents come to me, offer their obeisances, and say, “Swamiji, it is our great fortune that you have come here to teach God consciousness.” So on the contrary, I have been well received. In India also, since you inquired of India, all other sects are admitting that before me many kinds of svamis went to the Western countries, but they could not convert even a single person to Krsna consciousness. They are admitting that. As far as I am concerned, I don’t take any credit, but I am confident that because I am presenting the Vedic knowledge as it is, without adulteration, it is being effective. That is my confidence. If you have the right medicine and you administer it to a patient, you must be sure that he will be cured.
Prof. Kotovsky: How many out of your one thousand disciples do you have in India itself? How many of your community do you have in India?
Srila Prabhupada: In India?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: In India there are many Krsna conscious persons–hundreds, thousands, millions. In India there is no question. There is not a single Hindu who is not Krsna conscious.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, I understand.
Srila Prabhupada: Vaisnavas. This is called the Vaisnava cult. You have been in India, so as it is commonly known, there are many millions of Vaisnavas. For example, this gentleman [an Indian gentleman present] is the commander of Air India airlines. He is not my disciple, but he is a Vaisnava, Krsna conscious. Similarly, in India there are millions of Krsna conscious persons. There are even Muhammadans who are Krsna conscious. At Gorakhpur University there is a Muhammadan professor who is a great devotee of Lord Krsna. So this is natural. It is said in the Caitanya-caritamrta that Krsna consciousness is everywhere, in everyone’s heart. It simply has to be awakened by this process. That is all. It is there in your heart also. It is not that it is foreign to you. In everyone’s heart there is Krsna consciousness. By this process we have to awaken it. It is just like the way the sun rises. It is not that all of a sudden the sun comes from nowhere. It is there, but it rises in the morning. Similarly, this Krsna consciousness is everywhere, but some way or another it is now covered. By this process it is reawakened and aroused by association.
Prof. Kotovsky: You came yesterday to Moscow. Have you seen something here in Moscow?
Srila Prabhupada: No, I am not very much interested in sight-seeing.
Prof. Kotovsky: But in any case, just to stay in an old-style hotel is not interesting–not many people to see. And you are leaving the day after tomorrow?
Srila Prabhupada: That is my program.
Prof. Kotovsky: You are leaving for the United States or for Europe?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, for Europe. Paris. And we have two very big ceremonies in London and San Francisco. They are making arrangements for the Ratha-yatra Car Festival. This car festival is observed in Jagannatha Puri. You have been to Jagannatha Puri?
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, the car festival has been held from immemorial times. A very old tradition. Huge cars.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and it has now been introduced in the Western countries in London and San Francisco, and gradually maybe we will introduce it in other countries also.
Prof. Kotovsky: In London there is a large Indian community.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. This is organized by the Englishmen and Americans. The Indian communities in London and San Francisco are trying to become–you know the word? Sahib?
Prof. Kotovsky: [Laughs.] Westernized. [They both laugh.] A very great social anthropologist at the university has written something very interesting. He says there are two processes–the process of Westernization among brahmanas, mainly the upper class, and the process called Sanskritization, which is the process of adopting brahmana rituals, etc., by so-called lower classes, even untouchables. It is a very interesting process in India just now. But India’s position, unfortunately, is problematic.
Srila Prabhupada: The difficulty is that India is nowhere. They are trying to imitate Western life, but from a materialistic or technical point of view, they are one hundred years back.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, that is right. But what to do for India?
Srila Prabhupada: There is one thing I am experiencing. If India’s spiritual asset is distributed, that will increase India’s honor. Because everywhere I go, people still adore Indian culture. If this treasure-house of India’s spiritual knowledge is properly distributed, at least people outside of India will understand that they are getting something from India.
Prof. Kotovsky: Of course, you’re right. The Indian cultural heritage is to be made known everywhere. But at the same time, in what way would this benefit the Indian masses themselves? They are sitting in India, and they have nothing to gain from the spreading of the Indian cultural heritage all over the world. Indian villages have to have fertilizers, tractors, etc.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we do not object to that.
Prof. Kotovsky: Yes, I don’t think you can object, but at the same time, something has to be done in India. One may call it Westernization, but this introduction to an industrial technological revolution is needed in all fields of Indian life–agriculture, industry, etc.
Srila Prabhupada: Arjuna, before understanding the Bhagavad-gita, was a fighter, and after understanding the Bhagavad-gita he remained a fighter. So we don’t want to change the position. For example, you are a respectable professor, a teacher. We don’t say that you must change your position. We have come to convince you about our philosophy. That is all. Arjuna was refusing to fight. “Krsna, I don’t want to kill my relatives. I do not want this kingdom.” But he was taught the Bhagavad-gita, and at the end when Krsna inquired, “What is your decision now?” he said, karisye vacanam tava–“Yes, I shall act as You say.” (Bg. 18.72) That means that his consciousness changed. He was a fighter, and he remained a fighter, but he changed his consciousness. We want that. We don’t want to disturb the present condition of society. We are not against technology. No, but we try to make one understand this Krsna consciousness. That is our program.
Prof. Kotovsky: Of course, at the same time the final goal of any consciousness is to change the society–to make it a better society.
Srila Prabhupada: That is automatic.
Prof. Kotovsky: I am not really so happy that the ultimate goal is not to disturb society, because in modern society there are many things to be changed through consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: That preliminary change is to follow rules and regulations of austerity. For example, don’t take intoxicants.
Prof. Kotovsky: No indulging in intoxicants–simplicity, etc.
Srila Prabhupada: So if one takes to this process…
Prof. Kotovsky: Then the others will come automatically.
Srila Prabhupada: One’s whole life will change, because these four things–illicit sex life, intoxicants, meat-eating and gambling–are very great impediments to social improvement.
Prof. Kotovsky: That will automatically make life simpler, because a person who does not indulge in illicit sex, intoxicants, and such other things has to lead a comparatively simple life.
Srila Prabhupada: The other day I was speaking in Bombay with a respectable gentleman. I was telling him that Krsna says:
mam hi partha vyapasritya
ye ‘pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudras
te ‘pi yanti param gatim
“Even those who are lowborn [papa-yonayah]–stri, vaisyas, and sudras–are also included by accepting Me. By accepting My shelter they are also elevated to the transcendental position.” (Bg. 9.32) Now why have the higher classes of Hindu society neglected this injunction of the Bhagavad-gita? Suppose one is papa-yonayah, lowborn. Krsna says that he can be “elevated to the transcendental position if he accepts Me.” Why wasn’t this message propagated by the higher class of people so that the so-called lowborn could be elevated? Why did they reject them? The result was that instead of accepting the Muhammadans, the Indians rejected them, and now they are partitioned off. They have become eternal enemies of India. So for the first time we are trying to elevate persons to the higher position of Krsna consciousness, even if one is lowborn. Because the soul is pure. In the Vedas it is said that the soul is untouched by any material contamination; it is simply temporarily covered. This covering should be removed. Then one becomes pure. That is the mission of human life–to uncover ourselves from this material environment, come to spiritual understanding, and surrender to Krsna. Then life is perfect.
For further study of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s thoughts on “Western” philosopy and philosophers we strongly suggest study of Beyond Illusion and Doubt a very remarkable book by Srila Prabhupada, available very inexpensively.