Published on May 30th, 2023 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada7
1968 Interview with Srila Prabhupada
Interviewer: I think the first question is kind of basic, is why is everything always taped at all the…
Prabhupada: Because we have got so many branches, they want to hear me, my singing, my speech, therefore they record it and send it to different branches. We have got thirteen, fourteen
branches: one in New York, one in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Boston, Montreal, Vancouver, London, Hamburg. We have got so many branches.
Interviewer: What are the basic beliefs of the Krsna religion?
Prabhupada: Krsna means God. So God, this word, does not explain the nomenclature of God. Now this Krsna is Sanskrit word, and it conveys the full meaning of God. Krsna means all-attractive. All-attractive means He is full of all opulences. In this world we are attracted by one who is very rich, we are attracted by one who is very famous, we are attracted by one who is very highly educated, we are attracted by someone who is very beautiful. Similarly, these are features of attraction. And when all these attractions are reposed in one place without any rivalry, He is God. That is the conception of God. So Krsna means all these six opulences in fullness together. That is the full definition of God.
Interviewer: What effect to the followers does chanting give? I heard from one that it transports them to a utopian type situation. I wondered if you could elaborate on that a little more.
Prabhupada: Which situation?
Interviewer: Utopian-like, where there is no harm, no…, all is good, and…
Prabhupada: Yes. Now, this our process is chanting. It is very innocent. If you sit down and chant with us, you have no loss, no harm, but there is great gain. You see? By chanting, you gradually cleanse your heart and you can realize what is God. That is the greatest gain. Human life is meant for knowing God. The animals, they cannot know, although the bodily demands of the animal and the human being are the same. The animals, they sleep; man also sleeps. Animal, they eat; man also eats. The animal, they are also afraid of some enemy; man is also afraid of some enemy. The animals, they mate with the opposite sex, and men also do that. But what is the special significance of man? He can understand about God, but the animal cannot. Therefore if a man does not take to this understanding, he is no better than animal. A man who has no God consciousness or Krsna consciousness, he is no better than animal because he has no other business than the four principles of bodily demands. So that is also prevalent in animal kingdom. Therefore this is a privilege for human being, to understand about God, and as such, in every human society there is some sort of religious principle. This religious principle means to understand God. Either you take it, Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism, every religion is trying to understand God according to their capacity. So without this understanding, means Krsna consciousness, human life is as good as animal life.
Interviewer: Do you believe that other religions have some truth to them because they all are…
Prabhupada: I have already told that religion means searching after God, every religion. The process may be different. The audience may be different. Just like in Christianity there is conception of God, “God created this world.” So this is a fact. We also say. But we say in very lucid explanation from the Vedas. We don’t stop, simply saying, “God created,” but how created, how things developed, these descriptions are there in the Vedic literature. That is the difference. Otherwise there is no difference of opinion. The Christians accept God created this world; the Jewish religion, they also accept God created this world; the Muslims they also accept God created this world; we also accept God created this world. So “God is the supreme; God is great,” that is accepted by everyone. But the only difference is that we give details so that modern mind, who are advanced in education and scientific knowledge, they can understand, whereas others, they cannot give in detail. Therefore they are deviating gradually because the modern, advanced, educated persons they want to know how God created this world, and that description is lacking.
But we can give that. That is the difference. Otherwise the primary principle, to understand God–God is great; we are small, tiny; we are subordinate; we are maintained by God–this idea is everywhere.
Interviewer: Yes, well, what is your explanation of the creation of the world?
Prabhupada: That is a huge thing. That we have to see to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, that God expanded Himself first of all in Maha-Visnu, He lied down on the Causal Ocean. And while He was in sleeping mood, from His breathing, innumerable universes came into existence.
Then each and every universe, Maha-Visnu entered. Then again He lied down there, and from Him the first creature, Brahma, generated. Then Brahma created other planets. First there was creation of sound. From the sound, the sky came into existence. From the sky, air came into existence. From air, fire came into existence. From fire, water came into existence, and from water, this land developed. In this way, there are very detailed description in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. So we have to take it that way.
Interviewer: Were you born in this country or were you born in…
Prabhupada: No. I was born in India, Calcutta. My birthplace is Calcutta.
Interviewer: When did you come to this country?
Prabhupada: I came here in September, 1965.
Interviewer: Did you come with the purpose of spreading Krsna consciousness?
Prabhupada: Yes. I am an ordained minister for preaching these missionary activities. So I came here in September, 1965. Then, for one year, I was traveling in many parts of your country. In the beginning I was in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, and then I went to Philadelphia. Then I came to New York. And in this way I was traveling, not very much. And in 1966, in July 1st, I started my class in New York at 26 Second Avenue. That is my first starting. Then the younger generation began to come to me, and they started the San Francisco branch, Montreal branch. In this way the institution is going. And we have sent our students to Europe also. They have already started one branch in London, one in Hamburg. And we have sent our students in Honolulu. They have started a branch there. So our program is to start several…, as many branches as possible to spread this Krsna consciousness movement. And it is very easy. We simply invite persons to come and chant with us. It doesn’t matter what he is, what is his language, what is his religion. We don’t take into account all these things. And this Hare Krsna is so easy to utter, that any man can utter. That we have experienced. Any part of the world, we chant Hare Krsna, and they can very easily imitate and chant. Even child, they also. So by chanting, he gradually becomes Krsna conscious. His heart becomes cleansed and he can understand what is science of Krsna, what is science of God. Then he automatically offers himself for initiation. Then we initiate him and guide him in different ways. But our students are strictly forbidden to have illicit sex life or meat-eating or intoxication or gambling. These four things are strictly forbidden for our students. And they take it seriously. We get our… In your country boys and girls, they live as friend. I don’t allow that. If there is such friendship, I immediately ask them, if they become my student, I immediately ask them to be married. And this experiment has proved very successful. I got these young boys and girls married, and they are very happily living, and husband and wife, they are preaching. All my students in London– there are six boys and girls–they were married by me, and they are doing very nicely. So the Krsna consciousness movement is very nice in everywhere, especially in this country. That is my opinion. And people will be benefited, especially the younger section who were feeling frustration in every respect, and they are now happy. It is practical. Just ask any one of my students how they are happy. You have seen in our temple how happily they are living and dancing from their face. Face is the index of mind. You will understand from their face how happy they are feeling. They are not smoking. They are not taking marijuana or are taking… No. This nonsense we don’t allow. Simple food and chanting. That makes them happy. Simple thing.
Interviewer: I notice that most of your followers, at least in this temple, are young, like in the college age or in the teenage. Is it because Krsna doesn’t attract the older generation, I mean, yourself excluded?
Prabhupada: No. Krsna attracts everyone. Just like magnetic stone attracts iron. But the iron is covered with too much muddy things–the magnetic force does not work. This younger generation, they are not too much dirty; therefore they are very easily attracted. You see? It is like a magnetic force. The same example, that magnetic force attracts iron. That is natural. But if the iron is too much rusty and covered with muddy things, then it does not act. So older generation means they are convinced in some way. They cannot accept any new thing. You see? They are in the last stage of life. Whatever they have understood, they cannot forget. But younger generation, they have got capacity to take new things. Just like nobody goes… No old man goes to school because they are unable to receive education. But younger generation, they go. So there is a age to receive. So this age is recipient. Therefore naturally–it is nice thing–they are receiving.
Interviewer: You spoke of initiation. What is that initiation?
Prabhupada: Initiation means formally acceptance of the line of activities in Krsna consciousness. Before that, before initiation, we invite everyone to come and sit down with us, chant, dance, take prasadam, hear philosophy. And if he understands, “Oh, this is very nice,” then he offers himself to be initiated. Then we accept. Then we impose this restriction that “If you want to be initiated…” We get hundreds of letters by everyone who has attended our classes. Daily we are getting some married couples or boys and girls, but most of them are younger. My students are within thirties. The oldest student I have got at the present moment, he is twenty-eight years. No, Kirtanananda is about thirty years old. That’s all. So, of course, I do not get any older people. That is nice, hopeful, because younger section, if they take it very seriously, then I have hopes that they will preach in future, even in my absence. And old people, if a man becomes too much accustomed to a certain limited habits, in old age it is very difficult to give it up unless one is extraordinarily intelligent.
Interviewer: What is the purpose of the robes and having your head shaved?
Prabhupada: That is not very difficult to understand. Just like you dress in a certain way, I dress in certain way. So we have got this dressing system in our Krsna consciousness movement, and this is taken from Vedic literature. A brahmacari should dress like that. And that is very economical. Our dress is saffron dress. It does not become dirty very quickly, and we… (break) This dress is not very important thing, but when one is initiated, he accepts the regulations which I give them. So it is not that if you do not come in that dress in our temple you will not understand our philosophy. That is not… We don’t mean that. But it is convenient. But anyone who does not want to change this dress, that does not matter. We don’t insist. These brahmacaris, they voluntarily change. Otherwise there are many students, just like we have got two, three students, they are working. They come just like ordinary American gentlemen. So there is no objection in that way. Dress is not very important thing.
Interviewer: Do you have a name that you call… are they called students? Like, would he be called a student or a…?
Prabhupada: Brahmacari. We have got four divisions. Those who are not married, they are called brahmacaris. And those who are married, they are called grhasthas. And those who are retired, they are called vanaprasthas. And those who are renounced, they have no connection with anything worldly, they are called sannyasa. Just like I am a sannyasi. Sannyasi mean I have got my family, I have got my wife, children, grandchildren in India, but I have no connection with them. I live alone.
Interviewer: Could I ask for a spelling on those?
Prabhupada: Sannya… Yes, brahmacari: b-r-a-h-m-a-c-h-a-r-y, this is brahmacari. Then grhastha: g-r-i-h-a-s-t-h-a, grhastha. H-a-s-t-h-a, grhastha. G-r-i-h-a-s-t-h-a. Is that clear? Grhastha. Then vanaprastha: v-a-n-a-p-r-a-s-t-h-a, vanaprastha. Then sannyasi: s-n-n-y-a-s-i, sannyasi. Four divisions. These four divisions, and there are other four orders of social system. That is according to work, division according to work and quality. Just like the brahmanas, b-r-a-h-m-a-i-n-s, brahmanas. Brahmanas means the most intelligent class of the society. The ksatriyas, k-s-h-a-t-r-y-a-s, ksatriyas. Ksatriyas means persons who are interested in politics, in the management of the country, political affairs. They are called ksatriyas. Similarly, there is the vaisyas, v-a-i-s-y-a-s. Vaisyas means the mercantile, productive class. Those who are engaged in producing grains or trade, milk, and in industry. Of course, industry, artisans, they are called, artists, sudras. Anyway, any person engaged in producing for the needs of the society, they are called vaisyas. And the worker class is called sudra. So according to Vedic system, these are eight divisions. Unless the human society is divided into these eight divisions in terms of material and spiritual progress of life, that is not accepted as human society.
Interviewer: Have they encountered any problems in, like out on the Hollywood Boulevard? Police action or telling them to move or…?
Prabhupada: Yes. Only that depends on the whims of the police. Sometimes they say, “You are blocking our roads.” Sometimes, “Oh, you are doing nice.” So that depends on their temperament.
Interviewer: How about from the crowd?
Prabhupada: Crowd, of course, whenever there is crowd, it is natural–police do not like it. So we don’t create crowd. But generally, people, out of inquisitiveness they gather together and see how they are chanting. They are sympathetic. They contribute. They purchase our books and literature. The people, public is sympathetic. The police are also sympathetic. They don’t object when we go at night, but during busy hours, they object. So one of our students was arrested by the police. So he was taken to the court, and I gave them $315 for what is called? Bail. But he was not convicted. He was immediately liberated, and now our money was returned. So it is not a problem.
Interviewer: Were there any followers before you came to this country?
Prabhupada: No. In this country, of this Krsna consciousness movement, there was none. It is the first time. I have introduced. But in India it is very, very old, since the advent of Krsna, and at least since last five thousand years. So Krsna is very popular in India. In every home, Krsna is worshiped, and there are many millions of temples of Krsna in India and followers also. Followers means almost all Hindus are followers of Krsna. They read this Bhagavad-gita. So I have recently published Bhagavad-gita As It Is. It is published by Macmillan Company, and this book is very nicely being received. It is being reviewed by several papers. I have got many others books. They are being gradually introduced. Perhaps you have seen in our counter. We have got books, magazines, calendar, and other literatures. So it is a very scientific movement. It is not a sentiment, bogus hoax. Anyone who wants to understand this movement philosophically, scientifically, they will be very much satisfied with this. The idea is that any religious movement without philosophical basis, it is simply sentiment or fanaticism. And philosophy without idea of God is simply mental speculation. Therefore religious principles combined with philosophy, that is perfect. So the younger section become attracted to this movement because we are giving some religious principle based on philosophy.
Interviewer: About how many followers would you say there are in the United States?
Prabhupada: Initiated members, there are about one hundred or little more, but sympathizers, admirers, there are many. Those who come, those who contribute, take sympathy, they help, and in that way there are many followers. But actually initiated members, there are about a little more than one hundred.
Interviewer: What is the significance of… Right after the chanting, everyone bows, and that I don’t understand, what they’re doing.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is offering respect. The whole, our Krsna consciousness movement, is to ask people to surrender to God. They have rebelled against God. Somebody says, “There is no God.” Somebody says that “I am God.” These nonsense things are to be eradicated from human society. So they should be trained to submit. So the submission is symbolized by bowing down: “Yes, you are great; I am humble.” This should be taught. Otherwise, whimsically somebody is thinking that “I am God.” They do not know what is God. It is most foolish proposal if somebody claims that he is God. He is dog. We very much hate this proposal, when a man claims that he is God. It is most blasphemous.
Interviewer: Have you… Did you… Well, you’ve only been over here about four years.
But have there been dropouts, out of the movement, of the hundred that were initiated?
Prabhupada: They are doing nicely. They are making progress. They are understanding the philosophy. They are working for it. Now I am the only man who came from India, and still, I am one. I have no… There are many Indians, but I have no Indian follower here. Of course, in India we have got. That’s a different thing. But these, all these American boys, they are cooperating with me. That means they are taking this movement very seriously. We have got two great papers, magazines, already, Back to Godhead. One is published from New York, and the other is published from Montreal. (break) In French language. Montreal it is published in French language, and they are well received. Recently I have received one letter from my disciple, Janardana. He is Janus Dambergs, M.A., he is the editor of that paper. He is a very good scholar in French language. His wife is also good scholar, Muna. She is also very good scholar in French language. So they are publishing, and the magazine is well received by the French-speaking people there. And we have contemplation to publish the same magazine in German language also from Germany.
Interviewer: I was talking to one the other day, and he said his name was Tamul.
Prabhupada: Tamala, yes. Tamala Krsna.
Interviewer: Tamala? And he was from Manhattan. Now, I assume when you join, do you assume a name? Do you change your name?
Prabhupada: Yes, when one is initiated, I give him a name which means remembrance of Krsna.
Interviewer: Is it necessary to know of the Indian language when you join? Because I noticed that when your…
Prabhupada: This is not Indian name. This is Sanskrit name.
Interviewer: It’s what?
Prabhupada: Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a language which is mother of all languages. Sanskrit, S-a-n-s-k-r-i-t, Sanskrit language. So this is the original language of this…, not only of this planet. In other planets also, this language is spoken. So the names are in Sanskrit. They do not belong to any community or any section. It is universal. We have no information. Just like this word, Krsna. It is universally known: “all-attractive.” The exact English translation is “all-attractive.” So there cannot be any proper nomenclature for God than this “all-attractive.” Unless God is all-attractive, how He can be God? This is the perfect nomenclature. Similarly, anything Sanskritically named, that is all perfect. Yes.
Interviewer: I think that’s all the questions I had. I can’t think of any more. Let me think. (end)