An Indian gentleman: By what kind of actions does one earn good karma?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Good karma means what is prescribed in the Vedas. Specifically, it is prescribed that one should perform yajña. Yajña means actions for the satisfaction of Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So good karma means performance of the yajñas as they are prescribed in the Vedic literatures. And the purpose of this yajña is to satisfy the Supreme Lord. A good, law-abiding citizen is one whose actions satisfy the government. So, good karma is to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Lord. Unfortunately, modern civilization does not know what the Supreme Personality of Godhead is, what to speak of satisfying Him. people do not know. They are simply busy with material activities. Therefore all of them are performing only bad karma and therefore suffering. They are blind men leading other blind men. And both are then suffering by bad karma. That is very easy to understand. If you do something criminal, you will suffer. If you do something benevolent for the state, for the people, then you are recognized; you are sometimes given a title. This is good and bad karma. So, good karma means you enjoy some material happiness; bad karma means you suffer from material distress. By good karma you get birth in a good family; you get riches, good money. Then you become a learned scholar; you become beautiful also.
[Some time passes.]
Bob: What about the person who—who is not very aware of God, but...
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then he is an animal. The animal does not know what is good. A person who does not know what is God, or one who does not try to understand what is God—he is an animal. The animals are with four legs, and that animal is with two legs. And Darwin's theory is they are monkeys. So anyone who does not know God, or does not try to understand God, is nothing but an animal.
Bob: What about the innocent people?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The animal is very innocent. If you cut its throat, it won't protest. So innocence is not a very good qualification. The animals are all innocent. Therefore you get the chance to cut their throats. So to become innocent is not a very good qualification. Our proposition is that one must be very, very intelligent, and then he can understand Kṛṣṇa. To become an innocent, ignorant simpleton is not a very good qualification. Simplicity is all right, but one should not be unintelligent.
Bob: Can you tell me again what intelligence is?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Intelligence means... One who knows what he is, what is this world, what is God, what are the interrelations—he is intelligent. The animal does not know what he is. He thinks that he is the body. Similarly, anyone who does not know what he is, he is not intelligent.
Bob: What about a person who does—tries to do—what is right and is very conscientious instead of being unconscious about the things he does? Like the servant who is very honest to his master but knows that if he were not honest he would not be caught. If he stays honest anyway... a person like that? Is that some kind of good karma?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, to become honest is also good karma. How to become a good man is described in the Bhagavad-gītā very elaborately.
daivī sampad vimokṣāya
So if you become qualified with the daivī sampad (transcendental qualities), then, vimokṣāya—you will be liberated. And, nibandhāyāsurī—if you are qualified with the demoniac qualifications, then you will be more and more entangled. Unfortunately the modern civilization does not know what is liberation and what is entanglement. They are so much ignorant; they do not know. Suppose if I ask you what you mean by liberation, can you answer? [No answer.] And if I ask you what you mean by entanglement, can you answer? [Again no answer.] These words are there in the Vedic literature—liberation and entanglement—but, at the present moment, people do not even know what is liberation and what is entanglement. They are so ignorant and foolish, and still they are proud of their advancement in knowledge. Can you answer what is liberation? You are a professor, teacher, but if I ask you, can you explain what is liberation?
Bob: Not adequately because if I could explain, then I would become liberated very fast.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But if you do not know what is liberation, then how fast or slow liberation? [Everyone laughs.] There is no question of liberation. It is neither fast nor slow. You should first know what is liberation. If you do not know where the train is going, then what is the use of asking, understanding, whether it is going fast or slow? You do not know your destination. What is liberation?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: I am asking. You daily ask me. I am asking you.
Bob: [Laughs.] Ah—okay... I'll think for a moment.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Liberation is described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The exact Sanskrit word for liberation is mukti. So that is defined in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
muktir hitvānyathā rūpaṁ
One should stop doing all nonsense, and he must be situated in his original position. But this is also more embarrassing because nobody knows his original position and how to act properly. Because people are generally acting differently, because they do not know what is proper—the modern population is so much ignorant about their life—it is a very awkward position. They do not know.
Bob: Can you tell me who is honest?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If one does not know what is honesty, how can he be honest? But if you know what is honesty, then you can be honest. What is honesty? First of all explain.
Bob: Aaah, ummm—Honesty is doing what you really feel is right.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: A thief is feeling, "I must steal to provide for my children. It is right." Does it mean that he is honest? Everyone thinks—The butcher thinks, "It is my life. I must cut the throat of the animals daily." Just like that—what is that hunter? And Nārada Muni met him?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, Mṛgāri. Nārada asked him, "Why are you killing in this way?" And he said, "Oh, it is my business. My father taught it." So he was honestly doing that. So a feeling of honesty depends on culture. A thief's culture is different. He thinks stealing is honest.
Bob: So what is honesty?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, that is my question. [Everyone laughs.] Real honesty is that you should not encroach upon another's property. This is honesty. For instance, this is my table. If you want to take it away while going, is that honesty? So therefore the simple definition of honesty is that you should not encroach upon another's rights. That is honesty.
Bob: So somebody who is honest would be in the mode of goodness? Would that be correct?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Certainly, certainly. Because the mode of goodness means knowledge. So if you know, "This table does not belong to me; it belongs to Swāmījī," you will not try to take it away. Therefore, one must know—be thoroughly well conversant—then he can be honest.
Bob: So, now you have said the mode of goodness was knowledge of God, but somebody may be honest without having very much knowledge of God.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Hm-m?
Bob: Without—without being honest—without thinking they are honest because it is God's wishes—they just feel like they ought to be honest.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Mmm. God wishes everyone to be honest. Why should God think otherwise?
Bob: So... so you may follow God's wishes without knowing you are following God's wishes? Like somebody may be in the mode...
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, following without knowing—that is absurd. You must know the order of God. And if you follow that, then that is honesty.
Bob: But somebody would not be honest without knowing God?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, because God is the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer, and He is the supreme friend. That is the statement of the Bhagavad-gītā. If anyone knows these three things, then he is in full knowledge. These three things only: that God is the proprietor of everything, God is friend of everyone, and God is the enjoyer of everything. For example, everyone knows that in the body, the stomach is the enjoyer. Not the hands, legs, eyes, ears. These are there simply to help the stomach. Eyes—the vulture goes seven miles up to see where there is food for the stomach. Is it not?
Bob: That is so.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then the wings fly there, and the jaws catch the food. Similarly, as in this body the stomach is the enjoyer, the central figure of the whole cosmic manifestation, material or spiritual, is Kṛṣṇa, God. He is the enjoyer. We can understand this just by considering our own bodies. The body is also a creation. The body has the same mechanical nature you will find in the whole universe. The same mechanical arrangement will be found anywhere you go, even in animals. In the human body or in the cosmic manifestation—almost the same mechanism. So you can understand very easily that in this body—any body, your body—the stomach is the enjoyer. There is a central enjoyer. And the stomach is the friend also. Because if you cannot digest food, you see, then all other limbs of the body become weak. Therefore the stomach is the friend. It is digesting and distributing the energy to all the limbs of the body. Is it not?
Bob: It is so.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Similarly, the central stomach of the whole creation is God, or Kṛṣṇa. He is the enjoyer, He is the friend, and, as the supreme proprietor, He is maintaining everyone. Just as a king can maintain the whole country's citizens because he is the proprietor. Without being the proprietor, how can one become everyone's friend? So these things have to be understood. Kṛṣṇa is the enjoyer, Kṛṣṇa is the proprietor, and Kṛṣṇa is the friend. If you know these three things, then your knowledge is full; you do not require to understand anything more.
yasmin vijñāte sarvam evaṁ vijñātaṁ bhavati
(Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.3)
If you simply understand Kṛṣṇa by these three formulas, then your knowledge is complete. You don't require any more knowledge. But people will not agree. "Why should Kṛṣṇa be the proprietor? Hitler should be the proprietor. Nixon ..." That is going on. Therefore you are in trouble. But if you understand these three things only, then your knowledge is complete. But you will not accept—you will put forward so many impediments to understanding these three things, and that is the cause of our trouble. But in the Bhagavad-gītā it is plainly said:
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati
["The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries."] But we won't take this. We shall put forward so many false proprietors, false friends, false enjoyers, and they will fight one another. This is the situation of the world. If education is given and people take this knowledge, there is immediately peace (śāntim ṛcchati). This is knowledge, and if anyone follows this principle, he is honest. He does not claim, "It is mine." He knows everything: "Oh, it is Kṛṣṇa's, so therefore everything should be utilized for Kṛṣṇa's service." That is honesty. If this pencil belongs to me, the etiquette is—My students sometimes ask, "Can I use this pencil?" "Yes, you can." Similarly, if I know that everything belongs to Kṛṣṇa, I will not use anything without His permission. That is honesty. And that is knowledge. One who does not know is ignorant; he is foolish. And a foolish man commits criminality. All criminals are foolish men. Out of ignorance one commits lawbreaking. So ignorance is not bliss, but it is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss. That is the difficulty. The whole world is enjoying ignorance. And when you talk about Kṛṣṇa consciousness, they do not very much appreciate it. If I say, "Kṛṣṇa is the proprietor; you are not the proprietor," you will not be very much satisfied. [They laugh.] Just see—ignorance is bliss. So it is my foolishness to say the real truth. Therefore it is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss. So we are taking the risk of offending
people, and they will think we are fools. If I say to a rich man, "You are not the proprietor. Kṛṣṇa is the proprietor, so whatever money you have, spend it for Kṛṣṇa," he will be angry.
upadeśo hi mūrkhānāṁ
prakopāya na śāntaye
"If you instruct a rascal, he'll be angry." Therefore we go as beggars: "My dear sir, you are a very nice man. I am a sannyāsī beggar, so I want to construct a temple. Can you spare some money?" So he will think, "Oh, here is a beggar. Give him some money." [They laugh] But if I say, "Dear sir, you have millions of dollars at your disposal. That is Kṛṣṇa's money. Give it to me. I am Kṛṣṇa's servant." Oh, he'll... [Everyone laughs.] He will not be very satisfied. Rather, if I go as a beggar, he will give me something. And if I tell him the truth, he will not give me a farthing. [They laugh] We convince him as beggars. We are not beggars. We are Kṛṣṇa's servants. We don't want anything from anyone. Because we know Kṛṣṇa will provide everything.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This is knowledge. For instance, a child will sometimes take something important, so we have to flatter him. "Oh, you are so nice. Please take these lozenges and give me that paper. It is nothing; it is paper." And he will say, "Oh, yes. Take. That's nice." Two-paise lozenges—very nice and sweet. So we have to do that. Why? Because a man will go to hell by taking Kṛṣṇa's money. So some way or other, take some money from him and engage him in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Bob: And then he may not go to hell?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. You save him from going to hell. Because a farthing spent for Kṛṣṇa it will be accounted: "Oh, this man has given a farthing." This is called ajñāta-sukṛti [spiritual activity one performs unknowingly]. They are very poor in their thought. Therefore the saintly persons move just to enlighten him little. To give them a chance to serve Kṛṣṇa. Giving them a chance to serve Kṛṣṇa. That is saintly person's study.
Bob: That is what?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is his duty. But if he takes money from others and utilizes it for his sense gratification, then he goes to hell. Then it is finished. Then he is a cheater; actually he is a criminal. You cannot take money, a farthing, from anyone, and use it for your own sense gratification.
Bob: I think of people I know who are not Kṛṣṇa conscious.
Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa means God.
Bob: They are just slightly God conscious, but still these people are honest to the extent they don't take from other people at all. And they try to be honest with other people. Will these—
Prabhupāda: But he does not take from other people, but he takes from God.
Bob: So these people are half good?
Bob: These people are then half-good?
Prabhupāda: Not good. If he does not learn this principle—that God is the proprietor... Others' things? What do you mean by, "others' thing"?
Bob: Like, people I'm thinking of—they're poor people who need money and food but—
Prabhupāda: Everyone needs money. Everyone needs it. Who is not poor? There are so many gentlemen sitting here. Who is not in need of money and food? You are also in need of money. So how do you distinguish poor from rich? Everyone needs it. If that is your definition... If one needs money and food, then everyone needs money and food. So everyone is poor.
Bob: So, but, well—I was thinking in terms of just people who are relatively poor.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Relatively, relatively, maybe. You are more hungry than me. That does not mean you are not hungry or I am not hungry. I do not feel hungry now. That does not mean I do not feel hungry or I am not hungry. For the time being you may not be hungry. But tomorrow you'll be hungry.
Bob: What I feel is that—somehow these people—that... Everybody around them may be stealing, but they still stand up and don't steal. These people somehow deserve something good to happen to them.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But the man who is thinking that he is not stealing is also a thief because he does not know that everything belongs to Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, whatever he is accepting, he is stealing.
Bob: Is he less of a thief?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: You may not know that I am the proprietor of this wrapper, but if you take it away, are you not stealing?
Bob: But maybe if I know it is yours and I take it, I am a worse thief than if I do not know whose it is. I just think it may be nobody's, and I take it.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is also stealing. Because it must belong to somebody. And you take it without his permission. You may not know exactly who is the proprietor, but you know, "It must belong to someone." That is knowledge. Sometimes we see on the road so many valuable things left there—government property for repairing roads or some electrical work. A man may think, "Oh, fortunately these things are lying here, so I may take them." Is it not stealing?
Bob: It is stealing.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. He does not know that this is all government property. He takes it away. That is stealing. And when he is caught, he is arrested, and he is punished. So, similarly, whatever you are collecting—suppose you are drinking a glass of water from the river. Is the river your property?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then? It is stealing. You have not created the river. You do not know who is the proprietor. Therefore it is not your property. So, even if you drink a glass of water without knowing to whom it belongs, you are a thief. So you may think, "I am honest," but actually you are a thief. You must remember Kṛṣṇa. "Oh, Kṛṣṇa, it is Your creation, so kindly allow me to drink." This is honesty. Therefore a devotee always thinks of Kṛṣṇa. In all activities: "Oh, it is Kṛṣṇa's." This is honesty. So without Kṛṣṇa consciousness, everyone is a rascal, is a thief, is a rogue, is a robber. These qualifications. Therefore our conclusion is that anyone who does not understand Kṛṣṇa has no good qualifications. Neither is he honest, nor has he knowledge. Therefore he is a third-class man. Is that correct? What do you think, Girirāja?
Girirāja: [a disciple]: Yes.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This is not dogmatism. This is a fact. [Some time elapses.] So, you have understood what is knowledge and what is honesty?
Bob: I—in a way. In a way.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: And is there another way? [Bob laughs.] Is there any other way? Defy it! [Bob laughs again. Śrīla Prabhupāda also laughs.] Another way? Girirāja?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Is there an alternative? We do not say anything that can be defied by anyone. That experience we have. Rather, we defy everyone: "Any questions?" Till now, Kṛṣṇa has given us protection. In big, big meetings in big, big countries, after speaking I ask, "Any questions?"
Bob: Now, I have none.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: In London, we had—how many days, lectures in that—what is that? Conway Hall?
A devotee: Twelve days. Conway Hall.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Conway Hall.
A devotee: Twelve days.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. So after every meeting I was asking, "Any questions?"
Bob: Did you get many questions?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Oh, yes. Many foolish questions. [Everyone laughs.]
Bob: Let me ask one more question. What is being foolish?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: One having no knowledge is to be considered foolish.
An Indian gentleman: Prabhupāda, I have one personal question. Can I ask?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.
Indian gentleman: Some time ago in Calcutta they observed a week—it was named, "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Week."
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Mmm. [He gives a quick laugh] This is another foolishness. They are advertising prevention of cruelty, and they are maintaining thousands of slaughterhouses. You see? That is another foolishness.
Indian gentleman: So I wanted just to ask—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Asking—before you ask, I give you the answer. [All laugh] That is another foolishness. They are regularly cruel to animals, and they are making a society...
Bob: Maybe this is—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Suppose a gang of thieves has a signboard—"Goodman and Company." You sometimes find such a signboard.
Śyāmasundara: Our landlord in the San Francisco temple was named Goodman.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The philosophy is that when an animal is not properly nourished, that is cruelty. Therefore instead of allowing it to starve, better to kill it. That is their theory. Is it not?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: They say, "Oh, it is better to kill him than to give him so much pain." That theory is coming in communist countries. An old man—grandfather—is suffering, so better to kill him. And there—in Africa there is a class of men who make a festival by killing their great-grandfathers. Is it not? Yes.
Śyāmasundara: They eat them?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. [Śyāmasundara laughs.] Yes?
A devotee: I had an uncle and aunt. They were in the Army. So when they went overseas, they could not take their dog with them. So they said, "The poor dog. He will be so heartbroken not to be with us," so they put him to sleep—killed him.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: In Gandhi's life also, he once killed one calf or some cow. It was suffering very much. So Gandhi ordered, "Instead of letting it suffer, just kill it."
Girirāja: Yesterday you said that the spiritual master may have to suffer due to the sinful activities of his disciples. What do you mean by sinful activities?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Sinful activities means that you promised, "I shall follow the regulative principles." If you do not follow, that is sinful. That is the promise. Very simple. You break the promise and do nasty things; therefore you are sinful. Is it not?
Girirāja: Yes. [pause] But there are some things that we're instructed to do...
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Hm-m?
Girirāja: There are other things which we're instructed to do which, even though we try to do, we cannot do perfectly yet.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: How is that? You try to do and cannot do? How is that?
Girirāja: Like chanting attentively. Sometimes we try to, but—
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Well, that is not a fault. Suppose you are trying to do something. Due to your inexperience if you sometimes fail, that is not a fault. You are trying. There is a verse in the Bhāgavatam—hm-m—that if a devotee is trying his best but due to his incapability he sometimes fails, Kṛṣṇa excuses him. And in the Bhagavad-gītā also it is said:
api cet su-durācāro
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
Sometimes not willingly but due to past bad habits-habit is second nature-one does something nonsensical. But that does not mean he is faulty. But he must repent for that—"I have done this." And he should try to avoid it as far as possible. But habit is second nature. Sometimes, in spite of your trying hard, māyā is so strong that it pushes with Pitfalls. That can be excused. Kṛṣṇa excuses. But those who are doing something willingly are not excused. On the strength that I am a devotee, if I think, "Because I am chanting, I may therefore commit all this nonsense, and it will be nullified," that is the greatest offense.