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TQE 5: Spiritual Solutions to Material Problems

Advice to the United Nations

How can society be organized for the peace and well-being of all? Śrīla Prabhupāda discusses this question with Mr. C. Hennis of the U.N.'s International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, in May of 1974.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The social body should have a class of men who act as the brain and guide everyone so that everyone can become happy. That is the purpose of our movement.

Mr. Hennis: That's a valid point, because it has always been affirmed in every society that there is a need for a priestly class or a class of philosophical leaders.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: But now the so-called priestly class are amending the Biblical injunctions according to their whims. For instance, the Bible enjoins, "Thou shalt not kill." But the priestly class is like the other classes—sanctioning slaughterhouses. So how can they guide?

Mr. Hennis: But the animal world is entirely composed of beings who eat one another. I suppose that the justification that people have for maintaining slaughterhouses is that it is just a cleaner way of killing than for a lion to jump on the back of an antelope.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: But as a human being you should have discrimination. You should be guided by your brain, and society should be guided by the "brain class" of priestly, thoughtful men. Nature has given human beings the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the milk, which all have great nutritional value, and human beings should be satisfied with these wholesome foods. Why should they maintain slaughterhouses? And how can they think they will be happy by being sinful, by disobeying God's commandments? This means society has no brain.

Mr. Hennis: My organization isn't directly concerned with giving people brains.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Your organization may not be directly concerned. But if human society is brainless, no matter how much you may try to organize, society can never be happy. That is my point.

Mr. Hennis: My organization is concerned with taking away the obstacles that prevent people from attaining a proper brain. One of the obstacles is just plain poverty.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. The main thing is, society must learn to discriminate between pious and sinful activities. Human beings must engage in pious activities, not sinful activities. Otherwise, they have no brain. They are no better than animals. And from the moral point of view, do you like sending your mother to the slaughterhouse? You are drinking the milk of the cow—so she is your mother—and after that you are sending her to the slaughterhouse. That is why we ask. Where is society's brain?

Mr. Hennis: Of course, when we speak of the distinctions that are made between pious activities and sinful activities—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Today practically no one is making this distinction. We are making it, and we have introduced these ideas by establishing farm communities and protecting our cows. And our cows are winning awards for giving the most milk, because they are so jubilant. They know, "These people will not kill me." They know it, so they are very happy. Nor do we kill their calves. At other farms, soon after the cow gives birth to a calf, they pull her calf away for slaughter. You see? This means society has no brain. You may create hundreds of organizations, but society will never be happy. That is the verdict.

Mr. Hennis: Well, we can't be accused of engaging in sinful activities when we don't think what we are doing is sinful.

Śrīla Prabhupāda [Laughing]: Oh? You don't think you can be accused of breaking the state law—just because you don't know what the state law is? The point is, if your priestly class have no knowledge of what is sinful, they may instruct you, "Don't do anything sinful"—but what good is that? You must have a priestly class who know what is sinful, so that they can teach you. And then you must give up your sinful activities. When these young people came to me, I told them, "Flesh-eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxication—these things are sinful. You must give them up." If we do not give up these sinful activities, nature punishes us. So we must know the laws of nature, what nature wants. At the very least, nature wants that we human beings stop our sinful activities. If we do not, then we must be punished.

Mr. Hennis: We are just trying to give people a fair share of the material things of life: proper wages, decent homes, decent opportunities for leisure.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is all right, but people must know what is sinful and what is pious.

Mr. Hennis: Yes, but I don't think you can properly expect to indoctrinate people. At least, you can't expect an international organization to indoctrinate people.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: As an international organization for peace and well-being, the United Nations should maintain a class of men who can act as society's brain. Then everything will be all right. Simply legs and hands working without any direction, without any brain—that is not very good. The United Nations was organized for the total benefit of human society, but it has no department that can actually be called the brain organization.

Mr. Hennis: That's true. That's true. They are servants of the membership, servants of the various states of the world. We are only servants of these people. What we try to do is let them get together and help them understand their problems.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, help them understand. At the very least, help them understand what they should do and what they should not do. At least do this much.

Mr. Hennis: This we do try to do to the extent that it is possible for the secretariat to shape and evolve a philosophy. We try to do it. But of course, we can't adopt a completely radical approach. We do what we can, in the manner of a good servant and the manner of a good steward, to try and hope the leaders are on the right path and the right direction.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: If society does not know what is sinful and what is pious, it is all useless. If your body has no brain, then your body is dead. And if the social body has no brain, then it is dead.

Back to Simple Life and Simple Truth

In this conversation with some of his disciples Śrīla Prabhupāda says, "Modern, artificial 'necessities of life' may seem to increase your so-called comfort. But if you forget life's real aim, your so-called advancement of technology is suicidal." (June 1976, the Hare Kṛṣṇa farming village at New Vṛndaban, West Virginia)

Disciple: Śrīla Prabhupāda, once you said, "The tractor—this is the cause of all the trouble. It took all the young men's farm work. It forced them to go into the city and become entangled in sensuality." You said people had to leave the country and the simple life of goodness and God consciousness. And so they went to the city and got caught up in the anxious life, the mode of passion.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. In the city people must naturally fall into the mode of passion: constant anxiety due to needless lusting and striving. In the city we are surrounded by all sorts of artificial things for agitating our mind and senses. And naturally, when we have this facility we become lusty. We take to this passionate mode and become filled with anxiety.

Disciple: The country is more peaceful. It's easier to think of spiritual life.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. There is less disease. Everything is less brain-taxing. In the country the pangs of this material world are less. So you can arrange your life for real profit. Spiritual profit. Realize God; become Kṛṣṇa conscious. And if you have got a temple in your home or near your home, you have a very happy life. You work just a little—just for your food—in the spring a month and a half or so for planting, in the fall a month and a half for harvesting. And in your remaining time you become culturally enriched. You engage all your talents and energies for realizing God. Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is ideal life.

You see the minute fibers on this flower? No other manufacturing process in this world can do this—such small fibers. And how brilliant is the color! If you study only one flower, you will become God conscious.

There is a mechanism that we call "nature." And from it is coming everything we see around us. Now, how is it that this mechanism is so perfect? And who is it that has devised this mechanism?

Disciple: Once in London you said, "People do not know that flowers are painted. Kṛṇa paints them with thoughts."

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Most people think that by itself, unconnected with a painter, this flower has become beautiful. This is foolishness. "Nature has done it." Whose nature? Everything is being done by the natural mechanism of Kṛṣṇa. Parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate: [Cc. Madhya 13.65, purport] the Lord is orchestrating everything by His innumerable, inconceivable energies.

Anyway, learn to love this natural mode of life, life in a wide-open space. Produce your own grain. Produce your own milk. Save time. Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. Glorify the Lord's holy names. At life's end, go back to the spiritual world to live forever. Plain living, high thinking—ideal life.

Modern, artificial "necessities of life" may seem to increase your so-called comfort, but if you forget life's real aim, your so-called advancement of technology is suicidal. We want to stop this suicidal policy.

People today are extremely attached to this so-called advancement. Therefore when Lord Caitanya appeared five hundred years ago, He gave a simple formula: chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. Even in your technological factory, you can chant. You go on pushing and pulling with your machine, and chant, "Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa." You can devote yourself to God. What is the wrong there?

Disciple: The leaders know that once a person starts chanting God's names, in time he'll lose his taste for this anxious life of technology.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is natural.

Disciple: So the leaders know you are sowing the seeds of their destruction.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Where is the "destruction"? Rather, it is construction: devote yourself to God, and live forever. This is the proper path. Follow it. You will live forever.

By our method, tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti: [Bg. 4.9] after leaving your present material body, you don't get any more material bodies. You regain your spiritual body and go back to the spiritual world. And without this spiritual realization, tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ: [Bg. 2.13] when you leave your present material body, you'll have to accept another material body.

So consider the two methods of living. Which is better? The "advanced" method—accepting more material bodies, or our "old-fashioned" method—accepting no more material bodies. Which is better?

As soon as you accept a material body, you have to suffer: birth, old age, disease, death. The material body means suffering. Therefore, if we prepare so that on leaving this present body we undergo no more suffering, that is intelligent. But if we prepare to receive another material body for more suffering, is that intelligent? Unless you understand the Lord, unless you understand Kṛṣṇa, you'll have to stay in this material world and accept another body. There is no alternative.

Now our method. We understand, first, that na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre: [Bg. 2.20] when the body is finished, the soul goes on living. Unfortunately, many people have become so dull-brained that they cannot understand this simple truth.

Every day of their lives people see that a soul in an infant body is going to take on a childhood body, then a teenage body, next an adult body, and later an aged body. People see, with their own eyes, how the soul is transmigrating from one body to another body to still another body.

Nevertheless, with their dull brains they cannot understand that at death, when the aged body is finished, the soul goes on to yet another body, material or spiritual. But people cannot understand this. They are so dull-brained. They cannot make the simple distinction between the body and the soul. It will take five hundred years to teach them this simple truth—their education is so advanced.