Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers.
Discussions between Peace Corps
Worker Bob Cohen and His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Chapter Five -
you so much for allowing me to ask my questions.
That is my mission. People should understand the science of God. Unless
we cooperate with the Supreme Lord, our life is baffled. I have given the
example many times that a screw which has fallen from a machine has no
value. But when the same screw is again attached to the machine, it has
value. Similarly, we are part and parcel of God. So without God, what is
our value? No value! We should again come back to our position of attachment
to God. Then we have value.
Bob: I met
a fellow today who came in the afternoon. His reason for coming—you may
find it humorous—was that he heard the hippies were in Mäyäpur.
heard that hippies were in Mäyäpur. I was talking to him, and
then some devotees were talking to him. He had said some things to me which
I could find no answer for. And he said he would come back tomorrow and
meet some devotees. But let me tell you what he said. This is confusing.
When he was young—
Indian. He lives nearby and speaks English fairly well. When he was young
he worshiped Kälé [a popular demigoddess] every day very rigorously,
and then the floods came. When the floods came, the people saw hardship,
and now he has no religion, and he says he finds his happiness in trying
to develop love among people. And I couldn’t think of what to say to him
to add God and religion to his life. He says that after he dies, “maybe
I’ll become part of God, maybe not,” but he can’t worry about it now. He
says he’s tried these religious experiences, but they didn’t work. One
reason I ask this is because when I go back to America, a lot of people
I come across are like this. They see that religion, like his worship of
Kälé or other kinds of religion they’ve experienced, doesn’t
work. And I don’t know what to say to them to convince them it’s worth
Do not try at the present moment. You try to be convinced yourself.
I asked him to see devotees, but then on the way out, as he was leaving
down the road, I met him again and told him, “Come back,” but... Oh, I
You first of all be convinced. And then try to convince others. Caitanya
Mahäprabhu’s instruction is that you can improve the welfare of others
when your own life is a success:
haila manuñya-janma yära
janma särthaka kari’ kara
First make your life perfect. Then
try to teach others.
devotees have told me that without consciousness of Kåñëa
all the time, you cannot be happy. But at times I feel happy.
times. Not always.
But if you become Kåñëa conscious, you will feel happy
had implied that you cannot feel happy without Kåñëa
That is a fact. For example, if you are an animal of the land and you are
thrown into the water, you cannot be happy in water in any condition. When
you are again taken up a the land, then you’ll be happy. Similarly, we
are part and parcel of Kåñëa. We cannot be happy without
being part and parcel of Kåñëa. The same example: the
machine part, without the machine, has no value, but when it is again put
into the machine it has value. We are part of Kåñëa;
we must join Kåñëa. And you can join Kåñëa
immediately by your consciousness, simply by thinking, “I am Kåñëa’s,
Kåñëa is mine:’ That’s all.
is that? Kåñëa is...
Kåñëa is mine.
Yes. Mine. My Kåñëa.
Kåñëa is mine. Kåñëa is mine.
And I am Kåñëa’s. That is our actual position.
are part of Kåñëa.
Yes. Everything is part and parcel of Kåñëa. Because
everything is generated by the energy of Kåñëa and everything
is the energy of Kåñëa.
An Indian gentleman:
Çréla Prabhupäda, I have one question. What is the status
of service minus devotion?
Hm-m? That is not service, that is business. [Everyone laughs.] For example,
here in Mäyäpur we have employed a contractor. That is not service—that
is business. Is it not? Sometimes they will advertise, “Our customers are
our masters.” Is it not? But in spite of the flowery language—“Our customers
are our masters”—this is business, because nobody is a qualified customer
unless he pays. But service is not like that. Service—Caitanya Mahäprabhu
prays to Kåñëa:
yathä tathä vä
“You do whatever You like, but still
You are my worshipable Lord.” That is service. “I don’t ask any return
from You.” That is service. When you expect some return, that is business.
tu sa eva näparaù
Bob: I wish
to ask you to advise me on how I can come to feel closer to God. I’ll be
leaving you soon. And I’m—
You have to be purified.
Bob: I come
to the temple at times, and then I leave, and I’m not sure how much I take
It does not take much time. Within six months you will realize your progress.
But you have to follow the regulative principles. Then it will be all right.
Just like these boys and girls are doing.
They have no tendency for going to the cinema or going to a hotel. No.
They have stopped all anarthas, all unnecessary things.
feel that when I go back, they’ll—
The whole human life is meant for purification.
tapo divyaà putrakä
Sattva means existence. So if you
don’t purify your existence, then you will have to change your body. From
this body to that. Sometimes it may be higher, sometimes lower. For example,
if you don’t cure a disease, it can put you into trouble in so many ways.
Similarly. if you don’t purify your existence, then you will have to transmigrate
from one body to another. There are very subtle laws of nature. Now there
is no guarantee that you will get a very comfortable body or an American
body. Therefore, it is essential for the human being to purify his existence.
Unless you purify your existence, you will hanker after happiness but will
not always be happy.
çuddhyed yasmäd brahma-saukhyaà
I go to my job in New York, I hope I’ll become pure, but I’m sure that
I won’t become as pure as your devotees here. I—I don’t see myself doing
You can do as they are doing. They were not pure in the beginning; now
they are pure. Similarly. you can become pure. For example, in your childhood
you were not educated—but now you are educated.
what are the things that I may do? When I go back, I must—
do you go back?
be going back to Chaibasa to do my work there, and...
What is there in Chaibasa?
is where I do my teaching. I live there.
to see everyone happy. Sarve sukhino bhavantu. People do not know how to
become happy. They do not take the standard path to become happy. They
manufacture their own way. That is the difficulty. Therefore, Åñabhadeva
gave this advice to his sons: “My dear boys, just undergo austerity for
transcendental realization.” Everyone is performing austerity. This boy
I know—he had to go to a foreign country to learn commercial management.
Now he is well situated. In this way. everyone must undergo some austerity
for future life. So why not take that austerity for permanent happiness?
You have to purify your existence and your body. As many times as you accept
a material body, you will have to change it. But as soon as you get a spiritual
body, there is no question of change. You already have a spiritual body.
Now, due to our material contamination, we are developing the material
body. But if we associate with spiritual life, then we shall develop a
spiritual body. The same example I have several times given is that if
you put an iron rod within fire, it will become like fire. Is it not?
the iron rod into fire?
and it will become like fire.
Similarly, if you always keep yourself spiritually engaged, your body will
act spiritually, although it is material. The same example: when an iron
rod is red-hot, touch it anywhere, and it will burn. It takes on the quality
of fire. Similarly, if you always keep yourself in Kåñëa
consciousness, then you will become spiritualized. You will act spiritually.
No more material demands.
do I do this?
This process. They are doing it. You have seen these boys, our six boys
who have been initiated today. It is very simple. You have to follow the
four restrictive regulations and chant these beads. Very easy.
but, see—when I am back in Bihar and following my lifestyle there, I—if
I follow all these regulative principles—some I follow now, but not all—
“Some” means... ?
There are only four regulative principles. “Some” means three, or two?
So why not the other one?
no. I mean I follow one or two. One or two I follow now.
[Laughs.] Why not the other three? What is the difficulty? Which one do
one do I follow? Well, I’m almost vegetarian, but I eat eggs.
Then that is also not complete.
not even complete. Since last time [November], I’ve become vegetarian,
Vegetarian is no qualification.
The pigeon is vegetarian. The monkey is vegetarian—the most rubbish creature...
The monkey is vegetarian. This naked sannyäsé lives in the
forest... the most mischievous...
felt that it was a little bit of progress because it was somewhat difficult
at first, then easy, and I had returned to—
No, you can stick to all the regulative principles, provided you take to
the Kåñëa consciousness process—otherwise it is not possible.
this is it. I have—when I’m back in Bihar, and—um—my friends may say...
We’re sitting in the evening, and there’s nothing to do but fight mosquitoes,
and they say, “How about smoking some marijuana?” And I say, “Sure, there’s
nothing else to do;” and then I sit down, and I enjoy myself for the evening.
Now we did this, we got carried away. we were doing it every day and realizing
we were hurting ourselves and stopped, but still on occasion we...
You have to live with us. Then your friends will not ask you, “What about
marijuana?” [Bob laughs.] Keep the association of devotees. We are opening
centers to give people a chance to associate with us. Why have we taken
so much land [in Mäyäpur]? Those who are seriously desirous—they
will come and live with us. Association is very influential. If you associate
with drunkards, you become drunk; if you associate with sädhus, then
you become a sädhu.
can come and stay with you in Bombay.
you can stay with us in Bombay. But he wants friends with marijuana. That
is the difficulty.
me ask you about something else; then maybe I’ll come back to this. I find
that I think of myself too much, and this way I can’t think of God so much.
I think of myself in too many places. How can I forget about myself so
I can concentrate on other, more important things?
As they [the devotees] have done.
You are saying to me that my path—I think what you’re saying is that my
path to purity is to become a devotee.
Do you hesitate?
Is it very difficult to become a devotee?
myself—it is. I—I don’t feel so much the desire. First the devotees tell
me that they have given up material life. These four regulative principles,
they have explained to me, mean giving up material life, and that I see.
And in place of this they have...
What do you mean by material life? [Bob is silent] I am sitting on this
bed. Is it material or spiritual?
Then how have we given up material life?
Bob: I think
how I interpreted it was “a desire for our material gains...”
What is material?
towards material gains and not giving up all materials.
Material life means—when you desire to gratify your senses, that is material
life. And when you desire to serve God, that is spiritual life. That is
the difference between material life and spiritual life. Now we are trying
to serve our senses. But instead of serving the senses, when we serve God,
that is spiritual life. What is the difference between our activities and
others, activities? We are using everything—table, chair, bed, tape recorder,
typewriter—so what is the difference? The difference is that we are using
everything for Kåñëa.
devotees have said that the sensual pleasures they have given up are replaced
with spiritual kinds of pleasures, but—see—I haven’t felt this.
Spiritual pleasures come when you desire to please Kåñëa.
That is spiritual pleasure. For example, a mother is more pleased by feeding
her son. She’s not eating, but when she sees that her son is eating very
nicely, then she becomes pleased.
Spiritual pleasure, then, is pleasing God.
Spiritual pleasure means the pleasure of Kåñëa.
Yes. Material pleasure means the Pleasure of the senses. That’s all. This
is the difference. When you simply try to please Kåñëa,
that is spiritual pleasure.
Bob: I had
viewed this as—my thought of pleasing God was to—
Don’t manufacture your ways of Pleasing God. Don’t manufacture. Suppose
I want to please you. Then I shall ask you, “How can I serve you?” Not
that I manufacture some service. That is not pleasing. Suppose I want a
glass of water. If you concoct the idea, “Swäméjé will
be more pleased if I give him a glass of milk, hot milk,” that will not
please me. If you want to please me, then you should ask me, “How can I
Please you?” And if you do what I order, that will please me.
pleasing Kåñëa, then, is being a devotee of Kåñëa.
A devotee is one who is always pleasing Kåñëa. He has
no other business. That is a devotee.
you tell me some more about chanting Hare Kåñëa? I have
for quite some time chanted, but never regularly—just a little bit here
and there. I just got beads very recently, and once in a while I feel comfortable
chanting, and once in a while not comfortable at all. Maybe I don’t chant
Properly. I don’t know.
everything has a process. You have to adopt the process.
devotees tell me of the ecstasy they feel when chanting.
Yes, the more you become purified, the more you will feel ecstasy. This
chanting process is the purifying process.
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