Professor Jon Goldstein
Economics 221
December 9, 1997


by Noma Petroff (Hare Krsna dasi)

The Krsna consciousness movement or International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) seeks to create a social structure, at least within its own society, that will facilitate the development of spiritual life.  One important question discussed by the leaders of the society and all those interested in the topic of social development in ISKCON is to what degree the features of the modern capitalist world can be incorporated into a purified social structure, and what inherent shortcomings will make capitalism a less than ideal base for us to achieve our goals.

Marxian theory of capitalism addresses many points which are directly relevant to our discussion.  Therefore, I want to present that analysis in this paper.  However, given Marx's overt claims of atheism and materialism as opposed to Srila Prabhupada's dedication to personal devotional service to the Supreme Lord and his explicit mission to fight materialistic philosophy, the reader might conclude that Marx's orientation would disqualify his views from being considered by Vaisnavas (practicioners of Krsna consciousness) even before the discussion begins.  But that is not the case. For one thing, on several occasions Prabhupada expresses sympathy for the Marxian critique of modern religious institutions. (See appendix.)  But even more important than that, Vaisnava thinking is not so narrow as other schools of religious thought.  It can put to use wisdom extracted from any source, as evidenced by its popular aphorism: "Gather gold from a filthy place."

In other words, wisdom is valuable wherever it is found.  So, for Vaisnavas, the proof of the value of Marx's thought does not hinge on his personal beliefs, but on whether his analysis proves useful in assessing our situation.  We don't care whether our car mechanic is an atheist, nor do we care whether someone who provides us economic theory is an atheist.  Rather, even if they are atheist, according to Vaisnava philosophy, they can gain spiritual benefit by helping a spiritual cause, even unknowingly -- but that is beyond the point at hand.  It is enough to say that the test of Marxian theory in our situation lies in whether it has anything to offer in specific application to the values and goals of Krsna conscious society.  So, first we must analyze those goals and values, especially the ones which may be influenced by economic structure.


In most of the world's religions, a person's work is not expected to play an important part in his or her spiritual development.  In Krsna consciousness it is just the opposite.  According to the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, the fundamental text of Vaisnavism, work plays a central role in spiritual development.  In the text, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has taken the role of charioteer for the great warrior Arjuna, explains to Arjuna the importance of work as a means of progressing on the spiritual path.

The battle of Kuruksetra is for the purpose of deposing a tyrannical king, Duryodhana, who also happens to be Arjuna's cousin.  Arjuna wants to avoid the battle, in which he will have to fight his teachers and many relatives.  He proposes to Krsna that he quit the battle, renounce his position as warrior, and become a non-violent brahmana, and in that way gain spiritual enlightenment. Krsna rejects Arjuna's plan for spiritual advancement, warning that he will not make spiritual advancement by artificially becoming a renunciate, when such an occupation stands opposed to Arjuna's naturally passionate personality.

Through the remainder of the Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains a number of different paths for spiritual advancement.  Work has a central role in several paths.  A person may advance by practicing karma yoga, that is, doing his work and offering the fruits of his labor to Krsna.  This path will sound familiar to many because in most religions, the practicioner is encouraged to make spiritual advancement by giving in charity.

But, the second method of advancing by occupational work is that rather than simply offer the fruits of the work to God, the practitioner should do the work itself in a consciousness of devotion that he is doing that work for God. Krsna explains:

By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done.

By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work.
      -- Bhagavad-gita 18.45-46


Krsna describes four different occupational groups (varnas) in which individuals of different personality types (not births, as is mistakenly practiced in the modern Indian caste system) can make spiritual advancement.  The brahmanas are the priests and teachers of society; the ksatriyas, the soldiers and administrators; the vaisyas, the farmers and merchants; and the sudras, the laborers and craftspersons.  Not only will the individual be serving Krsna directly in his occupation, he will also be fulfilling obligations to the other social classes, thus creating a peaceful situation for others to advance in spiritual life.


When ISKCON's founder/acarya, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Srila Prabhupada brought the age old Vaisnava philosophy to the West, he eventually explained his desire to re-establish the varnasrama system, in order to create the best environment to make spiritual advancement -- for people of every inclination and character.  In his presentation of varnasrama, Srila Prabhupada, specifically emphasized scriptural references which promote a non-materialistic way of life.

According to Bhagavad-gita, material attachment diverts the individual from spiritual realization, and ultimately results in suffering:

While contemplating the objects of the senses, one develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down into the material pool.
     -- Bhagavad-gita 2.62-63

So sense attachment, or the materialistic way of life, becomes an obstacle to spiritual happiness.  What is the solution?  Should one simply renounce every kind of sense gratification?  Krsna dismisses the possibility of success by mere renunciation, saying it is not possible because eventually people will act according to their own nature anyway:

Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes. What will repression accomplish?
     -- Bhagavad-gita 3.33

The only way a person can effectively give up material pleasures is if he or she derives pleasure of a higher nature. As Krsna states "param drstva nivartate." In order to give up material pleasures, one must be obtaining higher satisfaction from spiritual pleasures, otherwise, he is sure to fall down eventually.

The point of this discussion is Srila Prabhupada's emphasis on simple living to provide a suitable environment for high thinking, that is to say, spiritual advancement(1). According to Srila Prabhupada, varnasrama would provide this environment.

Avoiding a Society Based on Machines and Horrible Labor

Another important aspect of varnasrama is to organize society so as to reduce the need for "ugra karma" or difficult labor.  The horrible tasks of industrialism tend to diminish the chance for spiritual advancement.

The machine culture associated with capitalist industrial development is obviously a haven of ugra karma.  However, with regard to machines, the varnasrama model presented by Srila Prabhupada is not opposed to machines in and of themselves(2), but only opposes them to the extent that they represent miserable labor performed and to the extent that they contribute to unemployment (-- both of humans and oxen, because the practical fact is that unemployed bull calves usually end up on somebody's dinner table).  Thus, there still remains a role for ingenious small-scale technology that will lighten the worker's burden, without causing unemployment or dependence on massive, hellish factory labor.

Localized Economics and Self-Sufficiency

Related to avoidance of large-scale centralized industrial culture is Prabhupada's promotion of localized economics and self-sufficiency.  Varnasrama, as Prabhupada presents it, is a subsistence rather than a commercial socio-economic system.  Naturally, there are markets, but those markets are essentially geared to the surplus production which arises beyond subsistence needs -- especially in the case of agriculture.

All in all, according to Srila Prabhupada, the ideal society for spiritual advancement is based on rural self-sufficiency.  This promotes simple living and also minimizes the political and economic anxieties which come from depending on goods and resources imported from abroad.

Subsistence and Barter

As noted, Prabhupada explains that production in a varnasrama society is geared toward self-sufficiency or subsistence, not toward the market.  In other words, most of the production that takes place in society is for direct use, not for exchange value, that is to say commercial value or commodification.  Furthermore, if there is surplus, the ideal standard of exchange is barter, followed by using grain as money (3).  That is followed by using gold as currency.  The idea of using paper currency or even more nebulous forms of money is condemmed as promoting inflation and speculation, thus detracting from peaceful, non-materialistic life.

Full Employment

Related to the goal of creating a peaceful society and avoiding large scale industry is full employment. (When the term "full employment" is used in the varnasrama sense, it means "full engagement" because most work is self-sufficient engagement, not for wages.) By varnasrama standards, a leader's first duty in protecting his citizens (abhiraksana) is to make sure they are properly trained and engaged in earning their livelihood(4). Certainly, if to serve the Lord by one's occupational duty is the ultimate goal of life, as Prabhupada states in his purports to the Srimad Bhagavatam(5), then everyone must have the opportunity to work.  "You have a right to perform your duty," declares Krsna (B.g. 2.47).  And in varnasrama, even full employment is not sufficient.  People must be employed in work which is compatible with their individual natures. Successful social organization does not mean everyone is employed working at a fast-food outlet. People will not be satisfied unless they are trained to do work which is in keeping with their nature.

Happiness from Work

In opposition to promoting urga karma or horrible work, according to varnasrama standards society should be arranged so that work is satisfying.  Doing work as a sacrificial offering to God is called bhakti yoga or devotional service. In bhakti yoga, work is joyfully done because the worker is obtaining spiritual pleasure. The Srimad Bhagavatam states that any work which does not attract the worker to the message of the Lord is simply a waste of time(6).

Increasing the Proportion of Independent Citizens in Society

Prabhupada criticizes modern society because it relegates practically all of the population to the role of dependent laborers, sudras.  According to Prabhupada's definition, anyone who depends on a wage or salary from someone else -- even a congressman or a teacher -- can be considered a sudra, because he has lost his independence.  In varnasrama, teachers and priests do not depend on any fixed salary.  They receive only what others give them in charity.  Since they are practiced in austerity, they will speak the truth even if people stop giving donations.

Warriors and leaders don't depend on a fixed salary either, their income is linked to taxes which are a percentage of the production of the vaisyas and sudras.  If productivity suffers because of their incompetence as social organizers, their income quickly drops.  Farmers are also independent.  Since they are farming for subsistence, they do not depend on a market for their survival.  Consequently they do not depend on government intervention to gain access to markets nor to subsidize shipping for their products.  Because varnasrama society is agrarian, a much smaller percentage of society is engaged as dependent laborers, sudras.

But even these sudras are independent to a greater degree than modern laborers.  Because of localized economics and small scale technology, the worker actually has a much greater control over the production process, and can obtain more satisfaction from a job well-done than in the capitalist production process which relies heavily on division of labor into simplistic, boring, repetitive jobs.

And laborers must be fairly treated and well provided for. According to Srila Prabhupada varnasrama should provide a peaceful social environment, so that spiritual advancement can take place without unnecessary disturbance.  Whereas some philosophies aim to reduce social tensions by creating just one class, basing his arguments on the Bhagavad-gita, Prabhupada maintains that classes will always continue to manifest in one way or another in spite of efforts to do away with them.  Instead of attempting to artificially abolish them, the solution lies in purifying class structure, giving each class not only privileges, but more importantly, responsibilities to all of the other classes.  So social harmony is another goal of varnasrama.

Make Everyone Happy

One motto of varnasrama is "sarve sukhino bhavantu" meaning literally "make everyone happy."  Again, this underscores the idea that social structure should not be founded on unfair relations between the classes.  Prabhupada specifically noted that laborers should not be exploited, that all their needs should be taken care of so they would remain be satisfied and remain loyal to those they worked for(7).

Land Tenure

In addition to the degree of machine use, another factor which affects full employment or full engagement is land tenure.  According to Srila Prabhupada's presentation of varnasrama, land is not privately owned, nor is it communally owned.  It is owned by the ksatriya ruler and alloted to each family for production(8).

Time for Sadhana Bhakti

Sadhana bhakti means formal spiritual practices. Although full employment is necessary, one aspect of varnasrama is that workers should not have to work too many hours per day. Prabhupada's motto was, "Save time, chant Hare Krsna."  Considering that the spiritual practice of singing, dancing, Bhagavad-gita class and japa meditation at a Hare Krsna temple occupies three or four hours a day, and more on festival days, working hours should be few enough to accomodate a fully developed spiritual program.

Cow Protection

Another feature of varnasrama is cow protection.  Krsna appears as a transcendental cowherd boy, frolicking with His cowherd boy friends and taking care of the cows and calves of Vrndavana.  Since Krsna loves the cows, cows are considered sacred and must always be protected.  In practice, cow protection implies a rural lifestyle with adequate pastures for the cows. Cow protection also implies that the bulls must be engaged as oxen to till the fields and transport crops and goods from place to place.  To depend on the ox as the main means of transportation automatically supports localized economy and self-sufficiency, since the economy of oxen for local transport is superior to petroleum based transport, and the economy of oxen for long distance transport is inferior to petroleum based transport.

Protection of Women and Children

Another feature of varnasrama is protection of women and children. Women and children are protected so that they can fulfill their productive roll in society.  Children need to have a happy, healthy life so they can be trained in spiritual values and how to become satisfied by engaging in their occupation.  Women need to be protected so they can actually take care of the other members of society, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Of course, modern social values are different from this, but these are values of a varnasrama society, and values which we will see are affected by the capitalist social system.

Regulative Principles, Including Prohibition on Speculation

In addition to these, principles of Krsna consciousness forbid four things: meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication and gambling or speculation.  These activities are considered to be non-productive and injurious to spiritual advancement.


Marx's critical theory of capitalism reveals numerous contradictions between capitalism and the values and goals of Krsna consciousness, especially the establishment of varnasrama.  Even for one who has not studied Marx, the most obvious contradiction between capitalism and varnasrama is that the underlying goal of capitalist development is to make profits for the purpose of increasing the standard of living for the capitalist, that is increasing material sense gratification.  Obviously this is a contradiction to the varnasrama standard of reducing the level of sense gratification and increasing the level of spiritual pleasure.

But Marxian analysis reveals many additional, often subtle, contradictions between capitalism and varnasrama.


Class is the starting point for Marxian analysis: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."  It is interesting to compare this view to Srila Prabhupada's experience in trying to spread Krsna consciousness.  Could that consciousness -- spiritual consciousness -- be established and maintained in the mind of a person who lived in a materialistic society?  Prabhupada concluded that although in some cases it might be possible, in the majority of cases it was not possible to effectively change consciousness without creating a different social structure (varnasrama), as evidenced by the following statement:

Room Conversation     Mayapur, February 14, 1977           770214R2.MAY

 Now we are picking up some of them, best. That is another thing. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu said para-upakara. Why a certain section should be picked up? The whole mass of people will get the benefit of it. Then it is required, systematic. Sve sve karmany abhiratah samsiddhim labhate narah [B.g. 18:45]. Para-upakara means mass benefit, not there is certain section. Then we have to introduce this varnasrama-dharma.

Later in the same conversation, Prabhupada goes on to observe that many devotees come into ISKCON and take initiation, but because of lack of the correct social structure, they are unable to maintain their vows, and they eventually leave the society.  A supportive social organization (varnasrama) must be instituted to facilitate the development and maintenance of their spiritual consciousness.

But according to Marx the capitalist social structure does not lead to social harmony.  Rather, the two classes, capitalists and workers, are pitted against each other in never-ending struggle. Consider this passage from the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engles and their critique of the society evolved by the capitalist bourgeoisie class:
Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.  All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.  All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned... (Tucker p. 476)

According to Marx, class is the entry point into considerations of the social process.  To neglect class analysis leads to social policies which don't fundamentally change society in a positive way. Varnasrama, with its four occupational classes, also focuses on class as a basic consideration of social analysis.


Marx designates surplus labor as a condition of existence for a developed society.  If society only produces enough labor to meet its barest needs of existence (necessary labor), it will not be possible for that society to progress to the developed stage.  Therefore, in addition to necessary labor for subsistence, all developed societies produce some surplus labor.  This surplus labor is then somehow transferred to the rest of society, thus enabling its development.

How is the Surplus Transferred?

The question: How is the surplus transferred? is answered by the form of class relations take in a particular society.  A capitalist society has basically two classes (and several subsumed classes), capitalists and laborers.  According to neoclassical economic theory, the laborer accepts payment for an amount which is equal to the value for his labor.  But Marx does not accept this idea.  Because, how can it be that the capitalist pays, say $100 for use of a machine, $100 for materials (Marx considers both the machine and the raw materials as "embodied labor," since their value comes from the labor needed to produce them) and $100 for labor (or as Marx terms it "living labor"), and yet still sell the product of this combination for $350, realizing a profit of $50? According to Marx, the $50 is the surplus value of labor which the laborer has not been paid for.

Capitalist Distribution, Socialist Distribution

Under a capitalist system, the capitalist appropriates this surplus labor and uses it for his own capitalist consumption, subsumed class payments, and the crucial factor of capital accumulation.  (Subsumed class payments might include taxes paid to the government for military and welfare expense, charity to churches, and other expenses not directly related to the production process.) The essence of capitalism requires that one person produces the surplus labor and another person appropriates the product of that surplus labor and determines how it is distributed.  This is where capitalist exploitation of labor comes into play.  In our example, the capitalist is paying the laborer for only $100 worth of labor, but he is taking $150 worth of labor.   Under a socialist system, there is also surplus labor, but laborers have an influence on how the surplus is distributed.

Ancient Mode of Production

In addition to capitalist and socialist methods of production, Marxians describe another mode of production, in which there is no division between capitalist and worker as such.  That mode of production is referred to as the "ancient mode of production."  A person who is self-employed, or self-engaged produces a product, and he or she decides how to distribute the surplus labor (the part of the labor beyond what is needed to support subsistence). In this social arrangement there can be no question of exploitation of laborer by capitalist since there is only one person involved.  For example, a self-employed software producer would be considered to be working under the ancient mode of production.  He produces the software, and he also determines how the surplus labor beyond what is required for his subsistence should be distributed.

Interestingly, the ancient mode of production, sounds very much like the mode of production engaged in by the independent subsistence farmer of the varnasrama model.  Since a high portion of the population is engaged in such agriculture, the possibility for capitalist exploitation in society is automatically diminished.

Contested Exchange

Marx points out that under capitalism, the capitalist does not pay the hourly wage earner for his labor, but rather for his labor power.  He may be paying the laborer $5 per hour, but if the laborer finds a way to evade or reduce his work, the capitalist will not get the full $5 of value out of the laborer.  This results in a contested exchange between capitalist and laborer.


Thus there is perpetual struggle between the capitalist and the worker.  On one hand, the capitalist appropriates surplus labor that he has not paid for, and on the other hand the laborer struggles to reduce his work as much as possible.

Prabhupada viewed both capitalism and modern communism as systems which exploit the worker:

Room Conversation       Bombay, January 4, 1977

Industry means to exploit the work of others and give them one dollar and make profit ten dollars.  This is industry, at the cost of others some capitalist gaining huge profit. This is industry. "And let them live in a hellish condition, go to hell. Never mind. You work in the factory, and we make profit." The Communist is trying to take over the industry and get the whole profit. (laughs) That's all. The condition remains the same--hellish.


When the capitalist appropriates the surplus labor produced by the worker, he distributes it to three places: his own consumption (called constant capital); subsumed class payments (taxes, charities, etc.); and accumulation of capital.  Accumulation of capital is a condition of existence of capitalism.  Unless there is progressive accumulation of capital, the process is not capitalism, or the capitalist will soon be out of business, as we will see.  Thus Marx's famous quip depicting the motto of the capitalist, "Accumulate, accumulate, accumulate -- is Moses and the profits!"

Marx describes two phases of capital accumulation.  The first phase, called the Production of Absolute Surplus Value (PAS) or the widening of capital achieves capital accumulation by using existing technology.  The second phase, called the Production of Relative Surplus Value (PRS) or the deepening of capital achieves capital accumulation by using technological change.  It is worth considering how each of these would affect attempts to establish a social structure conducive to spiritual advancement.

Marx gives a detailed description of the Production of Absolute Surplus Value in chapters 9-11 of Capital. This phase of capital accumulation depends on lengthening the working day.  If a worker in a shirt factory requires the value of one shirt to feed, house and clothe him for one day, then all the labor he uses to create that one shirt is necessary labor that must be paid to him for his subsistence.  The capitalist will have no surplus labor to appropriate until the worker makes another shirt or part of a shirt.  Therefore, all other things being equal, it is in the interest of the capitalist for the worker to work as long as possible, so that he can produce as much as possible in one day.

In chapter 9 (p. 333), Marx presents a lecture (1837) given by an Oxford economics professor, Nassau W. Senior, who was engaged by the Manchester manufacturers to make a case against the act to limit the working day to ten hours per worker:
Under the present law, no mill in which persons under 18 years of age are employed...can be worked more than 11 1/2 hours a day, that is 12 hours for 5 days a week, and 9 on Saturday.  Now the following analysis (!) will show that in a mill so worked, the whole net profit is derived from the last hour.

Senior goes on to build a detailed case as to why factories must be allowed to require their workers to work for 11 1/2 hours a day or they will face bankruptcy.  Of course Senior's argument was somewhat exaggerated, but manufacturers were well aware that it was in their interest to have workers engaged as long as possible in each day.  Certainly, the more hours a laborer is employed per day, the less per hour he can be paid and still meet his subsistence costs.

The reader may think that thanks to modern labor laws, long work days are no longer a problem to worrry about, that the incredible hours of the 19th century cloth manufacturer are a thing of the past.  But for one thing, not every country has such labor laws.  And secondly, due to declining real wages, even in a developed country like the U.S. individuals may clock many hours a day because they need to work two or even three different jobs to make a living, especially if they have children to support.

Julie Schor's book, appropriately titled The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (New York: Basic Books 1991) provides extensive documentation to show that the average American today works longer hours than an average American forty years ago.  According to her calculations comparing 1969 and 1989 statistics, "...The average employed person is now on the job an additional 163 hours, or the equivalent of an extra month a year." (p. 29)

Prabhupada would not have been surprised by Schor's findings.  More than a decade before her research, based on his extensive travels, he had already concluded that the highly-tauted "leisure time" of the developed nations was simply a myth:

Train Conversation      India, January 11, 1977.,  770111TT.IDA      Conversation on Train to Allahabad

Prabhupada: Where is leisure time? You rise early in the morning and start for your office. Where is your leisure time? All imagination. I have seen in New York. They are coming from the other parts, starting early in the morning, two hours in the ferry and two hours in the cars, and standing two hours. What is this? Leaders, rich men, can think like that, that "I have leisure," but a worker, lower class, they have no freedom. That is illusion, and we are trying to give freedom to everyone. That is freedom. You are forced to go to the factory and work there in a hellish condition of life. Is that freedom?

Prabhupada objected to the fact that modern society forced the worker to spend so many hours just struggling for survival, that there was practically no time left over for spiritual practice.  In a simple agrarian varnasrama community, society should be structured so that the worker works no more than eight hours per day:

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 7: Chapter Fourteen, Text 3-4         :PURPORT

The human form of life is meant for liberation, but unfortunately, due to the influence of Kali-yuga, every day the grhasthas are working hard like asses. Early in the morning they rise and travel even a hundred miles away to earn bread. Especially in the Western countries, I have seen that people awaken at five o'clock to go to offices and factories to earn their livelihood. People in Calcutta and Bombay also do this every day. They work very hard in the office or factory, and again they spend three or four hours in transportation returning home. Then they retire at ten o'clock and again rise early in the morning to go to their offices and factories. This kind of hard labor is described in the sastras as the life of pigs and stool-eaters.

Nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye: "Of all living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool." (SB. 5.5.1) One must find some time for hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. This is Vedic culture. One should work eight hours at the most to earn his livelihood, and either in the afternoon or in the evening a householder should associate with devotees to hear about the incarnations of Krsna and His activities and thus be gradually liberated from the clutches of maya.

Morning Walk            Honolulu, June 18, 1975            750618MW.HON

Prabhupada: ...their own food, it takes working eight hours for three months. So three months, if they work hard--hard means eight hours, not more than--then the whole year's provision is there.
Siddha-svarupa: Yes. Simply they have to harvest, time, maybe two hours a day. Farming or being in the countryside also seems to be, in itself working in the countryside rather than in a factory, seems to be more conducive for thinking, even while they're working.

Prabhupada: No, it is a fact. This factory working is most demonic. It is not required at all. For the interest of a few persons this device has been invented.

Now, the objection may be raised that "simple living" will take even more hours of work than what we spend now -- just think of how hard people had to work in ancient and medieval times!  Schor disagrees (p. 6):
To understand why forty years of increasing productivity have failed to liberate us from work, I found that I had to abandon a naïve faith in technological potential and analyze the social, economic, and political context in which technology is put to use.  Only then was I able to see that the experts' vision of our economic system is both analytically mistaken, in ignoring powerful economic incentives to maintain long working hours, and historically inadequate, owing to a selective reading of the past.

Later she elaborates:

...The claim that capitalism has delivered us from excessive toil can be sustained only if we take as our point of comparison eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe and America -- a period that witnessed what were probably the longest and most arduous work schedules in the history of mankind.  If we set our sights back a bit farther chronologically, as I do in chapter 3, the comparison underlying the conventional wisdom fails to hold up.

She then goes on to describe dozens and dozens of holidays of ancient and medieval periods and concludes that while the work may not have been easy, the lives of the people were certainly leisurely.  According to Prabhupada's vision under varnasrama there should be enough time for various activities of "spiritual recreation" -- to re-create a person before or after a day of strenuous work.  And the person should not be too battered by the working process to enjoy participating in such activity.  But according to Marxian analysis, the capitalist structure of productivity directly discourages such spiritual activity, because for many people there is simply no time or energy left for it.


As noted earlier, the standard of varnasrama is that the majority of the citizens of society should be economically independent with many engaged as self-sufficient farmers, but capitalism transforms a great portion of the society from farmers to dependent laborers.  In England, due to the capitalistic enterprises of the landowners, who wiped the farmers off their land (during the enclosure movement) so they could use the land for commercial wool production, most people had to become industrial workers.  As Marx states, "Economic conditions first transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers." (Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, [Tucker p. 218])

An important aspect of the Production of Absolute Surplus Value is that not only does it require workers to work longer hours, it also requires more workers.  If a capitalist gains $10 of surplus labor from one worker in a day, he will gain $200 of surplus labor from 20 workers in a day, all other things being equal. Thus there arises a "boundless thirst for surplus labor" as Marx terms it (Capital p. 345), and he attributes this increased thirst for labor to the fact that the economy has shifted from production for use (subsistence) to production for exchange (commercial).  He further notes the dangers of a gold-based economy compared to a barter-based economy:

...In antiquity over-work becomes frightful only when the aim is to obtain exchange value in its independent monetary shape, i.e. in the production of gold and silver. The recognized form of overwork here is forced labour until death. One only needs to read of Diodorus Siculus. Nevertheless, these are exceptions in antiquity.


If a culture is established which needs ever increasing numbers of laborers, where will it find them once the supply of small farmers is exhausted?  From the population of women and children -- in fact women and children were sent to the factories even before all the small farmers were wiped off their lands.  They were engaged in factory work from the beginning. Certainly the Industrial Revolution would not have been possible had it not been able to fuel itself on their bodies.  Again, we have the illusion that use of child labor to produce the things we need has declined, but that is often because so many of the things we use in our daily lives are manufactured by capitalist schemes in other countries where children are extensively employed in the production process.

With regard to women, there is no illusion about their participation in the workforce.  Today, most women are employed in the formal economy.  Some, who are at the top of the career ladder find satisfaction in their work.  But many who are employed at the bottom rungs of the ladder would prefer to stay home to provide the level of quality care they want their families to have. Schor describes the special social burden placed on women in a capitalist society, in which they are expected to fill three roles: wage earner, principle child care agent, and housekeeper/cook.  Not surprisingly these jobs are often in conflict with each other.  The families suffer and the women suffer from overwork and stress.  Housekeeping deteriorates depressingly; home cooked meals are replaced with less nutritious, more expensive commercially prepared dishes; husbands and wives working different shifts lose touch with each other and sometimes divorce -- but the most painful aspect for many women in capitalist countries is their feeling that purchased child care can never replace the loving nurturing attention they would give their children if they had the chance to stay home and take care of them:

"Children of Working Poor Are Day Care's Forgotten" Sara Rimer's front page New York Times article (25 Nov 1997) illustrates the problem:

At 5 the other morning, Marlene Garrett had her 11-month-old baby in her arms and was guiding her other two sleep-dazed children, ages 3 and 4, through the darkness to the baby sitter's.

"Mama has to go to work so she can buy you shoes," Mrs. Garrett told them.  She had just that day moved up the economic ladder, from a job selling sneakers for $5.25 an hour to a job behind the counter at a bagel cafe for $6 an hour.  Her shift started at 6, and she did not want to be late.

Seven blocks on foot, and then she was hugging her children and handing them over to Vivienne, a Bahamian woman who works nights at the self-service laundry where Mrs. Garrett does her wash.

Vivienne's small apartment was clean but sparsely furnished.  There were no toys or books in sight, just a television that the children spent most of the next 10 hours watching.  For this, Mrs. Garrett scrapes together $50 a week -- a little less than half the cost for just one child in most licensed day care centers here.  Mrs. Garrett hurried down the stairs and set off for work, three miles away.  The family car died a month ago.

"It breaks my heart, leaving them there," said Mrs. Garrett, who arrived in Florida from Jamaica in 1989. "I want them in a learning environment. This is the best I can do right now.  It's an emergency situation."

The experts agree: for Mrs. Garrett and tens of thousands of other low-income working parents nationwide, child care is a perpetual emergency...

According to Rimer, the lives of women like Mrs. Garrett are ruled by hard economic facts.  "If my finances permitted, I'd love to stay home," said Mrs. Garrett, whose husband, Rod, works in a factory making hospital curtains. "Who's a better caretaker than Mom?"

But staying home is not an option.  Her husband takes home about $250 a week. Her own $200 a week helps put food on the table and pay the $400 monthly rent.  Mrs. Garrett, who keeps a folder with her expenses neatly itemized, says she owes nearly $5,000 in medical bills.  The family does not have health insurance.

Certainly capitalism's voracious appetite for commercial labor is not compatible with varnasrama values which protect women and children.


Production of Absolute Surplus Value is only the first phase of capitalist development.  The second phase of capitalist development is the deepening of capital, or Production of Relative Surplus Value (PRS).  Both phases may be manifest in the same economy simultaneously because different firms may be at different stages in their progressive capitalistic development.

PRS is a result of phase-one capitalism or PAS.  Due to its voracious appetite for labor, capitalist enterprise gradually drives up the hourly wage of workers.  As workers' wages increase, the capitalist has less and less surplus labor product to appropriate.  Since this surplus labor is the source of the capital which is the life blood of the enterprise, something must be done to increase the surplus.  The firm adopts PRS.
In chapters 12-15 of Capital, Marx breaks down the Production of Relative Surplus Value into three possible aspects:  1) Co-operation; 2) Division of Labor; and 3) Machinery and Large-Scale Industry.  Not surprisingly, these are some of the most grisly chapters of Capital because they include descriptions of the horrendous working conditions of the men, women and children who worked alongside the machines.  One particularly cruel irony of capitalism is that on one hand workers are so often forced to work in hellish working conditions so that the capitalist doesn't have to waste money creating a safe or healthy working environment, but on the other hand the use of machines and large-scale industry causes the unemployment of masses of workers as the stages of capital accumulation progress.

Neither Marx nor Prabhupada is in favor of the cruel treatment of the workers on one hand or job uncertainty and unemployment caused by machines on the other.  In Prabhupada's case, he finds these factors detrimental to spiritual progress:

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 3: Chapter Nine, Text 10             :TRANSLATION

Most [people] engage during the daytime in hard physical labor; their senses are engaged very extensively in troublesome duties in the gigantic plants of heavy industrial enterprise. The owners of such factories are engaged in finding a market for their industrial products, and the laborers are engaged in extensive production involving huge mechanical arrangements. "Factory" is another name for hell. At night, hellishly engaged persons take advantage of wine and women to satisfy their tired senses, but they are not even able to have sound sleep because their various mental speculative plans constantly interrupt their sleep. Because they suffer from insomnia sometimes they feel sleepy in the morning for lack of sufficient rest.

Room Conversation       Vrindaban, May 27, 1977            770527RC.VRN

Yasomatinandana: Another, Home Minister, also is saying these same things, discourage the factories and industrialization...

Prabhupada: This is ruination. Factory means ruination. Factory means destruction. And agriculture means construction. The father is going to the factory, and the children are starving--destruction. Go on reading.

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 1: Chapter Ten, Text 5                  :PURPORT

The artificial way of living depending on factories and tools can render so-called happiness only to a limited number at the cost of millions. Since the energy of the mass of people is engaged in factory production, the natural products are being hampered, and for this the mass is unhappy. Without being educated properly, the mass of people are following in the footsteps of the vested interests by exploiting natural reserves, and therefore there is acute competition between individual and individual and nation and nation.

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 1: Chapter Nine, Text 26                 :PURPORT

The productive energy of the laborer is misused when he is occupied by industrial enterprises. Industry of various types cannot produce the essential needs of man, namely rice, wheat, grains, milk, fruits and vegetables. The production of machines and machine tools increases the artificial living fashion of a class of vested interests and keeps thousands of men in starvation and unrest. This should not be the standard of civilization.


In chapter 25, "The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation," Marx exposes what he calls a "Reserve Army of the Unemployed" to be a necessary condition of existence for the perpetuation of the capitalist mode of production.  Those who have studied neoclassical economics are familiar with the "Phillips Curve" which counterbalances percentage of employed to rate of inflation.  The higher the rate of employment, the higher the rate of inflation.  The higher the rate of unemployment, the lower the rate of inflation.

According to neoclassical definition if 6 percent (it varies slightly) of the population is unemployed, that should be considered "full employment" because any less unemployment will cause inflation.  In the 1980s the U.S. Federal Reserve Board under Paul Volcker actually applied this knowledge and adopted a tight monetary policy pushing up interest rates.  The Fed knew this would result in increased unemployment, but decided that putting thousands of people out of work was the necessary price to pay in order to control inflation.

Marx points out that capitalism cannot survive without this reserve army of the unemployed.  If unemployed workers are plentiful, the capitalist can protect his profits by keeping wages low, knowing that if workers quit, he can easily replace them.  But if there are few unemployed workers, the capitalist must increase his wages to maintain the workers he has, because they can easily get a job at another firm.  Increasing wages would mean lower surplus value for the capitalist, and that would mean a profit squeeze for the capitalist.

By increasing their use of mechanization, the capitalists help achieve the goal of increased unemployment which is necessary to keep wages low.  Marx explains this in detail (p. 781) using the term "constant capital" to denote machinery and raw materials (embodied labor) and "variable capital" to denote living labor by the workers employed by a firm:

With the progress of accumulation, therefore,  the proportion of constant to variable capital changes.  If it was originally say 1:1, it now becomes successively 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 7:1, etc., so that as the capital grows, instead of 1/2 its total value, only 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/8, etc. is turned into labour power, and, on the other hand 2/3, 3, 4/5, 56, 7/8, into means of production.  Since the demand for labour is determined not by the extent of total capital but by its variable constituent alone, that demand falls progressively with the growth of capital, instead of rising in proportion to it, as was previously assumed.  It falls relatively to the magnitude of the total capital, and at an accelerated rate, as this magnitude increases.  With the growth of the total capital, its variable constituent, the labour incorporated in it does admittedly increase, but in a constantly diminishing proportion.

...In fact it is capitalist accumulation itself that constantly produces and produces indeed in direct relation with its own energy and extent, a relatively redundant working population, i.e. a population which is superfluous to capital's average requirements for its own valorization, and is therefore a surplus population.

...A surplus population of workers is a necessary product of accumulation or of the development of wealth...It forms a disposable industrial reserve army.

Marx goes on to cite Richard Jones, (An Introductory Lecture on Political Economy, London, 1833, p. 12), "The amount of capital devoted to the maintenance of labour may vary, independently of any changes in the whole amount of capital...Great fluctuations in the amount of employment, and great suffering may become more frequent as capital itself becomes more plentiful."

Prabhupada echoes the views of Marx and Jones in his views that mechanization is related to unemployment, and unemployment is related to social chaos and suffering:

Bhagavad-gita 2.32 Lecture

    London, September 2, 1973

Secular state means the state must be very vigilant whether everyone is doing his duty, everyone is employed in his duty and if everyone is not employed it is the duty of the government to see.
He must be employed. A brahmana is employed, a ksatriya is employed, a vaisya is employed. Otherwise, if they are unemployed, idle brain, then idle brain will be devil's workshop. That is happening. Because everyone is not employed, they have discovered machine and the machine is working hundred men's work. So actually, a hundred men are unemployed. So the machine has not improved the situation. It has improved the pocket of the capitalist. But it has not improved the condition of the mass of people. No. They are unemployed

                      Mayapura, February 12, 1976

Prabhupada: So why they're inventing machine? Machine means no work.
Hrdayananda: They think this is progress, everyone can lie down and the machines will work.
Prabhupada: Yes, machine, inventing machine means one machine can work for fifty men. The banks are using this, what is that, computer?
Hrdayananda: Yes, everyone is using computers.
Prabhupada: To save money. Machine means unemployment for many. Tractor, they're using, they're unemployment for bulls and plowmen and then they, bulls have to be killed. This is going on. Unemployment, then kill them. Vietnam, send all the men to fight and kill them. As soon as there is overpopulation, they declare war so that people may be killed.

Morning Walk           Vrindaban, March 12, 1974           740312MW.VRN

Prabhupada: A child does not want to go to school, but it is the duty of the parent to send him to the school by some way or other. So that is government's duty, that a man should be employed according to his capacity. There should be no unemployment. That is very dangerous position of the society. Now this unemployment question is very strong all over the world.

To summarize, capitalism means hellish working conditions, large-scale industry and machinery.  It also means the anxiety of job uncertainty and unemployment.  All these factors oppose the varnasrama principles, which oppose ugra karma, hellish labor, and see full employment as a social necessity.


Marx explains that as mechanization increases, profit rates decrease because the rate of variable capital ("living labor") which includes the necessary and surplus rate.  It is only by appropriating the surplus labor of the worker that profits are to be obtained, and when the total workforce is reduced by mechanization, the source of profits is accordingly reduced.  The falling rate of profits forces the capitalist into a dangerous situation.  If he does not find a way to increase his profits, his business will be forced to close.

One way to increase profits, at least in the short run, is to be the leader in technical improvements in his sector.  This will reduce production costs and if he charges only slightly less than his competitors, he will be able to steal their market share and achieve super profits -- at least until they adopt the same technology.

All that is required is investment in the innovative equipment -- and luck.  Thus, the desperate situation of capitalism leads to risky borrowing for speculative business investments, which may not pan out if not enough buyers can be found to realize the profits from the increased production.  Prabhupada criticizes such investments as opposed to spiritual values:

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 1: Chapter Seventeen, Text 38              :PURPORT

     Gambling of all description, even speculative business enterprise, is considered to be degrading, and when gambling is encouraged in the state, there is a complete disappearance of truthfulness.

Prabhupada also decries the way in which capitalist speculators take advantage of poor agricultural workers:

Light of the Bhagavat:
A picturesque scene of green paddy fields enlivens the heart of the poor agriculturalist, but it brings gloom to the face of the capitalist who lives by exploiting the poor farmers.

     With good rains, the farmer's business in agriculture flourishes. Agriculture is the noblest profession. It makes society happy, wealthy, healthy, honest, and spiritually advanced for a better life after death. The vaisya community, or the mercantile class of men, take to this profession.

In Bhagavad-gita the vaisyas are described as the natural agriculturalists, the protectors of cows, and the general traders. When Lord Sri Krsna incarnated Himself at Vrndavana, He took pleasure in becoming a beloved son of such a vaisya family. Nanda Maharaja was a big protector of cows, and Lord Sri Krsna, as the most beloved son of Nanda Maharaja, used to tend His father's animals in the neighboring forest.

By His personal example Lord Krsna wanted to teach us the value of protecting cows. Nanda Maharaja is said to have possessed nine hundred thousand cows, and at the time of Lord Sri Krsna (about five thousand years ago) the tract of land known as Vrndavana was flooded with milk and butter. Therefore God's gifted professions for mankind are agriculture and cow protection.

     Trade is meant only for transporting surplus produce to places where the produce is scanty. But when traders become too greedy and materialistic they take to large-scale commerce and industry and allure the poor agriculturalist to unsanitary industrial towns with a false hope of earning more money. The industrialist and the capitalist do not want the farmer to remain at home, satisfied with his agricultural produce. When the farmers are satisfied by a luxuriant growth of food grains, the capitalist becomes gloomy at heart. But the real fact is that humanity must depend on agriculture and subsist on agricultural produce.

     No one can produce rice and wheat in big iron factories. The industrialist goes to the villagers to purchase the food grains he is unable to produce in his factory. The poor agriculturalist takes advances from the capitalist and sells his produce at a lower price. Hence when food grains are produced abundantly the farmers become financially stronger, and thus the capitalist becomes morose at being unable to exploit them.


In fact, practically every aspect of capitalism appears to be a challenge to creating a spiritually based social structure.  Ernest Mandel (Marxist Economic Theory, p. 271-301) describes how capitalist private ownership leads to concentration of agricultural holdings in the hands of a few.  In the 1970s U.S. Secretary of Agriculture of Earl Butz, characterized the typical example of capitalist compassion for the small farmer in his infamous slogan, "Get Big or Get Out." The capitalist system of private land ownership lays it open to speculative investment that has practically annihilated the small farmer.  Agricultural economist Marty Strange sums it up: "Since the price of land bears no relationship to its earning power in a land boom, a farmer cannot earn enough income from farming land to pay for it." (Family Farming, p. 20)  Capitalistic competition makes cow protection impossible on commercial farms because of the increased prices involved in maintaining cows who are no longer productive what to speak of protecting bulls, who never give milk.  All these features of capitalism and private land ownership challenge the creation of a class of self-sufficient varnasrama farmers.

Marxians also point out how the desperate search for profits drives capitalists to expand their markets into foreign countries and engage in extensive advertising to boost people's desires to buy their products.  They also point to cyclical business crises which are an inherent feature of capitalist development.  Certainly capitalism's intergral component of commodity fetishism, as Marx terms it, stands opposed to the non-materialistic aims of varnasrama.

If under varnasrama, the goal is for a worker to become joyful by his work in the simple occupations of a rural agricultural village, capitalist work, founded on ugra karma, is a source of alienation and misery for the worker -- not a method of achieving spiritual enlightenment.  The whole system of capitalism is founded on impersonalism and exploitation.  Many other contradictions could be found.


Prabhupada was fortunate to receive a unique education in capitalism.  As the son of a small businessman, the young Abhay Charan (as he was known before his sannyasa initiation) attended Scottish Churches College from 1916 to 1920, where he studied economics and philosophy. In later years he would upon ocassion refer to different concepts he had been taught then, such as Marshall's division of economic activity into land, labor, capital and managing ability.

But, during his college days he became involved in Gandhi's non-cooperation movement.  As an Indian citizen, Prabhupada had certainly been exposed to some of the most sinister aspects of capitalism, which he also recounted to his disciples in later years.  Gandhi, himself had read Marx's Capital during one of his stays in jail for civil disobedience and he appreciated much of Marx's analysis -- though naturally he strongly rejected the idea that violence was necessary to end the system of capitalist exploitation.  So, while Prabhupada had been indoctrinated in the glories of capitalism by his British schooling system, he was also keenly aware of its actual shortcomings in practice.

At the end of his college years, he met his own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Goswami, who had the reputation, among other things of being an incredibly brilliant logician and debater, which effort he applied mainly to debunking numerous sentimental, exploitive religious movements prevalent in India in the early twentieth century.  At his spiritual master's prompting, Abhay Charan gave up his nationalistic activities and began to consciously dedicate his life to furthering spiritual knowledge, although he remained a married man for a number of years.  In spite of abandoning Gandhi's mood of nationalism (which is considered to be a materialistic, bodily conception according to the teachings of Vaisnava philosophy), Prabhupada retained the values of simple living and high thinking taught by Gandhi, becuase he could clearly see their value in propogating a spiritual culture.

In 1959, Srila Prabhupada, took sannyasa and retired from family life, following Vedic custom.  By 1965 he had arrived in the U.S. on a steamship with $5 in his pocket and a box of his translation of the Srimad Bhagavatam, prepared to carry out the mission of his spiritual master to spread Vaisnava teachings in the English speaking countries.

Thus Prabhupada had the advantage of a unique economic education, and he was keenly aware of all the hazards of capitalism.  Nevertheless, Prabhupada was never a utopian or a fanatic.  Just as Marx felt that capitalism had its place in progressive social development, Prabhupada also realized that whatever spiritual social structure was established would have to use the resources provided by capitalism as its base.  He never advocated immediate rejection of all the means of capitalism.  He simply wanted his followers to be aware that capitalism was a part of Maya's (the personification of the illusory energy) plan to ensnare human beings on the path of sense gratification, and therefore it had to be handled with due caution.

Thus he certainly accepted that capitalism had its role to play and could be used to serve Krsna, especially in the intermediary stages of setting up a spiritual society.  He never attempted to pressure devotee businessmen into dropping everything and living in a mud hut in the country.  Rather, he encouraged all his followers to serve from whatever platform they were most comfortable with.  For some, it was adopting a simple life, farming and taking care of the cows; for others it was to continue in business, while making generous donations to support the activities of spreading Krsna consciousness.

But in the long run, Prabhupada believed that the capitalist based society would ultimately break down, just as every other materialistic social system had broken down before it(10). When that happened he foresaw great suffering for the common citizen.  When those times began to manifest, he wanted devotees to have varnasrama communities already in place to give shelter to the oppressed citizens, and ultimately to open the doors of Krsna consciousness for them(11).

Thus, on one hand, Prabhupada encouraged his followers who were engaged in capitalist endeavors.  On the other hand, he wanted some of the gains of capitalism to be used to establish a spiritual social structure based on simple living and high thinking -- varnasrama -- which would be there when capitalism eventually collapsed.  In the late 1990s, a number of Prabhupada's followers are becoming concerned that the later half of Prabhupada's mission has been neglected and are trying to find the best way to implement it, beginning with the establishment of several varnasrama colleges which will train people in how to combine the principles of Krsna consciousness and rural self-sufficiency.


Capitalism with its features of overwork and ugra karma industrialism and mechanization on one hand, and unemployment on the other is not favorable to the establishment of a spiritual varnasrama social structure.  Rather than being based on social harmony and responsibility between the classes, capitalism is based on the class struggle between its two primary classes, capitalists and workers.  From the examples presented in this analysis, it appears that practically every aspect of capitalism is unfavorable to the development of a spiritual social structure according to Vaisnava standards.  The conclusion is that apart from providing funding for an alternative, spiritual lifestyle, capitalism cannot form the basis for a viable varnasrama social structure.

to more Notes from Prabhupada's books


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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita As It Is; Srimad Bhagavatam; Letters; Lectures; Conversations; etc. All publications from Bhaktivedanta Archives Vedabase, (Sandy Ridge, North Carolina, 1991)

Romesh Diwan and Mark Lutz, eds. Essays in Gandhian Economics. (New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1985 [dist. London: Intermediate Technology Publications, Ltd.; New York: Women Ink])

Duncan Foley.  Understanding Capital, Marx's Economic Theory. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1986)

Hari Sauri Dasa. A Transcendental Diary: Travels with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakltivedanta Swami Prabhupada. (San Diego: H.S. Books, 1992)

Robert L. Heilbroner.  The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers, 5th ed. ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980)

Ernest Mandel. Marxist Economic Theory. (New York: Modern Reader, 1968)

Karl Marx.  Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. (New York: Vintage Books, 1977 ed.)

Dan Morgan. Merchants of Grain. (New York: Penguin Books, 1980)

Sara Rimer, "Children of Working Poor Are Day Care's Forgotten" New York Times (25 Nov 1997)

Julie Schor. The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (New York: Basic Books, 1991)

Marty Strange. Family Farming: A New Economic Vision.  (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1988)

Satsvarupa das Goswami, Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Vol. 1. (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1980)

Robert C. Tucker, ed.  The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978)


(1) More of Prabhupada's comments on the desirability of simple life for spiritual advancement:

Prabhupada's Lectures   Srimad-Bhagavatam 1968             680822SB.MON

Spiritual life is so nice. So fortunately, one of our students, he has taken a very large tract of land in West Virginia to develop a society like that. That simple life, eat simple things, grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and save your time for advancing in Krsna consciousness. Don't be implicated in the ugra-karma. Modern civilization is implicated in ugra-karma. Vast machinery, everything complicated. The government complicated, the society complicated, economics rule complicated, foreign exchange complicated. Everything has become complicated.

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 2: Chapter Two, Text 37                  :PURPORT

The sufferings of human society are due to a polluted aim of life, namely lording it over the material resources. The more human society engages in the exploitation of undeveloped material resources for sense gratification, the more it will be entrapped by the illusory, material energy of the Lord, and thus the distress of the world will be intensified instead of diminished... There is no need of machines and tools or huge steel plants for artificially creating comforts of life. Life is never made comfortable by artificial needs, but by plain living and high thinking.

Nectar of Instruction:         Text Two                        :PURPORT

Krsna conscious devotees know very well that this material world is designed by the complete arrangement of the Lord to fulfill all the necessities of life for all living beings, without their having to encroach upon the life or rights of one another. This complete arrangement affords the proper quota of wealth for everyone according to his real needs, and thus everyone may live peacefully according to the principle of plain living and high thinking. Unfortunately, materialists who have neither faith in the plan of God nor any aspiration for higher spiritual development misuse their God-given intelligence only to augment their material possessions. They devise many systems--such as capitalism and materialistic communism--to advance their material position. They are not interested in the laws of God or in a higher goal. Always anxious to fulfill their unlimited desires for sense gratification, they are conspicuous by their ability to exploit their fellow living beings.

(2) Prabhupada on machines:

Room Conversation     New Orleans, August 1, 1975           750801RC.NO

We are not against machine. You can utilize machine. But we should not allow others unemployed and use machine. This should be point. You can use. Use machine, that's good, but not at the risk of keeping others unemployed. This should be noted. First thing is that everyone should be employed. If you have got many men, then why should you engage machine.

These rascals, they do not know. They're taking machine and keeping so many men unemployed. And the welfare department is paying them. They do not know how to organize society.

(3) Prabhupada on money and barter:

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 4: Chapter Sixteen, Text 10                :PURPORT

In Kali-yuga, however, the king or government has no well-protected treasury, and the only means of circulation is currency notes made of paper. Thus in times of distress the government artificially inflates the currency by simply printing papers, and this artificially raises the price of commodities, and the general condition of the citizens becomes very precarious.

Room Conversation    Bhubaneswar, January 21, 1977         770121R2.BHU

Ramesvara: Actually most purchasing in America is done on credit now. Even a step beyond paper money is credit, no money, buying on no money, loans.
Prabhupada: That is in India also.
Ramesvara: We don't find these things in Vedic culture too much.

Prabhupada: There was never paper money.
Hari-sauri: No. They used to...
Prabhupada: That barter system. You have got rice; I have got something else. So I give you something; you give me something...

Ramesvara: The difference between Vedic culture and..., the Krsna conscious culture and the modern culture is very, very dramatic, very big difference. So the transforming of society...
Prabhupada: And besides that, if we concentrate in farm project there will be no need of exchange, because I'll be satisfied with my products. That's all. There is no need of exchange. Whatever I need, I get in my farm.
Ramesvara: Weaving, cloth.

Prabhupada: Everything I get. So I haven't got to go outside for exchange. If you are satisfied in your farm--I am satisfied--then where is question of exchange? There is no need of artificial... So this banking, "fanking," everything will collapse automatically. There is no money, who is going to keep money in the bank?
Hari-sauri: Who needs it?
Prabhupada: (laughs) So this artificial way of banking, that will be also collapsed.

(4) Full employment as protection of the citizens(abhiraksana):

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 4: Chapter Twenty-nine, Text 81          :PURPORT

In the presence of his ministers, the saintly King Pracinabarhi left orders for his sons to protect the citizens. He then left home and went off to undergo austerities in a holy place known as Kapilasrama.


...He did not wait for their return but simply left messages to the effect that his sons were to protect the mass of citizens.

According to Viraraghava Acarya, such protection means organizing the citizens into the specific divisions of the four varnas and four asramas. It was the responsibility of the royal order to see that the citizens were following the regulative principles of the four varnas (namely brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra) and the asramas (namely brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa). It is very difficult to rule citizens in a kingdom without organizing this varnasrama-dharma...

The varnasrama-dharma is essential in a good government. One class of men (the brahmanas) must be intelligent and brahminically qualified, another class must be trained in administrative work (ksatriya), another in mercantile business (vaisya) and another simply in labor (sudra). These four classes of men are already there according to nature, but it is the government's duty to see that all four of these classes follow the principles of their varnas methodically.

This is called abhiraksana, or protection.

(5) Prabhupada's statements on serving the Lord by one's occupational duty as the ultimate goal of life:

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 4: Chapter Twenty, Text 9                 :PURPORT

Discharging one's occupational duty as a means of rendering devotional service unto the Supreme personality of Godhead is the ultimate goal of life.

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 8: Chapter Sixteen, Text 60   :PURPORT

The ultimate goal of life is to please Lord Visnu by varnasrama-dharma.

(6) Work not conducive to spiritual advancement is a waste of time:

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 1: Chapter Two, Text 8  :TRANSLATION

Duties [dharma] executed by men, regardless of occupation, are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Supreme Lord.

(7) Laborers must be kept happy:

Morning Walk              Rome, May 27, 1974               740527MW.ROM

Yogesvara: ...That was exactly the situation that sparked the Communist revolution. When the workers felt themselves exploited, then they revolted.

Prabhupada: No, workers, what is that? Exploited?
Yogesvara: Yes, when the sudras were seeing that, "Oh, these men, they are keeping us as slaves, and they are making us work just for our food," then they revolted.

Prabhupada: No, no. You should keep them such nicely and friendly way, they will never think like that. They will think that you are giving him food and shelter, and you are taking care, giving them protection to their family. Then they will be happy. Then they are happy. When you give them all protection, then they will be happy. Now... Just like in Japan. The industrialists give all men. They give food. They give education. They give shelter. So they work very happily.

Bhagavan: They like to work.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Bhagavan: It's not that people like to be idle.

Prabhupada: I have seen. And the Dai Nippon directors, they live very poorly, but still, they do not like to give up the service because they are assured of their family, protection, medicine, food, education. They did not like. Never mind, it is not very luxurious. Still, they stick. That I have seen.
Yogesvara: Because there are good benefits.
Prabhupada: Good benefits, yes. If you are assured of your food, shelter, and necessities of life, then you will never grudge. That was the system.

Room Conversation     Mayapur, February 14, 1977           770214R2.MAY

Satsvarupa: ...thought they were suppressed.
Prabhupada: Revolution means they are dissatisfied.
Satsvarupa: French Revolution, Russian Revolution.
Prabhupada: These things were not going nicely. Therefore gradually it broke. But if things are going nicely, people will be happy. They will not revolt. You have to keep the citizens satisfied in all respects. You must know the necessity how people are satisfied. You have to arrange the government in that way. Then there will be no revolution. Mass of people, if they are satisfied, they will not revolt.

(8) Land tenure under varnasrama:

Letter to:               Balavanta : 74-04-28                  Tirupati

As for land ownership, in the Vedic civilization the land was given to the people for cultivation not for ownership, and a tax was collected which was 25% of the person's income. The land belonged to the state and the man would cultivate it and pay 25% to the state. If he has no income then he doesn't have to pay. If he doesn't pay tax he may be disowned of the land. One cannot get land from the government unless he agrees to produce something and if everyone produces food then there is no scarcity. At least he has his own food produced by himself.

Prabhupada's Lectures   Srimad-Bhagavatam 1975             750706SB.CHI

So ksatriya's income is to take some tax. What is that tax? Not in money. But people are engaged in agricultural work so whatever he has produced, he gives twenty-five percent to the ruler.

(9)  Factory and ugra karma:

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 1: Chapter Eleven, Text 12                :PURPORT

Human energy should be properly utilized in developing the finer senses for spiritual understanding, in which lies the solution of life. Fruits, flowers, beautiful gardens, parks and reservoirs of water with ducks and swans playing in the midst of lotus flowers, and cows giving sufficient milk and butter are essential for developing the finer tissues of the human body. As against this, the dungeons of mines, factories and workshops develop demoniac propensities in the working class. The vested interests flourish at the cost of the working class, and consequently there are severe clashes between them in so many ways.
Herein of course we find a different description of the city of Dvaraka. It is understood that the whole dhama, or residential quarter, was surrounded by such gardens and parks with reservoirs of water where lotuses grew. It is understood that all the people depended on nature's gifts of fruits and flowers without industrial enterprises promoting filthy huts and slums for residential quarters. Advancement of civilization is estimated not on the growth of mills and factories to deteriorate the finer instincts of the human being, but on developing the potent spiritual instincts of human beings and giving them a chance to go back to Godhead. Development of factories and mills is called ugra-karma, or pungent activities, and such activities deteriorate the finer sentiments of the human being and society to form a dungeon of demons.

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 1: Chapter Ten, Text 4                  :PURPORT

Grains and vegetables can sumptuously feed a man and animals, and a fatty cow delivers enough milk to supply a man sumptuously with vigor and vitality. If there is enough milk, enough grains, enough fruit, enough cotton, enough silk and enough jewels, then why do the people need cinemas, houses of prostitution, slaughterhouses, etc.? What is the need of an artificial luxurious life of cinema, cars, radio, flesh and hotels? Has this civilization produced anything but quarreling individually and nationally? Has this civilization enhanced the cause of equality and fraternity by sending thousands of men into a hellish factory and the war fields at the whims of a particular man?

Letter to Hayagriva -Montreal 17 Aug 68

But the clause, "Excepting and reserving however, all of the coal within and underlying said property, and subject to the mining rights and privileges set forth in the deed conveying said coal, made by Joseph E. McCombs, et al., dated March 30, 1903, recorded in said Clerk's office in Deed Book 98, at page 185," has caused my headache. I do not know what is written there in the Clerk's office in Deed Book 98, but on common sense, it appears that the area is coal mine or oilmine. Under the circumstances, if in future coal industry is developed and if it is required, the government may at once ask us to vacate and no law can stop it. Even if the government does not acquire our land, if in our vicinity some such industry (coal or oil industry) is started, the whole idea of Vrindaban will fade away. Vrindaban conception is a transcendental village, without any botheration of the modern industrial atmosphere... The life should be simplified without being hampered by laboring day and night for economic development, without any spiritual understanding... The whole Vedic principle is to develop Krishna Consciousness, without creating much botheration for the program of sense gratification. Industrial development (or mining industry) in the neighboring places will mar the whole idea...I do not like to have New Vrindaban with industrial or mining areas. I have got experience of them in India, that the mining areas are simply next to dungeon. The workers in the mines are considered to be residing in the hell. And we can never expect any good behavior from such workers.

(10) Prabhupada on the temporary nature of materialistic socio-economic systems

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 7: Chapter Seven, Text 39                 :PURPORT

     This verse describes how the advocates of economic development are frustrated by the laws of nature. As the previous verse asks, kim visayopapadanaih: what is the actual benefit of so-called economic development? The history of the world has factually proved that attempts to increase economic development for bodily comfort through the advancement of material civilization have done nothing to remedy the inevitability of birth, death, old age and disease. Everyone has knowledge of huge empires throughout the history of the world--the Roman Empire, the Moghul Empire, the British Empire and so on--but all the societies engaged in such economic development (sarve 'rtha-kamah) have been frustrated by the laws of nature through periodic wars, pestilence, famine and so on. Thus all their attempts have been flickering and temporary. In this verse, therefore, it is said, kurvanti martyasya kiyatpriyam calah: one may be very proud of possessing a vast empire, but such empires are impermanent; after one hundred or two hundred years, everything is finished. All such positions of economic development, although created with great endeavor and hardship, are vanquished very soon. Therefore they have been described as calah. An intelligent man should conclude that material economic development is not at all pleasing. The entire world is described in Bhagavad-gita as duhkhalayam asasvatam--miserable and temporary. Economic development may be pleasing for some time, but it cannot endure. Thus many big businessmen are now very morose because they are being harassed by various plundering governments. In conclusion, why should one waste his time for so-called economic development, which is neither permanent nor pleasing to the soul?

Bhagavad-gita  Chapter Two, Text 8

Economic development or supremacy over the world can be finished at any moment by the cataclysms of material nature.

from Hari Sauri's diary:

As we arrived back at the temple, Prabhupada ended the conversation on an ominous note.  "Civilization will collapse very soon all over the world.  It will collapse.  Either you may bring this 'ism' or that 'ism,' this civilization will collapse.  People will become mad, being harassed in so many ways.  When one is harassed in so many problems, he commits suicide.  So that position is coming."
(11) Establishing varnasrama to provide shelter for the citizens of the world:

Morning Walk           Vrindaban, March 12, 1974           740312MW.VRN

Prabhupada: will be constituted, that. Their business will be to exploit the poor citizens. And they will be embarrassed and harassed so much: by one side, no sufficient rain, and therefore scarcity of food, and the other side, taxation by the government. In this way, the people will be so much harassed that they'll give up their home and go to the forest. Very piti... Unless they take to Krsna consciousness, they'll not be saved. The varnasrama college has to be established immediately. Everywhere, wherever we have got our center, a varnasrama college should be established to train four divisions: one class, brahmana; one class, ksatriya; one class, vaisya; and one class, sudra. But everyone will be elevated to the spiritual platform by the spiritual activities which we have prescribed. There is no inconvenience, even for the sudras.

Room Conversation     New Orleans, August 1, 1975           750801RC.NO

So make, organize. I can give you the idea, but I'll not live very long. If you can carry out, you can change the whole... Especially if you can change America, then whole world will change. Then the whole world... And it is the duty because they are kept in darkness and ignorance, then the human life is being spoiled. These rascals, because they do not know how to live... Andha yathandhair... They are blind, and they are leading... Others are blind, and they are leading and they, all of them, going to ditch. So it is the duty. There is... Caitanya has explained, para-upakara. Save them. If it is not possible to save everyone, as many as possible... This is human life. This is Krsna consciousness, to save others who are in the darkness.

Room Conversation     Vrindaban, October 8, 1977           771008R2.VRN

Prabhupada: No luxuries. Live very simple life and you save time for chanting Hare Krsna.
Hamsaduta: Yes, Prabhupada.

Prabhupada: That is my desire. Don't waste time for bodily comforts. You have got this body. You have to eat something. You have to cover yourself. So produce your own food and produce your own cloth. Don't waste time for luxury, and chant Hare Krsna. This is success of life. In this way organize as far as possible, either in Ceylon or in Czechoslovakia, wherever... Save time. Chant Hare Krsna. Don't be allured by the machine civilization.
Hamsaduta: Yes, Prabhupada.

Prabhupada: This is soul-killing civilization, this kind way of life, especially European countries. Anywhere you can inhabit it. It is not very difficult. A cottage; you can produce your own food anywhere. Am I right?
Hamsaduta: Yes, Prabhupada. We will do it.

Prabhupada: And money, spend for Krsna--for Krsna's palace, for Krsna's temple, for Krsna's worship, gorgeous, as gorgeously as... Not for false... This is the human civilization. And to organize this, varnasrama will help you to divide the society--brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya--as there is division in the body. That will help. Don't waste human form of body for sense gratification. I wanted to introduce this. Now I have given you ideas. You can do it. You are all intelligent. For Caitanya Mahaprabhu's para-upakara... So you do good to others. Not exploit others. Any human being who has been bestowed by this body has the capacity to chant Hare Krsna. Give them chance and make situation favorable. Is that clear?


Morning Walk           Vrindaban, March 12, 1974           740312MW.VRN

Prabhupada: ...especially is that the religion means to make a class of men, simply idle... What is? Opiate...? What is called?
Devotees: Opiate of the people.
Prabhupada: Therefore they are against religion. But actually, if we show that we are producing, we are managing, we are educating, then we can counteract the communist tendency. But they are seeing that, that escaping. They say, "They escape responsibility of worldly life and they're indulging in some religious..." That is the tendency. All... Everywhere the government is complaining like that. Therefore they do not want to increase the number of temples, increase the number of devotees. They do not want. Because they say, "These are a class of idle men. They cannot do anything, and they take to this religious life." That is the tendency. They are feeling like that. But if you show that you are actually doing something ideal, then they will appreciate. Make a small unit of community and show ideal life, not idle life. Ideal life.

Room Conversation      Nellore, January 8, 1976            760108RC.NEL

Acyutananda: Mainly, these Karl Marx, they were angry at the Christian church for exploiting the poor masses, and that's the reason...
Prabhupada: This is our...
Acyutananda: he has attacked. He has taken vengeance on this.
Prabhupada: That they are doing. Still they are doing. Just like you said, some sprinkling water. They have no philosophy and they violate everything, what is stated there in Bible.

REF:  770708R2.VRN
Prabhupada: So what is the Marx philosophy?
Tamala Krsna: He says that the people are suffering at the hands of the capitalists. One or two people...
Prabhupada: That's a fact. That we admit, but not to adjust in that way.
Tamala Krsna: He said everything should be taken out of the hands of the few and given to the many.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Tamala Krsna: By violent revolution.
Prabhupada: Why violent revolution?

Daivi-Varnashrama - A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Room conversation in Mayapura, February 14th, 1977
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