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Chapter I The Goal of All
A Conversation with
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta
In the following conversation His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), and Dr. Gregory Benford, a professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine, discuss the Vedic concepts of the self and consciousness as they relate to the views of modern science.
Shrila Prabhupada: By "scientific advancement" do you mean the advancement from bullock cart to motorcar? If we can advance from the stage of the bullock cart to the stage of the fine mechanical arrangement of the motorcar, you take it to be advancement of science, do you not?
Dr. Benford: It is advancement of technology.
Shrila Prabhupada: Technology or science, it is the same thing. Our problem is the advancement of the spirit soul. So what is the scientific knowledge about the spirit soul?
Dr. Benford: There is virtually no scientific knowledge about the spirit soul.
Shrila Prabhupada: Therefore there is actually no advancement of scientific knowledge.
Dr. Benford: Well, scientific knowledge is a different class of knowledge. Out of many different classes of knowledge, you may feel that one type of knowledge is better than another, but that is a different question.
Shrila Prabhupada: Perhaps. There are different departments of knowledge. For example, in medical science there is one department to study the physiology and anatomy of the body. That is one department of knowledge. But beyond this body there is mind and intelligence. That is studied by psychology. That is also science, mental science.
Dr. Benford: It is science at a very crude stage of development.
Shrila Prabhupada: That may be, but it is still accepted as science, is it not? Psychology and metaphysics deal with the mind and intelligence. And beyond that there is the spirit soul. There are so many departments of knowledge: the medical study of the body, the psychological study of the mind, and ultimately there is spiritual, transcendental knowledge. The body and mind are simply the coverings of the spirit soul, just as your body is covered by this shirt and coat. If you simply take care of the shirt and coat and neglect the person who is covered by this shirt and coat, do you think that this is advancement of knowledge?
Dr. Benford: I think that there is no category of knowledge that is useless.
Shrila Prabhupada: We don't say that this scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics-this is also knowledge. But different departments of knowledge differ in their comparative importance. For example, if someone wants to cook nicely, this is also a science. There are many different departments of knowledge, but the central point is the knowledge of the soul, atma-jnana.
Dr. Benford: I feel that you have advanced a position I cannot agree with entirely, but I think it is certainly logical. The only form of knowledge that is verifiable-that is, verifiable in the sense of getting everybody to agree with it-is that which can be proved logically or experimentally.
Shrila Prabhupada: The science of the spirit soul can be verified logically.
Dr. Benford: How so?
Shrila Prabhupada: Just consider your body. You once had the body of a child, but now you don't have that body anymore; you have a different body. Yet, anyone can understand that you once had the body of a child. This is a fact. So your body has changed, but you are still remaining.
Dr. Benford: I am not so sure it is the same "I."
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, you are the same "I." Just as the parents of a child will say, after he has grown up, "Oh, just see how our son has grown." He is the same person: his parents say so, his friends say so, his family says so-everyone says so. This is the evidence. You have to accept this point, because there is so much evidence. Even your mother will deny that you are a different person, even though you have a different body.
Dr. Benford: But I may not be the same being that I was.
Shrila Prabhupada: Correct. "Not the same'' means, for example, that a young child may talk nonsense now, but when he is grown up and gets an adult body he does not speak foolishly. Although he is the same person, along with his change in body he has developed different consciousness. But the spirit soul, the person, is the same. He acts according to his body, that's all-according to his circumstances. A dog, for example, is also a spirit soul, but because he has a dog's body he lives and acts like a dog. Similarly, the spirit soul, when he has a child's body, acts like a child. When he has a different body, the same soul acts like a man. According to circumstances, his activities are changing, but the person is the same. For example, you are a scientist. In your childhood you were not a scientist, so your dealings at that time were not those of a scientist. One's dealings may change according to circumstances, but the person is the same.
Therefore, the conclusion is, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita [2.13], tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati: ''When this body is finished, the soul gives it up and accepts another body." Tatha dehantara. Dehantara means "another body." This is our Sanskrit knowledge from the Bhagavad-gita. When the spirit soul is injected into the womb of a woman, it forms a little body. Gradually, through the emulsification of secretions, the body develops to the size of a pea, because of the presence of the spirit soul. Gradually the body develops nine holes-eyes, ears, mouth, nostrils, genital, and rectum. In this way the body is developed to completion in seven months. Then consciousness comes.
Dr. Benford: At seven months?
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes. The child wants to come out. He feels uncomfortable, therefore he prays to God to kindly release him from this bondage. He promises to become a devotee of God when he gets out. So he comes out of the womb after ten months. But unless his parents are devotees, due to circumstances he forgets God. Only if the father and mother are devotees does he continue his God consciousness. Therefore, it is a great good fortune to take birth in a family of Vaishnavas, those who are God conscious. This God consciousness is real scientific knowledge.
Dr. Benford: Is it true that the children of all such parents are somewhat spiritually superior to the children of other parents?
Shrila Prabhupada: Generally, yes. They get the opportunity of being trained by the mother and father. Fortunately, my father was a great devotee, so I received this training from the very beginning. Somehow or other we had this spark of Krishna consciousness, and our father detected it. Then I accepted my spiritual master. In this way I have come to this stage of sannyasa. I am very much indebted to my father, for he took care of me in such a way that I became perfectly Krishna conscious. My father used to receive many saintly persons at our home, and to every one of them he used to say, "Kindly bless my son so that he may become a servant of Radharani." That was his only ambition. He taught me how to play the mridanga, but my mother was not very satisfied. She would say, "Why are you teaching him to play mridanga?" But my father would say, ''No, no, he must learn a little mridanga." My father was very affectionate to me. He never chastised me. Therefore, if by his past pious activities one gets a good father and mother, that is a great chance for advancing in Krishna consciousness.
Dr. Benford: What will happen to you next?
Shrila Prabhupada: We are going back to Krishna. We have got everything: Krishna's name, Krishna's address, Krishna's form, Krishna's activities. We know everything, and we are going there. Krishna has assured us of this in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9], tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna: "Upon leaving the body, he does not take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna." And not only the devotee attains this, but anyone who understands Krishna. This is stated in the Bhagavad-gita [4.9], janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah: "One who knows Me in truth, scientifically," Krishna says, "is eligible to enter into the kingdom of God."
Dr. Benford: How do you know that people return in some other form?
Shrila Prabhupada: We see that there are so many forms. Where do these different forms come from? The form of the dog, the form of the cat, the form of the tree, the form of the reptile, the forms of the insects, the forms of the fish? What is your explanation for all these different forms? That you do not know.
Dr. Benford: Evolution.
Shrila Prabhupada: There may be evolution, but at the same time all the different species are existing. The fish is existing, man is existing, the tiger is existing, everyone is existing. It is just like the different types of apartments here in Los Angeles. You may occupy one of them, according to your ability to pay rent, but all types of apartments are nevertheless existing at the same time. Similarly, the living entity, according to his karma, is given facility to occupy one of these bodily forms. But there is evolution also. From the fish, the next stage of evolution is to plant life. From plant forms the living entity may enter an insect body. From the insect body the next stage is bird, then beast, and finally the spirit soul may evolve to the human form of life. And from the human form, if one becomes qualified, he may evolve further. Otherwise, he must again enter the evolutionary cycle. Therefore, this human form of life is an important junction in the evolutionary development of the living entity.
As stated in the Bhagavad-gita [9.25]:
yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrin yanti pitri-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam
"Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me." There are different lokas, or planetary systems, and you can go to the higher planetary systems where the demigods live and take a body there, or you can go where the Pitas, or ancestors, live. You can take a body here in Bhuloka, the earthly planetary system, or you can go to the planet of God, Krishnaloka. Whatever you like, you can achieve. This method of transferring oneself at the time of death to whatever planet one chooses is called yoga. There is a physical process of yoga, a philosophical process of yoga, and a devotional process of yoga. The devotees can go directly to the planet where Krishna is.
Dr. Benford: Undoubtedly you are aware that there are a few people, both in Eastern and Western society, who feel that it is a bit more intellectually justifiable to be completely agnostic about matters of theology. They feel, more or less, that if God had wanted us to know something more about Him, then He would have made it more easily apprehendable.
Shrila Prabhupada: Then you don't believe in God?
Dr. Benford: I don't not believe in God; I'm just not forming an opinion until I have some evidence.
Shrila Prabhupada: But do you think that there is a God or not?
Dr. Benford: I have a suspicion that there may be, but it is unverified.
Shrila Prabhupada: Suspicion, doubt. That means you are not quite confident.
Dr. Benford: Yes.
Shrila Prabhupada: But you think sometimes that there may be God, do you not?
Dr. Benford: Yes.
Shrila Prabhupada: So you are in doubt, suspicion-you are not certain-but your inclination is that you think there is God, is it not? Your knowledge being imperfect, you are in doubt, that's all. Otherwise you are inclined to think of God. That is your position. But because you are a scientific man, unless you perceive it scientifically you do not accept. That is your position. But from your side, you believe in God.
Dr Benford: Sometimes.
Shri1a Prabhupada: Yes. Sometimes, or all times, it doesn't matter. That is the position of everyone. As long as one is in the human form of life, whether he is civilized or uncivilized doesn't matter: everyone has dormant consciousness of God. It simply has to be developed by proper training. It is just like anything else in life. For example, you have become a scientist by proper training, proper education. Similarly, the dormant consciousness of God, or Krishna, is there in everyone. It simply requires proper education to awaken it. However, this education is not given in the universities. That is the defect in modern education. Although the inclination to be Krishna conscious is there, the authorities are unfortunately not giving any education about God. Therefore people are becoming godless, and they are feeling baffled in obtaining the true joy and satisfaction of life.
In San Diego, some priestly orders are going to hold a meeting to investigate the reasons why people are becoming averse to religion and not coming to church. But the cause is simple. Because our government does not know that life, especially human life, is meant for understanding God, they are supporting all the departments of knowledge very nicely except the principal department, God consciousness.
Dr. Benford: So of course, the reason is that-
Shrila Prabhupada: Reasons there may be many, but the principal reason is that this age is the Kali-yuga. People are not very intelligent, therefore they are trying to avoid this department of knowledge, the most important department of knowledge. And they are simply busy in the departments of knowledge in which the animals are also busy. Your advancement of knowledge is comprised of four things-eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. For example, you are discovering so many lethal weapons, and the politicians are taking advantage of it for defending. You are discovering so many chemicals to check pregnancy, and they are using them to increase sex life.
Dr. Benford: What is going to the moon?
Shrila Prabhupada: That is also sleeping. You go there and sleep and spend money, that's all. Otherwise, what can you do there?
Dr. Benford: You can go there and learn.
Shrila Prabhupada: You go there and sleep, that's all. Sleeping. You are spending billions and getting nothing in return.
Dr. Benford: It seems worth more than that.
Shrila Prabhupada: No, nothing more, because these four principles-eating, sleeping, mating, and defending-are the background. If you have no knowledge beyond this body you cannot go beyond this bodily category. You have no other jurisdiction of knowledge. It may be very gorgeous polished bodily knowledge, but your whole range of activities is within these four principles of eating, sleeping mating, and defending. This knowledge is prevalent among the lower animals also. They know how to eat, they know how to sleep, they know how to have sexual intercourse, and they also know how to defend.
Dr. Benford: But they don't know anything about nuclear physics!
Shrila Prabhupada: That does not mean that you are improved over the animals. It is the same thing, only polished, that's all. You are improving from the bullock cart to the motorcar, that's all. It is simply a transformation of material knowledge.
Dr. Benford: There is knowledge about the structure of the physical world.
Shrila Prabhupada: But it is a waste of energy, because in your activities you cannot go beyond this bodily jurisdiction of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. You may make a very nice apartment for sleeping, but when you sleep you get the same quality of enjoyment as when the dog sleeps. The dog may sleep on the ground, and you may sleep in a very nice apartment, but when you are asleep your condition and the condition of the dog are the same. You may be sleeping in a nice apartment and he may sleep on the grass, but both of you are forgetting everything. You forget that you are sleeping in a nice estate or in a nice skyscraper building, and the dog forgets that he is sleeping on the ground. But what is the use of this nice apartment? When you sleep there, the dog and you become one. You may have so many electrical appliances and other material conveniences, but when you sleep you forget everything. Therefore this gorgeous sleeping accommodation is simply a waste of time.
Dr. Benford: You seem to place emphasis on what knowledge does for you. What about the sheer joy of discovering how nature works? For example, now we think that we understand matter like this [he indicates the grass on which they are sitting]. We think that we know from experiments, theory, and analysis that it is made up of particles that we cannot see, and we can analyze the properties of it through experiment. We know that it is made up of molecules. We understand some of the forces that hold it together, and this is the first time we knew this. We didn't know it before.
Shrila Prabhupada: But what is the benefit? Although you know every particle of this grass, what benefit is derived out of it? The grass is growing. It will grow with or without your knowledge. You may know it or not know it, but it will not make any difference. Anything you like you may study from a material, analytical point of view. Any nonsense thing you take you can study and study and compile a voluminous book. But what will be the use of it?
Dr. Benford: I seem to view the world as-
Shrila Prabhupada: Suppose I take this grass. I can write volumes of books-when it came into existence, when it died, what are the fibers, what are the molecules. In so many ways I can describe this insignificant foliage. But what is the use of it?
Dr. Benford: If it has no use, why did God put it there? Isn't it worthwhile studying?
Shrila Prabhupada: Our point is that you would rather study the insignificant grass than the God who has created everything. If you could understand Him, automatically you would study the grass. But you want to separate His grass from Him, to study it separately. In this way you can compile volumes and volumes on the subject, but why waste your intelligence in that way? The branch of a tree is beautiful as long as it is attached to the main trunk, but as soon as you cut it off it will dry up. Therefore, what is the use of studying the dried-up branch? It is a waste of intelligence.
Dr. Benford: But why is it a waste?
Shrila Prabhupada: Certainly it is a waste, because the result is not useful.
Dr. Benford: Well, what is useful?
Shrila Prabhupada: It is useful to know yourself, what you are.
Dr. Benford: Why is knowledge of myself better than knowledge of a plant?
Shrila Prabhupada: If you understand what you are, then you understand other things. That is called atma-tattva, atma-jnana, self-knowledge. That is important. I am a spirit soul, and I am passing through so many species of life. But what is my position? I don't wish to die, because I am afraid to change bodies. Therefore, I am afraid of death. This question should be raised first: I don't want unhappiness, but unhappiness comes. I don't want death, but death comes. I don't want disease, but disease comes. I don't want to become an old man, but it comes anyway. What is the reason that these things are coming by force, despite my desires to the contrary? If I am forced, what is that force and why am I under this force? Who is enforcing these things? These things I do not know, but these are the real problems. I don't want excessive heat, but there is excessive heat. I have to take shelter of electric technology-a refrigerator, a cooler. Why? Who is enforcing these things? Why are they being enforced? I don't want this heat; what have I done? These are real questions, not just the study of foliage and writing volumes of books. That is a waste of energy. Study yourself: You don't want suffering, but why is it forced upon you? Who is enforcing? Why am I forced? These things you do not know.
Dr. Benford: Is it worthwhile, then, to try to stop excessive heat, say, or disease?
Shrila Prabhupada: You may want to stop the heat, but you cannot. Your scientific knowledge is not so perfect that you can stop the heat. Therefore, somebody is enforcing this. This is the right subject matter for thinking: Why am I being forced? Who is the enforcer? I don't want this heat, therefore I shall make an air conditioner. But this is only a temporary arrangement. You are scientifically advanced enough to manufacture nice medicine, so why can't you stop disease?
Dr. Benford: We don't understand it well enough.
Shrila Prabhupada: Therefore you are a fool. As soon as you don't understand, you are a fool.
Dr. Benford: Can you stop yourself from being an old man?
Shrila Prabhupada: Not immediately, but we are undergoing the process to stop it. Just like a man who is being treated for some disease-he is still suffering, but the fact that he is being treated means that he is going to stop it.
Dr. Benford: Well, that is our aim also. We would like to stop disease and even stop death.
Shrila Prabhupada: Everyone would like to, but you are not practicing the real procedure for stopping it.
Dr. Benford: But I don't want to suffer. Why is this necessary?
Shrila Prabhupada: It is because of the laws of nature. We are stealing from Krishna, trying to enjoy independently of Krishna. Therefore we are being punished by the laws of nature. It is not that Krishna wants us to suffer. He does not like to punish us, but it is necessary in order to reform our character. A thief does not very much appreciate the police department, and he is thinking, "Why do they stop me from stealing?" But it is required. The government knows that the police department is necessary in order to curb the thieves and rogues. Although the thieves may not like it, the police department is nevertheless perfect. It is required.
Devotee: But why can't the police department just explain to the thief what he is doing wrong?
Shrila Prabhupada: Because he is a rascal. He will not listen. Law and order are for everyone, and to keep the citizens in order the police department is necessary. When a policeman at an intersection signals the traffic to stop, everyone must stop. He is not a highly placed officer, but because he is the representative of the government, you must stop, even if you are a very rich and important man. That is law and order, and everyone must obey. Similarly, the laws of nature are enforced by the demigods as representatives of Krishna. Everyone must obey or be punished. You may not like it, but it is the law. Therefore there is so much pain.
Dr. Benford: Well, then, why is all this happening? What are we trying to attain? Why are we going through so much pain?
Shrila Prabhupada: Because you are not advancing beyond the bodily conception of life. You are simply advancing from one pain to another pain. But if you want to get out of pain, then you have to take to Krishna consciousness and surrender to Krishna. That is our proposition: Don't suffer pain after pain; stop it and surrender to Krishna. That is our proposition. Everyone is trying to stop pain, both animals and man, in science and in ordinary work also. That is the real struggle. There is pain, and the struggle is to stop pain. And people take this struggle as happiness. But real happiness, real ecstasy, permanent ecstasy is there in the spiritual world, where there is no pain. This material happiness is called maya, or illusion. Actually, people are not happy.
Dr. Benford: Why does a person like me, who is trying to understand the world rationally, find no way in which to do so?
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, you are trying to know the world rationally, but you are not going to the proper teacher.
Dr. Benford: There are learned men in the world who simply study nature.
Shrila Prabhupada: Still, you require an experienced teacher. Of course, you can learn anything from nature, but not everyone is so intelligent that he can study nature properly. For example, if you study nature, why do you speculate that everything is void after death? Nature is not void-it is full of varieties. Therefore your study of nature is imperfect. Nature is not void, for we are sitting here surrounded by varieties-varieties of flowers, varieties of leaves, varieties of plants. If you say that nature is void, then your study of nature is not perfect.
Dr. Benford: I guess we don't understand it yet.
Shrila Prabhupada: That is your ignorance, but you cannot say it is void.
Dr. Benford: Well, we feel that our-
Shrila Prabhupada: You feel, you feel, but not others. Don't say "we."
Dr. Benford: We scientists.
Shrila Prabhupada: But there are other scientists who understand things differently. You are not the only scientists.
Dr. Benford: But I feel that if I study the world, there is a way to check my conclusions. You study the world and you think that you understand the physical process, and then you perform experiments, you verify your ideas, and then you see if you can apply the physical process in the world.
Shrila Prabhupada: That is another ignorance, because you do not know that you are imperfect.
Dr. Benford: Oh, I know that I am not perfect.
Shrila Prabhupada: Then what is the use of your researching in this way? If you are imperfect, the result will also be imperfect.
Dr. Benford: That's true.
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes. So why waste your time in this way?
Dr. Benford: But there doesn't seem to be any other way of finding knowledge.
Shrila Prabhupada: Therefore you have to approach the right teacher, who will show you. In order to become a scientist you have to go to the university and find a professor who can instruct you.
Dr. Benford: I could have done it by reading books.
Shrila Prabhupada: But a teacher is required also, or you cannot get your degree. Is it not?
Dr. Benford: Yes.
Shrila Prabhupada: So, when you want to learn something, you have to approach a teacher, and if the teacher is perfect, then you get perfect knowledge. This is the process. If the teacher is only another rascal like you, then whatever knowledge he may give you is useless. The teacher must be perfect; he must have real knowledge. Then he can teach. Therefore, the process is that you have to find out a perfect teacher. If you are fortunate, and you get such a perfect teacher, then you can learn everything. But if you approach a teacher who is as blind as you are, then you don't learn anything.
Dr. Benford: Are there many perfect teachers?
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes. Otherwise, there is no question of accepting a teacher. The first perfect teacher is Krishna, and others are those who have learned from Him. For example, you are a scientist. Suppose I learn something from you. Even if I am not a scientist, because I have learned from you my knowledge is perfectly scientific.
Dr. Benford: I don't understand.
Shrila Prabhupada: Suppose a child goes to a mathematics teacher, and he says, "Two plus two equals four." The child is not a mathematician, but if he accepts the teacher's teaching, "Two plus two equals four," and repeats that, then his knowledge is perfect.
Dr. Benford: But how does one know when the teacher is perfect? It seems to be very difficult.
Shrila Prabhupada: No, it is not difficult. A teacher is perfect who has learned from a perfect teacher.
Dr. Benford: But that merely removes the problem a step.
Shrila Prabhupada: No, it is not a problem. There is a perfect teacher, Krishna, who is accepted by all classes of teachers as their teacher. In India, the Vedic civilization is conducted by Vedic teachers. All these Vedic teachers accept Krishna as the supreme teacher. They take lessons from Krishna, and they teach the same message. That is the process.
Dr. Benford: So everyone I might meet who accepts Krishna as the perfect teacher is the perfect teacher?
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, because he is teaching only Krishna's teachings, that's all. It is the same as the example we gave before: they may not be personally perfect, but whatever they are speaking is perfect because it is taught by Krishna.
Dr. Benford: Then you are not perfect.
Shrila Prabhupada: No, I am not perfect. None of us claims to be perfect; we have so many faults. But because we don't speak anything beyond Krishna's teachings, our teaching is therefore perfect. For example, the postman may deliver to you a money order for one thousand dollars. He may not be a rich man, but if he simply delivers the envelope to you, you can cash the money order and be benefited. He may not be a rich man, but his dealings as a postman are perfect, because although he is not rich he can give you the thousand dollars. Similarly, our quality is that we are not perfect. We are full of imperfections, but we don't go beyond the teachings of Krishna. That is our process. Like the same example we have given before: this small child is not a mathematician, but because he takes the teaching of a perfect mathematics teacher, "Two plus two equals four," his presentation is also perfect: "Two plus two equals four."
Dr. Benford: Why has Krishna not told you everything about
Shrila Prabhupada: He has told everything; everything He has told. If you will study the Bhagavad-gita, everything is there.
Dr. Benford: Well, if everything is there, why are we learning things we never knew before? I am speaking purely of science now. Why is science not written in the Bhagavad-gita?
Shrila Prabhupada: Therefore, that so-called science is foolish. That is the conclusion. Actually, material science is foolish. The scientists are in darkness about so many things. What good is your science? There are so many things they do not know. In spite of all their imperfections they are claiming to have perfect knowledge. That is another foolishness.
Dr. Benford: Does it bother you that-
Shrila Prabhupada: We don't bother with the scientists. We simply take instruction from Krishna. We have no business to take anything from the scientists. I don't decry your scientific discoveries. We welcome you. You are a scientist, and we appreciate your labor. But we criticize you only because you forget Krishna. That is your problem. At the present moment your value is zero. Otherwise, if you remember Krishna, when Krishna is added you become 10, which is unlimitedly more valuable. That is the verdict of Narada Muni:
idam hi pumsas tapasah
svishtasya suktasya ca buddhi-dattayoh
avicyuto 'rthah kavibhir nirupito
"Learned circles have positively concluded that the infallible purpose of the advancement of knowledge-namely austerities, study of the Vedas, sacrifice, chanting of hymns, and charity-culminates in the transcendental descriptions of the Lord, who is defined in choice poetry." [Shrimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.22] Now, you are a scientist-physicist or chemist?
Dr. Benford: Physical.
Shrila Prabhupada: So, by your study of physical laws, if you try to prove there is God, that is your success.
Dr. Benford: It can't be done.
Shrila Prabhupada: Then that is your imperfection. You are a physicist, and as I said, if by your physical laws you can prove there is Krishna, then you are perfect. You would give better service than we give. When we speak of Krishna, there are so many persons who take our statements as sentimental religion. But if a scientist like you would speak of Krishna, they would hear. If you do this, you will do greater service than I. But if it is a fact that by your physical laws you cannot understand Krishna, then your science is imperfect. When you can come to understand Krishna by studying these physical laws, then your science is perfect. Because He is the ultimate source of everything, if you can come to Krishna by studying your physical laws, that is your perfection. Therefore, our proposition is that you remain a physical scientist, but you should try to explain Krishna. Then you will be perfect. Don't think that we are decrying you or that we are decrying science. No. We are simply insisting that you accept Krishna. Otherwise, you are zero. You have no spiritual value. Krishna is like 1, and if you accept Krishna, your value instantly becomes 10-unlimitedly increased. So, bring Krishna into everything, and He will increase its value. That is real scientific discovery-to find out Krishna. Find out how God is working in the physical and chemical laws, how His brain is working. Everything is working by His brain. There are chemical and physical energies, but everything is going on by God's brain. These chemical and physical laws are acting in such a subtle way that we see everything as coming automatically. There are chemical and physical laws, but how these laws are working you do not know.
Dr. Benford: We do not know why the laws are as they are.
Shrila Prabhupada: No, but Krishna knows. Therefore, He is the creator. That is the difference between you and Krishna. Krishna can create a seed, a small seed the size of a mustard seed, and within that seed there is the potency to create a big banyan tree. That is also chemical composition, but you cannot do it. That is Krishna's brain ... that is Krishna's brain.
Dr. Benford: But neither can you.
Shrila Prabhupada: No, I cannot. I have already said that I am imperfect. I do not claim unnecessarily that I am perfect. But I can say that the seed is created by Krishna, and that you cannot do. That I can say. I can challenge you, that you cannot make this seed. Although I am imperfect, I can challenge you.
Dr. Benford: Essentially, however, you only know these things to be true because you have been told.
Shrila Prabhupada Yes, that is required. Therefore, our Vedic knowledge is called shruti. Shruti means "that which is heard."
Dr. Benford: Then you cannot find out anything about Krishna by studying science?
Shrila Prabhupada: There is nothing but Krishna. There is nothing else except Krishna.
Dr. Benford: But if we study the physical world, we study the work of Krishna.
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, but you don't know Krishna. You don't say, as a rule, that you are studying the work of Krishna, because you don't know Krishna. You avoid Krishna.
Dr. Benford: But Krishna made it.
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, that's a fact, but you do not know Krishna. You simply know the grass. But I know the grass and Krishna both. Therefore I am better than you.
Dr. Benford: Then we cannot find anything out about Krishna by simply studying the grass?
Shrila Prabhupada: Then you are limited to grass, and know nothing beyond that.
Dr. Benford: Limited it may be, but is it not true?
Shrila Prabhupada: It is true, but limited, relative truth. In the Vedanta-sutra the first statement is athato brahma-jinasa: "Now, in this human form of life, let us inquire about the origin of everything." Not to study the relative truth, but the Absolute Truth-that is the business of the human form of life.
Dr. Benford: But how do I know this is true?
Shrila Prabhupada: That you have to learn from the teacher. That is the process.
Dr. Benford: But how do I know the teacher knows what is true?
Shrila Prabhupada: That knowledge is also available. When you wanted to learn science, what did you do? You found out a suitable teacher. If you can find a competent teacher, then everything can be understood.
Dr. Benford: But can the teacher demonstrate what he says to be true by experiment?
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, everything can be demonstrated by experiment- everything.
Dr. Benford: But you cannot demonstrate things about Krishna by experiment.
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, it can be demonstrated. It is demonstrated. When you get a seed and sow it, a big tree comes from the seed. This is demonstration. How can you say it is not demonstration?
Dr. Benford: It is demonstration that a seed grows.
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, the seed is the cause and the tree is the effect. That is demonstration.
Dr. Benford: But where's Krishna?
Shrila Prabhupada: Krishna says, "I am the seed." The seed is Krishna. Bijam mam sarva-bhutanam: "I am the original seed of all existences." [Bg. 7.10] As soon as we see the seed, we see Krishna. Krishna says, "I am the seed." So how can you say you cannot see Krishna? You can see Krishna.
Dr. Benford: It's true we see mystery in the world.
Shrila Prabhupada: It is not mystery; it is fact. Krishna says, "I am the seed." I have heard it from Krishna. Therefore, when I see a seed I am seeing Krishna. How can you say you are not perceiving Krishna? You see Krishna according to Krisna's direction. Why do you persist in trying to see Krishna in your own way? Krishna says, prabhasmi shashi-suryayoh: "I am the light of the sun and moon." [Bg. 7.10] As soon as you see the sunshine, you are seeing Krishna. Why do you say you don't see Krishna? What is your reason?
Dr. Benford: I do not know that it is called ''Krishna." I do not know-
Shrila Prabhupada: There are so many things you do not know. Therefore you have to learn from the teacher, Krishna. Because you do not know and you do not care for Krishna, therefore your knowledge is imperfect. This is your mentality. First of all, you do not know, and second, you do not accept Krishna as your teacher. Do you think that your knowledge is perfect? What is the value of your knowledge?
Dr. Benford: But I do not know that there is any perfect knowledge.
Shrila Prabhupada: You do not know so many things, but we can know, because we accept Krishna as our teacher.
Dr. Benford: The thing that bothers me most is that it seems to be necessary to accept things blindly.
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, because our brains are imperfect. The child, when he is learning mathematics from his teacher, has no power to question or to protest. How has two plus two become four? He doesn't inquire. He simply accepts and becomes learned. That is the process. You cannot ask how Krishna has made this seed, what is the chemical arrangement, the complete arrangement, so that the tree is coming out. It is coming out whether you understand or not. Therefore, you know that Krishna is perfect. You cannot ask how the tree is coming out, nor is it within your power to understand how it is coming out. That is Krishna's power. You scientists are just like children. The child is asking, "How is it that from this tape recorder so many sounds are coming out?" He cannot understand it. It is useless for him to try to understand it at the present stage of his development. But it is a fact that behind the mechanical arrangement of the tape recorder is a big science and a big brain. Similarly, the seed is undoubtedly a wonderful arrangement. Even though you do not understand-cannot understand-how a big tree is coming out from a tiny seed, still it is wonderful. And there is a brain, a wonderful brain, behind all this. That you have to accept.
So, the main business of human life is to understand Krishna. For that purpose there must be scientific method and understanding-then human society is perfect. That is our propaganda. We do not say that you must accept religion and God by sentiment. No, accept it through philosophical and scientific inquiry. That is our propaganda. You shouldn't be a sentimental fanatic and accept blindly. You should try to understand this science of Krishna consciousness.
So, I'm very glad to meet you, Dr. Benford. I want all scientists and philosophers to try to understand Krishna in their own way. That will be the perfection of their learning. You are a real scientist when you explain Krishna scientifically. That is your perfection.
Dr. Benford: I came today because I wanted to see if there is any similarity between your teachings and the findings of physics.
Shrila Prabhupada: That you will learn if you associate with us. Svarupa Damodara, here, is also a scientist, and he's now learning the science of Krishna consciousness. Now you cannot deviate him from Krishna consciousness; he's become firmly convinced. Yet he's also a bona fide scientist-he's not a fool or a fanatic. Similarly, any reasonable scientist can understand Krishna consciousness. Those who are dogmatic cannot understand, but those who follow our arguments-they will understand Krishna consciousness. It is not difficult. We have books; we are not simply talking. We have dozens of books to help you understand.
Dr. Benford: As far as I can see, the universe is a thing that is striving to understand itself, and we are products of that attempt.
Shrila Prabhupada: No. "We" means the body. The body is a product of this universe, and the universe is a product of Krishna. Therefore, the universe is not separate from Krishna. The universe is also Krishna. So, when you explain universal laws with reference to Krishna, then it is perfect knowledge. The universe is one of Krishna's energies-the material energy. We living entities are also an energy of Krishna-the living energy. The combination of the living energy and the material energy-that is the universe. So, in one sense the study of the universe is also the study of Krishna, but as long as you do not actually come to the point of understanding Krishna, your knowledge is imperfect.
Gregory Benford is Associate Professor of Physics at the University of California, Irvine. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of California, San Diego, in 1967. He has published over forty scientific papers and has been a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. He was a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University, England, in 1976. His research interests include solid-state physics, plasma physics, and high-energy astrophysics. His astronomical research centers on the dynamics of pulsars, violent extragalactic events, and quasars. He has also published numerous articles in Natural History, Smithsonian, New Scientist, and other major periodicals. His fiction includes several dozen short stories and three novels: Jupiter Project (1975), If the Stars Are Gods (1977), and In the Ocean oJ Night (1977). In 1975 he received the Nebula Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America for short fiction. He lives in Laguna Beach, California.