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Acting in Knowledge of Kṛṣṇa

Māyāpur, India – February 29, 1972 (evening, continued)

An Indian gentleman: By what kind of actions does one earn good karma?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Good karma means what is prescribed in the Vedas. Specifically, it is prescribed that one should perform yajña. Yajña means actions for the satisfaction of Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So good karma means performance of the yajñas as they are prescribed in the Vedic literatures.

A good, law-abiding citizen is one whose actions satisfy the government. So, good karma is actions that satisfy Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Lord. Unfortunately, modern people do not know what the Supreme Personality of Godhead is, what to speak of satisfying Him. They are simply busy with material activities. Therefore all of them are performing only bad karma and therefore suffering. They are blind men leading other blind men. And all are then suffering by bad karma. That is very easy to understand. If you do something criminal, you will suffer. If you do something benevolent for the state, for the people, then you are recognized; you are sometimes given a title. This is good and bad karma.

So, by good karma you enjoy some material happiness, and by bad karma you suffer from material distress. By good karma you get birth in a good family; you get riches, good money. Then you become a learned scholar; you become beautiful also.

Bob: What about the person who is not very aware of God, but …

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then he is an animal. A person who does not know what is God, or one who does not try to understand what is God – he is an animal.

Bob: What about innocent people?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The animal is very innocent. If you cut its throat, it won’t protest. So innocence is not a very good qualification. Our proposition is that one must be very, very intelligent, and then he can understand Kṛṣṇa. To become an innocent, ignorant simpleton is not a very good qualification. Simplicity is all right, but one should not be unintelligent.

Bob: Can you tell me what intelligence is?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Intelligence means to know what one is, what this world is, what God is, and what their interrelations are. The animal does not know what he is. He thinks that he is the body. Similarly, anyone who does not know what he is is not intelligent.

Bob: What about a person who tries to do what is right and is very conscientious about the things he does? Like the servant who is very honest to his master but knows that if he were not honest he would not be caught. If a person like that stays honest anyway, is that some kind of good karma?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, to become honest is also good karma. How to become a good man is described in the Bhagavad-gītā very elaborately: daivī sampad vimokṣāya nibandhāyāsurī matā. So, if you become qualified with daivī sampad, transcendental qualities, then vimokṣāya, you will be liberated. And nibandhāyāsurī – if you have demoniac qualities you will be more and more entangled. Unfortunately, modern people do not know what is liberation and what is entanglement. They are so ignorant; they do not know.

If I ask you what liberation is, can you answer? [No answer.] And if I ask you what entanglement is, can you answer? [Again no answer.] These words are there in the Vedic literature – liberation and entanglement – but at the present moment people do not even know what they mean. They are so ignorant and foolish, and still they are proud of their advancement in knowledge. You are a professor, a teacher; can you explain what liberation is?

Bob: Not adequately, because if I could explain it then I would become liberated very fast.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: But if you do not know what liberation is, then where is the question of fast or slow liberation? You should first know what liberation is. If you do not know where the train is going, then what is the use of knowing whether it is going fast or slow? So, what is liberation? You daily ask me. Now I am asking you.

Bob: [Laughs.] Ah – OK … Let me think for a moment.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Liberation is described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The exact Sanskrit word for liberation is mukti. So that is defined in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: muktir hitvānyathā rūpaṁ svarūpena vyavasthitiḥ. One should stop doing all nonsense and become situated in his original position. That is liberation. Unfortunately, today nobody knows his original position or how to act properly in that position. The modern population is so ignorant about their life – it is a very awkward position. They do not know.

Bob: Can you tell me who is honest?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: If one does not know what is honesty, how can he be honest? But if you know what is honesty, then you can be honest. What is honesty? First of all explain.

Bob: I would say that honesty is doing what you really feel is right.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: A thief is feeling, “I must steal to provide for my children. It is right.” Does it mean that he is honest? The butcher thinks, “I must cut the throat of the animals daily. It is my livelihood.” Nārada Muni once met a hunter and asked him, “Why are you killing in this way?” And he said, “Oh, it is my business. My father taught it to me.” The hunter was honestly doing his work. So, a feeling of honesty depends on culture. A thief’s culture is different from ours. He thinks stealing is honest.

Bob: So, what is honesty?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, that is my question. [Everyone laughs.] Real honesty is that you should not encroach upon another’s property. This is honesty. For instance, this is my table. If you want to take it away, is that honesty? Therefore, the simple definition of honesty is that you should not encroach upon another’s rights. That is honesty.

Bob: So somebody who is honest would be in the mode of goodness? Would that be correct?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Certainly, certainly. Because the mode of goodness means knowledge. So if you know, “This table does not belong to me; it belongs to Swamiji,” you will not try to take it away. Therefore, one must know to whom things belong; then he can be honest.

Bob: You have said that the mode of goodness was knowledge of God, but somebody may be honest without having very much knowledge of God. Without thinking they are honest because it is God’s wish, they just feel like they ought to be honest.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: God wishes everyone to be honest. Why should God think otherwise?

Bob: Can you follow God’s wishes without knowing you are following God’s wishes?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, following without knowing – that is absurd. You must know the order of God. And if you follow that, then that is honesty.

Bob: So somebody cannot really be honest without knowing God?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, because God is the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer, and the supreme friend. That is the statement of the Bhagavad-gītā. If anyone knows these three things, then he is in full knowledge. These three things only: that God is the proprietor of everything, God is friend of everyone, and God is the enjoyer of everything. For example, everyone knows that in the body the stomach is the enjoyer – not the hands, legs, eyes, ears. These are there simply to help the stomach. For example, the eyes – the vulture goes seven miles up to see where there is food. Then the wings fly there, and the jaws catch the food. But the ultimate enjoyer of the food is the stomach. Is it not?

Bob: That is so.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Similarly, as in this body the stomach is the enjoyer, the central figure of the whole cosmic manifestation, material or spiritual, is Kṛṣṇa, God. He is the enjoyer. We can understand this just by considering our own bodies. The body is also a creation. The body has the same mechanical nature you will find in the whole universe. The same mechanical arrangement will be found anywhere you go, even in animals. In the human body or in the cosmic manifestation – almost the same mechanism. So you can understand very easily that in this body – any body, your body – the stomach is the enjoyer. There is a central enjoyer. And the stomach is the friend also. Because if you cannot digest food, you see, then all other limbs of the body become weak. Therefore the stomach is the friend. It is digesting and distributing the energy to all the limbs of the body. Is it not?

Bob: It is so.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Similarly, the central “stomach” of the whole creation is God, or Kṛṣṇa. He is the enjoyer, He is the friend, and, as the supreme proprietor, He is maintaining everyone, just as a king can maintain the whole country’s citizens because he is the proprietor. Without being the proprietor, how can one become everyone’s friend?

So these things have to be understood. Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer, Kṛṣṇa is the supreme proprietor, and Kṛṣṇa is the supreme friend. If you know these three things, then your knowledge is full; you do not require to understand anything more. Yasmin vijñāte sarvam evaṁ vijñātaṁ bhavati. If you simply understand Kṛṣṇa by this formula, then your knowledge is complete. You don’t require any more knowledge. But people will not agree. “Why should Kṛṣṇa be the proprietor? Hitler should be the proprietor. Nixon …” That is going on. Therefore you are in trouble. But if you understand these three things only, then your knowledge is complete. But we will not accept. We will put forward so many impediments to understanding these three things, and that is the cause of our trouble. But in the Bhagavad-gītā [5.29] Kṛṣṇa plainly says:

bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ
suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

[“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.”] But we won’t take this. We put forward so many false proprietors, false friends, false enjoyers, and they fight one another. This is the situation of the world. If people would take this knowledge, there would immediately be peace (śāntim ṛcchati). This is knowledge, and if anyone follows this principle, he is honest. He does not claim, “It is mine.” He knows, “Everything is Kṛṣṇa’s, so therefore everything should be utilized for Kṛṣṇa’s service.” That is honesty. If this pencil belongs to me, the etiquette is for my students to ask, “Can I use this pencil?” Then I will reply, “Yes, you can.”

Similarly, if I know that everything belongs to Kṛṣṇa, I will not use anything without His permission. That is honesty. And that is knowledge. One who does not know this is ignorant; he is foolish. And a foolish man commits crimes. All criminals are foolish men. Out of ignorance one breaks the law. So ignorance is not bliss, but it is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss. That is the difficulty. The whole world is enjoying ignorance. And when you talk about Kṛṣṇa consciousness, they do not very much appreciate it. If I say, “Kṛṣṇa is the proprietor; you are not the proprietor,” you will not be very much satisfied. [Everyone laughs.] Just see – ignorance is bliss.

So it is my foolishness to say the real truth. Therefore it is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss. So we are taking the risk of offending people, and they think we are fools. If I say to a rich man, “You are not the proprietor; Kṛṣṇa is the proprietor. So whatever money you have, spend it for Kṛṣṇa,” he will be angry. Upadeśo hi mūrkhānāṁ prakopāya na śāntaye: “If you instruct a rascal, he’ll become angry.” Therefore we go as beggars: “My dear sir, you are a very nice man. I am a sannyāsī beggar, so I want to construct a temple. Can you spare some money?” So he will think, “Oh, here is a beggar. Give him some money.” [Everyone laughs.] But if I say, “Dear sir, you have millions of dollars at your disposal. That is Kṛṣṇa’s money. Give it to me. I am Kṛṣṇa’s servant” – oh, he’ll chase me away. [Everyone laughs.] He will not be very satisfied. Rather, if I go as a beggar, he will give me something. And if I tell him the truth, he will not give me a farthing. [Everyone laughs.] We convince him as beggars. We are not beggars; we are Kṛṣṇa’s servants.

For ourselves we don’t want anything from anyone, because we know Kṛṣṇa will provide everything. This is knowledge. For instance, a child will sometimes take a hundred dollar bill, so we have to flatter him. “Oh, you are so nice. Please take these lozenges and give me that paper. It is nothing; it is paper.” And he will say, “Oh, yes. Take. That’s nice.” And he returns the hundred-dollar note for two-penny sweets. So we have to beg people in that way. Why? Because a man will go to hell by taking Kṛṣṇa’s money. So some way or other, take some money from him and engage him in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.

Bob: And then he may not go to hell?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. You save him from going to hell. Because a farthing spent for Krsna will be noted by Him: “Oh, this man has given a farthing.” This is called ajñāta-sukṛti [devotional service performed unknowingly]. People are generally very poor in their thought; therefore the saintly persons move among them just to enlighten them a little, to give them a chance to serve Kṛṣṇa. That is the saintly person’s duty. But if someone takes money from others and utilizes it for his sense gratification, then he goes to hell. Then he is finished. He is a cheater, a criminal. You cannot take a farthing from anyone and use it for your own sense gratification.

Bob: I think of people I know who are not Kṛṣṇa conscious.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa means God.

Bob: They are just slightly God conscious, but still these people are honest to the extent that they don’t take from other people at all. And they try to be honest with other people.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: They do not take from other people, but they take from God.

Bob: So these people are half-good?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Not good. If they do not learn this principle – that God is the proprietor – they cannot be good.

Bob: I’m thinking of poor people who need money and food but do not commit crimes to get it. Everybody around them may be stealing, but they still stand up and don’t steal. These people somehow deserve something good to happen to them.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: But the man who is thinking he is not stealing is also a thief because he does not know that everything belongs to Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, whatever he is accepting, he is stealing.

Bob: Is he less of a thief?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You may not know that I am the proprietor of this shawl, but if you take it away, are you not stealing?

Bob: But maybe if I know it is yours and I take it I am a worse thief than if I do not know whose it is. I just think it may be nobody’s, and I take it.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is also stealing, because it must belong to somebody. And you are taking it without his permission. You may not know exactly who the proprietor is, but you know it must belong to someone. Sometimes we see on the road so many valuable things left there – government property for repairing roads or some electrical work. A man may think, “Oh, fortunately these things are lying here, so I may take them.” Is it not stealing?

Bob: It is stealing.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. He does not know that it is all government property and he takes it away. That is stealing. And when he is caught, he is arrested, and he is punished. So, similarly, whatever you are collecting … Suppose you are drinking a glass of water from the river. Is the river your property?

Bob: No.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then? It is stealing. You have not created the river. You do not know who is the proprietor, but it is not your property. So, even if you drink a glass of water without knowing to whom it belongs, you are a thief. So you may think, “I am honest,” but actually you are a thief. You must remember Kṛṣṇa. “Oh, Kṛṣṇa, it is Your creation, so kindly allow me to drink.” This is honesty. Therefore a devotee always thinks of Kṛṣṇa. In all activities: “Oh, it is Kṛṣṇa’s.” This is honesty. So without Kṛṣṇa consciousness, everyone is a rascal, a thief, a rogue, a robber.

Therefore our conclusion is that anyone who does not understand Kṛṣṇa has no good qualifications. He is not honest, nor has he knowledge. Therefore he is a third-class man. This is not dogmatism. This is a fact. So, you have understood what is knowledge and what is honesty?

Bob: In a way.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: And is there another way? [Bob laughs.] Is there any other way? Defy it! [Bob laughs again. Śrīla Prabhupāda also laughs.] Is there an alternative? We do not say anything that can be defied by anyone; that experience we have. Rather, we defy everyone: “Any questions?” Till now, Kṛṣṇa has given us protection. In big, big meetings in big, big countries, after speaking I ask, “Any questions?”

Bob: Now I have none.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: In London, we had lectures for twelve days in Conway Hall. So after every meeting I asked, “Any questions?”

Bob: Did you get many questions?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Oh, yes. But many were foolish questions.

Bob: Let me ask one more question. What is being foolish?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: One who has no knowledge is to be considered foolish.

An Indian gentleman: Prabhupāda, I have one question. Can I ask?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.

Indian gentleman: Some time ago in Calcutta they observed a week named “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Week.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Hmmm. This is another foolishness. They are advertising prevention of cruelty, yet they are maintaining thousands of slaughterhouses. You see? That is another foolishness. They are regularly cruel to animals, and they are making a society to prevent it. It is as if a gang of thieves calls itself Goodman and Company.

Girirāja: Yesterday you said that the spiritual master may have to suffer due to the sinful activities of his disciples. What do you mean by sinful activities?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: At initiation you promised, “I shall follow the regulative principles.” If you do not follow, that is sinful. Very simple. You break the promise and do nasty things; therefore you are sinful. Is it not?

Girirāja: Yes. But there are some things we’re instructed to do that, even though we try to do them, we cannot yet do perfectly.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You try to do and cannot do? How is that?

Girirāja: Like chanting attentively. Sometimes we try to, but …

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Well, that is not a fault. Suppose you are trying to do something, but due to your inexperience you sometimes fail. That is not a fault. You are trying. A verse in the Bhāgavatam says that if a devotee is trying his best but due to his incapability he sometimes fails, Kṛṣṇa excuses him. And in the Bhagavad-gītā [9.30] Kṛṣṇa says, api cet su-durācāro bhajate mām ananya-bhāk sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ. “Someone may commit the most abominable activity, but if he is worshiping Me sincerely he should be considered a saintly person.” Sometimes one does something nonsensical unwillingly, due to past bad habits. That does not mean he is faulty. But he must repent for what he has done. And he should try to avoid it as far as possible. But habit is second nature. Sometimes, in spite of your trying hard, māyā is so strong that it trips you with pitfalls. That can be excused. Kṛṣṇa excuses. But those who are doing something willingly are not excused. On the strength that I am a devotee, if I think, “Because I am chanting, I may therefore commit all this nonsense and it will be nullified,” that is the greatest offense.

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