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Deciding for the Future

New York – July 4, 1972

Bob: I received your very kind letter about a week ago.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You are a very intelligent boy. Try to understand this philosophy. It is very important. People are wasting so much energy for sense gratification. They are not aware of what is going to happen in the next life. There is a next life, but foolish people are ignorant. This life is a preparation for the next life. That they do not know. The modern education and its universities are completely in darkness about this simple knowledge. We are changing bodies every moment – that is a medical fact. After leaving this body, we will have to accept another body. How are we going to accept that body? What kind of body? This can also be known. For example, if someone is being educated, one can understand that when he passes his examination he is going to be an engineer or medical practitioner. Similarly, in this life, you can prepare yourself to become something in the next life.

Barbara [Bob’s wife]: Can we decide what we want to be in the next life?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, you can decide. We have decided that in the next life we are going to Kṛṣṇa. This is our decision – to go back home, back to Godhead. Suppose you decide that you are going to be an engineer or a medical practitioner. With that objective you prepare and educate yourself. Similarly, you can decide what you are going to do in the next life. But if you don’t decide, then the material nature will decide.

Barbara: Could I have been Kṛṣṇa conscious in my last life? Is it possible that in my last life I was a Kṛṣṇa devotee and have come back again?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: It doesn’t matter. But you can become a Kṛṣṇa devotee now. Take advantage of our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. When one is perfectly Kṛṣṇa conscious, he does not come back. But if there is a little deficiency, then there is a possibility of coming back. But even though there is a deficiency, he comes back to a nice family. Śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe yoga-bhraṣṭo ’bhijāyate. [“The unsuccessful yogī takes birth in a religious or aristocratic family.”] So human intelligence can decide for the future. An animal cannot. We have discriminatory power: “If I do this, I will be benefited; if I do that, I will not be benefited.” This power is there in human life. So you have to use it properly. You should know what is the goal of life and decide in that way. That is human civilization.

Barbara: Have you ever seen Kṛṣṇa?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.

Barbara: You have?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Daily. At every moment.

Barbara: But not in the material body?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: He has no material body.

Barbara: Well, in the temple here they have pictures of Kṛṣṇa.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is not a material body. You are seeing materially because you have material eyes. Because you have material eyes, you cannot see the spiritual form. Therefore Kṛṣṇa kindly appears to be in a material body so that you can see Him. But because He has kindly made Himself just fit for your seeing, that does not mean He has a material body. Suppose the President of the United States kindly comes to your house. That does not mean his position and your position are the same. It is his kindness. Out of love, he may come to your house, but that does not mean he is on the same level as you. Similarly, because we cannot see Kṛṣṇa with our present eyes, He therefore appears before us as a painting, or as a form made of stone or wood. And Kṛṣṇa is not different from these paintings and wood because everything is Kṛṣṇa.

Barbara: After we die, what happens to our spirit?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You get another body.

Barbara: Immediately?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. It is just like when you change your apartment: you fix up your new apartment first; then you leave this one and go there.

Barbara: So do we know what type of body we will get?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, provided you are qualified. Those who are qualified know. But for those who do not know, nature will arrange things. If you do not know, this means you have not prepared your life. So at the time of death your mentality will create another body, and nature will supply it.

Bob: If Kṛṣṇa controls everything, how does Kṛṣṇa control a nondevotee?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: By māyā. Kṛṣṇa controls this world just as the government controls everything. A kingdom is controlled by the king’s departments.

Bob: And how does Kṛṣṇa control a devotee?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Just as you control your beloved. For example, if you have a beloved child, you control him for his benefit. If he is going to touch fire, you will immediately tell him, “No, no, my dear child. Don’t touch it.” So a Kṛṣṇa conscious person, a devotee, is never misled, because Kṛṣṇa is always guiding him, whereas those who are not Kṛṣṇa conscious are in the charge of māyā, and māyā will do the needful, as you have seen.

Bob: Is the time that we’ll die preset when we’re born? When I’m born, do I have a certain given life span?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.

A devotee: And he cannot change that?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, he cannot change it, but Kṛṣṇa can change it.

Devotee: If he commits suicide, is that also preset?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Not preset. That you can do because you have a little independence. It is not natural to commit suicide. But because we have independence, we can go from nature to “un-nature.” A prisoner cannot go out of the prison house naturally. But if somehow or other he arranges to jump over the wall and escapes, then he becomes eligible for further imprisonment. He will be arrested again, and his term of imprisonment will be increased. So, naturally we cannot violate destiny. But if we do it, then we will suffer. But our destiny can be changed by Kṛṣṇa when we are Kṛṣṇa conscious. We do not do it, but Kṛṣṇa will do it. Kṛṣṇa says, ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi: “I shall give you protection.” That change takes place for my protection.

There are two categories – nondevotee and devotee. The nondevotee is under the control of material nature, and the devotee is under the direct control of Kṛṣṇa. There are many employees in a big company, and they are controlled by the head of the company through different departmental superintendents. But although outside of home he controls his employees indirectly, the same man at home is controlling his children directly. But he is always a controller.

Similarly, God is always the controller. When one becomes a devotee, he is controlled by God; when he is a nondevotee, he is controlled by God’s agent, māyā. But one has to be controlled. For example, every citizen of America is controlled by the government. When a citizen is all right, the civil department controls him; when he is not all right, the criminal department controls him. But he cannot say, “I am not controlled.” That is not possible. Everyone is controlled. If somebody says “I am not controlled,” he is crazy. Everyone is controlled. So either you will be controlled directly by God, or you will be controlled by His agent, māyā. If you choose to be controlled by māyā, you spoil your life: you remain in material existence birth after birth, changing your bodies. But if you choose to be controlled by God, then after this body you go back home, back to Godhead. Then your life is successful. You cannot exist without being controlled; that is not possible.

Intelligence means to choose to be controlled by Kṛṣṇa. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā: bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate. “After many births of speculating, one surrenders unto Me.” Vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti. One thinks, “Kṛṣṇa, You are everything. So I have come before You. Please accept me. I am now fully surrendered unto You, so please control me. For so long I have been controlled by these rascal senses, without any benefit. Under the control of the senses I have served so-called family, society, country, nation – up to serving the dogs. But nothing has given me satisfaction. But now I have had the good sense to put myself under Your control. Instead of being controlled by dog, let me be controlled by God.” This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Have you not seen how a man is controlled by a dog? In the street the dog stops to pass stool, and his master will stand and wait. Is it not? The dog is passing stool and urine, and the man is thinking, “I am the master.” But he is being controlled by the dog! That is māyā. What do you think? Has he not become controlled by the dog?

Bob: That is so.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: But he is thinking, “I am the master of the dog.” A family man is controlled by his wife, his children, his servants, everyone, but he is thinking, “I am master.” President Nixon is thinking that he is master of his country, but he is controlled. At once he can be dismissed by the public, his servants! At election time he will take a position, claiming, “I will give you very good service,” and “I shall be a first-class servant.” Therefore people vote, “All right, you become president.” And he is advertising: “Reelect me! Reelect me!” That means he is a servant. But he is thinking, “I am the master.” That is illusion, māyā. One who is controlled by māyā thinks himself the master while he is a servant. But a devotee never thinks, “I am the master,” only “I am Kṛṣṇa’s servant.” That is mukti, liberation. A devotee is never controlled by false thoughts. He knows his position – svarūpena vyavasthitiḥ. Mukti, liberation, means to be situated in one’s own constitutional position as a servant of Kṛṣṇa. So if I know that I am a servant of Kṛṣṇa, that is my liberation. And if I think that I am the master, that is bondage. This is the difference between liberated life and conditioned life.

So these Kṛṣṇa conscious devotees are always thinking that they are servants of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore they are all liberated. They do not endeavor for liberation. They are already liberated because they are situated in their constitutional position.

Bob: Prabhupāda, some religious people claim that Jesus is guiding them. Can this be so?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, but they are not taking the guidance. Jesus is guiding the Christians, telling them, “Thou shalt not kill,” but they are killing. So how are they following Jesus’ guidance? Simply saying “I am guided by Jesus Christ, but I don’t care for his words” – will that do? Is that guidance? Nobody is being guided by Jesus Christ. Their claim is false. It is very hard to find a man who is actually being guided by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ’s guidance is available, but nobody is caring for him. They have taken Jesus Christ as contractor to take up their sins. That is their philosophy. They commit all kinds of sins, and poor Jesus Christ will be responsible. That is their religion. Therefore they say, “We have a very good religion. For all our sinful activities, Jesus Christ will die.” Is that good religion? They have no sympathy for Jesus Christ. If they did they would think, “He died for our sins. Why should we commit sins again? Such a great life has been sacrificed for our sins, so we should be guided by Jesus Christ.” But they take it otherwise: “Ah, I shall go on committing all sins, and Jesus Christ has made a contract to nullify all my sins; I’ll simply go to the church and confess and come back and again do all nonsense.” Do you think that shows very good intelligence?

Bob: No.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: One who is actually guided by Jesus Christ will certainly get liberation. But it is very hard to find a man who is actually being guided by Jesus Christ.

Bob: What about the “Jesus freaks,” young people who read the Bible very often?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: But violence is against the Bible’s injunctions. How can they kill if they are following the Bible?

Bob: They claim that the Bible says Jesus ate meat.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That’s all right. He may eat anything; he is powerful. But he has ordered, “Thou shalt not kill. You must stop killing.” He is powerful. He can eat the whole world. But you cannot compare yourself to Jesus Christ. You cannot imitate him; you have to abide by his order. Then you are guided by Jesus Christ. That is actual obedience. The Bhāgavatam explains that one who is an īśvara, who is empowered, can do anything, but that we cannot imitate. We have to abide by his order.

Admitting that Jesus ate meat, you do not know under what conditions he ate meat. He advised others not to kill, yet he himself ate meat. Do you think Jesus Christ was contradicting himself?

Bob: No.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: He cannot do that. That is real faith in him – to understand that he cannot do that. So why did he eat meat? He has his reasons why, but he has asked me not to kill. Therefore I have to follow. That is the real system. You are not Jesus Christ; you cannot imitate him. He has sacrificed his life for God. Can you do that? Why imitate Jesus Christ only by eating meat? Why not imitate Jesus Christ by sacrificing your life for spreading God consciousness? They are so-called Christians, but what are they doing for God? Consider how the sun is absorbing urine. Can you drink urine? If you want to imitate the sun and drink urine, can you? Similarly, Jesus Christ is so powerful he can do anything. But we cannot imitate; we have to simply abide by his order. That is real Christianity. It is wrong to imitate a powerful man.

Our Vedic literature describes that once there was an ocean of poison and no one knew what to do with it. Then Lord Śiva said, “All right, I’ll drink it.” So he drank the whole poison ocean and kept it in his throat. Now, can you drink poison? Not the whole ocean, just one cup. Lord Śiva never advised that we drink poison. So you have to abide by his advice, not try to imitate him. These LSD and marijuana people say that Lord Śiva used to smoke gañjā [hashish]. But Lord Śiva drank a whole ocean of poison! Can you do that?

It is Lord Śiva’s instructions that should be followed, not his example of smoking gañjā. When Pārvatī asked him what method of worship is best, he said, viṣṇor ārādhanaṁ param: “The best worship is worship of Lord Viṣṇu, Kṛṣṇa.” There are many demigods, but he recommended Viṣṇu worship as the best. And better than Viṣṇu worship, he said, is worship of a Vaiṣṇava. The exact word he used is tadīyānām – “those who are related to Viṣṇu.” For instance, we worship the Tulasī plant. We do not worship all plants, but because Tulasī has a very intimate connection with Kṛṣṇa, or Viṣṇu, we worship her. Similarly, if anything is intimately related with Kṛṣṇa, worship of that thing is better than worship of Viṣṇu.

Bob: Why is that?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Because Kṛṣṇa will be pleased. Suppose you have a dog and some friend comes and pats your dog and says, “My, what a nice dog you have.” [Śrīla Prabhupāda makes big patting motions amidst general laughter.] You become pleased and think, “Oh, he is my good friend.” You see? [Some Indian guests enter the room.]

Please have some prasādam.

[Śrīla Prabhupāda continues speaking with his guests, sometimes in English and sometimes in Hindi. It is his last day in New York, and his plane to London is scheduled to leave in only a few hours. Bob has brought a car to drive Śrīla Prabhupāda to Kennedy Airport. The devotees are scurrying about, bringing luggage to the car, putting the manuscripts of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s latest translating work in order, and making other last-minute arrangements.]

Śyāmasundara: Everything’s ready, Śrīla Prabhupāda. The car is waiting for us.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: So? We can go now? All right. Hare Kṛṣṇa!

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