this story to a friend
Prabhupada: What is the current scientific
knowledge about the spirit soul?
Benford: We have virtually no scientific knowledge about the
Prabhupada: Therefore you have actually made no advancement in
Benford: Well, scientific knowledge is a different class of
Prabhupada: Perhaps. There are so many departments of
the medical study of the body, the psychological study of the mind, and
ultimately spiritual, transcendental knowledge. The body and mind are
simply the coverings of the spirit soul, just as this shirt and coat
are coverings for your body. 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?
Benford: I think that there is no category of knowledge that
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 atma-jnana—self-knowledge,
the knowledge of the soul.
Benford: The only form of knowledge that is verifiable—that
verifiable in the sense of getting everybody to agree with it—is that
which can be proved logically or experimentally.
Prabhupada: The science of the self can be verified logically.
Benford: How so?
Prabhupada: Just consider your body. You once had the
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. So your body has changed, but you are still remaining.
Benford: I am not so sure it is the same "I".
Prabhupada: Yes, you are the same "I". Just as the parents of
child will say, after he has grown up, "Oh, just see how our son has
grown!" He is the same person; hs 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. Your mother will
deny that you are a different person, even though you have a different
Benford: But I may not be the same being that I was.
Prabhupada: Correct. "Not the same" means, for example, that a
young child may talk nonsense now, but when he 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, when the spirit soul has a child's body, he 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 he is the
same. For example, now 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.
the conclusion is tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na
muhyati: "When this body is finished, the soul gives it up and
another body." (Bhagavad-gita 2.13) Tatha dehantara.
"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, genitals and rectum. In this way, the body is developed to
completion in seven months. Then consciousness comes.
Benford: At seven months?
Prabhupada: Yes. The child wants to come out. He feels
uncomfortable; therefore he prays to God to kindly release him from the
bondage. He promises that when he gets out he will become a devotee of
God. So after nine months he comes out of the womb. 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 fortune to take birth in a family of
Vaishnavas, those who are God conscious. This God consciousness is real
Benford: Is it true that the children of all such parents are
somewhat spiritually superior to the children of other parents?
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 I had this spark of Krishna consciousness, and my father
detected it. Then I accepted my spiritual master. In this way I have
come to this stage of sannyasa (the renounced monastic order).
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
(Lord Krishna's eternal consort)." That was his only ambition. He
taught me how to play the mirdanga drum, although sometimes my
was not very satisfied. She would say, "Why are you teaching him to
play mirdanga?" But my father would say, "No, no, he must learn
little mirdanga." My father was very affectionate to me.
due to past pious activities one gets a good father and mother, that is
a great chance for advancing in Krishna consciousness.
Benford: What will happen to you and your students next?
Prabhupada: We are going back to Krishna. We have got
Krishna's name, Krishna's address, Krishna's form, Krishna's
activities. We know everything, and we are going there. Krishna
promises this in the Bhagavad-gita (4.9):
janma karma cha me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so 'rjuna
"One who knows Me in truth, scientifically,"
Krishna says, "is eligible
to enter into the kingdom of God. Upon leaving the body, he does not
take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal
Benford: How do you know that people return in some other form?
Prabhupada: We see that there are so many forms. Where do
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.
Prabhupada: Not exactly. The different species are already
existing. Fish, tiger, man—all of these are already existing. It is
just like the different types of aparments 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
one of these bodily forms. But there is evolution also—spiritual
evolution. From the fish, the soul evolves to plant life. From plant
forms the living entity enters 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
juncture in the evolutionary development of the living entity.
In the Bhagavad-gita
(9.25) Krishna says,
yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrin yanti pitri-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam
words, whatever you like you can achieve. There are different lokas,
or planetary systems, and you can go to the
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
the earthly planetary system, or you can go to the planet of God,
Krishnaloka. This method of transferring one's self 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,
devotional process of yoga. The devotees can go directly to the
where Krishna is.
Benford: Undoubtedly you are aware that there are a few
both in Eastern and Western society, who feel it 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
Prabhupada: Then you don't believe in God?
Benford: I don't not believe in God; I'm just not
an opinion until I have some evidence.
Prabhupada: But do you think that there is a God or not?
Benford: I have a suspicion that there may be, but it is
Prabhupada: But you think sometimes that there may be God, do
Prabhupada: So you are in doubt, suspicion—you are not
certain—but your inclination is that you think there is a God, is it
not? Your knowledge being imperfect, you are in doubt, that's all.
Otherwise you ae inclined to think of God. 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.
Prabhupada: Yes. Sometimes or at all times—it doesn't matter.
That is the position of everyone. As long as one is in the human form
of life, he has a 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 your 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.
Benford: So of course, the reason is separation of Church and
Prabhupada: Reasons there may be many, but the principal
is that this age is the Kali-yuga (the age of quarrel and hypocrisy).
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 knowlede 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 people are using
them to increase sex life.
Benford: What do you think about the moon mission?
Prabhupada: That is also sleeping. You have spent so much
to go there and sleep, that's all. Otherwise, what can you do there?
Benford: you can go there and learn.
Prabhupada: You go there and sleep, that's all. Sleeping. You
spending billions and getting nothing in return.
Benford: It's worth more than that.
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 jurisdiction. You may have very gorgeous, polished bodily
knowlede, 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, how to
sleep, how to have sexual intercourse, and how to defend.
Benford: But they don't know anything about nuclear physics!
Prabhupada: That does not mean that you are improved over the
animals. It is the same thing—only polished. You are improving from the
bullock cart to the car, that's all—simply a transformation of material
Benford: There is knowledge about the structure of the
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. The dog may sleep on the ground, and
you may sleep in a very nice apartment, but when you sleep, your
enjoyment and the dog's enjoyment are the same. 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.
Benford: You seem to place emphasis on what knowledge does for
What about the sheer joy of discovering how nature works? For example,
now we think that we understand matter liks this (pointing to the
grass). 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.
Prabhupada: But what is the benefit? Even if you knew every
particle of this grass, what would be the benefit? 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?
Benford: I seem to view the world as the sum of its component
Prabhupada: Suppose I take this grass. I can write volumes of
books—when it came into existence, when it died, what the fibers are,
what the molecules are. In so many ways I can describe this
insignificant foliage. But what is the use of it?
Benford: If it has no use, why did God put it there? Isn't it
Prabhupada: Our point is that you would rather study the
insignificant grass than the God who has created everything. If you
could understand Him, then automatically you would understand the
grass. But you want to seperate 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.
Benford: But why is it a waste?
Prabhupada: Certainly it is a waste, because the result is not
Benford: Well, what is "useful"?
Prabhupada: It is useful to know yourself—what you are.
Benford: Why is knowledge of myself better than knowledge of a
Prabhupada: If you understand what you are, then you
other things. That is called atma-tattva, atma-jnana,
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
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 old
age comes anyway. What is the reason that these things are coming by
force? Who is enforcing these things? I do not know, but these are the
real problems. I don't want excessive heat, but there is excessive
heat. Why? Who is enforcing these things? Why are they being enforced?
I don't want this heat; what have I done? These are real
just studying foliage and writing volumes of books. That is a waste of
energy. Study yourself.