Originally spoken before an audience in Portland, Oregon, June 22, 1982.
The general idea of the public is that it is the political leaders who are the cause of nuclear armament, nuclear arms race, stockpiles of nuclear weapons, of which statistics tell us there are at least fifty thousand. That is 50,000 nuclear warheads, each about twenty (20) megatons. Twenty megatons means, according to this information, a blast equivalent to the explosion of twenty million tons of TNT. The present nuclear stockpile has an explosive potential of 1.6 million times that of the antique bomb dropped on Hiroshima back in 1945.
The Hiroshima bomb was one-tenth of a megaton, and it annihilated an entire city. Now we have 20-megaton bombs. It is conceivable that the defence departments of Russia and America have even 50- or 100-megaton bombs which we haven’t been informed about yet.
At any rate, our newspapers, magazines, television and radio also give us a few other mind-boggling facts about the potential of nuclear war, and some of them are as follows. If a 20-megaton bomb were to explode over a major US city:
- It would produce a fireball with temperatures of 20 to 30 million degrees Fahrenheit. That would vaporize everything within a 1.5 mile radius, leaving a crater several hundred feet deep.
- It would create a silent heat flash traveling at the speed of light and instantly kill anyone within a six mile radius.
- It would emanate supersonic shock waves at a speed of 300 miles per hour, which would knock down all structures within a six mile radius.
- It would kill 50% of the population within a 10 mile radius by direct thermal radiation and blast pressures.
- Such a blast would ignite a fire storm that would turn bomb shelters into crematoriums, asphyxiating and dry-roasting anyone inside them.
- It would disperse lethal doses of fallout that within 24 hours would kill most survivors downwind from the blast.
Some of the other horrific facts about atomic explosions were learned many years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastated. Within 13 years, people who survived that bombing suddenly began to just drop dead. Some were riding their bicycles. Somehow or other, 13 years later it created another kind of reaction which we as laymen cannot explain, but the facts are there. To this day all kinds of mutated births take place. We know, of course, from the peaceful use of atomic energy that there are tremendous waste by-products which are practically impossible to dispose of safely for at least some thousands of years.
Yet our leaders go on producing not only atomic devices for destruction, but also the so-called atomic reactors which are supposed to give us wonderful facilities for peaceful uses.
Slaughterhouses and Killing Fields
At any rate, although the public has undoubtedly the very best of intentions when they join a protest march or write a letter of protest, or when they contribute to a no-nuke organization, the fact that remains hidden is that the real culprits for the creation of atomic energy both for destructive and peaceful purposes are the very persons who are protesting against it.
Everyone in this room, practically everyone on the face of the Earth—black or white, communist or capitalist, rich or poor—every single person is actually guilty in the creation of atomic weapons, and it is their daily activity unknown to themselves that will inevitably unleash the horror of global nuclear war. Why? Because the whole world at the present moment is steeped in darkness, the darkness of ignorance in regards to spiritual life. Everyone is an accomplice in the systematic, merciless and wholesale slaughter of millions upon millions of innocent animals. It is this one act alone that is ignorantly supported by the innocent citizens of every country of the word. By the fact that he eats meat, that has brought about the present state of affairs.
It is not simply that Ronald Reagan and Leonard Brezhnev or Colonel Qadafi are the heartless and thoughtless culprits, or the scientist in the laboratory who is daily researching and improving the potential for atomic destruction. They are in fact as innocent or ignorant as John Q. Public, the man in the street or the housewife who goes to the supermarket and purchases a pork chop or some hamburger meat or a steak or a chicken or a fish or a dozen eggs to take home and fry up or roast. The amount of meat consumed at the present moment is incalculable.
It is this ignorance of nature’s laws that has brought about previous wars, both large and small. In this century alone our parents have witnessed the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Pakistan-India War, and just a few weeks ago the Falkland Islands War, the wars in South America, in Africa, Central America, in the Philippines…. There is hardly a nation on the face of the Earth which is not at the present moment engaged in war. Cambodia… the list could be extended, I think, by members of the audience on and on.
Besides that, we find global weather conditions taking all kinds of unpredictable turns. Volcanoes erupting. Earthquakes swallowing up hundreds and thousands within a moment. In China one earthquake… and within a matter of minutes 750,000 people vanished. The reason for these man-made and also natural calamities is not accidental or haphazard, inexplicable chance. They are the result of our sinful activities, not only in this life, but also in previous lives.
This principle, which binds every living thing, whether man or beast, is called the law of karma. All of you have probably heard something about karma, but very few people actually understand the scientific basis of the karmic law. In the shastras [Vedic literatures], the example is given of how by friction of bamboos in the forest a fire is ignited and the forest is burned to the ground. The apparent cause of fire is the friction of two bamboos, but the real cause is actually the wind, which brings them together. Similarly, it is the wind or the force of karma, the force of our sinful activities which gives rise to apparent friction between individuals, communities and ultimately nations.
Ignorance is No Excuse
There is no use clamoring for peace and nuclear disarmament, love, peace and brotherhood on the one hand and on the other hand going to the market to purchase a steak, a hamburger, a hot dog, a pork chop, chicken or fish, which has been mercilessly slaughtered for our enjoyment, for our sense gratification. If we really want peace, if we really want brotherhood, if we want love, if we want prosperity, if we want nuclear disarmament, and if we want to be happy and become perfect in life, we shall have to understand spiritual life in fact, not as a sentiment or as a fad just because everyone is out there against nuclear arms and nuclear reactors, or because people don’t want to see their children subjected to the horrors of war.
Then we have to understand Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness is not a fad. It may be, from an external point of view, something very peculiar. It may appear new. It may appear faddish and cultish. But upon intelligent observation and study, we can understand that Krishna consciousness is the science of the living force. As we have science of inert elements and chemicals, there is a science that deals with the living force.
We are not a combination of chemicals or enzymes or atoms, but we, the living beings, are eternal consciousness, eternal living force, part and parcel of God, the supreme living force. Material nature is also one of the energies of God, but the living entity is not a product of that material energy, no more than light is a product of darkness. Rather, darkness is a by-product of light. Similarly, matter does not create life. Rather, life creates and gives shape to matter.
The only way to counteract the present state of affairs in regards to nuclear arms race and nuclear devastation is not by sheepishly following in a march or sentimentally calling for disarmament but by factually becoming God conscious, by changing our behavior and activity from sinful to spiritual. This is not a new teaching. These ideas have been expressed in every religious community by every religious reformer and prophet or representative of God since time immemorial. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” “Whatever you do unto the least of My creatures, you do it unto Me.” “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” In physics, scientists themselves have come to understand the basic law of nature that “every action has its equal and opposite reaction.” But the scientist foolishly thinks that he alone is an exception to nature’s laws. No one is exempt from God’s law. Krishna says, “Material nature is working under My direction, producing all the moving and non-moving beings. By its law or rule, it is created and annihilated again and again.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.10) We can go on clamoring for peace and nuclear disarmament, but the result will be zero as long as in the one hand we hold a peace banner and in the other a hot dog. Practically this is the situation.
Of course, people are innocent, because the leaders are in ignorance and fail to educate the innocent mass of people. But innocence actually means “ignorance.” Children are innocent, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from nature’s law. An innocent child touches fire, and fire will burn him. Nature doesn’t excuse the child because of his innocence. Innocence in its mature and deliberate practice in the face of knowledge leads to what we call ignorance. Ignorance comes from the word ignore. To ignore something we must actually be aware of it. We know that the speed limit is 55, but we ignore it and do 90. Therefore ignorance of the law is no excuse. You cannot come before the judge and plead ignorance—”Oh, I didn’t know that.” The judge will reply, “It is your duty to know the law.” That is the first duty of a citizen. Similarly, a human being is different from all other living creatures because he has the capacity to know the laws and orders of God. Such laws and orders are contained in the books of knowledge which are called shastras or scriptures. The original books of knowledge are Vedic literatures, dating back to more than 5,000 years.
Religion is not a sentiment. It is not a vague, nebulous, mysterious, ephemeral or mental plane. Religion is the king of knowledge. In Bhagavad-gita (9.2) it is said, raja vidya raja-guhyam pavitram idam uttamam. Raja means king, and vidya means knowledge. There are many fields of knowledge, such as chemistry, botany, physics, on and on. The universities are full of literatures, professors and departments of knowledge. But there isn’t a single university on the face of the Earth that teaches this knowledge systematically and scientifically: the knowledge of the self, the knowledge of God and our eternal relationship with Him. The result is we know everything except what we are, where we have come from, why we are here and where we have to go!
Advancement of knowledge in our present civilization is so wonderful that it has brought us to the point of creating something which can in a flash annihilate everything we have learned to the present moment. That is the unique feature of material advancement. It destroys itself by itself for itself. No amount of armistice meetings, no amount of summits, no amount of protest marches, signing of papers or whatever else is going to reverse the force of the wind or the hurricane of karma which the world has set into motion by sinful activities, especially in connection with animal slaughter. Yes, our technology has created such cost-efficient arrangements whereby hundreds and thousands of animals can be slaughtered, chopped up into little pieces with just a push of a button. On top of that, not only do we kill animals, but we are being encouraged to kill our children within the womb in the name of population control, family planning, birth control. Even animals are not so vicious that they abort their children. But the human being, with all his advancement and technology, he has brought us to this conclusion: kill the child within the womb and keep the population and family under control; meanwhile go on having sex like cats and dogs and be happy. To teach people to abort their children because of their desire to keep the population from growing is like cutting people’s tongues off because there’s not enough food to eat. It’s completely insane. If our leaders don’t want to increase the population, they should teach people not to have sex, because if you don’t have sex, you won’t have children! But no! They won’t do that. They encourage illicit sex, meat eating, gambling, intoxication and every other vicious habit, and then introduce abortion.
And yes, they will write some speeches on disarmament and limited nuclear war. But a Krishna conscious movement doesn’t sympathize in that sense with the Ban the Bomb movement. We say, “Ban sinful activities. Close the slaughterhouse. Close the brewery.” Then automatically we shall see people become peaceful, and they will lose the impetus for creating instruments of destruction in the name of nationalism, whether it’s capitalism, socialism, communism, Hinduism, Christianism or any other “ism.” Outside of this there is no solution.
Even one of the great Irish poets, George Bernard Shaw, who was also a vegetarian, has written in this connection:
We pray on Sunday that we may have light
to guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We are sick of war. We don’t want to fight,
and yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
The great, thoughtful personalities that have guided humankind throughout human history were not meat eaters, drunkards, woman hunters, intoxicators. They were men of principle. We are not concerned with whether George Bernard Shaw was a Catholic, a Hindu or a Jew. We do not ask, “Was Jesus a Protestant or a Catholic?” We never speak of St. Francis as belonging to a particular church. We are not talking of religion in the conventional sense, in the official, rubber-stamp capacity in which people now take it. We are talking of science. We are talking of culture, knowledge. We don’t ask people to join our movement, shave their heads and wear these robes. But we do ask people to read the Vedic literatures. They are not “our” books. They are the books which guide human behavior, and they are compiled not by ordinary, mundane speculators or philosophers. They are actually the words of the supreme authority, the Personality of Godhead, Krishna.
If you do not care for the name of Krishna, that doesn’t matter. But there is a supreme authority, and He has all the qualifications that His creation has. If we are created by God, then certainly whatever we can do, He can also do. If I can speak, certainly God can speak. If I can see, then certainly God must see. If I can hear, He must be hearing. If I can create, certainly God can create. In fact, God can do everything that we can, but He can do everything without limit. He can create without limit. He can see without limit. He can hear, think, and exist without any limitation. Therefore the conclusion is very simple. We, as creations of God, have only one thing to do in this life, and that is to know who God is, what God is, what my relationship with Him is, and how to re-establish it. Everything else is superfluous.
When we are diverted from this in the name of science, medicine, economics, politics, art, music, poetry, then we are simply creating our own misfortune. Although it may appear very gorgeous in the shape of skyscrapers, airplanes and nuclear reactors, the real conclusion of such diverted energy is now looming over us in the shape of the atomic bomb. The newspapers speak of a limited nuclear war or whether anyone could possibly be so deranged that he would actually be the first one to drop an atom bomb on an enemy position. But we forget that atomic war has already taken place when America dropped the atom bomb on Japan. Not once, but twice. At that time the thinking was “Only we have this bomb, therefore we’ll just drop it neatly, wind up this war, and in the future we will simply control the whole world, since we have this wonderful weapon.”
Destiny took another turn, and tomorrow a high school boy may have that bomb, if he has a good enough brain. But we know for a fact that at least several nations are now in possession of these bombs, and the rest are clamoring to get it. Who will be the first doesn’t really matter. That doesn’t really matter because whoever is first, every one of us—all of us—will end up last. What is our benefit from these so-called military strategies? Who in this room stands to benefit? If all of Russia were wiped out tomorrow morning and not a single American were harmed, would you benefit in any way? Would your salary go up? Would you be more happy? Would you not become old? Not become diseased? Would that keep you from dying eventually?
Here is a movement which is realistic. It is both idealistic and realistic. The ideal is that we should live in peace and harmony, in love and brotherhood and prosperity. But the reality is that we are the greatest violators of peace by daily supporting the slaughter of hundreds and thousands and millions of animals, simply for some taste sensation. Someone is making good money. Of course it’s good business. Let an animal roam in the fields, it eats grass, and when it grows, you chop it. No work, nothing. Good profit. Good business. But it’s not humane. It’s barbaric. It’s demonic. “As you do unto others it will be done unto you.” This law is fixed up. Whether you believe it or you don’t believe it, this law is there, and it is acting. The manifestation of this law is there in the shape of war, disease, earthquake, flood, hurricane, volcano and inevitably in the holocaust of global atomic war.
Now the question is: how do we counteract it, after innocently participating in the slaughter of animals by eating meat? We were children. Our mother simply put the pork chop or hamburger or turkey in front of us and told us we have to eat this, that this was good for our health. How do we counteract our sinful reactions which may have been contracted in innocence? The answer is by first of all giving up sinful activity and secondly by practicing Krishna consciousness. The basic practice is to simply chant the holy name of Krishna, the name of the Lord in the form of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If some of you feel it foreign to chant the name of Krishna, then chant that name which your scripture gives you—Allah, Jehovah, whatever. That is the recommended process for this Age.
Before we joined this movement we were brought up Christian, as probably everyone in this room was. We were impressed by the story of the Lady of Fatima. Those of you who are Christians may know more or less some thing about the story. But the point is that she appeared a number of times before the First World War and before the Second World War, and she predicted also a Third World War. Her request was that all the people of the world should chant the rosary, which basically is what you find the Hare Krishna devotees doing when they are chanting on their beads.
We have a different prayer, but the principle of prayer, the principle of appealing to the Supreme is the same, whether it is the rosary or the japa mala or Moslem’s prayer beads. The principle is the same. The details may be different. When a child cries to be embraced by its mother, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Russian child, German child or any child. The sincere crying of the child for the mother is universal. Prayer is not restricted to a particular religious community or a particular formula of words, but it is a principle which is described by our spiritual master as the sincere crying of the child for its mother. The chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare should be done in the same mood as the sincere crying of the child for its mother. If you find the chanting of Hare Krishna is strange or uncomfortable, then chant the rosary.
When we grew up, this practice stayed with us for many, many years. We would regularly chant the rosary because according to the story the Lady of Fatima said that if the people of the world do not hear and comply with this request, the world would be engulfed in a war, a terrible war. She gave some indicator, or she gave some hint when it would begin. And that actually happened. Then again she appeared, and the same request was made to chant the rosary daily a certain number of times. If again the world failed to take up this request, a second war, which would be even more devastating than the first would take place. For that she also gave an indicator that would signal the beginning of the war, which also took place. The last request was “If after this, people still refuse to take up this process of chanting, a war so terrible would take place that the living would envy the dead.” It would be so devastating, so horrible that those who lived through it would actually wish they could die. There are, of course, other details in connection with the story.
Coming back to our original point… now in the eleventh hour everyone is suddenly running out and screaming for a nuclear freeze, disarmament, and so forth. But that is not the way to counteract the inevitable future. The way to counteract it is by giving up the four habits of sinful life: meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex life and gambling, and chanting the holy name of the Lord: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Otherwise it is the height of hypocrisy—a peace banner in one hand, hot dog in the other. Completely insane.