Talks with theologian Dr. Stillson Judah and Father Joseph Spae (Vatican), of the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, July 5th, 1978:
HANSADUTTA: If you have some questions about our movement, our activities, our philosophy, I would be glad to try to answer them.
DR. STILLSON JUDAH: I would be interested in this new development with the farm that you’re doing. You did have New Vrindaban in West Virginia. Now, this is more or less an extension of that idea, an expansion of it all over, with not only a way of producing goods, but also of establishing a community that’s living a certain type of life. It would be modeled, you might say… an ideal of life, as you might say, typical in Vrindaban.
Stages of life and social divisions
HANSADUTTA: Yes. The idea is this: according to Vedic shastras, the system for organizing a human society is created by God. There is no necessity to manufacture anything such as capitalism, socialism, communism, and anarchism. There are so many “isms”, and everyone who assumes office tries out his particular ideas. He speculates something, then he applies it and makes an experiment, hit and miss. Vedic culture was not like that. The leaders accepted the statements of the shastras, and according to shastric injunctions they ruled human society.
That is explained as varnashrama-dharma, which you must be familiar with. Krishna says (Bhagavad-gita 4.13), chatur-varnyam maya srstam, guna-karma-vibhagasah: “According to material nature, the four divisions of human society are created by Me.” That means by nature’s way there are four very distinct classes of men working in human society: (1) those who are inclined for intellectual work, (2) those who are inclined for administrative work, (3) those who are inclined for agriculture and trade, and (4) those who have no inclination; they simply work.
This system, of course, is known today as the caste system, but the caste system practiced today is not the system that is actually described in the shastras. The caste system is a perverted form of the original system. Today the idea is that if a man is born in the family of a brahmana, automatically he is accepted as a brahmana. But this is not correct, according to Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam, where it says guna karma. Guna means quality, karma means work. A man is recognized, or his position in society is recognized according to his quality and work. For example, if a man in America is born of a high court judge, it doesn’t mean that automatically he is a high court judge. He may have a good opportunity, but unless he does the work and qualifies, he’s not accepted as a high court judge. Vedic culture means to divide the human society into four spiritual orders, and four social orders, according to qualities and work.
Brahmachary, grihastha, vanaprastha and sannyasi are the spiritual orders.
Brahmachary means student life. Student life primarily means celibate. The student is trained in sense control, and learns to control his mind and his senses, especially in the matter of sex. He must be cent percent celibate. Then, when the student comes of age, when he finishes his studies in both material and spiritual fields, if he’s still attracted to family life, he is allowed to marry. But such marriage does not take place on the basis of sex attraction. It takes place on the basis of begetting children who will be trained to be Krishna conscious, God conscious, giving them an opportunity to get free from the struggle for existence and go back home, back to Godhead, to be liberated. Sex is allowed on the condition of begetting children. If a man is not interested in begetting children, he is not allowed to marry.
Today, men and women unite on the basis of bodily attraction, sex attraction, and when sex attraction is no longer satisfactory, they divorce or separate, and get another wife or husband and again they begin the business, and again. We read the newspapers, scandal sheets, and watch the movies. We know that the statistics say one out of two marriages end in divorce. Not only divorce, but abortion. They kill the child within the womb, because they don’t want the child, and they don’t know what to do with it. People have no knowledge.
According to Vedic understanding, sex indulgence is permitted just for begetting a child. That is religious. It is a religious principle, according to Bhagavad-gita. Then also, one must not indulge in family life up to the very last day.
When a householder’s children came of age and were competent to take charge of the business and to take charge of the family affairs, he would gradually retire by going out on pilgrimage, say once a month, for two months, three months at a time to practice detachment. This stage of life is called vanaprastha. His wife might accompany him, but there was no question of sex. She would simply assist him and serve him.
Then, when he was practiced, say after five or ten years, beginning from the age of 50, the next stage was sannyasa. At that stage, the husband completely left his wife, children, friends, relatives, his business and social life. He renounced everything—a complete break, leaving the children to take care of their mother and carry on the business. The man would go.
First of all, he would live on the outskirts of the city. That stage was called kutichak. In sannyasa, the renounced order of life, there are four stages. The first is called kutichak. That means he lived outside his village or town, and one family member came and brought him food, and he studied and chanted, and was engaged in austerities and penances to purify himself. In the next stage, he didn’t accept food any longer from his family, instead begging for food from door to door. This made him very humble. In the next stage, he did not even beg food from door to door, but he went out and simply preached the message of God and depended on God—”God will bring me food, or He may not bring me food.” He had to learn to become one hundred percent dependent on the mercy of God. And when he became perfectly practiced in this stage of life, known as a parivrajakacharya, then he came to the stage known as paramahamsa.
Param means supreme, and hamsa means swan. The swan’s special characteristic is that he knows how to draw the essence from milk. He extracts the cream, and leaves the whey. That is the hamsa’s special qualification. Therefore the topmost human being, one who has captured the essence of life, God consciousness, service to God, he is called paramahamsa. It is this that is the aim of human society.
Now, these were the spiritual orders. Along with the four spiritual orders, there were material or social orders. In other words, every man had an occupation. It wasn’t just that there was only spiritual consideration. Because we have this body, we have to work with the material world, and the divisions of work are called brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. They are recognized according to qualities.
The brahmanas were supposed to be the intellectuals. They were supposed to be the leaders of human society, because they knew what is Brahman. Brahman means God, the Absolute Truth. The brahmanas gave advice to the other three classes—the kshatriyas (warriors and politicians), the vaishyas (businessmen, mercantile men, and agriculturalists), and the shudras (laborers). The brahmanas were considered to be the head of the social body. The body is comprised of the head, arms, belly and legs. All parts working together make a healthy body. Now, although all parts are important, without the head, the other parts cannot function. We may function without legs, we may function without arms, but we cannot function without a head. A headless body is a dead body. So the brahmanas were the leaders, the guardians, or the guiding light of human society, and they instructed the other classes in such a way that their activities helped them to progress towards the goal of human life, which is to become God conscious.
In other words, the brahmanas gave education. They taught spiritual science and all the other sciences, such as medicine. Everything was taught by the brahmanas. The brahmanas were never employed in the university with a big salary. A brahmana was forbidden to take employment. He should starve to death before he would take employment. Why? Because the brahmana, being head of the social body, must be completely transparent. He cannot be a party man. As soon as an intellectual man has to take a job, then he has to do the bidding of his employer. He cannot be thoroughly truthful. He cannot be on the highest platform of truth. He will have to support the policy of his employer. Therefore a brahmana was forbidden to take a salary. We know, for example, in history the story of Chandra Gupta and Chanakya Pandit at the time when Alexander the Great invaded India. Chanakya Pandit came and became adviser to King Chandra Gupta. He was such a brilliant adviser brahmana that Chandra Gupta was able to drive Alexander out from India. Although Chanakya was such a powerful person in the government of Chandra Gupta, he lived in a straw hut outside the palace. He never ever lived in the palace, and never accepted a salary, although he could have ruled the kingdom personally and enjoyed every opulence. A brahmana voluntarily keeps himself in poverty. Whatever he gets, if you give him anything, he immediately will spend it for education. He will not keep anything. That is brahmana, that is a teacher.
The brahmanas are described in Bhagavad-gita (18.43):
sauryam tejo dhritir daksyam
yuddhe chapy apalayanam
danam ishvara-bhavas cha
kshatram karma svabhava-jam
By their qualities are they recognized: peaceful, self-controlled, clean, merciful, austere, learned and knowledgeable—not simply book knowledge, but they must also be able to apply knowledge in practical matters.
The brahmanas were considered to be the topmost class of men, and everyone had to take guidance in their daily affairs from brahmanas.
Next there were the kshatriyas, the warriors and politicians, statesmen, administrators. Their duty was to protect human society from irreligion. They ruled the citizens for the advancement of spiritual life.
So by nature’s way, there is a class of men who gravitate towards intellectual pursuits, and a class of men who have a martial spirit, and who like organization. Here is a man who likes fighting, who likes politics, he’s resourceful, he’s courageous, he has qualities of leadership, he dictates. Such men should be trained as kshatriyas to assume the office of ruling over the people—not for political whims like capitalism, communism, socialism, all nonsense. They should rule under the guidance of brahmanas to protect the people, who are ignorant.
The mass of people is always in ignorance. They don’t know what is good and what is not good for them. They are like children. The child wants everything. He will pick up a knife, a razor blade, and a bottle of iodine. He’ll put everything in the mouth. The mass of people is considered to be like children without any proper knowledge of their self-interest.
It is said that the king was considered just like father. He saw that everyone was happy and comfortable, and that all the necessities of life were provided. He protected them both spiritually and materially. In the Bhagavatam we find the example of the great King Parikshit. He was travelling through his kingdom, seeing how things were going on. He saw a man attempting to kill a cow. The King immediately stepped down from his chariot and drew his sword. He was going to kill the miscreant. He said, “In my kingdom you are going to kill a cow? Then you have to be prepared to die by my sword.” The King was so righteous that he protected not only the human beings as citizens of the country, but even the animals, whom he considered to be citizens because they took birth in that land. Ahimsa, nonviolence was the principle. That was the King’s business: to protect the citizens from irreligion. He has nothing to manufacture, no question of politicking, making false propaganda and getting votes. He was appointed when the brahmanas saw that he was a qualified king. The qualities are described in the shastras. A king was heroic, generous, courageous in battle, like that. Then such a person was put into office.
There was no question of voting. Today’s idea of democracy is a fool’s paradise. The mass of people is foolish. You give them the power to vote, and the foolish mass of people can only elect another fool from out of their midst. Thus the whole government becomes a fool’s paradise. Suppose you give school children the power to vote. Tell them, “Now elect the teacher.” They’ll appoint another child. Sometimes at play children will appoint one child to be king, and that child actually thinks that he is the king, and the other children relate to him in that way. In this way they play. Democracy is like that. The mass of people, without being trained in knowledge of the goal of human endeavors, elect a man who promises to satisfy their senses in illicit sex, gambling, meat eating. Anyone who promises. What did Roosevelt promise? A chicken in every pot. Yes, he promised. That was his motto. And Hitler promised, “Deutschland über alles. Germany above everything.” Similarly, Bhadrnaika, a prime minister of Sri Lanka, promised, “If you elect me, I will make Ceylonese the national language.” On this basis leaders are being elected: on some trifling matter. And here we have a movie actor [Ronald Reagan] running for office. What can he do for the people? Can he kill the miscreants? Can he protect us from crime, homosexuality, heroine addicts and terrorists? Can he do anything? Will he come out of his office and fight on the street with criminals and rogues and thieves? No. He’ll make a telephone call.
Kshatriyawas meant going to face the enemy. He had to go and kill the wrong-doers. There was no question of telephone and politics. He had to go into battle. He had to set the example of leadership. In this way, society was protected from rogues and thieves and irreligion. Thus the people were happy. They had no anxiety.
Today, no gentleman will walk downtown San Francisco or downtown New York. We take it as normal that if you go out at night your throat will be cut. We take it as normal, so we don’t go out at night. How long will it be before we don’t go out in the daytime? In this country it hasn’t come to that yet, but in many countries it is like that in the daytime. In Lebanon, in Thailand, or in Cambodia, you can’t go out at anytime, unless you’re armed to the teeth and you’re prepared to shoot. This is the result of irreligion. There is no system of government. Everyone manufactures his own thing.
Kshatriyas were very highly qualified men. They were not only good warriors and courageous and generous, but they were also rishis, or sages—called rajarishis. Raja means king, and rishi means sage. It means he was a self-realized person. The Bible tells of King David, King Joshua. They went into battle. They were prepared to fight and lay down their lives for religion, for the service of the Lord. They were ready to fight for protection of religious principles. Otherwise, they were soft as a rose. They had all good qualities. They were not smokers, drinkers, woman hunters. They were not like that. They were highly qualified personalities. And the people were happy.
Then, under kshatriyas there were vaishyas, the mercantile and agricultural men. The head (brahmana) gives guidance, education; the arms (kshatriyas) give protection, and the stomach (vaishyas) supplies food and commodities. After all, we have to eat, and we have to have clothing and other items. The vaishyas were engaged in supplying necessities of life, not for capitalizing, not for creating consumer goods that are not needed, but for producing the necessities: milk, grains, vegetables, fruits, clothing, jewels, gold, silver. That was their business, because these things are required. Not for capitalizing, but for cooperating. We all have to eat, so a class of men supplies food.
The main engagement of the vaishyas was cow protection, producing food grains and trade. Just as the kshatriyas were responsible to protect the human beings, the vaishyas, or agriculturalists, were responsible to protect the animals, especially the cow. Why the cow? People often ask, “Why do they worship the cow in India? Why do they say the cow is sacred?” The reason is because the cow gives you every service. The cow only eats grass, which is growing everywhere. There is no effort to grow grass. The cow simply eats grass, and in return it gives us milk, and from milk we make butter, cheese, yoghurt, and ghee. Milk is the best, or the most perfect food known to man. The rishis of ancient India lived simply by taking milk and a little fruit. Even if fruit is not available, a man can live simply on milk. Milk produces a very good brain, and good brain is required to understand the spiritual science, which is very fine, very subtle. The cow gives not only milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, ghee, but also cow urine and cow dung, which are also pure. They are antiseptic. In India these are used as medicine. Doctors and scientists know this. It has been studied and researched that cow urine and cow dung are pure. Those who have liver disease can drink cow urine. In India, cow dung is used to build houses. It is also used as fuel in cook fires. They take the cow dung, make patties, plaster them on the wall to dry, and then they burn the cow dung patties for cooking. And when the cow dies, you get its skin, hooves, meat, everything. So because the cow gives milk to human society, it is considered to be a mother. Just as a mother gives breast milk to her child, the cow gives milk to the human society. The mother should not be killed, but given protection, even when the mother can no longer give milk.
Nowadays, when a cow becomes old and is no longer supplying milk, they send it to the slaughterhouse. “Oh, now it isn’t producing. Okay, kill it.” Finished. That is very sinful. What about “Thou shalt not kill”? Lord Buddha also taught ahimsa, nonviolence. The principle of nonviolence is taught in every shastra. When our mother becomes old, she cannot work and cannot beget children. Does it mean we should now send her to be killed? Of course, in America this has become a habit—send her to the old age home, finished. Off to the old age home, and let her rot there. This is very cruel. Vedic culture was not like that. Old people were protected at home, and the cow was similarly protected. They had what is known as goshala, shelters for the old cows. They protected them there, fed them, and allowed them to die peacefully. Not off to the slaughterhouse. That is a great, great sin.
On the basis of this sinful activity—cow slaughter and animal slaughter—great wars are coming as a reaction. Because nature reacts. That is called karma. Nature’s law: you kill, and you will be killed. That is why these wars are coming. Wars and pestilence.
Even in the Bible it is said, “Whatever you do unto the least of My creatures, you do it unto Me.” And the fifth Commandment says “Thou shalt not kill.” But for convenience people interpret, “Oh, ‘kill’ means murder. There’s a big difference between murder and kill.” Why the Bible says kill and not murder? Is the Bible imperfect, so that we have to adjust and interpret it? No, the Bible is perfectly correct. Whatever is stated, you must accept it. All the shastras teach nonviolence. The Bible also explains that Adam and Eve were living in harmony with the animals in paradise, with the lions and every other beast. So if you go on killing the innocent animals, how can you expect to go back to that paradise? Impossible.
So vaishya was meant to give protection to animals and to provide food and commodities that were required, such as cloth and so on.
The next class of men were the shudras. Shudras had no qualifications, no intellect, no proper good intelligence, so they were engaged in assisting the other three classes of men. In exchange, they were provided with food, cloth, shelter, everything.
Thus it was a cooperative society of brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. All the four spiritual orders and the four social divisions worked cooperatively. It was in one sense a kind of communism. Not a communism of material enjoyment, but a communism of spiritual advancement. Because we are in this material world, we require material necessities. We need food, shelter, cloth, education, protection, so all right, let those who are qualified in different ways render their service cooperatively, and this will save time, allowing us to use the time saved to understand God. That was the whole principle.
Economic collapse is coming
Now this movement is reintroducing this idea of varnashrama dharma, beginning with the farm communities. The farm community is the seed of the future of the movement. On the farm everything is required. We need someone to produce food, we need someone to sell food, we need someone to build houses, and we need someone to organize and see that there’s law and order, no stealing, no cheating. We need someone to give education to the children. Everything is there. A philosopher once said that the village is created by God, and the city is created by man. Village life is the basis of the organization of human society. Small communities were self-sufficient in every respect. Even 100 years ago in America there was self-sufficiency. People produced their own cloth, their own food, built their own houses. Oil, butter, milk—everything was produced. In Europe also. We have a temple in Germany which was formerly a great estate belonging to a baron. The gentleman who rented to us the temple informed us that they used to produce cloth, oil and even paper. Everything was produced on that estate as little as 50 years ago. Now, however, man has created a very artificial way of life, based on just papers, bunches of papers. If one has many papers in the shape of stocks and bonds or traveller’s cheques or paper notes, then he’s considered very big, but actually no one has any real wealth.
According to Vedic conception, real wealth was land and cows. From land you could produce all the necessities of life. Today, the entire human civilization depends on petroleum. Petroleum is required for everything—for autos, airplanes, heating, and so on. Rubber tires are made from petroleum, plastic is made from petroleum, nylon, dacron, this “-on”, that “-on”. Everything is made from petroleum by-products. As soon as the petroleum supply stops, everything will collapse. Srila Prabhupada envisioned this. He said that will happen, that it is only a matter of time before that takes place. And at that time, if you are not situated in this varnashrama dharma, self-sufficient
society, farm community, then you will also collapse.
Those who live in the cities will suffer tremendously, overnight. We have seen in New York, people go berserk over a blackout for just one night. That’s for only one night. It takes only a little sabotage to do that. It’s not very difficult to black out New York City or any other city. In Germany some years ago, I was reading that there were some terrorists threatening, “If you don’t give us a certain amount of money, then we’ll blow up the high-wire structures carrying the high-wire electricity. That we’ll blow up.” They reasoned like this, “If we don’t give them, the cost to rectify the situation would be the same that they’re asking.” So what to do? You see, society has become so vulnerable. Every day they promised in Italy to shoot and cripple one politician or one big man, and they were doing it. Today, society is so vulnerable that one man can threaten an entire country, can hold an entire country at bay. We have completely lost control of the situation. Isn’t that a fact? Every day another country is overthrown. A man is assassinated, someone hijacks a jumbo jet.
How is this happening? Because the entire world has become godless. People have no sense what is the purpose of life, and therefore they have no sense how to organize human society, how to make it peaceful and prosperous. We are not prosperous. We think of ourselves as prosperous, but actually we are in a very precarious position. We are completely at the mercy of a handful of men who are supplying this petroleum.
Some are thinking, “Well, we’ll create atomic energy, solar energy.” This is nonsense. That atomic energy is so dangerous. It may work in a very limited sphere, but the by-products of such a program are far more destructive than it is creative. We have created a civilization that is completely artificial. It is not based on cows and land. It is not based on nature. It is based on sense gratification. Creating… every day they create another gismo—an electric toothbrush, an electric hair brush, an electric everything. Electric everything is artificial. It is not required. Airplane, automobile, telephone, tape recorder, nightclub, cinema, hotel—these are all artificial “needs”.
What man requires to live is food: milk, sugar, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts; cloth: silk, cotton, wool; and metals: iron, copper, brass, gold, silver; jewels: diamonds, pearls. These are natural opulences provided by nature. There is no need for rubber tubes and tyres, no need for plastic. Today we eat off plastic plates, plastic spoons, paper cups. But Vedic culture meant silver plate, silver cup, golden cup, marble house. Today everything is plastic or paper. The wall is made of paper, and my neighbor is listening to every word. It’s a fact. Mobile home, a tin can that you place down and sit in. But even today, if you go to India, you will see that no gentleman would live in this house, wood and clay house. He would rather live in a straw hut than live in this contraption. Indoor toilet… they are very proud of the toilet in the house, but in India no man would go to the toilet inside the house. He would go 100 yards at least. This is not civilized. It is a piggish kind of life. The pig goes to the toilet. He has sex. He eats, he sleeps. Everything in the same hole. We’re doing the same thing. It’s a fact. I saw this high-rise apartment here. It has 28 units, and it’s just like piled-up matchboxes, that’s all. There’s no privacy. Everything is just one box next to the other, and you rent one for $200. Then that’s your pigeonhole. Even so, it’s very difficult to find such a place. And people are mad after this. No one will live on the land. No one wants
to produce food and cloth. They want to go to the factory and earn money, go to the hotel, go to the restaurant, go to the nightclub, go to the supermarket and purchase plastic and tin cans and everything like that.
It will not last long. It is very, very temporary. Now there’s food shortage, there’s oil shortage, and there’s rain shortage. Why these shortages are coming? Krishna says (Bhagavad-gita 9.10):
The whole material nature is working under My direction, producing all the moving and non-moving beings. By its rule, this creation is created and annihilated again and again.
Everything is working under nature, and nature is working under God’s dictation. If you say “God is dead, I don’t care for God” or “I am God, we are all God”, all right then, try to be God. Make your plastic plate and your paper cup. But God will withhold—”Now you create rain; I won’t send rain. You be God, and you make rain.” Right now the whole world is baffled with no water. In India there’s no water. In California there’s no water, unless you spend hundreds and thousands of dollars for irrigation system, then you get a little water and produce food. Therefore food price is going up, up, up, because no water. Bhagavad-gita (3.14) says, annad bhavanti bhutani, parjanyad anna-sambhavah: “All living beings subsist by eating food grains.” And how are food grains produced? From rain, says Bhagavad-gita. And how is rain produced? By science? By politics? By chemicals? No. Rain is produced by the performance of sacrifice, and sacrifice is prescribed in the Vedas, the words of God. Now you say God is dead, and you don’t care for any Vedas. “I am God, we are God.” So God says, “All right, so you produce rain.” But can they do it? No. It’s not possible by politics and science. They are very proud of chemicals. They say there’s no soul, no God, no life after death. Everything has come out of chemicals. Then why not take chemicals and produce milk? Why do you go to the cow? It should be an easy task for science to create a machine, put in the grass, turn it on and get milk. After all, only chemicals, right? Only chemicals.
I challenged them. You saw the magazine Back to Godhead, my challenge to Dr. Kovoor? I challenged him in a public meeting: “Now I’ve rented the hall, the best hall in Colombo, and I’m inviting you. You bring your chemicals, and produce something—a mosquito, a bug, anything, even a drop of milk, and I’ll give you 500 thousand rupees.” That’s a lot of money in India, $60,000.00. I said, “You produce something now.” He didn’t come. Why not? Because it is a hoax. We are being misled. We are being cheated. They say everything comes from chemicals, but if this is a fact, then we challenge them to produce something, a flower. After all, only chemicals. Can the scientist do it? He’ll produce a plastic flower and say it was not produced by anyone. But the imitation flower requires technology. It requires a creator, a designer. Yet the original flower—”Oh, that is just happening accidentally.”
What nonsense this is, yet people believe it, and the scientist gets a Nobel Peace Prize. And who was Mr. Nobel? He invented dynamite. This is going on.
And they will talk of peace, love, brotherhood, United Nations, and spend millions and billions of dollars, while not a single nation has been united, and still no one says anything contrary. Peacekeeping mission. They created an army, very good. That we don’t need, there’s enough. Where is the nation that has been united by this organization? Is there one nation? Can anyone give an example of a single nation that has been united? No. But I can give you a dozen that have been disunited: East and West Germany, North and South Korea, North and South Vietnam, East and West Pakistan, and the list goes on and on, and still they’re talking.
And science is proud to have created the atomic bomb and dropped it on Hiroshima. “Oh, now we should disarm.” After having dropped it, then we should disarm. But now everyone has that bomb. Do you think they will disarm? Do you really think that? Do you think that when a man accumulates money in the bank he is not going to spend it? Do you think that when a man takes a wife he’s not going to have sex? Do you think that when a man makes these atom bombs he’s not going to use them? It is the nature of action and reaction. Scientists have worked to create this bomb. It will be used. That is the next chapter of material advancement: complete destruction. All advancement will be nullified, because it is built on a false platform.