Out of Our Element
This conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and reporters took place in Melbourne, Australia, on June 29, 1974.
Reporter 1: Your Divine Grace, often when people pursue what you term “spiritual life,” they seem to forget about pursuing the things of this world – making this world comfortable.
Srila Prabhupada: Making this world “comfortable”? That will never be possible. Do you understand this? Let us say you take a fish out of the water and put him on the land. Now, you may give the fish a lovely velvet cushion and everything nice. But will the fish be comfortable?
Reporter 1: No. He’d be out of his element.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, we living entities are spirit soul. So being in this material body in this material world – this means we are out of our element.
But unfortunately, our system of education is so dull that the authorities do not know that we are not this body – we are spirit soul. They are presenting themselves as big, big philosophers and big, big statesmen and big, big social planners. Yet they are forgetting the real thing: that we are not this body but spirit soul. Today even the leader is accepting this material body as his real self. And he is thinking, “These bodily comforts will make me happy.” But that cannot be. Because the body and its comforts are made of matter and we are spirit soul.
Consider the same example. If you take the fish from his natural environment, the water, and put him on the land, he’ll never be happy. Similarly, as long as you continue to have this material body, you cannot enjoy real, eternal happiness. And you will have so many problems. The main problems are birth, death, old age, and disease. And these problems are due simply to having this material body.
Therefore, an intelligent man should know that “I am not this body; I am spirit soul. My natural field of activities is on the spiritual platform. If I can somehow return to the spiritual platform, then I will be happy.” So the sum and substance of this Krishna consciousness movement is to educate people in how to be situated on the spiritual platform, how to be happy.
Reporter 2: Your Divine Grace, do you think that chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is the only way to achieve this liberation from matter? Is chanting the only way to be “situated on the spiritual platform”?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Chanting the Hare Krishna mantra means chanting the holy names of Krishna, the Supreme Lord, and Radha, or Mother Hara, the Lord’s personified spiritual energy. So chanting Hare Krishna means you come into direct association with the Lord by taking shelter of His spiritual energy. Hare Krishna: “O Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service. O devotional, spiritual energy of the Lord, please let me take shelter of You.” Being situated on the spiritual platform means you take shelter of the Lord’s spiritual energy.
For instance, when you approach a heater, you are taking shelter of the heater’s heating energy. Similarly, when you approach Krishna, you are taking shelter of His spiritual energy.
Or take the example of the sun, the great fiery planet. When you approach the sun, you are taking shelter of the sun’s heating and lighting energy. Is that not so? When you are in the sunshine, in one sense you are in the sun. Of course, in another sense you are not actually in the sun – because the sun’s fiery temperature is so high that had you been actually in the sun, you would have been immediately blown up, burned into ashes. But still, when you take shelter of the sunshine, you take shelter of the sun.
So Krishna, the Supreme Lord, is situated as the supreme fire. Whatever we are experiencing is a spark of His energy. And just as we can enter into the sun’s all-pervasive fiery energy even though the sun itself is ninety-three million miles away, so similarly, even though the Lord is very far away, we can take shelter of the Lord’s all-pervasive spiritual energy simply by chanting His holy name – because Krishna, being absolute, is not different from His name. Therefore, if you chant the Hare Krishna mantra without offense, then you directly associate with Krishna. This is liberation from matter. Spiritual liberation, situation on the spiritual platform.
Reporter 2: In all the scriptures that I have read, it’s said that the disciple must remember God’s name constantly. So you say that the Hare Krishna mantra contains God’s name. How do we know this?
Srila Prabhupada: How do you know your name?
Reporter 2: My parents gave it to me.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You relied on your mother and father, on parental authority. Similarly, you have to learn the Lord’s name by relying on spiritual authority.
Reporter 2: From the scriptures.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Reporter 3: Srila Prabhupada, what about other religions, like Christianity and . . .
Srila Prabhupada: There is no second religion. There is only one. That is the right idea; that is genuine God consciousness.
Now, as soon as you designate “Christian,” “Hindu,” “Muslim,” that is upadhi – it falls short of the genuine spiritual conception. Just as God is one person, so genuine religion is one thing. Designated religion – conceiving of “our Christian God” or “our Hindu God” – falls short.
For example, now you are in a black coat. Tomorrow you may be in a white coat. So I could designate you as “black Mr. Such-and-such” or “white Mr. Such-and-such.” But there is no need, because you are not actually that black or white coat. That black or white coat is not you, but simply a circumstance.
Similarly, due to our so-called sophisticated mind, we say “Christian religion,” “Hindu religion.” To describe some particular historical circumstance we may use these designations. But religion is one thing. It means to glorify God’s holy name and abide by His laws. That is the spiritual platform.