The following conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in September 1975 on an early-morning walk in Vrindavan, India.
Srila Prabhupada: Both the living entity and Lord Krishna are full of consciousness. The living entity’s consciousness is within himself, and Krishna’s consciousness pervades everywhere. That’s the distinction.
Disciple: The Mayavadis [impersonalists] say that when we become liberated, we will also pervade everywhere. We will merge into Brahman and lose our individual identity.
Srila Prabhupada: That means you will forget everything. Whatever little consciousness you had will be finished.
Disciple: But what we will be forgetting is just illusion anyway.
Srila Prabhupada: If that is liberation, then let me kill you now. You will forget everything—liberation. [Laughter.]
[A passerby is singing in Hindi.] This is liberation—he is singing, “O my Lord Krishna, when will I surrender unto Your lotus feet?” That is liberation. Just like a child fully surrendered to his parents—he is liberated. He has no anxiety. He is confident: “Oh, my parents are here. Whatever they do is all right for me. No one can harm me.”
Disciple: The impersonalists say that liberation is getting rid of all misery.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if you are full of anxieties, where is your liberation?
Disciple: They say this can be accomplished if we become one with the Supreme.
Srila Prabhupada: Krishna is the supreme consciousness. If you lose your consciousness, how do you become one with Him?
Disciple: Well, it’s not exactly that we lose our consciousness but that we merge into the supreme consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: That means you want to become God. But why are you different from God now?
Disciple: It’s my lila [pastime].
Srila Prabhupada: But if it’s your lila, then why are you undergoing so much austerity to gain liberation?
Disciple: The point is that the supreme consciousness is unembodied, but we are embodied right now. So, when we attain supreme consciousness, we will also become unembodied.
Srila Prabhupada: But how have you become embodied if you are the Supreme? What made you embodied? You don’t like to be embodied—the body is bringing so much suffering—so you want liberation. But whoever made you embodied—He is the Supreme. You are not the Supreme.
Disciple: I put myself in illusion so that I can enjoy becoming liberated.
Srila Prabhupada: Why would any sane man put himself in a position of being repeatedly kicked by the material nature in the form of birth, old age, disease, and death? What is the enjoyment?
Disciple: Without pain, how can you experience pleasure?
Srila Prabhupada: Then let me kick you, and you can enjoy pleasure when I stop.
Disciple: The idea is that after experiencing the suffering of this world, liberation will be very sweet.
Srila Prabhupada: But why is there suffering? If you are supreme, why is there any suffering for you? What is this nonsense—”Suffering is my lila“?
Disciple: It’s suffering only for those who don’t understand that they are supreme. They are the ones who suffer, but I don’t.
Srila Prabhupada: Then you are just like the hogs and dogs. They do not understand that this is suffering. But we can understand. Therefore the Mayavadis are mudhas, fools and rascals, who don’t know what suffering is or what enjoyment is. Mudho ‘yam nabhijanati mam ebhyah param avyayam. Krishna says, “The fools and rascals don’t know that I am Supreme.” Therefore, after many lifetimes of suffering and talking all kinds of nonsense, one who has real knowledge surrenders to Krishna (bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate). That is knowledge. When one comes to this awareness—”I have simply suffered, and I have tried to delude myself by a jugglery of words”—then he surrenders to Krishna.
Disciple: So the Mayavada philosophy is actually the supreme illusion?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Mayavadi bhashya shunile haya sarva-nasha: “One who follows the Mayavada philosophy is finished.” He’s doomed; he will become absorbed in that false philosophy and never be able to accept real philosophy. Mayavadis are offenders. Therefore they shall remain perpetually in ignorance and think themselves God. They openly preach, “Why are you thinking that you are sinful? You are God.”
Disciple: The Christians have a concept of sin. When the Mayavadis went to America, they told the Christians, “Forget this idea of sin. Whatever you do, it is all right, because you are God.”
Srila Prabhupada: The Christian priests did not like the Mayavada philosophy. The Mayavadis are atheists, more than the Buddhists. The Buddhists do not accept Vedic authority. Therefore they are considered atheists. But the Mayavadi rascals accept the Vedas and preach atheism. So they are more dangerous than the Buddhists. The Buddhists, although they are supposed to be atheists, worship Lord Buddha. He is an incarnation of Krishna, so one day they will be delivered. But Mayavadis will never be delivered.
Krishna assures us in the Bhagavad-gita [18.66]: “Just surrender to Me and I will free you from all dangers.” And we accept Krishna. That’s all. Our method is very easy. The child is trying to walk, but he is unable and he’s falling down. The father says, “My dear child, just catch my hand.” Then the child is safe.
These Mayavadis go against the verdict of God. God says, “The living entities are part and parcel of Me,” and the Mayavadis say, “I am God.” That is their foolishness. If they were equal to God, why does God say, “Surrender to Me”? They are not God. They are simply rascals who are claiming to be equal to God because they do not want to surrender to Him.
So this knowledge—that “I must surrender to God”—comes only after many, many births. Then one gives up this foolish word jugglery and attains real liberation in Krishna consciousness.