This conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place at ISKCON’s farming village in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, on June 24, 1976.

Srila Prabhupada: This is our traditional system: to live simply, treat all the Lord’s creatures kindly, and then, at life’s end, go back to the spiritual world. And what is the modern rascals’ system? To live lavishly, treat animals and unborn babies cruelly, and then go to hell. Their system is not practical for us. We cannot follow their system.

But anyway, if you can maintain a perfect community based on simple living and high thinking, that will be sufficient. There is no need to canvass. People will see gradually for themselves that this traditional way of life really is convenient, most practical.

Now you have received this jewel: spiritual, peaceful life. So utilize it properly. Make your life perfect. Brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva guru-krishna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija: “After wandering through many universes for many lifetimes, the fortunate soul gets the mercy of a bona fide spiritual master and of Krishna – and the seed of the Lord’s eternal devotional service.”

Now, we don’t tell people, “Spiritual civilization means that you starve – you unnecessarily give trouble to your body.” No. “Eat nicely. Live nicely. But live simply, so that you save time for advancing in God consciousness.” That is our program. And anyone can learn it if he at all desires.

After all, even these modern rascals are human beings, endowed with human intelligence. They can learn. So we’ll go on speaking the truth. But practicing it personally – that is our main business. Whether or not one of my students has a propensity for preaching, let him preach by the way he lives. Let his personal life be perfect. Let him teach by his life.

The secret is to make the Lord the center of all that you do. Become preoccupied with Krishna. Then naturally you’ll not be preoccupied with your material body. Lavish your affection upon Krishna. Then you’ll not lavish excessive affection upon the material body, which is, after all, temporary and not your real self.

Because people today are caught up in this misconception that the material body is the self, they’re misspending so much time and effort and money. Isn’t that so? All on something that cannot last. Why not transfer your love to your real, spiritual self and to the Supreme Self – make Him your beloved and enjoy life with Him forever. That is our system of civilization.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, you’ve said that if you glorify Krishna, then your heart will become glorious and you’ll feel satisfied.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This system of civilization is not simply a fashion or a whim. It is for our benefit. By seeing and hearing Krishna glorified, you’ll be satisfied. That is natural: You’ll feel satisfied because factually you are a spiritual being, part and parcel of Krishna.

So show people how they can serve and glorify the Lord in their everyday life. Then they will be rid of the propensity, “Let me go to the market and find some nice new gadget or some nice new rag to glorify myself.” Finished. Millions and billions of people – by glorifying the Lord, they’ll feel satisfied. This is our system of civilization: everyone satisfied.

These animals who live with us on our farms – even they are satisfied. They are not afraid. If they are resting and some of my students come near, they do not stir and become fearful. They have come to know, “These people love us. They’ll not harm us. We are safe. We are at home.” Any animal, be he bird or beast, can be taught this sense of safety and friendship.

Take these cows. They know all of you are their friends. Animals can understand this. You can make friends even with lions and tigers. Yes. I have seen it. At the World’s Fair in New York, a man was embracing a lion, and the lion was playing with him the way a dog plays with his master. I’ve seen it.

Disciple: Often you see that kind of thing at the circus, as well – a man putting his head in a lion’s mouth.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Disciple: If you haven’t fed him, then it is dangerous. But as long as you keep him well fed, you can even put your head into his mouth.

Srila Prabhupada: Naturally. Animal means “living being, spiritual being,” not some dead stone. So he can understand, “This man is giving me food – he’s my friend.” The feeling of love, friendship – everything is there, even in the animals.

Disciple: Everything is there except God consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada: Generally the soul can come to God consciousness only in the human form of life. But even in an animal form he can become God conscious, by associating with someone who is God conscious.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, I thought you’d once said love is impossible between humans and animals, because they belong to different species.

Srila Prabhupada: Being in the same species is very conducive to love. But love is possible between any living entity and any other – because every living entity is a spirit, part and parcel of God, the Supreme Spirit.

So genuine love requires that we center our love on God, on Krishna. That love can make this world as blissful as Vrindavana, as blissful as the spiritual world, where the human beings love Krishna, the animals love Krishna, the trees love Krishna, everyone loves Krishna – where everyone loves everyone, because Krishna is the central point. That is the perfection of civilization, the perfection of love.