This conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place at New Vrindaban, ISKCON’s farming village in West Virginia, on June 24, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: A child may not believe he will get the body of a young man. He may not know that in the future he will have to accept another life. But can his ignorance alter the fact? He may believe or not. It makes no difference.
And similarly, if modern rascals say, “I don’t believe in a next life. I don’t believe I’ll have a next life,” their ignorance does not alter the fact. Rascals, madmen, may talk like this, but the fact – the law of nature – remains.
Karanam guna-sango ’sya: According to the way you act, according to the modes of nature in which you become enmeshed, you will receive a suitable body in your next life. The real fact is, these rascals will have to accept a body just suitable to their spiritual development, or lack of spiritual development. What they believe or do not believe makes no difference.
Disciple: But what if they object, “You want us to pull back from our industrial civilization so that we can spend more time preparing for our next life. But farm-and-village civilization might be too difficult for us. We’d rather go to the factory for eight hours and then come home and enjoy life.”
Srila Prabhupada: No, you can enjoy life, just as we are. We are eating and sleeping and so forth; everyone does that in any event. But if you enjoy life in such a way that you forget your real, spiritual business in life, is that intelligent? Your real business, now that you have received this human form, is to improve your next life – regain your original, spiritual form, back home in the spiritual world.
Anyway, you are going to have a next life. Now, suppose that by your present actions, in your next life you have to accept the form of a dog. Is that success? So you must learn the real science: How, instead of becoming an associate of dogs, you can become an associate of God. That is intelligence. That is success.
Disciple: But in this present life, why is it better, for instance, if we get our lighting by growing castor seed? What if we think we’d rather get our lighting by drilling for oil? Why is growing castor seed better than drilling for oil?
Srila Prabhupada: You require lighting of some kind. All right. So finish that lighting business as simply and quickly as possible. In the rest of your time, the time you have saved, pursue and perfect your self-realization. Learn about your soul and your relationship with the Supreme Soul. That is the ideal life.
Take this child. He simply wants to play, not to become educated and cultured. He just wants to make some improvements on his toys or his ball-playing. It that very good intelligence?
Disciple: No, from the standpoint of education, he’s pretty much wasting time. But talking about wasting time – people on farms work some awfully long hours.
Srila Prabhupada: Not on small family farms, say four acres or thereabouts. In the spring you work a month and a half or two months for planting, and in the fall perhaps a month and a half or two for harvesting. If you think improving your electrical arrangements is better than living the simple life, we have no objection. But if you forget your real, spiritual business, is that intelligent?
Disciple: It wouldn’t be, no.
Srila Prabhupada: That is our proposal. Your real business in life is how to become God conscious, Krishna conscious. If simply for improving your material condition you forget your real, spiritual business, is that intelligence?
So this modern, so-called intelligence is known as dushkriti. Kriti means “resourcefulness.” But duh means “sinful, harmful activities.” You are utilizing your resourcefulness for harmful activities.
Take, for example, these modern flesh-eaters. Now, when uncivilized men living in the jungle need to eat something, they shoot arrows or throw spears at some poor animal. And the animal dies and then they eat his flesh. These modern flesh-eaters, though, instead of killing the animal by throwing a spear, have devised slaughterhouses with sophisticated machinery to kill the animal.
You may think this is an improvement. “Now we use our sophisticated machinery instead of throwing a spear. The old-fashioned method takes so much time. But now we can kill many, many animals per hour.” This is your improvement?
Just consider what fools and rascals people have become. They believe their slaughterhouses are an improvement, a milestone of civilization. “When we were uncivilized, we were spearing some animal and eating his flesh. But now, although we are doing the same thing – killing some poor animal and eating his flesh – we have improved our technique for killing.” This is going on as “advancement of civilization.” Do you think this is advancement of civilization?
Now that you are living the simple life on this farm – now, at last, you are civilized. For instance, instead of killing the cow, you just take her milk – no killing – and then you make butter and yogurt and whipped cream and buttermilk and fried curd, all sorts of delicious preparations. This is civilization.
But killing is sinful. You have no right to kill any creature – even an ant – because you cannot give that creature back his life. So killing is against the law of nature, the law of God.
In the scriptures the Lord warns us, “Killing is an infringement on nature’s law, My law. Killing innocent creatures is the most sinful activity. If you use your human resourcefulness to perform this most sinful activity, then you must suffer in your next life.”
Disciple: But we modern men don’t believe our slaughterhouses are sinful.
Srila Prabhupada: These nonsensical statements – “We believe . . .” “We don’t believe . . .” If you are breaking God’s most basic law – “Thou shalt not kill” – then you are a rascal. So what difference does it make, what you believe or don’t believe? You are, after all, a rascal.