This conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in New Vrindaban. West Virginia, on June 26, 1976.

Srila Prabhupada: If, rather than surrender to Krishna, you want to do something else, Krishna is so kind that He’ll say, “All right, do it – see the effect.” After all, without Krishna’s help we cannot do anything.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, you have said that today’s leaders are followers of Hiranyakashipu. Like that demon, they are devoted to the idea of becoming powerful and opulent – just devoted to becoming powerful and opulent.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The scriptures describe two kinds of men: daiva asura eva cha – all over the universe, there are two groups, the godly and the ungodly. These two kinds of men and these two kinds of activities will go on. This is the nature of the material world. You will not find that all the men here are perfect. That is not possible. There is a class of men who are imperfect, bewildered.

But in the scriptures it is being described who is perfect and who is imperfect. That you have to distinguish. You cannot clear this material world of imperfect persons; that is not possible. But you must know who is perfect and who is imperfect. And you must make your choice – whether you want to remain imperfect or you want to make progress toward becoming perfect That is up to you.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, it seems almost like a contradiction, in one sense, when Krishna says in this verse [Bhagavad-gita 16.9]. speaking of the demoniac, prabhavanti – that they are flourishing.

Srila Prabhupada: Materially – materially. It is just as when you go to a modern city and say, “Oh, how developed.” Prabhavanti – a kind of flourishing is going on. But what kind of prabhavanti, what kind of flourishing? Krishna explains this in His next words. Kshayaya jagato ’hitah: flourishing, yes – flourishing toward world destruction.

So the flourishing of the demoniac is in the wrong direction. That is not nourishing, actually. It is flourishing in the material sense, but what is the purpose, what is the end? Kshayaya jagato ’hitah – world destruction. In other words, there are two kinds of progress: to hell, to heaven.

Disciple: As you know, Srila Prabhupada, starting around the turn of the century, people were thinking it was progress to build big skyscrapers. Now it’s so hellish in the cities, everybody is moving out.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. Actually, when there are so many skyscrapers, it is hell. The natural flow of air is obstructed. In Bombay, for instance, you’ll see this unnatural situation. If you are on the top floor, you have got a little facility. If you are on the lower floors, it is hell. When you are in the midst of several skyscrapers and you are on the first or second floor, it is simply hell. No air. You have to run electric fans or air conditioning. You cannot see the sky, because the buildings are so tall. In fact, is that not why they are called skyscrapers?

Disciple: Yes, Srila Prabhupada. They are so tall that they virtually touch the sky.

Srila Prabhupada: So you have touched the sky in such a way that I cannot see even. And always I need to use electric lights.

But here in the country, we see the sky, the sun. How nice it is! This is life. We see the green. We see down and up – clear sky, sun. This is life. We get rejuvenation in this atmosphere.

What is this nonsense – all skyscrapers, no air, no light? Kshayaya jagato ’hitah. The mind becomes crippled. Health deteriorates. Children cannot even see the sky. Everything is spoiled.

Disciple: Every day in the big cities, Srila Prabhupada, an “air-quality management” bureau makes a report on the level of pollution. And on some days, it is not good for your health to leave your home. Now some people are even selling fresh air.

Srila Prabhupada: Fresh air? (Laughter.) Fresh water also.

Disciple: In Tokyo there are special machines from which you can purchase clean air and clean water.

Srila Prabhupada: “Clean water” – by treating sewage and cleaning urine. Now people are doing that. Clean water by cleaning urine. During the last war, the German people derived fat from stool. Fat extracted from stool. Scientifically. You can use it as butter very nicely on your bread. This kind of thing is going on.

Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, some of these materialists argue that their modern techniques are not totally unbeneficial. For example, they have developed the tractor, which they say enables them to produce bountiful harvests. So much so that they can feed practically the entire world.

Srila Prabhupada: Why do they not?

Disciple: Because their mentality is very abominable.

Srila Prabhupada: But if they can feed so many people, they should do that There are so many starving people, and in America alone, so much land is lying fallow.

Disciple: Yes, and so many people are unemployed. Better to put people to work in the fields than in factories. If they are going to work. let them grow grain and milk the cows.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Then they will live very happily.

“But,” say the leaders, “that we will not do.” Kshayaya jagato ’hitah: they are bent upon world destruction. Kshayaya means “total ruination.” So save these people from ruination.