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: “Bothering” someone who is going to kill himself – that is natural. Even if you don’t know the other person, still, if you are a gentleman, you want to give him some protection. This is the duty of a gentleman.

Someone may say, “But most of all, you are bothering yourself. Why are you bothering yourself?”

But as a human being, I must bother myself. Every true human being will do that.

Even Lord Krishna comes – bothering Himself. Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata: “Whenever these people on earth become rascals and fools, I descend again and deliver them.”

So those who are servants of God – they are doing the very same thing, on behalf of God. And so they are exalted, because they are doing the work of God. They’re not cheating the public.

Therefore, for the sake of the people in general, I am requesting you to pursue this farming life with great enthusiasm. Help people to see this traditional, natural way of living. You must help them see how they can become happy, how they can go back to Godhead.

So advance this project – plain living, high thinking. This modern civilization is so nasty, A nasty civilization, artificially increasing the so-called necessities of life. Anartha – unwanted, unbeneficial “improvements.”

Disciple: We would not have understood you if you had said that eight, ten years ago. Now we understand a little bit.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Take this electric light, for example. Now, to get light we simply grow same castor seed and take the oil. As with everything else, we get light from the earth. The modern civilization gets light from complicated electric generators. But really, they get the power from petroleum. Which means they too get their power from the earth.

The difference is this: We get our power so very simply and easily. But to search out petroleum they have to dig deeply into the earth and even bore into the ocean floor. Therefore it is called ugra-karma, horrible work. And as soon as their petroleum supply stops, everything stops.

Just consider. All you need to do is grow some castor seed, press out the oil, put it in any pot, add a wick, and the light is there. The light is there. So even allowing that you may have somewhat improved the lighting system, still, lighting is not the main necessity of your life. And to stay artificially advanced – beyond the castor-oil lamp to this modern electric lamp – you have to work so horribly hard. You have to go to the middle of the ocean and bore into the ocean floor. In this way your real, spiritual business in life is forgotten. Finished.

God gave you so much energy and intelligence for attaining self-realization. First you must realize this precarious position you are in – repeatedly dying, life after life, and taking birth repeatedly in various species for more and more suffering. This is your problem, and this problem you are to solve now that you have received the human form. In human life, after all, you possess advanced intelligence. But instead of using this advanced intelligence for self-realization, modern man has used it to go from the castor-oil lamp to the electric lamp. That’s all.

Just try to understand. Modern civilization – what is the improvement? And by advancing from the castor-oil lamp to the electric lamp, you have forgotten your real business. You have lost your real self.

And yet this so-called civilization goes on and on. This is called maya, illusion. For some fictitious happiness, you lose out on your real business, your whole purpose in life.

You may not admit it, but you are under the control of nature: sooner or later, you have to give up this material body. All right, you may make a very nice arrangement for living here in comfort. But nature will not allow you to live here in comfort. You must die.

And after death you are going to get yet another material body. Perhaps in this life you are working to maintain a house with high-grade electrical lamps and so forth. You are working so hard – you have got your own business. But if next life, by the laws of nature, you get the body of a dog, then what is the benefit? You cannot check the laws of nature. So if nature rewards your business efforts with the body of a dog, what is the benefit? Hmm? What is the answer?

Disciple: Simple living, high thinking.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but here is the charge. Now, what is your answer? In this life you may be living very comfortably. But if, due to neglecting God and your soul, in your next life you are going to be a dog, then what is the benefit?

This is the charge. Now, how will this “modern man” answer this charge? Can he deny he is going to be a dog?

Disciple: He’ll say he doesn’t believe it.

Srila Prabhupada: He may believe or not believe. Take this little child. He is just a little boy, so he does not know anything about his future. But his mother knows, his father knows, and I know that some day he’s going to be a young man.

If he says, “No, I’m not going to be a young man,” it is childish. His father and mother know that this boy is going to grow into a young man, and so he should be properly educated. That is the guardians’ business.

Admittedly, a child – or one who is childish – doesn’t know what he is going to become in the future. He doesn’t know about his future life. But does that mean his future life is not a fact?