Civilization and Transcendence

By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada replies to a Questionaire from Bhavan's Journal
June 28, 1976

Pusta Krsna:Srila Prabhupada, this questionnaire was sent to you by Bhavan's Journal, a cultural and religious magazine in Bombay. They are questioning various religious and spiritual leaders, trying to get the answers to some of the important questions that are perplexing people today. So there's a list of questions, and the first is this: "Is the influence of religion over the masses on the wane ?"
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This is predicted in Srimad Bhagavatam [12.2.1]:
		tatas canu-dinam dharmah 
		  satyam saucam ksama daya 
		kalena balina rajan 
		  nanksyaty ayur balam smrtih 
"In Kali-yuga, this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, there shall be a waning of these qualities: religiosity, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, memory, bodily strength, duration of life, and mercy." These are the human assets-qualities which make a human being distinct from the animals. But these things will decline. There will be almost no mercy, there will be almost no truthfulness, memory will be shortened, duration of life shortened. Similarly, religion will practically vanish. So That means gradually human beings will descend to the platform of animals.

Especially when there is no religion, human beings are simply animals. This any common man can distinguish-that a dog does not understand what religion is. The dog is also a living being, but he's not interested in what is being discussed here about Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam. That is the distinction between man and dog: the animal is not interested. So when human beings are becoming uninterested in religion, then they're becoming animals.

And how can there be happiness or peace in animal society: The big leaders want to keep the citizenry as animals, and at the same time they are striving to make a United Nations. How is it possible? United Animals? Is it possible? Society for United Animals. [Laughter]. In the science of logic it is said, "Man is a rational animal." So when rationality is missing, one becomes simply an animal. What is the possibility of being a human being?

In human society, whether you are a Christian or a Muhammadan or a Hindu or a Buddhist, it doesn't matter. But there must be some system of religion-that is human society. And human society without religion-animal society. This is the plain fact. Why are people unhappy now? Because they are neglecting religion.

One gentleman has written me that Marx said, "Religion is the opium of the people." That means that the Communists are very adamant against God consciousness because they think that religion has spoiled the whole social atmosphere. Religion might have been misused, but that does not mean that religion should be avoided. Real religion should be taken. Simply because religion has not been properly executed by the so-called priests, that does not mean religion should be rejected. If my eye is giving me some kind of trouble on account of a cataract, that doesn't mean my eye should be plucked out. The cataract should be removed. So that is the idea of Krsna consciousness movement-to remove the cataract from people's religious vision.

Generally, modern so-called religious leaders have no conception of God, and yet they are preaching religion. What good is that religion? People are simply being misled. Real religion means God's order: dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam. If your religion has no conception of God, where is the question of religion? Still, without any conception of God, they are professing some religion. How long will it go on artificially? It will deteriorate. That ignorance about God has resulted in the present condition.

Religion means the order of God, just as law means the order of the state. Now, if in your social system there is no state, where is the question of the state's order? You will simply manufacture your own order. Today that is going on in the field of religion: there is no conception of God and therefore no following of God's order.

But we devotees of Krsna have a clear conception of God. Here is God: Krsna. And He's giving orders. We accept those orders. So it is clear religion. But if there is no conception of God, no order of God, then where is the question of religion? Ask someone in some other religious system what their conception of the form of God is. Can anyone tell clearly? Nobody can say. But we shall immediately say,

		venum kvanantam aravinda-dalayataksam 
		barhavatamsam asitambudha-sundarangam 
		govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami 
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, whose eyes are like petals of a blooming lotus, whose head is bedecked with a peacock's feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness charms missions of Cupids." [Brahma-samhita 5.30]

Immediately, description-"Here is God." Then there is religion. And if there is no conception of God, where is the question of religion? Bogus. That is why religiosity and the other noble human qualities are declining. People have no conception of God, and therefore there is no understanding of religion. As a result, the whose human civilization is declining. And because it is declining, human beings are becoming more and more like animals.


Pusta Krsna: May I ask the next question, Srila Prabhupada? "Are fasting and other dietary regulations necessary for leading a spiritual life?"
Srila Prabhupada: Certainly. For advancement in spiritual life, such tapasya is essential. Tapasya means voluntarily accepting something which may be painful. For instance, we are recommending no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling, no meat-eating. So those who are accustomed to these bad habits-for them, in the beginning it may be a little difficult. But in spite of this difficulty, one has to do it. That is tapasya. To rise early in the morning-for those who are not practiced, it is a little painful, but one has to do it. So according to the Vedic injunctions, there are some tapasyas that must be done. It is not "I may do it or not do it:" These austerities must be done. For example, in the Mundaka Upanisad it is ordered that if one wants to become self-realized, one must approach a spiritual master: tad- vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigaccet. So there is no question of "optional"; it must be done. And one must carry out the order of the spiritual master and the order of the sastra, or scripture. When you follow without consideration of whether it is convenient or inconvenient, simply because it must be done, that is called tapasya. Tapo divyam: like other great spiritual authorities, Rsabhadeva orders that this human life is meant for austerity aimed towards realizing God. Therefore in our Vedic civilization we find so many rules and regulations.

At the very beginning of life one must be a brahmacari. He must go to the spiritual master's place and act like a menial servant. If the spiritual master says "go and pick up some wood from the forest," one may be a king's son, but he cannot refuse the spiritual master's order. He must go. Even Krsna was ordered by His spiritual master to go and pick up some dry wood from the forest. So He had to go. Although His father was Nanda Maharaja, a village vaisya king, and although Krsna was the Personality of Godhead Himself, still He could not refuse. He had to go. Nicavat-just like a menial servant. This is brahmacarya, spiritual student life. This is tapasya. Tapasya is so essential that one has to do it. There is no question of an alternative.

After brahmacari life, one may marry. This means he enters grhastha life, household life. That is also tapasya. He cannot have sex whenever he likes. No. The sastra says, "You must have sex like this: once in a month and only for begetting children." So that is also tapasya.

People do not follow any tapasya at the present moment, but human life is meant for tapasya-regulative principles. Even in ordinary affairs-let us say you are driving your car on some urgent business, and you see a red light. You have to stop. You cannot say, "I have to be there in a few minutes. I must go." No. You must stop. That is tapasya. So tapasya means following the regulative principles strictly, according to the higher order. And that is human life.

Animal life, however, means you can do whatever you like. On the road, animals may keep to the right or keep to the left; it doesn't matter. Their irregularity is not taken as an offense, because they are animals. But if a human being does not follow the regulative principles, he is sinful. He'll be punished. Consider the same example: When there is a red light, if you do not stop you'll be punished. But if a cat or dog transgresses- "Never mind the red light; I shall go"-he's not punished. So tapasya is meant for the human being. He must do it if he at all wants to make progress in life. It is essential.

Pusta Krsna: And so, Srila Prabhupada, tapasya includes dietary regulations?
Srila Prabhupada: That is also tapasya. For example, we prohibit meat-eating. So in your country this is a little troublesome. From the very beginning of life, a child is habituated to eating meat. The mother purchases powdered meat and mixes it with liquid and feeds it to the infant. I have seen it. So practically everyone has been brought up eating meat. Yet I say, "Don't eat meat." Therefore that is troublesome. But if one is serious about becoming self-realized, one must accept the order. That is tapasya.

Tapasya applies to diet, to personal behavior, to dealings with others, and so on and so forth. In every aspect of life, there is tapasya. That is all described in the Bhagavad-gita. Mental tapasya. Bodily tapasya. Verbal tapasya-controlling vaco-vegam, the urge to talk loosely or whimsically. You cannot talk nonsense. If you talk, you must talk about Krsna. That is tapasya. There is also tapasya in connection with krodha-vegam, the urge to express one's anger. If one becomes angry and wants to express it by beating someone or doing something very violent, tapasya will restrict him-"No, don’t' do it." There is also tapasya with regards to the tongue, belly, and genitals. One cannot eat anything and everything, or at any time he pleases. Nor can one have sex freely, but only according to the scriptural injunctions. "I am sexually inclined, but I cannot do it. This is not the time." That is tapasya.

So one should practice tapasya in every way- in body, mind, words, personal behavior, and dealings with others. That is human life. Tapo divyam: if you want to simply be a human being, and especially if you want to make progress in spiritual life, you must act according to the sastric injunctions. That means tapasya. Before Brahma could take part in creation, he had to undergo tapasya. Is it not stated in the sastra? Yes. So tapasya is essential. You cannot avoid it.

And what is the aim of performing tapasya? The aim is to please the Supreme Lord through the spiritual master. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado: "One can attain the mercy of the Lord only by attaining the mercy of the spiritual master." This is the idea.

Now, in today's educational institutions, who is teaching this tapasya? Where is the school or college? The students are even smoking in front of their teachers and it is tolerated. No offense. What can you expect from such students? This is an animal civilization. This is not human civilization. No tapasya, no brahmacari life. Real civilization means tapo divyam, godly austerity. And this tapasya begins with brahmacari life, learning to control the senses-that is the beginning of life. Not "A-B-C-D" learning, and maybe your character is less than animals, though you have a degree from the university. "Never mind. You have become a learned man." No-that is not accepted.

Even from the standpoint of basic moral instruction, we must ask: Who today is educated? The educated person is described by Canakya Pandita:

			matr-vat para-daresu 
			para-dravyesu lostra-vat 
			atma-vat sarva-bhutesu 
			yah pasyati sa panditah 
"The educated man sees another's wife as his mother and another's property as untouchable garbage, and he sees all others as equal to himself." That is the pandita, the learned man. In Bhagavad-gita [5.18] Krsna also describes the pandita:
			brahmane gavi hastini 
			suni caiva sva-pake ca 
			panditah sama-darsinah 
"The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater." That is a learned man. Not this degree-holder. A degree-holder who has no tapasya and no character-Krsna says he is mayayapahrta-Jnana, "his knowledge is stolen by illusion." Although he has learned so many things, nonetheless, maya has taken away his knowledge. He's a rascal. He's an animal. This is the perspective of Vedic civilization.