“Since When Have You Westerners Accepted the Teachings of Christ?”
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, this is Carol Cameron, from the University of West Australia. For her master’s degree in anthropology, she’s writing a paper about the influence of the Vedic culture on the West. So she would like to ask you some questions.
Carol: Your Divine Grace, I would like to know why you initially came to the West. I know a bit about your background, but not very much. So I’d like to know why you saw the need to come to the West.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Not long ago I was speaking about that. Of course, I spoke in very strong words. What I said was, “Western people are claiming to be very civilized—but I have got an objection. That is why I have come to the West.”
For example, the animal killing. The Western people mostly call themselves Christians. Now, Lord Jesus Christ said, “Thou shall not kill.” But the result, after the passage of two thousand years, is that the people of the Western countries are still killing. So during all these years, when have they actually accepted Christianity? What is your answer?
Carol: Right. It’s true that the actual, original teachings of the scriptures aren’t enacted in Western life.
Srila Prabhupada: Just consider. The Ten Commandments and then Lord Jesus Christ and his disciples had to tell these people, “Thou shall not kill.” So, first of all, what kind of men were they—that Lord Christ had to request them not to kill? That means they were killers.
Suppose somebody’s a thief and I give him some good instruction. I say, “You should not commit theft.” Of course, that instruction means, “As of now, you are a thief.” Otherwise, why should I say, “Thou shalt not commit theft”?
A naughty child is disturbing everyone. So I am forced to say, “My dear child, please don’t disturb everyone.” Similarly, when Christ said, “Thou shall not kill,” that means he was speaking amongst people who were in the habit of killing. Is it not?
Srila Prabhupada: Now, after taking instruction from Christ, first of all they killed Christ. They let him be put to death. That means they could not understand the instruction. Therefore, their first business was to kill the instructor. And following that, two thousand years have passed—and still they are killing. So, since when have they accepted the teachings of Lord Christ? Can you answer this?
Carol: So you think the Christian faith hasn’t been reflected in the behavior of Western people?
Srila Prabhupada: This is obvious. You are maintaining huge slaughterhouses—regular killing. So although you took instruction from Christ—“Thou shalt not kill”—you first of all killed him, and still you are maintaining this killing business. You are killing the animals, and every now and then you are declaring wars amongst yourselves.
So the killing business is going on regularly. Not just in big wars but also in your regular daily life. You are maintaining big, big slaughterhouses. So, again, since when have you Westerners actually accepted the instructions of Christ? That I want to know. What is that date?
Carol: Your Divine Grace, do you see any hope for the world? We seem to be moving towards destruction.
Srila Prabhupada: First, you just explain.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada is asking you, When did this civilization actually accept the teachings of Christ?
Carol: When have they? Overall, never at all. Only in small pockets. Overall, never.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why are you claiming that you are Christian? For instance, you are wearing a crucifix. You Westerners often keep or wear a crucifix, yet that sign actually means that you killed Christ. The crucifix is the symbol that you so-called followers of Christ killed Christ. Many, many people in the priestly order carry the crucifix. The crucifix is the sign that Lord Jesus Christ was killed. Is it not?
Carol: It is, but that symbol is also used to signify his triumph, or resurrection.
Srila Prabhupada: [Warily:] Maybe. [Laughter.] But mainly, that symbol shows how you killed Lord Jesus Christ. That is the sign. That reminds you that you killed your spiritual master. You accuse the Jewish people—“They killed him”—but you also killed him, and you are still killing. Although, of course, you like to call yourselves Christian. Therefore, I want to know—you are a learned scholar—since when did you start abiding by the order of Lord Jesus Christ? That is my question. Since when?
Carol: When did I?
Srila Prabhupada: Every one of you—throughout the Western countries. And if you claim you have actually abided by the order of Jesus Christ, then why are you systematically killing? The order is, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Carol: This matter reminds me of the Gita, you know?—where Arjuna is on the battlefield, about to commit an organized sort of killing against his relatives.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Arjuna’s relatives were on the battlefield, attacking. The cows, pigs, and chickens are not on the battlefield, attacking. You cannot compare Arjuna’s killing to your killing.
Two thousand years have passed, but to date you have not been able to accept the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ. And you are all claiming that you are Christian. But since when did you accept Christianity? That is my question. Because as far as I can see, you have disobeyed the order of Christ. So now that two thousand years have passed, when did you accept? Hmm? Who will answer this question?
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm?
Disciple: They never accepted.
Carol: Hmm. Your Divine Grace, what is the main part of your philosophy? Is it based on the Vedanta?
Srila Prabhupada: This is no question of philosophy. You Westerners could not accept Jesus’ simple instruction. Where is the question of philosophy?
Carol: I think it is a question of love.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You Westerners have no love. You cannot understand the basic principle of life and morality, Jesus Christ’s instruction that “Thou shalt not kill.” So how can you become a philosopher?
Carol: How is the question of love to be understood? Between people, or through some sort of inner communication with a higher self?
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada is saying that until we Westerners accept Christ’s simplest, most basic instruction about showing love to all God’s creatures, we cannot talk about philosophy. Nor can we talk about love.
Srila Prabhupada: You Westerners have no love, because you are accustomed to kill. Philosophy begins when you know that everyone is part and parcel of God and everyone should be given full facility to live, without danger of being injured or killed for anyone else’s personal benefit. Panditah sama-darshinah: A pandita, a true philosopher or learned scholar, sees every living being equally—as a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. So fools and rascals cannot become philosophers. Those who are learned scholars—thoughtful—they can become philosophers. But if one has no knowledge how to behave toward other living entities, what is the meaning of his becoming a “philosopher”?