“If You Have No Other Suitable Name, Then Chant Krishna”
A conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg: If you’re identifying love, however, with the shabda [sound] Krishna, what of those people who identify love with the shabda Allah?
Srila Prabhupada: Well, of course, if that shabda identifies with God, we have no objection. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva- shaktis: God has many names, in which He has invested His transcendental energies. God is attractive, and His name is also attractive, because He’s not different from His name. If you have got a name with exactly the same attractiveness as Krishna, we have no objection. We simply say, “You chant God’s holy name. Then you’ll become purified.” That is our program. We don’t say that you change your Christianity. No. We don’t say that. If you have got a nice name, an all-attractive name, in your scripture—don’t manufacture, but authorized—then you chant that. We simply request, “You chant.”
Allen Ginsberg: Well, then, how would you adapt the Krishna chanting to Christianity? By seeing Krishna as Christ or Christ as Krishna and sounding Christ’s image in Krishna’s name?
Srila Prabhupada: Krishna, Christ. Of course, this question has several times been put to me. I reply that Christ says, “I am the son of God,” and Krishna says, “I am God”—so there is no essential difference between the son of God and God.
We respect everyone. If I respect your father, I respect you, also. Do you mean to say that if I disrespect your father, you’ll be pleased with me? No. That is our philosophy. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, “I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna.” So if anyone perfectly loves Krishna, he must love Lord Jesus Christ, also. And if one perfectly loves Jesus Christ, he must love Krishna. If he says, “Why shall I love Krishna? I shall love only Jesus Christ,” then he has no knowledge. And if one says, “Why shall I love Jesus Christ? I shall love only Krishna,” then he also has no knowledge. If one understands Krishna, then he will understand Jesus Christ. If one understands Jesus Christ, he’ll understand Krishna.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, then, do you think that the Hare Krishna chant could serve as an intermediary to link the religious tendencies of both the Christian and Muslim religions?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Any religion. That is, if the individual is serious about religion. If he takes religion as a scapegoat, an excuse for doing all sorts of nonsense, that is different. If he wants to understand religion and takes seriously to religion, then he will understand. We want such serious persons.
Now, according to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, religion means the laws created by God. Dharmam tu sakshad bhagavat-pranitam. Religion means the laws of God. Who will deny it? Who will deny it? You may profess any religion—Christian, Muhammadan, or whatever—but who can deny that religion is the laws of God? Simple explanation. If you ask what is meant by religion, the answer is, “Religion is the laws of God.” That’s all. And if you want to know what God is, that is also simply answered: “God is the original source of everything.”
So one should try to understand in this broad-minded way. But if one wants to remain in his compact, sectarian ideas and does not want to go further, then it is very difficult. One should be open-minded and appreciative. Then everything is all right. We say—Caitanya Mahaprabhu says—it is not that you are abitrarily limited to simply chanting Krishna, but if you have no other suitable name, then chant Krishna. Why do you make a differentiation between the Lord’s names? Every name is the same.
Allen Ginsberg: So if you have no other suitable name, chant Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Chant Krishna.
Allen Ginsberg: That’s Lord Caitanya’s message?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Yes.
Allen Ginsberg: Did He feel there were other suitable names?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. He said the Lord has many thousands and millions of names. So if you are serious about God, then call upon Him by one of these names. For instance, your friends may call you by many names, but any one of those names will do.
Allen Ginsberg: O.K. So the problem I was posing before, which I leave open—I don’t know—is, What is the most attractive and suitable name for God here in this material country?
Srila Prabhupada: Now, take, for example, the Muhammadan name Allah. Allah means “the greatest.” Yes, God is the greatest. So that “greatest” conception is the preliminary Brahman conception that we have discussed. And as for the Christian conception, I don’t think they have got any particular name. They say God.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes. Lord or God. Those are the basic ones.
Srila Prabhupada: “Controller.” God means “controller.” Is it not?
Allen Ginsberg [to the disciples on hand]: What is the etymology of God? Do you know?
Disciple: I don’t know.
Srila Prabhupada: God is the equivalent of ishvara. Ishvara means “controller.”
Allen Ginsberg: Well, the Jews, which were my background, had a prohibition …
Srila Prabhupada: They say Jehovah.
Allen Ginsberg: They say Jehovah, but they had a prohibition against pronouncing the Lord’s highest names, because they felt that God was imageless and therefore should not be pronounced or painted. My background is, I guess, what would be termed impersonalist.
Woman: Yes. Impersonalist—just believing in the great Absolute and that’s all.
Srila Prabhupada: That was the difference when Jesus Christ appeared. He was a personalist.
Allen Ginsberg: The ancient Hebrew teaching—you must know about that—was that the name of God should never be pronounced. J-H-V-H. Pictures should not be made. Because it would limit God to human conception.
Srila Prabhupada: That is another thing. That idea is also in the Muhammadan tradition. Their essential idea is that God is not material. That is the idea. The idea is that when I make some image or picture of God, that is material. So there is a prohibition against accepting God as material. But if you go to a higher stage of realization, you’ll understand that if God is everything, then there is no such thing as material. That is Vaishnava philosophy.
If God is everything, then how can you say any of His energies is fundamentally material? God is spiritual. So in one sense, calling something material means you do not understand God. That is what calling something material means.
For instance, when part of this sky is covered by a cloud, we say, “The sky is cloudy.” But the cloud is limited and temporary; it has no enduring existence; it comes only to cover some of the sky for a short while. Actually, the sky is unlimited and enduring. Similarly, God is unlimited and enduring; God is eternal. When you are covered by some cloud of maya and you cannot see properly and cannot understand God, that is material. So any philosophy which does not help us understand God—that is material. That is material.
Otherwise, there is no such thing as material. Where is “material” if God is everything? Sarvam khalv idam brahma: Everything is the Lord’s spiritual energy. You see?
Disciple: All is spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: All is spirit. Everywhere is sky, but when some of it is covered, it is called cloud. Similarly, when God is “covered” by some nonsense ideas, then that is material. Otherwise, there is no such thing as material. Therefore, for those who are too much absorbed in materialistic views, there is a restriction—“Don’t attempt to say God’s name.” Because the person will tend to think, “God’s name is just like my son’s name or my daughter’s name.” Therefore, there is that restriction.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, we’ve got to tune some harmoniums.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes, we have to start material preparations for the evening.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not material. [Laughter.]
Allen Ginsberg: A shabda preparation.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Sabda, or sound, is originally spiritual. Sabda-brahman. You simply have to understand that there is nothing material; everything is spiritual. That is required. If I am controlled by the spiritual energy, that is my great fortune. Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakritim ashritah: The mahatmas, or great souls, take shelter of the spiritual energy. And what is their symptom? Bhajanty ananya manaso—simply engaged in devotional service to Krishna. That is required.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krishna.