A Suicidal Civilization
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This exchange between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples and guests took place during a morning walk on the Berkeley campus of the University of California, in July of 1975.
Guest: About a month ago, Srila Prabhupada, there was a crazy story in the newspaper. It seems a young student went through the archives in the Washington, D.C., public library, and he compiled enough information to construct an atom bomb. So now many leaders are afraid that within a few years, any terrorist group will be able to make their own atom bomb.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that may be….
Guest: Oh, do you see that tower? Students here have been known to jump from it. Actually, at schools all over the country, a growing number of students are committing suicide.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. They are openly committing suicide, and the rest of the people are covertly committing suicide. This man who found out how to construct an atom bomb—he’s thinking that now his life is successful. But if he doesn’t use his human life for trying to become spiritually realized, he is committing suicide.
Guest: How’s that?
Srila Prabhupada: Because he won’t be able to save himself from his own death and rebirth.
Guest: Interestingly enough, the scientists originally developed the atom bomb to prevent death—to end the Second World War as soon as possible.
Srila Prabhupada: How can they prevent death? They do not know how to prevent it. They can accelerate it, that’s all. Here is your problem, Mr. Scientist: janma-mrityu-jara-vyadhi—the cycle of birth, death, old age, and disease. Solve it! Where is the scientist who can do that? instead they take some childish problem and try to avoid the real problem. But they cannot avoid it, because Krishna puts it openly before everyone: janma-mrityu- jara-vyadhi-duhkha-doshanudarshanam—“The real seer will see to this problem of birth, death, old age, and disease.” But the scientists have no answer, no solution to this problem. Where is the biochemist or the psychologist or the nuclear physicist who can solve this problem?
Disciple: They have a theory nowadays that by the proliferation of atomic weapons—Russia has so many weapons, China has so many weapons, the United States has so many weapons—everyone will be afraid of using them.
Srila Prabhupada: They will inevitably use them! That is nature’s arrangement. “You all die”—that is nature’s arrangement. For instance, in your country you have so many cars that even a poor man goes almost everywhere by car and hardly an inch on foot—because there are so many cars. So, because there are so many weapons now, they must be used. That is the natural sequence.
Guest: But every country knows that an atomic war would mean total destruction.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, total or partial—that we shall see. But the weapons will be used…. Everything can be solved by understanding these three items: God is the proprietor, He is the enjoyer, He is the friend of everyone. But the scientists and philosophers and politicians are acting with just the opposite understanding: “I am the proprietor, I am the enjoyer, I am the friend—because I am God.” You see? And everyone who says he’s the people’s friend ultimately proves to be their enemy. President Nixon collected votes by pretending to be a friend, and later on he proved an enemy…. Everyone…. Gandhi pretended to be a friend, but he proved to be an enemy. Otherwise, why was he shot down? Unless some people regarded him as an enemy, why was he shot down? So nobody can be your actual friend, except Krishna.
Disciple: But the Lord’s pure devotee—he’s also a friend to all….
Srila Prabhupada: Because he carries the message of Krishna. Krishna is everyone’s friend, and the pure devotee is carrying the friend’s message. Therefore he is a friend. if there is a nice friend, and if somebody gives information about that nice friend, he is also a friend. Therefore, nobody can be an actual friend except Krishna and Krishna’s representative. Materialistic life means, “I am your enemy, and you are my enemy.” Envy and enmity—this is the whole construction of the material world. So how can the enemy become a friend? This is pretension, cheating.
Disciple: When we go out to distribute your books, we’re letting people know that your disciples are actually their friends, also.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. That is real friendship. You are giving people the message of Lord Caitanya [Krishna’s most recent incarnation, who appeared in India five centuries ago]: kota nidra yao maya-pishacira kole … enechi aushadhi maya nashibara lagi’/ hari-nama maha-mantra lao tumi magi: “People everywhere, you are sleeping under the spell of maya, illusion. How long will you sleep and suffer in this world of death and rebirth? I’ve brought you this eternal, spiritual medicine. Take it and sleep no more.” Hari-nama maha- mantra lao tumi magi: “Now take the Hare Krishna mantra—this is your medicine.”
Guest: So all the relationships within this material world are based on enmity? But the scientists and philosophers and politicians often speak highly of love.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not love. That is lust—“As soon as my lusty desire is not fulfilled, then you are my enemy.”
Guest: Sometimes, though, it seems these people really have our best interests at heart.
Srila Prabhupada: Sometimes we see a dog swimming in the water, and we may think, “Oh, let me capture his tail and I shall cross.” Similarly, those who are thinking the so-called scientists and philosophers or any other materialistic person will solve their problems—it is exactly like trying to cross the Pacific Ocean by capturing the tail of a dog.