Questions/Answers with Lennart
Tartu, Estonia - 16 September 2005
[conversation in progress]
Sankarshan Prabhu: Your next question was?
Lennart: Yes, my next question was this: There are different planets that have different mind levels, right? - something like that. Earth is somewhere in the middle in this material world, from lowest to highest.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes, that’s right.
Lennart: What’s down lowest?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Patalaloka.
Lennart: Patalaloka. And there is life also there?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes.
Lennart: But it’s totally demoniac.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes, that’s right. Oh, but Patalaloka – [to Mataji] Where is Bali Maharaja?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes – there are sometimes great souls in other places, too, but generally demoniac life exists in the lower planets.
Lennart: About a month ago I spoke to a devotee named Arjuna here in Tallinn, and we discussed the same thing. We had this discussion about the lower planets. He said that the Vedas say that there are demons that live on those lower planets, but in the sense of love and total surrender and those kinds of important things, they are not on a high level. Is this right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes. ‘Demons’ means low-level.
Lennart: But Arjuna said that some of them are in a very high intellectual state – that they have very advanced knowledge.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes, there are demons who are materially very advanced.
Lennart: Materially advanced, yes.
Sankarshan Prabhu: We see them on this planet, also.
Lennart: That was my question.
Sankarshan Prabhu: On this planet we have a demoniac culture which is very advanced technologically.
Lennart: Advanced, yes – just to please one’s ego, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes. For the sake of trying to enjoy this material world they’ve made a high-tech society. But that can be used for Krishna. For instance, here we have an mp3 recorder with a 40-gigabyte hard drive. It’s in a little tiny box but it has a huge recording capacity. This can be utilized in Krishna’s service.
Lennart: Yes. So the meaning is that knowledge can be good, too, if you use it in Krishna consciousness – if you use it for a good purpose, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: If we use the modern technology – like the Internet or advanced means of travel like the jet airplane – if we use it for Krishna, then it’s very auspicious. It purifies everything.
Lennart: Yes, okay.
Mataji: [to Sankarshan Prabhu] Do you want to explain about your e-course . . . ?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes. I utilize the Internet. I have an e-course where I have 20,000 people signed up for regular mailings through the Internet. We have what’s called “Thought for the Day” that goes out to about 6,000 people every day. Then our weekly lesson goes out to about 20,000 people all over the world. So we’re utilizing the Internet to give the Krishna conscious message regularly to so many thousands of people throughout the world. It’s a nice example of how you can use modern technology to spread Krishna consciousness.
Lennart: Hmm, that is good . . . I understand that. But still, if I want to evolve spiritually . . .
Sankarshan Prabhu: You would like to evolve spiritually?
Lennart: Evolve spiritually, yes.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes, very good.
Lennart: Yes, and in the Kali-yuga age the best way is to practice bhakti-yoga, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s right.
Lennart: But in earlier ages there were different yogas that worked better, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Actually, the chanting of the holy name works in all ages. But there were other systems that were predominate in previous ages. In Satya-yuga it was the meditational yoga system – sitting down and meditating silently and all that – that was in Satya-yuga. In Tretya-yuga, the system was that of great sacrificial ceremony. In the Dvapara-yuga, the previous yuga, the system was that of very elaborate, opulent Deity worship in temples. In this age, the system is that of chanting Hare Krishna.
Lennart: Okay. So those other systems don’t work 100%, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: They don’t work in this age. The other three systems are not practical in this age.
Lennart: I mean, in some way they are totally impractical.
Lennart: Totally. So basically, if I want to evolve spiritually I should do so through bhakti-yoga, since it’s the perfect system for this age. But can I, how do you say -
Sankarshan Prabhu: Utilize?
Lennart: - utilize some aspects of the other systems -
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes, yes you can -
Lennart: - so that I can evolve better?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes, you can. Some of those things are still utilized in this age. For example, we do Deity worship - just like we are worshiping Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara – although we don’t do it with as much opulence as they previously did. Plus, as far as sacrificial ceremonies are concerned, we have the initiation ceremony, for example, which is a tiny replica of the great, grand Vedic fire-sacrificial ceremonies that they used to have.
Lennart: Yes; I saw a video yesterday . . .
Sankarshan Prabhu: As far as the meditational yoga system goes, Prabhupada said we could use it for good health. If somebody feels the need, they can do hatha-yoga if they want good health; but that system is not at all practical for self-realization. The meditational yoga system is not at all practical in this age. The Satya-yuga system of meditational yoga is not at all practical.
Lennart: So in this age – just to make the point clear – bhakti yoga is the system. If it is truly practiced, in its true form, as it is written, as it must be, then this is the system that will completely allow us to break through the circle of birth and death, and to set us free from material existence, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: It will absolutely purify us.
Lennart: But to evolve spiritually, it is allowed and . . . is it positive or good if, let’s say, I were to take some aspects from the Buddhists so that –
Sankarshan Prabhu: You see, in Krishna bhakti you don’t have to say, “Well, I’ll go and take a little Buddhism and a little this and little that” because it’s already there.
Lennart: It’s all there.
Sankarshan Prabhu: You don’t have to do that. It’s already there. See, all the good, potent things of Buddhism, the good, potent things of Christianity, the good, potent things of Judaism – they’re already in Krishna bhakti. You don’t have to go in and add them. They’re already there. It’s like a computer that’s fully loaded. You may say, “This competitor brand of computer has this really nice thing; I’d like to add it.” Say, “I have a Dell computer, and I see that HP has something really nice; I’d like to add that to my Dell” or “I see that IBM has something really nice; I’d like to add that to my Dell.” But the Dell is already fully loaded. (Of course this is a mundane example.) Everything that you’ll find in the IBM or the HP is already in the Dell, so you don’t need to add it. The Dell is fully loaded already . . . Likewise, Krishna consciousness already has every aspect. Every possible thing that could help you to become powerfully situated in spiritual enlightenment is already there in bhakti-yoga. You don’t have to add anything from somewhere else. It doesn’t need to be improved. You don’t need a ‘new, improved’ model of bhakti-yoga.
Lennart: So say you put in a mixture of –
Sankarshan Prabhu: You don’t need to mix something because there’s nowhere else to mix it from!
Lennart: Ah – because it’s all there.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Because bhakti-yoga is Christianity - when it’s properly practiced [Christianity] is bhakti-yoga. Buddhism, when it’s actually properly practiced (in the highest sense) is bhakti-yoga. They’re all bhakti-yoga. So you don’t need to go somewhere else to get something else. Anything you’ll find in the Bible, for example, is already there in the Vedas. I’ll give you an example. In the Bible, somebody said, “Lord Jesus, I want to join your movement; I want to become one of the members of your Christian movement, but first I want to go bury my relative who just died. And then I’ll come back later and join you.” So what did Jesus say? He said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” That’s what we’re saying in Krishna consciousness. When you surrender to Krishna, you are free from all other obligations. Christ was saying the same thing. What Krishna said 5,000 years ago, Christ repeated 2,000 years ago when he said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” So anything wonderful and sublime you’ll find in Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism – it’s all already there in the Vedas. You don’t need to add anything else to the Vedas. They need to add the Vedic wisdom to Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, etc. to make them perfect.
Lennart: But if we add those to –
Sankarshan Prabhu: Anything good that’s in Christianity that you would want to add to Krishna consciousness is already existing there. You can’t add it because it’s already there. You could say, “This is a very nice concept – ‘Let the dead bury the dead’ – so let’s add this to Krishna consciousness.” But wait a minute – Krishna consciousness already has that concept even further developed. Christ gave a very rudimentary, elementary, ABC-level of bhakti yoga to his followers. Krishna consciousness already has that and goes far beyond it.
Here’s the best example to help you understand. In the library over here, there may be a big, unabridged dictionary. That’s Krishna consciousness. You may find a little pocket dictionary also, that you can put in your shirt pocket. That is Christianity. You could say, “Oh, I found a definition in this pocket dictionary – it’s so wonderful; I want to add this definition to the unabridged dictionary!” But that word is already defined in the unabridged dictionary, in far greater depth than it’s defined in the pocket dictionary.
Lennart: Yes, I understand that. That’s a good example.
Sankarshan Prabhu: It’s an example from Prabhupada.
Lennart: [laughs] Okay!
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s why it’s so good!
Lennart: Yes, okay – it is that. But in this age, as you mentioned earlier, a person can fully free himself through Islam also, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes.
Lennart: Yes. But it’s possible that some person feels that he understands all those aspects of Krishna consciousness, but he just feels that for him, at his level, Islam is better for him, you know?
Sankarshan Prabhu: We have no objection. If someone feels that chanting Hare Krishna is something Hindu, then let him go to his Christian church and chant the name of Jesus. We have no objection.
Lennart: Because if he practices Christianity in its true form . . . [pauses]
Sankarshan Prabhu: He can become perfect also by following Lord Jesus. But he has to follow the injunction, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Lennart: Not kill.
Sankarshan Prabhu: You cannot eat the byproducts of a slaughterhouse and be a pure Christian.
Lennart: Yes. You can’t eat corpses, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: Well, technically, if they died naturally, you could.
Lennart: Ah, technically. But it’s still not good.
Sankarshan Prabhu: If the animal dies a natural death, then you didn’t kill him. But they don’t do that. They put him in the slaughterhouse – then they can kill him and eat him.
Lennart: They murder the animals.
Sankarshan Prabhu: They murder them - that’s right. They murder these innocent creatures. What is the poor cow doing? She’s eating grass which you cannot eat, and she’s giving milk. Don’t you enjoy the milk products – ice cream, yogurt, smoothies -
Lennart: Cheese –
Sankarshan Prabhu: Cheese -
Lennart: And how do you say it in English? There is one other thing, too - a milk product. You boil it . . .
Mataji: Butter? Paneer?
Lennart: You boil milk and it becomes thick – not cheese, but . . .
Sankarshan Prabhu: Burfi. Milk sweets. So how can we take this cow - who is giving us so much wonderful, delightful foodstuff through her milk products - and when she gets old and her milkbag dries up, murder her and eat her flesh? That’s like saying, “Well, when I am a little baby I suck my mother’s breast, and when I grow up a little and her breast is no longer feeding me, then I will kill her and eat her body.” You see? It is the most grossly sinful activity to kill the cow and eat the cow.
Lennart: I, personally, for one month, have not eaten meat.
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s very good. Now you can continue.
Lennart: Yes, because although I realized [that meat-eating was sinful] many months ago, I now fully, totally – in practice – have not practiced it in about a month.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Very good.
Lennart: I came to Tartu just to study at the university. This is my first year; I started on the 25th of August. When I was home, I went to a Krishna Consciousness temple in Tallinn and I understood [about meat-eating] and everything. But still, at home . . .
Mataji: It was not practical for you.
Lennart: Yes, yes. Some things in the material world . . .
Sankarshan Prabhu: Your parents were trying to influence you to eat meat.
Lennart: Yes, of course, and then I ate it a little bit. But now, basically I live alone.
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s the advantage of student life, when you go out to the university. You can develop your own lifestyle.
Lennart: Now it’s clear to me that even if I go to visit someone, and he or she offers me something ill to eat, I understand that he or she does not have the full knowledge about it. I understand that it’s bad, yet because people have been eating meat for been hundreds of years, he thinks it’s right. He wants to know, “What’s the good?” I understand that; I respect that. But I will not take the meat.
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s good. That’s very good.
Lennart: Even if it’s presented in a respectful way.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Well that’s very nice . . . Do you have any further questions, or are you pretty satisfied for now?
Lennart: . . . bad karma and good karma –
Sankarshan Prabhu: Yes, there are three types of karma.
Lennart: Three? What’s the third type?
Sankarshan Prabhu: There is bad karma, good karma and no karma.
Lennart: Ah, no karma!
Sankarshan Prabhu: In Sanskrit, bad karma is called vikarma; good karma is called karma; and no karma is called akarma. If you do some pious activity, if you help someone in a materialistic way – maybe you go to a village and dig a well so that all of the villagers can get water – that’s called karma. You get very good reaction for that. If you do something sinful, like eating meat or hurting someone, you get punished for that – you get a sinful reaction. But if you do bhakti – Krishna-conscious activities – that is called akarma. That is the third type. For that there is no material reaction. Just imagine that you were a very pious man and you built a hospital for the poor. Now you have to get rewarded. You gave so many people free medical care, so how will they pay you back? They will give you free medical care in future lifetimes. Isn’t that a wonderful thing, that you can get sick and get free medical care? So ‘good karma’ is not as good as it may seem to be, because there is always some bad that comes along with the good in this material world.
Lennart: Yes, yes.
Sankarshan Prabhu: But if you want nothing but good, then you come to the position of akarma, or Krishna consciousness, because nothing bad comes along with the reward you get for surrendering to Krishna. It’s completely good.
Lennart: But if you’re not connected with God in bhakti-yoga -
Sankarshan Prabhu: If you’re not connected with God then you remain within karma and vikarma. You cannot get out of the cycle of karma unless you’re connected with God.
Lennart: And if you suffer, you reduce the bad karma, right? And if you enjoy -
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s right. If you suffer you’re burning off your bad karma and if you enjoy you’re burning off your good karma.
Lennart: Some people have no connection with God and it seems that everything is okay with them –
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s because they did past pious activities and they’re burning off the reactions of their past pious activities. As soon as those are burned off, they’ll be dragged down to a poverty-stricken condition –
Lennart: Back in the –
Sankarshan Prabhu: Back in the gutter, that’s right.
Lennart: And again, like this.
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s right.
Lennart: But the thing is –
Sankarshan Prabhu: But when you take to bhakti you’re just going up, forever. You’re not going up and down; you’re going up forever. Eternally going up. Things will get better and better and better for you eternally.
Lennart: But is it that bad karma reduces -
Sankarshan Prabhu: When you take to Krishna consciousness, you still get the benefit of your good karma, which you offer to Krishna. And the reactions to your bad karma are minimized. You only get a token for your bad karma.
Actually, when you surrender to Krishna you take yourself out of the domain of bad karma and good karma, and you come into the realm of Krishna’s spiritual energy, completely. But it’s a gradual process. In the beginning, we’re still being influenced to some extent by our karma. But as we advance, that influence gradually becomes less and less and less. And finally, when we come to pure, unalloyed bhakti, there is absolutely no influence of karma whatsoever – none whatsoever; absolutely zero influence.
Lennart: Okay, one last question.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Okay, one more – we can have more meetings later.
Lennart: Yes, okay. I understood the point; everything is good. But still, about the religion aspect: If Krishna is the original religion, the ultimate Truth, but a person observes, say, Christianity or Islam or something like that and does it in a bhakti way - eliminating the negative elements like meat-eating and stuff like that – can he still achieve 100% the same effect that –
Sankarshan Prabhu: Well, almost the same. When you get down to the subtleties, there is a difference. In other words, such a person can go to the spiritual world and become an eternal associate of the Lord; that’s a fact. He can in fact go to the spiritual world and become an eternal associate of God. However, there are millions and billions of planets in the spiritual world, and such a person who didn’t have a relationship with Krishna or Lord Caitanya would go to the Vaikuntha planets, where Lord Vishnu presides (or Lord Jesus could be there). One can go to these other planets [other than Krishnaloka, where Krishna presides]. But if one wants to go and live in the most intimate pastimes of the Lord in Goloka Vrindavana [Krishnaloka], then he has to take to directly worshiping Krishna. [If one does not worship Krishna specifically] he’ll still go the spiritual world, but he may not go to the Krishnaloka planet.
Lennart: So he can go higher, but if he doesn’t know anything – if he doesn’t know the word ‘Krishna’ –
Sankarshan Prabhu: He can go to one of the Vaikuntha planets.
Lennart: Higher planets.
Sankarshan Prabhu: And actually from there he could then promote himself even further to Krishna’s planet.
Lennart: So it’s possible that on this planet earth, maybe it is meant for some person to evolve spiritually, but evolve to that extent that he, after death, goes to a planet and finishes his spiritual evolution there.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Someone could be constitutionally a resident of Vaikuntha, instead of a resident of Goloka Vrindavana. That’s possible. However, that constitution is mutable. A living entity anywhere in the spiritual world can in fact elevate himself to Goloka Vrindavana if he has that inclination to do so.
There are five primary relationships that one can have with God: santa-rasa (neutrality), dasa-rasa (servitorship), sakhya-rasa (friendship), vatsalya-rasa (parental relationship), and madhurya-rasa (conjugal). So there are five primary relationships that one can have with God. In the Vaikuntha realm, the most one can come to is the platform of servitorship. But to go beyond that and have a more intimate, personal friendship with God (or a parental relationship or a conjugal relationship) requires entering into this Goloka Vrindavana planet.
So in one sense, there’s actually no difference: they’re all lovers of God and they’re serving Him according to their full capacity. In that sense there’s no difference. Yet by comparative analysis we see that there is more variety of relationship when you come to the Goloka Vrindavana realm of the spiritual world – more varieties of relationships than exist in the Vaikuntha realm. The Biblical and Koranic (if that’s the word) conception is the conception of the Vaikuntha realm, where you worship the Lord as the Supreme Holy of holies, bowing down at His feet. But in this Goloka planet, Krishna brings His surrendered bhaktas under a spell of what’s called yoga-maya to make them actually forget that He’s God and relate with Him as a boyfriend, as a pal, as a lover – the gopis see Him as their most intimate lover – and in that way they will relate with the Lord. Of course, there are hints of that even in the Bible, but they’re not explicitly explained.
Lennart: But if you understand the Vedic literature, and then you look at the Bible with that knowledge, you can understand the Bible better, right?
Sankarshan Prabhu: That’s right. In the Bible there is someplace in the Old Testament where God is actually being spoken about is if he were a lover, but it’s not very well understood by Christian theologians. But yes, if you take the Vedic wisdom and become very learned in Prabhupada’s books and go back to the Bible, you’ll see all kinds of things that the Christians can’t even see. All kinds of things. The Bible takes on a new life after you study it in light of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Lennart: I see. The Vedic literature is the ultimate truth. But still it gives Krishna a material form – a blue person, or something like that, right?
Mataji [aside]: That’s not a material form.
Lennart: How can you say that this is the true form?
Sankarshan Prabhu: How we can say that this –
Lennart: And – and - and this is the true form, and let’s say –
Sankarshan Prabhu: Can I answer that question?
Sankarshan Prabhu: How can we say that the form of Krishna is the true form of God? How will you discover that this indeed is the true form of God?
Well, that is a very simple thing. You simply follow the bhakti-yoga system with all sincerity and devotion, and by doing so, you will come to that point when you will actually see God directly face to face. You will directly perceive, and you will know that that form - with that bluish-blackish complexion and peacock feather in the hair, playing the flute – indeed is the form of God. You will know from your own personal experience. When you directly meet Krishna face to face, you will know. Until that time, you can take the word of those who have seen Him, like Lord Brahma, in the Brahma-samhita, or Srila Prabhupada, who has also directly seen God. You can take their word and follow their instructions, and then you will come to that point also.
Have you ever been to India? [No] But I can tell you how to go to India. I’ve been there many, many times – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been there. So I can tell you how to go to India; and if you follow my instructions you will come to India. Until that time, you can still know all about India by hearing from me, because I can tell you all about India. So even without having gone there, you can know. You can take my word and you will also know. I have been and I have seen. But without having been, by taking my word about India, you will also know all about India and you can tell others all about India also. You can give lectures on Indian culture by hearing from me all the details about what is Indian culture – even without having gone.
So we may not have seen Krishna, but we are hearing from Prabhupada, who has seen Krishna; and by following his instructions, we will see Krishna. And even before then, we can accurately describe who Krishna is, because we have heard it from someone who has seen Krishna. We are hearing about Krishna from someone who is seeing Krishna at every minute.
Lennart: Okay. I understand. Thank you.
Sankarshan Prabhu: Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.
Lennart: Hare Krishna.
Transcribed by Her Grace Labangalatika devi dasi