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Are you suggesting then that what is taken to be liberty is actually enslavement? And what is assumed to be the pursuit of happiness is nothing more than a rat race in which you try to make the best of what you can?

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"Are you suggesting then that" |"What is taken to be liberty is actually enslavement? And what is assumed to be the pursuit of happiness is nothing more than a rat race in which you try to make the best of what you can"

Conversations and Morning Walks

1976 Conversations and Morning Walks

They do not know what is happiness. Bhagavad-gītā points out what is your distress. Can anyone say what is the actual distress? They do not know it. Distress they are taking as usual part of life. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānudarśanam. This is philosophy, to find out what is distress.
Interview with Trans-India Magazine -- July 17, 1976, New York:

Interviewer: Yesterday in my talks with your disciples I gathered that you have at least three of the āśrama-dharmas in practice: brahmacarya, gṛhastha, and sannyāsa. Did you do this to suggest that your movement does not involve renunciation in the Western sense, in which they understand it, asceticism only, to retreat, to withdraw from society, to form a different, small spiritual community or fraternity, not interacting with the rest of society, not influencing society, not being influenced by society? In other words, was it your aim to suggest that the daily life of ordinary people can be built on the foundations of your philosophy?

Prabhupāda: The thing is that human life, the system of society should be divided... Just like you are journalist, so you are not motor mechanics. But there is necessity of motor mechanics also and the journalist also. Is it not?

Interviewer: Yes.

Prabhupāda: And you are journalist, you are not expected to become a motor mechanic or a medical man. But your function is also required in the society. Similarly, the Vedic society was divided into different sections. That is called varṇāśrama-four varṇas, four āśramas. That is very scientific. Brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra and brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa. So Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement includes this system of division of society. It is perfect society. Therefore we are trying to introduce the varṇāśrama system, although it is very difficult nowadays. But if one becomes a devotee, which is above varṇāśrama-dharma, then the purpose is solved. In this age, although varṇāśrama-dharma is very scientific, and Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement includes this, but we are mostly trying to get to the topmost part of varṇāśrama, sannyāsa, or above that. That means Vaiṣṇava. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate (BG 14.26). One can immediately transcend the jurisdiction of three modes of material nature if he engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord.

māṁ ca yo 'vyabhicāreṇa
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
brahma-bhūyāya kalpate
(BG 14.26)

So actually this varṇāśrama system is meant for bringing the man in the lower status of life to the higher status of life. It doesn't matter one is born in a low-grade family. That is also said by Kṛṣṇa: māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya ye 'pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ (BG 9.32). Pāpa-yoni, lower grade. Striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrāḥ (BG 9.32). In the human society, woman, the vaiśya and the śūdra, they are considered in the lower status, not very intelligent. Te 'pi yānti parāṁ gatim. They can also become... So in the Western countries, according to Vedic calculation, they are mlecchas, yavanas, low grade. But Kṛṣṇa says ye 'pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ, "He can also be elevated, to that extent as he can go back to home, back to Godhead." So this movement is directly giving the opportunity of Kṛṣṇa's service so that they can become immediately bona fide to the position in the highest grade of life, Vaiṣṇava, so that he can go back to home, back to Godhead.

Interviewer: The almost the whole world, and all civilizations, look down upon the varṇāśrama-dharma as a system in which hierarchical and stratified conditions prevent human beings from progressing. They think of our system as...

Prabhupāda: They do not know what is progress. That I was talking with your Associated Press, press reporter. Just like they do not know that their material life means they are in the prison house for being punished. They are so dull headed they are taking the activities of punishment as regular life. A man is put into the prison house, and his engagement is breaking the bricks. So he has forgotten that "This breaking of bricks is not my business. I am meant for living freely outside the prison house." So these people, less intelligent people, they think that this material life of working hard day and night, just like the hogs and dogs, is general life. That is due to their ignorance. In the Bhāgavata it is said, nāyaṁ deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye (SB 5.5.1), that this human form of life, although we have got this body, and the hog has also got the body, the hog is working day and night... Perhaps you have seen in Indian village, the hog is loitering in the village. His only business is where to find stool, and eat it. And as soon as he eats, he becomes strong in sense, and then sex. The hog has no discrimination of sex—either mother or sister or anyone. So this sort of life, working day and night for stool, and then as soon as the body is strong, find out sex, never mind whether mother, sister or anyone... This is not human life; this is hog's life. Do you think it is human life?

Interviewer: No.

Prabhupāda: So we are not meant for that civilization. We are meant for the civilization by which one can understand his position, constitutional position, ahaṁ brahmāsmi. Therefore our activities are different from the hogs and dogs.

Interviewer: So what is generally taken here... I mean, this is the American bicentennial year, and the Declaration of Independence talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Are you suggesting then that what is taken to be life is actually the antithesis of life? What is taken to be liberty is actually enslavement? And what is assumed to be the pursuit of happiness is nothing more than a rat race in which you try to make the best of what you can?

Prabhupāda: They do not know what is happiness. Bhagavad-gītā points out what is your distress. Can anyone say what is the actual distress? They do not know it. Distress they are taking as usual part of life. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānudarśanam (BG 13.9). This is philosophy, to find out what is distress. This is directly said by Kṛṣṇa, that these are distresses, janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi, to take birth, to die, to become old and to become diseased. But they do not know it. Not only they, everyone, all over the world, they take it as part of life. Janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi. When a man becomes diseased, when a man becomes old, or when a man dies, they take it it is usual. They have been accustomed to these distresses so much that they do not take it as distress. So this is their ignorance. This is their ignorance. They do not know what is distress and they are struggling for moving the distress. Just like this independence. They do not know what is meaning of independence. Real independence is when you are free from these four kinds of distress. Does it mean that observing this kind of independence is real independence? It is simply fictitious. If you are not free from the laws of nature, nature will enforce you to die. Then where is your independence? Nobody wants to die, so why he's enforced to die? Nobody wants to become old man. Why he's enforced to become old man? But they have no brain to understand what is independence, what is happiness. They have taken distress as happiness. So that is due to lack of knowledge. So the Kṛṣṇa consciousness means to elevate a person to the real standard of knowledge. Without knowledge a madman can say anything. A child can speak all nonsense. That is not knowledge. Knowledge is different. So the struggle for existence means to get out of distress, but the real distress they have set aside. The problem that "I do not want to die, but I'll be enforced to die," so what is the advancement in this connection? They might have, so big, big scientists, they have discovered many, many things, but where is that thing that "Take a pill and you'll never die. Take a pill, you'll never become diseased"? They can offer me... I had some abdominal pain, so they have given me dozens of medicine. But still they are not sure whether the pain will be cured. This is their science. So in this way things are going on, in ignorance, mūḍha. Therefore they have been described in the Bhagavad-gītā as mūḍha.

na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ
prapadyante narādhamāḥ
māyayāpahṛta-jñānā
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ
(BG 7.15)

So this is the civilization of the asuras, and without Kṛṣṇa consciousness, without any knowledge of Kṛṣṇa or without any knowledge of the Kṛṣṇa's instruction, people are grouped as duṣkṛtina, miscreants; mūḍhas, rascals; narādhama, lowest of the mankind. And if you say that "So many people, they are educated highly in the university, how they can be taken as miscreants, rascals and lowest of the mankind?" the answer is māyayāpahṛta-jñānāḥ. They have got knowledge, so-called knowledge, but they are lacking in real knowledge. Knowledge means to get out of distress. That is knowledge. But the real distress remains as it is. They cannot avoid death, they cannot avoid birth, they cannot avoid old age. And still they are claiming they are making progress in happiness. So that is called illusion.