The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and one of his disciples took place in Paris during the summer of 1974.
Disciple: Last night in your lecture you made the analogy that if people don’t follow God’s laws, they’ll be punished by God, just as they’re punished for disobeying the state laws. So the young people thought you must be a fascist.
Srila Prabhupada: But this is actually happening all over the world. How can they deny it? Government today means, "Might makes right." Somehow you take power, and then you are right. It is a question of which group gets the power.
Disciple: But they want to give the power to the people.
Srila Prabhupada: How will it be possible? There are so many people and so many different opinions—you have your people, and someone else has his people. As soon as you want to give the power to your people, the others will oppose. This is human nature; you cannot change it. They’re thinking that the power should be given to the people, but there are many other people who will disagree. This is the nature of the material world: everyone is envious of everyone else. But these rascals don’t have the intelligence to understand this. In India there was Gandhi—a gentleman, a very nice politician—but he was killed. So you cannot stop this. It is the nature of the material world—everyone is envious of others. You’ll never be able to find a group of materialistic men who are perfect. So why do they say, "Give the power to the people"? They are simply rascals. Therefore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam says, paramo nirmatsaranam satam: Krishna consciousness is for the perfect, nonenvious person. Those who are not Krishna conscious must be envious. Everywhere you’ll find competition. Krishna had enemies. Jesus Christ had enemies, or else why was he crucified? He had no fault, he was preaching God consciousness. Yet he was crucified. This is the material world. Even though one is perfect, still he’ll have enemies. How can you stop it? They say, "Give the power to the people," but as soon as there is one good group of people governing, another group will stand against it. They will say, "Give the power to us." So where is your perfection? This is not perfection. Therefore, we have to give up all connection with this material world—that is perfection.
Disciple: But how can you avoid anarchy and have good government if you give up all connection with this world?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, this is the point—you have to follow the perfect authority.
Disciple: And this was their contention—you advocate following a superior authority.
Srila Prabhupada: If you want a perfect society, you must follow the perfect authority. You cannot find perfection through mundane politics. You have to follow the real, recognized authorities—the perfect, liberated souls. This was the system in the Vedic culture. The authority was Lord Krishna and the Vedic literature, and society was directed by Manu [the forefather and lawgiver of mankind] and the Manu-samhita. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: to attain perfection, we must follow the mahajanas—perfect, self-realized authorities.
Disciple: But these young people said even spiritual authorities are imperfect.
Srila Prabhupada: They may say that, but why should we accept their opinion—the opinion of imperfect rascals? Their only idea of authority is, "Might makes right." For instance, that group yesterday was advocating "Power to the people." So they have got some might, and they are pressuring, "You must accept this idea." And this is going on all over the world—"Might makes right." All the rascals are fighting with one another, and the one who is a little mightier becomes prominent. That’s all.
Disciple: They say this is always the case—with any authority, it’s just some leader who’s pushed himself forward. So they’ve rejected all authorities.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because all their so-called authorities have been imperfect. But there is a perfect authority also: Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And any authority who follows and teaches according to the instructions of Krishna is also perfect. That is authority. We Krishna conscious devotees are exactly following the authority of Krishna. In presenting Krishna consciousness, we are simply presenting the words of Krishna and trying to convince people, "Here is the real authority; if you follow you’ll be happy." Krishna says, "You surrender unto Me." And we are saying, "Surrender to Krishna." We know that Krishna is perfect and that to surrender unto Him is perfection. And whenever we speak, we always quote Krishna and Krishna’s representatives.
Disciple: But in order for someone to surrender, doesn’t he have to have faith in whoever is asking him to surrender?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, faith must be there. Therefore, in the Bhagavad-gita Krishna first of all proves that He is the Absolute Truth; then He asks for you to surrender. But you need to have the intelligence to understand—"This is Krishna"—then you surrender. In Bhagavad-gita Krishna does not say in the beginning, "You must surrender." First He explains everything—the body, the soul, all forms of yoga, all different kinds of knowledge. Then He gives the most confidential knowledge: "Give up everything else, and just surrender unto Me."
Everyone in this material world is imperfect. Without voluntary submission to a perfect person, everyone is imperfect. But one who has completely surrendered to Krishna or His representative—he is perfect. But if you do not surrender to the perfect authority, then you remain an imperfect rascal. You may be Napoleon, or you may be a small ant, but we want to see whether you have surrendered to Krishna or not. If not, then you’re a rascal, that’s all.
(Back to Godhead magazine, August 1978)