(Reprinted from Back to Godhead magazine, February 1979)
Late in 1968, in Los Angeles, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, granted a magazine interview. The journalist’s questions reflected a concern that since then has grown even more intense.
Journalist: I think an awful lot of our readers, and an awful lot of people in the United States, are terribly confused with the many people who claim to be gurus and gods and who pop up in this country, one after the other, after the other, and they say that …
Srila Prabhupada: I can declare that they are all nonsense.
Journalist: I wonder if you could elaborate on that a little bit.
Srila Prabhupada: I can say, furthermore, they’re all rascals.
Journalist: For example, the famous one who sells meditation mantras?
Srila Prabhupada: He is rascal number one. I say it publicly.
Journalist: Could you explain, give me a little background on that and why, because our readers …
Srila Prabhupada: From his behavior I can understand he is rascal number one. I do not want to know about him, but what he has done makes it obvious. But the wonderful thing is that people in the Western countries are supposed to be so advanced—how they are befooled by these rascals?
Journalist: Well, I think that people are looking for something, and he comes along …
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but they want something very cheap—that is their fault. Now, for our disciples, we don’t give anything cheap. Our first condition is character—moral character. You see? Unless one is strictly following moral principles, we don’t initiate him, we don’t allow him in this institution. And this so-called guru has been telling people, "Just do whatever you like. You simply pay me thirty-five dollars, and I’ll give you a mantra." You see? So people want to be cheated, and so many cheaters come. People do not wish to undergo any discipline. They have got money, so they think, "We shall pay and immediately we’ll get whatever we want."
Journalist: Instant heaven.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is their foolishness.
Journalist: Let me ask you—I have my opinion, but let me ask you—Why do you feel that the younger people today are turning more and more toward the Eastern-oriented religions?
Srila Prabhupada: Because your materialistic way of life no longer satisfies them. In America, especially, you have got enough for enjoyment. You have got enough food, enough women, enough wine, enough houses—enough of everything. But still you have confusion and dissatisfaction—more in your country than in India, which is said to be poverty-stricken. But you’ll find in India that although they are poverty-stricken, they are continuing their old spiritual culture. So the people are not as disturbed. This shows that material advancement alone cannot give one satisfaction. So it is necessary now that people should take to spiritual life. That will make them happy. All these people—they are in darkness. There is no hope. They do not know where they are going; they have no aim. But when you are spiritually situated, you know what you are doing and where you are going. Everything is clear.
Journalist: In other words, you feel that the Western-oriented church—whether it be a synagogue or a church or whatever—has failed to present spiritual life. Would you say that their message is not relevant? Or is it that they have failed to present their message properly?
Srila Prabhupada: Take the Bible. It was spoken long, long ago to primitive people who were living in the desert. These people were not very advanced. So at that time, in the Old Testament, it was sufficient to say, "There is a God, and God created the world." That is a fact. But now people are scientifically advanced, and they want to know in detail how the creation has taken place. You see? And that detailed, scientific explanation is not there in the Bible. And the church can’t give any more than that. Therefore people are not satisfied. Simply officially going to the church and offering prayers does not appeal to them.
Besides that, the so-called religious leaders are not following even the most basic religious principles. For instance, in the Old Testament there are the Ten Commandments, and one commandment is "Thou shalt not kill." But killing is very prominent in the Christian world. The, religious leaders are sanctioning slaughterhouses, and they have manufactured a theory that animals have no soul. "Give the dog a bad name and hang it."
So when we ask, "Why are you committing this sinful act of killing?" the priests refuse to discuss the matter. Everyone is silent. That means they are deliberately disobeying the Ten Commandments. So where are the religious principles? It is plainly stated, "Thou shalt not kill." Why are they killing? How do you answer?
Journalist: Are you asking me?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Journalist: Well, "Thou shalt not kill" is obviously an ethic … and it’s timeless, and it’s valid. But man is not really interested…
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that’s right. They are not really interested in religion. It is simply show-bottle. If you do not follow the regulative principles, then where is your religion?
Journalist: I’m not arguing with you. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m in total agreement. It doesn’t make any sense. "Thou shalt not kill." "Thou shalt worship no other gods before Me." "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods." "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother."... Those are beautiful.
Srila Prabhupada: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife"—but who is following this?
Journalist: Very few.
Srila Prabhupada: So how can they say they’re religious? And without religion, human society is animal society.
Journalist: All right, but let me ask you this. How does your interpretation differ from the basic Judeo-Christian ethic of the Ten Commandments?
Srila Prabhupada: There is no difference. But as I have told you, none of them are strictly following the Ten Commandments. So I simply say, "Please follow God’s commandments." That is my message.
Journalist: In other words, you’re asking them to obey those principles.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. I don’t say that Christians should become Hindu. I simply say, "Please obey your Commandments." I’ll make you a better Christian. That is my mission. I don’t say, "God is not in your tradition—God is only here in ours." I simply say, "Obey God." I don’t say, "You have to accept that God’s name is Krishna and no other." No. I say, "Please obey God. Please try to love God."
Journalist: Let me put it this way. If your mission and the mission of the Western Judeo-Christian ethic are the same, again let me ask, Why is it that the younger people, or people in general, are disenchanted, are trying to go toward the Eastern-oriented religions? Why are they going toward the Eastern if both are the same?
Srila Prabhupada: Because Judaism and Christianity are not teaching them practically. I am teaching them practically.
Journalist: In other words, you’re teaching them what you feel is a practical, everyday method for attaining this fulfillment of man’s spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: Love of Godhead is being taught both in the Bible and in the Bhagavad-gita. But today’s religionists are not actually teaching how to love God. I am teaching people how to love God—that is the difference. Therefore, young people are attracted.
Journalist: All right. So the end is the same, but it’s the method of getting there that’s different?
Srila Prabhupada: No—the end is the same and the method is also the same. But these so-called religious leaders are not teaching people to follow the method. I am teaching them practically how to follow it.
Journalist: Let me ask you something that we’ve run into a great deal just recently. The biggest problem holding men and women back from love of God and following the Ten Commandments is the problem—how should I put it?—well, the sexual problem. Now I’m stating something that’s obvious. We’ve all gone through this.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, everyone.
Journalist: And there is nothing in Western culture or religion that teaches or helps a young person to cope with this difficult problem. I went through it. We all have. Now do you, in your message, give the young people something to hang on to? And if so, what?
Srila Prabhupada: I ask my disciples to get married. I don’t allow this nonsense of boys living with girl friends. No. "You must get yourself married and live like a gentleman."
Journalist: Well, let me get a little more basic. How about when one is fourteen-fifteen-sixteen years old?
Srila Prabhupada: One thing is that we teach our boys how to become brahmacari—how to live the life of celibacy, how to control their senses. In Vedic culture, marriage generally doesn’t take place until the boy is about twenty-four or twenty-five and the girl is about sixteen or seventeen. And because they are experiencing the spiritual pleasure of Krishna consciousness, they are not simply interested in sex life. So we don’t say, "Don’t mix with women," or, "Stop sex life." But we regulate everything under the higher principle of Krishna consciousness. In this way everything goes nicely.