Becoming Pure

Lord Caitanya at the ganga

Continuing with our series of a True account entitled Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers… A search for meaning carries Bob Cohen, a young American Peace Corps worker halfway around the world, to an ancient village in the midst of West Bengal. There, in a small bamboo hut, he finds a teacher who is able to tell him everything he ever wanted to know.

Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Chapter 5

Becoming Pure
February 29, 1972

Bob: Thank you so much for allowing me to ask my questions.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is my mission. People should understand the science of God. Unless we cooperate with the Supreme Lord, our life is baffled. I have given the example many times that a screw which has fallen from a machine has no value. But when the same screw is again attached to the machine, it has value. Similarly, we are part and parcel of God. So without God, what is our value? No value! We should again come back to our position of attachment to God. Then we have value.

Bob: I met a fellow today who came in the afternoon. His reason for coming—you may find it humorous—was that he heard the hippies were in Māyāpur.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: What?

Bob: He heard that hippies were in Māyāpur. I was talking to him, and then some devotees were talking to him. He had said some things to me which I could find no answer for. And he said he would come back tomorrow and meet some devotees. But let me tell you what he said. This is confusing. When he was young—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: He’s Indian?

Bob: Yes, Indian. He lives nearby and speaks English fairly well. When he was young he worshiped Kālī [a popular demigoddess] every day very rigorously, and then the floods came. When the floods came, the people saw hardship, and now he has no religion, and he says he finds his happiness in trying to develop love among people. And I couldn’t think of what to say to him to add God and religion to his life. He says that after he dies, “maybe I’ll become part of God, maybe not,” but he can’t worry about it now. He says he’s tried these religious experiences, but they didn’t work. One reason I ask this is because when I go back to America, a lot of people I come across are like this. They see that religion, like his worship of Kālī or other kinds of religion they’ve experienced, doesn’t work. And I don’t know what to say to them to convince them it’s worth trying.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Do not try at the present moment. You try to be convinced yourself.

Bob: Yes. I asked him to see devotees, but then on the way out, as he was leaving down the road, I met him again and told him, “Come back,” but… Oh, I see.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You first of all be convinced. And then try to convince others. Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s instruction is that you can improve the welfare of others when your own life is a success:

bhārata-bhūmite haila manuṣya-janma yāra
janma sārthaka kari’ kara para-upakāra
[Cc. Ādi 9.41]

First make your life perfect. Then try to teach others.

Bob: The devotees have told me that without consciousness of Kṛṣṇa all the time, you cannot be happy. But at times I feel happy.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: At times. Not always.

Bob: Yes.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: But if you become Kṛṣṇa conscious, you will feel happy always.

Bob: They had implied that you cannot feel happy without Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is a fact. For example, if you are an animal of the land and you are thrown into the water, you cannot be happy in water in any condition. When you are again taken up a the land, then you’ll be happy. Similarly, we are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. We cannot be happy without being part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. The same example: the machine part, without the machine, has no value, but when it is again put into the machine it has value. We are part of Kṛṣṇa; we must join Kṛṣṇa. And you can join Kṛṣṇa immediately by your consciousness, simply by thinking, “I am Kṛṣṇa’s, Kṛṣṇa is mine:’ That’s all.

Bob: What is that? Kṛṣṇa is…

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa is mine.

Bob: Mine?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Mine. My Kṛṣṇa.

Bob: Ah.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa is mine. Kṛṣṇa is mine.

Bob: Yes.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: And I am Kṛṣṇa’s. That is our actual position.

Bob: We are part of Kṛṣṇa.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Everything is part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. Because everything is generated by the energy of Kṛṣṇa and everything is the energy of Kṛṣṇa.

An Indian gentleman: Śrīla Prabhupāda, I have one question. What is the status of service minus devotion?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Hm-m? That is not service, that is business. [Everyone laughs.] For example, here in Māyāpur we have employed a contractor. That is not service—that is business. Is it not? Sometimes they will advertise, “Our customers are our masters.” Is it not? But in spite of the flowery language—“Our customers are our masters”—this is business, because nobody is a qualified customer unless he pays. But service is not like that. Service—Caitanya Mahāprabhu prays to Kṛṣṇa:

yathā tathā vā vidadhātu lampaṭo
mat-prāṇa-nāthas tu sa eva nāparaḥ

“You do whatever You like, but still You are my worshipable Lord.” That is service. “I don’t ask any return from You.” That is service. When you expect some return, that is business.

Bob: I wish to ask you to advise me on how I can come to feel closer to God. I’ll be leaving you soon. And I’m—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You have to be purified.

Bob: I come to the temple at times, and then I leave, and I’m not sure how much I take with me.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: It does not take much time. Within six months you will realize your progress. But you have to follow the regulative principles. Then it will be all right. Just like these boys and girls are doing.

Bob: Yes, I see.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: They have no tendency for going to the cinema or going to a hotel. No. They have stopped all anarthas, all unnecessary things.

Bob: I—I feel that when I go back, they’ll—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The whole human life is meant for purification.

Bob: Yes.

Śrīla Prabhupāda:

tapo divyaṁ putrakā yena sattvaṁ
śuddhyed yasmād brahma-saukhyaṁ tv anantam

Sattva means existence. So if you don’t purify your existence, then you will have to change your body. From this body to that. Sometimes it may be higher, sometimes lower. For example, if you don’t cure a disease, it can put you into trouble in so many ways. Similarly. if you don’t purify your existence, then you will have to transmigrate from one body to another. There are very subtle laws of nature. Now there is no guarantee that you will get a very comfortable body or an American body. Therefore, it is essential for the human being to purify his existence. Unless you purify your existence, you will hanker after happiness but will not always be happy.

Bob: When I go to my job in New York, I hope I’ll become pure, but I’m sure that I won’t become as pure as your devotees here. I—I don’t see myself doing that.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You can do as they are doing. They were not pure in the beginning; now they are pure. Similarly. you can become pure. For example, in your childhood you were not educated—but now you are educated.

Bob: So, what are the things that I may do? When I go back, I must—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: When do you go back?

Bob: I’ll be going back to Chaibasa to do my work there, and…

Śrīla Prabhupāda: What is there in Chaibasa?

Bob: That is where I do my teaching. I live there.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: So better not to teach—because you do not know what to teach.

Bob: [laughs] I’ll be going—I don’t like this teaching so much, and I’ll be returning to America in May, but while I’m here, this is my agreement for staying in India.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: If you are serious, you can keep yourself pure anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you stay in America or India. But you must know how to keep yourself purified. That’s all.

Bob: You mean by folllowing these principles?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, I went to America, for instance, but either in America or India, I am the same man.

Bob: I—I have somewhat tried to follow since I met you the first time. [a brief visit to Calcutta in November 1971]

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Hm-m. But follow—you must strictly follow if you are serious.

Bob: Maybe— OK, Maybe—what I say now is—well—the most foolish all I’ve said. But let me tell you how I feel.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, no, not foolish. I don’t say foolish—but imperfect.

Bob: OK [He laughs.] Imperfect. But let me tell you. I feel that right now I admire and respect your devotees, but I don’t feel as if I am part of them, or even that I have a great desire to be part of them. I feel that I just want—I want to do what is right, come closer to God, and if—and if I just go to a better life next time—I’d be satisfied.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Very good.

Bob: I guess it’s material clinging, but …

Śrīla Prabhupāda: So, you just follow in their footsteps, and your desire will be fulfilled. We are training them how to become purified and happy. That is our mission we want to see everyone happy. Sarve sukhino bhavantu. People do not know how to become happy. They do not take the standard path to become happy. They manufacture their own way. That is the difficulty. Therefore, Ṛṣabhadeva gave this advice to his sons: “My dear boys, just undergo austerity for transcendental realization.” Everyone is performing austerity. This boy I know—he had to go to a foreign country to learn commercial management. Now he is well situated. In this way. everyone must undergo some austerity for future life. So why not take that austerity for permanent happiness? You have to purify your existence and your body. As many times as you accept a material body, you will have to change it. But as soon as you get a spiritual body, there is no question of change. You already have a spiritual body. Now, due to our material contamination, we are developing the material body. But if we associate with spiritual life, then we shall develop a spiritual body. The same example I have several times given is that if you put an iron rod within fire, it will become like fire. Is it not?

Bob: Put the iron rod into fire?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, and it will become like fire.

Bob: Yes.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Although iron.

Bob: Yes.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Similarly, if you always keep yourself spiritually engaged, your body will act spiritually, although it is material. The same example: when an iron rod is red-hot, touch it anywhere, and it will burn. It takes on the quality of fire. Similarly, if you always keep yourself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then you will become spiritualized. You will act spiritually. No more material demands.

Bob: How do I do this?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: This process. They are doing it. You have seen these boys, our six boys who have been initiated today. It is very simple. You have to follow the four restrictive regulations and chant these beads. Very easy.

Bob: Well, but, see—when I am back in Bihar and following my lifestyle there, I—if I follow all these regulative principles—some I follow now, but not all—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: “Some” means… ?

Bob: “Some”?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: There are only four regulative principles. “Some” means three, or two?

Bob: Two or three.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: So why not the other one?

Bob: No, no. I mean I follow one or two. One or two I follow now.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: [Laughs.] Why not the other three? What is the difficulty? Which one do you follow?

Bob: Which one do I follow? Well, I’m almost vegetarian, but I eat eggs.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then that is also not complete.

Bob: No, not even complete. Since last time [November], I’ve become vegetarian, but…

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Vegetarian is no qualification.

Bob: Not much.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The pigeon is vegetarian. The monkey is vegetarian—the most rubbish creature…

Bob: Well…

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The monkey is vegetarian. This naked sannyāsī lives in the forest… the most mischievous…

Bob: I—I felt that it was a little bit of progress because it was somewhat difficult at first, then easy, and I had returned to—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, you can stick to all the regulative principles, provided you take to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness process—otherwise it is not possible.

Bob: Yes, this is it. I have—when I’m back in Bihar, and—um—my friends may say… We’re sitting in the evening, and there’s nothing to do but fight mosquitoes, and they say, “How about smoking some marijuana?” And I say, “Sure, there’s nothing else to do;” and then I sit down, and I enjoy myself for the evening. Now we did this, we got carried away. we were doing it every day and realizing we were hurting ourselves and stopped, but still on occasion we…

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You have to live with us. Then your friends will not ask you, “What about marijuana?” [Bob laughs.] Keep the association of devotees. We are opening centers to give people a chance to associate with us. Why have we taken so much land [in Māyāpur]? Those who are seriously desirous—they will come and live with us. Association is very influential. If you associate with drunkards, you become drunk; if you associate with sādhus, then you become a sādhu.

Śyāmasundara: He can come and stay with you in Bombay.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, you can stay with us in Bombay. But he wants friends with marijuana. That is the difficulty.

Bob: Let me ask you about something else; then maybe I’ll come back to this. I find that I think of myself too much, and this way I can’t think of God so much. I think of myself in too many places. How can I forget about myself so I can concentrate on other, more important things?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: As they [the devotees] have done.

Bob: [Laughs.] You are saying to me that my path—I think what you’re saying is that my path to purity is to become a devotee.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Do you hesitate?

Bob: Well, I…

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Is it very difficult to become a devotee?

Bob: For myself—it is. I—I don’t feel so much the desire. First the devotees tell me that they have given up material life. These four regulative principles, they have explained to me, mean giving up material life, and that I see. And in place of this they have…

Śrīla Prabhupāda: What do you mean by material life? [Bob is silent] I am sitting on this bed. Is it material or spiritual?

Bob: Material.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then how have we given up material life?

Bob: I think how I interpreted it was “a desire for our material gains…”

Śrīla Prabhupāda: What is material?

Bob: Working towards material gains and not giving up all materials.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Material life means—when you desire to gratify your senses, that is material life. And when you desire to serve God, that is spiritual life. That is the difference between material life and spiritual life. Now we are trying to serve our senses. But instead of serving the senses, when we serve God, that is spiritual life. What is the difference between our activities and others, activities? We are using everything—table, chair, bed, tape recorder, typewriter—so what is the difference? The difference is that we are using everything for Kṛṣṇa.

Bob: The devotees have said that the sensual pleasures they have given up are replaced with spiritual kinds of pleasures, but—see—I haven’t felt this.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Spiritual pleasures come when you desire to please Kṛṣṇa. That is spiritual pleasure. For example, a mother is more pleased by feeding her son. She’s not eating, but when she sees that her son is eating very nicely, then she becomes pleased.

Bob: Hmm-m. Spiritual pleasure, then, is pleasing God.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Spiritual pleasure means the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa.

Bob: Pleasing Kṛṣṇa.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Material pleasure means the Pleasure of the senses. That’s all. This is the difference. When you simply try to please Kṛṣṇa, that is spiritual pleasure.

Bob: I had viewed this as—my thought of pleasing God was to—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Don’t manufacture your ways of Pleasing God. Don’t manufacture. Suppose I want to please you. Then I shall ask you, “How can I serve you?” Not that I manufacture some service. That is not pleasing. Suppose I want a glass of water. If you concoct the idea, “Swāmījī will be more pleased if I give him a glass of milk, hot milk,” that will not please me. If you want to please me, then you should ask me, “How can I Please you?” And if you do what I order, that will please me.

Bob: And pleasing Kṛṣṇa, then, is being a devotee of Kṛṣṇa.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: A devotee is one who is always pleasing Kṛṣṇa. He has no other business. That is a devotee.

Bob: Can you tell me some more about chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa? I have for quite some time chanted, but never regularly—just a little bit here and there. I just got beads very recently, and once in a while I feel comfortable chanting, and once in a while not comfortable at all. Maybe I don’t chant Properly. I don’t know.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, everything has a process. You have to adopt the process.

Bob: The devotees tell me of the ecstasy they feel when chanting.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, the more you become purified, the more you will feel ecstasy. This chanting process is the purifying process.

Text pasted from Prabhupada Books

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