Śrīla Prabhupāda: The scientists’ mistake is that they are ignorant of the two energies—material and spiritual. They say that everything is material and that everything emanates from matter. The defect in their theories is that they begin from matter instead of spirit. Since matter comes from spirit, in a sense everything is spiritual. Spiritual energy is the source and can exist without the material energy. But the material energy has no existence without the spiritual energy. It is correct to say that darkness begins from light, not that light begins from darkness. Scientists think that consciousness comes from matter. Actually, consciousness always exists, but when it is covered or degraded by ignorance, it is a form of unconsciousness. So “material” means forgetfulness of Krishna, and “spiritual” means full consciousness of Krishna. Is this clear? Try to understand: darkness comes from light. When no light is visible, then we are in darkness. Clouds are not to be found in the sun; that would be against the nature of the sun. But by the energy of the sun other things are temporarily created, such as mist, clouds or darkness. These creations are temporary, but the sun remains. Similarly, material nature is temporary, but spiritual nature is permanent. Krishna consciousness means getting out of this temporary nature and attaining a permanent, spiritual nature. No one actually wants this temporary nature; no one likes this cloudy atmosphere.

Dr. Singh: Is this cloudy consciousness created from spiritual energy?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.

Dr. Singh: And matter is also created from the superior energy?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate. Krishna says, “I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me.” (Bg. 8.10) Krishna is the creator of everything, bad or good. Actually, “bad and good” is a material creation. Krishna’s creation is good; God is good. What you think is bad is good for God. Therefore, we cannot understand Krishna. He is doing something that in our consideration may be bad, but for Him there is no such thing as good or bad. For example, Krishna married sixteen thousand wives. Some people may criticize, “Ah, He is so mad after women.” But they do not see the whole picture. Krishna’s power is so great that He expanded Himself into sixteen thousand different husbands.

“Everything Is One” Is Nonsense

Dr. Singh: You said this mist of material nature is temporary. But why should we bother to disentangle ourselves from something transitory?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Why do you put coverings on your body? You may walk naked. The weather will clear in a few hours. Why do you cover yourself?

Dr. Singh: The danger is now.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Whenever it may be, why do you take this step of covering your body?

Dr. Singh: To avoid discomfort.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Otherwise you would be uncomfortable. Not to bother to dress is the Māyāvāda theory: “Everything will come automatically, so why bother? Everything is one.” That is a nonsensical theory. The Māyāvāda philosophy is that God is one and that every thing and every living being is equal to God.

We have no quarrel with the chemists if they begin from life, but unfortunately they say that everything begins from darkness—dead matter. That is what we object to. We say, “Begin from life,” and they say, “No, begin from matter—darkness.” The reason they are in darkness is simple: if one goes from darkness to light, he thinks that darkness is the beginning. Suppose you have been in darkness all your life, and now you suddenly come into the light. You will think, “Oh, light has come from darkness.” Actually, darkness occurs when light becomes dim. Darkness does not produce light.

Dr. Singh: Then darkness is dependent on light?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Or in other words, in the light there is no darkness. When the light is dim—then we experience darkness. Similarly, when our spiritual consciousness, or Krishna consciousness, is dim, our consciousness is material. In the morning we awaken, and at the end of the day we become tired and go to sleep. When life is somehow or other interrupted, we sleep. We sleep at night, and when we get up in the morning we understand that our wakefulness, or “life,” has not come into existence from the sleepy condition. I was alive even while I slept, and on awakening I am still alive. This should be clearly understood. A baby comes from the womb of his mother. He thinks that his life has begun from the day he comes out of the womb. But that is not a fact. Actually, he is eternal. He constructed his material body within the womb of his mother while he was unconscious, and as soon as his bodily features were sufficiently developed, he came out of the womb and again to consciousness.

Dr. Singh: And he again falls asleep at death.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. That is described in Bhagavad-gītā (8.19):

bhūta-grāmah sa evāyam bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśah pārtha prabhavaty ahar-āgame

“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active, and again night falls, O Pārtha, and they are helplessly dissolved.”

We Are Not These Bodies

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Do you see this flower? It has come back to consciousness, and soon it will dry up and die. This is material life. But spiritual life means to flower only—no dissolution. That is the difference between matter and spirit. I have achieved this body according to my consciousness in my last life. And I will receive my next body according to my consciousness in this life. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.6):

yam yam vāpi smaran bhāvam tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitah

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.”

Dr. Singh: Śrīla Prabhupāda, if our next body is always achieved by our consciousness in this life, how is it that I cannot remember my previous life?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Do you remember everything you did last year, or even yesterday?

Dr. Singh: No, I don’t.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is your nature: you forget.

Dr. Singh: Some things.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: And somebody forgets more than others. But we all forget.

Dr. Singh: Is that a principle of material nature?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. It is something like stealing. Somebody is a pickpocket and somebody is a bank robber, but both of them are stealing.

Dr. Singh: When we dream, are we being carried away by the subtle elements?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You are being carried away by nature. Krishna says in Bhagavad-gītā (3.27):

prakrteh kriyamānāni gunaih karmāni sarvaśah
ahankāra-vimūdhātmā kartāham iti manyate

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by nature.” We forget our real identity because we are under the grip of material nature. The first lesson in spiritual life is that we are not these bodies, but eternal spirit souls. Once you were a child. Now you are a grown man. Where is your childhood body? That body does not exist, but you still exist because you are eternal. The circumstantial body has changed, but you have not changed. This is the proof of eternality. You remember that you did certain things yesterday and certain things today, but you forget other things. Your body of yesterday is not today’s body. Do you admit it or not? You cannot say that today is the thirteenth of May, 1973. You cannot say that today is yesterday. The thirteenth was yesterday. The day has changed. But you remember yesterday; and that remembrance is evidence of your eternality. The body has changed, but you remember it; therefore you are eternal, although the body is temporary. This proof is very simple. Even a child can understand it. Is it difficult to understand?

Changing Bodies

Dr. Singh: People want more proof.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: What more is required? The eternality of the soul is a simple fact. I am an eternal soul. My body is changing, but I am not changing. For example, I am now an old man. Sometimes I think, “Oh, I used to jump and play, but now I cannot jump because my body has changed.” I want to jump, but I cannot do it. That jumping propensity is eternal, but because of my old body I cannot do it.

Dr. Singh: Opponents will say that according to their observation, the nature of consciousness is that it lasts for only one body.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is foolishness. In Bhagavad-gītā (2.13) Krishna explains:

dehino ‘smin yathā dehe kaumāram yauvanam jarā
tathā dehāntara-prāptir dhīras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” Just as this body is always changing (as I can see in my daily experience), there is a similar change at the time of death.

Dr. Singh: But according to the scientists, we cannot actually observe this last change.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Their eyes are so imperfect that they cannot observe many, many things. Their ignorance does not make the Bhagavad-gītā unscientific. Why don’t the scientists admit the imperfection of their senses? They must first admit the imperfection of their senses. Their seeing power does not determine what is and what is not science. Dogs cannot understand the laws of nature. Does that mean the laws of nature don’t exist?

Dr. Singh: Well, the scientists admit that argument, but they say the way to become perfect is through objective information and experience.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No. That is not the way to become perfect. No one can become perfect through imperfect thinking, and our thinking must be imperfect because our senses and minds are imperfect.

Dr. Singh: Śrīla Prabhupāda, another question can be raised. Is it not possible that the soul may accept three, four or five bodies and then die?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: You are accepting millions of bodies. I say that your body of yesterday is not your body of today. So, if you live for one hundred years, how many times have you changed bodies? Just calculate.

Dr. Singh: Thirteen.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Why thirteen?

Dr. Singh: Medical science says that all the bodily cells are replaced every seven years.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, not every seven years—every second. Every second, the blood corpuscles are changing. Is it not so?

Dr. Singh: Yes.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: And as soon as the blood corpuscles change, you change your body.

Dr. Singh: In scientific terminology, can the eternality of the soul be compared to conservation of energy?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: There is no question of the conservation of energy, because energy is always existing.

Dr. Singh: But according to scientific terminology, the law of conservation of energy is that energy cannot be created or destroyed, which means, I think, that it is eternal.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Oh, yes, that we admit. Krishna is eternal; therefore all His energies are eternal.

Dr. Singh: Is that why the living entity is also eternal?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. If the sun is eternal, its energies—heat and light—are also eternal.

Dr. Singh: Does it follow from this, then, that life cannot be created or destroyed?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Life is eternal. It is not created or destroyed. It is only temporarily covered. I am eternal, but last night I was covered by sleep, so I think in terms of yesterday and today. This is the condition of the material world.

[This conversation was recorded on May 14, 1973, in Cheviot Hills Park, Los Angeles – An excerpt from “LIFE COMES FROM LIFE” available at your nearest Hare Krishna Center.]


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