Dr. Singh: Is material consciousness the absence of Krishna consciousness?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.
Dr. Singh: And when there is Krishna consciousness, where is material nature?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If you continue in Krishna consciousness, you will see that nothing is material. When you offer a flower to Krishna, it is not material. Krishna will not accept anything material. And this does not mean that the flower is material on the bush, and then it becomes spiritual when you offer it to Krishna. No. The flower is “material” only as long as you think that it is made for your enjoyment. But as soon as you see that it is for Krishna’s enjoyment, you see it as it really is—spiritual.
Dr. Singh: So the entire world is actually spiritual?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Therefore, we want to engage everything in Krishna’s service; that is the spiritual world.
Dr. Singh: Can we also appreciate Krishna’s creation in that light? For example, can we think, “This tree is very beautiful because it is Krishna’s property”?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. That is Krishna consciousness.
Dr. Singh: If someone looks at the Deity of Krishna in the temple and thinks that it is only stone or wood, what does that mean?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: He is ignorant of the facts. How can the Deity be material? Stone is also Krishna’s energy. Just as electric energy is everywhere but only the electricians know how to utilize it, so Krishna is everywhere—even in stone—but only His devotees know how to utilize stone to appreciate Krishna. The devotees know that stone cannot exist outside of Krishna. Therefore, when the devotees see the Deity, they say, “Here is Krishna.” They see the real oneness of Krishna and His energy.
Simultaneously One and Different
Dr. Singh: Is it true that Krishna conscious persons perceive Krishna in a plain stone as much as in the Deity carved from stone?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes.
Dr. Singh: Just as much?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Why not? In the Bhagavad-gītā (9.4) Krishna says:mayā tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-mūrtinā mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni na cāham tesv avasthitah
This means that Krishna’s energy—that is, Krishna in His partially manifested form—pervades every atom of the universe. But His fully manifested personal form is present in the Deity shaped according to His directions. This is the philosophy of acintya-bhedābheda-tattva, the simultaneous oneness and difference of God and His energies. For example, when the sunshine is in your room, that does not mean the sun itself is in your room. The sun and its separated energies, like heat and light, are one in quality, but different in quantity.
Dr. Singh: But still, you say that one can see Krishna in ordinary stone?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, why not? We see the stone as Krishna’s energy.
Dr. Singh: But can we worship Him within the stone?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: We can worship Him through His energy in the stone. But we cannot worship the stone as Krishna. We cannot worship this bench as Krishna. But we can worship everything because we see everything as Krishna’s energy. This tree is worshipable because both Krishna and His energy are worshipable, but this does not mean we worship the tree in the same way as we worship the Deity of Krishna in the temple.
In my childhood I was taught by my parents never to waste Krishna’s energy. They taught me that if even a small grain of rice was stuck between the floorboards, I should pick it up, touch it to my forehead and eat it to save it from being wasted. I was taught how to see everything in relation to Krishna. That is Krishna consciousness. We therefore do not like to see anything wasted or misused. We are teaching our disciples how to use everything for Krishna and how to understand that everything is Krishna. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.30):yo mām paśyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi paśyati tasyāham na pranaśyāmi sa ca me na pranaśyati “For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.”
[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.]