Room Conversation with Professor Olivier
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
October 10, 1975, Durban
Prof. Olivier: Well, we didn’t get the… We didn’t get time to discuss some of the…
Prof. Olivier: …the points that you raised, and I came in in the middle of a discourse.
Prabhupada: I do not know who were those gentlemen. They were your teaching staff, that Mr. Chadda(?) and others? They were introduced as Arya-samajis. They belong to the teaching staff, no?
Prof. Olivier: No. The Arya-patha-nidi-sabha, which is an organization which was started about a hundred years ago by Swami Dayananda in India, with a motto of bhavantu visvam aryam: “Let us make all men noble through search after truth,” and that started in South Africa about fifty years ago… And one of the leading gentlemen in the organization today was the one sitting on the extreme left-hand side, Mr. Chautay. They are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary here in South Africa with a week’s program, and they invited these two acaryas over from India. One is from Delhi. I don’t know where the other one is from. They invited them over to grace their celebrations. So they have been having a week of celebrations starting in the city hall last Sunday.
Prabhupada: This Sunday?
Prof. Olivier: The Sunday that’s just passed, yes. They started there. I have a program in the car. Perhaps I could give you the program and you could have a look. All kinds of interesting topics.
Prabhupada: For interesting topic, the gentleman, he was introducing himself, “I am God.” So what topics we can have with them? (chuckles)
Prof. Olivier: Yes.
Prabhupada: He said that “I am God.” I do not know what kind of topics they are.
Prof. Olivier: Well, one was the regeneration of the Hindu spirit. I don’t know what is meant by that.
Prabhupada: They do not belong to the Hindu. They are described in the Bhagavad-gita. Find out, veda-vada-rata partha nanyad astiti vadinah.
Prof. Olivier: I have read through the Gita, of course, but you see… And I have often referred to certain paragraphs. But it is a book of profound depth, and unless you spend a lot of time going into details, much of it gets lost.
Prabhupada: You have got this? Veda-vada-ratah? Huh?
Pusta Krsna: Oh, here it is.
yam imam puspitam vacam pravadanty avipascitah veda-vada-ratah partha nanyad astiti vadinah
kamatmanah svarga-para janma-karma-phala-pradam kriya-visesa bahulam bhogaisvarya-gatim prati
”Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say there is nothing more than this.”
Pusta Krsna: “Purport: People in general are not very intelligent, and due to their ignorance they are most attached to the fruitive activities recommended in the karma-kanda portions of the Vedas. They do not want anything more than sense gratificatory proposals for enjoying life in heaven, where wine and women are available and material opulence is very common. In the Vedas many sacrifices are recommended for elevation to the heavenly planets, especially the jyotistoma sacrifices. In fact, it is stated that anyone desiring elevation to heavenly planets must perform these sacrifices, and men with a poor fund of knowledge think that this is the whole purpose of Vedic wisdom. It is very difficult for such inexperienced persons to be situated in the determined action of Krsna consciousness. As fools are attached to the flowers of poisonous trees without knowing the results of such attractions, similarly unenlightened men are attracted by such heavenly opulence and the sense enjoyment thereof. In the karma-kanda section of the Vedas it is said that those who perform the four monthly penances become eligible to drink the somarasa beverages to become immortal and happy forever. Even on this earth some are very eager to have somarasa to become strong and fit to enjoy sense gratifications. Such persons have no faith in liberation from material bondage, and they are very much attached to the pompous ceremonies of Vedic sacrifices. They are generally sensual, and they do not want anything other than the heavenly pleasures of life. It is understood that there are gardens called nandana-kanana, in which there is good opportunity for association with angelic, beautiful women and having a profuse supply of somarasa wine. Such bodily happiness is certainly sensual. Therefore there are those who are purely attached to material temporary happiness as lords of the material world.”
Prof. Olivier: Well, so we are left in this twentieth century, this last part of the century, with a new global search for, or, the truth of the spirit. We, of course, in the Western world are not familiar with the Gita and so on.
Prof. Olivier: But our problem is basically, I think, the one that you raised, was how do we make… How do we make a reality, a scientific reality? And I think you were quite right. I think people, very few people, get the point that you were trying to make there.
Prabhupada: That is the beginning of Bhagavad-gita, scientific reality. Therefore I raised that question. But nobody could reply properly. They thought it a kind of Hindu conception. No. That is not Hindu conception. That is the basic principle of living condition. We are changing body, and there are so many varieties of body. We may enter in any one of them after death. That is the real problem. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah [Bg. 3.27]. Nature’s work is going on. This body is a machine. This machine, just like a car, has been offered to us by material nature, by the order of God, Krsna. And we are moving, transmigration. So the real purpose of life is to stop this migration, transmigration, perpetually from one body to another, one body to another, and revive our original, spiritual position so that we can live eternally, blissful life of knowledge. That is the aim of life. The whole Vedic conception is based on this principle.
Prof. Olivier: How do you…? This… Your concept of reincarnation, how do you reconcile reincarnation with this attempt to…
Prabhupada: So long you’ll have desire for material…
Prof. Olivier: This is what is normally in the Hindu religion, you know, which, it is not so, of course, in the Christian religion.
Prabhupada: It is not the question of religion. This is the, I mean to say, our position, real position. Religion develops. Religion is a kind of faith. That develops according to time, circumstances, people. But reality is this—that we are spirit soul. We are now conditioned by the laws of material nature, and we are carried away by the laws of material nature and transmigrating from one body to another, sometimes happy, sometimes distressed, or sometimes heavenly planet, sometimes lower planet. This is going on. And human life is meant for stopping this process of transmigration and revive our original consciousness, and go back to home, back to Godhead, and live eternally, blissful life of knowledge. This is the whole scheme of Vedic literature. And Bhagavad-gita is the synopsis how to attain this life. Therefore the teachings of Bhagavad-gita begins—to understand the constitutional position of the soul. Then other things. First of all we have to understand what we are, whether I am this body or something else. This is the first understanding. So I was trying to explain this, but that Mr. Chadda(?), he would bring that “You want to introduce Hindu conception.” It is not Hindu conception. It is the scientific conception. I am a child for some time. Then I become a boy for some time. Then I become a young man, some time. Then I become old man. In this way I am changing body. This is not Hindu conception or Vedic conception. This is the fact. But he would not hear that. He would simply say, “You are trying to push Hindu conception of…” And what is this Hindu conception? It is equally applicable to everyone, scientific basis. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gita.
dehino ’smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra… [Bg. 2.13]
Find out this.
dehino ’smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati [Bg. 2.13]
”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.”
Pusta Krsna: “Purport: Since every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man. Yet the same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change. This individual soul finally changes the body at death and transmigrates to another body; and since it is sure to have another body in the next birth—either material or spiritual—there was no cause for lamentation by Arjuna on account of death, neither for Bhisma nor for Drona, for whom he was so much concerned. Rather, he should rejoice for their changing bodies from old to new ones, thereby rejuvenating their energy. Such changes of body account for varieties of enjoyment or suffering, according to one’s work in life. So Bhisma and Drona, being noble souls, were surely going to have either spiritual bodies in the next life, or at least life in heavenly bodies for superior enjoyment of material existence. So in either case, there was no cause of lamentation. Any man who has perfect knowledge of the constitution of the individual soul, the Supersoul, and nature—both material and spiritual—is called a dhira or a most sober man. Such a man is never deluded by the change of bodies. The Mayavadi theory of oneness of the spirit soul cannot be entertained on the ground that spirit soul cannot be cut into pieces as a fragmental portion. Such cutting into different individual souls would make the supreme cleavable or changeable, against the principle of the Supreme Soul being unchangeable. As confirmed in the Gita, the fragmental portions of the Supreme exist eternally, sanatana, and are called ksara; that is, they have a tendency to fall down into material nature. These fragmental portions are eternally so, and even after liberation, the individual soul remains the same— fragmental. But once liberated, he lives an eternal life in bliss and knowledge with the Personality of Godhead. The theory of reflection can be applied to the Supersoul, who is present in each and every individual body and is known as the Paramatma, who is different from the individual living entity. When the sky is reflected in water, the reflections represent both the sun and the moon and the stars also. The stars can be compared to the living entities and the sun or the moon to the Supreme Lord. The individual fragmental spirit soul is represented by Arjuna, and the Supreme Soul is the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. They are not on the same level, as it will be apparent in the beginning of the Fourth Chapter. If Arjuna is on the same level with Krsna, and Krsna is not superior to Arjuna, then their relationship of instructor and instructed becomes meaningless. If both of them are deluded by the illusory energy, maya, then there is no need of one being the instructor and the other being the instructed. Such instruction would be useless because, in the clutches of maya, no one can be an authoritative instructor. Under the circumstances, it is admitted that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Lord, superior in position to the living entity, Arjuna, who is a forgotten soul deluded by maya.”
Prabhupada: So in the Bhagavad-gita, everything is explained very scientifically, not, I mean to say, a sentimental explanation. No, logically, scientifically.
Prof. Olivier: The problem, as I see it, of course, is how to get modern man to make this study in depth that is contained or outlined in this book. Especially when you are caught up in an educational system that denies a place to this very concept, even the philosophy of it, it’s…
Prabhupada: The modern education, they do not accept soul?
Prof. Olivier: Part of it in theory, perhaps, and at the junior stage. But as they… as we advance, there is either a complete neutrality or a, just a simple rejection of these truths.
Prabhupada: They do not accept soul.
Prof. Olivier: They accept the soul, I think so, but they do not care to analyze what it means.
Prabhupada: Oh. And it is without analyzing this, what is the education? First of all this should be analyzed, what is the distinction between a dead body and a living body. That must be analyzed. Otherwise what is the education? We are dealing with this body. The body is always dead. Just like a motorcar with driver and without driver. The car is always a lump of matter. Similarly, this body, with the soul and without the soul, is a lump of matter. That is the…
Prof. Olivier: Not worth very much.
Prof. Olivier: I think about, around fifty-six cents or something. Somebody worked it out the other day.
Prabhupada: But if one cannot distinguish between the car and the driver of the car, then he remains just like a child. A child may think that the car is running automatically, but that is foolishness. There is a driver. The child may not know, but when the child is grown-up, educated—still, he does not know—then what is the meaning of his education?
Prof. Olivier: Now, this is the whole range of education in, well, as far as I am aware, in the whole of the Western world, and it covers primary and secondary and tertiary education. There is no place for in-depth study of, well, of the soul and of the…
Prabhupada: I talked with one big professor in Moscow. Perhaps you may know him. His name is Professor Kotovsky. He is the leader of Indology in Moscow. So I had a talk with him for about an hour. That talk was published in some paper. He says, “Swamiji, after this body is annihilated, everything is finished.” So I was surprised. And he is holding a very responsible post, Indology, and known to be very good scholar. He was good scholar, but he also does not know.
Prof. Olivier: Well, we have started a course, or we have a course here at our own university in Indology. It is a scholar from Vienna that we have got to teach this course for us. But what he teaches and what kind of basic philosophy, I wouldn’t know. There are about thirty or forty students. So in essence, they ought to start by making at least a detailed study, as I see it, of the Bhagavad-gita as a basis for their whole philosophy.
Prabhupada: So why not appoint somebody to teach Bhagavad-gita As It Is? That is essential. And we have got step by step, so many books, fifty books, simply to understand God.
Prof. Olivier: Uh huh. You mean from the beginning right through the…
Prabhupada: Oh, yes. You can make them pass the entrance examination, the graduate examination, the post-graduate examination by studying these books. Yes.
Prof. Olivier: Well, this is apparently what one needs. This is perhaps what one needs, you know.
Prabhupada: And our books are being appreciated, Europe, America, by big, big professors, universities. They are giving us standing order, even in Oxford University. What is that, Oxford University?
Pusta Krsna: Yes. I was just in London a while back.
Prabhupada: No, that letter is there?
Pusta Krsna: I don’t know if I have the one from Oxford. This is from Harvard. We just received this telegram from Los Angeles, Prabhupada. “Amazing success from your library party—one hundred and fifty-two standing orders sold in just seventeen days of September in New England. Thirteen standing orders at Harvard. These books are very much being appreciated in America.”
Prof. Olivier: These are for the sets.
Pusta Krsna: Yes, a standing order of books even which haven’t been published yet. Prabhupada is translating on his dictaphone each night, throughout the hours of the night. And now about fifty books so far, many more to come.
Prabhupada: The total number of books will be about eighty. Out of that, we have published about fifty. So the balance they are giving standing order, “As soon as published, you give…”
Pusta Krsna: In the United States… These are many letters we have, just some of them, from different professors who are actually using Prabhupada’s books, professors from respectable universities such as Harvard, Yale, Duke. Professor Dimmock, who is the leading scholar in southeastern languages at the University of Chicago, he very much appreciates Prabhupada’s books.
Prabhupada: He has written one foreword.
Pusta Krsna: So these books are being accepted as the authority, at least in America and England, so far as studies of Indian culture are concerned, philosophy, sociology. And you can see the beautiful presentation. Each Sanskrit is there, transliteration, so that anyone can chant, word-for-word Sanskrit to English translation, translation in English, and then the purport, a commentary.
Prof. Olivier: That’s right. This is a good edition. Good edition.
Pusta Krsna: Professor Dimmock, he says that… There are many, many translations of Bhagavad-gita, and he says that “By bringing us a new and living interpretation of a text already known to many, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has increased our understanding manyfold.” So although it’s been prevalent in America… I know that when I was studying Humanities in college in the University of Florida, Bhagavad-gita was required. And we read one edition, but it was very much limited. Until we come in contact with Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the understanding is very limited. But it’s not a sectarian approach. It’s purely scientific and realistic. There are many such reviews.
Prof. Olivier: Well, this is a good letter.
Pusta Krsna: All of our different books, just offhand. These are some of the colleges as of several months ago who placed standing orders for our books. Now, the professors, as we go from college to college in America, in the universities, they are using our books as textbooks, standard textbooks. They are seeing that the cost of the book is not the real criterion. The criterion is the quality of the teaching. Different words, glossary of words, which may not be so well understood by the neophyte, references. And for the different pictures, plate numbers and explanation. It’s a complete edition. Nothing has ever been seen like this in the Western world. So there’s great authority behind it.
Prof. Olivier: Yeah. This… Our university has almost an obligation to make a study in depth of all of these points.
Prabhupada: And after studying Bhagavad-gita thoroughly, then begins further, higher study—Srimad-Bhagavatam, the same principles. Show.
Pusta Krsna: The same format is used. There is color illustrations, introduction, and Sanskrit transliteration, word for word.
Prof. Olivier: Now would this be… Would this be a… Where would this come in, a book like this, in the study course?
Pusta Krsna: Postgraduate study of Bhagavad-gita. Yes. The Bhagavad-gita teaches the general…
Prabhupada: No, Bhagavad-gita is entrance, and then this is graduate. And Caitanya-caritamrta postgraduate.
Prof. Olivier: Our great problem is at the undergraduate level.
Pusta Krsna: There is the Nectar of Devotion and the Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
Pusta Krsna: Nectar of Devotion and the Sri Isopanisad. These books are actually being used in undergraduate courses. These are some of the recommendations, see, offered as an undergraduate course. Mostly… This book is very, very interesting, this, “the complete science of bhakti-yoga.” This explains scientifically the science of devotional service to God. Devotional service which is not practiced with reference to the Vedic literatures is simply a disturbance, just as if some chemist walked into an English laboratory or some foreign language laboratory and tried to do something, and he had no knowledge. So the same way, we should try to understand the science of devotional service from the authorities, so that it’s not just… It doesn’t become simply a disturbance in society. People lose faith in God that way. Sri Isopanisad also has the same format once again. The Sanskrit transliteration, word for word. This is a very nice entrance book into Vedic understanding. This is the most important of the Upanisads. Many other books we have like that, paperbacks and hardbound. This is being used in many universities in America.
Prabhupada: Temple University, it is study book.
Prof. Olivier: Temple University?
Pusta Krsna: Yes. In Philadelphia.
Prof. Olivier: Yes, I have been there. There is Islamic professor there, Professor of Islamics, Farooki. He was also here at the university lecturing in Islam.
Pusta Krsna: This is University of Minnesota. This is a book review of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He says, “I know of no better introduction to the vast literature of krsna-bhakti than Swami Bhaktivedanta’s paraphrase of Canto Ten of the Srimad-Bhagavatam Purana. Translators inevitably have to commute between felicity and fidelity. In this edition, Bhaktivedanta resolves the dilemna by presenting a purport of each chapter which is both readable and substantial.” No one can argue with the authority of these literatures, it’s a fact, because Srila Prabhupada has not manufactured anything from his own mind. It’s simply being presented, the Vedic literatures, as they are, in such a way that we in the Western countries, we can understand very clearly without any hesitation what is being said in each verse and each chapter. In other words, Prabhupada is not presenting in order to confuse or to juggle words, but to actually give people understanding. That is why it’s been accepted so readily. We have many such literatures.
Prof. Olivier: Yes, that’s… That other letter you showed me, the first one, is a…
Pusta Krsna: It’s from Utah State University.
Prof. Olivier: Yeah, sociology… It’s a good letter. It would be a good letter to have a copy.
Pusta Krsna: Yes. I can make copies of some of these letters and bring them by. Will you be in your office on Monday?
Prof. Olivier: I have a meeting in the morning, but my secretary…
Pusta Krsna: I can leave it there. And all of these books are readily available here in stock.
Prof. Olivier: Are they?
Pusta Krsna: Yes. We have thousands and thousands of books here in South Africa.
Prof. Olivier: In South Africa?
Pusta Krsna: Oh, yes. Very, very reasonable prices.
Prabhupada: Your Sanskrit professor, he has seen?
Pusta Krsna: Yes. The Sanskrit professor has noted that he would like to take the whole set of books.
Prof. Olivier: What’s his name, that professor, Zonobeck?(?)
Pusta Krsna: One of the devotees spoke to him, but he wanted that I should go back and see him.
Prabhupada: Where he is? Call him, that devotee who saw him.
Prof. Olivier: Was this an Indian gentleman or…
Bhargava: Yes, it was an Indian gentleman. I saw him, but I didn’t speak to him.
Prof. Olivier: Which professor?
Bhargava: I don’t know his name.
Prof. Olivier: Mishra?
Bhargava: I don’t know his name. I saw he was an Indian gentleman.
Prof. Olivier: Yes. We want to… I mean, I can do very little at the university. My attempts have been to try and stress that the only, the only permanent element in education is the spiritual, and how to effect this…
Prabhupada: These are the books. That is a fact. So you saw the Sanskrit professor there?
Devotee: Yes, Prabhupada.
Prabhupada: What is his name?
Devotee: He’s not a professor. He’s a lecturer.
Prof. Olivier: Mr. Mishra?
Prof. Olivier: Mishra.
Devotee: Mishra. He’s a lecturer. He has this special class.
Prof. Olivier: Yes. That’s right. He does Sanskrit for us. He’s from Mauritius.
Devotee: And he was interested in getting a whole standing order of books, and I said I could supply the books, but it will be a while before we got every single one from America, including the Bengali books, etc. We have to order them special because South Africa doesn’t have a good communication with America as far as transporting large quantities…
Prabhupada: No, we shall supply from here. You haven’t got to bother.
Pusta Krsna: Yes. We have good stock now. We have in stock over a thousand of all these books.
Devotee: We’ve sold so many that we have to reorder. It won’t be much problem getting by air freight. We just put them on the plane and we get them here…
Prabhupada: We shall take responsibility for supplying the books from here, in this center.
Prof. Olivier: But now, what must you, what can you do if your, one of the professor who is in charge of Indology, like the one in Moscow, he teaches Indology but he does not believe the basis of what…
Prabhupada: (laughs) Yes.
Prof. Olivier: What must you do then?
Pusta Krsna: Therefore in America many of our students, they are teaching courses at the university. I for one, I have a B.Sc. in chemistry. I’m actually a graduate in chemistry. I had a four-year scholarship to medical school, and some of the other devotees are also graduates, and they are actually teaching in the universities.
Prabhupada: If you want some of our student to teach, he can do that.
Prof. Olivier: I think one must make a start somewhere, either by getting specialist lectures or lecturers at least to start.
Pusta Krsna: We could always assist in some way in an objective presentation so that the students don’t feel that they’re being biased in any way. This is the idea of science. Let them draw their own conclusions. Just simply present the facts and let them come to their own conclusion. The main idea, though, is the authenticity. There’s no use in studying something if it’s simply mental speculation, which, of course, the Vedic scriptures mean that. They’ve been passed down for so many thousands of years intact, and the most important thing is to get a chance to read the originals in our own language, English, or Afrikaans, whatever it may be. We’re also translating into Afrikaans, the Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Prof. Olivier: Is that so?
Pusta Krsna: Yes. Some of the girls are very, very proficient and they’re doing this now. We hope that within a year or so’s time we’ll have a polished copy to print. We’re working in that direction.
Prof. Olivier: I see.
Prabhupada: If this line of activity is taken seriously, sometimes I may come and teach them. Yes.
Pusta Krsna: It is a very nice opportunity because you have all Indian students and they are eager, eager to know. They want to know. And they want to…
Prabhupada: And they should be helped to…
Prof. Olivier: They should be helped, yes. They should be helped.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is the purpose of education.
Prof. Olivier: Apart from anything else, our Indian, our Hindu community here in South Africa seems to be very loose from any fixed idea of what constitutes Hinduism.
Prof. Olivier: And especially the young people, they are therefore living in a complete vacuum. For various reasons they do not want to accept… I come back to the word religion again because this is what they have about, or see around them. They cannot identify themselves with the Christian religion. They cannot identify themselves with the Islamic religion. They are largely ignorant.
Prabhupada: So they should be shown the right path.
Prof. Olivier: They should be, yes.
Prabhupada: This is the right path, original, authentic.
Prof. Olivier: There were not very many great scholars in South Africa amongst our Indian community, you know. They came out by and large as workers on the sugar plantations. A few were Christian missionaries, a few were jewelers and tailors and so on. Then for the last hundred years they were occupied in resisting…
Prabhupada: Political struggle.
Prof. Olivier: Political struggles or resisting this transportation back to India, and they were fighting to make a living, you know, finding their own place in the country. And it’s only, as I see that in the future… I’ve been telling them that we are privileged to have them here in this country with this background, and they mustn’t cut themselves away from it and drift in a vacuum. They must give meaning to the essence of their own beliefs and faith. But they de moon is so high above the sun. So…
Prabhupada: So how can you deny it? First of all tell me. You have not gone there.
Pusta Krsna: I haven’t gone, but the argument…
Prabhupada: No, no. The scientists. I challenge that he has not gone there.
Pusta Krsna: (to someone:) Pay your obeisances.
Prabhupada: Hare Krsna. Jaya. I have not gone, you have not gone, but I have got this authentic literature; you have nothing. So my position is better than yours. You are fool. You are befooled because you are simply contemplating. But I have got a definite literature, information. So my position is better than yours. Whose car is it? Oh, some of them are chanting? Jaya. (end)