by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, used to say, “All problems can be solved by Krishna consciousness.” We, his disciples, believed him, followed his instructions, and saw our problems solved individually and collectively in the Krishna consciousness movement.
But nondevotees don’t believe Krishna consciousness can solve the seemingly intractable problems facing the world today. How could the chanting of the names of God—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—possibly solve such problems as widespread violent crime, rampant inflation, or the threat of nuclear war? Except to devotees, the idea that “all problems can be solved by Krishna consciousness” seems too simple and Utopian.
Nonetheless, the practical success of the Krishna consciousness movement in alleviating the problems of its own members cannot be discounted. It is a scientific principle that if one can build a successful model, there is a good possibility that one could expand the model and have it succeed on a larger scale. And now, when all the old “solutions” seem to have been tried and have failed, any successful alternative, however unusual, is worth serious study.
What is the Krishna conscious method of solving problems, and how does it work? That can best be seen by following the activities of ISKCON’s founder and spiritual guide, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada came to America in 1965 at age sixty-nine and began preaching about the science of Krishna, as taught in Vedic scriptures such as Bhagavad-gita. According to the Vedas, everything in the universe belongs to God, and a person should take only what is allotted to him as his quota, “but he should not take more than that, knowing well to whom it belongs.” This means that human society should be God-centered.
Srila Prabhupada writes,
“If we become God conscious, Krishna conscious, the fighting in the world will come to an end. ‘I am American,’ ‘I am Indian,’ ‘I am Russian,’ ‘I am Chinese’—all these nonsensical designations will be finished. The Krishna consciousness movement is so purifying that as soon as people become Krishna conscious, political and national fighting will immediately be over, because they will come to their real consciousness and understand that everything belongs to God.”
The philosophy of God consciousness is the basis of all genuine morality, but in the West the established religions have been unable to inculcate moral principles into society at large. In fact, crime in the United States has gotten so bad that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren Burger, recently felt compelled to decry “the reign of terror in American cities.”
Realizing the urgent need for practical spiritual knowledge, Srila Prabhupada conceived and began a society in which all the members agreed to factually give up sinful, antisocial activities and perform all their works for the pleasure of God, Krishna. Because he strictly forbade the taking of intoxicants (even tea or cigarettes) and indulgence in illicit sex, gambling, and meat-eating, many people were put off. But many joined as well, once they began participating in the sublime practices of chanting Hare Krishna and engaging in Krishna’s service.
Gaining a higher spiritual taste, devotees of Krishna, under Srila Prabhupada’s guidance, were able to reject the lower modes of life for the transcendental. Although most of the devotees had no prior training in austerities or advanced spiritual knowledge, they quickly developed to a point where they willingly rejected all socially disruptive and self- destructive activities.
“If one is pressured by the law or obligations to give up sinful activity,”
Srila Prabhupada writes,
“one cannot do so. However, if someone takes to Krishna consciousness, he can very easily give up all sinful activity.”
Thus, among the members of the Krishna consciousness movement there is no drug addiction of any kind; crime is almost nonexistent; marriage ties are strong; there is no unemployment; abortion is unheard of; the educational system is harmonious; interracial dealings are no problem at all—in short, the average devotee is hard-working, peaceful, happy, and secure.
The Krishna conscious way of life, aside from solving its followers’ basic social and personal problems, also overcomes the greatest problem of all—the problem of repeated birth and death. The Vedic scriptures teach that each person is actually an eternal living being, a spiritual soul. When the body dies, the soul, the real self, lives on. But as long as we have not developed self-realization, as long as we remain ignorant of our connection with God, then at the time of death the eternal spiritual soul has to enter another temporary material body, only to suffer once again the agony of death when that body dies.
The process of the soul’s transmigration from one body to another goes on under the strict laws of karma. By these laws, the actions we perform and the desires we cultivate in our present life determine our destiny in the next. But in whatever situation we are born, whether in a wealthy human family or a family of cats or dogs, we shall always face the multiple miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. Therefore the Vedic culture teaches that while we have the intelligence and the good opportunity to cultivate spiritual knowledge-in other words, before our time in this human body runs out—we must solve this most fundamental problem, the problem of repeated birth and death.
That problem can be solved only by Krishna consciousness, because only Krishna consciousness can eradicate all karma. As Lord Krishna Himself says in the Bhagavad gita (2.50), “A person engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad karma even in this life.” Eventually the devotee develops pure love for Krishna. Then, at the time of death, he is not forced to transmigrate to another material body; he attains a spiritual body and goes to join Krishna in the eternal, spiritual world. Only then are all his problems solved.
Srila Prabhupada did not invent the Krishna conscious method of solving problems, nor is this the first time in history that people have become peaceful and satisfied by practicing Krishna consciousness. According to the Vedic scriptural histories, in past millenniums the whole world was God conscious, living under the authority of enlightened kings who were themselves pure devotees of the Lord. Thus Srimad Bhagavatam (1.10.4,6) states, “During the reign of King Yudhisthira, the clouds showered all the water that people needed and the earth produced all the necessity of man in profusion. … At no time were the living beings disturbed by mental agonies, diseases, or excessive heat or cold. So, historically Krishna consciousness has worked to solve problems not just on small communal scale but also among the entire world’s population.
It may be some time before the world nations give up trying to solve their problems with patchwork solutions and take up the all-encompassing solution of Krishna consciousness. But even now, because of the existence of the Krishna consciousness movement, any individual in any nation or culture of the world can join the society of devotees and immediately solve his problems. All he needs is the good intelligence to see Krishna consciousness as the invaluable gift it actually is.