excerpt from a conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and an English teacher
David Lawrence: I was very interested to talk to a nurse in one of the main London hospitals only last week in fact, and she was saying that they're having an almost impossible time trying to man these abortion wards now because all the nurses and doctors just don't want to do the work. In some cases, she was saying, that they take a baby from its mother's womb and it's sort of put onto a tray and thrown into a litter bin and you can see it moving!
David Lawrence: And they've had one or two cases at their hospital where they've gone out afterwards and they've seen babies moving! Terrible.
Prabhupāda: It has been seen in Calcutta also, in dust bin found out some child, dust bin.
David Lawrence: Terrible. Some are in such an advanced state of pregnancy that clearly life is a strong possibility.
Prabhupāda: Not advanced stage, life begins from the very beginning of sex. The living entity is very small. By nature's law, according to his karma, he's sent to the father's semina and that is injected and immediately the two secretions emulsify, the man's and the woman's, and it forms a body just like a pea. That is the formation of body. Now that pea-like form develops gradually. Then first manifestation is the nine holes. Everything is there in the Vedic literature. Nine holes, they have got nine holes. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. In this way gradually the senses develop and by the time seven months, everything is complete and the living entity's consciousness come back. Prior to the formation of the body, the living entity remains unconscious just like in chloroform, anaesthetic. Then he dreams and then gradually consciousness... At that time he becomes very much upset to come out, come out. Then nature gives him "khut!" He comes out. That's all. This is the process of birth.
David Lawrence: Miracle.
Prabhupāda: What do they know? They do not know anything.
David Lawrence: No, no. I was absolutely amazed to read an article...
Prabhupāda: This is Vedic knowledge. So you'll get everything perfect. Therefore, how there can be any history? That is the difficulty. We are speaking everything, of the spiritual. Therefore, it is sometimes very difficult for the gross materialist. They are so dull-headed, they cannot understand.
David Lawrence: The British Association which is, many people regard an irrelevant bunch of scientists, who meet once a year, one of the good speeches was in fact given on the question of the value of human life. And one of the points was made there by somebody who has had to talk to these girls who come in to have abortions, some cases their third and fourth abortion, and they're not married of course. And saying that many of the girls regard an abortion in the same way as they regard a shampoo for their hair.
David Lawrence: "O, well you know, hair's got to be washed, we wash hair. Womb's got to be cleaned out, we clean the womb out." Just like that.
Prabhupāda: And where is movement in the shampoo? That means that human beings are simply being put into ignorance, animal kingdom. This is modern civilization.
David Lawrence: Yes, yes.
Prabhupāda: To keep people in ignorance, in darkness, is ajānat. Ajānat. The Sanskrit word is ajānat. Lokasya ajānat. Ajānat means to keep in darkness. They do not know anything about the importance of life. Ajānat. Yayā sammohito jīva ātmānaṁ tri-guṇātmakam [SB 1.7.5]. By this ajānat principle a man considers that this, "I am this matter." They are all doing all these things because they have no spiritual understanding.
David Lawrence: That's right.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Taking the body as lump of matter. That's all. To break a stone and to kill the body of a child is the same thing. They think like that.
David Lawrence: And yet the incredible thing is the obsession with making life longer. I mean, what is the point of making a life longer that is a worthless life anyway? Because they're so materialistic.
David Lawrence: Take a man, somebody could say he's given a great deal of enjoyment, a man like Walt Disney, you know. He's had his body put into...
Prabhupāda: Well, longer life, you can see this tree, you'll find at least five hundred years old. So this kind of longer life, what is the value? What is the value? There are many trees... I have seen one tree in San Francisco, seven thousand years old.
David Lawrence: Oh, the redwood...
David Lawrence: ...the redwoods, yes. Makes Walt Disney look a bit...
Prabhupāda: So this kind of longer life, what is the value?
David Lawrence: Yes, you know he had his body put into suspended animation. I don't know what they call it, cytology is it or something? They have them put into chemicals and bathed. Because he died of cancer and he wants to be woken up in about fifty years time when they've got the cure for cancer and then he can live again and make a few more films apparently. (laughter) It's extraordinary attitude to life isn't it really? One of the other problems that I was going to raise, and in fact it appears in the question sheet, it seems to be some, in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, is that the right pronunciation? I always get these things wrong.
Prabhupāda: Yes, Bhāgavatam.
David Lawrence: A very great deal of what one could call demonology if you like. Now, I confess this raises problems for me. When a book like that...
Prabhupāda: Bhāgavata was written five thousand years ago.
David Lawrence: Yes, very, very ancient. Is it to be taken, the references say to Pūtanā, is this to be taken...
Prabhupāda: It is also fact.
David Lawrence: ...physically or spiritually as a demonic power or what?
Prabhupāda: No, no, which one?
David Lawrence: Where, is it the demoness Pūtanā takes Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa sucks her breast?
Śyāmasundara: Should it be taken literally or allegorically?
Prabhupāda: No, literally, literally.
David Lawrence: Yeah, literally as a physical fact.
Prabhupāda: Oh yes, oh yes.
David Lawrence: Now, having said that then, if one goes on logically...
Prabhupāda: You'll find so many demons like Pūtanā even at the present moment.
David Lawrence: So one could leap from behind a tree, putting it tritely if you like.
Prabhupāda: The, the Bhāgavatam, there is nothing... well, there are some figurative use. Just like we speak the story of Aesop's fables. That is for instruction. Just like jackal is talking with a lion. You see? So, there are stories like that.
David Lawrence: Yes, there are figurative stories.
David Lawrence: I mean, one or two of the stories there's a reference to Kṛṣṇa and the unmarried gopīs, saying that He treated them like dolls yet they were well pleased with Him. Now, would it be right to say that the main point of that story, rather than...
David Lawrence: Yes, it says He treated them rather like dolls. It's your own translation on that one. But they were well pleased with Him. Is the point of the story...
Prabhupāda: Dolls, dolls means just like doll-player, they make the dolls dance. It is like that.
David Lawrence: Yes, as He wishes.
Prabhupāda: Puppets, yes, puppets.
David Lawrence: Yes. I mean is that to be taken again literally or is there, as you say, a figurative meaning there in terms of faith?
Prabhupāda: No, that is literally. Because gopīs were just dancing according to Kṛṣṇa's desire. They are so devotees that whatever Kṛṣṇa desires, they are prepared to do.
David Lawrence: See, without being too irreverent, it seems a strange thing to get young ladies to undress in front of you.
Prabhupāda: Therefore I say...
David Lawrence: I'm probably misunderstanding it you see.
Prabhupāda: ...it will be difficult for ordinary persons. Still, as far as possible, I have tried to explain for understanding of the ordinary people. By general reading, it is not difficult.
David Lawrence:. This is the sort of problem one comes across, whether in fact... You see, having grown up in what was really a very liberal, critical attitude...
Prabhupāda: Therefore, this portion of Kṛṣṇa's life is depicted on the Tenth Canto. Nine Cantos are devoted to understand Kṛṣṇa. So without understanding Kṛṣṇa if one tries to read the life and pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, it may be misleading.
David Lawrence: Yes, yes. I think somewhere it says...
Prabhupāda: Therefore Bhāgavata begins, janmādy asya yataḥ [SB 1.1.1], what is the original source of creation. Not abruptly Kṛṣṇa. Then after developing all such knowledge one can understand what is Kṛṣṇa. But in the spiritual world there are activities like that. The material world is only perverted reflection of these activities of the spiritual world. Perverted reflections. It is reflection, but perverted. Therefore, it is difficult. Everything is there. Basic principle that Kṛṣṇa loved the gopīs... Gopīs were young girls, Kṛṣṇa was young boy, But the same love between young boy and girl here is lust. Therefore, it is perverted. The reflection is there, but it is not love, it is lust.
David Lawrence: Yes, that's the difference.
Prabhupāda: That's the difference.
David Lawrence: Yes. So it's using our experiences and refining them and distilling them and showing what the true value of these experiences is.
David Lawrence: ...the true meaning of them.
Prabhupāda: In the gopīs' love with Kṛṣṇa, there is no lust. That is the difference.
David Lawrence: Reverence isn't it, reverence for Him.
Prabhupāda: Here, the so-called love is lust only. It is going on in the name of love. Actually it is not love. And because it is not love, therefore such kind of love does not continue very long. It breaks.
David Lawrence: Yes.
Prabhupāda: But we don't find in the history of spiritual world the love between the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa broke at any time. That is the difference.
David Lawrence: Yes,yes. Whereas one in three of the Western marriages, so they say, is destined to break.
David Lawrence: That's what they say now, one in three. It's the latest figures.
Prabhupāda: The same thing is there, but they are dragging this lusty affairs to Kṛṣṇa. Generally, the rascals, they paint Kṛṣṇa's picture with gopīs so that their lusty activities may be supported—Kṛṣṇa also had like that. This is misunderstanding. They do not take into calculation: Here, so-called love is lust and it breaks. But in the gopīs' love with Kṛṣṇa there is no breaking but increasing of love. So how they can compare Kṛṣṇa's love with gopīs with these lusty affairs?
David Lawrence: I must admit, yes, I've read far enough on to see that and I think this is...
Prabhupāda: When we make analogy, the points of similarity must be there. But these rascals are so dull-headed that they have not even logical arguments. Where are the points of similarity? That we are comparing these lusty affairs of this material world with the affairs of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs? Where is the similarity?
David Lawrence: There's never mention of lust or of any animal desire at all is there?
Prabhupāda: No, no.
David Lawrence: It's just reverence and love.
Prabhupāda: Just like Kṛṣṇa used to dance with so many gopīs, everything is described there, that they embraced, they kissed, but there is no such thing abortion or contraceptive. (laughter) So these things have to be studied. How we can compare gopīs' love with Kṛṣṇa with these lusty affairs of this material world?
August 30, 1973, London