Being materially advanced means taking birth in an aristocratic family and possessing great wealth, an education, and attractive personal beauty. All materialistic men are mad after possessing all these material opulences, and this is known as the advancement of material civilization. But the result is that by possessing all these material assets one becomes artificially puffed up, intoxicated by such temporary possessions. Consequently, such materially puffed up persons are incapable of uttering the holy name of the Lord by addressing Him feelingly, "O Govinda, O Kṛṣṇa." It is said in the śāstras that by once uttering the holy name of the Lord, the sinner gets rid of a quantity of sins that he is unable to commit. Such is the power of uttering the holy name of the Lord. There is not the least exaggeration in this statement. Actually the Lord's holy name has such powerful potency. But there is a quality to such utterances also. It depends on the quality of feeling. A helpless man can feelingly utter the holy name of the Lord, whereas a man who utters the same holy name in great material satisfaction cannot be so sincere. A materially puffed up person may utter the holy name of the Lord occasionally, but he is incapable of uttering the name in quality. Therefore, the four principles of material advancement, namely (1) high parentage, (2) good wealth, (3) high education, and (4) attractive beauty, are, so to speak, disqualifications for progress on the path of spiritual advancement. The material covering of the pure spirit soul is an external feature, as much as fever is an external feature of the unhealthy body. The general process is to decrease the degree of the fever and not to aggravate it by maltreatment. Sometimes it is seen that spiritually advanced persons become materially impoverished. This is no discouragement. On the other hand, such impoverishment is a good sign as much as the falling of temperature is a good sign. The principle of life should be to decrease the degree of material intoxication which leads one to be more and more illusioned about the aim of life. Grossly illusioned persons are quite unfit for entrance into the kingdom of God.
In one sense, of course, material opulences are God's grace. To take birth in a very aristocratic family or nation like America, to be very rich, to be advanced in knowledge and education, and to be endowed with beauty are gifts of pious activities. A rich man attracts the attention of others, whereas a poor man does not. An educated man attracts attention, but a fool attracts no attention at all. Materially, therefore, such opulences are very beneficial. But when a person is materially opulent in this way, he becomes intoxicated: "Oh, I am a rich man. I am an educated man. I have money."
One who drinks wine will become intoxicated and may think that he is flying in the sky or that he has gone to heaven. These are effects of intoxication. But an intoxicated person does not know that all these dreams are within the limits of time and will therefore come to an end. Because he is unaware that these dreams will not continue, he is said to be in illusion. Similarly, one is intoxicated by thinking, "I am very rich, I am very educated and beautiful, and I have taken birth in an aristocratic family in a great nation." That's all right, but how long will these advantages exist? Suppose one is an American and is also rich, beautiful, and advanced in knowledge. One may be proud of all this, but how long will this intoxication exist? As soon as the body is finished, it will all be finished, just like the intoxicated dreams of a person who has been drinking.
These dreams are on the mental platform, the egoistic platform, and the bodily platform. But I am not the body. The gross body and subtle body are different from my actual self. The gross body is made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and the subtle body is made of mind, intelligence, and false ego. But the living being is transcendental to these eight elements, which are described in the Bhagavad-gītā as the inferior energy of God.
Even if one is mentally very advanced, he does not know that he is under the influence of the inferior energy, just as an intoxicated person does not know what condition he is in. Opulence, therefore, places one in a position of intoxication. We are already intoxicated, and modern civilization aims at increasing our intoxication. In truth we should become free from this intoxication, but modern civilization aims at increasing it so that we may become more and more intoxicated and go to hell.
Kuntīdevī says that those who are intoxicated in this way cannot feelingly address the Lord. They cannot feelingly say, jaya rādhā-mādhava: "All glories to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa!" They have lost their spiritual feeling. They cannot feelingly address the Lord, because they do not have knowledge. "Oh, God is for the poor man," they think. "The poor do not have sufficient food. Let them go to the church and pray, 'O God, give us our daily bread.' But I have enough bread. Why should I go to church?" This is their opinion.
Nowadays, therefore, because we are in a time of economic prosperity, no one is interested in going to the churches or temples. "What is this nonsense?" people think. "Why should I go to the church to ask for bread? We shall develop our economic condition, and then there will be a sufficient supply of bread." In Communist countries this mentality is especially prevalent. The Communists make propaganda in the villages by asking people to go to church and pray for bread. So the innocent people pray as usual, "O God, give us our daily bread." When the people come out of the church, the Communists ask, "Have you gotten bread?"
"No, sir," they reply.
"All right," the Communists say. "Ask us."
Then the people say, "O Communist friends, give us bread."
The Communist friends, of course, have brought a whole truckload of bread, and they say, "Take as much as you like. Now, who is better - the Communists or your God?"
Because the people are not very intelligent, they reply, "Oh, you are better." They don't have the intelligence to inquire, "You rascals, wherefrom have you brought this bread? Have you manufactured it in your factory? Can your factory manufacture grains?" Because they are śūdras (people who have very little intelligence), they don't ask these questions. A brāhmaṇa, however, one who is advanced in intelligence, will immediately inquire, "You rascals, wherefrom have you brought this bread? You cannot manufacture bread. You have simply taken the wheat given by God and transformed it, but this does not mean that it has become your property."
Simply transforming one thing into something else does not make the final product one's own property. For example, if I give a carpenter some wood, some tools, and a salary and he makes a very beautiful closet, to whom will the closet belong - to the carpenter or to me, the person who has supplied the ingredients? The carpenter cannot say, "Because I have transformed this wood into such a nice closet, it is mine." Similarly, we should say to atheistic men like the Communists, "Who is supplying the ingredients for your bread, you rascal? It is all coming from Kṛṣṇa. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says, 'The elements of this material creation are all My property.' You have not created the sea, the land, the sky, the fire, or the air. These are not your creations. You may mix and transform these material things. You may take earth from the land and water from the sea, mix them and put them in a fire to make bricks, and then you may pile up all these bricks to make a skyscraper and claim that the skyscraper is yours. But where did you get the ingredients for the skyscraper, you rascal? You have stolen the property of God, and now you are claiming that it is your property. This is knowledge.
Unfortunately, those who are intoxicated cannot understand this. They think, "We have taken this land of America from the Red Indians, and now it is our property." They do not know that they are thieves. The Bhagavad-gītā clearly says that one who takes the property of God and claims it as his own is a thief (stena eva saḥ (BG 3.12)).
The devotees of Kṛṣṇa, therefore, have their own form of communism. According to Kṛṣṇa conscious communism, everything belongs to God. Just as the Russian and Chinese Communists think that everything belongs to the state, we think that everything belongs to God. This is merely an extension of the same philosophy, and to understand it one simply needs a little intelligence. Why should one think that his state belongs to only a small number of people? In fact this is all the property of God, and every living entity has a right to use this property because every living being is a child of God, who is the supreme father. In Bhagavad-gītā (14.4), Lord Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-yoniṣu kaunteya... ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā: "I am the seed-giving father of all living entities. In whatever forms they may live, all living entities are My sons."
We living entities are all sons of God, but we have forgotten this, and therefore we are fighting. In a happy family, all the sons know, "Father is supplying food to us all. We are brothers, so why should we fight?" Similarly, if we become God conscious, Kṛṣṇa 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 Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is so purifying that as soon as people become Kṛṣṇa conscious their political and national fighting will immediately be over, because they will come to their real consciousness and understand that everything belongs to God. The children in a family all have the right to accept privileges from the father. Similarly, if everyone is part and parcel of God, if everyone is a child of God, then everyone has the right to use the property of the father. That right does not belong only to the human beings; rather, according to Bhagavad-gītā, that right belongs to all living entities, regardless of whether they are in the bodies of human beings, animals, trees, birds, beasts, insects, or whatever. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we do not think, "My brother is good, and I am good, but all others are bad." This is the kind of narrow, crippled consciousness we reject. Rather, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness we look equally toward all living entities. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (5.18):
- brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
- śuni caiva śvapāke ca
- paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ
"The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater (outcaste)."
One who is paṇḍita, one who is learned, sees all living entities to be on an equal level. Therefore, because a Vaiṣṇava, or devotee, is learned, he is compassionate (lokānāṁ hita-kāriṇau), and he can work in such a way as to actually benefit humanity. A Vaiṣṇava feels and actually sees that all living entities are part and parcel of God and that somehow or other they have fallen into contact with this material world and have assumed different types of bodies according to different karma.
Those who are learned (paṇḍitāḥ) do not discriminate. They do not say, "This is an animal, so it should be sent to the slaughterhouse so that a man may eat it." No. Why should the animals be slaughtered? A person who is actually Kṛṣṇa conscious is kind to everyone. Therefore one tenet of our philosophy is "No meat-eating." Of course, people may not accept this. They will say, "Oh, what is this nonsense? Meat is our food. Why should we not eat it?" Because they are intoxicated rascals (edhamāna-madaḥ (SB 1.8.26)), they will not hear the real facts. But just consider: if a poor man is lying helpless in the street, can I kill him? Will the state excuse me? I may say, "I have only killed a poor man. There was no need for him in society. Why should such a person live?" But will the state excuse me? Will the authorities say, "You have done very nice work"? No. The poor man is also a citizen of the state, and the state cannot allow him to be killed. Now, why not expand this philosophy? The trees, the birds, and the beasts are also sons of God. If one kills them, one is as guilty as one who kills a poor man on the street. In God's eyes, or even in the vision of a learned man, there is no discrimination between poor and rich, black and white. No. Every living entity is part and parcel of God. And because a Vaiṣṇava sees this, he is the only true benefactor of all living entities.
A Vaiṣṇava tries to elevate all living beings to a platform of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A Vaiṣṇava does not see, "Here is an Indian, and there is an American." Someone once asked me, "Why have you come to America?" But why should I not come? I am a servant of God, and this is the kingdom of God, so why should I not come? To hinder the movements of a devotee is artificial, and one who does so commits a sinful act. Just as a policeman may enter a house without trespassing, a servant has the right to go anywhere, because everything belongs to God. We have to see things in this way, as they are. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Now, Kuntīdevī says that those who are increasing their own intoxication cannot become Kṛṣṇa conscious. A fully intoxicated person may talk nonsense, and he may be told, "My dear brother, you are talking nonsense. Just see. Here is your father, and here is your mother." But because he is intoxicated, he will not understand, nor will he even care to understand. Similarly, if a devotee tries to show a materially intoxicated rascal, "Here is God," the rascal will not be able to understand it. Therefore Kuntīdevī says, tvām akiñcana-gocaram (SB 1.8.26), indicating that to be free from the intoxication caused by high birth, opulence, education, and beauty is a good qualification.
Nonetheless, when one becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious, these same material assets can be used for the service of Kṛṣṇa. For example, the Americans who have joined the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement were materially intoxicated before they became devotees, but now that their intoxication is over, their material assets have become spiritual assets that may be helpful in furthering the service of Kṛṣṇa. For example, when these American devotees go to India, the Indian people are surprised to see that Americans have become so mad after God. Many Indians strive to imitate the materialistic life of the West, but when they see Americans dancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then they realize that this is what is actually worthy of being followed.
Everything can be used in the service of Kṛṣṇa. If one remains intoxicated and does not use one's material assets for the service of Kṛṣṇa, they are not very valuable. But if one can use them for the service of Kṛṣṇa, they become extremely valuable. To give an example, zero has no value, but as soon as the digit one is placed before the zero, the zero immediately becomes ten. If there are two zeros, they become one hundred, and three zeros become one thousand. Similarly, we are intoxicated by material assets that are actually no better than zero, but as soon as we add Kṛṣṇa, these tens and hundreds and thousands and millions of zeros become extremely valuable. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement therefore offers a great opportunity to the people of the West. They have an overabundance of the zeros of materialistic life, and if they simply add Kṛṣṇa their life will become sublimely valuable.