Although people have various ideas about honesty, Srila Prabhupada defines the real meaning of honesty in this conversation from the point of view of Krsna consciousness.
Bob: Can you tell me who is honest?
Srila Prabhupada: If one does not know what is honesty, how can he be honest? But if you know what is honesty, then you can be honest. What is honesty? First of all explain.
Bob: Aaah, ummm -- Honesty is doing what you really feel is right.
Srila Prabhupada: A thief is feeling, "I must steal to provide for my children. It is right." Does it mean that he is honest? Everyone thinks -- The butcher thinks, "It is my life. I must cut the throat of the animals daily." Just like that -- what is that hunter? And Narada Muni met him?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Mrgari. Narada asked him, "Why are you killing in this way?" And he said, "Oh, it is my business. My father taught it." So he was honestly doing that. So a feeling of honesty depends on culture. A thief's culture is different. He thinks stealing is honest.
Bob: So what is honesty?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is my question. [Everyone laughs.] Real honesty is that you should not encroach upon another's property. This is honesty. For instance, this is my table. If you want to take it away while going, is that honesty? So therefore the simple definition of honesty is that you should not encroach upon another's rights. That is honesty.
Bob: So somebody who is honest would be in the mode of goodness? Would that be correct?
Srila Prabhupada: Certainly, certainly. Because the mode of goodness means knowledge. So if you know, "This table does not belong to me; it belongs to Swamiji," you will not try to take it away. Therefore, one must know -- be thoroughly well conversant -- then he can be honest.
Bob: So, now you have said the mode of goodness was knowledge of God, but somebody may be honest without having very much knowledge of God.
Srila Prabhupada: Hm-m?
Bob: Without -- without being honest -- without thinking they are honest because it is God's wishes -- they just feel like they ought to be honest.
Srila Prabhupada: Mmm. God wishes everyone to be honest. Why should God think otherwise?
Bob: So... so you may follow God's wishes without knowing you are following God's wishes? Like somebody may be in the mode...
Srila Prabhupada: No, following without knowing -- that is absurd. You must know the order of God. And if you follow that, then that is honesty.
Bob: But somebody would not be honest without knowing God?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because God is the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer, and He is the supreme friend. That is the statement of the Bhagavad-gita. If anyone knows these three things, then he is in full knowledge. These three things only: that God is the proprietor of everything, God is friend of everyone, and God is the enjoyer of everything. For example, everyone knows that in the body, the stomach is the enjoyer. Not the hands, legs, eyes, ears. These are there simply to help the stomach. Eyes -- the vulture goes seven miles up to see where there is food for the stomach. Is it not?
Bob: That is so.
Srila Prabhupada: Then the wings fly there, and the jaws catch the food. Similarly, as in this body the stomach is the enjoyer, the central figure of the whole cosmic manifestation, material or spiritual, is Krsna, God. He is the enjoyer. We can understand this just by considering our own bodies. The body is also a creation. The body has the same mechanical nature you will find in the whole universe. The same mechanical arrangement will be found anywhere you go, even in animals. In the human body or in the cosmic manifestation -- almost the same mechanism. So you can understand very easily that in this body -- any body, your body -- the stomach is the enjoyer. There is a central enjoyer. And the stomach is the friend also. Because if you cannot digest food, you see, then all other limbs of the body become weak. Therefore the stomach is the friend. It is digesting and distributing the energy to all the limbs of the body. Is it not?
Bob: It is so.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, the central stomach of the whole creation is God, or Krsna. He is the enjoyer, He is the friend, and, as the supreme proprietor, He is maintaining everyone. Just as a king can maintain the whole country's citizens because he is the proprietor. Without being the proprietor, how can one become everyone's friend? So these things have to be understood. Krsna is the enjoyer, Krsna is the proprietor, and Krsna is the friend. If you know these three things, then your knowledge is full; you do not require to understand anything more.
kasmin nu bhagavo vijnate sarvam idam vijnatam bhavatiti
(Mundaka Upanisad 1.3)
If you simply understand Krsna by these three formulas, then your knowledge is complete. You don't require any more knowledge. But people will not agree. "Why should Krsna be the proprietor? Hitler should be the proprietor. Nixon ..." That is going on. Therefore you are in trouble. But if you understand these three things only, then your knowledge is complete. But you will not accept -- you will put forward so many impediments to understanding these three things, and that is the cause of our trouble. But in the Bhagavad-gita it is plainly said:
jnatva mam santim rcchati
["The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries."] But we won't take this. We shall put forward so many false proprietors, false friends, false enjoyers, and they will fight one another. This is the situation of the world. If education is given and people take this knowledge, there is immediately peace (santim rcchati). This is knowledge, and if anyone follows this principle, he is honest. He does not claim, "It is mine." He knows everything: "Oh, it is Krsna's, so therefore everything should be utilized for Krsna's service." That is honesty. If this pencil belongs to me, the etiquette is -- My students sometimes ask, "Can I use this pencil?" "Yes, you can." Similarly, if I know that everything belongs to Krsna, I will not use anything without His permission. That is honesty. And that is knowledge. One who does not know is ignorant; he is foolish. And a foolish man commits criminality. All criminals are foolish men. Out of ignorance one commits lawbreaking. So ignorance is not bliss, but it is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss. That is the difficulty. The whole world is enjoying ignorance. And when you talk about Krsna consciousness, they do not very much appreciate it. If I say, "Krsna is the proprietor; you are not the proprietor," you will not be very much satisfied. [They laugh.] Just see -- ignorance is bliss. So it is my foolishness to say the real truth. Therefore it is folly to be wise where ignorance is bliss. So we are taking the risk of offending
people, and they will think we are fools. If I say to a rich man, "You are not the proprietor. Krsna is the proprietor, so whatever money you have, spend it for Krsna," he will be angry.
upadeso hi murkhanam
prakopaya na santaye
"If you instruct a rascal, he'll be angry." Therefore we go as beggars: "My dear sir, you are a very nice man. I am a sannyasi beggar, so I want to construct a temple. Can you spare some money?" So he will think, "Oh, here is a beggar. Give him some money." [They laugh] But if I say, "Dear sir, you have millions of dollars at your disposal. That is Krsna's money. Give it to me. I am Krsna's servant." Oh, he'll... [Everyone laughs.] He will not be very satisfied. Rather, if I go as a beggar, he will give me something. And if I tell him the truth, he will not give me a farthing. [They laugh] We convince him as beggars. We are not beggars. We are Krsna's servants. We don't want anything from anyone. Because we know Krsna will provide everything.
Srila Prabhupada: This is knowledge. For instance, a child will sometimes take something important, so we have to flatter him. "Oh, you are so nice. Please take these lozenges and give me that paper. It is nothing; it is paper." And he will say, "Oh, yes. Take. That's nice." Two-paise lozenges -- very nice and sweet. So we have to do that. Why? Because a man will go to hell by taking Krsna's money. So some way or other, take some money from him and engage him in the Krsna consciousness movement.
Bob: And then he may not go to hell?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You save him from going to hell. Because a farthing spent for Krsna it will be accounted: "Oh, this man has given a farthing." This is called ajnata-sukrti [spiritual activity one performs unknowingly]. They are very poor in their thought. Therefore the saintly persons move just to enlighten him little. To give them a chance to serve Krsna. Giving them a chance to serve Krsna. That is saintly person's duty.
Bob: That is what?
Srila Prabhupada: That is his duty. But if he takes money from others and utilizes it for his sense gratification, then he goes to hell. Then it is finished. Then he is a cheater; actually he is a criminal. You cannot take money, a farthing, from anyone, and use it for your own sense gratification.
Bob: I think of people I know who are not Krsna conscious.
Prabhupada: Krsna means God.
Bob: They are just slightly God conscious, but still these people are honest to the extent they don't take from other people at all. And they try to be honest with other people. Will these --
Prabhupada: But he does not take from other people, but he takes from God.
Bob: So these people are half good?
Bob: These people are then half-good?
Prabhupada: Not good. If he does not learn this principle -- that God is the proprietor... Others' things? What do you mean by, "others' thing"?
Bob: Like, people I'm thinking of -- they're poor people who need money and food but --
Prabhupada: Everyone needs money. Everyone needs it. Who is not poor? There are so many gentlemen sitting here. Who is not in need of money and food? You are also in need of money. So how do you distinguish poor from rich? Everyone needs it. If that is your definition... If one needs money and food, then everyone needs money and food. So everyone is poor.
Bob: So, but, well -- I was thinking in terms of just people who are relatively poor.
Srila Prabhupada: Relatively, relatively, maybe. You are more hungry than me. That does not mean you are not hungry or I am not hungry. I do not feel hungry now. That does not mean I do not feel hungry or I am not hungry. For the time being you may not be hungry. But tomorrow you'll be hungry.
Bob: What I feel is that -- somehow these people -- that... Everybody around them may be stealing, but they still stand up and don't steal. These people somehow deserve something good to happen to them.
Srila Prabhupada: But the man who is thinking that he is not stealing is also a thief because he does not know that everything belongs to Krsna. Therefore, whatever he is accepting, he is stealing.
Bob: Is he less of a thief?
Srila Prabhupada: You may not know that I am the proprietor of this wrapper, but if you take it away, are you not stealing?
Bob: But maybe if I know it is yours and I take it, I am a worse thief than if I do not know whose it is. I just think it may be nobody's, and I take it.
Srila Prabhupada: That is also stealing. Because it must belong to somebody. And you take it without his permission. You may not know exactly who is the proprietor, but you know, "It must belong to someone." That is knowledge. Sometimes we see on the road so many valuable things left there -- government property for repairing roads or some electrical work. A man may think, "Oh, fortunately these things are lying here, so I may take them." Is it not stealing?
Bob: It is stealing.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. He does not know that this is all government property. He takes it away. That is stealing. And when he is caught, he is arrested, and he is punished. So, similarly, whatever you are collecting -- suppose you are drinking a glass of water from the river. Is the river your property?
Srila Prabhupada: Then? It is stealing. You have not created the river. You do not know who is the proprietor. Therefore it is not your property. So, even if you drink a glass of water without knowing to whom it belongs, you are a thief. So you may think, "I am honest," but actually you are a thief. You must remember Krsna. "Oh, Krsna, it is Your creation, so kindly allow me to drink." This is honesty. Therefore a devotee always thinks of Krsna. In all activities: "Oh, it is Krsna's." This is honesty. So without Krsna consciousness, everyone is a rascal, is a thief, is a rogue, is a robber. These qualifications. Therefore our conclusion is that anyone who does not understand Krsna has no good qualifications. Neither is he honest, nor has he knowledge. Therefore he is a third-class man. Is that correct? What do you think, Giriraja?
Giriraja: [a disciple]: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: This is not dogmatism. This is a fact. [Some time elapses.] So, you have understood what is knowledge and what is honesty?
Bob: I -- in a way. In a way.
Srila Prabhupada: And is there another way? [Bob laughs.] Is there any other way? Defy it! [Bob laughs again. Srila Prabhupada also laughs.] Another way? Giriraja?
Srila Prabhupada: Is there an alternative? We do not say anything that can be defied by anyone. That experience we have. Rather, we defy everyone: "Any questions?" Till now, Krsna has given us protection. In big, big meetings in big, big countries, after speaking I ask, "Any questions?"
Bob: Now, I have none.
Srila Prabhupada: In London, we had -- how many days, lectures in that -- what is that? Conway Hall?
A devotee: Twelve days. Conway Hall.
Srila Prabhupada: Conway Hall.
A devotee: Twelve days.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So after every meeting I was asking, "Any questions?"
Bob: Did you get many questions?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Many foolish questions. [Everyone laughs.]
Bob: Let me ask one more question. What is being foolish?
Srila Prabhupada: One having no knowledge is to be considered foolish.
An Indian gentleman: Prabhupada, I have one personal question. Can I ask?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Indian gentleman: Some time ago in Calcutta they observed a week -- it was named, "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Week."
Srila Prabhupada: Mmm. [He gives a quick laugh] This is another foolishness. They are advertising prevention of cruelty, and they are maintaining thousands of slaughterhouses. You see? That is another foolishness.
Indian gentleman: So I wanted just to ask --
Srila Prabhupada: Asking -- before you ask, I give you the answer. [All laugh] That is another foolishness. They are regularly cruel to animals, and they are making a society...
Bob: Maybe this is --
Srila Prabhupada: Suppose a gang of thieves has a signboard -- "Goodman and Company." You sometimes find such a signboard.
Syamasundara: Our landlord in the San Francisco temple was named Goodman.
Srila Prabhupada: The philosophy is that when an animal is not properly nourished, that is cruelty. Therefore instead of allowing it to starve, better to kill it. That is their theory. Is it not?
Srila Prabhupada: They say, "Oh, it is better to kill him than to give him so much pain." That theory is coming in communist countries. An old man -- grandfather -- is suffering, so better to kill him. And there -- in Africa there is a class of men who make a festival by killing their great-grandfathers. Is it not? Yes.
Syamasundara: They eat them?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. [Syamasundara laughs.] Yes?
A devotee: I had an uncle and aunt. They were in the Army. So when they went overseas, they could not take their dog with them. So they said, "The poor dog. He will be so heartbroken not to be with us," so they put him to sleep -- killed him.
Srila Prabhupada: In Gandhi's life also, he once killed one calf or some cow. It was suffering very much. So Gandhi ordered, "Instead of letting it suffer, just kill it."
Giriraja: Yesterday you said that the spiritual master may have to suffer due to the sinful activities of his disciples. What do you mean by sinful activities?
Srila Prabhupada: Sinful activities means that you promised, "I shall follow the regulative principles." If you do not follow, that is sinful. That is the promise. Very simple. You break the promise and do nasty things; therefore you are sinful. Is it not?
Giriraja: Yes. [pause] But there are some things that we're instructed to do...
Srila Prabhupada: Hm-m?
Giriraja: There are other things which we're instructed to do which, even though we try to do, we cannot do perfectly yet.
Srila Prabhupada: How is that? You try to do and cannot do? How is that?
Giriraja: Like chanting attentively. Sometimes we try to, but --
Srila Prabhupada: Well, that is not a fault. Suppose you are trying to do something. Due to your inexperience if you sometimes fail, that is not a fault. You are trying. There is a verse in the Bhagavatam -- hm-m -- that if a devotee is trying his best but due to his incapability he sometimes fails, Krsna excuses him. And in the Bhagavad-gita also it is said:
api cet su-duracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
Sometimes not willingly but due to past bad habits-habit is second nature-one does something nonsensical. But that does not mean he is faulty. But he must repent for that -- "I have done this." And he should try to avoid it as far as possible. But habit is second nature. Sometimes, in spite of your trying hard, maya is so strong that it trips you with pitfalls. That can be excused. Krsna excuses. But those who are doing something willingly are not excused. On the strength that I am a devotee, if I think, "Because I am chanting, I may therefore commit all this nonsense, and it will be nullified," that is the greatest offense.
PQPA 8: Advancing in Krsna Consciousness