In my 50 years of studying and lecturing on subjects contained in the translations and purports of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in over sixty volumes of books, I am often thinking whether the target market is as large as I wish it to be. Perhaps the verses and quotations in Sanskrit and Bengali language combined with profound philosophical and spiritual topics makes it difficult, if not impossible for common people to understand.
In our modern-day society people are occupied with an almost endless diversity of activities, beliefs and thoughts seemingly contrary to the message contained in the books of Srila Prabhupada. I use the word “seemingly”, because time is changing. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center the U.S. public overall appears to be growing a bit less religious – but also somewhat more spiritual.
A deep sense of spiritual peace and a deep sense of wonder about the universe has risen, which people feel more comfortable with; a universally applicable truth that reaches beyond the boundaries of religious belief systems. My attempt is to dispel the doubt in peoples mind that Srila Prabhupada’s books are dogmatic and only meant for a rather small, selective group of people. My studies brought me to the conclusion that these books are beneficial for everyone, because they contain universal truths relevant to the lives of every person on this planet.
Ten Reasons that Srila Prabhupada’s books are meant for everyone:
01. Srila Prabhupada’s books reveal the truth about the temporary, material existence.
Whatever the individual, particular interests of a person might be, there is a vast variety of fields of knowledge the mind and intelligence get absorbed in, but the fact remains that every subject matter of mundane study and knowledge is of a temporary nature. And that temporary nature is contrary to nature of the eternal soul, the eternal living entity.
Human evolution begins when inquiry into the eternal nature of existence is awakened in one’s mind. In the Brahma-sütra this inquiry is called brahma jijïäsä. Athäto brahma jijïäsä. Every activity of the human being is to be considered a failure unless he inquiries about the eternal nature of the Absolute.
If we truly believe, if we accept that every human being, in fact every living entity, is an eternal soul, knowledge of the eternal nature, described in detail in Srila Prabhupada’s books, is for the self-interest of every human being on this planet. In no other literature do we find such detailed and voluminous knowledge about the Absolute as in Srila Prabhupada’s books. Therefore, these books are most beneficial for everyone without any discrimination.
02. Srila Prabhupada’s books contain the most detailed knowledge of the material creation and the cosmic manifestations.
Even ordinary people at one point in their lives begin to wonder about this universe, about the millions of stars they see at night in the sky. Although being primarily occupied most of the time with material life, such thoughts at times begin to manifest. It creates a sense of belonging. Having a sense of belonging is a common experience. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions.
Most people feel connected with their family members, friends, social media, religion, etc. Similarly, there is a natural sense of belonging related to this world, this universe, material creation. What is my connection to, what is my role, in this creation? What is my purpose in life? Why do I exist in the first place? These or similar thoughts are like flashes in the mind of every human being.
Srila Prabhupada’s books answer all those questions in an overwhelming way, leaving no questions open. Many people have or had this experience with Srila Prabhupada’s books that they do not search for knowledge, but rather transmit knowledge. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada’s books satisfy profoundly the sense of belonging related to the cosmos we are living in and the overall material creation.
03. Srila Prabhupada’s books precisely explain the three modes of material nature by which everyone is bound and conditioned in a particular way.
The three modes of material nature – a fascinating subject matter. A subject matter entirely lacking in societies’ educational system and yet it is most important. Every thought anybody in ordinary life has, any activity a person performs, any desire someone has, any foodstuff people eat, even hope and faith are influenced by the modes of material nature.
These three modes of material nature condition a person in a particular way. People want to be free or think that they are free, but without becoming free from the influence of the modes of nature there is no question of freedom. One is being forced to act and behave in a particular way, often even against one’s own will. Many times, people regret something they have said or done to somebody. It is being imposed upon them by the modes of material nature.
Being educated in the nature and function of the three modes of material nature reveals the truth about one’s own psycho-physical nature, the particular condition of one’s birth and so much more. What could be more interesting for anyone? It gives an answer to so many questions we have. Srila Prabhupada’s books educate people in the science of the three modes of material nature. It is a must for anyone to study.
04. Srila Prabhupda’s books inform people about the detailed laws of karmic reactions – the cause of suffering or joy.
Generally, people are bewildered about why there is so much suffering in this world. Why do bad things happen to good people or why do good things happen to bad people? Not understanding the stringent laws of karma, they lean towards atheism. How can an all-good, all-knowledgeable God allow all this suffering to go on without interfering? He could instantly put an end to all the miseries and evil in this world.
The present life is only one frame out of an entire film spool (reel) of material existence. People don’t see the whole picture, being ignorant of the reactions of past life’s activities that are about to strike or bless us in the present life. That of course does not mean we should justify violence committed to any living being by thinking that this is the karma of the victim. Perhaps it is, but perhaps it is not. Why does the Vedic injunction states, mä hiàsyät sarvä bhütäni: “Never commit violence to anyone”, if everything is karma? Human beings have a certain amount of freedom of choice. They can create new good or bad karma. The ksatriyas in Vedic society provide protection against violence. If everything would be simply karmic reactions, it would be against the laws of karma, if ksatriyas would interfere. The laws of karma are extremely complex and it requires to be educated about them by receiving accurate knowledge, historical stories and examples, to be able to understand karmic reactions in a proper way.
Since everybody is the subject of karmic reactions, it is in everyone’s own interest and for everyone’s own benefit to become aware of the laws of karma. It can potentially instantly change anyone’s life for the better by understanding the causes of suffering. Srila Prabhupada’s books provide this knowledge, not only related to how to avoid suffering reactions to one’s own deeds, but also how to become free from suffering reactions dating back to previous life’s existence altogether.
05. Srila Prabhupada’s books remind everyone that there is a higher, spiritual purpose in life.
It is natural that people are engaged and absorbed in their respective studies, occupations, life’s pas- sions, etc. Societies and social life existed since ancient times and will continue to exist. However, there is a higher purpose in life, which extends beyond our present life. The soul which temporarily occupies a particular body continues to exist when the body comes to an end. To educate ourselves about the identity and nature of the immortal self, the soul, is a higher purpose in life. Anything related to that which continues to exist is of a higher nature than anything related to that which ceases to exist.
näsato vidyate bhävo – näbhävo vidyate sataù ubhayor api dåñöo ‘ntas – tv anayos tattva-darçibhiù
“Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both.” (Bg., 2.16)
This fact is eternally true, independent from whether we might consider this to be important or not or whether we believe in it or not. Without contemplating on the topics concerning the soul, human life has not yet begun. As Srila Prabhupda so accurately phrased it, “A materialistic society void of atma- tattva is a soul-killing society. Srila Prabhupada’s books are changing the destiny of such a society into a soul-revival society.
06. Srila Prabhupada’s books provide the knowledge of everyone’s eternal, constitutional identity.
Identity crisis / diffusion – individuals struggling to “find themselves”. Youngsters experience it when everything rapidly changes, especially their look and outlook on life, in their puberty. In many people’s life it re-appears as midlife crisis when they begin to realize that they are slowly heading toward old age. Is it worth hanging on to things which are transitory, passing? What will happen after death? These thoughts lead to another kind of identity diffusion; which people naturally try to cope with in various ways. But the questions remain unanswered.
From the spiritual perspective every living being in this creation forgot his eternal identity. What is someone’s position, who doesn’t know who he is in a deeper sense?
What is your name? “I don’t know.” Where do you live? “I don’t know.”
What is your nationality? “I don’t know.” What is your occupation? “I don’t know.” Who are your parents? “I don’t know.”
Such a person is considered to be in a pathetic situation and most probably has to be submitted to a mental hospital. Srila Prabhupada wrote an article “Who is crazy?” as an answer to the charge against the devotees that they are crazy people.
In the BG. Lord Sri Krishna says, “My dear Arjuna, there are different classes of men. One class of men, they are sleeping. And another class of men, they are awake. They are not sleeping.” To read Srila Prabhupada’s books is the awakening process. tamasi mä jyotir gama – “Don’t remain in this darkness. Go to the light.” This call and other similar Vedic aphorisms are meant for everyone without any discrimination.
07. Srila Prabhupada’s books educate us in seeing the spiritual unity of all living beings.
People are longing for the unity of all people, for one human race. “We are all brothers and sisters” are slogans in songs and prayers. Especially in the 60’s this concept had been embraced – “No restrictions between man and women”. Human beings had been perceived as one broad family. But in time these ideals had been scattered apart by the cruel reality of material nature. The basis of that concept was rather shallow and so disappeared over the years.
The fundamental basis for the unity of not only human beings, but rather all living beings we find described in Srila Prabhupada’s books. The Bhagavad-Gita is the most essential scripture on atma- tattva, knowledge of the soul. The soul is of the same spiritual nature in whatever body it temporarily resides in.
vidyä-vinaya-sampanne – brähmaëe gavi hastini çuni caiva çva-päke ca – paëòitäù sama-darçinaù
“The sages, by their true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brähmaëa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Bg., 5.18)
sama-darçinaù—who see with equal vision
This equal vision we find throughout Srila Prabhupada’s books described in philosophy, stories, and culture, Vedic culture. The more people read Srila Prabhupada’s books, the more they begin to understand the central point, the pivot, of everyone’s existence.
08. Srila Prabhupada’s books inform us about our lost, eternal relationship with Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“If there is a cause of all causes, if there is a God, how am I related to it?” Any rational person wants to know this.
Probability and statistics merely tell us how things happen, but we learn nothing about the causes which lead to these events. In science “causality” has always been a fundamental notion.
It is not unusual to hear people suggest that time plus chance accomplished the evolution of simple or- ganisms into more complex entities. There is a logical error in such statements. There is no such thing as chance. Chance is not an entity which causes things to happen.
Tossing a coin example: The odds are 50/50. What we forget is that one flip of the coin involves a whole chain of causal factors. The weight of the coin, the shape of the coin, the upward impulse of the toss, air resistance, spin–the initial conditions–all interact on each toss of the coin. It is a mathematical conven- ience to say that the probability of heads is 50% and the probability of tails is 50%. Every individual toss of a coin is controlled by the laws of physics. There is no mechanism called “chance” determining the outcome of any toss of the coin.
Chance as a cause does not exist. Srila Prabhupada’s books explain in remarkable detail that Lord Krishna together with His various expansions and energies is the cause of everything.
09. Srila Prabhupada’s books contain the highest knowledge of the different relationships the eternal souls can have with Lord Krishna.
The general concept of a relationship with God is that it is a relationship in awe and fear. This is con- firmed in the Taittiréya Upaniñad (2.8):
bhéñäsmäd vätaù pavate – bhéñodeti süryaù bhéñäsmäd agniç candraç ca – måtyur dhävati païcamaù
“It is out of fear of the Supreme Brahman that the wind is blowing, out of fear of Him that the sun regularly rises and sets, and out of fear of Him that fire acts. It is only due to fear of Him that death and Indra, the King of heaven, perform their respective duties.”
We also find similar descriptions in other literatures. However, the living entities can have other rela- tionships with Lord Krishna, relationships of a more familiar nature, of friendship, all the way to a conjugal relationship.
Srila Prabhupada’s books inform everyone about their eternal relationship with Lord Krishna. The description of five main “rasas” and their sub divisions is unique. People cannot find this information in any other scripture or religious teachings. It stands on its own, waiting to be delivered to every human being on this planet.
10. Srila Prabhupada’s books teach us in how to combine harmoniously our worldly life and duties with spiritual activities, leading to eternal liberation, free from all suffering.
People often shy away from getting involved in anything religious or spiritual, because they think it is incompatible with their mundane engagements and family affairs. Picturing the life style of a monk or a nun, a yogi or a Buddhist monk, they rather consider a spiritual path as an option for perhaps later on in their lives, if at all.
However, spiritual life can be taken up at any time and to whatever degree comfortable for the practi- tioner. The progress, however minute it might appear, will never get lost. Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavd-gita, 2.40:
“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.”
It is not like a material goal, which has to be completed, if considered to be successful. And still the option always remains to be fully dedicated to the spiritual path at any time.
In the past great kings and people from all walks of life practiced spiritual life despite their full in- volvement in mundane activities. Srila Prabhupada’s books give an inside in how to harmoniously com- bine mundane activities with spiritual activities. One does not exclude the other.
Therefore, Srila Prabhupada’s book are meant for everyone without any discrimination. There should be no doubt about it.