Gradually guests began to arrive for the evening darsana. Parivrajakacarya Swami brought a friend, Ali, who described himself as a Sufi dervish. He was an intelligent and well-spoken man, fluent in English and with a deep interest in spiritual life. Parivrajakacarya Maharaja told Prabhupada that he has translated a pamphlet for us, on vegetarianism.
Srila Prabhupada took that as a good lead, telling Ali that his mission was not to make people vegetarian. That would automatically come about. The purpose of the movement, he said, was to help people develop love of Godhead. And unless people know God, he asked, where is the question of love? Stating that love means "direct contact," he said that people talk of love of God, but because they do not know who or what is God, their talk has no practical value.
He asked his guest for a definition of love, but Ali could give no clear understanding.
When Parivrajakacarya offered to give an explanation of bhakti, Srila Prabhupada told him, "No, you bring another word. But explain it, what is love. In Vedic language you get every definition. Love means two persons, both of them, beloved and the lover. Is it not? The first condition of love means there must be two persons. What do you think? There must be two persons when there is question of love."
"Yes, it's a reciprocation," I observed.
"Ah," Prabhupada said in agreement. "Otherwise where is love? What is this? Unless there are two persons, where is the question of love? Try to understand one step by step."
He quoted from Sri Upadesamrita, describing the different kinds of loving reciprocation delineated by Srila Rupa Gosvami: "Giving something, taking something, feeding something and to eat something, and speaking everything, no secrecy, and to know everything of the other person. When these things are transacted, then there is love. So if you want to love Krishna, God, then these things must be there. Otherwise, where there is question of love? To appreciate God is great, that is not love, that is simply appreciation. But when we actually give everything to God and take everything from Him, you talk with Him of your mind, He talks with you. You give Him to eat, and whatever He gives, you eat. In this way there is question of love. Simply appreciation of the greatness of God, that is good, in God consciousness, but that is not love. The love stage is different."
Ali asked how one could understand God's love, and Prabhupada brought it to an even more practical platform. "This is the process, I've described. We have got Deity of the Lord, we offer foodstuff prepared very nicely, and whatever leftover is there, we eat. We dress very nicely with flowers, with ornaments; we give Him a nice place to sit down, to sleep. He also looks after our comfort. In this way, exchange of love."
A long and interesting conversation ensued with Ali asking good questions about how one understands God and how one makes spiritual progress, and Srila Prabhupada supplying the kind of deep insights only a master practitioner could know. The main qualification required, Srila Prabhupada said, was that one must be eager to know God more and more intimately. By practical action the imperfect material senses become purified, and when they are fully spiritualized then the reciprocal exchanges can take place. In order to take up practical action one needs proper training and therefore acceptance of a spiritual master is mandatory.
He gave an example. "Just like if you want to be an engineer, you must be trained under some engineer. Similarly, if you want to be trained up spiritually, then you must accept a spiritual master. Tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: must, otherwise not possible. Training. So spiritual master trains with these books, and explanation, practical demonstration. In this way the student makes progress spiritually."
He elaborately described the difference between the body and soul, repeatedly stressing the need to be practical. Simply talking of God, he told Ali, was not enough. It was like swimming? one can learn the theory, but when you get in the water you actually have to do it. "We are talking of God, but instead of loving God, we are loving this body. So that is not practical. That is simply waste of time, srama eva hi kevalam. If one does not become enthused to love God, then simply talking about God is a waste of time. That is going on all over the world. Somebody's Hindu, somebody's Christian, somebody's Muhammadan. They are going to the church, they are going to mosque, they are going to temple, everything is going on, but when you ask whether you love God or dog, he'll say, 'I love dog.' Practically we see. Everyone is keeping a dog, very favorite pet. And in church, they'll talk of God, but practically they love the dog. Is it not? This is going on, in the name of religion, that's all. Therefore Bhagavata says it is simply waste of time."
He gave another graphic example illustrating the mentality of those who approach God for material things such as a car, wife, house or some money. "Just like a vulture. The vulture goes very, very high, four miles high, five miles. But his business is to find out where there is a corpse." He raised his hand in the air. "Very highly elevated, but business is to find out a dead body. And as soon as he finds it ..." He brought his hand sweeping down. "So this is going on. Very religious, very regularly performing religious ceremonies, rituals, but the business is where is a corpse. 'Come on, here is some sense gratification.' This is going on. If you are talking of God, then you must love God. That is progress. But there is no love of God, there is love of something else, so what is the use of talking about?"
Ali touched upon some of the dervish concepts and practices. He referred to what he called "internal dialogue" and while asking Srila Prabhupada what its purpose was, he simultaneously gave his own definition. "Internal dialogue, we talk to ourselves all the time, we can't be silent."
"You talk with whom?" Prabhupada asked. "There must be second person. When you talk, you are one person, and another person must be there. Who is that other person? With whom you talk?"
"With the self," Ali said.
"Then you are lunatic," Prabhupada frankly told him. "Just like a lunatic, he talks alone."
Ali tried to clarify what he meant. "No, this is silent talk, like the mind, you can't stop."
But Srila Prabhupada understood the process more than he did. "No, the idea is when you talk of talking, there must be two. So self, then you have to admit the self becomes two, otherwise there is no talking. This is good: that one is Superself, another is subordinate self. So when the subordinate self is able to talk with the Superself, then he gets right direction, his life is very successful."
"Is the Superself a spirit?" Ali asked, intrigued.
"Yes," Prabhupada told him. "When you say self, it is spirit. Spirit, the Supreme Spirit, and the subordinate spirit. The Supreme Being and the subordinate being. That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita."
I already had the Gita in hand and quickly turned the pages to verse 15.15 as Prabhupada asked, "You find out this verse: sarvasya caham hridi sannivishto."
On his indication I read out the verse and purport, and Prabhupada added that Veda meant the book of knowledge. "So any book of knowledge which gives you direction how to understand God and how to love Him, that is perfect."
Ali listened attentively, appreciating what he heard. At the end he said, "But this knowledge cannot be attained unless we are aware of the spiritual."
"Yes," Prabhupada said. "Any knowledge you have to acquire, either from the Supersoul within your self or His representative outside. You have to learn it."
"Why have we chosen this?" Ali said, meaning the external form of religion. "This seems so irrelevant ..."
Srila Prabhupada assured him that even the rituals, if carried out for the purpose of attaining actual love of God, were good. "They are accepting there is God. That much is good. But when he makes further progress, that there is God, what kind of person He is, what is His business, then you make further progress. So for the neophyte, these ritualistic formula is good, but he must make further progress. Instead of godlessness, these processes are better. Let him go to the mosque, let him go to the temple, let him go to the church. At least, let him maintain the idea of God. That is the ritualistic. Then there is further progress. One must be interested. But people are losing interest even in the neophyte stage. They're becoming godless. That is going on. So that is very dangerous. Instead of becoming godless, if somebody approaches God, it doesn't matter in some way, some ritual, it is better than this atheist class of men. At least they are accepting God. And if they offer prayers sincerely, God is there within your heart, He'll gradually reveal. The more you become purified, the more He reveals. Then He'll talk with you. So everything depends on the sincerity and seriousness. And if we take these ritualistic ceremonies, 'Now I've gone to church or mosque, I have gone to temple, finish. Now let me do whatever I like.' Then that is waste of time, srama eva hi kevalam."
Their discussion had gone on for almost two hours.
Bringing it to a close, Srila Prabhupada stressed the common platform of spiritual attainment. "So simply try to understand God. And that is possible simply by chanting the holy name of God. Very easy, it doesn't matter either you are Iranian or Indian, chant the holy name of God. I think there should not be any objection for this movement. What do you think? We are simply pleading, 'My dear sir, please chant the holy name of God.' Who will have any objection? Nobody will have any. Do it, there is no confusion. If you are confused, chant the holy name of God, you'll be out of confusion. Tell them like that. Everyone should join with us and preach this cult. This is not a cult, this is a science, that you chant the holy name of God, that's all."
Just after 9 p.m. the conversation was winding down when Atreya Rishi walked in. He was jubilant. He informed Prabhupada that after a year of fruitless searching he had just successfully negotiated the purchase of a new building. He invited Prabhupada to inspect it. "It is both a nice location and a nice small house. We can also get a bigger one nearby and a bigger one. We can take the whole city!"
Prabhupada laughed at his enthusiasm and agreed to visit. Atreya Rishi suggested they wait until Thursday, two days hence, in order to avoid the heavy congestion of city traffic. Just before resting this evening Srila Prabhupada ate some puffed rice prepared by Nandarani. He likes his puffed rice lightly fried in a little ghee, with salt and pepper added.