Room Conversation with Allen Ginsberg
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
May 14, 1969, Columbus, Ohio
Prabhupada: …six or seven years old, my father was worshiping, so I wanted to imitate. I asked him that “Give me Deity.” So he gave me.
Allen Ginsberg: Did you wash them and play with them?
Prabhupada: Yes. Washed, changed dress.
Allen Ginsberg: Fed them.
Prabhupada: Yes, everything.
Allen Ginsberg: Do you still? Do you still wash them and feed them and play with them?
Prabhupada: Yes. Now my disciples I have… (laughs) At home I was doing that.
Allen Ginsberg: What are you reading?
Prabhupada: Srimad-Bhagavatam. This is original Sanskrit. There are eight commentaries by big, big stalwart scholars.
Allen Ginsberg: These are the commentaries? And this is the text?
Prabhupada: This is text.
Allen Ginsberg: What does the Sanskrit sound like? Is Srimad-Bhagavatam to be chanted?
Prabhupada: Yes. Just like… I will read some portion. (chants a few verses, “tasmai tubhyam bhagavate vasudevaya vedasi” to “vasudevaya santaya yadunam pataye namah”) Like this.
Allen Ginsberg: It’s certainly beautiful prosody.
Prabhupada: Oh, yes. Oh, the Sanskrit poetry writing is very difficult. They have got rhetoric system. So many words should be first, so many words, second. You cannot deviate.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes.
Prabhupada: Then the analogy and metaphor should be like that. Nothing should be twice repeated. So there is Sahitya-ratna in Sanskrit, Sahitya-ratna. Caitanya Mahaprabhu defeated one great scholar simply by little mistake. Yes. Kesava Kasmiri. Kesava Kasmiri was great scholar, and Sanskrit great scholar means he must fluently speak in Sanskrit verses everything.
Allen Ginsberg: Everything he says must be done in perfect Sanskrit verses?
Prabhupada: Oh, that is… Yes. That is Sanskrit scholar. Not in prose. He’ll go on composing verses. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu at that time was sixteen years old boy, but He was very learned logician. So the Kesava Kasmiri, he was traveling all over India by, I mean to say, competing other panditas, other learned scholars. So he, everywhere he was victorious. So he came to Navadvipa. And in those days Navadvipa and Benares and Udipi and Kashmir, four, five places, were very scholarly.
Allen Ginsberg: I have been to Birbhum.
Allen Ginsberg: I’ve been through Birbhum, yes. Navadvipa also.
Prabhupada: So when he came to Navadvipa, that was the… In all other places he was victorious. So all the Navadvipa panditas, they conferred that “Nimai Pandita should be forwarded to talk with him. And if he is defeated by Nimai Pandita, then we’ll become victorious because a boy has defeated him. But if Nimai Pandita becomes defeated, then we’ll get another chance: ‘No, you have defeated boy. Let us come.’ ” In this way they make. So Kesava Kasmiri was informed that first of all he’ll have to talk with Nimai Pandita. So one day Nimai Pandita, boy Nimai Pandita, was talking with his disciples, students. And Kesava Kasmiri was strolling on the Ganges side. So he heard that this boy is Nimai Pandita. “Oh, I will have to talk with Him? He is a boy.” So he went there, and when He was acquainted that Kesava Kasmiri…, “Oh, please come down, sit.” So Nimai Pandita said that “I have heard that you are so learned scholar. Now we are on the Ganges side. You can chant the glorification of mother Ganges. She may hear and enjoy.” So he was very learned scholar. Immediately he composed hundred verses, one hundred. And fluent, very fluently he went on. Then, out of that one hundred verses, in the sixty-fourth verse there was some poetic discrepancies. The word was bhavani-bharta. Bhavani means the wife of Bhava. Lord Siva is called Bhava. Lord Brahma is called Aja, and Lord Siva is called Bhava. Bhava means “from whom everything is born.” Lord Siva is the father of this Bhava. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu said that “In the sixty-fourth verse you have stated, bhavani-bharta. Bhavani means the husband of… Bhavani means the wife of Bhava, Lord Siva. So it is known that she has husband. Then why you say bharta, again ‘husband’?” He was learned scholar. He could understand, “Yes.” Dvir-ukti-dosa. This is called dvir-ukti-dosa, repeating twice one thing. Dvir-ukti-dosa. That is dosa. Dosa means fault.
Allen Ginsberg: Means?
Prabhupada: Dosa. In Sanskrit word it is called dvir-ukti-dosa. Dvi means two. Rukti means utterance. And dosa means fault.
Allen Ginsberg: Fault. Yes.
Prabhupada: Fault. Yes. So dvir-ukti-dosa. So he was conscious. Then he said, “Well, I understand that you are a student of grammar. How do you detect this, this literary discrepancies?” “No. I am student. I am your student. I do not pose. I am not scholar, but I have heard this is told like that. From other scholars I have heard.” “How could You remember? I cited one hundred verses and how do You remember the sixty-fourth verses?” “Oh, I can repeat the whole verses.”
Allen Ginsberg: (laughs) Uh huh.
Prabhupada: “How is that, that you can repeat? How is that?” “Oh, that is grace of mother Sarasvati. Just like you can compose a hundred verses within a few minutes, I can, whatever you say, I can remember immediately.” Formerly that was the system of understanding Vedas, sruti, simply by hearing. Once they hear from the spiritual master, they will remember. The memory was so sharp. Therefore this brahmacari system is so nice. They can enhance their memorizing power, brahmacari.
Allen Ginsberg: Did Caitanya, did Lord Caitanya worship Sarasvati? No.
Prabhupada: No. He was Vaisnava. But every demigod is worshiped. It is not that one should neglect…
Allen Ginsberg: Oh, respect. He respected.
Allen Ginsberg: I know one mantra in Bengali to Sarasvati. Jaya jaya devi jaya jara sari, kuchuku visori mukta vihari vira nandita pulake vihati bhagavati… (?) (etc)
Prabhupada: Oh. Yes. Sarasvati-stotra, yes. Students are supposed to offer stotras, students specially.
Allen Ginsberg: So that’s a mantra for students, for Sarasvati.
Prabhupada: Yes. Vidya, the goddess of learning, Sarasvati. In our childhood we used to worship Sarasvati: “Please, mother, give me pass this examination.” That was our prayer. So other students, they laughed very loudly. They thought that “Caitanya has come out very victorious within a second.” He said, “No. Stop.” Then He stopped all these talkings, and… “So you are so… I have to talk with you. You are very learned.” Ordinary formalities. Then he went away. And he was also great worshiper of mother Sarasvati. Then he began to pray to Sarasvati, “Mother Sarasvati, by your grace I have become victorious in so many places. And what is this, that I am defeated by a boy who is a grammar student?” So he began to pray, and mother Sarasvati informed her (him) that “He is God, my husband. So you speak means I speak. So how can I defeat my husband? That is not…” (knock at door) Come on. Come on. (someone enters) Yes, come. Yes. You can put there. (someone offers obeisances) Put there. All right. Put there. That’s all. Very good. So then he further did not attempt to talk with Him. He went away, and the mother Sarasvati advised him that “You surrender unto Him. That will be your nice role. Yes.” So later on, he became a great devotee of Lord Caitanya, Kesava Kasmiri.
Allen Ginsberg: Kesav…
Prabhupada: Kesava Kasmiri.
Allen Ginsberg: Kesava Kasmiri, “Kesava from Kashmir.”
Prabhupada: Yes. His name was Pandita Kesava, and because he belonged to Kasmir province. He was Nimbarka-sampradaya Vaisnava. There are four sampradayas. The Vaisnava devotees, they are coming one from Lord Brahma, and one from Laksmi. They are called Sri-sampradaya. And those who are coming from Brahma, they are called Brahma-sampra… And one from Lord Siva. Lord Siva is also great devotee. Out of twelve great authorities, Lord Siva is one. Lord Siva, Lord Brahma, and Narada. Svayambhur naradah sambhuh [SB 6.3.20]. Svayambhuh means Lord Brahma.
Allen Ginsberg: Ah, Sambhu.
Prabhupada: Svayambhuh. Svayambhuh means “self-born.”
Allen Ginsberg: Self?
Prabhupada: “Self-born.” He is not born of ordinary mother and father. There was a lotus from the Visnu, and in that lotus he was born. Therefore he is called Svayambhuh, “self-born.”
Allen Ginsberg: I knew a Naga sadhu in Menakanika Ghata named Sambhu-bhakti Baba.
Prabhupada: Sambhu is another name of Lord Siva, Sambhu. Svayambhur naradah sambhuh [SB 6.3.20]. He is called Svayambhuh, and Siva is called Sambhu. Vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh. Svayambhur naradah sambhuh kumarah kapilo manuh [SB 6.3.20]. Kumarah. There is a sampradaya from Kumara, four Kumaras, brahmacaris. They were sons of Brahma. When they were born, Lord Brahma said that “You now make, marry and produce. We want population.” In the creation, in the beginning. So they refused. “Oh, we are not going to marry. We shall remain brahmacari, devotee.” Then Lord Brahma was angry. “Oh, you are refusing your father’s order?” So from when he was angry, his eyes became red. From that, Siva was born. Therefore his name is Rudra. Rudra means anger. So when Lord Siva becomes angry, the whole thing is finished.
Allen Ginsberg: Yes.
Prabhupada: (laughs) Svayambhur naradah sambhuh kumarah kapilah [SB 6.3.20]. Kapila, Lord Kapila, the propounder of Sankhya philosophy, he is also accepted as incarnation of God, Kapila. And Manu. Manu, father of mankind, who has given the Manu-samhita, lawbook. In that law it is stated, na striyam svatantratam arhati: “Woman does not deserve independence.” Manu has given this. Yes. This is Manu-smrti. So Vedic culture means to follow the regulative principle.
Allen Ginsberg: So from Manu to Kesava Kasmiri is…
Prabhupada: No, no. I am speaking the original authorities. So this Kumara-sampradaya, he belonged, this Kesava Kasmiri, Kumara-sampradaya. Now they are known as Ramanuja, Madhvacarya, Visnusvami, and Nimbarka. You have been in Vrndavana. You have seen the temple of Bankibihari?
Allen Ginsberg: No. I don’t remember. I didn’t know the names of the places I saw.
Prabhupada: But you have seen the temples?
Allen Ginsberg: Yeah, I went through all the temples I could find. But I didn’t know enough to know what stories were associated with the temples or what were the names.
Prabhupada: Oh, yes. No, worship is the same, Radha-Krsna. Only Ramanuja-sampradaya, they worship Laksmi-Narayana because it is sampradaya from Laksmi, so they worship…
Allen Ginsberg: Narayana is another name for Siva?
Prabhupada: No. Narayana is Visnu. That is Krsna’s expansion.
Allen Ginsberg: According to Caitanya, Visnu is an expansion of…
Prabhupada: Of Krsna.
Allen Ginsberg: Of Krsna.
Prabhupada: Yes. Ramadi-murtisu… In the Brahma-samhita it is stated. Ramadi-murttisu kala niyamena tisthan nanavataran akarod bhuvanesu kintu, krsnah svayam. Krsnah svayam. Svayam means the Supreme Person. Samabhavat paramah puman yo. Parama means the Supreme; puman means the purusa, the male. God is male. God is not female. The conception of female God, that is not authorized. Paramah puman yo. So female is prakrti, nature. Parasya saktir vividhaiva… Sakti. So He has got many energies. The whole thing is manifested by energy, multi-energies. Visnu-saktih para prokta [Cc. Madhya 6.154]. Visnu, the energy of Visnu, is transcendental, spiritual. Ksetrajnakhya tatha para. As also this ksetrajna-sakti, marginal potency, that is also transcendental, that is living entities. They are also transcendental. They are not material. Avidya-karma-sanga anya trtiya-saktir isyate. Another sakti, another energy, is there. That is avidya, darkness. This is material energy. So living entity is originally spiritual, transcendental, as good as Krsna’s personal energy. But now they are covered by this material energy.
Allen Ginsberg: How did the material covering begin?
Allen Ginsberg: As the material shadow. How did we fall into that?
Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. That is very natural. Just like… (knock on door) Come on. Because jiva, although para sakti, he has got independence. So when he wants to imitate Krsna… In the spiritual world Krsna is the enjoyer, and all others, they are enjoyed. Predominator and the predominating. The Lord is the predominating, so there is no disagreement. There they know, “The Lord is predominator. We have to serve.” When this service attitude is impaired, that “Why serve Krsna? Why not ourself?” that is maya. Then he falls down in the material energy. There is no scope… Just like in the government system, there is no scope of freedom. You have to act according to government state laws. So long you are agreement, then you are free. If you disagree, then you are placed within the prison house. Similarly, jiva, independent, not fully independent, but they have got. Because part and part of God, therefore that independence quality is there. So when that independence quality is misused, then his place is in the material world. Krsna bhuliya jiva bhoga vancha kare. When we forget Krsna and try to lord it over something… And Krsna is the Supreme Lord. When we try to imitate His lordship, then our place is in the material world. We are given freedom, “All right, you lord it over here.” So here every living entity is trying to lord it over, competition. I am trying individualwise, nationwise. Everyone is trying to lord it over. That is material existence. And when he comes to his senses, jnanavan, that “I am falsely trying to lord it over. Rather, I am becoming implicated with material energy,” when he comes to that, then he surrenders. Then again his liberated life begins. That is the whole process of spiritual life. Therefore Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66]. Don’t manufacture ways and means, falsely trying to lord it over. That will… You’ll not be happy because you cannot lord it over the material nature. It is impossible. If we try to violate the government laws, is it possible for me? No. If I am to live as a citizen, it is not possible for me. Then I’ll implicate more and more. This is crude example. Similarly, we are part and parcel of the Supreme. Just like there is a story, Udarendriyanam. Hitopadesa. You heard the name of Hitopadesa?
Allen Ginsberg: No.
Prabhupada: Visnu-saha…(?) From Hitopadesa, they say, Aesop’s Fables was translated. Aesop’s Fables. There are stories like that. One dog is speaking to another monkey, monkey is… Like that. Hitopadesa.
Allen Ginsberg: Jataka Tales. I know in the Buddhist, Jataka Tales.
Prabhupada: So there is a story, Udarendriyanam. Udara means this belly, and indriya, the senses, hands, legs, means. So all these senses, they conferred that “We are working day and night, and this rascal is eating simply. So we shall noncooperate. We shall not work.” That’s all right. Resolution was passed. So they stopped working. And next meeting they saw that “We are becoming weak. Why?”
Allen Ginsberg: The hand wasn’t bringing food to the mouth.
Prabhupada: Then they come to their senses. “Oh, we have to feed this rascal belly. Otherwise we become weak.” Similarly… What is this position? These hands and legs are parts anbd parcels of the whole. Similarly, the whole Brahman, Absolute, we are all parts and parcels. So we shall cooperate in satisfying Him. Then automatically we become satisfied. If we noncooperate, then we suffer.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, if you call Brahma the Absolute, how do you make a distinction between Brahma and Krsna?
Prabhupada: That I explained the other day, that the sunshine, the sun globe, and the sun-god.
Allen Ginsberg: Ah, yes.
Prabhupada: Apparently the sunshine appears to be very, very big, but it is concentrated in sun globe. And when you enter the sun globe, it is concentrated in sun-god.
Allen Ginsberg: Where is the origin of this image of the sun? Where is the origin of this image of the sun? Is this a Vedic sastric explanation?
Prabhupada: Yes. There is sastric information. He is incarnation of Narayana, Surya-narayana. He is powerful. He is driving in four horses. He has got chariot of four horses and very powerful. Yac caksur esa savita. Savita, his name is Savita. The Gayatri mantra is om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi. That is worshiping the sun-god.
Allen Ginsberg: Do you use Gayatri mantra also?
Allen Ginsberg: I know some of it. Om bhur…
Prabhupada: Yes. Om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat. This Gayatri, this is called.
Allen Ginsberg: In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, “Among poetic meters, I am Gayatri.”
Prabhupada: Yes. Gayatri is the origin of Vedic knowledge. Without Gayatri, nobody is accepted as competent to study. That is the beginning, spiritual master, dvija, second birth. First birth by the father and mother, second birth by the spiritual master, father, and mother, Gayatri.
Allen Ginsberg: Do you teach Gayatri mantra to your disciples also?
Prabhupada: Yes. Not in the beginning. When they are little advanced.
Syama dasi: Prabhupada, can you tell me what you want for prasadam today?
Prabhupada: Yes. The same.
Syama dasi: Eggplant or string beans?
Prabhupada: Whatever you like. You give me four capatis, little rice, and little vegetable. That’s all. Don’t put much butter, ghee. Yes.
Syama dasi: Hare Krsna.
Prabhupada: (laughs) Old age, we cannot now digest too much butter. That creates air. Although at night I don’t take anything. Once I eat. And in the morning I take little fruits. That’s all.
Hayagriva: Mr. Ginsberg was telling me downstairs that the President is going to come to Ohio State.
Allen Ginsberg: Nixon.
Hayagriva: Nixon? President Nixon?
Allen Ginsberg: In one month for the graduation.
Hayagriva: He told the students to chant…
Allen Ginsberg: Hare Krsna to Nixon.
Prabhupada: Very nice.
Hayagriva: So that he would hear it when he was coming by.
Prabhupada: Very good.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, I’ll tell you my feeling was is I was thinking about it from a lot of different angles. I was thinking about it from a lot of different viewpoints. One is that there is a lot of resentment of the President and of the government here from the young people who are going to be sent to war or who don’t like the war. There is likely to be conflict here when the President comes. One reason this place was picked for the President to come was that it is relatively…, many, many police around here, this part, police state, very heavy, so that it would be dangerous to show aggression and to show real conflict. But there is all that energy that wants to express itself, and basically peaceful energy. So what I suggested was that they greet him by chanting Hare Krsna as a way of manifesting…
Prabhupada: Very good. Very good suggestion. Yes.
Allen Ginsberg: I think it will make sense, because now there are a lot of students who know the Hare Krsna mantra. So they might do it.
Prabhupada: Yes. When he is coming?
Allen Ginsberg: One month from now. May, or is it June?
Allen Ginsberg: Commencement. The graduation.
Prabhupada: In some lecture he said that “I want to meet some religious heads.” And so one of my girl students in San Francisco, she is very educated. She wrote one letter to Nixon. And I have got the copy, that “Swamiji is spreading this Krsna consciousness movement. It is being appreciated by the younger section. So Swamiji will be glad to see you if you make some appointment.” But he never replied.
Allen Ginsberg: Well, this university he chose because it’s supposed to be typical of America. So if in this typical university the young people greet him by chanting Hare Krsna, then he may well invite you.
Prabhupada: (laughs) No. I came here with this idea, that in America they are in need of these things, and they are wanting something substantial. So if some is given… Of course, I am doing my bit as far as possible. But if some organized things are done like government help or people help, then this movement can be pushed further nicely. Otherwise slowly it will go on, as Krsna desires.
Hayagriva: Mr. Ginsberg said he also chanted Hare Krsna for Robert Kennedy before he died.
Allen Ginsberg: I think I told you about that, didn’t I?
Prabhupada: Yes. You told me in San Francisco. Yes.
Allen Ginsberg: So he heard two rounds of it. Okay. I have to take a plane today to a Catholic college in New York State. I’ll be going back to New York at one o’clock, so I have to go back and pack and say good-bye to the students. It was a pleasure to see you here, lovely. So maybe we’ll do it again in New York.
Allen Ginsberg: I’ll call. Thank you for your words and thank you for letting me join you.
Prabhupada: My… You are already chanting. But if we do together, it will be very nice.
Allen Ginsberg: So let’s do something together in New York City this summer. I’m free all summer, so it’s at your convenience this time ’cause I’ll be free. I don’t have any dates or appointments. So if you just let me know maybe two weeks or somebody let me know a few weeks in advance, then I can come down from the farm, spend a day with you and then we chant. I’d be happy to do that. Hare Krsna. Hare Krsna.
Prabhupada: Yes. Give him that garland. (end)