Chicago Police Department Interview with Srila Prabhupada (1975)
In July 1975, Lieutenant David Mozee, media relations officer for the
Chicago Police Department met with Srila Prabhupada.
"The difference between a pious man and a criminal is that one is pure in heart and the other is dirty. This dirt is like a disease in the form of uncontrollable lust and greed... and thus crime is very widespread. When the people become purified of these dirty things, crime will disappear. The simplest process of purification is to assemble in congregation and chant the holy names of God... Then there will be no more crime... What is your definition of crime?"
Lieutenant Mozee: "Any trampling on the rights of one person by another person."
"Yes. Our definition is the same... Actually, the first crime is that you Americans are thinking this land of America is yours. Although two hundred years ago it was not yours, you have come from other parts of the world and claimed it as your land. Actually, it is God's land, and therefore it belongs to everyone since everyone is a child of God...
"The age we live in is called Kali-yuga, the age of forgetting God. It is an age of misunderstanding and quarrel, and the people's hearts are filled with dirty things. But God is so powerful that if we chant His holy name we become purified, just as my disciples have become purified..."
Lieutenant Mozee: "If I understand you correctly, sir, you are saying that we should emphasize a return to religious principles? Wouldn't peace be a precursor to a return to religion? Must we not first have peace?"
"No, no, that is the difficulty. At the present moment, no one actually knows the meaning of religion. Religion means to abide by the laws of God, just as good citizenship means to abide by the laws of the government... They are forgetting religion, taking it to be a kind of faith. Faith may be blind faith. Faith is not the real description of religion."
Lieutenant Mozee: "Sir, there is a Christian parable that says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to come before the throne of God. Do you think the wealth of the United States and other Western countries is a block to spiritual faith?"
"Yes. To much wealth is a block. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita 12.44... If one is materially very opulent, he forgets God. Therefore too much wealth is a disqualification for understanding God. Although there is no absolute law that only the poor man can understand God, generally, if one is extraordinarily rich, his only ambition is to acquire money, and it is difficult for him to understand spiritual teachings."
Lieutenant Mozee: "In America, those who belong to the Christian faith also believe these things. I don't see any vast differences between the spiritual beliefs of one religious group and another."
Srila Prabhupada: "Yes, the essence of all religion is the same..."
Lieutenant Mozee: "Would you want to start the program in an area of affluence or an area of poverty?"
"We do not draw such distinctions... Everyone needs to be purified. Do you think criminality exists only in the poorer sections of society? When a person is afflicted with a disease, there are no distinctions between a poor man and the rich man. They are both admitted to the same hospital... Since everyone is materially afflicted, everyone should be able to take advantage.
"The difficulty is that the rich man thinks he's perfectly healthy, although he's the most diseased of all. But as a policeman, you well know that there's criminality among rich men and poor men alike. So our chanting process is for everyone, because it cleanses the heart, regardless of the man's opulence or poverty. The only way to permanently change the criminal habit is to change the heart of the criminal.
"As you well know, many thieves are arrested numerous times and put into jail... Therefore, without cleansing the heart of the criminal, you cannot stop crime simply by more stringent law enforcement... So our process is to cleanse the heart. Then all the troubles of this material world will be solved."
Lieutenant Mozee: "There are many Christian organizations in the United States that give the holy communion. Why doesn't this work? Why is this not cleansing the heart?"
"To speak frankly, I find it difficult to find even one real Christian. The so-called Christians do not abide by the Bible's order. One of the Ten Commandments in the Bible is, 'Thou Shalt Not Kill.' But where is that Christian who does not kill -- eating the flesh of the cow? My disciples are trained to strictly follow religious principles, and therefore their chanting the holy name is different from others'. Theirs is not simply a rubber-stamped position. They have realized the purifying power of the holy name through practice."
Lieutenant Mozee: "Sir, isn't the difficulty that although a small circle of priests and devotees may follow the religious principles, those on the fringe deviate and cause trouble? For example, assume that the Hare Krishna movement grows to gigantic proportions, as Christianity has. Wouldn't you then have a problem with people on the fringe of the movement who professed to be followers but were actually not?"
"That possibility is always there, but all I am saying is that if you are not a true Christian, then your preaching will not be effective. And because we are strictly following religious principles, our preaching will be effective in spreading God consciousness and alleviating the problem of crime."
Lieutenant Mozee: "Sir, let me thank you for your time. I will deliver this tape recording to my superiors. Hopefully, it will be effective, as you are effective."
Srila Prabhupada: "Thank you very much."
In his 2004 book, Holy Cow: the Hare Krishna Contribution to Vegetarianism and Animal Rights, author Steven Rosen (Satyaraja dasa) explains the philosophy and history of our sankirtan ("God-praise") movement to nondevotees. He begins by quoting Srila Prabhupada as saying, "Real philosophy is nothing more than this: ‘friendliness to all living entities.'"
Rosen explains that devotees do not artificially renounce the material world, but rather engage it in Lord Krishna's service. Offering one's food to Krishna is a standard Vaishnava observance, which Rosen favorably compares to the Eucharist in Christianity -- sacramental food.
This is an accurate analogy. Madhavendra Puri dasa (Steve Bernath) of the Bhaktivedanta Institute reports that in 1986, when devotees in San Diego, CA held a Jewish-Vaishnava interfaith conference, none of the rabbis present would take prasadam -- because it was considered food offered to idols. On the other hand, Catholic clergy have defended devotees against charges of idolatry from Christian fundamentalists, and some of them have even compared prasadam favorably to the Eucharist.