by Kurma dasa

(Vaiñëava Society Vol. 16)

Melbourne, July 2, 1974: Dr. Roy Muncing and Dr. Brian Harrap worked for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). Dr. Harrap was officer-in-charge of the Dairy Research Laboratories at the organization’s Division of Food Processing.

The men had come with some prepared questions. They first wanted to know how Çréla Prabhupäda related his strong interest in dairy products to modern thinking on cholesterol. Dr. Harrap wondered whether Çréla Prabhupäda was disturbed about such views. Prabhupäda looked to Satsvarüpa Goswami for clarification. Satsvarüpa pointed out to Prabhupäda that there were modern theories that milk was actually harmful.

Prabhupäda was incredulous. “Milk is harmful? How is it harmful? If it is harmful, why are you giving milk to children?”

Dr. Harrap explained that there were differences between cow’s milk, which had a very low proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids—only about 2 per cent—and human milk, which contained a much higher level—10 to 12 per cent polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Prabhupäda was not about to change his views. “But I think there was a book, Miracles of Milk, written by an American. He has greatly valued milk and milk products. Similarly, we Indians, we give very, very much importance to milk and milk products.”

Dr. Harrap agreed, but continued to describe how, in recent years, there had been shown to be a relationship between the cholesterol level and the ratio between saturated and polyunsaturated fat in the diet: the lower the level of polyunsaturated fat, the higher the level of cholesterol in the blood. This, he explained, had been associated with heart disease. As a result there had been quite a move amongst many medical practitioners to prescribe diets that  were low in saturated fats.

“Still,” Prabhupäda explained, “milk is very important.” He cited that Kåñëa Himself recommended cow protection. “We are following the leadership of Kåñëa. Kåñëa was so fond of cows, cows’ milk, cows’ butter, that he was stealing butter.”

Prabhupäda pointed to the painting of this pastime on the wall. Formerly, Prabhupäda explained, saintly persons used to live in the forest and their sustenance was fruits and milk. “They used to keep cows and draw milk from them, as well as whatever fruits were available in the forest, and they have given us these literatures.”

Indicating the volume of Çrémad-Bhägavatam on his desk, Prabhupäda continued: “Vyäsadeva has written Mahäbhärata, one hundred thousand verses, and similarly, this Çrémad-Bhägavatam, he has given us eighteen thousand verses. And each verse is full of so much grave meaning, that if you study, it will take months and months together. So they developed such nice brains simply by drinking milk and eating fruits.”

Dr. Muncing, however, wanted to change the subject. He wanted to know whether, and if so, how, Australia should help Asia advance in material comforts, and what Australia could imbibe from Asia in regards to science, as well as general living. Çréla Prabhupäda answered that as far as he had studied, Australia and also America and Africa, possessed immense uncultivated land. Çréla Prabhupäda suggested that some of the vast population of China and India should be allowed to come to Australia and produce food grains. Çréla Prabhupäda had Cäru read Bhagavad-gétä concerning the importance of food grains:

“All living beings subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by the performance of yajna, sacrifice, and yajna is born of prescribed duties.”

This was the cycle, Prabhupäda said. “We should produce immense food grains, both for animals and for men. There should be co-operation. Just like the cow and bull. The bull helps, ploughing. That is the original system. Now they have invented tractors, and the bulls are being killed. Why should they be killed? Engage them in tilling the field. They will have an occupation. And the men also will have an occupation. There is immense land. So there will be no question of unemployment.” Machinery, Prabhupäda pointed out, takes away the labour opportunities from hundreds of men, so that they become unemployed. This unemployment, Prabhupäda pointed out, meant “devil’s workshop”.

Dr. Muncing frankly expressed that this didn’t seem like a practical idea. It was his impression, he explained, that most Australian land suitable for tilling and growing grains has already been used, and that there were vast areas of the country that had very little rain, or if they had rain at all, it would come very intermittently. Dr. Harrap added that an attempt to grow grain in large areas of Australia would, according to his opinion, significantly damage the ecology; and this, he suspected, would not be acceptable, according to the devotees’ way of thinking. At least, he said, this was what he’d understood from his reading of one of Çréla Prabhupäda’s books.

After more discussion back and forth, Çréla Prabhupäda brought the conversation around to the subject of inherent spiritual identity. In modern society, Prabhupäda pointed out, people were giving more stress to the body than to the active principle, the soul.

“When the spirit soul goes away, then where is the distinction? Suppose in hospital some Hindu dies or some Muslim dies, some Christian dies … They are stacked together as useless matter. Is it not? There is no distinction there now, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, white, black … As soon as the soul is gone the body is useless, but people are giving more stress on the body than on the active principle, the living force that is there. There is no study.”

Çréla Prabhupäda asked the scientists what they were studying about the living force within the body. Dr. Muncing seemed to accept Çréla Prabhupäda’s point that the spirit leaves the body at death, but he felt that Çréla Prabhupäda was promoting the idea that one should neglect the body.

Prabhupäda clarified his point. “No, we don’t say neglect the body … But in the modern age they are giving more stress on the unimportant thing, and they have no knowledge of the important thing. This is the defect.”

Dr. Muncing disagreed. Science, he argued, could offer a great contribution to the community. “With respect, sir, I notice you wear a watch. This must be obviously a product of science, and this is what it’s about.”

Çréla Prabhupäda was not impressed. “Just like formerly there was no watch, but still they used to keep time by the movement of the sun on a dial, just making some marks on the stone. So their work was going on; their work was not suffering for want of this watch.

“If instead of utilising the brain to know what is the active principle of this whole universe, we utilise that brain for manufacturing a watch, that is not a very good proposal. You manufacture watch, but at the same time you try to study the active principle—the watchmaker. I am seeing the watch with the eyes, but as soon as the active principle is gone, no more seeing. Where is that science?”

Prabhupäda gave a graphic example: “A watchmaker is making, screw driving, and doing so many things. All of a sudden his heart fails. No more watch. What is that active principle? Where is that science? That is my proposition.”

Çréla Prabhupäda expertly brought the conversation around to a scientific discussion on God. “Therefore, first of all, we stress the creative faculty, that the watchmaker is doing nice work, but who has made that watchmaker? Who is that creative faculty? You are a scientist, you have a good brain, but you cannot manufacture the brain. Who has manufactured your brain?”

Prabhupäda made a bold challenge: “If you are a scientist, you create a similar brain like yours. That you cannot do. But somebody has created your brain. And who is that person? Professor Einstein, big scientist, but he could not create another Professor Einstein so that after his death the work could continue. That is not in your hands. You cannot create another similar brain. That is not possible. But if you are surprised with the mechanical arrangement of the small watch, why you should not study the mechanical arrangement of the great scientist.

“But as the mechanical arrangement of the watch is made by some brain, similarly your brain, or Professor Einstein’s brain, is also made by another scientist. And who is that scientist? We are glorifying the brain of the scientists, but we are not glorifying the scientist who has made the brain of the scientist.”

Dr Muncing declined to comment on the challenge, giving the excuse that he had brought a tape recorder along and was recording the conversation. At this point, the doctors presented Çréla Prabhupäda with a new variety of cheese that the CSIRO had been working on. In return, Çréla Prabhupäda offered the scientists some home-made gulab jamuns.

“From milk you can prepare hundreds and thousands of preparations. We actually make at least 10 or 20 kinds of sweets from cheese. I am teaching them: ‘Eat nicely, live nicely, and be prepared for your next life, for going back to home, back to Godhead’.”

The men were hesitant to try the juicy sweet balls, suggesting they might take them home to share with their families. Dr. Muncing even suggested that they might be nice soaked in rum. But Prabhupäda insisted they eat them on the spot. As Dr. Harrap bit into an especially large and juicy specimen, the rose-scented juice gushed out and ran down his arm. The atmosphere was light and cordial, and the men departed, covered in sticky sugar syrup, thanking Prabhupäda for “a most interesting afternoon”.

* * *

Prabhupäda felt enlivened from his talk with the scientists, and spent a large part of the afternoon speaking on various science-related topics to devotees in his room. (The Great Transcendental Adventure) LessengerArticlesDairyKurma dasaby Kurma dasa (Vaiñëava Society Vol. 16) Melbourne, July 2, 1974: Dr. Roy Muncing and Dr. Brian Harrap worked for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). Dr. Harrap was officer-in-charge of the Dairy Research Laboratories at the organization’s Division of Food Processing. The men had come with some prepared questions. They...