(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada)
Richard: Are you afraid of death?
Prabhupāda: No. My position is different, because I know I'm not going to die. My position is different. Because we are confident, na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre (BG 2.20). We are not going to die. Death is no question for us.
Richard: Um. Okay.
Prabhupāda: Therefore we are not afraid of death. That is another thing. But generally, people, they are actually. Are you not afraid of disease?
Richard: I would not wish to be in great pain or agony, no.
Prabhupāda: But there is pain, as soon as you are in disease, there is great pain.
Richard: Uh, yes, but there are quick deaths and there are slow deaths.
Prabhupāda: No. Everyone is afraid of this. Are you not afraid of old age and invalidity?
Richard: Not particularly. I mean, it's a part of life.
Prabhupāda: You are liberated. (devotees laugh)
Devotee: Prabhupāda said you are liberated.
Richard: I'm what?
Richard: Oh. (laughs)
Prabhupāda: Naturally, everyone, that is the problem of life. Otherwise, why there are so many medical colleges, drug shops and medicines, just to avoid disease? Otherwise, there was no need of arrangement. Everyone is afraid of disease, not to suffer from disease. That's a fact. If you say that you are not afraid of disease, that is something new. But unless we are afraid of disease, why there is this Memorial Hospital, this drug shop, this pharmacy? Why these things are required? We don't want it.
Richard: Do you...? You have a doctor, though, you said, right?
Prabhupāda: No, I am not a doctor.
Richard: You have no doctor.
Prabhupāda: My point is that these are the problems—birth, death, old age and disease. This is our point.
Richard: That these are the basic problems of most men?
Richard: Death, fears of death and disease.
Prabhupāda: Yes, everyone.
Richard: You too?
Prabhupāda: Everyone, I am everyone also. I am also, I have taken up my translation work, Bhāgavatam. So I am trying to live at least up to the time I finish my translation. That is also.... I do not wish to die before I finish. That is also.... Everyone is like that.
Richard: But what happens if you do die before you finish?
Prabhupāda: Well, you are talking something extraordinary. Everyone has got some ambition, and he wants to do it, and death, disease, old age, these are impediments. That is the point. No one wants to die premature death. Family man, a family man wants to see that his sons are properly educated or they are well-placed, so on, so on, so many things. And if all of a sudden death comes, he becomes sorry, that "I could not finish my business." Therefore death is impediment.
Richard: You were widely respected in India before you came to the United States?
Prabhupāda: Why bring that question? First of all, let us finish this question.
Richard: No, no, I'm getting to it. Ah, if you had died before you had come to the United States, would that have been a tragedy?
Devotee: Yes, that would have been a big tragedy for all of us. That is premature. That's the example Prabhupāda is giving. If a man wants to educate his sons, but he dies before they can be educated, then, to him, that is a premature death. So therefore he does not want that. In fact he's afraid: "Please, I don't want to die before I see my sons educated." So that is a fear of death.
Prabhupāda: Therefore death is an obstacle. That is the point.
Devotee: An obstacle to the goals of his life.
Prabhupāda: One who has no responsibility, that is another thing. But a responsible man wants to finish the responsibility, and if death comes before that, that's an obstacle.
Richard: Um hm. Okay. Ah, how about smaller obstacles in life, though, than death? I mean this...
Prabhupāda: This is the major obstacles, and subordinate to these obstacles there are hundreds and millions of obstacles.
Richard: There are millions of obstacles.
Prabhupāda: Yes, this is the main obstacle.
Richard: Right, right, okay. But I mean, okay, you say most people are, almost everyone, except me perhaps, is concerned about death. Ah, but how about the smaller obstacles which nevertheless can make people very depressed, neurotic? How do you recognize and live with them or eliminate them?
Prabhupāda: Our point is there are hundreds and millions of obstacles. If they are, I mean to say, summarized, they become birth, death, old age and disease. This is my point. There are hundred and thousands of obstacles, but if you take all of them and make a summary, then it comes four—birth, death, old age and disease.
Devotee: He wants to know, Śrīla Prabhupāda, if these are the obstacles, how do we Kṛṣṇa conscious people deal with these obstacles or eliminate these obstacles?
Prabhupāda: Yes, that we are doing by Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Prabhupāda: Because if we try to understand Kṛṣṇa, simply by understanding Him, I am going to get a life which will be free of all obstacles.
Richard: And how do you do that?
Prabhupāda: That you see what we are doing.
Richard: By living this type of life?
Richard: Well, what about the people who don't live here at the āśrama, people who live, if you want to call it, the outside world, ah...
Prabhupāda: They are not getting the opportunity. We are giving the opportunity. You come here and live here.
Richard: This is the only way?
Richard: Living in an āśrama.
Prabhupāda: Not living..., to take the philosophy. Follow the policy or process; then your life is successful.
Devotee (2): Just like our householders, they have their apartments, but they're always associated with Kṛṣṇa's service.
Prabhupāda: Just like we are writing so many books to give them enlightenment. This is the process. It is an educational movement, how to overcome these obstacles. That is the sum and substance.
(Srila Prabhupada Conversation, Los Angeles, June 10, 1976)