Culled from a series of lectures by Srila Prabhupada on the subject of "Simple Living, High Thinking"
This material world is a field of activity for the persons who have forgotten Krsna, or their connection with the Divine. But there is practical spiritual knowledge, coming from the Vedas, the original spiritual culture, that we can use. If we act according to this Vedic knowledge, then we can actually enjoy life. Because in the material world, there is nothing enjoyable for the spirit soul.
Just like a fish, it is an animal of the water. It has nothing to enjoy on the land. So if, by mistake, a fish thinks that "I shall become an elephant and enjoy in the land," that is not possible. Similarly, we are spirit soul, aham brahmāsmi, we are all Brahman, and we have nothing to do with this material world. But because we are Brahman... Brahman means ānandamaya. Ānanda-cinmaya-rasa.(seeking pleasure) The Supreme Brahman, Krsna, the Supreme Person is...
Īśvarah paramah krsnah
sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahah (Brahma-Samhita Chapter 5 Verse 1)
And we are part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman. Therefore we are also sac-cid-ānanda, eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krsna says...
yam labdhvā cāparam lābham
manyate nādhikam tataḥ
yasmin sthite na duhkhena
[Bhagavad-Gita. Chapter 6 Verse 20-23
“In the stage of perfection called trance, or samādhi, one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.”
Krsna consciousness, our original spiritual consciousness, is so nice that if one is perfectly situated in Krsna consciousness, then one's condition will be like this, that yam labdha caparam labham\manyate nadhikam tatah. Achieving this stage, one will forget about any other profit. We are hankering after profit, profit after profit. I have got so much money, I want to make it double. When it is double I want to make it ten times. When it is ten times, I'll make it hundred times. Our civilizations goes on increasng like this
Formerly, people were satisfied if they could construct one brick house, kota bari. Now they are not satisfied with kota bari, or brick house. They want to make it a hundred— or two hundred, or a five-hundred-story house. And when they construct a five-hundred-story house, they'll think of a thousand-story house. This is the nature of selfishness, of greed, or lābha. Everyone is hankering after more profit, more profit, more profit. But if one is situated in Krsna consciousness, then he is satisfied.
So fortunately for us, some of our students have taken very large tracts of land in various places in the world to develop a society based on Vedic knowledge, a simple life, eating simple things, grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and they are saving their time for advancing in Krsna consciousness, in their spiritual life and self-realization. Modern civilization is implicated in ugra-karma—vast machinery, everything is complicated. The government is complicated, the society is complicated, the economics rule is complicated, the foreign exchange is complicated. Everything has become complicated.Because we have given up our Krsna consciousness, therefore we have become entangled in the different varieties of material activities. Now we have to simplify it. The Krsna consciousness movement's aim is to simplify, to save our valuable life, to save the valuable time of our valuable life. This human form of life is very valuable. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-Gita...
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyante
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa-mahatmah su-durlabhah (Gita, Chapter 7 Verse 19)
After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
After many, many births we have got this important life. So we have to save our time to utilize it for Krsna consciousness. So far as we have got this material body, we want to maintain it. The body and the soul live together. That is all right. For that, Krsna has given us every chance. Anywhere you can get some land and a cow. You can produce something nice, grains and vegetables, and fresh cow's milk. That is sufficient for our maintenance. Not everyone can be expected to possess such a cow. Nonetheless, an ordinary man may possess an ordinary cow, give protection to this animal, take sufficient milk from it, and engage the milk to produce butter and clarified ghee. This is possible for everyone. Thus we find that in Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa advises go-rakṣya, the protection of cows. This is essential because if cows are cared for properly they will surely supply sufficient milk.
We have practical experience that in the various farms in our society we are giving proper protection to the cows and receiving more than enough milk. In other farms the cows do not deliver as much milk as in our farms; because our cows know very well that we are not going to kill them, they are happy, and they give ample milk. Therefore this instruction given by Lord Kṛṣṇa—go-rakṣya—is extremely meaningful. The whole world must learn from Kṛṣṇa how to live happily without scarcity simply by producing food grains (annād bhavanti bhūtāni) and giving protection to the cows (go-rakṣya). This is the injunction of Bhagavad-gītā. In the matter of protecting the cows, the meat-eaters will protest, but in answer to them we may say that since Kṛṣṇa gives stress to cow protection, those who are inclined to eat meat may eat the flesh of unimportant animals like hogs, dogs, goats and sheep, but they should not touch the life of the cows, for this is destructive to the spiritual advancement of human society.
So let us try to make an attempt to organize a “simple living, high thinking” scheme based on Vedic knowledge, and I shall request all my students to develop this idea and show a good example to this Western part of the world, where people are always engaged in ugra-karma, asuric-karma (harmful acts) Things are becoming very implicated, and very complicated, and we must simplify with the proper knowledge, spiritual knowledge. Thank you very much.