SP was asked if it was OK to listen to Beethoven music?

September 26, 2021 in Articles by Damaghosa dasa

Aug 14 1971 London conversations
Guest (1): What about pleasures like listening to music?
Prabhupāda: Yes, we chant the glories of God.
Guest (1): Could you listen to other peoples’ music?
Prabhupāda: Huh? No. If he’s chanting the glories of God, we are very eager to hear him. That is our process. Or somebody’s chanting, somebody’s hearing. Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇu. Chanting and hearing about God, that is music.
Guest (1): Well, a Beethoven symphony, for example, could you listen to that?
Prabhupāda: Which one?
Revatīnandana: Beethoven’s symphony. He means classical Western music. They make some music.
Prabhupāda: But if it is glorification of God, we can hear. There is no objection.
Revatīnandana: But there may be no reference to God in it.
Prabhupāda: No, then we don’t hear. We reject.
Guest (1): Inspired by God, given by God.
Prabhupāda: Given by God is everything. That is another thing. Just like everything is government property. But do you like to go to the prisonhouse? We say everything belongs to government. We are not so liberal, that “Because everything belongs to government, therefore I shall go to the prisonhouse.”
Guest (2): I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.
Guest (1): I take everything is good because it belongs to God, but you do choose, in fact, or you wouldn’t choose to waste your time when you should be doing something else.
Prabhupāda: But for God’s cause we can go. Just like these boys are sometimes arrested and put into jail. That is God’s cause. But they are not prepared to go to the jail by pickpocketing. That is not their mission. They are executing God’s business and if somebody puts him into jail, “All right. It is God’s desire. That’s all.”
Revatīnandana: The point is that there must be direct connection with God. If God’s name is there, if God’s service is there, if God’s form is there, then we are interested.
Prabhupāda: Nirbandhe kṛṣṇa sambandhe. Everything must be related with God.
Guest (1): Well, if you’re relaxing, if you need to relax, and you sit and listen to some music, it doesn’t say praise God all the time, but in fact is, because it’s beautiful.
Prabhupāda: No, we don’t accept anything beautiful without God. Without God, everything is ugly to us. Everything ugly.
Guest (1): So you have to bless it by offering it to God first.
Prabhupāda: Yes, that is another thing.
Revatīnandana: Just like we have so many beautiful songs and melodies and everything. They’re very nice. And we sing these songs. They are glorifying the Lord. And we enjoy like that. Music is there, everything is there, but because it is directly in the devotional service of God, therefore there is this bhakti, there is this devotion there. Devotion to God. Without that, everything becomes void. Tasteless.
Guest (2): Can I get one point straight? Is the Beethoven symphony all right provided it is blessed as an object and a work of art. Is it then all right? Or is it not all right because it doesn’t use religious themes?
Haṁsadūta: Originally, music and art were employed only to glorify the Lord in the scripture and…
Prabhupāda: In Sāma-veda, Sāma-veda.
Haṁsadūta: Gradually, if you study our history, music history, God was left out. Just like you will see landscapes, and there’s nothing in there about God. It was left out. But originally the landscape, there was some depiction of the activities of God or His representative.
Guest (2): So a Beethoven symphony is not all right.

Haṁsadūta: It’s not a matter of Beethoven symphony. Art means to glorify God. If God is in the… Just like this picture. There is a mountain, there is sky, but what is the point there? The point is Kṛṣṇa. There’s a book, but the point is the spiritual master. Here’s a landscape, but the point is Kṛṣṇa.
Guest (2): The original point I’m trying to get at…
Haṁsadūta: If there is some music, you must hear something about God’s activity.
Guest (2): But suppose that was a beautiful landscape on its own, just the landscape, then it’s worthless?
Revatīnandana: Limited and temporary enjoyment only. Limited and temporary enjoyment.
Guest (2): But you accept that the temporary enjoyment is there, would you?
Revatīnandana: Yes. And limited and temporary. It’s called capala sukha, flickering.
Prabhupāda: Now, even there was no God’s picture, one who is God conscious, he can see in the natural scenery presentation, he can see, “Oh, how God is artistic. How he has manufactured this flower, how he has painted, how He has made this tree.” So that is higher intelligence. That is higher intelligence. Because without God, there can be nothing existing. So one has to learn how to see God in everything. That is another thing. That is higher status. Yes. But in the lower status of God consciousness one is advised that you should not see anything without God. But in the higher status, there is nothing in the world which is without God. But we should not imitate the higher status of life in the lower status of our position. Otherwise, one who has learned about God, he can see God in this flower. Actually, how God’s hand has worked out this nice flower. Just like in the Bhagavad-gītā God says, raso ‘ham apsu kaunteya [Bg. 7.8]. Just like I am drinking water. In the taste of the water I’ll see God. God says, Kṛṣṇa says, “I am the taste of the water.” And actually, that taste cannot be created by man. The taste in the water, that is God’s gift. So as soon as I taste the water, immediately I should remember, “Oh, here is God.”
Some Conclusions–This is a very interesting conversation because the questioner kept asking SP, but not understanding, why was it not OK to listen to some classical western music or just enjoy something that was God given? And Srila Prabhupadas answer was…”Nirbandhe kṛṣṇa sambandhe. Everything must be related with God.” He also gave the example that even though every thing is “given by the government” that does not mean we shall go to the prison house. And that our devotees went to jail  for trying to do Gods work but that is not the same as going to jail for pick pocketing. One activity is actually good and the latter is criminal.
So without this connecting link of devotional service or bhakti yoga, what we “enjoy” is only maya or illusion and is of no value on our journey out of this material world. And worse still this same “enjoying separate from Krsna activity takes us back in the karmic cycle of birth and death. Not a good deal at all.
Hare Krsna
damaghosa das
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