Some herons were standing next to a boggy pond. A swan happened to pass by. One of the herons asked the swan, “Why are your eyes, face and toes so reddish?”
The swan answered, “Well, I’m a swan.”
The heron then asked, “Where do you come from?”
“From Lake Manasarovar,” the swan replied.
“So, what’s it like there?”
“Well, the water of that lake is like nectar. Golden lotus flowers grow in gardens on the surface of that lake, and all around are jewel-bedecked platorms on which beautiful trees and plants that bear exotic fruits and flowers grow.”
The heron had a final question: “Are there big-sized snails?”
“No, we don’t have any snails at Lake Manasarovar,” was the swan’s answer.
The herons exchanged mocking glances. “Damn, what a place you come from, friend,” they ridiculed the swan. “If there are no snails at all, then we can’t even consider it a lake! You’d never catch US going there!”
Similarly, people who label themselves as humanists, servants of mankind, philanthropists, etc. are curious to know if the Krsna consciousness movement engages in social and humanitarian works such as offering free medical services, distribution of food and water in regions stricken by famine and drought, handing out clothing to the needy, providing education for the illiterate, and so on. When they are told that none of these activities are considered by devotees to be very important, they fail to see any value whatsoever in Krsna consciousness.
These people are bereft of philosophical sense. They cannot or will not use their brains to trace out 1) what are the fundamental problems of life, 2) who is suffering from them, and 3) what is the root cause of these problems. Just a little reflection upon these themes will bring a philosophical person to the conclusion that the fundamental problems of life are birth, old age, disease and death. He will see that every living entity in the material world suffers from these problems–whether he is a welfare giver or welfare recipient. And finally, the root cause of these problems is the condition of having a physical body.
One who understands these basic facts of life can see that mundane welfare work yields no lasting solution to the fundamental problems of embodied existence. Feed someone today, he’ll be hungry again tomorrow. Cure his sickness today, he’ll be sick again next week. And finally he’ll grow old and die no matter what material comforts are given him.
Krsna consciousness is aimed at solving our existential problems at their root by curing the bodily conception. It is a spiritual treatment of the soul’s ills; it reveals to the practicioner that he or she is not a tormented, struggling lump of flesh, but an eternal person made of pure consciousness whose real function is not exploiting matter but serving the Supreme Transcendent Person, Krsna, of Whom we are all expansions.