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THE TRAGEDY OF SELF-DESTRUCTION

Monday, 30 July 2007 / Published in Articles, Caitanya Caran das / 3,940 views

By Caitanya Caran das

THE SPIRITUAL
SCIENTIST

A Cyber Magazine for Those Who Think

Vol 1 Issue
16

 

THE TRAGEDY OF SELF-DESTRUCTION


The trout is caught by the fisherman’s lure, the mouse by
cheese. A tragic irony of the struggle for existence is that living beings are
often destroyed by what they desire. But at least the fish and the mouse have
excuses: the bait and the cheese look like sustenance. Also the fish and the
mouse do not know in advance that they will be trapped. Humans seldom have
either of these excuses. The temptations that wreck their lives are quite often
pure indulgences that are known to be dangerous. For example, no one has to
smoke for survival and almost all smokers are aware that smoking is
dangerous.

 

TRAGICALLY TRAPPED

Consider the following World Health Organization
statistics:

  • Tobacco kills nearly 10,000 people worldwide every day.

  • By 2020 it is predicted that tobacco use will cause over 12% of all deaths
    globally. This is more deaths worldwide than HIV, tuberculosis, maternal
    mortality, motor vehicle accidents, suicide and homicide combined.

  • Half of those who start smoking in adolescence will die in middle age,
    losing around 22 years of normal life expectancy.

 

Add the facts that an average cigarette contains 401 poisons
and 43 cancer-causing chemicals and that there are around 1.1 billion smokers in
the world (about one-third of the global population aged 15 and over) and we
have quite a sobering picture of the world around us. The statistics about other
self-destructive behavioral patterns – alcoholism, substance abuse and suicide –
are equally, if not more, alarming. And even among so-called normal people,
practically everyone is victimized by some form of self-destructive behavioral
pattern – unwarranted expression of anger that turn out to be disastrous,
unintentional use of caustic words that break hearts and ruin lives and so on.

 

A question naturally arises: how does an intelligent human
being embark on such a destructive course? Most people know that when they
start, say, smoking, they are treading into a danger zone. But the media, the
friends circle, the peddlers persuade them to experiment just once. Seeking a
break from the humdrum daily life with its inane pleasures, they acquiesce. The
impression of instant pleasure gets embedded in their mind and in future
whenever they face a reversal, they tend to seek immediate relief through
smoking. Every successive experience of smoking reinforces the earlier
impressions, strengthens the tendency to seek momentary relief and weakens the
voice of intelligence and conscience. Till smoking becomes an irresistible
demand, a compulsive need, an addictive habit. They are by then helpless
victims, driven again and again towards smoking like a moth attracted towards
fire.

 

CURRENT SOLUTIONS

 

Let us now analyze some of the methods currently used for
de-addiction:

  1. Knowledge
  2. : It would seem that if
    people knew about the dangers involved, that would deter them from indulgence.
    Sometimes. But not generally. Sometimes knowledge has the opposite effect. For
    example, after governmental regulations made it mandatory to display,
    “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health” on every cigarette ad and pack,
    cigarette sales increased; the warning tended to evoke a dare-devilish spirit
    in smokers.

  3. Emotional Support
  4. : Often people turn
    to addictions when they are emotionally let down or betrayed by their loved
    ones. Also adolescents who have not been emotionally cared for tend to be more
    susceptible to addictions. So providing emotional support through personal
    counseling is thought of as a solution. But this often leads to the addicts
    becoming chronically dependent on their counselor. In the fast-paced modern
    lifestyle few people can invest the time and energy to provide intensive
    emotional support consistently. Seeking professional guidance entails
    prohibitive costs. Moreover psychologists and psychiatrists often become so
    harassed by calls for help from distressed patients at unearthly hours that
    they themselves sometimes end up in need of counseling.

  5. Sublimation
  6. : Sublimation involves
    replacing a gross physical drive with a more refined substitute. For example,
    an alcoholic might try to seek refuge in music instead of alcohol. But this
    can work only if he has a strong liking for music and if his addiction to
    alcohol is not overpowering. Another problem is that, due to recent mental
    impressions of indulgence in alcohol, that urge generally appears far more
    attractive than its substitute.

  7. Willpower
  8. : Seeing the physical and
    emotional pain that he is inflicting upon himself and his loved ones, an
    addict may sometimes by sheer determination decide to give up his perverted
    habit. Unfortunately few people are able to muster the necessary willpower.
    Even if successful, they face the grim prospect of an entire lifetime of
    constant inner struggle with the fear of succumbing at any moment. And failure
    often brings with it intolerable feelings of guilt, making living itself an
    agony.

  9. Religion
  10. : Statistical surveys have
    shown that the religiously committed are less likely to succumb to seeking
    perverted pleasures. Adopting religious principles rigorously also sometimes
    helps addicts to free themselves. Dr Patrick Glynn writes in his book God:
    The Evidence
    , “It is difficult to find a more consistent correlative of
    mental health, or a better insurance against self-destructive behaviors, than
    a strong religious faith.”

    While each of these methods has had some small success,
    humanity at large is mostly in darkness as regards a clear understanding about
    the factors that impel self-destructive behavior and the means to permanently
    rectify such behavior. Let us now consider the Vedic perspective about
    self-destruction.

     

    THE VEDIC PARADIGM

     

    In the Bhagavad-gita (3.36), Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, “By what
    is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?” Lord
    Krishna replies, “It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the
    mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring
    sinful enemy of this world.”

     

    The background of this dialogue is as follows. The fundamental
    teaching of the Bhagavad-gita is that the source of life in the material body,
    the actual self, is a non-material particle of spirit, known as the atman
    or the soul. The essential need of the soul is to love and be loved and to
    experience unbounded happiness through loving exchange. Being spiritual by
    constitution, the soul belongs to a higher dimensional milieu, the spiritual
    world. There the loving propensity of the soul finds complete fulfillment in the
    supremely lovable all-attractive person, who personally reciprocates with his
    love. In fact, the Vedic texts state: eko bahusyam. The Supreme has
    expanded into infinite subordinates for the purpose of loving reciprocation. The
    Vedanta Sutra explains: raso vai sah. The Supreme is the reservoir of all
    divine loving emotions. The Shrimad Bhagavatam confirms that this Supreme Person
    is all-attractive and is therefore best known by the name Krishna, which means
    all-attractive in Sanskrit. In the spiritual world Krishna is the pivot of all
    relationships and the soul continually relishes ever-intensifying and
    ever-expanding ecstasies of love in relationship with Him there.

     

    Love necessitates freedom; only when the object of love freely
    chooses to reciprocate one’s love does the experience of love becomes truly
    satisfying and fulfilling. The soul is therefore endowed with a minute free will
    to enable him to experience the joy of loving the Supreme Person Krishna. But
    when the soul misuses his free will and becomes causelessly unwilling to love
    Krishna, he has to find a substitute in whom to repose his loving propensity. Of
    course by definition there can be no substitute for the Supreme and by
    constitution the soul cannot find happiness in loving anyone other than the
    Supreme. But for those souls who insist on making that attempt, the world of
    matter (where all of us currently reside) provides the necessary arrangement for
    experimentation and rectification.

     

    THE ENEMY WITHIN

     

    As soon as the soul comes to the material world, his love for
    Krishna becomes perverted into lust. Lust is a formidable illusory force that
    offers the soul various surrogate objects of love to experiment with. Lust
    creates and perpetuates the misidentification of the soul with the material body
    that he is given. Lust causes within all living beings the overpowering drive
    for gross sexual enjoyment in specific, and all forms of material enjoyment in
    general.

     

    Modern civilization with its media, social environment, culture
    and overall values aggravates lust disproportionately. Especially the celluloid
    promises of unending sexual bliss provoke wild erotic fantasies. But the actual
    experience of sexual enjoyment is heartbreakingly brief; dreams cherished for
    years vanish within moments. Though what people experience is so pathetically
    little as compared to the hype, the media blitz goads them on. Sexual enjoyment,
    especially illicit, is a complicated affair; it involves money, time, intense
    emotions, interpersonal relationship dynamics, risk for prestige and so on. And
    the attempt for such enjoyment, even if somehow successful, leaves one feeling
    disappointed and cheated – and craving for more. And if unsuccessful it creates
    great anger. Either way the victims are soon so enslaved by lust that the more
    they try, the more they get frustrated, and yet the more they become impelled to
    keep trying. Eventually the accumulated enormous frustration makes instant
    relief a desperate necessity. Such people easily fall prey to the lure of quick
    pleasure offered by addictions.

     

    Lust is thus the internal enemy, which causes all
    self-destructive behavioral patterns. The Gita (18.39) describes vividly the
    nature of all perverted pleasures: they appear to be like nectar at first but
    poison at the end. Srila Prabhupada comments, “While one enjoys sense
    gratification, it may be that there is some feeling of happiness, but actually
    that so-called feeling of happiness is the ultimate enemy of the sense
    enjoyer.”

     

    Lust is present in everyone in varying degrees. That is why
    everyone, no matter how materially successful he may be, has some tendencies
    towards self-destructive behavior. People generally become concerned about such
    tendencies only when it exceeds socially acceptable limits. But actually lust
    throttles the ability of everyone to make meaningful contributions toward
    society and even towards their own future; the difference is only in degree.
    From the spiritual point of view, lust is inherently self-destructive; it strips
    the soul of the unlimited spiritual happiness that is his birthright and forces
    him to labor for paltry material sensations of pleasure that can never satisfy
    his immortal longing.

     

    THE SUPREME CONQUEST

     

    Lust being a perversion of our original, essential nature,
    cannot possibly be annihilated, suppressed, repressed or even sublimated. But it
    can be reverted to its original nature by redirecting our loving propensity back
    to Krishna through the scientific process of devotional service. Action on the
    spiritual platform is what Lord Krishna recommends to Arjuna as the key to
    overcoming lust, “Therefore knowing oneself to be transcendental to the material
    senses, mind and intelligence, O mighty-armed Arjuna, one should steady the mind
    by deliberate spiritual intelligence (Krishna consciousness) and thus – by
    spiritual strength – conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.”
    (Bhagavad-gita 3.43) The channeling of consciousness from matter back to Krishna
    is most easily and effectively executed through the medium of divine sound. The
    Supreme Person Krishna being omnipotent is fully present in His Holy Names.
    Chanting of the Holy Names therefore connects one immediately with Krishna, who
    is the supreme pleasure principle. Regular meditation on the Holy Names enables
    one to experience happiness streaming down from the spiritual dimension. This
    spiritual pleasure is so satisfying that it soon frees one from the craving for
    perverted mundane pleasure like drugs, alcohol etc.

     

    Millions of people all over the world have experienced the
    purifying potency of the Holy Names of God. During the period of the
    counterculture in the US in 1960s and 1970s, Srila Prabhupada propagated the
    congregational chanting of the Holy Names and saved thousands of young people
    from a condemned life of drug addiction. All over the globe ISKCON devotees who
    practice mantra meditation – chanting of the maha mantra Hare Krishna Hare
    Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare –
    everyday for two hours are easily able to eschew intoxication (of all forms),
    gambling, meat-eating and illicit sex, which are the primary self-destructive
    activities impelled by lust. Ability to follow these four regulative principles
    is not necessary to begin chanting, but as these four activities greatly obscure
    the original consciousness of the soul, abstaining from them helps to accelerate
    the process of purification. While many people in the modern times are so
    captivated and enslaved by lust that they consider life without these activities
    an impossibility, devotees lead lives that are natural, peaceful, satisfying,
    meaningful and constructive, protected as they are by their mantra
    meditation.

     

    But the benefits of chanting do not stop with freedom from
    addiction, nor is chanting meant only for those victimized by self-destructive
    behavioral patterns. Chanting the Holy Names of God is a universal, time-tested,
    non-sectarian method of bringing about the blossoming of consciousness to its
    highest bloom of pure love for God and all living beings. Chanting frees one
    from all selfish desires, which throttle the flow of the fullness of life. It
    enables one to experience within oneself continuous happiness, which is
    absolutely independent of the state of the body and the external world. Chanting
    thus heralds the advent of a life of selfless spiritual service to God and all
    His children. This selflessness within individuals alone can form the basis of
    lasting world peace and harmony. Srila Prabhupada succinctly summarizes,
    “Without the awakening of divine consciousness within the individual, there is
    no use of crying for world peace.”

     

    The world-famous Beatle, late George Harrison, a diligent
    lifelong practitioner of mantra meditation, sings:

     

    If you open up your heart,

    You will know what I mean

    We’ve been polluted so long

    But here’s a way for you to get clean

    By chanting the name of the Lord and

    You’ll be free

    The Lord is awaiting on you all to awaken

    And see.




    - ‘Awaiting On You All’

    from the album ‘All Things Must Pass’


    The Spiritual
    Scientist

    Investigating Reality from the Higher Dimensional
    Perspective of Vedic Wisdom

    Published by
    Bhaktivedanta Academy for Culture and Education (BACE), Pune

    Dedicated to 
    His Divine
    Grace A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada,

    The Greatest Spiritual Scientist of the Modern Times

    Magazine Committee:
    Radheshyam Das
    (M Tech IIT, Mumbai), Director, IYF

    Chaitanya Charan Das (BE E&TC), Editor, The Spiritual
    Scientist

     

    One comment

    1. 0
      Pandu das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      May the assembled devotees accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Hare Krishna.

      Exception for a few pure souls, everyone’s presence in this world is proof of our having pursued a destructive lifestyle. The world is filled with so many kinds of substances that capture our minds and make us addicted. When we are forgetful of Krishna, it is amazing what kind of nasty things seem enjoyable.

      Speaking from my own experience, the difficulty is that the intelligence is bewildered. Can a little jiva’s intelligence function properly when covered by illusion? We may get moments of clarity, but when we are not perfectly situated in devotional service, we should certainly expect to be overwhelmed by mahamaya’s influence most of the time, at least. Considering that our original plight is forgetfulness of Krishna, maya can easily defeat us, and she does.

      This is my difficulty. Sometimes I have a little recollection of Krishna, and this inspires me to endeavor to please Him in devotional service. For that, I consider myself extremely fortunate. But all too often, my intelligence becomes polluted by habitual attraction to Krishna’s inferior energy, which I then want to enjoy. The loss of even one crumb of material enjoyment is a deep fear in me, what to speak of giving it up entirely. I know both in theory and from experience that the pursuit of personal enjoyment binds me to this world and makes me suffer here, but somehow this has not been enough to break me free from my nonsense attraction to material nature.

      Considering my situation, which I suspect is not that uncommon (though people often say I’m different), is there any specific advice that can be given to help me become firmly situated in devotional service and remembrance of Sri Krishna? I have some understanding of the great importance of chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, but in spite of my attempts to give my mind to the Holy Name, I can never seem to avoid stopping the chanting. I think perhaps that I fail to continue because I make subtle or gross offenses against the Holy Name, and thus my chanting is not entirely pleasing to Krishna. I do believe that if I can clearly remember Sri Krishna, then my mind will be naturally attracted, and then my real engagement in devotional service can begin.

      I am often amazed at the spiritually elevated condition of other devotees, as I am so far below them in my ability to control my senses and organs of action. Following the complete program as Srila Prabhupada instructed has never seemed possible for me in practice. I have made what seemed like a strong effort when I’ve had some spiritual clarity and devotional strength, but I could not endure. I have so much admiration for those who can do all this; and hearing of how they please Krishna, and how Krishna is so merciful to them, touches my heart like nothing else. But for myself, I somehow remain fallen. Not only that, I am thoroughly engaged in the various responsibilities of a father of several children and as a husband, who in truth probably do more good for me than I for them. So I not only have to control my own desires, but somehow guide my dependents in the same way. I don’t know if there is something I am missing to bring it all together so that we can please Krishna to the maximum of our ability. It seems like getting an actual taste of Krishna consciousness is needed, and I believe this is achieved by engagement in devotional service; but then how can I become situated in pure devotional service when my mind is repeatedly drawn to Krishna’s external energy? I know there must be a solution, as is proven by the success of so many devotees before me. It seems that my only hope is to catch the mercy of those devotees who are actively pleasing Krishna with pure devotional service. I would greatly appreciate whatever help I can get in this regard, whether advice, or whatever. Hare Krishna.

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