On watching Movies and TV
Sivarama Swami: Regularly watching TV and movies: there are two main defects in this activity, whether they’re done regularly or even occasionally. The first is that this media always includes intoxication, graphic sex life, violence, and gambling. Therefore watching it means to break the regulative principles. What reason do we have that we would go out of our way to observe and watch these activities of Kali-yuga when already it’s difficult enough to stay away from it, when even walking down the street, going into a shop or going out on harinama or sankirtana, these things are bombarding us and challenge the consciousness of a serious practitioner. So why would I want to bring these things into my own home, to give ideas to children? Answer: because people have material desires and they give into them. I’ll come back to that in a moment.
The second defect is that anything you see makes an impression in the heart. So the rampant violence, sex, intoxication, bad language, immoral behavior, irreverence for the real values of life, and fairytale worlds like Spiderman jumping off buildings and flying through the air, these make an impression in the heart, and when they do they become a source of meditation, something to meditate on, because these impressions will come out at a later time. Not only as a reflection of the mind but something that creates seeds of material desires in the heart and which will also water existing seeds of desire in the heart.
So it is a very detrimental practice. But back to the first point, breaking principles. Initiated devotees vow to follow regulative principles. When referring to brahmacaris and sannyasis in this regard, we say that even in the mind if one contemplates these things he is breaking the principles. But while grhasthas might have license, they only have that within their own marriage situation. They don’t have a license to view sexual activities or these other things. So for them to contemplate it, to view it, to enjoy it: it’s all breaking the principles. How then can an initiated devotee do these things with a clear conscience?
And what is the effect of breaking the regulative principles? We commit sin. And by committing sin, we complicate our spiritual lives, entangle ourselves in material existence, and suffer from the results of that sin.
By committing sin there’s an effect in the mind, and that is that sinful thoughts linger in heart. They come up like bubbles from the mud and become the source of other sinful desires, which then become the result of further sinful acts. Ultimately what devotees see on TV and in movies, they’ll end up doing. If they see infidelity, they’ll end up doing it. If they see violence or other activities, they’ll do that. When they become bewildered thinking materialism, egoism, pride in the material body is the ultimate goal, they become more body conscious and egotistical.
All these things strangle the creeper of devotional service and make one’s devotional life more or less null and void. Why do they do this? Well, obviously because they’re not doing what they should be, which is chanting Hare Krishna and hearing Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrita. They’re not doing those activities without offense and they’re not doing them enough. And so they don’t have enough spiritual strength to resist the social pressure from those who are doing these things, nor do they have the strength to resist the inner desires that are still there in conditioned souls.