By Praghosa Dasa
Most people baulk, often times devotees when they read or hear strong statements from sastra. One such statement from the Bhagavad gita comes to mind:
etam drstim avastabhya ‚ÄúFollowing such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world‚ÄĚ Bg 16.9
Such statements are not time bound and while we may not have demons of the calibre of Ravana and Hiranyakasipu living among us, that is certainly no reason to be complacent.
As wholesome and sweet and blissful and inconceivable as pure spiritual relationships are, their perverted material reflection can be as purely horrific, sinister and ugly. Much of that horror is often swept under the carpet leaving a veneer of normality and civil decorum that flatters us and deceives us. One of the classic examples of such a phenomena in our ‚Äėcivilised‚Äô world today is the huge number of abortions that take place each and everyday. Somehow this has become an acceptable part of our society and life goes on as normal, even though the most defenceless in our society are being destroyed in their millions. That one example alone should really be enough for us all to see that the etam dristim avastabhya verse is alive and well. But unfortunately there are so many other horrendous examples to call upon.
Something else that most people baulk at and although devotees used to embrace them, they now also baulk due to recent experiences, are predictions of where the world is headed. Now of course there are predictions and there are predictions and even though many got sucked into the Y2K lark as well as other such larks and others now seem to be getting sucked into the 2012 lark, again that is no reason for being complacent. I use the term lark because of the flimsy basis these predictions were and are based on. In essence they are date related and just because computers may not have been geared for the millennium change of date and some ancient tribe didn‚Äôt provide a calendar for dates after a certain time, that is hardly a robust basis for predicting the end of the world as we know it. Still we do know from sastra that this world will come to an end and we also know from sastra that before it does end, it will undergo many different changes, generally for the worse.
Recently a friend of mine was setting out his thoughts on what would make a really good script for a horror/thriller story. He vividly gave examples of those who are meant to protect us, such as high-ranking government ministers who were in fact engaged in violent robberies resulting in innocent people being murdered. How those meant to be guiding us on a saintly path were in fact absorbed in all sinful activities and much worse besides. How those meant to ensure that justice would always prevail were in fact perverting the course of justice and torturing, both physically and psychologically, anyone who chose to stand up for the right thing. How those meant to heal and care for the sick and vulnerable were in fact preying on them, often leaving them maimed or dead as a result. How those meant to expose corruption were in fact the prime movers and shakers at the centre of all cover-ups. How those trusted with the care of our children were in fact viciously and sadistically abusing them all along. How those entrusted with the wealth of the nation were in fact siphoning off huge amounts to their own coffers and living a life of lavish decadence, often spending more on an item of clothing a week than the average family would spend on food in a year.
When he was finished reeling off all his insidious mental inventions, he assured me that each and every example he gave was a non-exaggerated, true-life reality over the past decade or so and he had all the facts to prove it. Not only that, all of the above and more took place on a small little island of no more than 5 million people, an island that is famed for its piety and religiosity. Well, well imagine that if you will‚Ä¶‚Ä¶.
So what to do about all of this doom and gloom? Well for devotees it is not so much a case of doom and gloom, rather it is more accepting, understanding and realising the nature of this material world and using that as an impetus for developing our service mood, striving to reach the heights of ahautuki apratihata and sharing the treasure of Krsna consciousness with one and all. This we can do whatever our situation and circumstance, as long as we can hold and see this material world in context. In addition we can both individually and as a community, offer by example an alternative lifestyle that is not based on the principles of ugra karma.
Whatever about the airhead notions that led to the Y2K predictions and other similar distractions, what about this prediction:
“So this materialistic civilization, actually people are not very happy. And as I have told you that people are going to live underground next hundred years. That means they’ll lose this freedom of living in the free air for fear of this atomic attack. That is predicted in the World Almanac. We have seen, that people are going to live under. They’ll… Sometimes they will come out to have fresh air in the surface. Otherwise, they will have to live underground.” Sept 17 1969 SB 5.5.2 class London
Prabhupada: “…You are being cheated for two hundred, three hundred years, that’s all. Not before that. All these scientists‚Äô rascals have come out within two hundred years. That’s all. So you are being cheated for the last two hundred years, not for thousands of years. So it will be finished. Within another fifty years, everything will be finished.” May 15th 1973 Morning Walk LA.
So folks we have about 13 years left, that‚Äôs the prediction!
“This motorcar civilization will be finished within another hundred years. It has begun, say, for the last hundred years, and after a hundred years, when… The scientists say the petroleum will be finished within fifty years or like that, so, say hundred years, this motorcar will be finished. So anything we manufacture, the so-called empire, so-called material civilization; it is finished, it will be finished. That is another knot only, that we become captivated. So “What is this Krsna consciousness movement?” August 18th 1972 Bhagavatam class LA
These last two sentences above are very interesting:
‚ÄúThat is another knot only, that we become captivated. So “What is this Krsna consciousness movement?‚ÄĚ
It seems that we are forever being captivated in the material world and often on the most exploitative of grounds. A few centuries ago we had the slave trade which was so overtly exploitative that it couldn‚Äôt last, people locked up in chains, receiving no pay, being tortured etc. Interestingly though it was a real battle to abolish it and even when it was abolished there was little or no penalties for those who had created and sustained it. Fast forward a few hundred years and we have a different kind of slave. The really big difference is that the modern day slave (you and I and the vast majority of people), do not realize that they are enslaved, rather they are convinced that they are free and by and large the deal offered them is a good one and they are happy with it. Today, instead of chains it is the TV, computer games, both prescription and non-prescription drugs etc., which incarcerate our slaves. The powers that be make these commodities available in sufficient quantity to their slaves, ensuring that there is never quite the energy and passion for a wholesale revolt against the system by the slaves, even though all the while, society‚Äôs elite are exploiting all resources, including the slaves to their maximum benefit. I am sure you have all heard the term ‚Äėthe gap between the rich and poor continues to increase‚Äô. It should be noted that the poor may indeed be getting richer (thus they remain neutered and less likely to rebel) but the rich are accelerating away at a pace that makes them even happier and more determined to maintain such a corrupt and unjust system.
So as Srila Prabhupada asks rhetorically
‚ÄúWhat is this Krsna consciousness movement?‚ÄĚ
This Krsna consciousness movement is the solution and we have been given the responsibility of organizing it in such a way that it becomes the solution. Specifically in relation to exploitation and modern slaves, there is nothing that worries the powers that be more than a system such as varnasrama. The varnasrama system by its very nature creates a society that is not only independent of ugra karma needs and their suppliers but it also creates independent thinkers with revolutionary views on how society should be structured in a God-centered way, where slaves are conspicuous by their absence.