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The Materialistic Demeanor Revisited

—by Goursundar Das Adhikary (ISKCON—Hawaii)

Our eighth year of “primary education” passed in an American Dependent School in Okinawa. During that eventful year we heard that we would have to decide for ourselves what had caused our existence, that the average man used less than one fourth the potential of his brain, and that God was never to be discussed in school.

Our studies of physical science had culminated in the visualization of the fleshy structure of the human brain. Electrical impulses flashing on the circuitry inside a man’s head are supposed to be responsible for all thinking, feeling, and willing. Life, memory, and the living zone are strange. The head is filled up with thoughts. The mind projects itself outside the body. We wondered, “What would we be thinking if we were using all the power of the brain?”

We had encountered sectarian religionists whose shallowness had turned us toward the camps of the atheists. We passed amidst the “humanists” and received many promises which were never to be fulfilled. Burning in despair we went past childhood’s end. The prospects for enjoyment which had been pointed out to us by our teachers proved inadequate. After exhausting many the sauri of philosophy, we realized we had been deceived all along, from the earliest beginning. We felt doomed, not for not knowing answers, but for not even being able to frame proper questions.

We had secretly designated ourselves as atheists. But as our intelligence matured, we saw through the hypocrisy of our so-called religious friends. We saw them as atheists to a man. It was then that we began to seriously study: What is religion? How are all things related? Who is God?

We had glimpsed the desolation in store for the materialists. We knew the agony of the “Underground Man” and the pretenses of the “Absurd Man.” We had followed the avant-garde of pop culture in “new” explorations. All of these things sickened us.

We had long felt as if we were being watched. We were fortunate. Everything was fully explained by our spiritual master and we began to realize the unique situation of Absolute Knowledge. We had to surrender ourselves in his service.

Humanism is the atheist’s disease. The people of the world are atheists. It is for this reason that they have been transferred here. People hypocritically express pity at the plight of “Fellow Man.” They feel noble when they stoop to sympathize with another person’s sufferings. They hear gravely how a soldier has been run over by a tank, how his mother suffers, and how nothing can console her. But when it is brought to their attention that daily they have been feeding on the carcasses of slaughtered innocent animals, they become angry. So their brand of compassion is very limited in scope. Personal gratification comes first. In fact, the motive for humanistic efforts is the enhancement of sensual pleasures in a particular sphere or select group of living entities.

Collectively they blame God when their pleasure turns to pain. They want to live in this hostile world hoarding all the treasures which can captivate their senses, and somehow escaping all distress. They intend to massacre an unlimited number of animals in order to taste the bloody bodies.

The humanists are ever ready to calumniate, assault, and assassinate the humble servants of God, but they maintain many sectarian views meant to righteously dress up their selfish desires.

“Waikiki at three o’clock in the morning is real. Bhagavad Gita is not.”

“The Gita is old and cannot cope with the new.”

But what is new? Is life or death new? Is pleasure-pain or hot-cold new? Is the Sun or the Moon new? Is the earth new? Is eating, sleeping, mating, and fighting new?

The Darwinian theory of evolution has reassured everyone: Man is the Pinnacle of evolution. And when he becomes bored with himself, he can escape into intoxication.

Our materialistic friends have the conviction that religion is one of man’s inventions. Somehow they have taken man as all in all. They see religion in terms of apotheosis, anthropomorphism, zoomorphism, theanthropism, therianthropism, etc.

The pseudo-Christians, pseudo-Buddhists, etc. do not protest the slanders of the modern “enlightened” thinkers, being eager to feed on the scraps from their dissecting tables, cherishing as they do aspirations for the utmost enjoyment of the senses.

The devotee of God admonishes them: this world is not your real home, neither is it lovable-if you are not a fool, do not try to remain here, decrying God for making your life miserable. Do not waste time artificially discriminating material goodness and badness. “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”-New Testament, Luke 16/15.

This life is bound to be predominated by pain. The world is a vacuum without the sight of God. The people are all after phantasmagoria, clashing with one another in their struggles to possess shadowy things which will soon cease to exist.

This fool’s paradise is not cherished by liberated souls. Beyond the material creation is another existence known as anti-material nature. “There is another, eternal Nature, which is transcendental to the manifested and non-manifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.”-Bhagavad Gita, 8.20. God’s playgrounds are there in the spiritual kingdom.

People are puffed up with material knowledge. They wish to show off their experience of the world. They always waste time discussing transitory things. But they do not find the Bhagavad Gita interesting. “There is no need for Eastern religion.” People do not understand spiritual science, but they remain complacent. Krishna and His devotees canvass and teach. But people crave mammon. “Krishna’s Presence mocks the world of man.”-The Bhagavat Purana, 10/70/40.

“Does man have free will?” we have been asked. Does a crazy man have free will? No. Everyone has his will, but under material bondage it is never free. “The place of action, the doer, the senses, the endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul: these are the five factors of action.”-Bhagavad Gita, 18.14

A man is the servant of his senses led by the mind. All these are conditional. “The bewildered individual soul, under the influence of the three modes of Nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by Nature.” Bhagavad Gita, 3.27. Is a man free to serve his senses? No He is obstructed by Nature at every turn.

Man has the potential to exercise his free will in spiritual existence. But he has thrown it away and come to be the dog of Maya. Man still has the option of surrendering to God and manifesting his freedom in harmony with the absolutely free Personality of Godhead.

“If one has no free will, can he be blamed for his misdeeds?” Yes. All misbehavior is the result of aversion to God’s Will and is bound to be chastised. The demoniac people, those in revolt against God, have chosen to do evil. Their lives follow the standard aberrations of the conditioned soul.

All the wrongs which a man commits are his sole responsibility, and he need not further degrade himself by the cowardly business of trying to shift the blame. Man has the opportunity to have liberation. The other living entities in the material world who are wearing different dress, viz. bodies of aquatics, plants, animals, etc., will have to wait until they attain human forms. The eternal soul is only temporarily covered by material bodies. The majority of the inconceivably great number of individual souls are fixed in the transcendental realm. The miscreants are serving time in matter.

By taking the initiative to oppose God, the conditioned soul has plunged himself into the world of ignorance, hiding his vision from the sight of God. By the continuing sequence of actions and reactions technically known as karma he is being buffeted by Nature’s laws. He can be released in the end by sincere devotion to God through His Grace. “Give up all other duties and surrender unto Me [Krishna]. Do not fear, I shall protect you from all sinful reactions.”-Bhagavad Gita, 18.66.

“Does God enjoy punishing miscreants?” No. Miscreants are malicious, and for everyone’s good their wrong impressions have to be regulated. “How can God allow the gruesome things of this world to exist?” All worldly problems are posed by transient phenomena distinct from the real self of the living entity. The soul can never be maimed or killed. But the false possessions (including bodies) to which he has become attached are bound to disintegrate. The material world is satisfying the whims of its residents and blocking the real manifestation of happiness, i.e., the Vaikuntha, the spiritual abode where there is no misery. Krishna always offers us happiness without depriving us of our individual will. Our infinitesimal will characterizes our existence as individuals. And we are never to cease to be individuals. Krishna has assured us of that fact.

“For the soul there is never birth or death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval He is not slain when the body is slain.”-Bhagavad Gita, 2.20.

We must have the right self-determination apart from the impressions of the changeable body and fickle mind in order to realize the proper conception of God and the soul. We have to engage ourselves as the subservients of God and regain our real nature lost in material excesses. We have to serve the regulative sound vibrations manifesting themselves in the limited disclosure of this nether world for our benefit. We cannot obtain spiritual enlightenment, which is identical with loving devotion to Krishna, if we choose to actively or passively resist serving the Supreme.

We have heard that God is great. God must mean the absolutely All-powerful. His greatness is His absolute goodness. If God is God, He must be great. Nothing can happen without God’s sanction. Everything that occurs is His Will because every occurence must not be contrary to His Will. So everything that occurs must be good. But the material world being the resort of creatures opposed to the Will of God, it is natural that there appear in it a conditional goodness. In fact, the whole material creation is an extraneous manifestation to the real Nature of God. It is an adjustment for counteracting the mischief of the living entities who have gone abroad in false identifications of themselves. The strictures of birth, disease, old age, and death are operative only on the outer covering layers, the bodies of conditioned souls, which have nothing to do with their eternal identities. So we must know the position of the soul in the first place. If we realize our existence apart from the temporal affairs and our impending changes of body, we can adopt the humble attitude of true inquisitiveness which will help us in entering the regions of true theism.

Historians and philosophers have long puzzled over the meaning of life to no avail. But we have nothing to profit from their imaginary explanations which cannot give us any relief from the miseries of the world. The self-realized soul can understand how conditional life is non-cooperation with Krishna.

We individual souls are emanations qualitatively like Krishna, but quantitatively unequal to Him. God is the Infinite Absolute. God must be One. We have the qualities of our Fountainhead, who is the Background or Support of all existence. Aquinas says that God should be known as “He Who Is.” This is so because His Existence is the pre-requisite for all subsequent existence. He is the prime Progenitor of all manifestations, which do exist. Our perceptions, both of ourselves and of things outside ourselves, are possible because we all exist in Him. “I worship Govinda, the Primeval Lord, who is the Absolute Substantive Principle being the Ultimate Entity in the Form of the Support of all existence.”-Brahma Samhita, 5.41.

God is the Infinite Absolute, and we are infinitesimal absolutes, His eternal servitors. Our tiny will cannot be good when it opposes God. The intervening emanation which nullifies any possibilities of our ushering evil into God’s sphere of absolute goodness and which acts as a corrective agent to rectify us through limited indulgence is the material creation.

Krishna is actually clearer to us than our own selves. He is all-attractive, and He is the Inner Soul of all souls. Without Krishna, no real happiness can be found.

Nescience on the part of wayward souls subservient to the non-cognitive or non-soul is accommodated within the material creation. The indolent soul does not transmogrify nor fall from his constitutional eternal fixture, but by his apathetic egoism, i.e. by allowing his conception of himself ascendance over Godhead, he blinds himself to the nature of his own identity-with its inherent tendency to fall down. He assumes the mentality of aspiring to lord it over, and he is at that point overwhelmed by Maya.

Maya is God’s good adjustment which impounds the erring souls, confining them in bodies like strait-jackets to obstruct their suicidal commission. Maya is material Nature. Maya means forgetfulness of God. Maya means the measuring tendency (by elevating oneself to the Judge’s seat). Maya means what has no reality in itself. And Maya means mercy. These may be understood as esoteric truths.

By God’s inconceivable power we have been gifted with the erroneous determinations we have warranted. But at the same time we are being urged to reconsider our misjudgements. We have voluntarily come into the material aggregate elements to seek our fortunes. But the material manifestation actually enforces impotence upon us. We are left to our own conclusions. Can we, lacking as we do absolute knowledge and power, be independently happy? We are personalities meant to augment the perfection of God’s sovereign Will.

Krishna’s relationship to the world is mysterious. Is He Transcendent or Immanent? If He is Transcendent, has He no concern for the world? If He is Immanent, then has He spread Himself everywhere and ceased to maintain His distinctive Identity? These questions were long debated.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has taught us the truth of Krishna’s inconceivable oneness with and distinction from His multifarious energies (Achintya Bhedabheda Tattva). “In My transcendental Form I [Krishna] pervade all creation. All things are resting in Me, but I am not in them.”-Bhagavad Gita, 9.4. Krishna is distinct from the cosmos and the living entitles (Jivas) and at the same time He is always identical with them, which can be understood only by His Grace.

“He is an undifferentiated Entity, as there is no distinction between potency and the Possessor thereof. In His work of creation of millions of worlds, His potency remains inseparable. All the universes exist in Him, and He is present in His Fullness in every one of the atoms that is scattered through the universe, at one and the same time. Such is the Primeval Lord whom I adore.”—Brahma Samhita, 5.35. Although His inconceivable energy is all-extending, still He maintains His all-attractive medium size, manifesting His Supreme Personality in His eternal Form. “Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful spiritual Body. He is the Origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime Cause of all causes.”—Brahma Samhita, 5.1.

Krishna is the sole Object worthy of being worshiped by all souls. If we were to fabricate any fanciful idea of worship we would become idolators. The Vedic injunctions are the instructions of Krishna, and they state that chanting the Holy Names of Krishna is the sacrifice which we should all be performing in the present age. We should abandon all crippled conceptions known as monism, dualism, pluralism, deism, pantheism, etc. and qualify ourselves as pure theists. Our only asset upon which we can rely is our devotion to God. At the moment of death, all our sophistry and false prestige, all our material opulence and attachment will betray us. We should not waste our lives in the pursuit of perishable things. We should instead travel the path which will take us back to Home, back to Godhead.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has solved for all time the problem of re-establishing our relationship with Krishna. He has assured us that Krishna is best approached by us through the constant chanting of His Holy Names. Our whole attention is best engaged in the transcendence by the repetition of the Hare Krishna Mantra: HARE KRISHNA, HARE KRISHNA, KRISHNA KRISHNA, HARE HARE/ HARE RAMA, HARE RAMA, RAMA RAMA, HARE HARE

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