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Survival in the Nuclear Age

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Sin, Karma, and Survival in the Nuclear Age

Many people today are urgently calling for action to avert a global nuclear holocaust. Nuclear war, they say, threatens to end all life on earth, and the most urgent task before us is to save the human race and all other forms of life from extinction. God, for most survivalists, is at best only a secondary or peripheral figure, and precious little antinuclear talk reveals any genuine understanding of the Supreme Being’s role in world affairs.

Ironically, some survivalists charge that religionists are unjustifiably bringing God into the picture. In The Fate of the Earth, Jonathan Schell says, “Extinction by nuclear arms would not be the day of judgement in which God destroys the world but raises the dead and then metes out perfect justice to everyone who has ever lived. … To imagine that God is guiding our hand in this action would quite literally be the ultimate evasion of our responsibility as human beings—a responsibility that is ours because … we possess a free will that was implanted in us by God.”

On the one hand, it is true that we should not sit by complacently, knowing that the end of the world may be at hand but thinking we have no social responsibility in the matter. Yet, on the other hand, we should not rule out the possibility that a global nuclear holocaust may well be the collective karmic reaction God will impose upon the disobedient masses of a godless age.

The Vedic teachings point out that there is a correlation between sin and suffering. Every day, people throughout the world are violating the laws of God on a huge scale by performing or condoning such acts as abortion and animal slaughter. And for those implicated in such sins, punishment awaits, ordained by God through the laws of karma, the laws of action and reaction.

So God’s role in preventing a nuclear holocaust is not peripheral—it is crucial. Humankind, having created such a disastrous situation, should study God’s instructions in the revealed scriptures and try to understand how to rectify their mistakes.

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that just as the movements of the atmosphere are contained within the vastness of space, all living beings’ activities are contained within the will of the Supreme. Even when people think they are acting independently—as the wielders of nuclear power must—they are in fact only puppets of the divine will. Of course, every human being has the freedom either to obey or disobey the will of the Supreme Controller. But in choosing to disobey, we sin, and the more we sin the more we suffer.

Although to many people the strategies of nuclear deterrence employed by the nuclear superpowers may seem a brilliant solution to the problem of how to maintain peace in the nuclear age, such a “solution” leaves us all at peril. At any moment a human or mechanical error could engulf the world in nuclear war.

Nor can disarmament conferences or antinuclear rallies save us. Through disobedience to the laws of God, we have summoned the imminent destruction of ourselves and our godless civilization, and the aggregate volume of sin continues to grow.

Thoughtful men should understand that we have to change the quality of our lives and become attuned to the desires of the Supreme Person. The desire of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is that people live in God consciousness, free from such forbidden activities as illicit sex and animal slaughter. At least those survivalists who acknowledge the existence of God should pursue logic to its right conclusion and understand that only God can save us from nuclear annihilation As people align their activities with the laws of God, their efforts to avert the threatening disaster will become successful.

The responsibility is ours. Let there be a movement to restore obedience to the laws of God and to glorify His activities. This alone can clear the atmosphere of the ominous cloud of accumulating karma that threatens to innundate the globe with rains of nuclear destruction. To imagine that our grossly sinful acts have nothing to do with the impending nuclear disaster would be to completely evade our human responsibility, both religious and social.

We should not, however, exaggerate the powers of man in his rebellion against God. Many survivalists fear that an all-out nuclear war would destroy not only humanity but all forms of life on earth. We have not created life, they argue, and therefore we have no right to destroy it. This is true: we have no right. Nor do we have the power.

The fact is that no living being can ever become extinct, since every living being is an eternal spiritual soul. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, “The living being is never born and never dies. He is not slain when the body is slain.” When the eternal living entity leaves his mortal body at death, he transmigrates to another body according to his karma. Even if the entire earth were destroyed (and that also could not be done independently of God), there would still be innumerable planets within the material universe where the spirit souls would be reborn according to their karma.

That the soul is immortal does not diminish the evil of nuclear war, but it should lead us to graver considerations, since even if we were to rid the earth of all nuclear weapons we would nevertheless be stuck with the inescapable fact of our mortality. If we are real survivalists, we will face this inescapable fact: Physically, no one survives. No one wants to die, but everyone dies. Why not consider this problem? Why are there no protest rallies or political programs to overcome death? Let the survival movement be taken to its ultimate conclusion: survival is possible not by nuclear disarmament but only when people realize their eternal spiritual nature. Only then can we overcome death.

In time not only the earth but the whole material universe will be destroyed—not by the whims of political or military leaders, but by the supreme will. But the spiritual world will remain unscathed. In the Bhagavad-gita (8.20, 21) Lord Krsna says, “There is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is. That supreme abode is unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.”

Only those who awaken their dormant spiritual consciousness will be fit to survive by escaping this world of death and karma and returning home to the eternal, spiritual world.—SDG

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