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In India, A Mad Race For Materialism

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In India, A Mad Race For Materialism

by Tattva-vit dasa

1985-05-15Indians in this century, victimized by the propaganda that urban industrial development will bring them well-being and prosperity, have neglected the Vedic principles of God consciousness. The British established factories and introduced materialism, and Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, simply followed this policy, although his spiritually inclined mentor, Mahatma Gandhi, was opposed to it.

After independence, in the 1950s, thousands of poor Indians found employment in the nation’s developing steel mills. But were they any happier or more advanced for having abandoned their God-conscious agricultural life in the villages? The cities became one of the most heavily industrialized areas in the world, and living conditions worsened.

Soviet propaganda would have us believe that industrialization is making India prosperous. According to Pravda (11/10/84), “India, a country that until recently knew only the wooden plow, is now among the world’s top ten industrial producers. . . . India’s pride—the state steel mills at Bhilai, Bokaro, Durgapur, and Raurkela—substantially increased their output [in 1984] and made it possible to reduce steel imports by one million tons. These and other economic successes of India are directly linked to cooperation with Socialist countries.”

Economic success, however, means that people have enough food and other basic necessities. India’s poor factory workers can’t eat nuts and bolts produced in the factories. They, and all of us, must rely on what is produced in the fields by the mercy of the Supreme Lord. So to measure prosperity in terms of industrial production is foolish.

In fact, industrialization thrives at the cost of human lives, a matter the Indian government has apparently chosen to ignore. Said U.S. News & World Report (1/14/85), a “sign of improved [U. S.-Indian] relations has been the official reaction to the Union Carbide chemical spill at Bhopal that killed at least 2,000. The government. which wants more foreign investment, has discouraged criticism of the U.S. for the accident at the American-owned plant.”

Thirty years ago, concerned that India’s leaders were rejecting their country’s spiritual heritage for Western standards, Srila Prabhupada, the founder of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine, was writing articles calling for a return to India’s spiritual culture. Moreover, that culture must not only be revived, he said, but it must be distributed throughout the world. Telephones, automobiles, and radios, he would argue, are not emblems of prosperity. Real prosperity lies in spiritual understanding, real poverty in ignorance. Since all suffering is ultimately caused by ignorance, poverty and misery can be eliminated not by industrializing but by cultivating spiritual knowledge. Srila Prabhupada’s articles would argue that even if people have all the facilities and amenities of modern material advancement, their unhappiness and unrest would continue until they attained spiritual satisfaction. He would remind his readers that the West had seen only materialism and had therefore never known peace. If India followed the West, the only results would be strife and war—a harsh prediction that time has borne out.

The most significant strife recently has been the unrest of the Sikhs who are demanding total political independence from India. This schismatic movement had a part in the assassination of Indira Gandhi (Nehru’s daughter), after which India experienced a week of fratricidal conflict. Such internal danger arises out of the prevalent lack of spiritual understanding. Historically, India’s castes and religious groups have lived together peacefully. But as Indians reject the Vedic culture, ignorance and unrest have naturally ensued. Thus the real danger in India is not economic stagnation. Whenever India has had problems with minorities, it has not been just because there was an economic problem.

It is to be hoped that by the start of the next century, India’s drift away from things spiritual and her unswerving dedication to economic development will have been altered under Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership. If this course isn’t followed, it looks like India will be out to lead the world in the mad race for materialism.

Crime Is The Punishment

by Bhutatma dasa

1985-05-14Commenting on the prevalence of crime-related stories in the media, Boston Globe editor Thomas Winship recently wrote that violent crime in America has become “such an overpowering, tragic fact of life today that I’m not sure the media can overplay it.”

In a 1981 New York Times public opinion poll, New Yorkers cited crime as the most serious problem facing their city—more serious than inflation, unemployment, housing, transportation, taxes, schools, and the environment combined. Figures from the U.S. Department of Justice show violent crime in the U.S. increased sixty percent in the seventies. And the eighties are offering no hope of respite.

Concerned critics often propose tighter security and stiffer sentences, along with greater job opportunities for the young and the disadvantaged. But while such reforms would certainly help, a genuine solution must reach deeper. Ultimately, if we are to effect a lasting change, we must repair or even reconstruct the moral and spiritual foundation of our society. As Harvard professor James Wilson, a national authority on crime, pointed out in his article “Thinking about Crime,” “If we hope to find in some combination of swift and certain penalties and abundant economic opportunities a substitute for discordant homes, secularized churches, intimidated schools, and an ethos of individual self-expression, we are not likely to succeed.”

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, explained that only a spiritual remedy can cure the modern epidemic of crime and violence. Society must learn the techniques for bringing forth the natural goodness within the hearts of all its citizens.

In July 1975, in a conversation with Lieutenant David Mozee of the Chicago police department, Srila Prabhupada said, “The difference between the pious man and the criminal is that one is pure in heart and the other is dirty. This dirt is like a disease in the form of uncontrollable lust and greed in the heart of the criminal. Today people in general are in this diseased condition, and thus crime is very widespread. When people become purified of these dirty things, crime will disappear. . . .

“The only way to permanently change the criminal habit is to change the heart of the criminal. As you well know, many thieves are arrested numerous times and put into jail. Although they know that if they commit theft they will go to jail, still they are forced to steal because of their unclean hearts. Therefore without cleansing the heart of the criminal, you cannot stop crime simply by more stringent law enforcement. The thief and the murderer already know the law, yet they still commit violent crimes due to their unclean hearts. So our process is to cleanse the heart.”

In a spiritually centered society, citizens are taught from childhood how to purify their consciousness and thus attain freedom from the disturbing influences of lust and greed. And such a society recognizes this purification as the central aim of human life. By contrast, the chief goal of today’s materialistic societies is economic development, and thus everyone learns to act selfishly for sense gratification. This prevailing mood agitates lust, anger, and greed, and then society must suffer the crime that springs from these negative emotions. A materialistic society, by attempting to exploit nature’s resources for sense enjoyment, also generates excessive competition among its citizens. This inevitably leads to social inequality and corruption which further inflame the anger and frustrations of many potential or practicing criminals.

Although citizens of both a materially oriented and a spiritually oriented society seek pleasure, those in a spiritual culture enjoy the gradual realization of their eternal, blissful, spiritual consciousness and of their sublime relationship with God. The members of a materialistic society, however, aiming no higher than the fulfillment of bodily and mental demands, neglect self-realization and therefore feel profound discontent.

A materialistic society stifles its citizens’ spirituality and virtue by exaggerating their bodily propensities for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—propensities we share with the animals. Thus people do all kinds of atrocious things in the name of sense gratification and the fulfillment of these basic needs.

A genuine religious process purifies the heart, mind, and senses of one who follows it, gradually raising him to the level of God consciousness. Any religious system unable to do so is impotent; it has no more value than a boat that cannot float. By giving us a direct experience of the supreme pleasure potency within the soul the science of Krsna consciousness effectively liberates the mind from lust, anger, greed, and the false, bodily conception of life. As explained in the great spiritual classic Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.19-20), “By practicing bhakti-yoga [devotional service to Krsna] one becomes freed from the modes of passion and ignorance, and thus lust and avarice are diminished. When these impurities are wiped away, one remains steady in his position of pure goodness and becomes joyful.”

Only when our leaders will embrace universal religious principles, such as those of the Krsna consciousness movement, will violent crime decrease. Otherwise, spiritual deterioration will go on unchecked and more and more people will be compelled by uncontrollable lust, anger, and greed to prey on their fellow citizens.

Starving For Knowledge:
A Greater Famine

by Drutakarma dasa

While the world’s major powers have developed the ability to deliver megatons of nuclear destructive power to any spot on earth within minutes, they have proved remarkably ineffective in delivering tons of life-saving grain to millions of people on the verge of starvation in Ethiopia and other drought-stricken regions of Africa.

Ethiopia’s chief ally, the Soviet Union, has apparently been of little help in the present crisis. Most of the food aid arriving in the country is coming from Europe and America.

But in the eyes of many of the relief workers who have been pleading for assistance for over a year, the Western response, although welcome, is too little and too late. And they fear that the required sense of urgency will not be sustained when (as always seems to happen) the public tires of the images of pain and suffering and media coverage about the famine dwindles.

Even the Ethiopian government is not without blame in the current crisis. According to reports in Newsweek, the military government ignored early warnings of the impending food shortages and continued spending almost half of the national budget purchasing Soviet-Bloc weapons. As in many other nations, production of traditional food crops has declined as more and more land is planted with cash crops for export.

Similar neglect in other African nations recently prompted Hilary Ng’Weno, editor of Nairobi’s Weekly Review, to comment, “Many of the leaders mismanaged economies, squandered national wealth, and literally threw away the future as they jostled with one another for personal power and gain. When it was not greed that motivated them, it was folly and gullibility.”

Why so much lack of concern for the sufferings of others? Isn’t it simply that our compassion has been blunted by the selfishness fostered by today’s rampant, widespread materialism? This problem was noted by Pope John Paul II, who said in a speech given in November of 1979 to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “Hunger in the world does not always just come from geographic, climatic, or unfavorable agricultural circumstances, those that you are trying little by little to improve. . . . It comes also from man himself.” The human factor in the hunger problem has led many religious leaders to urge a fundamental redirection of human energies away from greed, selfishness, and the pursuit of artificial “necessities.”

If we are to solve the problem of hunger we must return to genuine spiritual values. Understanding that the real self is not the body but the conscious self within the body automatically reduces greed and conflict. A human being with such knowledge is satisfied with the natural, comfortable necessities of life and does not strive to increase his needs or to induce others to increase theirs. When spiritual goals replace material goals, qualities such as compassion and concern for others automatically replace the material qualities of greed and selfishness.

A greater sense of world community is another important consequence of replacing material goals with spiritual ones. At present the human race is divided into thousands of national, racial, religious, cultural, sexual, and economic groupings. The bodily concept of life is the root cause of this splintering. A person who is free from identifying with the material body does not see others primarily in terms of their physical, bodily natures. He sees the conscious selves within all bodies as essentially identical and equal. Seeing humanity as one family, such a person naturally responds more quickly and effectively to the sufferings of others.

At present the world has enough grain surpluses to provide minimum relief to the world’s worst crisis spots, such as Ethiopia. But in order to deal effectively with the total problem of world hunger we must search for ways to dramatically increase the world’s available supply of food. Many food experts have concluded that this can be done only by shifting away from the meat-based diet now prevalent in the developed countries of the world and moving toward a vegetarian diet.

In America, for example, about ninety percent of all the harvested grain is fed to animals that are eventually slaughtered for meat. Yet information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveals that for every seven pounds of grain fed to animals raised for slaughter, we receive only one pound of meat in return. In Diet for a Small Planet, Francis Moore Lappe points out that in America alone, 120 million tons of grain out of the total of 145 million tons fed to animals is thus lost for the purpose of human consumption. To convey what this means in human terms, she explains that 120 million tons would provide every man, woman, and child on earth with a portion of one cup of cooked grain every day of the year.

So if the world’s political and religious leaders would truly like to demonstrate their concern for the victims of hunger, they should adopt a vegetarian diet and urge others to do so as well. The Hare Krsna movement is one of the world’s leading promoters of a vegetarian diet as a long-range solution to the problem of world hunger. And to relieve the immediate effects of hunger, the Hare Krsna devotees are feeding disaster victims, the homeless, the unemployed, and the hungry through the Hare Krsna Food for Life program.

But looking beyond this, a person conversant with Vedic knowledge and trained in the Vedic system of self-realization sees that all human beings are caught in the sufferings of disease, old age, and death, to which even the richest and most well-fed among us must eventually succumb. Therefore the members of the Hare Krsna movement work not only to relieve the sufferings of the external body, but also to alleviate the sufferings of the soul. They accomplish this by widely disseminating the transcendental knowledge contained in the Vedic scriptures.

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