Yesterday I was leafing through back to godhead, Vol. 16, No. 9, when this statement in the Book Section struck me: “A father is affectionate to his son because there is some relationship of nearness between the son and the father. But that sort of affection in the material world is full of inebriety.” That doesn’t seem to be a fair way to describe one of the deepest, most meaningful relationships two people can share. I know it doesn’t describe my relationship with my son. What does Mr. Prabhupada mean by “inebriety”? Sean O’Connell Boston, Massachusetts
Our reply: Consulting Webster’s Third International, we find that a synonym for inebriety is intoxication, which means “poisoning or the abnormal state induced by a chemical agent (as a drug, serum, or toxin).” Now let’s consider how this definition applies to affectionate relationships in the material world.
From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that each living being—each of us—is not the gross body made of matter but rather a spark of consciousness within the body. This spiritual soul has an innate capacity for affection, which is fully realized in relationship to the Supreme Soul, Lord Krsna. But when the spiritual soul falls into illusion he cuts off his relationship with Krsna, comes to the material world, and becomes conditioned, or contaminated, by matter. Then the spiritual soul begins his painful sojourn of repeated birth and death in myriad bodies—human, animal, and so on—all the time misdirecting his affection toward members of his own family or his own kind.
This abnormal state is brought about by two factors, or, if you will, “toxins”: the ignorance that covers our knowledge of Krsna; and the material body itself, which makes us think we belong to a certain species, family, community, nation, or race and provides us with the means to express our perverted affection for other members of these groups. We can recover from this stupefying inebriety only by reawakening our original affection for Krsna through the process of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. So a father who has genuine affection for his son will give him every opportunity to become Krsna conscious from his earliest childhood.
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