Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day
Nothing Comes From Nothing
by Kundali dasa
Every month I get Acts and Facts, the newsletter of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a Christian organization out to demolish the evolutionists. The newsletter brings me spirited updates on the latest round in a seemingly endless series of debates between the God-fearing creationists and the atheistic evolutionists.
The creationists believe that the Holy Bible is the absolute word of God and hence the last word on creation, any contradiction being false, diabolical, and unfit to be taught in the schools. At the very least, they declare, the biblical version should be presented as an alternative to the atheistic theory of evolution.
The evolutionists object to the creationists’ claim on the ground that the Bible teaches religion, not science. The biblical version of creation is not supported by any hard scientific facts—proof, the evolutionists say, that the universe was not created but rather evolved from a tiny point of concentrated matter the size of a pinhead.
Mysteriously, this pinhead of inert matter grew and grew until it became a good-sized chunk. Just as mysteriously, the chunk exploded. And the universe came into being. Gradually, over a period of many millions of years, from the random pushes and pulls of subatomic particles, the pieces fell into place and the creation—oops, sorry, wrong word—existence, as we know it, developed.
The evolution theory doesn’t deny the need or possibility of a transcendent creator. After all, even a tiny pinhead speck of concentrated matter has to come from somewhere.
Whence came the speck? Right now the evolutionists have no stock answer to this question. They are determined, however, to come up with an alternative to God. At all costs, they want to avoid resorting to mysticism.
How this dispute will finally be settled, if it is ever to be settled, is of paramount concern to the people at ICR, and for good reason. Should the evolution theory be established as incontrovertible in its present form, it would put holes big enough to pass a church through in the Christians’ claim that the Bible is the absolute word of God—a welcome event, no doubt, in the minds of those who believe religion is holding back the progress of civilization.
I am not prepared to settle this issue one way or the other, because the Krsna consciousness version of creation* [*The Vedic explanation of creation appeared in BACK TO GODHEAD 19.9 in the article “How He Creates.”]—which I cannot present in this limited space—supports neither the evolutionists nor the creationists. But, isn’t there something about atheistic evolution that confounds logic and common sense?
Atheism asks us to agree that everything came from nothing. In other words, on the question of how the universe came about, atheism says, “No intelligence, no designer, no creator—nothing was involved. It just happened of its own accord.”
To put it another way, atheism favors Absolute Ignorance over Absolute Wisdom in trying to explain all the achievements of creative skill. Let’s try applying this practically. Sit back and imagine for a few moments someone successfully convincing you that this short essay had no author. . . . It’s absurd, isn’t it?
by Ramanatha-sukha dasa
Archeologists report that they may have found the remains of an ancient city beneath the waters of the Arabian Sea off the coast of Gujarat. Wax seals, earthenware, and other artifacts have been attributed to Dvaraka, the ancient capital of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
S. R. Rao, resident archeologist at India’s National Institute of Oceanography, led a diving expedition a few miles off the coast of Gujarat last December, locating a vast temple complex. Subsequent laboratory tests have shown that the temple flourished as part of a city more than three thousand years ago.
The diving expedition used sophisticated underwater vacuum tubes and side-scan sonar to locate the Dvaraka site. “This project is helping us to learn about our history, our culture, and our religion,” said V. V. Varadachari, the oceanography institute’s director.
Critics of the government-funded expedition have complained that the money should have been used to improve the nation’s education system, since 185,000 of India’s schools do not even have chalkboards. These critics are not impressed that modern scientific technology is being used for a spiritual purpose—to find a principal location of the Supreme Lord’s earthly pastimes.
At least in one sense the critics are correct: Most of India’s six hundred million citizens already know from reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literatures that Lord Krsna had a kingdom off the west coast of India. They don’t need their scriptural knowledge confirmed through archeology.
The Descent Of Mickey Mouse
by Nayanabhirama dasa
I was sitting in the lobby of the Hare Krsna movement’s international guesthouse in Vrndavana, India, when I happened to notice a copy of the Hindustan Times. Curious to find out what was happening in the world, I leafed through the paper and came upon an unusually large advertisement with this heading: The Real Mickey Mouse from Disneyland, U.S.A., is here! “Oh, no,” I groaned. “Mickey Mouse in India! What next?”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought I must have either been dreaming or become delirious from too much sun. But “No,” the ad copy reassured me, “you’re not dreaming. Mickey is coming all the way from Disneyland to meet you all, in an afternoon of laughter, fun, elephant rides, games, eats, and more. … So be there, kids. Mickey’s dying to meet all of you. . . . Tomorrow at the Oberoi Intercontinental Hotel, the gates of funland will swing open for you.” The celebrated rodent was to arrive on a special Pan Am flight from Los Angeles the next day.
Two days later, the story of Mickey’s descent on Delhi appeared in the Hindustan Times:
MUTE MICKEY DELIGHTS KIDS New Delhi (Feb. 22). Every child’s prayer “We want Mickey Mouse!” was answered this afternoon as the flippy-floppy, beaming sweetheart of the millions, none other than the real Mickey from Disneyland, descended on the lawns of the Hotel Oberoi Intercontinental bringing a twinkle into many an innocent eye. …”
At his press conference, Mickey Mouse was accompanied by his spokesperson and interpreter, Melissa Tyler, the official “Disneyland Ambassador to the World.” Asked by one of the journalists what he had to say, Mickey replied through Ms. Tyler, “Keep a smile on your face.”
A reassuring message in troubled times such as these. And not difficult for one wearing a mask (such as Mickey’s) with a painted smile. But aside from the spoiled kids from Delhi’s posh suburbs stuffing their pudgy faces with the gratis goodies, there were few others who could take advantage of the munificent Mouse’s hospitality. India’s numberless homeless and destitute children, who work for a pittance in conditions of Dickensian squalor, would never see Mickey Mouse or tuck in to the funland goodies.
No matter, for Mickey’s real message, that of ever-expanding consumerism, would be heard loud and clear by those that count, that is, India’s affluent upper class. The fact is that Mickey Mouse is America’s best and most popular ambassador to the world—”best” in the sense that he promotes American materialistic values of consumerism. Like the Hollywood movie in which, as Marshall MacLuhan observed, “all the ordinary people have cars, refrigerators, and electric stoves,” so Mickey Mouse, a personification of that Hollywood fantasyland, is one big advertisement for consumer goods.
One of the Disney ads, for example, offered a free Disney gift with every purchase. Among the products listed were Disney calendars, musical greeting cards, Mickey Mouse hats, diaries, and autograph books. The whole idea behind consumerism is to expand markets by fostering artificial desires for goods no one really needs. After all, who really needs a Mouseketeer hat or a Mickey Mouse autograph book? But seeking to expand its markets, Walt Disney Productions has sent Mickey Mouse around the world to create a “need” for the superfluous.
Unlike the West, India is not yet fully geared for consumerism. Most Indian shops, barely larger than kiosks, carry little more than the basic necessities of life. There is no impulse buying of unnecessary items. If you need something, you ask for it, or have it made to order. Nor is there much advertising in the newspapers, a lack that accounts for their skimpiness.
It was the British imperialists, pressed by a need to expand their markets, who first introduced consumerism into India and began eroding her traditional Vedic culture. British propaganda did not simply aim to establish consumerism per se, but to create a demand for British goods exclusively. To do this the British had to first establish the inferiority of anything “native” (a derogatory term when used by imperialists), which included everything from their heathen religion and philosophy to customs, mores, and culture, all of which the British found incomprehensible.
The British propaganda has been so ingrained in the Indian mind that even today, if you look at advertisements in India’s glossy movie magazines or on urban billboards, you’ll find English-looking models enjoying British products such as Britannia (white) bread or glucose biscuits with their English tea.
Gandhi understood that the way to break the imperial yoke would be for Indians to boycott British goods. Hence, he and his followers burned all the British-milled cloth and wore their own homespun cloth instead, which is what Indians had worn long before there were any British factories. Seeing no need for heavy industry, which he believed deleterious to the human spirit, Gandhi wanted to revive the cottage industries. Since independence in 1947, however, there have been many great changes, and India has come a long way toward modernization. Now the mills of Bombay and Ahmedabad have replaced those of Manchester and Lancashire, and India, believe it or not, ranks among the top ten industrialized nations in the world.
Although British imperialism is long gone, American and Japanese goods have replaced the British ones. Like consumers all over the world, Indians are mad after the latest electronic gadgets and state-of-the-art technology.
The insidiousness of Mickey Mouse’s descent into Delhi became all the more apparent when I noticed in one of the Mickey Mouse ads a picture of the goodies. Nestled in the corner, against a tall tumbler of some frothy drink topped with a cherry and two straws, was a hamburger with all the trimmings. Without saying it in so many words, the ad was implying that if you want to enjoy as they do in the West, you have to eat meat. The suggestion is particularly odious, since India is not only traditionally vegetarian (meat-caters are called “nonvegetarians”), but is also the only country in the world, aside from Nepal, where the cow is officially protected from slaughter.
The spectacle of Mickey Mouse in Delhi may at first appear ludicrous, if not harmless, but actually it is rather sad to see Indians, respected all over the world for their profound spiritual culture, throw away their culture for the banal superficialities of American pop culture. It would be a great mistake to give up dharma for Disney, Krsna for Mickey. Previously, nearly all calendars and notebooks depicted religious scenes of Krsna in His various pastimes and incarnations. Now they often display secular subjects ranging from Mickey Mouse and Goofy to naked babes waving the Indian flag, to film stars, politicians, and dogs racing madly on motorcycles. Such mundane iconography can never satisfy the agitated mind of the conditioned soul, for it serves only to perpetuate the idols and mundane ambitions of a godless civilization.
Ironically, as India looks to the West for its technology and iconography, materially exhausted Westerners are turning to India, now more than ever, for spiritual inspiration. Thanks to the success of Srila Prabhupada’s efforts to spread Krsna consciousness in the West, Westerners have begun to appreciate the higher principles of Vedic civilization. And Indians, seeing the Western interest, have begun to rediscover their own heritage—thinking that if foreigners are taking it up, it must be good.