Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cultural Boiling Pot

Lord Krishna and Arjuna “There are three gates leading to this hell-lust, anger, and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.21)

Due to the effects of Kali Yuga, the world seems to be a cultural boiling pot of hot water right now. There is anger and rage inside of some people at never before seen levels. One need only look to recent news stories to see evidence of this.

The famous pop music singer, Michael Jackson, died recently of a heart attack. While many mourned his passing, there were equally as many who took the opportunity of his death to ridicule him even more. Jackson had many shortcomings as a person, including alleged bouts with pedophilia and other strange behavior. He was by no means an outstanding citizen. Yet death is usually a sad occasion where others show respect for the deceased. With Jackson’s passing however, many people took to cracking jokes about him and making fun of the circumstances relating to his death. In another story, the President of Brazil blamed the recent world economic crisis on “white people with blue eyes”. In essence, he was calling bankers and other entrepreneurs Nazis. In a third story, a person wanted for the abduction and rape of a minor was chased by police in Oakland, California. The alleged criminal was a parolee who had been in jail many times before. During the chase, a shootout occurred where four police officers were shot and killed by the suspect. Since the murderer was African American, many people held a celebration rally for his “accomplishment” of killing cops. The people at the rally viewed the police force as “an occupying army in the African community”, who terrorize black people.

Many people will be shocked to hear of such behavior, but situations like these are very common in today’s age. There is a general lack of God consciousness in the world which results in the rise of ignorance. Whether one is black, white, has blue eyes or brown eyes, every person is an individual spirit soul at the core. Judging someone based solely on their physical attributes is quite a silly thing to do. The Vedas refer to people who think this way as mudhas, or asses. It is a skin disease of the worst kind. Yet we shouldn’t be surprised by seeing this sort of ignorance. In the Vedas, the first spiritual instruction given is that “I am not this body”. Aham brahmasmi, meaning “I am a spirit soul” is the first realization that everyone must come to. However, this tenet is not taught anywhere, not even by the major religions of the world. Those who lacks this fundamental knowledge will always be in ignorance and be victim to the skin disease.

We can’t solve this problem simply by talking about it or by protesting. According to the Bhagavad-gita, the soul is eternal and we all have lived many many times before in different bodies. We have evolved to our present state through the laws of karma.

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Lord Krishna, Bg 4.5)

Throughout these numerous lives, we have accumulated dust on our hearts and minds that needs to be cleared. In this age of Kali, Lord Chaitanya has recommended that one constantly chant the Holy names of God as the only means of salvation:

harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam

kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha

"In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way."

God is for everyone and He views everyone equally. If we take to His service, then as we make spiritual progress, we will slowly come to the realization that all of us are His children. We will view everyone equally and be compassionate to all human beings.

In this regard, there is a famous story relating to the venerable Narada Muni and a hunter. The hunter was living in the forest shooting different animals. He would only half kill the animals by breaking their legs, watching them suffer as they struggled for their lives. Narada Muni asked the hunter why he was only half-killing the animals and not putting them out of their misery by fully killing them. The hunter replied that he was deriving great pleasure from watching the animals suffer. Narada Muni informed the hunter that he was incurring great sin by such action. Killing the animals for food was one thing, but intentionally causing them to suffer was worse because the laws of karma would dictate that these same animals would kill the hunter in his next life and several lives after that. The hunter became scared and surrendered himself unto Narada. The rishi then convinced the hunter to give up animal killing and become a devotee of the Lord.

Narada, Parvata, and the hunter Therefore the lesson is that one can only become a first class person by surrendering unto a devotee of the Lord. The devotees have purified themselves through service, thus becoming the most exalted members of society. If we follow their lead and take up the process of devotional service, we can reform ourselves in the same way the hunter did. Viewing everyone equally, having compassion for all living entities, we can live in a society of love and mutual respect, instead of one of hated and anger.