Saturday, September 26, 2009

Statements That Matter

Krishna speaking to Arjuna “O King, as I repeatedly recall this wondrous and holy dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I take pleasure, being thrilled at every moment.” (Sanjaya speaking to Dhritarashtra, Bhagavad-gita, 18.76)

The world news media pays great attention to the statements made by world leaders and famous celebrities. Their quotes appear as newspaper headlines and also on newswires across the world. The media views the statements of celebrities as being as good as statements made from God Himself.

One need only check the internet during the day or watch a cable news channel to find the latest headlines, which almost always list stories relating to statements made by famous people. “The President said his latest bill will do so and so…Republicans respond to attacks from Democrats…Democrats say Republicans are to blame…so and so called so and so a liar…”, these are the types of headlines we regularly see when following the news. This phenomenon isn’t limited to world news and politics, for the sports and entertainment media display similar behavior. During this year’s Wimbledon, considered the most prestigious professional tennis tournament, former champion and former world number one, Lleytton Hewitt, was asked how fellow player Andy Roddick would fare for the rest of the tournament. Hewitt had just been defeated by Roddick, so the press was interested to know his opinion. Hewitt responded that Roddick had no chance of winning the tournament. This statement turned into front page headlines on all the tennis news websites. One player simply giving his honest opinion all of a sudden became the most important news item.

State of the Union address Every year the President of the United States gives a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress sometime in February. This speech is widely anticipated by the press corps and fellow politicians since the President outlines his goals and agenda for the upcoming year. A copy of the speech is given to the press prior to the address, allowing television networks to prepare their camera angles and cutaways for relevant moments of the speech. For example, if the President mentions someone specifically by name and that person happens to be in the audience, television networks can make sure to show that person on camera at the precise time in the speech when their name is mentioned. In a State of the Union address, presidents typically speak in platitudes, promising to spend money on lofty projects which are aimed at improving the health of the economy. It is very common to see members of both political parties, Republicans and Democrats, stand up and applaud various portions of the speech. After the address, television news channels have roundtable discussions with their panel of “experts” who analyze the content, delivery, and reactions to the speech.

As the famous saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”, the words of Presidents and world leaders shouldn’t be taken as seriously as their actions. Anyone can say anything they want to, but in the end, it shouldn’t matter. Everyone knows that politicians lie, for lying is required to win votes in popular elections. Promises are made but seldom kept once a politician actually enters office. In the same way, famous athletes and pop culture athletes say controversial things all the time, either out of ignorance or because of disagreements they have with others. They are human beings just like the rest of us after all. All of us get into disagreements with others every now and then. It doesn’t mean that we should take so much stock into what people say. They are just words after all.

The news media and the pop culture would be better served if they followed the quotes made by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedas, which include the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Upanishads, and eighteen Puranas, contain very detailed conversations and quotations made by the Lord during His times on this planet and others. There are innumerable universes and planets, and God is always appearing on them enacting His pastimes and providing protection to His devotees. The great sages of India have documented many of these pastimes and stories in the Vedas. Since these great books contain direct quotes from God Himself, it is in everyone’s best interest to read and study them. The Bhagavad-gita, probably the most famous Vedic text, contains the conversation between Lord Krishna and His cousin Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra that took place some five thousand years ago. The statements made by the Lord in that book far outweigh the statements made by any of the mundane philosophers and world leaders throughout the course of history. Krishna discusses the constitutional position of the soul, what happens to it after death, and why we living entities are put on this earth.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bg. 2.20)

“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Bg. 2.24)

“In all activities just depend upon Me and work always under My protection. In such devotional service, be fully conscious of Me.” (Bg. 18.57)

Krishna speaking to Arjuna In a similar manner, the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam detail other pastimes and statements of the Lord. The Vedic literatures are so comprehensive and vast, that one can spend a lifetime trying to read them all and still not be able to finish. The Lord’s glories are ananta, or unlimited. We can even read the same books over and over again and never get bored, since we will always find new meanings and lessons to be learned.

We are very fortunate that the great acharyas of the past, like Vyasadeva, Valmiki Muni, and Goswami Tulsidas dedicated their lives to documenting the activities of God. They took no interest in the day to day actions and words of mere mortals, for they were spellbound by the words and teachings of the Supreme Lord. Through their sacrifice and hard work, they provided future generations with the greatest gift of all, the gift of the divine statements and pastimes of Lord Shri Krishna. Let us honor these great sages by reading their books, understanding the teachings and quotations found within them, and then passing on that knowledge to others.