Thursday, May 6, 2010

Progress

Prahlada Maharaja with Lord Vishnu “Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)

Comment: “I believe in a loving God. I don’t believe that God would let us destroy the planet simply through trying to achieve progress.”

Response: Supporters of the man-made global warming theory contend that it is human activity which is responsible for drastic shifts in the earth’s climate. First it was believed that the earth was getting warmer, but when the warming stopped, the movement chose to go by the more generic term of Climate Change. In essence, followers of this movement have now found a way to blame any major climatic event on the behavior of mankind, focusing especially on the burning of fossil fuels. Recent events, including leaked emails and exposed computer models, have pretty much blown the lid off these flawed theories, proving that the movement was a source of confusion more than anything else. Those who were against the movement from the beginning view the recent news as substantiation for their belief that material progress can never be harmful to mankind at large or to the environment. The Vedas actually tell us otherwise.

Globe People who don’t believe in God, or those who don’t necessarily understand His power, are often prone to adopting the mentally concocted theories of scientists. During the 1970s, the consensus opinion among scientists was that the earth was headed for a drastic cooling period. Famous magazines ran stories about the impending ice age. Just a few years later, scientists changed their outlook and started talking about global warming. To support their argument, they pointed to the slight rise in average surface temperatures of the earth during the previous one hundred years. The only thing they could attribute this rise to was the increase in the burning of fossil fuels. “Planes, trains, and automobiles caused increases in pollution, and this in turn led to an increase in global temperatures”.

“O Arjuna, I control heat, the rain and the drought. I am immortality, and I am also death personified. Both being and nonbeing are in Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.19)

Lord Krishna This scientific theory was flawed from the very beginning since we know from the Vedas that Lord Krishna, or God, is responsible for creating and destroying this world. In fact, this creation isn’t the first one to have ever existed, nor will it be the last. Krishna expands Himself into guna-avataras to manage the material creation. In His Lord Shiva avatara, God takes charge of the destruction of the world. This belief isn’t exclusive to the Vedas, for pretty much every spiritual discipline believes in the idea of a divine creator. If God can create, He most certainly can also destroy.

The recent scandal involving leaked emails from The University of East Anglia shows that the global warming movement was more political than it was scientific. More and more people are coming out of the woodworks and admitting that there was never any scientific basis for the theory. In fact, one prominent proponent of global warming recently came out and admitted that the earth hasn’t warmed at all since 1995. We saw real-life evidence of this recently as there were record-cold temperatures around cities in America this past winter. Even in the Bahamas, which is a popular vacation destination during the winter months, people suffered through unseasonably cold temperatures. The low temperatures dropped into the fifty degree Fahrenheit range, and people didn’t know what to do since none of the building structures were equipped with heating systems.

“The demoniac believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 16.11-12)

Lord Krishna People may ask why anyone would advance the global warming theory simply for political purposes. The reason is that in any society you will find a subsection of people who don’t believe in spirit, and thus choose to associate exclusively with matter. A gross materialist is someone who doesn’t believe in God or in a soul. They take their current life to be the beginning and end of everything. Thinking along these lines, they conclude that the aim of life is to enjoy as much as possible. Since other people are similarly enjoying, the gross materialists tend to ascribe more importance to their own enjoyment than they do to the enjoyment of others. This is the true sign of miserly behavior. If we enjoy material life ourselves, why shouldn’t others be afforded the same right to enjoy?

Wanting to hoard material wealth and possessions to themselves, the gross materialists look for any way possible to shut others out of access to resources. Essentially the atheistic global warming leaders think along these lines: “Who are these people burning all these fossil fuels? They are simply destroying the planet. If that happens, what will be left for me and my children? We must use the power of government to impose regulations and limits on the consumption of gasoline so that we can make sure these resources remain for us to use.” Some of the most vocal proponents for government intervention to combat global warming are extremely wealthy businessmen and celebrities who fly around in corporate jets and enjoy all the excesses of life. None of the government regulations they support would ever affect their way of life. In fact, these people don’t even curb their own use of fossil fuels, but rather engage in ponzi schemes such as purchasing carbon offsets. The current Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a big believer in this scheme which involves buying shares in companies that promise to cancel out a person’s carbon footprint by finding ways to save energy elsewhere. It’s akin to going on diet by asking others to lower their caloric intake, while you continue to eat as much as you want.

Automobile traffic The other side of the global warming issue is represented by those who believe in material advancement and progress. “Oil is the fuel of the engine of freedom. The burning of fossil fuels is required for our advanced lifestyle; a lifestyle which only seeks to make life better. The global warming people simply seek to punish others. There’s nothing wrong with searching after a better life, i.e. progress.” On the surface, these claims seem valid. Buying a car and driving it to get to work or school seems innocent enough. Almost all of us today rely on the great inventions of the past one hundred years such as the automobile, cellular telephone, television, DVD player, and computer. Yet the Vedas tell us that such technological advancement doesn’t represent any progress at all as it relates to the plight of the living entity.

How can this be true? In order to understand this, we must first know how to identify ourselves. The Vedas tell us that our true identity comes from the spirit soul and not the gross body. Actually we don’t need to learn this from the Vedas, for we can simply study our own life and the lives of others to realize this fact. As soon as a person dies, people become sad because the person who occupied that body has now left. Where have they gone? More specifically, what is it that has departed? The body remains standing right before us. It is lifeless, however, and it is this way because the soul has left the body. Therefore any sane person would conclude that it is the soul that defines life and not the attributes of a person’s body, a body which is subject to creation and destruction. Since the soul represents our real identity, the Vedas tell us that the aim of life is to search after progress for the soul and not the body.

How does the soul progress? Similar to the theory of evolution, the soul actually transmigrates from species to species over the course of millions of lifetimes. So many different species exist, up to 8,400,000 varieties, due to the influences of karma and guna. Karma is fruitive activity, or work, and guna is a material quality. The three material qualities are goodness, passion, and ignorance. Combine these qualities in varying proportions and you get all the different species. Yet we see there is a major difference between human beings and any other species. The key distinction lies in the area of intelligence. Human beings are much smarter than any other species, for they are even smart enough to know they are going to die.

Vyasadeva This is the key point. If we human beings know that we are going to die, shouldn’t we try to understand where we will go after death, or even try to find out where we were before our birth? It is for this very reason that God gave us religion. One of the most famous religious treatises is the Vedanta-sutras, written by Vyasadeva, an incarnation of Lord Krishna. The Vedanta-sutras open with the aphorism, athato-brahma-jijnasa, which means “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman.” Brahman is God’s feature as the all-pervading impersonal effulgence. Everything, including matter and spirit, is Brahman. Thus human life is meant for inquiring about all of matter and spirit, finding out why we are here, and then using that knowledge to achieve spiritual perfection.

So we must ask ourselves if all of our material advancements help us to better understand God, or do they take us further away from Him? The answer to this question is fairly obvious. Technological advancements are aimed at increasing sense pleasure. People want a better way of life, which means a better form of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. If we study all the sybaritic pursuits of man, we’ll see that each one of them can be classified into one of these four activities. One may ask what is wrong with eating or sleeping. Nothing really, for we certainly require these activities in order to remain alive. However, we see that the animal kingdom already enjoys eating, sleeping, and mating. Some species, such as the dogs and monkeys, have no problem finding sexual partners. The hogs have no problem eating their own stool.

Human beings are supposed to be smarter than the animals. Yet if we spend all our time figuring out ways to find more comfortable living arrangements, more palatable food, or more beautiful sex partners, we aren’t really using our intelligence to our advantage. The animals already engage in these activities, without any of the hassles. Being a human being means not only having an advanced level of intelligence, but also having to suffer through hankering and lamenting. The human mind is always hankering after things it wants, and lamenting over things it is missing out on. The animals don’t have these worries. They simply live off their animalist tendencies.

So how do material pursuits take us away from God? The Lord is very kind to us. He essentially gives us what we want. If we want to remain in this material world, acting out our desires, He won’t stand in our way. The laws of karma state that one must suffer or enjoy the reactions of their work. This means that if we are pious, we ascend to a higher form of life in our next birth, and if we are sinful, we get demoted to a lower species. Either way, we remain in the material world, forced to repeat the cycle of birth and death. Those people, however, who want to return to God’s spiritual world never have to take birth again after their current life is over.

“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.25)

Krishna devotee Wanting to return to Krishna’s spiritual world is one thing, but how do we make this dream a reality? The great Vedic saints tell us that there is only one way to achieve spiritual perfection, and that is through the practice of bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Bhakti means love and yoga means linking our consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness. Our consciousness is determined by the activities of our spirit soul, jivatma, combined with our material body. The Supreme Consciousness belongs to God. Since He is the Supreme Lord, He expands Himself as the Supersoul, or Paramatma, which resides within the heart of every living entity. God is already inside us, we just need to connect with Him.

This connection is called yoga. There are various types of yoga, but only the yoga of love and devotion will guarantee us a return trip back to the spiritual world in the afterlife. Devotional service involves nine different processes but the one most recommended for this age is the chanting of the holy names of God. God has many different names based on His activities and spiritual qualities, but the Vedas tell us that two of His most important names are Krishna and Rama. When we combine these names together with Hara, or the name of God’s pleasure potency, we get what is known as the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This mantra is so beautiful because anyone can chant it, regardless of their religious faith or personal disposition. This mantra is free of any defects, for it doesn’t aim to provide any type of material advancement, but rather guarantees the greatest progress for the soul.

“When one is not attached to anything, but at the same time accepts everything in relation to Krishna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness. On the other hand, one who rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Krishna is not as complete in his renunciation." (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 2.255-256)

Lord Chaitanya and associates The great saints following in the line of Lord Chaitanya advise that we should accept those things in life which are favorable towards the execution of devotional service and, at the same time, reject those things which are unfavorable. In this regard, we can take advantage of modern technology by using it to help us serve Krishna. Computers and the internet can be used to learn more about the Vedas and also to disseminate Vedic information to others. We can use cars and airplanes to travel to different holy places, or even just to attend our local temples. The possibilities are endless. Human life is auspicious, for it represents the best chance for the spirit soul to reconnect with God. Rekindling our forgotten loving relationship with the Supreme Lord represents the height of progress.