Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wall of Separation

Lord Krishna “A faithful man who is absorbed in transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.39)

In America, it is believed that there exists a separation between church and state, and as such many people are proud of the fact that religion is not mixed in with government. “The government cannot promote any religion, nor can they talk about it in the public arena. This ensures that all viewpoints are respected when it comes to religion or irreligion.” This mindset has led to an increase in secularism, especially in the national school system. Since there are no religious doctrines discussed with impressionable young students, people feel this system is an ideal representation of religious freedom. “No one becomes offended and no one is forced to hear about religion.” In reality, this is not possible. Secularism is itself a form of religion, except that it is fatally flawed since it is a man-made religion. Since real religion is something which descends from God, any system which neglects God’s instructions will inherently be flawed. The people who follow such concocted systems will suffer greatly as a result.

Constitutional convention The separation of church and state is itself an erroneous concept. The Founding Fathers of the United States were very religious people and the land of America itself was founded on the concept of religious freedom. In the 17th century, the Pilgrims fled England since they couldn’t practice their religion freely and openly. If we study human history, we will see that there have been countless instances where governments forced people to follow a certain religious doctrine. If citizens didn’t swear allegiance to a specific scripture or faith, they would suffer the consequences. Many times citizens were killed if they didn’t abandon their own religious practices.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." (First Amendment to the United States Constitution)

The issue of religion weighed heavily on the minds of the framers of the Constitution. They wanted to have a government which recognized God’s supremacy, but at the same time didn’t force people to participate in any particular religion. Thus they included the Establishment Clause in the Constitution. It states that Congress, meaning the government, can make no law establishing a national religion. This stipulation makes a lot of sense, for even followers of the Vedic tradition believe in this. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead as declared by the Vedas, expounded on the truths of Vedanta philosophy while on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago. This famous discourse presented to Krishna’s cousin and disciple, Arjuna, is chronicled in the Bhagavad-gita. At the conclusion of His teachings, Lord Krishna put the onus on Arjuna as it related to adhering to the instructions.

“Lord Brahma heard the occult sound tapa, but he did not see the person who vibrated the sound. And still he accepted the instruction as beneficial for him, and therefore he engaged himself in meditation for one thousand celestial years.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.8 Purport)

Lord Brahma God doesn’t force us to follow any religious system. The Vedas themselves were first handed down to Lord Brahma, the first created living entity, through the medium of the heart. Brahma wasn’t forced to accept these instructions, but rather he chose to contemplate on them for a long time. This meditation helped Brahma finally realize the presence of the Lord and His greatness. So we see that taking up dharma, or one’s occupational duty, is most certainly a choice, for that is how the material world works. The spirit soul is meant to associate with God, but through desires for fruitive activity, it comes to this material world where it suffers through birth, old age, disease, and death. Religion is God’s mercy upon us, a way to help us return to His spiritual kingdom. More than anything else, religion is put in place not to punish, but rather, to help us understand and love God.

Pure love for God is known as Krishna-prema, and it is nothing like the lusty affairs that exist in the material world. Krishna-prema is pure because it is directed at the supreme pure, Lord Krishna. The love exchanged between God and His devotees is not checked by any forces, meaning there is no requirement for reciprocation. In our own life, we may fall in love with someone and remain attached to them for a while, but should they repeatedly cross us, that love soon turns to hate. Love for Krishna does not work this way. Krishna-prema involves complete surrender; the devotee remains attached to the Lord no matter what the situation. The Lord can send the devotee to heaven or hell, but the love remains the same.

The bona fide religious systems are those which teach the living entities how to awaken their dormant love for God. For true love to exist, it must be voluntarily practiced on both sides. As we all know, we can’t force anyone else to love us, no matter how hard we may try. The relationship between God and the living entities is similar in this regard. God is certainly the supreme controller, ishvara, but He has no control over the feelings and desires of the living entities. We are minute spirit sparks that are similar in quality to the Lord, thus we also have our own form of independence. We are free to act however we wish. Religion [dharma], in the form of the Vedas, was passed down by God to help us reconnect with Him. The Vedas represent a set of guidelines and recommendations for people to follow, especially those who are interested in spiritual life. Nevertheless, adherence to the shastras, or religious law codes, is completely voluntary. Those who ignore the suggestions of the Vedas certainly have to suffer, while those who follow religion enjoy the results that come from associating with God. Nevertheless, there is still no force applied by God. Though dharma is an occupational duty which never changes, the acceptance of this duty remains our choice.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…” (President George Washington, Thanksgiving Day 1789, A Proclamation)

George Washington The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that religious freedom was protected. Whatever bona fide faith people wanted to follow, they would be allowed to do so. The first President of the United States, George Washington, was a highly religious man. His 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation is more of a religious sermon than it is a political speech. If such a speech were given by a President today, they would surely be tarred and feathered and investigated for breaching separation of church and state. The whole concept of a separation between church and state didn’t come about until many years after the founding of the country. In a famous 1947 Supreme Court case, a few judges, who no doubt had personal objections to hearing about religion, decided to take advantage of a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, which contained the term “wall of separation between church and state”, as a way to describe the famous Establishment Clause. These judges decided that Jefferson’s words in the letter were the best way to interpret the First Amendment, thus turning the Establishment Clause into something that it never was intended to be; a ban on discussion of religion in public.

“There are 900,000 species living in the water. There are also 2,000,000 non-moving living entities (sthavara) such as trees and plants. There are also 1,100,000 species of insects and reptiles, and there are 1,000,000 species of birds. As far as quadrupeds are concerned there are 3,000,000 varieties, and there are 400,000 human species." (Vishnu Purana)

Lord Krishna As a result of these decisions, secularism is now the mainstay of the American school system. Public schools are not allowed to teach about religion in any way, and many people laud this concept as being ideal. But in reality, people are most certainly taught a religious system; one that is concocted by man. What kinds of things are taught? Students are told that, as a matter of established fact, the universe was created with a “big bang”, a random collision of elements which sprung forth the sun and all the other planets. Life came soon after that on its own. The latest theories presented as facts are global warming and evolution. Any person who does any concrete studies of these theories will find that they have no basis in fact. For example, the theory of evolution states that man evolved from the apes. If that is the case, why are there still apes? Even if a few “intelligent” apes somehow caused their species to evolve, scientists are unable to explain how or why this evolution took place. They ascribe everything to chance, or the involuntary mechanisms of nature.

“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.10)

Global warming has recently been exposed to be a complete farce, driven by political motives more than anything else. Even the global warming proponents never passed the theory off as concrete science, for they always declared that a “consensus of scientists now believe in it”. For something to be established science, there must be a hypothesis that is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt through controlled experiments. Any person with a modicum of intelligence can understand that no such tests can be performed in relation to the weather and man’s affect on it. Real science is not something that is up for a vote.

What has the secular school system produced? For starters, students graduate from school having no aim or purpose in life. Mathematics, science, reading, and geography certainly can be taught without any spiritual bent, but other than that, students aren’t given any real education. They are not taught about the existence of the soul, nor are they taught about the meaning of life. Instead, they are given information about various isms, such as communism, socialism, capitalism, racism, multi-culturalism, etc. There is no mention of moral codes. The idea is that one should satisfy their senses as much as possible. Should they run into trouble, they can practice safe sex or even get abortions.

“That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.3)

Shrila Prabhupada Secularism doesn’t really help anyone. Since it is a man-made religion, its followers don’t see any tangible benefits. By itself, the human brain is not capable of understanding higher concepts relating to the soul and the existence of a Creator. Thus the only way to take in bona fide spiritual information is through the disciplic succession process, wherein religious information descends from spiritual leader to spiritual leader in a chain. The origin of this chain is God, for the Vedas come directly from Him. The solution to all of our problems in life is to take up a bona fide religion and abide by its principles.

In this age, following religion is easier said than done. In an ideal system, people are taught about religion in the early stages of life. Young children have a lot of energy and this helps them better take in knowledge. The Vedas tell us that this life is meant for tapasya, or austerity. By curbing the influence of the gross senses, we can live a sober life. Those who are in control of their senses, dhira, can understand who God is and what their relationship is with Him. As we advance in age, we become more set in our ways, thus making it more difficult to make drastic changes to our way of life. If we didn’t practiced tapasya in our youth, it is almost impossible to take it up as adults.

Bearing all this in mind, the Supreme Lord has made the path to spiritual perfection much easier in this age. The only bona fide religious system for the Kali Yuga is sankirtana, or the congregational chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. God is one, but He has many names. Krishna and Rama are two of His most important names which any person can chant. If a person belongs to the Christian, Muslim, or Jewish faith, there is no offense committed by chanting Hare Krishna, for love knows no boundaries.

Maharishi Valmiki The great Vaishnava acharyas advise us to chant as much as possible, and at the same time, refrain from the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication. This system actually provides the best education because by regularly connecting with God, we develop an attachment for Him. There is no difference between God and the books which describe Him. This means that if we have an attachment for Krishna, we’ll develop a hankering to read about His activities found in the famous books such as the Ramayana, Bhagavad-gita, and Puranas. The knowledge found in these books far exceeds that received from any secular school system.

If we study the lives of some of the great Vaishnava saints, we’ll see that they were all extremely intelligent. Simply by becoming dedicated servants of Krishna, they acquired all the necessary knowledge to be successful in life. We too can become just as smart, but first we must tear down whatever wall exists between us and Krishna.