“A man bound by the hands and feet cannot free himself-he must be helped by a person who is unbound. Because the bound cannot help the bound, the rescuer must be liberated. Therefore, only Lord Krishna, or His bona fide representative the spiritual master, can release the conditioned soul.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.14 Purport)
In the course of the day-to-day affairs of our lives, we are bound to run into trouble from time to time. This trouble can take various forms. In these situations, we usually turn to friends, parents, teachers, or even the government. All these entities certainly mean well and can provide us some relief, but in the end, their powers are limited. God is the only person who has unlimited powers and potencies.
The people we normally turn to in times of trouble are all flawed human beings. “To ere is human” is how the saying goes. Human beings are flawed because they possess gunas, or material qualities. Each of us is a spirit soul, jivatma, at the core, but through the birth process, we accept a material dress composed of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Each person possesses these qualities to varying degrees and in various combinations. For example, one person may be 75% in goodness and 25% in passion, while another person may be 100% in ignorance. These qualities can be combined in so many ways that we see up to 8,400,000 different species in the world. Even the person who is completely in goodness still has flaws. This is because the material qualities have limits to them. Another meaning for the word guna is rope. Therefore one who possesses gunas is bound up in the repeated cycle of birth and death. Possessing any of the three material qualities means one is driven to act on the level of karma, which is fruitive activity. If we perform activity with a personal desire or motive, we are forced to suffer good or bad consequences. The results of our actions may come to us in this life, or in a future one. Nevertheless, those who have desires at the time of death are forced to take birth again, repeating the entire cycle.
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Aside from the information we get from the Vedas pertaining to the qualities of nature, we can see for ourselves that human beings are flawed. Our parents give us guidance in the early stages of our life, but in the end, they want us to grow up to be independent adults. In the Western countries, parents try very hard to get their adult age children to move out of the house and start a life on their own. This isn’t done out of selfishness, but out of love for the child. The parents know that they won’t be around forever and that their children must be able to sustain themselves in their absence. Even if we advance to the stage where we are self-sufficient adults maintaining a job and family, our problems don’t end. Relationship troubles, drug addiction, and disease can strike us at any moment.
Economics has been an age old problem for mankind. The Vedas tell us to solve the economic problem by maintaining a small plot of land with a few cows. The cow is the secret weapon in the fight against hunger and starvation. A cow is very easy to maintain and they give us so much food in the form of milk and the products created from it. Sadly this fact has been ignored by most of human civilization in this age of Kali. Nowadays people take to killing innocent cows simply to satisfy their taste buds. With the advancements in technology over the past one hundred years or so, less and less people are engaged in farming. This means that the majority of jobs result from man’s fruitive desires born of the mode of passion.
Capitalism, which is loosely defined as the peaceable and voluntary exchange of goods and services with a respect for property rights and the rule of law, always leads to boundless economic growth. This makes sense because if man is free to pursue his own desires, he will naturally seek out a better life for himself. This capitalist system has been implemented in the United States since its founding. It has yielded tremendous results, as America is considered the great bastion of freedom, a country with the highest overall standard of living in the world. Yet capitalism is still part of the mode of passion, meaning it has defects. One of the greatest defects is that one can never be truly satisfied by artha, or economic development. It is the nature of the mind to constantly crave more and more. Karma is only fair after all. Since everyone has their own desires, there are bound to be collisions. This means that economic growth on a large scale cannot always continue uninterrupted. There are bound to be up and down cycles in a capitalist system.
Currently in America there is a downturn in the economic situation. As mentioned before, these do occur naturally, but the majority of the population doesn’t prepare for these situations. Having grown accustomed to an advanced way of life, any interruption in economic growth can lead to major problems. With the economic downturn, many people have lost their jobs. Since they no longer earn a paycheck, they have trouble paying their bills. One of the largest bills people pay each month is their mortgage. Around eight or nine years ago, the government encouraged people to buy their own homes, even to the point of granting home loans to people who weren’t qualified for them. Fast forward to today, and we have many people who can’t afford to pay the mortgage on their house.
As will happen during any economic downturn, politicians will try to capitalize on the feelings of distress amongst the population. Current U.S. President Barrack Obama ran for office promising to fix the economic problems. After taking office, Obama’s solution was to pass a large spending bill, known as the Stimulus Package. Many people were happy to see this action taken because they thought it would help jumpstart the economy. What has resulted is that the economic conditions are now even worse. This is because the government itself doesn’t have any money. Their wealth comes through the collection of taxes. Taxes come from the producers, those who are successful in the capitalist system. Therefore these stimulus packages are nothing more than the taking of wealth from one group of citizens for the express purpose of giving it to another.
Governments are great entities with lots of money, but even they are limited in their ability to help people. This fact was on full display recently in the city of Detroit. It was announced that part of the stimulus package money was going to be distributed to Detroit residents to help them pay off their mortgages. More than 65,000 people stood in line to fill out applications for government assistance. This seems like a nice idea, but there is one problem. It is expected that only 3,500 or so people will actually end up getting money. Nevertheless the people who waited in line fully expected to be given money.
This is a classic ploy of many governments. They tell citizens to look to them to provide for their needs. The old-style communists used to play a similar trick with bread. By controlling wealth and people’s behavior, the communists could create famine and artificial food shortages whenever they wanted to. In these situations, they would ask the citizens to pray to God to bring them bread. When bread wouldn’t appear, they would ask the citizens to ask the government to bring them bread. When the communist government would deliver the bread, they’d tell the citizens to start worshiping them instead of God.
If even the government has limited powers, who can we turn to? The answer is God. We may pray for things from the Lord, and He may or may not deliver, but it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t exist. This is because God is generally neutral towards all living entities.
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.29)
This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us or that He wants us to suffer. Rather the material world is a sort of playground for the spirit souls to come and falsely enjoy. In this regard, God doesn’t stand in our way. Coming to the playground means relinquishing control to the forces of nature, which are governed by karma. With karma, good and bad things happen on their own. This is what we see with economics. People can ask the government for money, but in the end, it is up to the citizens to make the necessary adjustments in their life for survival.
Though the Lord doesn’t have a stake in our material fortunes, He does take a personal interest when it comes to His devotees. For them, He is ready, willing, and able to provide and protect. Many thousands of years ago, the great sages living in the Dandaka forest knew this fact. At the time, they were being harassed by the Rakshasas of the world. Rakshasas are living entities with characteristics similar to those of human beings, except that they are demons by nature. They live off eating the flesh of others, including human beings. They are expert in black magic, and are committed atheists. The sages were all brahmanas committed to performing great sacrifices for the satisfaction of Lord Vishnu. Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Vishnu is His primary expansion.
“You are the ultimate recourse and asylum for us ascetics, who are aggrieved and have been searching for someone to save us from the assaults of the Rakshasa demons.” (Sages of Dandaka forest speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.12)
The Rakshasas were not only harassing the sages, but disrupting their sacrifices and killing them in the process. The sages were in dire need of help, so they turned to Lord Rama. Krishna had incarnated on earth as Lord Rama specifically to give protection to His devotees. Through a series of events, He, His wife Sita Devi, and His younger brother Lakshmana ended up roaming the forests for fourteen years. The sages took this opportunity to personally petition the Lord for His help. The above referenced statement was actually made by Lord Rama to Sita Devi, where He explained to her how the sages had approached Him.
Rama’s powers are unlimited. He was easily able to defeat the Rakshasas, killing their leader Ravana in the process. For God, such activities are mere child’s play. The lesson here is that we should always turn to God for all of our needs. He may not give us material benedictions, but He’ll give us something much more valuable; devotion. The point of human life is not to be successful economically, but rather to attain spiritual perfection. Vaishnavas, devotees of Lord Vishnu, receive the special benediction of having loving attachment to God’s lotus feet. By approaching the Lord or one of His bona fide representatives, we can be assured of protection in the execution of devotional service.