“Exploitation of the weaker living being by the stronger is the natural law of existence; there is always an attempt to devour the weak in different kingdoms of living beings. There is no possibility of checking this tendency by any artificial means under material conditions; it can be checked only by awakening the spiritual sense of the human being by practice of spiritual regulations.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.47 Purport)
“The little guy is in trouble. It’s time to help him. He’s suffering more than we are, so why not do something that will fix his condition, bring him to a higher place? Now that you mention it, there are so many other people in the same position. The teams in the sports leagues that are always at the bottom of the standings, what can we do to help them? What about the victims of discrimination? There should be something in the law codes to address their plight. In fact, all the injustices and inequities of life need to be fixed, and I will dedicate my life to enacting and distributing the necessary fairness.”
The sad case is that these issues will always exist. In a specific region of the world, one group of citizens, perhaps of a specific skin color, is exploited, while in another part of the world that same group is in the majority that exploits. Through the passage of time the positions can change, with one group dominant for a period and then the same group exploited later on. Those with a firm understanding of the purpose of this creation know how its conditions foster the attitude of exploitation. Therefore they don’t give much attention to temporary highs and lows, because in all species and at all intelligence levels the same exploitation takes place. Through following the religious principles, which are geared towards man and his higher potential for intelligence, every type of social issue is addressed, including exploitation.
But aren’t religious principles dogmatic in nature? One politician says that I shouldn’t use contraception, but what business is it of his? Should the same recommendation come from a spiritual leader, what is its significance? Shouldn’t I be allowed to live my life the way that I want to? Under bona fide religious principles, the proper end goal is what drives all activity. Think of what it takes to complete a marathon. Obviously you need to practice running. But you also need to prepare mentally, not distracting yourself with too many other stressful obligations. You also need to sleep on time the night prior to the race and eat the right kinds of food.
The marathon is but one short activity in a list of many that will take place in the journey through a single lifetime. That same vibrant force for action flows through the cycle of birth and death perpetually until desire is purified. The nature of the land of residence is such that it fosters attachment to temporary objects. It keeps the otherwise knowledgeable living entity in ignorance of his real position, that of servant of God. The playing field exists to facilitate the pursuit for equaling or even surpassing the Supreme Lord in the areas of beauty, wealth, knowledge, renunciation, strength and fame.
Ah, but this pursuit is fatally flawed. To begin with, no one can be more opulent than God; hence He is known as Bhagavan in the Vedas. He is the most fortunate, and also the most attractive; hence another way to address Him is Krishna. He is also Rama because He gives more transcendental pleasure to others than any person possibly could. His direct energy serves at His pleasure, and since that energy is so intimately tied to Him, both He and His energy are called in the famous maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
Only when I am ignorant of God’s position and the constitutional nature of His energy expansions will I feverishly pursue material gain in a temporary body. Every other conditioned soul has the right to follow the same pursuit as well. As no one can be God, the competition that results is similar to the fighting that goes on between animals. To further a specific aim, one person comes up with a system of rules and regulations, but those are regularly violated by the competitors looking to gain an edge.
Discrimination against a specific race, gender, ethnicity, or income group helps to advance in the competition to become God. Hence the practice will continue, regardless of the efforts made to curb it. Recognition of the problem isn’t enough; there has to be a tangible reason provided for its root cause. Also, the proper end goal must be uncovered; otherwise man is left in the dark.
The pursuit that removes the harmful competitive spirit entirely will solve the problem, at least on the local level. The starting point is recognition of God’s supreme standing and His intimate relationship to every living entity. From that knowledge one can take up devotional service with firm faith, love and determination. Chant the holy names, devote yourself to God, always think of Him, and you will gradually come to Him.
How will this style of worship curb exploitation? The purification of desire is what does the trick. For instance, instead of harboring jealously for the rich, the devoted soul knows that no amount of material wealth can make one happy. True happiness comes from having the ability to stay in Krishna’s company, to be able to chant His name and remember His sweet smile. The ears are gifts from God that allow us to hear the sweet pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who protects His devotees and continues to show His mercy through the deity form, which is authorized for worship by the spiritual master, who is sent from heaven to rescue us from the ocean of material suffering.
If my guiding desire is to connect with Krishna, instead of having a competitive attitude, my mindset will be to forgive as many people as possible for their exploitative attitude, for they don’t know any better. At the same time, the message of divine love, which is so nicely presented in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, can be distributed and discussed widely, as it is the only cure for the venom injected by the serpent-like fangs of competition, which then fuels the attitude of exploitation.
“By remembering Shri Rama’s holy name, even those who are born into a low caste become worthy of fame, just as the wild trees that line the roads in heaven are famous throughout the three worlds.” (Dohavali, 16)
Krishna’s land is worshipable, as are the foodstuff and flowers offered to Him in love and devotion. If that is the case, it shouldn’t surprise us that His devotee who regularly chants His name is also worshipable. The holy name is what removes any specific defining negative condition. This fact is nicely pointed out by Goswami Tulsidas in his Vinai Patrika. The poet says that among many other things, the holy name is the high birth for one who is low born. If I am born in a family that doesn’t have a rich spiritual culture, the odds of me turning to devotional life are very slim. Following religious principles alone will be difficult for me.
But if I should chant the holy names of Krishna and Rama, all of a sudden my low birth turns into a high birth, wherein I am deserving of honor and respect from others. That status results from the ability to shed transcendental light on others. Therefore the devotee is a saint at heart and always above useless competition. The true saint knows what is best for everyone and tries to distribute that knowledge freely, without concern for the reception. The devotee saint knows how to extract the loving sentiments from every single person, giving them the greatest gift of all: the ability to practice divine love.
The primary principles instituted in the beginning stages of religious life are austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness. These four principles are absent in society when there is a lack of true God consciousness. From these practices the root of exploitation is removed. Dedication to these principles is strengthened by full devotion to God. In fact, bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is so powerful that one can start chanting the holy names and worshiping the Lord even from the contaminated state. The holy name is so powerful that it will automatically bring the aforementioned primary principles to the sincere worshiper.
A life dedicated to redressing a specific social ill will have temporary effects, but eventually the exploitative attitude will continue in some way or another. The weak and the strong can trade places, either in the current life or in a future one. Regardless, rebirth indicates a restart to the fierce competitive race that is destined to end with death. The devoted soul, on the other hand, finds a cure to birth and death, and reaches the supreme abode at the end of life. Giving that same gift to others through their example, the saint shows how to stop the onset of the disease of exploitation.
A fierce competitive advantage to seek,
Leads to the strong exploiting the weak.
One group is up while the other is down,
Though in other places it’s turned around.
To fix the issue is a daunting task you face,
Solve one and another you’ll soon have to chase.
Root of the problem is inability to see,
Know the Vedas for from ignorance to be free.
Saint chants holy names and thus passes on highest gift.
Follow bhakti and from competitive fire yourself lift.