Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Forget Religion"

In a discussion with professors from the University of Durban (Oct 8, 1975) Srila Prabhupada proclaims “forget religion.” Prabhupada wants the discussion to revolve around very practical and scientific principles. He goes on to say that “knowledge of God should be (have a) practical application in life.” The idea of presenting the practically of Krishna Consciousness was one of the reoccurring themes in his converstaions.

So in a world that has indeed forgotten religion, or distorted religious principals, the preaching, more and more, has to make Krishna Consciousness relevant to people’s lives in a practical way. And Maya, in serving the devotees, is more and more turning the materialistic culture topsy-turvy and thus giving devotees the opportunity to offer solutions.

A case in point is the January 2nd New York Times Op-Ed article What’s Your Consumption Factor? by Jared Diamond.
An accompanying illustration poses the title in a very graphic way by showing a 12oz, 16oz, and 32 oz soft drink. So who is consuming how much and where? In USA the per capita consumption of goods is 32 oz, In China it’s about 3 oz. In many third world countries people are walking around with only a 1 oz. cups.

For years America has been exporting its capitalistic, indulgent life style. More recently, to help things along and promote the American way, companies have been outsourcing manufacturing jobs like crazy to places like China, India and other countries that provide cheap labor. And, guess what, for an administration that hasn’t gotten much else right, the tactic is beginning to work, and it could prove (to the chagrin of the American worker) to be a smashing success.

Now people elsewhere might have a chance to live the American dream. The jobs are rolling in to their countries. They are consuming more, buying more cars, guzzling more gas. Hurray!!!…. But wait a minute…. Are there actually enough natural resources for six point plus billion people in the world to live the American dream?

Let’s see. Last year one news commentator made this rather elusive observation: “Gas prices are rising in America because of a brisk global economy.” That means the gas prices are going up because now we have to compete with China’s ever growing gas needs.

On one hand the author of the Times article admits: “The world is already running out of resources, and it will do so even sooner if China achieves American level consumption rates. Already China is competing with us for oil and metals on world markets.”

In Mahabharata it is stated that the earth cannot tolerate even one greedy man because ultimately man’s greed knows no limits. Thus, to save both the world and ourselves we have to learn restraint, self control, equanimity, and yes, even austerity. Not only will it be better for the planet, but we’ll actually be happier and more peaceful in the process. Just on this point alone Krishna Consciousness has volumes to teach that would help the world situation.

On the other hand, the author refrains from being too pessimistic about the future, as if it might somehow be blasphemous. In the end he says, “I am cautiously optimistic. The world has serious consumption problems, but we can solve them if we choose to do so.” American know-how can still save the world. Someday, in a bright future, everyone can yet have the strong, caffeinated sense gratification of a 32 oz cup.

And surely there are devotees who eagerly await the demise of materialistic civilization and are anticipating the rush of people who will come in droves to take shelter of the temples. To them I say, first consider establishing a rapport, a dialogue, with people based on mutual respect and intelligent observation, and only then will people begin to consider what you are saying and see it as relevant. In America, after 40 years, this type of connection is sorely needed in many ways. If and when people do turn to us, will the devotee community be ready in our internal dealings, relations, and activities to make the impact that it needs to make? Will our hearts and house be in order?

“Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, one becomes too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and falls down into hell.” Bhagavad Gita 16:16