Saturday, June 15, 2013

Everything You Know Is Wrong (About Your Freedom)

This is the 8th in the series, Everything You Know Is Wrong (about your body, mind, ego, family, friends and enemies, pursuit of happiness, wealth) published in this Huffington Post on June 15th, 2013.

"If you think you are free you are fool number one."

According the Vedas, everyone born in this world is controlled by material nature. This nature is categorized into three modes; the mode of goodness (sattva-guna), passion (raja-guna), and ignorance (tamo-guna). Lord Vishnu represents the mode of goodness, and He maintains the universe. Lord Brahma, who is the secondary creator of the universe, represents passion, and Lord Siva represents ignorance. Siva is in charge of the annihilation of the universe.

Only Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is above the three modes of nature, and His devotees, because they are surrendered to Him. Devotees are free to act, because they are prompted from within by Krishna in the heart, and these prompts are confirmed from without by the spiritual master. We are associated with the three modes of material nature, but we must become detached through devotional service to the Lord. If we are not attached to devotional service to the Lord, then we cannot become detached from the modes of material nature. Designations and attachments are due to our lust and desire, our wanting to lord it over the material nature. If we do not give up this propensity of lording it over material nature, we will always be controlled by it, and will have to continue the cycle of saṁsāra, repeated birth and death in this material world, and there will be no possibility of returning to the kingdom of the Supreme, the sanātana-dhāma, where there is freedom from birth and death.

As George Harrison sings,

"Give me love, give me love, give me peace on earth, give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth."

In Bhagavad-gita, 3.5 Kṛṣṇa says, "Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment." We think we are free, but actually we are being forced to act by the modes of nature. We are like a bull being led by it's nose ring. It is pulled in one way, and the bull thinks. "Let me go this way." It is pulled in another way, and then the bull thinks "Let me go that way." Again, Bhagavad-gita 3.27 states, "The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature."

Two persons, one in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and the other in material consciousness, working on the same level, may appear to be working on the same platform, but there is a wide gulf of difference in their respective positions. The person in material consciousness is convinced by false ego that he is the doer of everything. He does not know that the mechanism of the body is produced by material nature, which works under the supervision of the Supreme Lord. The materialistic person has no knowledge that ultimately he is under the control of Kṛṣṇa. The person in false ego takes all credit for doing everything independently. In the last election, at their convention, the Republicans tried to state their platform on the basis of "we built it," which is based on a lie, and that is the symptom of nescience. They do not know that this gross and subtle body is the creation of material nature, under the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such his bodily and mental activities should be engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The ignorant man forgets that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as Hṛṣīkeśa, or the master of the senses of the material body, for due to his long misuse of the senses in sense gratification, he is factually bewildered by the false ego, which makes him forget his eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa.

But when the conditioned soul becomes liberated by executing devotional service, he is given a greater and greater chance to relish a relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in different transcendental statuses, such as such as dāsya-rasa (servitorship), sakhya-rasa (friendship), vātsalya-rasa (parental love) and mādhurya-rasa (conjugal love). This is real freedom, and our constitutional position of eternal bliss and knowledge.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Everything You Know Is Wrong (About "Your" Wealth)

Spiritual Communism: God Owns Everything - 
You Own Nothing

"Everything animate and inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept Only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong." - Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 1
In modern society there is always a great quarrel between the laborers and the capitalists. This quarrel has taken an international shape, and the world is endangered. Men face one another in enmity and snarl just like cats and dogs. Sri Isopanisad cannot give advice to the cats and dogs, but it can deliver the message of Godhead to man through the bona fide acaryas (holy teachers). The human race should take the Vedic wisdom of Isopanisad and not quarrel over material possessions. One must be satisfied by whatever privileges are given to him by the mercy of the Lord. There can be no peace if the communists or capitalists or any other party claims proprietorship over the resources of nature, which are entirely the property of the Lord. The capitalists cannot curb the communists simply by political maneuvering, nor can the communists defeat the capitalists simply by fighting for stolen bread. If they do not recognize the proprietorship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all the property which they claim to be their own is stolen. Consequently they will be liable to punishment by the laws of nature. Nuclear bombs are in the hands of both communists and capitalists, and if both do not recognize the proprietorship of the Supreme Lord, it is certain that these bombs will ultimately ruin both parties. Thus in order to save themselves and bring peace to the world, both parties must follow the instructions of Sri Isopanisad.

Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, amid the antiwar protests of late 1966, put out a mimeographed leaflet (among the very first of his publications in America) from his small storefront temple on New York's Second Avenue. His followers and sympathizers handed this leaflet out by the thousands on the streets of New York in front of the United Nations building, and later in San Francisco, Montreal, and other cities. His "Peace Formula" was an entirely new approach to the antiwar question, and for thousands of Americans, it provided the perfect solution.

"The great mistake of modern civilization is to encroach upon other's property as though it were one's own and to thereby create an unnecessary disturbance of the laws of nature. These laws are very strong. No living entity can violate them. Only one who is God conscious can easily overcome the stringency of the laws of nature and thus become happy and peaceful in the world. As a state is protected by the department of law and order, so is the state of the Universe, of which this earth is only an insignificant fragment, is protected by the laws of nature. This material nature is one of the different potencies of God, who is the ultimate proprietor of everything that be. This earth is, therefore, the property of God, but we, the living entities, especially the so-called civilized human beings, are claiming God's property as our own, under both and individual and collective false conception. If you want peace, you have to remove this false conception from your mind and from the world. This false claim of proprietorship by the human race on earth is partly or wholly the cause of all disturbances of foolish and so-called civilized men who are claiming proprietary rights on the property of God because they have now become godless. You cannot be happy and peaceful in a godless civilization. Although there are many civilizations, there is only one God, although He may be called many names in different countries. In the Bhagavad-gita, the holy book of India, Lord Krishna delineates the peace formula. He says that He is the factual enjoyer of all activities of the living entities, that He is the Supreme Lord of all universes, and that He is the well-wishing friend of all beings. When the people of the world know this as the formula for peace, it is then and there that peace will prevail."

Even the idea that one owns anything to renounce is false. One of Prabupada's disciples once asked him, "Should I renounce everything?" Prabhupada laughed and said, "What do YOU have to renounce?" Even our body does not belong to us.

This principle is not only in Vedic philosophy, but in all religions. Here are a couple of quotes from the Bible:

God owns all the money: "The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty" (Haggai 2:8).

"Everything in the heavens and earth is yours O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. Riches and honor come from you alone, and you are the Ruler of all mankind; your hand controls power and might, and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength." (1 Chronicles 29: 11, 12)

Instead of accepting the exclusive proprietorship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, everyone is claiming the property of the universe for themselves through demarcations of nationalism. "This part is mine, and that part is yours," they say. "This part I can give in charity, and this part I can keep for my enjoyment." This is described in Bhagavad-gita (16.13): idam adya maya labdham imam prapsye manoratham. "Thus far I have acquired so much money and land. Now I have to add more and more. In this way I shall be the greatest proprietor of everything. Who can compete with me?" These are all demoniac conceptions.

"People who know nothing of God and whose lives are centered on themselves, imagine that they can only find themselves by asserting their own desires and ambitions and appetites in a struggle with the rest of the world. They try to become real by imposing themselves on other people, by appropriating for themselves some share of the limited supply of created goods and thus emphasizing the difference between themselves and the other men who have less than they, or nothing at all. They can only conceive one way of becoming real: cutting themselves off from other people and building a barrier of contrast and distinction between themselves and other men. They do not know that reality is to be sought not in division but in unity, for we are 'members one of another.'" - Thomas Merton, from New Seeds of Contemplation

We cannot get relief through our politicians, diplomats, philosophers. They have tried so much, but nothing they have tried has become fruitful. For example, the United Nations was organized after the second great war, and they wanted, "We shall now settle everything peacefully." But there is no such thing. The fighting is going on, between Afghanistan and America or between Israel and Iran or this and that. Mundane politics and diplomacy and philosophy--this is not the process. The process is Krishna consciousness. Everyone has to understand this point, that we are not proprietors. Take America, for example. 300 years ago, the European immigrants were not the proprietors. Native Americans lived there, or it was vacant land. But the actual proprietor is Wakan Tonka - The Great Spirit. The whole idea of proprietorship was completely foreign to Native Americans, because they knew that mother earth belonged to Wakan Tonka. The Bible says we have dominion over the earth, but that means that we are to take care of her - not exploit her for her resources. We have to get back to this conception, then there will be peace and a healthy planet to inhabit while we are in this material world. Then by putting these principles into action by using everything in God's service, we can then be promoted back home, back to Godhead, for an eternal life of bliss and knowledge.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Everything You Know Is Wrong (About the Pursuit of Happiness)

The following piece was published in the Huffington Post on May 7, 2013

You may be shocked to learn that the supposed essential principle that this country was founded upon -- "The Pursuit of Happiness" -- is nothing more than an impossible vainglorious wild goose chase. All the saints, sages and wise men of history agree: The way to be happy is to stop trying to be happy.

We are by nature pleasure-seeking entities. Everyone seeks happiness, but the problem is we don't know what real happiness is. There are only two people who are happy in this world: The drunk and the self-realized soul. Everyone else in-between is miserable, trying to be happy by gratifying the senses, but making the mistake of trying to sever the pleasure of the senses from the needs of the character.

The ingenuity of man has always been dedicated to the solution to this one problem. How to detach sensual gratification from the service of God, Who is the Self of ourselves. The soul says Eat; the body would feast. The soul says, The man and woman shall be one flesh and one soul; the body would join the flesh only. The soul says, Have dominion over all things to the ends of virtue; the body would lord it over nature to its own ends.

The nature of this material world is duality. Unless we are serving God on the transcendental platform of self realization and true happiness, we can't have one side (material "happiness") without the other (material "distress"). Ralph Waldo Emerson described this duality succinctly in his essay on karma called "Compensation":

"Men seek to be great; they would have offices, wealth, power, and fame. They think that to be great is to possess one side of nature, -- the sweet, without the other side, -- the bitter. This dividing and detaching is steadily counteracted. Up to this day, it must be owned, no projector has had the smallest success. The parted water reunites behind our hand. Pleasure is taken out of pleasant things, profit out of profitable things, power out of strong things, as soon as we seek to separate them from the whole. We can no more halve things and get the sensual good, by itself, than we can get an inside that shall have no outside, or a light without a shadow. "Drive out nature with a fork, she comes running back."

A materialistic person, thinking himself very advanced in intelligence, continually acts for economic development. But again and again, as enunciated in the Vedas, he is frustrated by material activities, either in this life or in the next. Indeed, the results one obtains are inevitably the opposite of those one desires. No one has ever achieved the results he desired from material activities. On the contrary, everyone has been frustrated again and again. Therefore one must not waste his time in such material activities for sensual pleasure, either in this life or in the next. So many nationalists, economists and other ambitious persons have tried for happiness, individually or collectively, but history proves that they have all been frustrated. In recent history we have seen many political leaders work hard for individual and collective economic development, but they have all failed. This is the law of nature, as clearly explained in the following verse.

"In this material world, every materialist desires to achieve happiness and diminish his distress, and therefore he acts accordingly. Actually, however, one is happy as long as one does not endeavor for happiness; as soon as one begins his activities for happiness, his conditions of distress begin." - Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.7.42

Everyone begins his activities with some plan and ambition, but actually, from the beginning of one's plan to the end, one does not derive any happiness. On the contrary, as soon as one begins acting according to his plan, his life of distress immediately begins. Therefore, one should not be ambitious to dissipate the unhappy conditions of life, for one cannot do anything about them.

"The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature." - Bhagavad-gītā 3.27 

 Although one is acting according to false ambitions, he thinks he can improve his material conditions by his activities. The Vedas enjoin that one should not try to increase happiness or decrease distress, for this is futile. One should work for self-realization, not for economic development, which is impossible to improve. Without endeavor, one can get the amount of happiness and distress for which he is destined, and one cannot change this. Therefore, it is better to use one's time for advancement in the spiritual life of Krishna (God) consciousness. One should not waste his valuable life as a human being. It is better to utilize this life for developing Krishna consciousness, without ambitions for so-called happiness.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Everything You Know Is Wrong (About Your Friends and Enemies)

Once upon a time, millions of years ago, there was a saintly boy named Prahlāda who took birth as the son of a great demon named Hiranyakaśipu. This demon ruled over the entire universe, and even the demigods were afraid of him, and did his bidding. Prahlāda went to school and heard and recited the topics of politics and economics taught by the teachers, but he understood that political philosophy involves considering someone a friend and someone else an enemy, and thus he did not like it. Politics involves accepting one group of people as enemies and another group as friends. Everything in politics is based on this philosophy, and the entire world, especially at the present, is engrossed in it. The public is concerned with friendly countries and friendly groups or enemy countries and enemy groups, but as stated in Bhagavad-gītā, a learned person does not make distinctions between enemies and friends. Devotees, especially, do not create friends and enemies. A devotee sees that every living being is part and parcel of Krishna (God). Therefore a devotee treats friends and enemies equally by trying to educate them both in Krishna consciousness. Of course, atheistic men do not follow the instructions of pure devotees, but instead consider a devotee their enemy. A devotee, however, never creates a situation of friendship and enmity. Although Prahlāda Mahārāja was obliged to hear the instructions of his demoniac teachers, he did not like the philosophy of friends and enemies, which forms the basis of politics. He was not interested in this philosophy.

When the Supreme Personality of Godhead is pleased with the living entity because of his devotional service, one becomes a pandita and does not make distinctions between enemies, friends and himself. Intelligently, he then thinks, "Every one of us is an eternal servant of God, and therefore we are not different from one another."

When Prahlāda Mahārāja's teachers and demoniac father asked him how his intelligence had been polluted, Prahlāda Mahārāja said,

"As far as I am concerned, my intelligence has not been polluted. Rather, by the grace of my spiritual master and by the grace of my Lord, Krishna, I have now learned that no one is my enemy and no one is my friend. We are all actually eternal servants of Krishna, but under the influence of the external energy we think that we are separately situated from the Supreme Personality of Godhead as friends and enemies of one another. This mistaken idea has now been corrected, and therefore, unlike ordinary human beings, I no longer think that I am God and that others are my friends and enemies. Now I am rightly thinking that everyone is an eternal servant of God and that our duty is to serve the supreme master, for then we shall stand on the platform of oneness as servants."

One day, Hiranyakaśipu found out from Prahlāda's teachers that the boy had been teaching his classmates about Hiranyakaśipu's enemy, Vishnu, who had killed his brother. He was extremely angry, and threatened to kill his own son. He asked, "My son Prahlāda, you rascal, you know that when I am angry all the planets of the three worlds tremble, along with their chief rulers. By whose power has a rascal like you become so impudent that you appear fearless and overstep my power to rule you?" Prahlāda replied,

"My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahmā, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. My dear father, please give up your demoniac mentality. Do not discriminate in your heart between enemies and friends; make your mind equipoised toward everyone. Except for the uncontrolled and misguided mind, there is no enemy within this world. When one sees everyone on the platform of equality, one then comes to the position of worshiping the Lord perfectly. In former times there were many fools like you who did not conquer the six enemies that steal away the wealth of the body. These fools were very proud, thinking, 'I have conquered all enemies in all the ten directions.' But if a person is victorious over the six enemies and is equipoised toward all living entities, for him there are no enemies. Enemies are merely imagined by one in ignorance."

In this material world, everyone thinks that he has conquered his enemies, not understanding that his enemies are his uncontrolled mind and five senses (Bhagavad-gītā 15.7). In this material world, everyone has become a servant of the senses. Originally everyone is a servant of Krishna, but in ignorance one forgets this, and thus one is engaged in the service of māyā through lusty desires, anger, greed, illusion, madness and jealousy. Everyone is actually dependent on the reactions of material laws, but still one thinks himself independent and thinks that he has conquered all directions. In conclusion, one who thinks that he has many enemies is an ignorant man, whereas one who is in Krishna consciousness knows that there are no enemies but those within oneself -- the uncontrolled mind and senses.

The actual fact is that everyone is a servant of the Lord. As servants of the Lord, we are one, and there can be no questions of enmity or friendship. If one actually understands that every one of us is a servant of the Lord, where is the question of enemy or friend? We create enemies and friends according to the dictation of the mind, but actually there are no enemies and friends.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Everything You Know About Your Family Is Wrong

This is the fourth in my series "Everything You Know Is Wrong" published in the Huffington Post on April 1st. (See the first three: body, mind, ego)

In celebration of Easter, here is another story of resurrection. This time, that of a son's untimely death who was brought back to life to teach his overly attached father a valuable lesson about the temporal nature of family life.

This material world is endlessly mutable. Our acquaintances, friends and even family are like straws in the ocean, which come together temporarily, and are then separated eternally by the waves of time. Why are we so attached to these temporary bodily relationships?

In Sankrit, the term for a miserly person is a kṛpaṇa. Kṛpaṇas waste their time in being overly affectionate for family, society, country, etc., in the material conception of life. One is often attached to family life, namely to wife, children and other members, on the basis of "skin disease." The kṛpaṇa thinks that he is able to protect his family members from death; or the kṛpaṇa thinks that his family or society can save him from the verge of death. Such family attachment can be found even in the lower animals, who take care of children also.

Many thousands of years ago, in the province of Śūrasena in India, there was a great king named Citraketu, who ruled the entire earth. Citraketu had many wives, but although he was capable of producing children, he did not receive a child from any of them. By chance, all the wives were barren. He was full of anxiety because he did not have a son.

Once upon a time, when the powerful sage named Ańgirā was traveling all over the universe without engagement, by his sweet will he came to the palace of King Citraketu. Citraketu immediately stood up from his throne and offered him worship. When the rsi was seated very comfortably, the King, restraining his mind and senses, sat on the ground at the side of the rsi's feet. The sage could tell something was troubling the King, and he inquired as to the reason. Citraketu replied, "I have no son." Thereafter, the great sage told the King, "O great King, now you will have a son who will be the cause of both jubilation and lamentation." The sage then left, without waiting for Citraketu's response.

Because the sage was a greatly powerful personality, he performed a sacrifice by offering oblations of sweet rice. The remnants of the food offered in the yajña were given to on of Citraketu's wives named Krtadyuti, who upon receiving semen from Citraketu, became pregnant after eating remnants of food from the yajña. In due course of time, a son was born to the King. When King Citraketu received a son, his affection for him increased day after day.

The other wives, seeing Krtadyuti's son, were very much agitated, as if by high fevers, with a desire to have sons. As King Citraketu fostered his son very carefully, his affection for Queen Krtadyuti increased, but gradually he lost affection for the other wives, who had no sons. The other queens were extremely unhappy due to their being sonless. Because of the King's negligence toward them, they condemned themselves in envy and lamented. Krtadyuti's co-wives always burned in envy, which became extremely strong. As their envy increased, they lost their intelligence. Being extremely hardhearted and unable to tolerate the King's neglect, they finally administered poison to the son.

When the maidservant approached the child, who was lying down, she saw that his eyes were turned upward. There were no signs of life, all his senses having stopped, and she could understand that the child was dead. Seeing this, she immediately cried, "Now I am doomed," and fell to the ground. In great agitation, the maidservant struck her breast with both hands and cried loudly in regretful words. Hearing her loud voice, the Queen immediately came, and when she approached her son, she saw that he was suddenly dead. In great lamentation, her hair and dress in disarray, the Queen fell to the ground unconscious. Hearing the loud crying, all the inhabitants of the palace came, both men and women. Being equally aggrieved, they also began to cry. The queens who had administered the poison also cried pretentiously, knowing full well their offense. Because of King Citraketu's great affection for his son, his lamentation grew like a blazing fire, and as he went to see the dead child, he kept slipping and falling on the ground. When the King, breathing heavily, regained consciousness, his eyes were tearful, and he could not speak. When the great sage Ańgirā understood that the King was almost dead in an ocean of lamentation, he went there with Nārada rsi.

Nārada and Ańgirā instructed him about spiritual consciousness as follows:

"O King, what relationship does the dead body for which you lament have with you, and what relationship do you have with him? You may say that you are now related as father and son, but do you think this relationship existed before? Does it truly exist now? Will it continue in the future? One should not lament over the artificial relationship of parenthood, which is ultimately controlled by the Supreme Lord. O King, both you and us -- your advisers, wives and ministers -- as well as everything moving and not moving throughout the entire cosmos at this time, are in a temporary situation. Before our birth this situation did not exist, and after our death it will exist no longer. As from one seed another seed is generated, O King, so from one body [the body of the father], through another body [the body of the mother], a third body is generated [the body of a son]. As the elements of the material body are eternal, the living entity who appears through these material elements is also eternal. Divisions of generalization and specification, such as nationality and individuality, are the imaginations of persons who are not advanced in knowledge."
Ańgirā said:

"My dear King, when you desired to have a son, I approached you. Indeed, I am the same Ańgirā Rsi who gave you this son. As for this rsi, he is the great sage Nārada, the direct son of Lord Brahmā. When I first came to your home, I could have given you the supreme transcendental knowledge, but when I saw that your mind was absorbed in material things, I gave you only a son, who caused you jubilation and lamentation. O King, owner of the state of Śūrasena, one's wife, his house, the opulence of his kingdom, and his various other opulences and objects of sense perception are all the same in that they are temporary. One's kingdom, military power, treasury, servants, ministers, friends and relatives are all causes of fear, illusion, lamentation and distress. They are like a pie in the sky, a nonexistent thing that one imagines to exist. These visible objects like wife, children and property, because they are impermanent, they are no better than illusions, dreams and mental concoctions. Therefore, O King Citraketu, carefully consider the position of the ātmā. In other words, try to understand who you are -- whether body, mind or soul. Consider where you have come from, where you are going after giving up this body, and why you are under the control of material lamentation. Try to understand your real position in this way, and then you will be able to give up your unnecessary attachment. You will also be able to give up the belief that this material world, or anything not directly in touch with service to Krishna, is eternal. Thus you will obtain peace."

By his mystic power the great sage Nārada brought the dead son into the vision of all the lamenting relatives and then spoke as follows. Śrī Nārada Muni said: "O living entity, all good fortune unto you. Just see your father and mother. All your friends and relatives are overwhelmed with grief because of your passing away."

By the mystic power of Nārada Muni, the living entity reentered his dead body for a short time and spoke in reply to Nārada Muni's request. He said:

"According to the results of my fruitive activities, I, the living being, transmigrate from one body to another, sometimes going to the species of the demigods, sometimes to the species of lower animals, sometimes among the vegetables, and sometimes to the human species. Therefore, in which birth were these my mother and father? No one is actually my mother and father. How can I accept these two people as my parents? In this material world, which advances like a river that carries away the living entity, all people become friends, relatives and enemies in due course of time. They also act neutrally, they mediate, they despise one another, and they act in many other relationships. The living entity, as a result of his fruitive activities, wanders throughout the entire universe, being injected into various bodies in different species of life by one kind of father after another. The living entity is eternal and imperishable because he actually has no beginning and no end. He never takes birth or dies. He is the basic principle of all types of bodies, yet he does not belong to the bodily category. The living being is so sublime that he is equal in quality to the Supreme Lord. Nonetheless, because he is extremely small, he is prone to be illusioned by the external energy, and thus he creates various bodies for himself according to his different desires."

When the conditioned soul [jīva] in the form of Mahārāja Citraketu's son had spoken in this way and then left, Citraketu and the other relatives of the dead son were all astonished. Thus they cut off the shackles of their affection, which was due to their relationship with him, and gave up their lamentation.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Everything You Know Is Wrong (About Your Ego)

This piece was published in the Huffington Post on March 8, 2013

"All through the day I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
All through the night I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Now they're frightened of leaving it,
Everyone's weaving it,
Coming on strong all the time,
All through the day I me mine."-- The Beatles (George Harrison) "I Me Mine"

The definition of ego is the "I" or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought. In the Vedic literature (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.4.10) it is said, ahaṁ brahmāsmi: I am Brahman, I am spirit. This "I am," the sense of self, also exists in the liberated stage of self-realization. This sense of "I am" is ego, but when the sense of "I am" is applied to this false body it is false ego. When the sense of self is applied to reality, that is real ego. There are some philosophers who say we should give up our ego, but we cannot give up our ego, because ego means identity. We ought, of course, to give up the false identification with the body. False ego means accepting this body as oneself. When one understands that he is not his body and is spirit soul, he comes to his real ego. Ego is there. False ego is condemned, but not real ego. The false ego makes us think we are the controllers or the doers, but actually we are acting under the control of nature. In Bhagavad Gita 3.27 Krishna says, "The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature."

The person in material consciousness is convinced by false ego that he is the doer of everything. He does not know that the mechanism of the body is produced by material nature, which works under the supervision of the Supreme Lord. The materialistic person has no knowledge that ultimately he is under the control of Krishna. The person in false ego takes all credit for doing everything independently, and that is the symptom of his nescience.

Intelligence is the immediate next-door neighbor of the spirit soul. Lusty intelligence influences the spirit soul to acquire the false ego and identify itself with matter, and thus with the mind and senses. The spirit soul becomes addicted to enjoying the material senses and mistakes this as true happiness.

In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna told Arjuna to fight, but he was reluctant to kill his kinsman because of family attachment. So Krishna instructed Arjuna, "One who is not motivated by false ego, whose intelligence is not entangled, though he kills men in this world, does not kill. Nor is he bound by his actions" (Bhagavad Gita 18.17).

This verse inspired Emerson to write his poem Brahma:
"If the red slayer think he slays,
           Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
           I keep, and pass, and turn again."

In this verse the Lord informs Arjuna that the desire not to fight arises from false ego. Arjuna thought himself to be the doer of action, but he did not consider the supreme sanction within and without. If one does not know that a supersanction is there, why should he act? But one who knows the instruments of work, himself as the worker, and the Supreme Lord as the supreme sanctioner is perfect in doing everything. Such a person is never in illusion. Personal activity and responsibility arise from false ego and godlessness, or a lack of Krishna consciousness.
Now, I can already hear the wails of objection from detractors accusing Krishna of ordering killing, and when ordered by God, no one has any responsibility, so Krishna devotees are turned into members of a mindless murderous cult. This is patently ridiculous. A soldier on the battlefield is not subject to punishment for killing the enemy, even if it is an unjust war, based on lies, ordered by the likes of George W. Bush, what to speak of a just war, arranged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

This is the essence of the Bhagavad Gita. We are not the doer. When one realized that, so much anxiety is lifted from our shoulders. Krishna dictates from within our heart, and that is confirmed outwardly by the guru/spiritual master. Then we are free to act.

A person acting in Krishna consciousness (or, in other words, in the service of Krishna) with his body, mind, intelligence and words is a liberated person even within the material world, although he may be engaged in many so-called material activities. He has no false ego, for he does not believe that he is this material body, or that he possesses the body. He knows that he is not this body and that this body does not belong to him. He himself belongs to Krishna, and the body too belongs to Krishna. When he applies everything produced of the body, mind, intelligence, words, life, wealth, etc. -- whatever he may have within his possession -- to Krishna's service, he is at once dovetailed with Krishna. He is one with Krishna and is devoid of the false ego that leads one to believe that he is the body, etc. This is the perfect stage of Krishna consciousness.

In material existence one is subjected to the influence of the mind and the senses. In fact, the pure soul is entangled in the material world because the mind is involved with the false ego, which desires to lord it over material nature. Therefore, the mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted by the glitter of material nature, and in this way the conditioned soul may be saved. The false ego of the living being trying to lord it over the material nature is something like the moth's falling in a blazing fire. The moth is captivated by the glaring beauty of the fire, and when he comes to enjoy it, the blazing fire consumes him. In the transcendental state the living being is pure in his consciousness, and as such he has no false ego to lord it over the material nature. Rather, his pure consciousness directs him to surrender unto the Supreme Lord. That is the conclusion of Bhagavad Gita 18.66:

"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Everything You Know is Wrong (About Your Mind)

We are all engaged in occupational duties of different types according to our bodies and minds, and our relation to nature. Bodily or mental duties change, because we change our bodies. I am now a human being, and next time, if I become some animal, or a demigod, my occupational duty changes. If the body is born in India, one is feeling that "It is my duty to serve my country." Similarly, an Englishman is thinking to serve his country. The mind also changes according to body, or according to mind the body becomes engaged in a particular duty. We are contaminated by so many qualities of nature, and we are making our concoction, manufacturing our duty. A drunkard, because he has mixed with the quality of drunkards, he thinks, "Drinking is my duty." When you mix with the teabaggers, then you become like the teabaggers: "Oh, it is my duty to protest against the government." Otherwise you cannot stay in the society of teabaggers. But these occupational duties are not para. Para means transcendental, supreme.

After Krishna left the planet, the question was dharmaḥ kaṁ śaraṇaṁ gataḥ. "After departure of Krishna from this planet to His abode, under whom was the real occupational duty entrusted?" Krishna gave the answer in Bhagavad-gītā (18.66) sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: "This is your real occupation. You have got some bodily occupation, some mental occupation, some intellectual occupation, but you have to give up all these things. Simply surrender unto Me. This is your real occupation." Krishna descends to teach us this dharma, or occupational duty. He has explained karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, dhyāna-yoga. These are all occupational duties of the body, of the mind, of intelligence. But real occupation is the soul's surrender to Krishna, because the soul is eternal. The body and mind are not eternal.

The bodies and minds of materialistic nondevotees seem to display the symptoms of life, but this appearance is deceptive. Actually, the conditioned soul has little control over his own bodily existence. Against his will, he has to excrete waste, get sick from time to time, and eventually age and die. And in his mind he unwillingly suffers anger, hankering and lamentation. Lord Krishna describes this situation as yantrārūdhāni māyayā (Bhagavad-gītā 18.61), riding helplessly as a passenger in a mechanical vehicle. The soul undoubtedly is alive, and irrevocably so, but in his ignorance that inner life is covered and forgotten. In its place, the automation of the external mind and body carries out the dictates of the modes of nature, which force one to act in a way altogether irrelevant to the dormant needs of the soul. Calling out to the forgetful prisoners of illusion, the Śvetāśvatara Upanisad (2.5) urges, "All you sons of immortality, hear, you who once resided in the divine kingdom!"

So, on the one hand, what is normally viewed as living -- the material body -- is in actuality a dead machine being manipulated by the modes of nature. And on the other hand, what the materialist condescendingly views as inert matter meant for exploitation is in its unknown essence connected with a living intelligence vastly more potent than his own. The Vedic civilization recognizes the intelligence behind nature as belonging to demigods who preside over the various elements, and ultimately to the Supreme Lord Himself. Matter, after all, cannot act coherently without the impulse and guidance of a living force. As Krishna states in Bhagavad-gītā (9.10),

"This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again."

There are many thoughtful writers and creative philosophers, but despite all their learning, if they cannot approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are simply useless mental speculators. There are many sharply intelligent people in this material world, and they discover so many things for sense gratification. They also analytically study all the material elements, but despite their expert knowledge and expert scientific analysis of the whole cosmic manifestation, their endeavors are useless because they cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Polluted intelligence has been compared to a prostitute. One who has not purified his intelligence is said to be controlled by that prostitute. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (2.41), those who are actually serious are conducted by one kind of intelligence, namely, intelligence in Krishna consciousness. One who is not fixed in proper intelligence discovers many modes of life. Thus involved in material activities, he is exposed to the different modes of material nature and subjected to varieties of so-called happiness and distress. If a man becomes the husband of a prostitute, he cannot be happy, and similarly one who follows the dictations of material intelligence and material consciousness will never be happy.
One must judiciously understand the activities of material nature. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (3.27)

"The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature."

It is like a bull tethered by a nose ring. The bull always thinks he's in control, but he's being pulled by the nose this way and that. The bull is being pulled in one direction, and the bull thinks "Let me go this way." When the bull is pulled in the other direction, then the bull thinks, "Let me go that way."
Although one follows the dictations of material nature, he happily thinks himself the master or husband of material nature. Scientists, for example, try to be the masters of material nature, life after life, not caring to understand the Supreme Person, under whose direction everything within this material world is moving. Trying to be the masters of material nature, they are imitation gods who declare to the public that scientific advancement will one day be able to avoid the so-called control of God. In fact, however, the living being, unable to control the rulings of God, is forced to associate with the prostitute of polluted intelligence and accept various material bodies. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (13.22)

"The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil amongst various species."

If one fully engages in temporary fruitive activities and does not solve this real problem, what profit will he gain?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Everything You Know is Wrong (About Your Body)

This piece was published in the Huffington Post on February 11, 2013

This is the first in a series of essays called "Everything You Know is Wrong"

"If you wake up in the morning and see your face in the mirror, you know you've made a mistake." - Devamrita Swami

If we wake up in a prison, and can't remember how we got there, we can surmise that we've probably made a mistake. Perhaps we got drunk and did something illegal. Maybe we stole a car and went on a joy ride.

This is just like the experience of taking birth in this material world. We can't remember our past lives, or what we did to get here. This world is actually just a prison house for those who wanted to enjoy separately from God. He fulfills everyone's desires, so He creates this world, and kindly allows us to act out our fantasy in our own little playground, called the material world, where we can pretend to be God.

This material world is only ¼ of the creation of God. The other ¾ is the spiritual world, where everyone knows their eternal constitutional position as servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There, everyone lives an eternal life full of bliss and knowledge. This prison house, however, is temporary, miserable, and full of ignorance.

God doesn't leave us here to rot, however. He comes Himself, or sends His son or representative to bail us out. After we realize that we cannot enjoy separately, and begin to question why we are suffering, He sends a spiritual master to teach us how to get out of this material world.

What we are seeing in the mirror is a material body, and actually, we are not this body, we are spirit. Man is made in God's image, and therefore man's body appears to be like God's, but God's body is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, whereas our bodies are temporary, full of ignorance and misery. Every material thing is a perverted reflection of the original spiritual reality.

Emerson described the spiritual reality as "the reverse side of the tapestry" in his lecture "The Transcendentalist", delivered at the Masonic Temple in Boston in January of 1842:

"The idealist, in speaking of events, sees them as spirits. He does not deny the sensuous fact: by no means; but he will not see that alone. He does not deny the presence of this table, this chair, and the walls of this room, but he looks at these things as the reverse side of the tapestry, as the other end, each being a sequel or completion of a spiritual fact which nearly concerns him. This manner of looking at things, transfers every object in nature from an independent and anomalous position without there, into the consciousness. Even the materialist Condillac, perhaps the most logical expounder of materialism, was constrained to say, 'Though we should soar into the heavens, though we should sink into the abyss, we never go out of ourselves; it is always our own thought that we perceive.' What more could an idealist say?"
In the 15th chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā, the analogy of the material world is described as a tree whose roots are upwards and branches are below. We have experience of a tree whose roots are upward: if one stands on the bank of a river or any reservoir of water, he can see that the trees reflected in the water are upside down. The branches go downward and the roots upward. Similarly, this material world is a reflection of the spiritual world. The material world is but a shadow of reality. In the shadow there is no reality or substantiality, but from the shadow we can understand that there are substance and reality. In the desert there is no water, but the mirage suggests that there is such a thing as water. In the material world there is no water, there is no happiness, but the real water of actual happiness is there in the spiritual world.
In the Bhagavad-gītā  recognized as the most important scripture of India, Krishna gives knowledge to his dear friend Arjuna on a battlefield, 5000 years ago. He teaches, "You are not this body." This is the beginning of knowledge. But where is the university that teaches this knowledge? There is none. That is the position of education: there is no knowledge. They simply advertise ignorance as knowledge.

George Harrison wrote a song based on the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gītā entitled "I, Me, Mine." We think we are these bodies, and that everything in relation with these bodies is mine. We think are a member of this family and a member of this nation. Thus we are dancing around like monkeys. In the Bhagavad-gita (3.27) it is said that because the living entity has associated with a certain quality of nature, nature is making him dance according to that quality, and thus one is thinking, "I am this" or "I am that." The most essential education is that which enables one to become free from the bodily concept of life, but unfortunately scientists, philosophers, politicians, and other so-called leaders are misleading people so that they become more attached to the body. It is the human life that offers the opportunity to become "Krishna" or God conscious, but these rascals are stopping that opportunity by alluring people to bodily designations, and therefore they are the greatest enemies of human civilization.

As for actual advancement in spiritual science, one should have a test to see how far he is progressing. He can judge by these items. A human being is fit to inquire as to whether he is this body or something else. This can be understood very easily. I am not this body, because at the time of death the body remains--although everyone cries, "Oh, the poor man is gone!" The man is lying there. Why do you say he is gone? He is lying there!" At that time, we can come to our senses: the body is not the man. The real man is gone. The childhood body is changed to the youthful body, and the childhood body is gone.

Similarly, when the boyhood body is gone, you'll have to accept an old man's body. The body is changing. Not only year after year, but at every second the body is changing. Science tells us that very 7 years, all of the cells in your body will have changed, so the body you had 7 years ago is completely different from the one you have today. Still, you are situated there.

The Upanisads describe the relationship of the self and the Superself (Paramatma) is like two birds in a tree. The self is the bird that is enjoying the fruits of the tree, and the Superself if the bird's friend, who is simply witnessing. So if we stick to our determination and pray for the mercy of the director of intelligence sitting within the same bodily tree, certainly the purport of the revealed information in the Vedas becomes clear to our vision, and there is no difficulty in realizing the Paramatma. The intelligent man therefore, after many births of such use of intelligence, surrenders himself at the lotus feet of Paramatma, (Krishna), then he realizes that he is not the body, but rather a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit. That is the first lesson of spiritual knowledge. When one understands that knowledge, one is then qualified to be released from the material prison house, and set free to enjoy an eternal life of bliss and knowledge in loving service to our real friend, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And once one is released, one never again returns to this miserable prison.

"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna." -- Bhagavad-gita 4.9

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Tale of the Lucky Liver Fluke

The following is an excerpt from the book "The War Between Science and Common Sense" by Martin Lyons

(From Chapter 1)

The Answer to Everything – And What’s In It for Us 

Here’s something you may care to chew on, while you make up your mind whether this is indeed a book you’re going to really want to dive into. Actually ‘chew’ might not be the most appropriate word, in a strictly literal sense, since the particular something I have in mind is a liver fluke: the Lancet liver fluke to be precise, or rather, a somewhat hurried description of its life-cycle.

Like many parasites, liver flukes require more than one distinct host-species to carry them through the various stages of their life-cycles.  As adults, they live in the livers of cows, where they mate, with their eggs being excreted via the host’s fecal matter.  Terrestrial snails that dine on such factual left-overs become infected by the fluke’s larvae, which then settle in the snails’ digestive tracts.  To protect themselves, the snails form cysts around the little parasites, before excreting them in their own waste.  Finally ants, looking to snail slime as a source of moisture, simultaneously ingest these cysts, each of which is filled with hundreds of juvenile flukes.

At first glance, that may all seem to be pretty random. Except that there’s nothing random about the fact that the very distinct stages the flukes pass through in their life-cycle are so precisely aligned with their existence within these several and very distinct hosts. So how could all of this have come to be? How do we explain the flukes’ multifarious adaptations to so many distinct circumstances? And how we can account for the specific and simultaneous adaptations within the various hosts’ bodies that so perfectly serve to facilitate the flukes’ needs, including their transportation to their next destination? There is some seriously outrageous synchronicity going on here, such a complex and interconnected chain of events as to seemingly defy any rational explanation for how or why it came to be. Oh by the way, we haven’t even come to the most mind-blowing part of their story yet, where one fluke literally reprograms the body of its host ant for its own and its fellow flukes’ purposes. For that, you’re just going to have to wait for the next chapter.

 Is there really an answer that can satisfactorily explain such a thing, or such a series of things, as make up the life-cycle of the Lancet liver fluke? We’ve been educated to understand that this is indeed what science is able to provide. For example Leon Lederman, previous director of the Fermi Particle Accelerator, predicted that the ultimate goal of all their research would manifest in the form of a single equation that would explain everything, and that would be elegant enough to be written on a T-shirt. Well never mind a single equation that could sum up absolutely everything; how about a little one that could just account for but an infinitesimal speck of all that absolute ‘everything-ness,’ in the form of the amazing life-journey of the tiny liver fluke?

(Chapter 2)

It’s time now to take another and more detailed look at the life-cycle of the little Lancet liver fluke, or, as it is more formally known: Dicrocoelium dendriticum. I may mention that as long as I remember, I have loved to read books about nature and about the other inhabitants of planet Earth. I have always been delighted and fascinated by the unique features that every fauna and flora can be seen to possess, together with the extraordinary activities such features allow them to perform. But this little fellow is a personal favorite, because some of what it does is really quite surreal.

In fact, where we left off at the beginning of the first chapter was with the juvenile flukes about to emerge from their ‘space-capsule’-like cysts within the body of their new unsuspecting host, the ant. These juveniles are then free to wander throughout the ant’s body, but one in particular moves to the sub-esophageal ganglion, and this is indeed where the most extraordinary element of the story of the Lancet liver fluke takes place.

You may already recognize that the development and survival of such parasites requires an incredible degree of synchronicity and precise coordination of many highly complex and specific factors. Nor does such occur only within the body of the fluke itself, but it takes place over several distinct environments, which are in perfect dynamic alignment with the various needs and developmental stages of the fluke. In other words, the level of specificity and complexity of the system as a whole is virtually incalculable.

We may not even concern ourselves here with all that is involved in terms of the various mechanisms by which the host animals are able to protect themselves. Rather, we will confine our attention to simply the little parasites’ own part; though to use the word ‘simply’ in relation to any part of this story is a little misleading, I must admit. Just consider that a myriad specific adaptations are required for the little flukes to thrive within the various host species, which thriving includes being superbly able to take advantage of unique responsive processes within the hosts themselves, such as the snails’ cyst-manufacturing system. Plus a myriad specific adaptations more to facilitate their successful transportation from one species to the next, whereby the species involved are themselves both favorable environments for the flukes to survive in, as well as suitable providers of carriage to the next such favorable environment.

So if you can, just for a moment (or at least for this paragraph), put aside any pre-existing beliefs about how everything has come to be the way it is. And now ask yourself if it is truly and rationally thinkable that all of this could have spontaneously and randomly developed, unplanned and unguided? In other words, out of all the random mutations or developments that could ever happen (and such a figure is already way, way beyond anything we could ever hope to wrap our brains around), one after another after another … somehow or other, this single precise chain of random events happened to take place as to facilitate the mind-bogglingly complex series of interlocking eco-systems we refer to as the life-story of the liver fluke.  Because that is precisely what evolutionary theory tells us, as a matter of supposedly obvious and rational deduction, entirely consistent with experience and evidence.

But wait – the wee liver fluke’s story is not yet told. So putting aside any such inconvenient reflections for the moment, let us continue with the story of that one single fluke which by chance made its way to the aforementioned cluster of nerve-cells lying just underneath the ant’s esophagus.

Somehow or other this fluke is now able to manipulate the nerves there so as to cause it’s ant-host to act in a most peculiar but obliging manner.  What happens is that as evening draws near, such an infested ant begins to act in an entirely un-antlike manner, abandoning its natural behaviors in favor of a set of behaviors that are tailor-made to suit the interests of the flukes. What it does is to break away from the rest of its nest-mates, who are all back at the nest, snug as only a bug can be; while this uncharacteristically individualistic member of the herd goes off to spend the night firmly ensconced at the tip of a blade of grass.

Now as if that isn’t bizarre enough, in defiance of basic (ant-) logic, it in fact locks itself into place with its mandibles for the apparent purpose of making sure that it will be included in the diet of any cow that happens to graze upon the particular patch of grass it’s perched in. Should no cow happen to thus include that particular grass-blade in its meal, the ant then climbs back down at dawn to rejoin the rest of the colony, acting just like any other ant, and thus escaping the heat of the day which would otherwise kill both it along with its parasitic controllers.  What we can say, then, is that this particular ant has now been programmed to follow a suicide-mission specifically designed for the benefit of the flukes.

So the question is, programmed by what? The ant surely didn’t come up with such a program itself, acting under some self-sacrificing largesse aimed at helping the liver flukes in their own desperate struggle for survival. Nor is it any more reasonable to think that the flukes figured all this out for themselves, according to the panicked genius of the first generation of flukes that suddenly found themselves stuck in the digestive system of an ant, wondering what on earth they should do next to get out of there.

OK - so what is a reasonable answer? According to the theory of evolution, ‘it just happened.’ Or to put that another way, the answer is ‘random.’ It was all programmed at, or by, random. Well, not really programmed exactly, because the very idea of such a thing basically runs quite counter to the concept of random. So, no, it wasn’t programmed, it just happened. Randomly. How do we know? Because that’s what happened. It’s clearly the most obvious, sensible and empirically verifiable answer, so obvious, sensible and empirically verifiable in fact, that it’s been adopted by the very paragon of rational and objective thinking, namely science. And being science of course, and hence assumed ‘proven’ by such association, we really aren’t supposed to question it.

Well, even if we don’t question the theory, i.e. the science, of all this, still, the facts themselves do raise some very curious questions. For instance: how did the very first fluke that was swallowed by an ant and then made its way to said ant’s sub-esophageal ganglion before seizing control of the entire ant … well, how did it do that? How did it come to figure out how to pilot such an alien craft, and how did it even recognize what and where the controls were? After which, how did it determine its next life-supporting destination, namely the cow’s liver; and without the use of anything like a Mars Rover, for instance? Plus, how did it come by the actual chain of events by which it could arrive at said next destination via its new ‘space-ship’… including programming said ship for such activities as are entirely foreign to the fluke itself, such as climbing up grass-blades for the night, locking mandibles (whatever they might be, from a liver fluke’s perspective) in place, and patiently and one-pointedly awaiting the approaching ‘jaws of death’)?

Then there is the favorite old conundrum of course, suitably reworded for this particular example: which came first (as far as the fluke is concerned, that is): the cow, the snail or the ant?  Or isn’t the simple fact that all three are required simultaneously?  What series of prior evolutionary steps could be imagined that could have led up to this spectacularly complex and precise set of arrangements?  How is it consistent or rational to imagine that the explanation for such unparalleled complexity is mere arbitrary randomness? Would anyone take seriously, for example, a billionaire’s explaining as to how he became so fabulously wealthy if his only answer was, “Well, I started with nothing actually; and then I didn’t really do anything at all – and, umm, here we are then”?

How can the fluke’s life-cycle even begin to be explained by any undirected random evolutionary process, utterly devoid of foresight or planning, as evolution insists, since no rational person would ascribe such to the fluke itself?  Oh well, perhaps that’s why they call it a fluke.

Or how else can we explain such a scenario? And while we’re at it, how could we explain anything at all … or everything in general, for that matter?

The entire e-book is available here from Amazon for $.99

Thursday, January 24, 2013

You Can't Be an Activist and Claim Your Faith as Personal

This piece was published in the Huffington Post on January 24, 2013

I shared my faith with an activist going to a progressive conference in DC on inauguration weekend. He wrote back, "We don't proselytize our faith or religious beliefs because we regard them as personal." I've run into that "philosophy" from many activists. Yes, it is deeply personal, but that doesn't mean it's private, or should be private, based on some sort of repressive status quo social taboo. When I read that, it seemed contradictory, because in the very next sentence, he said "Without leadership rising from amongst us, our future will be filled with suffering and misery, not from fate but from the hands of powerful selfish people." So he believes in leadership in secular political matters, but not in spiritual matters? Really?! That is not only contradictory, but either one of two things: disingenuous or hypocritical. What if all the politically active people regarded their views as "personal?" There would be no activism. What would that accomplish? Welcome to the United Corporations of America.

Similarly, if you think that spiritual people should just keep their values personal, or to themselves, then the world would be a nice place for our sense gratification, that may be, but without spiritual principles, the values of this relative materialistic world are just floating right now, and no one knows where they're going to end up. I'll tell you where they'll end up -- on the rocks. The only problem in this world is a lack of God consciousness. Let's not conflate this statement with the right wing wackadoodles like Rick Perry, et. al., who ignore practical solutions and say we must depend entirely on prayer instead. Perry thinks we don't need to do anything about guns, we just need to pray the violence away. "Prayer can be stronger than laws," he says. As Bill Maher says, "I would pay to watch Rick Perry defend himself against a school shooter with prayer." As the Led Zeppelin song goes, "Crying won't help you. Praying won't do you no good." I'm not talking about their so-called religion. I'm talking about real God consciousness, and how to practically apply it to real life situations. The religious right is neither religious nor right. There is a bumper sticker on my car that says, "Jesus helped the poor. Republicans help themselves." Paul Ryan claims to be a Christian, but his budget is exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. In Bhagavad-gita 18.32 Krishna says, "That understanding which considers irreligion to be religion and religion to be irreligion, under the spell of illusion and darkness, and strives always in the wrong direction, O Pārtha, is in the mode of ignorance."

Maybe these ignorant types should keep their so-called "religion" to themselves, but that doesn't mean that everyone should. I am so sick of this meme that spiritual people should not "shove their beliefs down other people's throats." We should all just shut up and pray in our closets. If someone claims to be a spiritual person, and that is indeed the most important thing in their life, because it has changed their life for the better, and they know it could do the same thing for others, why would they be such misers that they don't share that with others? I can only conclude that while claiming to be a spiritual person, spirituality is not really the most important thing in their life. Such people claim to "respect all faiths" in their liberal way that makes an appearance of respecting diversity, but it appears to me that most of them are actually not that interested. Emerson says, "Always scorn appearances, and you always may." - from Self-Reliance, Essays: First Series (1841) They may be interested, in as much as it aligns with their own proclivities, but it is not their main interest in life. As it is not their main interest in life, frankly, I am not really interested in their interests. I choose to associate only with true devotees. In another place in that same essay, Emerson said, "If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men's, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. - But so you may give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me, and do the same thing."

Religion is not about our own proclivities. We may dovetail our proclivities such as activism to religion, to the absolute truth, but not vice-versa. We can't turn our own ideas of activism into religion. The word religion stems of the Latin relegō, which means, "I bind back." Similarly, in Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as "yoke" or "union" with God. Real religion comes only from one place, and that is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Cause of all Causes. The Absolute Truth with a capitol T is a person, but not an ordinary person. No mortal can make up his own religion. Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita 15.15 "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas."

My guru gave us this test, which can be applied to anyone who claims to be a spiritualist: "Who is your God?" Also, "Show me your love of God." If you love someone, and you never talk to them, or about them to anyone else, you never bring them flowers, or even think about them that much, how much to you actually love them? If you love anyone or anything more than God -- if you love TV, or sports, or politics, or your democracy, or your ism, or sex, or your dog, or your wife, or your family, or your friends, or your nation, or your world, or any kind of personal sense gratification whatsoever, you really can't claim to be a spiritualist, can you? So, if you are an activist, and claim to be a spiritual person, don't tell me that your faith is "personal," or that I need to keep my faith to myself. You don't have any faith.

There is a story of a seven-year-old boy named Prahlāda who lived in India millions of years ago. He prayed, "My dear Lord, I see that there are many saintly persons indeed, but they are interested only in their own deliverance. Not caring for the big cities and towns, they go to the Himalayas or the forest to meditate with vows of silence [mauna-vrata]. They are not interested in delivering others. As for me, however, I do not wish to be liberated alone, leaving aside all these poor fools and rascals. I know that without God consciousness, without taking shelter of Your lotus feet, one cannot be happy. Therefore I wish to bring them back to shelter at Your lotus feet." - Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 7 Chapter 9 Text 44

That is real activism.

Murti of Prahlāda with his worshipful Lord Narasimhadeva (Half-Man/Half-Lion) in New Vrindaban, West Virginia