By Vikramini devi dasi
Looking at the ruins of what we’ve been calling until recently Western civilization, I can say that the mankind is illogical and irrational. Led by misguided and selfish leaders, people themselves planned and led their existence to its end, such as we knew it. How come we got here? Couldn’t the ruination of our world be prevented? Couldn’t any of the world leaders remember the bitter lessons of the millenary bloody history of mankind? And why the progress of material science and modern technology, which reached unimaginable levels, didn’t help human beings to rise above the lower animal instincts, constrained to eating, sleeping, mating and self-defense and to bestow upon the world the so desirable peace and prosperity?
Ever since our birth we’ve been forced to accept the body as our true self. All around us (relatives, scientists, teachers, politicians) persistently lead us to believe that we are a product of matter. Life is a happy coincidence of a combination of material elements, which have caused our existence. And since it has appeared out of nothing, our life has no other meaning and is intended only to satisfy our senses and the senses of our close family members. Those striving for material happiness generally believe they can find the enjoyment they seek in sex and that they can purchase freedom with money. This conviction is constantly being fueled by all the propaganda machine of material culture – the cinema, the television, the Internet, which suggests that we are nothing more than evolved animals. And because no one in the material world actually obtains lasting happiness, everyone becomes frustrated and is forced by unfulfilled lust to compete for whatever enjoyable things are to be obtained. So western material civilization with its predatory policy and frenzied consumerist ideology has come to its logical end. Where do we turn now?
The answer to these and many other questions can be found in the ancient Vedic wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. There we find the verse defined by Srila Prabhupada as the peace formula:
“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries” (5.29)
In his purport Srila Prabhupada elaborates:
“Under the spell of illusion, living entities are trying to be lords of all they survey, but actually they are dominated by the material energy of the Lord. The Lord is the master of material nature, and the conditioned souls are under the stringent rules of material nature. Unless one understands these bare facts, it is not possible to achieve peace in the world either individually or collectively.”
According to the Bhagavad Gita As it is we are neither bodies nor minds but pure spirit souls part and parcels of the Supreme Lord.. The body is constantly changing from a newly born to a child, adult and an old person. But what is the self throughout all these physical and mental stages of development? Obviously, it is something different from the body and the mind. That something is our real self – the soul. Anyone can understand this by the presence of consciousness. The living entity gets different bodies depending on the desires and activities, which are determined by the three material modes.
Essence of dharma
The cultivation of the goodness of the mind is the essence of the Vedic method of yoga. When the whole society follows the Vedic culture and develops the mode of goodness, it provides stability and morality for society. In Srimad Bhagavatam four principal sinful habits are mentioned: gambling, intoxication, illicit sex and killing animals and meat-eating (1.17.38). Indulging in the above four sinful activities strongly binds the soul to the temporary material body, undermines the four virtues – austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness, and weakens the spirit. Thus one becomes helpless and cannot resist the impulses of the senses, plunging again in sinful activities. Today millions of people search for the truth of themselves beyond the body through different methods. However, they do not achieve success and again are swept by the maelstrom of suffering because their physical and moral purity is destroyed by illicit sex and their austerity and mercy is destroyed by eating animal flesh, by taking opiates and by pride. Therefore, the eradication of the aforementioned four sinful activities is essential to raising the awareness of people and to achieving peace and prosperity in society.
Real human civilization means civilization based on the principles presented by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. The institution of Vedic culture is built on the principle of sacrifice. Srila Prabhupada explains what sacrifice is:
“The Krishna conscious person, like Arjuna, however, sacrifices everything for the satisfaction of Krishna, and thus all his material possessions as well as his own self-everything-is sacrificed for Krishna. Thus, he is the first-class yogi; but he does not lose his individual existence” (purport to BG 4.25).
The science of sacrifice depends upon the cooperation of the demigods and mankind; and this requires civilization to be situated in the mood of goodness.
The Western civilization is demoniac because it is trying to forcibly wrench out or nature everything it needs. In contrast, the Vedic culture is a culture of service. According to it, Krishna gives us everything necessary for our existence and transcendental knowledge under the condition that we offer them back to Him as a sacrifice:
At the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Visnu, and blessed them by saying:
“Be thou happy by this yajna (sacrifice) because its performance will bestow upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation.” [Bhagavad-gita 3.10]
People happily sacrifice valuables because they know the good of life is not estimated in terms of material possessions. It is measured by morality and devotion to Krishna; these are blessings, which are most valued in Vedic society.
The Vedic term for religion is dharma. Dharma indicates that the living entity, being part and parcel of God, must serve Him. About 5000 years ago the Vedic religion called varna ashram dharma flourished worldwide. Varna ashrama dharma is a scientific way of spiritual elevation of the general mass of people. It is true, authoritative, as it is created by Krsna Himself:
“According to the three modes of material nature and the work prescribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable” ( BG4.13)
This social system has nothing to do with the caste system and is very scientific. It builds up society with clear division of labor into classes, but without exploitation, enmity, and conflict. It enables every member of the society to be involved according to their qualities and work for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. Everyone can serve the Lord, whatever his level of spiritual advancement is, by following the principles Krishna sets forth in the Bhagavad-gita. It is established that a dharma is the occupational duty of the four parts of the varnasrama social body – brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras. Everyone can cultivate his particular occupational duty with the aim of attaining ultimate liberation. Human life is meant for liberation from the bondage of birth and death. Accepting a dharma means work; that work must be for Vishnu, without personal interest in the material results that may accrue:
“By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done. By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work.”(11.45-46).
In his way the ordinary work turns into bhakti yoga, the highest perfection in devotional service. Even the mundane activities such as fighting and sexual intercourse can be transformed into spiritual activities if done according to religious principles (7.11). The ultimate dharma of all living entities is surrender to Krishna:
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”(18.66).
All other dharmas are preliminary duties, meant to bring one to the highest spiritual understanding of Krishna consciousness. Those who have reached the top platform of pure devotional service, such as Arjuna, are in fact transcendental to varnashrama, even though they still appear to be carrying out their varnashrama duties like anyone else:
“Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.” (8.7)
The point is that if we want successful life, peace of mind and full satisfaction, we should concern ourselves with how to advance in devotional service to the Lord. This striving is actually the life of dharma. However, if one executes his duties but does not become Krishna Conscious, then all his striving is in vain. Liberation is manifest in one’s service relationship to the Lord. That relationship must develop on two levels – the physical level of work as a sacrifice, and the subtle level of mind, intelligence and false ego. Hearing and chanting about Krishna spiritualizes the subtle body. Without hearing and chanting Krishna’s holy name dharma becomes a burden. In this age this is the only way to satisfy the Supreme Lord. But it is to be understood that we cannot become Krishna conscious on our own efforts alone. It is the prime duty of the world leaders to guide the citizens towards reviving Krishna Consciousness. As Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport:
“This science is especially meant for the protection of the inhabitants and therefore the royal order should understand it in order to be able to rule the citizens and protect them from the material bondage to lust. Human life is meant for cultivation of spiritual knowledge, in eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the executive heads of all states and all planets are obliged to impart this lesson to the citizens by education, culture and devotion. In other words, the executive heads of all states are intended to spread the science of Krishṇa consciousness so that the people may take advantage of this great science and pursue a successful path, utilizing the opportunity of the human form of life.” (BG 4.1)
Vedic education is primarily concerned with inculcating good qualities in the human being. To apply varnaashram dharma practically we need education in two levels – first the people have to be educated in the qualities that Narada Muni prescribes for all human beings (SB 7.11.8-12), and then educate them further in the qualities and duties prescribed for specific varnas (including women). Prabhupada clearly states in the purport that these principles are for everyone, even Muslim, Christians and Buddhists. Тhese are the basic qualities attributed in the Bhagavad-gita to the brahmanas: truthfulness, mercy, austerity, cleanliness, tolerance, control of the mind, control of the senses, nonviolence and so on (18.42). Along with spiritual knowledge there should be introduced trainings for assimilating expert knowledge and practical skills for the respective varna. Naturally brahmanas have the tendency to study the Vedas as well as branches like Ayurveda and Astrology, to perform vedic yajnas and to worship the Deities. Typical duties for ksatrias are management, political science and military art. The vaishyas are engaged in agriculture and especially cow protection and trading. And shudras have assisting role to other varnas.
For peaceful spiritual practice, one must be well established in his ashram. While the four varnas are meant to situate citizens in proper occupational activities, the four asramas are meant to provide their spiritual advancement. Since the family is the basic unit of society, it is essential to train those who want to create a family. In Vedic society, this training was done in the family, but because modern society has long been away from their natural functions and values, this knowledge must be obtained from higher authorities. People have to be trained how to be real grihastas, keeping Krishna in the center of their lives; how to deal with one another; how to be successful parents, how women should deal with men and men with women, and so on. Еspecially the chastity of a woman is considered very important for the birth of good and religious progeny, which is the basis for a stable society:
“When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Kṛṣṇa, the women of the family become corrupt, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, comes unwanted progeny.” 1.40
Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport:
“This is very important point. For good population. Without good population in the society, gentlemen, cultured, educated, following the rules and regulations of religious principles, how you can expect peace and prosperity? That is not possible. So the whole Vedic system was meant for having very good population.”
In this way the true daivi varnashrama dharma can be established.
Proper training, refraining from the four sinful activities and congregational chanting the names of Krishna will provide a firm spiritual foundation of society. By these simple processes one can know the Lord in truth, achieve peace and happiness and finally go back home, back to Godhead.
In the modern world there are many organizations with a view to unite people. Unfortunately, since they have no true knowledge, they call for unity on the basis of the material conception of life – I am this body. And since the body is the temporary cover of the soul and is mortal, there is no true relationship with the other living beings. But spreading of the glory of Krishna establishes true relationships between people and unites us as spiritual personalities based on love of God, regardless of religion, race, gender. Krishna Consciousness is the eternal religion of all living entities and goes beyond religious labels.
The Vedic literature is a testimony to social efficacy of the system represented by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. At the time of Krishna the entire world followed these principles and as a result, humanity was blessed with wisdom, opulence, happiness and peace. There are many examples in the Vedic scriptures of saintly kings who ruled the whole world according to Krishna’s instructions – Maharaja Yudisthira, Maharja Parikshit, Prithu Maharaja. Their kingdoms are a perfect example of a prosperous society with high spiritual culture. These teachings of Lord Krishna’s peace formula, as explained by Srila Prabhupada in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, are proposals for solving complex problems. Srila Prabhupada was convinced that it is not too late to alter the course of modern history and return to the shelter of Krishna from which we have wandered so far away. By spiritual inspiration through Krishna consciousness civilization can regain its real life and purpose.