by bhakta Eric Johanson
Jaya-gopala: What is meant by madness? Prabhupada: Just as don’t you see all these people of the world, they are mad? What they are doing? They whole day the cars going on this side, that side. What is the aim of life? They’re mad. Simply wasting petroleum, that’s all. What they’re doing? Huh? Suppose a cat and dog goes this side and that side, yow, yow, yow, and he goes some motorcars. What is the difference? There is no difference because the aim of the life is the same. Therefore they are mad. That is explained. Nunam pramattah kurute vikarma yad indriya-pritaya aprnoti [SB 5.5.4]. Nunam pramattah, pramattah means mad. Prakrsta rupena mata, sufficiently mad. And why? Kurute vikarma. They’re acting which they should not act. They’re acting in a way in which they should not have done. So what is the aim of their acting? Indriya-pritaya, simply for sense gratification. That’s all……So Rsabhadeva says, na sadhu manye, ‘This is not good.’ Na sadhu manye yato atmano ‘yam asann api klesada asa dehah. These madmen do not know that this is the cause of getting this miserable material body. The sufferings of humanity is due to this material body and the cause of vikarma, acting for sense gratification. So this life is meant for acting for liberation, but they are acting for sense gratification. Therefore they are mad. They do not know the aim of life. — Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 2.27-38 — Los Angeles, December 11, 1968 (our emphases) Unless otherwise cited, quotes are from the lectures, conversations and books of Srila Prabhupada.
The world is suffering, and the changing climate has already given many indications that it will only cause such suffering to increase. Although there are certainly a few skeptics, the vast majority of scientists who have studied the phenomena agree that our increasing temperature is the result of humanity’s burning fossil fuels for several centuries.
A Simple Overview of Climate Change
Perhaps the most common misunderstanding about climate change is that it is a type of air pollution. Climate change is caused by invisible greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the most common of which are completely non-toxic. The greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. These are gases that absorb and emit radiation within the also-invisible thermal infrared range, energy that makes up about half of what reaches the earth from the sun. What is called air pollution, such as urban smog and power plant emissions, may also contain significant amounts of greenhouse gases but has any number of additional visible particulates and other harmful materials that in and of themselves can make people sick.
Because greenhouse gases absorb this invisible infrared energy they store it in the atmosphere, and that is what is causing the planet to get warmer. The major constituents of the atmosphere, oxygen and nitrogen, are not greenhouse gases, so the increasing temperature we have thus far witnessed is due to relatively small increases in greenhouse gases. The current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is only about 400 parts per million (ppm), but even this is considered by prominent climate scientists, such as NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, to be 50 ppm above a safe and sustainable level.
Most people know that plants absorb carbon dioxide during their sustaining process of photosynthesis. This is how the planet has kept greenhouse gases in balance up until our industrial era, which began around 1750. However, extensive clearing of land and forests since then, along with the burning of fossil fuels, has thus far resulted in a 40% increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. Some climate models project that as soon as 2047 these concentrations could exceed records from scientific studies that measure atmospheric carbon dioxide going back millions of years.
Up until now climate change has been fueled by the production of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and natural gas. Due to the huge mass of the planet’s oceans, 500 times that of the atmosphere, it is estimated that it takes 25-50 years for increased carbon dioxide to cause a similar increase in global temperature. This means the “warmest years on record” that have been experienced over the last decade are the result of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in the sixties and seventies. Since fossil fuel usage has been steadily increasing since then, we can expect to regularly exceed those new records on an almost yearly basis.
As the planet warms climate scientists say that we will come to what they call “tipping points,” a term taken from the tilting angle that a normally stable object like a chair needs to be pushed to fall over and become useless for sitting. The term has also been defined as a critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development or to the temperature that water boils at.
In relation to climate change, this term is applicable to the projected extensive melting of ice sheets near the poles. This means that less of the sun’s energy will be reflected back into space by the white ice, thus causing the earth to warm even faster. This is called a positive feedback effect. A related and perhaps even more ominous tipping point is the release of polar methane that has been frozen in the permafrost and seabed for thousands of years. Although methane’s lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide’s, its comparative impact on climate change is over 20 times greater. These positive feedbacks could cause global temperature to rise at ever-increasing rates to levels that would make human life impossible in many places. For this reason virtually all climate scientists are warning of the danger of increasing global temperature to these tipping point temperatures. These increases are not all that large. All of the deforestation and fossil fuels burnt since 1880 have only caused average global temperature to rise 0.8 degrees Celsius, or 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fossil fuels store the energy of the sun that came to earth millions of years ago and was converted into plant material. This was then geologically compressed into coal or collected in underground reserves as oil and natural gas where it mostly remained until the industrial era. In this way, fossil fuels are like money in a bank account that humanity could use over time. Instead of wisely spending or conserving this wealth, however, we find world culture using these in the profligate manner of a lottery winner or irresponsible heir.
We can get some idea of the miracle nature of petroleum by considering how much wood or coal would have to be burned by an old fashioned steam engine to move a heavy object like a car over a large distance and up a mountain road. Yet only a few gallons of gasoline will do this in the convenient manner that we all take for granted. However, accompanying this comparative ease is the inversely proportionate amount of carbon dioxide that is produced in the process. Faced with the above, many informed people are becoming inversely hopeful about humanity and the planet being able to avoid severe consequences from global warming.
Although climate change skeptics often say natural climate variations are responsible, the amount of fossil fuels that have been burned by mankind in the last 200 years is stupendous. If I have a fire in my house, the first causes I am going to check are where there might be a gas pipe leak, a loose electrical wire or something similar, something that is flammable near a possible source of ignition. I am not going to dismissively conclude that it is due to something natural like underground volcanic magma or natural gas coming up under the house.
The scientists that study climate are technical nerds, not a partisan political group with some hidden self-interest agenda, as they are often portrayed by ideologically driven “news” people. They are not going to get fantastically rich writing books or talking about it. Again using the fire comparison, ignoring their opinion of this phenomenon is like ignoring the instructions of the fire chief who has come to save your house.
There is an obvious similarity between the time graphs of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the increase in global temperature, and the cause and effect is explained above. Both the relative increases and rates of increase are similar. Those who claim that the increasing temperature is not caused by man made activity must be prepared to demonstrate a more self-evident relationship than these graphs. Conclusive proof from them is somewhat lacking.
Unfortunately the world is mostly a prisoner of the large media corporations who largely control the information people receive. Most of the skeptics have been supported and funded by economic interests, such as the oil industry, that stand to lose the most if fossil fuel use decreases. This does not speak too well of such scientist’s objectivity or of media that gives equal time to such people. Even if they are sincere in their research, they’re achieving artificial prominence due to said funding and publicity improperly inflates the importance of their findings. The media corporations are also financially dependent on the advertising dollars of the fossil fuel industry and can hardly be expected to be objective in their coverage during those times that they even deign to mention it. All of the censorship-by-omission and misinformation served up on this issue is the main reason many Americans have doubts about the validity of climate change science. In one sense this “money talks,” public relations skewed standard of our current world culture is symptomatic and significantly contributes to the difficulty of coming to a solution of these difficulties.
Malati: If somebody gave the judge a big dollar bill he would remember. Prabhupada: Yes. That means truthfulness is not there, diminished. The same thing. Because truthfulness has diminished, therefore you can bribe anybody and he can tell lie for you. We are in a very precarious condition. Very unfavorable condition. — Morning Walk — San Francisco, March 23, 1968
There are nevertheless many who are convinced that all the talk about climate change is a plot by scientists and left wing environmentalists to bring down the global capitalist system. They claim that the weather is not all that different from the past, and that the entire threat is exaggerated by people who just think that the sky is falling. However, the US military, an organization that such people hardly associate with such plots, very much disagrees, and this has been the case since 2004 when the US president was not considered by them to be prone to such deception.
“Nations with the resources to do so may build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving resources for themselves. . . . As famine, disease, and weather-related disasters strike due to the abrupt climate change, many countries needs will exceed their carrying capacity. This will create a sense of desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression in order to reclaim balance . . . Europe will be struggling internally, large numbers of refugees washing up on its shores and Asia in serious crisis over food and water. Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life. Once again, warfare would define human life.” An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, 2004
“Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impact around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration. While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.” Quadrennial Defense Review, 2010
Climate change resulting from rampant fossil fuel use very much has a Western origin. Among the larger countries, the United States generally tops the list in terms of carbon dioxide emissions per capita. The automobile-tract-home culture that is now sought after all over the world began there.
According to Western history and academic orthodoxy, civilization is in the process of evolving and progressing from a primitive less educated and enlightened past up to the present. Modern conveniences, medicine, scientific discoveries, democracy and capitalism and are said to have lifted humanity out of a miserable fate where drudgery and continuous struggle forced people to spend their whole lives merely surviving.
All this might be fine if everything was really getting better in every way; however recent decades have seen some more ominous developments. Resources are running out. Soils are becoming depleted. The oceans are becoming over-fished. The era of easily available petroleum is coming to an end. Wood products are less plentiful, and the ability of the earth to process the toxic waste products of manufacturing processes and consumption is being overtaxed. Areas of plastic waste the size of Texas float in our oceans. Clean water is becoming scarcer. The rain forests, the world’s carbon dioxide processors and oxygen generators and the source of any number of rare medicinal plants, have been largely deforested. However, all these already significant environmental problems have become overshadowed by the projected temperature increases of global warming. The warming global temperature is causing the deep ocean current that encircles the globe to slow and eventually possibly stop. This current is acknowledged to be a prime cause of weather pattern stability, something that the agricultural production of the past more or less takes for granted. This means that famines and other shortages could soon become regular features of life, what to speak of increased “superstorms” like Sandy, Katrina and Haiyan.
“The demoniac are engaged in activities that will lead the world to destruction. The Lord states here that they are less intelligent. The materialists, who have no concept of God, think that they are advancing. But, according to Bhagavad-gita, they are unintelligent and devoid of all sense. They try to enjoy this material world to the utmost limit and therefore always engage in inventing something for sense gratification. Such materialistic inventions are considered to be advancement of human civilization, but the result is that people grow more and more violent and more and more cruel, cruel to animals and cruel to other human beings. They have no idea how to behave toward one another. Animal killing is very prominent amongst demoniac people. Such people are considered the enemies of the world because ultimately they will invent or create something which will bring destruction to all.” — Purport, Bhagavad-gita 16.9
It is also hard to divorce the recent global economic downturn from all of these problems-in-progress. Because resources are harder to find, the era of easy prosperity has clearly peaked. Recently large banks caused the largest economic collapse since the great depression of the 1930’s. Billions of people’s lives were adversely affected with millions losing their homes and livelihood, yet no one among the bankers was punished, despite massive provable fraud and criminal self-interest. This is often contrasted with the US savings and loan crisis of the 1980’s when several of the responsible bankers were sent to prison. In the light of this, most concerned people have very little trust that the US government will do anything meaningful to slow the consumption of fossil fuels, since, like the Wall Street bankers, the companies that extract these are also large campaign contributors to both major American political parties.
“Dishonest miscreants flourish because of cowardly and impotent executive heads of state. But when the executive heads are strong enough to curb all sorts of dishonest miscreants, in any part of the state, certainly they cannot flourish. When the miscreants are punished in an exemplary manner, automatically all good fortune follows.” — Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.17.14
Over the last 200 years Western culture has become materialistic at an exponential rate, something that doubles every so many years. The Western economic system is considered healthy only if it is in a constant state of growth, thereby encouraging “endless innovation and new consumer goods.”
The chief Western religion, Christianity, has also largely evolved a lifestyle, especially in the United States, where many practitioners are convinced that God’s favor is indicated by their level of material success. This “prosperity“ is often the focus of the more popular TV evangelist’s preaching and is very much connected to a philosophy, pragmatism, that is said to be the United States’ most important contribution to that field. Because the leaders of Western religion are dependent on the gifts of their parishioners, it is very rare to find one who regularly quotes Christ about the contradictions of pursuing material wealth and being truly spiritual. We should not forget that the runaway greed-is-good, “in the fast lane” lifestyle evolved in the US during a period when far more people professed to be serious Christians.
This hypocrisy does not escape the more perceptive, however, and many have turned away from these faiths. Belief in “science” has become the focus of most of this secular group, and they emphasize the need for material well being all the more, since they are, more or less, convinced that this is the only life they have.
No one is immune from the constant onslaught of advertising, however, something that is inescapable, yet inherently deceptive. Everyone knows that virtually all the people endorsing a product are only doing so because they are getting paid. This only increases the level of cynicism that is a direct result of the hyper-materialism of Western culture. It is perhaps no accident that levels of depression and related mental disturbances are at their highest in the United States, the world’s leader and main exporter of this entire package. This should make clear why Western culture has become deprecated as “Babylon” or “the great Satan” by other less materialistic religious groups.
Many more perceptive people are asking how sustainable Western culture is. They can understand that a culture that depends on constant economic growth will eventually deplete some of the necessary resources of a finite planet. The evangelists of the “free market,” however, claim that the magic inherent in it will automatically correct all imbalances — “prices on goods in short supply will rise, and then creative entrepreneurs will market a suitable replacement.” In this regard, capitalist commerce certainly does exhibit great flexibility wherein scarce products change. Purchases of all kind generally benefit both the buyer and seller.
However, what is ignored when we myopically focus on this obvious aspect? The earth simply does not have enough resources for billions of couples to have a house in the suburbs, a car and two children. Any economist should be able to make such a calculation. What is more, when an item like a car is purchased no cost is determined for the pollution or carbon dioxide it will produce when it is driven over 100,000 miles (160,000 km.). When that purchase is multiplied by millions, any number of people will get asthma or some kind of cancer, and that carbon dioxide will cause everyone’s atmosphere to gradually get hotter. These effects are called market “externalities,” and it should be clear that they and a finite planet’s resource limits can no longer be ignored.
Faced with the consequences of global warming predicted by climate scientists, it would seem that the saner and wiser representatives of Western culture would come forward with a solution. In ancient cultures there were always elders or priests who could be called upon when circumstances became dangerous or ominously unfamiliar. Previously the Western system of government was monarchy, and such rulers also had ministers who would counsel them in such situations. Of course the US president has any number of advisers, and climate change is not a topic that he has ignored in his speeches. However, there is also the legislative branch of the government where the prospective regulation of such a solution would have to be approved, and there are many there who either deny that the climate is warming or that it is caused by human activity. Unfortunately practically all of these people receive huge campaign donations from the companies that extract oil, coal or natural gas, and thus appear to act more on behalf of these benefactors than for the good of their constituents, the planet or future generations. In a radio conversation NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen was asked why is it that, despite there being any number of good solutions to climate change, that the US government cannot seem to address the problem. His answer was that the corporate lobbyists have too much influence over how the representatives vote. This inability of the country that has always led the way in fossil fuel use then appears to be the biggest obstacle to a global solution to man-made climate change.
This is compounded by the US having achieved victory during World War II largely because of self-sufficiency in petroleum resources, thus making the industry an essential part of the power structure. After the war the US moved quickly to take over the Middle East oil fields controlled by the then weakened British Empire, and this advantage has substantially enabled the US to dominate the world’s politics and economy since. The US oil companies are an important arm of the military-industrial complex with government influence far greater than other non-defense related corporate sectors.
The Changing Western System
Even according to its own gloriously advertised history, the Western democratic-capitalist system is a somewhat recent and short lived experiment. France and the United States were the first democracies of the modern era, and neither of them has reached the age of 300. The dominance of a capitalist economic system is not much older. It evolved from the previous medieval system which was primarily land based, wherein land for agricultural production and livestock were the real wealth. Towards the end of the period medieval lords found that marketplaces where imported and domestic goods could be sold or traded enhanced their communities and wealth. In the medieval system peasants worked the land in exchange for the military protection provided by the lord. In this and virtually all other systems of the ancient world, real power was in the hands of the military or what might be called the ksatriya group.
Not that many hundreds of years ago what could be called the entire civilized world operated under this conception of wealth and governance. Pretty much, any monarchy and the accompanying social arrangement with roles for priests and agricultural workers were not externally all that different from the Vedic varnashrama system. This even extended to the more organized Native American Inca, Aztec, Mayan and mound builder cultures. Exact Vedic regulations may not have been followed, but land was largely considered to be the property of God or gods, and the king was usually considered the representative or some embodiment of a deity.
The first place this broke down in a big way was in Europe. About 400 years ago corrupt and ambitious European nobility began transforming their traditional stewardship of the communal lands into titled private ownership. This appropriation then led to swindling and driving the peasants off their ancestral farming plots. This is described by Karl Marx in chapter 27 of Capital and his son-in-law Paul LaFargue in chapter 4 of Evolution of Property. It is hard to know what role firearms, a technological innovation of the time, played in this social upheaval. The nobility then compromised and merged with the rising mercantile class but had the capital advantage of all of the land they now “possessed.” In some places like France the dispossessed, impoverished, now-urban peasants-turned-beggars and others were more successful at overthrowing their tormentors, and the modern version of “freedom of the individual” was set into motion. However, the wealthy possessors of capital quickly adapted to this movement and found that the conception could be employed very nicely to keep the masses chasing the carrot of affluence that they had already largely monopolized. These things will be elaborated in future articles on this site.
Nevertheless, the fantasy that played in the minds of that era’s “free” commoners is not all that different from today’s – they all aspired to be little kings or nobles of their own little private property domains. This became the driving force of the colonial period, which was pretty much concurrent. When indigenous tribal cultures were driven off their lands around the world, thousands of European would-be “little kings” would flood in to stake their claims. Although at a distinct self-esteem disadvantage, the indigenous people that somehow survived the European genocide were similarly encouraged to “all be chiefs” in the European attempt to assimilate them, as well as to undermine any future attempts at cultural unity.
“Just like I give some carpenter some wood, some implement, and salary. And he makes a very nice, beautiful closet. To whom this closet will belong. To the carpenter, or the man who has supplied the ingredients? To whom it will belong? The carpenter cannot say that: ‘Because I have transformed this wood into such nice closet, it is mine.’ No. It is not yours. Similarly, who is supplying the ingredients, rascal? That is Krsna’s. Krsna says: bhumir apo ‘nalo vayuh kham mano buddhir eva… prakrtir me astadha [Bg. 7.4]. ‘This is My property.’ You have not created this sea, the land, the sky, the fire, the air. It is not your creation. You can transform these material things, tejo-vari-mrdam vinimayah, by mixing and transforming. You take earth from the land, you take water from the sea and mix it and put it in the fire. It becomes a brick. And then you pile up all this brick and make a skyscraper building. But wherefrom you got this ingredient, rascal, that you are claiming this skyscraper yours? This is intelligent question. You have stolen the property of God, and you are claiming that it is your property. This is knowledge. This is knowledge. . . . .So those who are intoxicated, they cannot understand. They think: ‘It is my property. I have stolen, I have stolen this land of America from the Red Indians. Now it is my property.’ But he does not know that he’s a thief. He’s a thief. Stena eva sa ucyate [Bg. 3.12]. In the Bhagavad-gita. One who takes the property of God, and claims his own, he’s a thief.” — Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.26 — Los Angeles, April 18, 1973
Behind it all were the inheritors of the initial appropriated capital and, with the occasional addition of rags-to-riches types like Henry Ford or Bill Gates, they remain the wizards of Oz behind the curtain of the great Western spectacle. This brutal explosion of the modes of passion and ignorance’s greed and violence was later sent into warp speed by the discovery of petroleum close to the earth’s surface.
We can similarly examine the academic economic discipline that evolved to accompany this expansion, now ironically called “classical” economics. Author Edward Abbey said, “growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell,” and this comparison is somewhat unavoidable. Classical economics really has no concept of limited anything, but these limits are the ceiling that our current world situation is rapidly approaching. Being the embodiment of the colonial age of expansion from Europe out into the unlimited beyond, classical economics assumes an unlimited frontier where there is an unending supply of new resources and an unlimited garbage can that dilutes toxic wastes. Despite these obvious deficiencies, the indices of this system, such as “gross national product,” remain the exclusive measure of societal well being. Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” Apparently they also get to write the economics books.
During this period corporations have become the dominant institutions of the modern world, often with more wealth than many nations. Although useful in performing business, the corporate legal entity has been morphed to often enable its more ambitious and ruthless decision makers to escape individual responsibility for breaking laws, etc. Similarly, we now also have software copyrights and things like mineral rights. These and similar legal inventions enable the greedy and ambitious to further privatize previously accepted communal resources, another way of describing one of the chief engines of classical economic “growth.” However, it was the widespread implementation of private property at the beginning of this process, generally imposed at the barrel of a gun, which clearly provided the initial economic impetus for this great but questionable experiment.
“There is another story. A group of thieves stolen some things, and when they were dividing, one of them: ‘Kindly, morally divide. Morally divide. Honestly divide.’ The thing is taken dishonestly, and they are dividing honestly. This is going on, whole world. Everything is taken dishonestly, and when there is question of division, the United Nations honestly divides it. The association of the honest men, United Nations. All plunderers, rogues, thieves, and they have made an association, United Nations. You see. Basically they’re all rogues and thieves. As soon as there is opportunity, they’ll commit all criminal activities. And they’re doing. So this is not philosophy. So here happiness by material possession is the happiness of the rogues and the thieves.” — Lecture on The Nectar of Devotion — Calcutta, January 29, 1973
A question that this series of articles aims to address is whether the Western democratic-capitalist experiment is failing, as indicated by its inability to substantially address climate change and other environmental shortages or problems. One factor is clearly the volatile combination of developing technology and the greed of this merchant class. The rate of change of Western culture appears to be doubling every so many years in many different ways. Cars and trains replaced livestock drawn wagons, and then came telephones, radio and television, followed by computers, the internet and smart phones. The widespread proliferation of these and many other products, although sometimes developed for military purposes, was the result of the profit motive of those who made or sold them. Westerners from even 100 years ago would have trouble understanding much of what currently goes on, and even those removed by one generation often find themselves uncomfortable with their children’s technology. The constant glorification of the new and trendy is inevitably aimed at inducing the impressionable to buy the associated products. The previous cultural dominance of Western religion also appears to be a casualty of the scientific knowledge that brought society all these “improvements.” Abortion and birth control have been given the status of rights in Western society. It is as if tradition of any kind became an evil in and of itself. However, in this accelerating swirl of market driven hysteria and “freedom,” no one seems able to ask what may have been lost in changing Western culture from what it was in the not-so-distant past.
Divisions of People
“If a rascal is busy, that means he’s simply spoiling the energy. . . . So the busy fool is dangerous. There are four classes of men: lazy intelligent, busy intelligent, lazy fool and busy fool. (laughter) So first-class man is lazy intelligent. Just like you’ll see the high-court judges. They’re very lazy and most intelligent. That is first-class man. They are doing everything very soberly. And the next class: busy intelligent. Intelligence should be used very soberly. And the third class: lazy fool-lazy, at the same time, fool. And the fourth class: busy fool. Busy fool is very dangerous. So all these people, they’re busy. Even in this country, everywhere, all over the world, not this country or that country. They have discovered this horseless carriage — very busy. ‘Ons, ons,’ (imitates cars’ noise) this way this way, this way. But actually, they are not intelligent. Busy fool. Therefore they are creating problems after problems. That’s a fact. They are so busy, but because they are fools, therefore they are creating problems.” — Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.16.23 — Hawaii, January 19, 1974
“Busy intelligent means at least whatever he is doing, there is some meaning, busy intelligent. And lazy intelligent means he is doing higher things. Lazy intelligent means brahmana, and busy intelligent means ksatriya. So the catur-varnyam maya srstam [Bg. 4.13]. The society should be divided into four classes. The sudras, they are busy fools. Therefore they are to be guided.” — Morning Walk — Johannesburg, October 19, 1975
The ancient European cultures also had wise men like the Celtic druids or the Greek scholars Socrates, Plato or Aristotle. These were men whose learning alone made them advisers to the kings or government leaders. They played a role much like the brahmana in the Vedic culture. Both the academics and Srila Prabhupada agree that most of the Europeans and the Vedic culture have a common origin. The academic consensus is that most of the European, Iranian and Indian languages and cultures spring from what they call a prehistoric “proto” language and culture, proto-Indo-European. In the following quote Srila Prabhupada describes a similar position, although he adds that the common origin of at least the ruling kings or ksatriyas of these cultures was Vedic culture. This reference was found in ISKCON Communications Journal 6.2 What was Srila Prabhupada’s Position by Jan Brzezinski.
“The best form of human life, the Aryans… Aryans. Aryans means those who are advanced. So the Aryan family, the history of Aryan family… From Central Asia, Caucasian ranges, they divided, the Indo-Aryans, Indo-Europeans. This is the history of mankind. So the Europeans, they belong to the Indo-Europeans, and some of the Europeans, not the uncivilized, the civilized, they came from that side, eastern side, when there was a threatening by Parasurama to kill the ksatriyas. So most of the ksatriyas, they came to Europe, and some of them settled in the middle, the border of Europe and Asia, Turkey, Greece. There is a big history, Mahabharata. Mahabharata means the greater history of India. So on the whole, the conclusion is that the Aryans spread in Europe also, and the Americans, they also spread from Europe. So the intelligent class of human being, they belong to the Aryans, Aryan family.” — Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 9.3 — Melbourne, April 21, 1976
If we accept that many of the ancient rulers of Europe were refugee Vedic ksatriyas, then European medieval monarchy has an apparently clear link with Vedic culture going back thousands of years. Although most Indo-European academics may not concur on Lord Parasurama’s driving Vedic ksatriyas towards Europe, the proto-Indo-European concept of king is somewhat well attested in especially the European languages (Latin rex, Gaulis rix, Old Irish ri, Thracian rhesos, Sanscrit raj). The modern words Regis and regal derive from this root. Even though the root proto-Indo-European conception of king has been challenged by some of them in recent decades, these challengers do ascribe some of the duties of what we know as a monarch, such as protection or leadership in battle, to the above words. Such academics say that the highest rank in proto-Indo-European society that can be accepted by all of them is the clan leader. However, although the system of European monarchy could have conceivably even been borrowed from non-Indo-Europeans, it goes very far back in both Vedic and European history. One can find any number of similarities between historical Vedic and European monarchs, including the idea that the king was the representative of God having “divine right.” Future sections of this article will also examine this in more detail.
Srila Prabhupada also preached that Vedic culture once encompassed the entire globe: “When Rsabhadeva, the father of Maharaja Bharata, after whose name this planet is called Bharatavarsa. The name Bharatavarsa is not only the name for India, but it is the name for this planet. Formerly, five thousand years ago, the whole planet was known as Bharatavarsa. The Vedic culture was all over the world. These Europeans and Americans, they are coming of the same stock, Indo-Aryan stock. There is a great history behind this, how some of the ksatriyas, they left India during the time of Parasurama. He declared war against the ksatriyas and he was incarnation of God. He was killing the ksatriyas like anything and some of the ksatriyas fled from India and came to this part of the world. So from historical point of view you Europeans and Americans, you belong to the ksatriya stock of old India, and somehow or other you have forgotten this Vedic culture. Originally you belonged to this Vedic culture. The Vedic culture was all over the world, even in America — different types of worship or concept of God. The Red Indians also had some religion.” Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.11 — New York, July 25, 1971
On this point the academics have their own theories. Besides their Native-American, Indo-European and other world language families, which they consider quite unrelated, most of their thinking is based on something they call the “Neolithic revolution.” The idea is that after hundreds of thousands of years of existing in Stone Age animal-like conditions, evolving man’s hunting skills eventually became so perfected that virtually all of the large easy game, such as mammoths, became very scarce. This and the more stable climate after the last ice age 20,000 years ago is what supposedly drove “civilized” humanity to congregate in larger population centers sustained by agriculture around 10,000 years ago. Perhaps the greatest weakness in this theory is that this Neolithic revolution is said to have sprung up in at least four unrelated places around the world – China, the Middle East, Mesoamerica (Mexico and part of Central America) and the Andean region of South America – at almost exactly the same time. Agriculture and centralization are said to have been accompanied by metallurgy, religion, law and many of the other characteristics we ascribe to civilization.
Although this “spontaneous combustion” of isolated civilizations all over the world after hundreds of thousands of years of supposed random, primitive hunting and gathering may remind some of faith healing or the claims of the psychic woman downtown, there is a certain dearth of archeological and other evidence to the contrary. Maybe it just hasn’t been found yet due to the deterioration of key objects older than 10,000 years. Perhaps the remains of the civilizations that preceded these are under the ocean waters that rose up as the glaciers of the ice age began melting those 20,000 years ago or even beneath the Antarctic ice cap. Without real evidence it is difficult to dispute the academic consensus. It requires the above “special pleading.” However, the Neolithic revolution theory is so tenuous that it could be similarly labeled.
Similarly, without more specific information it is difficult to say that Srila Prabhupada’s statements about an ancient world Vedic culture are untrue. The best records of the Vedic kings 5,000 or so years ago remain the Mahabharata and the Puranas, and different languages could have been used to transmit the same Vedic information in different parts of the world. The question can certainly be raised as to the strictness that people in various parts of the world followed the Vedic standards. In a loose interpretation, simply paying tribute to a world Vedic emperor in Hastinapura could also be said to be “under Vedic culture.” The academics may have their mundane interpretations of the Vedic literature or want additional evidence before they are prepared to accept its version of history, but that may never become available. In any case, the necessity of a world Vedic culture is unnecessary for the purposes of this article. We are mostly concerned here with the similarities of Vedic and European monarchy.
“Just like there are many insects. Their birth, death, marriage, and everything is finished within night. They never see the day. So if they see day by chance, they will say, ‘Oh, it has changed.’ Because their experience is they have never seen day. Their experience (is) with night. So all of a sudden, if he sees that there is daylight, ‘Oh, what is this? Oh, the whole world has changed.’ No. You have not seen. The so-called scientific discovery, they are seeing something, but the next stage, they have no power to see, and they think, when they see the next item, ‘Oh, the world has changed.’ There is no question of changing. It is on the process.” — Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.4.1 — Los Angeles, June 24, 1972
In regard to proto cultures or other methods of speculating about pre-historic activities, it is extremely easy to be carried away by one’s religious, ethnic or national biases in the manner of P.N Oak and others. In this series of articles we will strive to stick to the statements the previous acaryas, the sastras and well established academic pratyaksam, aitihyam and anuman.
srutih pratyaksam aitihyam / anumanam catustayam / pramanesv anavasthanad / vikalpat sa virajyate — Vedic literature, direct perception, history and hypothesis are the four kinds of evidential proofs. Everyone should stick to these principles for the realization of the Absolute Truth. — Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.19.17
Real spirituality means transcendence. This is why the genuine brahmana has such a prominent place in Vedic culture. Such a brahmana reminds everyone that the purpose of life is to get out of the suffering here in the material world and return to the spiritual one. He makes clear that pursuing temporary material goals is a vain foolish exercise that will end in frustration and disappointment.
asato ma sad gamah / tamasi ma jyotir gamah / mrto ma amrta gamah — Do not stay in illusion; go to the eternal reality. Do not stay in darkness; go to the light. Do not keep taking material bodies; become immortal! — Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 1.3.28
To what extent the ancient Europeans were ever aware of these things is unknown, but even fruitively depending on the mercy of a Supreme God or demigods to attain life’s necessities at least gave their lives a central purpose and stability that is at best minimized in modern Western culture.
For the last decades, through its media, advertising and products, the West has been spreading its materialistic lifestyle to virtually every corner of the globe. This means that the entire world is becoming consumed by an addiction to temporary pleasures and identification with the material body. To the extent that transcendence is ignored we will see more of this. This absence of a deeper purpose to life is the source of all that people find vacant in modern Western life.
“Supposing I identify everything with this body — family, society, country, this, that, so many things. But how long? It is not permanent. Asat. Asat means it will not exist. Asann api klesada asa dehah [SB 5.5.4]. Simply troublesome. Not permanent and simply giving trouble.” — Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 6.16-24 — Los Angeles, February 17, 1969
“Buddhiman means intelligent person. He must associate with satsu. Satsu means those who are trying for self-realization. They are called sat. Sat and asat. Asat means who are trying for the temporary things. Matter is temporary. My body is temporary. So if I simply engage myself for bodily pleasures, sense gratification, then I am engaging myself to temporary things. But if I engage myself for self-realization, the permanent thing, then I am engaging myself to the sat, or to the permanent. Tasmat satsu sajyeta buddhiman. ‘Anyone who is intelligent, he should associate with persons who are trying to elevate themselves for self-realization.’ That is called sat-sanga, good association.” — Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 6.4-12 — New York, September 4, 1966
yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke / sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma-ijya-dhih / yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij / janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah — A human being who identifies the body made of three elements as the self, who considers the by-products of the body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of his birth worshipable, and who goes to a place of pilgrimage simply to bathe rather than to meet men of transcendental knowledge there, is to be considered like a cow or an ass. — Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.84.13
Real knowledge is spiritual knowledge. This means knowing the spiritual self and realizing the answers to those key existential questions: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Where did I come from, and where am I going?” “Who is God?” and “What is the purpose of life?” A truly civilized culture is one that addresses these questions. The material body and the pursuit of all of its necessities are temporary. In more than 100 years almost everything any of us do will be forgotten. Such things are, therefore, like images one might see in clouds. The truly intelligent person will inquire about their real self. Without this a human society that is simply chasing the animal necessities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending is little more than a deluded animal arrangement.
Spiritual knowledge is obtained from someone who already has it. This is the genuine guru or spiritual master. Such a person has already realized the spiritual and truly knows God. Such spiritual knowledge is revealed to one who is no longer interested in the illusory animal sensations of bodily pleasure and who agrees to submit to the discipline offered by the realized guru. Srila Prabhupada was such a guru:
“People are in doubt whether there is God, or ‘If there is God, He might have died by this time.’ So there are so many… (laughs) Yes. When I first went to U.S.A., the theory was ‘God is dead.’ But when I began to speak, they realized, ‘No, God is not dead. God is with Swamiji.’ They wrote. They wrote articles.” — Morning Walk — Bombay, March 31, 1974
“As long as one is covered by material desires, he thinks himself the master or the enjoyer. Thus he acts for sense gratification and becomes subjected to material pangs, happiness and distress. But when one is freed from such a concept of life, he is no longer subjected to designations, and he envisions everything as spiritual in connection with the Supreme Lord. This is explained by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.255), anasaktasya visayan / yatharham upayunjatah / nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe / yuktam vairagyam ucyate. The liberated person has no attachment for anything material or for sense gratification. He understands that everything is connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that everything should be engaged in the service of the Lord.” — Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.22.28
Such topics are among those that modern Western civilization has moved away from. The standard of academics is the scientific method or objective sense perception/measurement. Unless something is verifiable according to the strict standards it is not accepted by them as evidence. To be called scientific something must be potentially “falsifiable” by other or future measurements. Such a standard, although useful in material endeavors, is flimsy at best in determining spiritual truth and has not yet provided conclusive answers to the above existential questions. Spiritual knowledge cannot be understood by someone who has faith that their material senses can be used to determine truth:
atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih / sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah — No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Sri Krsna through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him. — Padma Purana
ya nisa sarva-bhutanam / tasyam jagarti samyami / yasyam jagrati bhutani / sa nisa pasyato muneh — What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage. — Bhagavad-gita 2.69
For centuries the Christian churches were the center of Western culture. Even the most secular anthropologists will admit that religion is able to control the baser tendencies of people, and this was mostly the case until the second half of the 20th century. The excesses of the late 19th century robber barons were curbed by the anti-trust laws, and the New Deal corrected the worst abuses that caused the market’s downfall during the great depression. Up until the 1980’s most American companies and executives took pride in providing living wage jobs for their working class countrymen and women. Although strict critics of capitalism may disagree, it is hard not to associate some of these loyalties and reforms with the ideals of Christ in the Bible.
One of the problems with science replacing religion as the standard of knowledge in the West is that although scientists are very good at discrediting religious dogma, they don’t see it as their responsibility to provide the moral leadership, as bad as the church’s has been in some instances, which it previously offered. As a result many now “enlightened” young people just plunge headlong into the superficial sense titillations of the internet, smart phones and social media, which are mostly used to empower the age-old youthful tendencies of petty social hierarchy and hormonal excess. These sometimes result in internet bullying and other public embarrassments that occasionally lead less secure young people to commit suicide.
Their parents and the leaders of Western society are not much better. Previously even the robber barons would set up large charities, and although this is still the case with certain billionaires, a more disquieting trend has recently arisen among this class. To return to the four types of people described earlier, the lazy fools who acquire great wealth generally go on a spending binge where they enjoy lavishly with expensive clothes, sex and intoxication until either their money runs out or they die. More recent decades, however, have seen an increase of certain hedge fund and corporate busy fools who, despite their inability to enjoy beyond a certain level, see it as their purpose in life to make more and more money. This then enables them to pay lobbyists to influence the US and individual state legislative and executive branches to deregulate their particular industry or financial domain. This is also done with direct campaign contributions and special favors to the politicians, something that was recently liberalized by the US Supreme Court in the “Citizens United” decision. Obfuscating this corruption, American mass media purposely fails to call these things what most countries do – bribes. In any case, when these executives buy influence in this manner it almost always leads to the desired deregulation or a lack of enforcement. In many cases the corporate lobbyists literally write the new laws that are said to regulate the same corporations. This then enables the fund or company to make that much more money that they can then use to buy even further influence, often completely eclipsing the demands or needs of the ordinary citizenry.
This vicious cycle is hardly the “level playing field” that describes the ideal market, and is the reason that many corporate sectors are controlled by a mere handful of large concerns. This is certainly the case in the media sector. These same executives also often work hard to minimize the pay and number of comparatively better paid American employees, preferring to outsource as much work as possible to low wage sweatshop “free trade zones” in corrupt poor countries, mostly in Asia. This deregulated environment also enables certain venture or “vulture” capitalists to buy marginally profitable companies and move all of their manufacturing to Asia or elsewhere. Since the ’80s Reagan era the rapaciousness of many executives has increased markedly.
Accepting science as the basis of knowledge is also at least partly responsible for the Western social myth that this sort of behavior is the pinnacle of human evolution. Once one accepts, even partially, that the scientific method of objective observation is the path of improvement, one generally become distracted by the ongoing parade of newer and newer technological inventions and forgets, or at best considers casual, any higher purpose for society or their own life.
On the whole what can be observed in Western society when one looks at it over millennia, but especially in the last century, is an exponential breakdown in regulation leading to a de-emphasis of societal wisdom, stability and morality. It is as if the anthropologist’s teaching that humans evolved from apes has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Western people, and the billions around the world who emulate them, are acting more and more like animals. Of course, much of this was already in motion prior to the popularity of Darwin’s theory, so overly blaming the academics may not be exactly fair.
“Human civilizations should depend on the production of material nature without artificially attempting economic development to turn the world into a chaos of artificial greed and power only for the purpose of artificial luxuries and sense gratification. This is but the life of dogs and hogs.” — Purport, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.10.4
Perhaps the single-most noticeable breakdown of regulation in Western and world society over the last millennia was the institution of democracy. “Freedom of the individual” is, of course, heralded in these cultures as perhaps the greatest break with the past in all history, and a great deal of modern law is centered on protecting this right. Many Westerners even consider this something ordained by God. One can certainly argue whether freeing people from cultural dogmas, social oppression and institutional traditions enables them to possibly contact real truth, but perhaps the greater question is whether most of them have just become enslaved by newer masters or hierarchies.
Modern workers may not be as chained, literally or figuratively, as slaves or the European peasants of the middle ages, but virtually all of them struggle with such mountains of debt that they are relegated to what is now called “wage slavery.” When US wages became frozen at the beginning of the 1980’s the banks filled the gap by extending greater and greater credit. It was when a large number of these workers were unable to make the “balloon” payments of their sub-prime loans in 2008 that the world credit house of cards came crashing down.
One hundred years ago the ideal US citizen was the single family farmer who could claim that his or her hard work prevented they’re being beholding to some employer and therefore free to think any way they chose. As food marketing has diversified to include corporate processing and packaging of the raw food grown by the farmer, and as farming techniques have modernized, thus requiring constant investment in machinery, fertilizer or genetically modified seeds, the descendents of those ideal citizens have found themselves with decreased profits and similarly overcome with debt. Large agribusiness mega-corporations also lobby the government to disproportionately take advantage of farm subsidies and other loopholes. The result is small farmers going out of business, something that often results in the agribusiness company buying their farm.
This somewhat typifies the fate of modern working people. Their wages buy less, and they pay disproportionately more taxes and increased living expenses, all as the extremely wealthy lobby the corrupt government to take advantage of offshore tax havens, subsidies, no-bid contracts, slap-on-the-wrist fines for law breaking and all the other things their lawyers are paid to suggest to the lawmakers.
“Modern civilization and economic development are creating a new situation of poverty and scarcity with the result of blackmailing the consumer’s commodities.” — Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.17.24
Although the common people may be forced to labor daily under these structures and mountains of debt, those who control and create them by buying government influence and lack of oversight can be said to be truly “free” in the sense of democracy, and they are generally the ones who exalt and promote these ideals the most. However, even intellectuals in this arrangement are forced to beg the universities for positions, thus placing them on a level not much above manual laborers in terms of “freedom.” In this way about 90% of Western society is dependent on someone else for employment and has to “keep their tail wagging” in order to not displease their employer.
“Sva means dog. A dog, however powerful it may be, very strong, stout, but it, unless it has got a master, its life is very precarious. Dog. Just see our education at the present moment. Very advanced education. Many Indian students come here (America) also to take advanced education. But actually, we consider this education creating dogs. Why? Now, because however technologist you may be, if you don’t get a suitable service, all your education is finished. . . Therefore, after education you’ll have to write application, ‘My dear sir, I am such and such qualified dog. (laughter) If you’ll kindly give me some service.’ And the tail is like this.” (laughter) — Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.18-19 — Los Angeles, June 13, 1972
The source of the problem in Western and world society and the key cause of the lack of implementation of genuine solutions for global warming is that these “busy fool” corporate directors, CEOs, hedge fund managers, et. al. are running everything by buying unlimited influence in the American and other governments. All they care about is the money and accompanying influence and power that they are accumulating. As sudras, they have very little concern for the effects of the gasoline, coal, natural gas and related products like cars that they sell or invest in. These are the same people who, after World War II, shaped and profited from national and world economic priorities to enable the suburban “sprawl” culture of large homes and exponentially expanded automobile usage. Before the war the people who later populated the suburbs often lived in more energy efficient high-rise urban apartments and used mass transit instead of cars. The greed of these busy fools, therefore, is literally killing the planet’s life sustaining capacity. Such disregard for the effects of one’s actions is the epitome of ignorance. This kind of corruption is also somewhat typical of the demise of past “glorious empires,” such as Rome.
This then is a pivotal change from the medieval land based system. In that system the same king would often rule for decades regulating and benefiting from all commerce in his realm. The local or visiting merchants were all at his mercy. In the modern democratic-capitalist system, however, the elected leader’s time in office is almost always shortened by term limits, whereas the merchants are often around for decades, all the while making it an important part of their business to cultivate lobbying relationships with both new and old politicians. These politicians are also almost completely dependent on these corporations to fund the extremely expensive television and other media campaigns they need to get elected. It is not hard to understand how this gives the wealthy corporate and financial leaders the real power in today’s society. Nevertheless, the illusion of democracy is trotted out every year on Election Day to give the citizens the impression that their votes are actually what determines who the leaders are. Very few of them understand that all the likely winners have already sold themselves to their corporate donors in order to pay for the campaigns. This leads one to conclude that in modern democracies there are two kinds of people, those who truly believe in it, and those who control it.
“This is the position of Kali-yuga, horrible position. The king or the so-called president is simply showbottle.” — Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.11 — Tokyo, April 27, 1972
“We actually see from modern history that monarchies have been abolished by various revolutions, but unfortunately the monarchies have been abolished to establish the supremacy of third-class and fourth-class men. Although monarchies overpowered by the modes of passion and ignorance have been abolished in the world, the inhabitants of the world are still unhappy, for although the qualities of the former monarchs were degraded by taints of ignorance, these monarchs have been replaced by men of the mercantile and worker classes whose qualities are even more degraded. When the government is actually guided by brahmanas, or God conscious men, then there can be real happiness for the people.” — Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 9.15.15
“We, we talk according to sastra, that the democracy means assembly of rogues and plunderers. That is the statement in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Dasyu-dharmabhih. The government men will be all dasyu. Dasyu means plunderer. Not pickpocket. Pickpocket, somehow or other, if you do not understand, takes something from your pocket, and the plunderer, or the dasyu, he catches you and by force, ‘If you don’t spare your money, I shall kill you.’ They are called dasyu. . . So the, in the present age of Kali, the government men will be dasyu. This is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Dasyu-dharmabhih. You can, we can see practically. You cannot keep your money. You earn with hard labor, but you cannot keep gold, you cannot keep jewelry, you cannot keep money. And… They will take it away by laws. So they make law that… Yudhisthira Maharaja was just quite opposite. He wanted to see that every citizen is so happy that they are not troubled even by excessive heat and excessive cold. Ati-vyadhi. They are not suffering from any disease, they are not suffering from excessive climatic influence, eating very nicely, and feeling security of person and property. That was Yudhisthira Maharaja. Not only Yudhisthira Maharaja. Almost all the (Vedic) kings, they were like that.” — Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.18 — Mayapura, September 28, 1974
The absolute necessity of having effective TV advertising to win elections is another way that the media corporations fit into the scheme of corporate busy-fool domination of people’s lives. When the networks decide to ignore corporate abuse and wrongdoing it is as if it never occurred; they are completely invested in not informing the people that it is really the wealthy campaign financers who are behind the politician’s often unstated policies. The last thing the media corporations want is to reform this sideshow. They make tremendous profits when two politicians spend millions on attack ads discrediting each other.
Already In The Aftermath
During the period of its implementation democracy has, therefore, functioned largely as a clever illusion. Ordinary people often put a type of religious faith in it, but the real power has always rested in the wealthy and ruthless men with the capital. Occasionally these mens naked self-interest creates the extreme suffering of wars and economic depressions, and the ordinary people demand reforms, but for the most part “the people” are asleep and led around by the lure of consumer products and an ephemeral success virtually all of them will never achieve. The larger media interests always encourage faith in the elected leaders and glorify the wealthy, and as long as working people can be convinced that success is possible, the spectacle continues. Although the politicians and the wealthy are generally quite intelligent and otherwise gifted, their greed sometimes results in unforeseen negative circumstances for both themselves and the mass of people. This is what we see unfolding with climate change.
“So as the Communist Party is always disturbing element to the government, similarly, the demons, the atheist class of men, they’re always disturbing to God. How they can gain the benediction from God? They simply disturb Him. And there are different kinds of demons, different classes of demons. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gita. Duskrtinah. Duskrtina means… Krti means very intelligent, and… What is that word, if a man does something wonderful? Genius? Genius? Yes. So the genius, duskrtina, ‘wrong genius.’ That means the materialistic persons, scientists, they’re genius. They have discovered very wonderful machine, wonderful things. They are genius, but duskrtina, not for the welfare of the human society but for condemning the human society. Just like the same example, as I have given several times, that a, the person who has discovered this nuclear weapon, atomic bomb, he’s certainly genius. He has got nice brain, that simply egglike bomb, if you throw, immediately the whole island of Hawaii will be finished. . . . So this invention of atomic bomb, certainly it requires good brain. But Bhagavad-gita says that this genius, or this brain, intelligence, has been used……has been wrongly used.
So the materialistic class of men are undoubtedly very, very intelligent, but their intelligence is being used wrongly. Duskrtinah. Duskrtinah mudhah. Mudhah. Mudha means rascal, ass. So by their discoveries, by their materialistic activities, atheistic activities, they’re simply disturbing, simply disturbing.” — Class on Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.11-13 — Hawaii, March 24, 1969
It is hard not to agree that the average person in modern democratic culture has significantly less material suffering than people hundreds of years ago or under other systems. However, this is largely due to the fossil fuel enabled technologies that provide electricity, transportation and heat. Additionally, much of the affluence of Europe and the US has come from the exploited third world countries that cheaply supply petroleum, tropical fruits, rare-earth ingredients for mobile technology or sweatshop labor. People living toward the top of this pyramid in a Western democracy may believe they are freer because someone from the king, church or dictator isn’t standing over them, but practically all of them are led around like sheep by the lure of advertising and commodity culture, what to speak of being spurred on by the whips of debt. In the end the exercise of their precious freedom turns out to be not much more than the empty choice of one brand name product over another. In this way they often enthusiastically participate in their own psychological, spiritual and ecological death. It is a fool’s paradise.
In regard to what actually forces both contrary and acquiescent people to comply to all this, the US military has over 600 bases around the world, perhaps one in every time zone. The US also spends more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined. It is then not possible to say that the means of real power has changed since medieval times. Might still makes right. However, as the late president Eisenhower implied in his parting warning about the growing power of the US military-industrial complex, that power is as much in the hands of the defense contracting corporations as it is in the actual military. In this way the US impetus for “full spectrum dominance” is perhaps as much corporate as it is patriotic. The oil company’s intimate role in this dynamic was described previously.
In the 19th century the US was criticized for a policy known as “gunboat diplomacy,” wherein the military would sometimes enforce the unreasonable and exploitative demands of US merchants on smaller countries. Today we can see that this role has only expanded wherein the primary purpose of the network of bases encircling the globe is that of providing protection and stability for global corporate commerce. When countries like Sadaam Hussain’s Iraq nationalize their oil fields, they sooner or later experience the consequences. The Western sanctions against Iran are similar.
In A Short History of Progress historian Ronald Wright has documented the demise of past cultures that became victims of what he calls “progress traps.” Just like our modern society, they all created a glorified idea of civilization-wide progress, a golden road to never-ending, ever-increasing prosperity. He shows how, in this zeal, the Romans, Mayans, Sumerians and Easter Islanders all sawed off the ecological branch they were built on. The often corrupt leaders exploited people’s belief in the “great destiny” they projected right up until the end.
To the perceptive, the collapse of the world corporate capitalist system has already begun. 2008 provided the worst economic collapse since the era of easily available petroleum. Wright describes the ultra-conservative austerity measures that were implemented by some of his subject cultures as they approached free-fall. Instead of putting people back to work after the 2008 collapse, these are what we now find in Europe and other places. Government is also becoming increasingly ineffective in more and more parts of the world. Much of Mexico is run by drug cartels, and the Congo and other parts of Africa are dominated by militias filled with the poor or sometimes abducted child soldiers. Rape, kidnap and murder are common in these regions. The veneer of what is called civilization is drawing thin.
Most citizens of democracies abhor the idea of living under any kind of traditional monarchy. Advocates of modern life can be quick to point out that Krishna consciousness would not have spread so rapidly around the world if it were not for the freedom of religion democracy generally provides. However, if this system is the cause of climate change coming to the tipping points described previously, can it really be said that the change from monarchy to democracy was worth it? Ironically if power grids and communication begin to break down due to climate related disasters and war, local warlords are the most likely arrangement the survivors will live under. Currently found in Afghanistan or Somalia, such “government” is little more than a perverted form of monarchy.
The question can be raised if modern capitalist democracy has always contained the seed of its own destruction. The founders of the American democracy were mostly wealthy men, many of whom were capitalists. Regardless of the myth of equality, such people have always had more influence over the creation of laws and regulations and the other decisions of real power. Just in terms of free time, capitalists see speaking to politicians as a business activity, whereas ordinary people generally can’t spare the needed hours from their working lives for such purposes. With the rise of corporations after the civil war and the Supreme Court’s recognition of corporate “personhood” at the end of the 19th century, their influence began to grow towards the levels we see now.
Democracy has also eroded due to another factor. The Nazis acknowledged the inspiration they got in molding public consent and opinion from American public relations pioneers Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann, the salesmen of World War I, women’s cigarette smoking and any number of other things. With the advent of television and corporate news it became that much harder to tell where the public relations ended and the “will of the people” began.
Admittedly, not all free enterprise democracies are as corrupt as the United States, so it is not that the system is incapable of adapting to or surviving the changes that global warming and its social effects will bring. European style social democracies provide much higher standards of education, health care, etc., what to speak of increased levels of corporate taxation and regulation. These countries are also decades ahead of the US in terms of limiting the use of fossil fuels and utilizing alternative energy sources. Unfortunately the US media doesn’t find these things newsworthy. The biggest and most influential example of this system, then is perhaps the least healthy.
As Srila Prabhupada made clear above, it is the busy-fool sudras now running practically every corporation that need to be controlled if society is to again become ecologically or otherwise sustainable. This is the key necessity that has been lost in the changes that have overtaken much of Western society since the medieval era. In the monarchy of previous cultures, the greed of the merchant class was extremely limited. Greed is a quality that is not very well received in any of the world’s scriptures and is often associated with causing the types of disasters we are currently faced with.
If we accept Srila Prabhupada’s version of ancient European monarchs being driven from India by Lord Parasurama, there is an apparent direct connection with Vedic culture that has been gradually dissolved by the influence of this age of Kali, especially over the last 400 years. This departure from ancient Vedic culture and Lord Vishnu’s Varnashrama arrangement can then be seen as instrumental in the world’s current dilemma. However, even if one goes with the academic consensus, the tradition of European monarchy is so old and similar to the Vedic ksatriya one that the results are, for all intensive purposes, the same.
According to Srila Prabhupada, the European “ksatriyas” were driven from India by Lord Parasurama because they were not fit rulers according to Vedic standards. Therefore, the European system was always a deviated representation of pure Vedic culture. The academic view may create more philosophical distance between the two cultures but because of the similarity to pure varnashrama culture, European monarchy functioned much like it in many ways. This certainly included strict control of the greed-prone merchant class. In this way, by either version of history, deviated European monarchy can be compared to a dead form of Vedic culture which, like the cow, is still able to provide substantial benefit even after death. This is due to the ideal system being sanctioned by Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Lord and maintainer of the mode of goodness. Similarly, although Ganges water may be materially contaminated, it still carries great benefit. The Europeans poured out their contaminated varnashrama form of government and began drinking something else.
In this iron age of quarrel, Kali yuga, everyone is a sudra, or in the mode of ignorance. The corporate CEOs and bank directors may be brilliant at finance, but because they are not even slightly interested in self-realization they cannot be considered vaishyas or Vedic merchants (in the combined modes of passion and ignorance). As such, they are little more than two legged animals who are convinced that they are their material bodies. The same is true of the Western politicians who they bankroll, and who the less informed masses naively accept as the leaders of the world. Despite their administrative or military abilities, no real transcendentalist will consider them Vedic ksatriyas (mode of passion).
“If you become leader, so-called leader, rascal leader, and you are addicted to illicit sex and intoxication and meat-eating, you must be si… If you are sinful, how you can lead persons? Andha yathandhair upaniyamanah [SB 7.5.31]. Blind man is leading other blind men. Therefore there is no solution. Why the world is in chaos? Because the leaders are all sinful.” — Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.3 — Bombay, March 23, 1974
“Therefore in the sastra it is said, kalau sudra-sambhavah. In the Kali-yuga almost every person is a sudra. Therefore there is so much chaos. The government is managed by the sudras or less than sudras, mleccha. Mleccha-rajendra-rupinah. Mlecchas have taken the post of government.” — Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.6 — Calcutta, February 26, 1974
The three modes of material nature listed in Bhagavad-gita chapter 14 describe the manners in which conditioned beings interact with material nature. People in the mode of goodness act strictly according to the laws given by God in the scriptures and are satisfied simply by acquiring knowledge. Those in the modes of passion are consumed by desires for material things, while those in the mode of ignorance are lazy and uninterested in knowledge, truth or the laws of God.
When the word sustainable is applied to a society it means that it is under the influence of the mode of goodness. It maintains itself without destroying or decreasing the natural environment’s life sustaining abilities. The genuine brahmana is the emblem of the mode of goodness, and to the extent that such men influence the government there will be harmony with the natural world and spiritual opportunity for the mass of people. This is because material stability is an essential part of spiritual culture. People’s material needs have to be easily met so that they can save time to make spiritual progress. The genuine brahmana advises the leaders in order to decrease the chances that society will be disrupted by calamities, either natural or man-made.
Of course, the premier sustainable aspect of Vedic or spiritual culture is that it is simple and de-emphasizes the acquisition of material things. One should have what they need to keep body and soul together but not accumulate extra goods, whose management and illusion of ownership only distract one from life’s mission of self-realization.
isavasyam idam sarvam / yat kinca jagatyam jagat / tena tyaktena bhunjitha / ma grdhah kasya svid dhanam — Everything animate or 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 Isopanishad mantra 1
ato grha-ksetra-sutapta-vittair / janasya moho ‘yam aham mameti — One becomes attracted to his body, home, property, children, relatives and wealth. In this way one increases life’s illusions and thinks in terms of ‘I and mine.’ (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.8) The attraction for material things is certainly due to illusion. There is no value in attraction to material things, for the conditioned soul is diverted by them.” — Purport, Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.14.44
Without this type of genuine spiritual guidance the blind leaders of Western and world society are leading everyone deeper and deeper into the hole of ecological disaster. Pumped up on the steroids of easily available petroleum and intoxicated by greed and technology, the spectacle of modern life is careening out of control. It is illusion on illusion, intoxication on intoxication. If we could watch a time lapse video of industrialization and urban sprawl spreading over the earth for the last 200 years it would look more like the spread of an insect plague that is now running out of places to devour.
The product of allowing this sort of materialistic demoniac conception to rule the day is what we see before us now – a global life support system on the verge of collapse. Too many resources have been extracted without provision of renewal, and too much toxic material and carbon dioxide have been pumped into the atmosphere or ocean. The planet is warming at an unstoppable rate, something that will result in more and more eccentric weather. This will cause agricultural failures and their accompanying famines. Governments will eventually be unable to maintain their infrastructure because of severe floods or other weather related disasters. Without resources to maintain health and social safety nets, viruses, flues and plagues will reap horrible tolls. Despite these and other equally unpleasant predictions by climate scientists, the world has no apparent governmental mechanism to do anything substantial to stop it. This is described in the Gita:
etam drstim avastabhya / nastatmano ‘lpa-buddhayah / prabhavanty ugra-karmanah / ksayaya jagato ‘hitah – Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. — Bhagavad-gita 16.9
It would probably be hard for the originators of today’s economic and political systems to imagine what great consequences their ideas would produce 200 to 400 years later. One is reminded of that Goethe poem of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, appropriately Americanized in the Disney film Fantasia. The apprentice wizard Mickey Mouse somehow learns how to get the broom to carry water for him, but neglects to learn how to stop it. Greedily he breaks the broom any number of times and soon has an army carrying water. He becomes very proud until the tank overflows and creates a flood. Then he panics.
This broom analogy is also applicable to the change from medieval times. Previously there were very few kings and queens, but now there are billions. The main thing advertising and the corporate culture encourage these new kings and queens to do is consume, something that is driving the depletion of resources and production of carbon dioxide and other waste products. Nevertheless, a number of concerned people have been active for many years trying to draw other’s attention to the dangers of rising temperatures and continued burning of fossil fuels. Like the panicked Mickey Mouse, however, they now find themselves very conflicted in regard to Western culture being the pinnacle of human evolution, an idea that they had previously invested themselves in. What went wrong?
We are convinced that climate change, coupled with all the other environmental and social factors, is how the worst of Kali yuga begins. The things predicted next, at least those which are not already noticeable, all follow pretty naturally. The passionate and ignorant Western mentality found the oil, used too much of it greedily, and everything destined is becoming a reality –
sri-suka uvaca / tatas canu-dinam dharmah satyam saucam ksama daya / kalena balina rajan nanksyaty ayur balam smrtih – Sukadeva Gosvami said: Then, O King, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the age of Kali.
vittam eva kalau nrnam janmacara-gunodayah / dharma-nyaya-vyavasthayam karanam balam eva hi – In Kali-yuga, wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man’s good birth, proper behavior and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power.
dampatye ‘bhirucir hetur mayaiva vyavaharike / stritve pumstve ca hi ratir vipratve sutram eva hi – Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one’s expertise in sex, and a man will be known as a brahmana just by his wearing a thread.
lingam evasrama-khyatav anyonyapatti-karanam / avrttya nyaya-daurbalyam panditye capalam vacah – A person’s spiritual position will be ascertained merely according to external symbols, and on that same basis people will change from one spiritual order to the next. A person’s propriety will be seriously questioned if he does not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar.
anadhyataivasadhutve sadhutve dambha eva tu / svikara eva codvahe snanam eva prasadhanam – A person will be judged unholy if he does not have money, and hypocrisy will be accepted as virtue. Marriage will be arranged simply by verbal agreement, and a person will think he is fit to appear in public if he has merely taken a bath.
dure vary-ayanam tirtham lavanyam kesa-dharanam / udaram-bharata svarthah satyatve dharstyam eva hi / daksyam kutumba-bharanam yaso ‘rthe dharma-sevanam – A sacred place will be taken to consist of no more than a reservoir of water located at a distance, and beauty will be thought to depend on one’s hairstyle. Filling the belly will become the goal of life, and one who is audacious will be accepted as truthful. He who can maintain a family will be regarded as an expert man, and the principles of religion will be observed only for the sake of reputation.
evam prajabhir dustabhir akirne ksiti-mandale / brahma-vit-ksatra-sudranam yo bali bhavita nrpah – As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power.
praja hi lubdhai rajanyair nirghrnair dasyu-dharmabhih / acchinna-dara-dravina yasyanti giri-kananam –Losing their wives and properties to such avaricious and merciless rulers, who will behave no better than ordinary thieves, the citizens will flee to the mountains and forests.
saka-mulamisa-ksaudra-phala-puspasti-bhojanah / anavrstya vinanksyanti durbhiksa-kara-piditah — Harassed by famine and excessive taxes, people will resort to eating leaves, roots, flesh, wild honey, fruits, flowers and seeds. Struck by drought, they will become completely ruined.
sita-vatatapa-pravrd-himair anyonyatah prajah / ksut-trdbhyam vyadhibhis caiva santapsyante ca cintaya – The citizens will suffer greatly from cold, wind, heat, rain and snow. They will be further tormented by quarrels, hunger, thirst, disease and severe anxiety.
trimsad vimsati varsani paramayuh kalau nrnam – The maximum duration of life for human beings in Kali-yuga will become fifty years.
ksiyamanesu dehesu dehinam kali-dosatah / varnasramavatam dharma naste veda-pathe nrnam / pasanda-pracure dharma dasyu-prayesu rajasu / cauryanrta-vrtha-himsa-nana-vrttisu vai nrsu / sudra-prayesu varnesu cchaga-prayasu dhenusu / grha-prayesv asramesu yauna-prayesu bandhusu / anu-prayasv osadhisu sami-prayesu sthasnusu / vidyut-prayesu meghesu sunya-prayesu sadmasu / ittham kalau gata-praye janesu khara-dharmisu / dharma-tranaya sattvena bhagavan avatarisyati – By the time the age of Kali ends, the bodies of all creatures will be greatly reduced in size, and the religious principles of followers of varnasrama will be ruined. The path of the Vedas will be completely forgotten in human society, and so-called religion will be mostly atheistic. The kings will mostly be thieves, the occupations of men will be stealing, lying and needless violence, and all the social classes will be reduced to the lowest level of sudras. Cows will be like goats, spiritual hermitages will be no different from mundane houses, and family ties will extend no further than the immediate bonds of marriage. Most plants and herbs will be tiny, and all trees will appear like dwarf sami trees. Clouds will be full of lightning, homes will be devoid of piety, and all human beings will have become like asses. At that time, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will appear on the earth. Acting with the power of pure spiritual goodness, He will rescue eternal religion. — Srimad Bhagavatam 12.2.1-16
These verses, which were composed thousands of years ago, describe the current Iron Age of Kali.
The ultimate goal of life is to understand oneself and God. As noted in the introductory quote, when an entire culture forgets this they are to be considered insane. The material body is temporary and changing. It is made of material elements that are external to the real self, which remains the same identity observing the bodily changes from youth to old age. When an entire culture identifies with something they are not, the material body, instead of the spiritual self within, they are to be considered deluded or crazy.
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe / kaumaram yauvanam jara / tatha dehantara-praptir / dhiras tatra na muhyati – As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change. Bhagavad-gita 2.13
This ignorance or bewilderment is the real cause of the world’s sufferings, whether climate related or not. No intelligent person can be happy if they think they are something they are not, especially if that illusion will end in bewilderment during what is called death. On the other hand, to the extent that a society pursues the divine goals of knowing the spiritual self and God, or Krishna, it will be happy and sustainable.
“Kaler dosa-nidhe rajan. The faults of this age, just like ocean. Just like in the ocean, you cannot… Pacific Ocean… If you are put into the Pacific Ocean, you do not know how your life will be saved. It is very difficult. Even if you are very expert swimmer, so it is not possible that you can cross the Pacific Ocean. That is not possible. Similarly, the Kali-yuga, as it is stated in the Bhagavata, that infected with so many anomalies that there is no way out. But there is one medicine only: kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet [SB 12.3.51]. That is also described, that ‘If you chant Hare Krsna mantra,’ kirtanad eva krsnasya, ‘especially the name krsnasya,’ mukta-sangah, ‘you will be relieved from the infection of this Kali yuga.’” — Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.15.46 — Los Angeles, December 24, 1973
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
All glories to Om Vishnu-Pada Paramahamsa-Parivrajakacarya-Astotattara Sri-Srimad
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada