by bhakta Eric Johanson
“But everyone wants sunshine. Why in one place denied, and one place there is sunshine? You are not free. Even though you want sunshine, there is no sunshine. So how you feel free? You bring sunshine. But that is not happening. There is superior arrangement. So to accept that superior arrangement, that is real business, not to declare freedom falsely. That is not possible. If I say: ‘I am free from the law-abiding process, law given by government. I am free from the law of the government,’ that is not possible. If you become outlaw, then you will be arrested and put into jail. So what is the use of declaring that, ‘I am free from the government laws’? There is no freedom. Whatever little freedom is given to us, if you utilize it properly, that is very nice. If we unnecessarily declare that, ‘I am free from any obligation,’ that is madman’s proposal. That is the mistake of the modern man, that especially in the Western countries, unnecessarily they are declaring freedom in so many ways.
Unnecessarily. He is not free, but he is declaring. That is described in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, I think, or in some other. No? Prema-vivarta. Yes, there is a book, Prema-vivarta: piśācī paile yena mati-cchanna haya/māyā-grasta jīvera se daśā upajāya. The freedom is declared by persons who are completely under the clutches of māyā. He declares freedom. And he is so much haunted by the ghost māyā that he thinks his bondage as freedom. Just like a drug-addicted person or drunkard. He is thinking, ‘I am free.’ He lies down on the street sometimes in madness: ‘Who can forbid me?’ You have seen madmen lying on the street. I have seen it, all traffic stopped. So this kind of freedom has no meaning. It is involving oneself with the strict laws of māyā. There is no freedom. And just like a child, if he becomes free from the parents, it is not good; it is dangerous. His life is at risk. If a child without the help of the parents go on the street, is . . . that freedom is nice? That kind of freedom. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says that ‘Whatever little freedom you have got, just surrender that freedom to Me.’ Sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ (BG 18.66).” Room Conversation, July 26, 1975, Laguna Beach, emphasis added
Here Srila Prabhupada makes clear that the range of free choice available to the living entity is very small, and that little range must take place within the arrangement of the supreme. In other places Srila Prabhupada has compared this material world to a jail wherein souls who have rebelled against God are sent to suffer the miseries of repeated birth and death. This means their freedom is far less than that of the liberated souls in the spiritual world, which is where they had been sometime previously. Those here are in what is called material bondage. So for these beings to declare that they are free is, as stated above, a type of madness that will only serve to prolong their imprisonment.
Nevertheless the supreme Lord Krishna is compassionate to the living entities suffering here and provides a program of rehabilitation for them to rejoin their liberated friends in the spiritual world. This entails they’re resuming their devotional service to Him or His Visnu expansions as described in Bhagavad-gita:
yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra
loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya
“Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.” Bhagavad-gita 3.9
Those imprisoned here are imagining that they are free to pursue their designs for whatever – personal pleasure, family well-being, exploitation, domination, whatever. However, this verse from Bhagavad-gita makes clear that, unless these designs are done in surrender to the Lord, there will be consequences. These are otherwise known as the bondage of karma. One is shaping their future life and lives by their current actions. They will suffer or enjoy based on the virtue of what they are doing.
Sin can also be defined as anything not done as a sacrifice to the Lord. Thus even the so-called good things we do outside the Lord’s service will force us to take birth in a future body, along with all its concomitant distresses, such as disease and old age. In this sense even the good things we do in the bodily conception of life will have a bad long-term outcome. As quoted above by Srila Prabhupada, in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna gives the means how one can achieve ultimate freedom from this good and bad karma, the real mechanism behind our bondage here:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” Bhagavad-gita 18.66
Freedom then is only truly free if it doesn’t result in the negative consequences of future lives in the material world. Srila Prabhupada described the overall context of such choice:
Prabhupāda: You are free to some extent, because you are part and parcel of God. God is completely free. So because you are part and parcel of God, therefore you have got that minute freedom. That minute freedom, when you misuse for other purposes, then you fall down. But if you use that freedom for the service of the Lord… You have got freedom. You may serve the Lord, you may not serve. That is your freedom. But if you serve the Lord, then you become happy. If you do not serve the Lord, then you become unhappy.
Father Tanner: If I serve the Lord, do I lose that little bit of freedom?
Prabhupāda: Because you are meant for that purpose.
Father Tanner: Do I lose that little bit of freedom?
Prabhupāda: No, that is real freedom. Just like this, my finger, is part and parcel of my body. So long the finger serves the body, it is healthy. If it is painful, it cannot serve, then it is unhealthy. Similarly, a living entity, when he cannot serve God, that is his material condition, or unhealthy condition. When he serves God, that is his natural condition. Because he’s part and parcel of God. – Room Conversation with Father Tanner and other guests, July 11, 1973, London
So service or surrender to the Lord may appear to be unpleasant subordination while we are thirsting after the temporary bodily-related pleasures that will obligate us to take birth again, but once we get free from the bodily concept of life through the deliverance of that surrender, we will come to the stage of acting in pure love for the Lord. That love is real freedom.
“Attainment of love of Godhead means complete freedom from all other attractions. The conditioned soul has many aspirations such as becoming a religious man, a rich man, or a first-class enjoyer or becoming God himself, or becoming powerful like the mystics and acting wonderfully by getting anything or doing anything, but all these aspirations should be rejected by the prospective devotee who actually wants to revive his dormant love of God. The impure devotee aspires after all of the abovementioned material things by perfection of devotion. But a pure devotee has none of the tinges of the above contaminations, which are the influence of material desires, impersonal speculations and attainment of mystic powers. One can attain the stage of love of God by pure devotional service, or by ‘a learned labor of love,’ for the sake of the devotee’s lovable object, the Personality of Godhead.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 2.2.31
“Freedom” and Its Course
What is called freedom in material society thus has very little to do with our constitutional, spiritually liberated state described here by Srila Prabhupada. For the most part, people think of freedom in terms of the body and not being dictated to or forced to act by others. This is one of the myths of modern democracy wherein supposedly free individuals have certain rights like freedom of speech and get to participate in their leader’s selection. Freedom in this mundane sense also has something to do with the ability to engage in business or select from various products and services available on the market. And then there is the concept of being free from nature’s onslaughts and limitations, sometimes absurdly extended to not being forced to die. This modern setup is how deluded souls currently imagine they can escape nature or God’s arrangement, something that has thus far proved a vain endeavor. Srila Prabhupada often calls this “hope against hope.”
This “individual freedom” concept may have been tried in places like ancient Greece, but what we have now largely took shape during what is called the enlightenment period, mostly during the 18th century. Writers of this period such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau exalted this individual liberty and reason over monarchy and just the sort of spiritual philosophy or “tradition” described above. Of course, Christianity doesn’t generally delve into the subtle details of “sowing and reaping” that necessitate reincarnation, a lack of reason that only contributed to these thinkers’ assessment of it as being overly dogmatic and oppressive.
By this time most European monarchy and the Catholic Church had become quite hypocritical, tyrannical and corrupt. This set the stage for their decline in influence and replacement in many countries by those consumed by enlightenment ideals. In this way these last vestiges of institutions and traditions that even slightly resembled the Vedic culture of ancient times came to be largely regarded as backwards and archaic.
The scientific method, industrialization and criminal justice also rose to prominence during the enlightenment period, as did private property and the economic system we call capitalism. Private ownership of land may have been conceived of earlier, but its widespread implementation really began about 400 years ago when corrupt and ambitious European nobility started transforming their traditional stewardship of communal lands into titled private ownership. This appropriation then led to swindling or sometimes literally 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. Up until then land was mostly considered God’s communal property to be administered by village councils or God’s representative in the form of warrior-nobility or the king. Previously land use was, although often hereditary, usufruct, or dependent on putting it to good use to the community, much like today’s water rights. Srila Prabhupada did not have a very high opinion of private property because he considered it a form of stealing from God, everything’s real proprietor.
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
“Actually nothing is private property. That is our philosophy. Isavasyam idam sarvam: ‘Everything belongs to God.’ That’s a fact. Under the influence of maya we are thinking that ‘This is my property.’ Just like suppose this cushion. Wherefrom the wood has come? Has anybody produced wood? Who has produced? It is God’s property. Rather, we have stolen God’s property and claiming, ‘My property.’ Then Australia. The Englishmen came here, but is that the property of the Englishmen? It was there. America, it was there. And when everything will be finished, it will be there. In the middle we come and claim, ‘It is my property,’ and fight.” Room Conversation with Two Lawyers and Guest, May 22, 1975, Melbourne
Adam Smith’s seminal work of the enlightenment period, The Wealth of Nations, is still studied in university economics departments. As connoted by its name, the enlightenment period is still considered to be just that, its precepts having largely shaped the era of apparent progress that brought us modern society.
Capitalism as we have come to know it was accompanied by industry’s attempt to overcome nature’s limitations through innovations like steam-powered ships and railroads, as well as by providing time and energy saving consumer products. Francis Bacon, a leading enlightenment thinker, more or less led the charge in what soon became a virtual war on nature:
“For you have but to hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able when you like to lead and drive her afterwards to the same place again. . .Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating into those holes and corners when the inquisition of truth is his whole object.” Francis Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum
Stealing from God and believing that one can overcome His natural arrangement of control are the height of human arrogance and hubris. They aren’t all that different from trying to get to heaven by building a high tower, something attempted by famous demons of yore. European monarchy and churches of the feudal era may have been corrupt and dogmatic, but they did at least maintain the appearance of a God-centered lifestyle for the mass of people.
When the peasants were driven from their communal lands and “set free” to imitate the (thieving) nobility they also drank deeply of these enlightenment “ideals.” It was these ex-peasants, along with their merchant-landed leaders, who further spread enlightenment concepts around the world through the colonial era. These people’s descendents and those non-Europeans who followed them now comprise the world’s consumer-working class, literally billions of sense-enjoyers who can be whipped right and left daily by advertising to buy any number of things that they don’t really need. Entranced by screens of all kinds, they run after the mirage of the modern spectacle, all this centered on the illusory hope of never-ending bodily pleasure. Practically none of them understand that real happiness comes from getting out of bodily consciousness and experiencing our real spiritual nature:
“I wanted a body like this to enjoy a certain standard of sense enjoyment, so I enter into this body, I enter into that body. Also Kṛṣṇa enters as Supersoul. Sva-nirmiteṣu nirviṣṭaḥ. Then bhuṅkte bhūteṣu tad-guṇān. Then what I enjoy? I enjoy the action and reaction of the three modes of material nature, that’s all.
Actually, the enjoyment is in my mind. That is not enjoyment. That is not enjoyment. Real enjoyment is when I am free from this embodiment of five elements, gross elements, and three subtle elements. I have entered into this, and the action and reaction of these five gross elements, three subtle elements, I am enjoying. Actually, not enjoying. This is called māyā. There is no enjoyment. It is enjoyment in the mind. The mind is also material creation.
Real enjoyment is beyond these senses. Sukham ātyantikaṁ yat tad atīndriya-grāhyam (BG 6.21). That is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā. Sukham ātyantikaṁ yat tat. The real happiness is not by these gross senses. By transcendental senses, we can enjoy sukham āt . . . real happiness.
Therefore, because we are not in that platform of enjoying the transcendental senses, we are trying to enjoy by these gross senses, therefore we are becoming baffled and frustrated. This is the cause of frustration. Because that is not the platform of enjoyment. Sukham ātyantikaṁ yat tad atīndriya-grā . . . atīndriya. Atīndriya means ‘Beyond this.’ It is covered. Covered senses, you cannot enjoy. Suppose I cover your tongue with some cloth and then I give you one rasagullā (Indian sweet). Can you taste it? What you’ll taste? There are so many things. If you cover the senses, the real senses, and try to enjoy with that covering, what you’ll enjoy? That is not enjoyment. The . . . it has to be uncovered. Then you’ll enjoy.
That is indicated: sarvopādhi-vinirmuktaṁ tat-paratvena nirmalam (CC Madhya 19.170). If you uncover the senses, upādhi . . . these upādhi . . . because I am in bodily concept of life, therefore I am thinking, ‘I am American,’ ‘I am Indian,’ ‘I am Hindu,’ ‘I am Muslim,’ ‘I am black,’ ‘I am white,’ ‘I am man,’ ‘I am woman,’ ‘I am tree,’ ‘I am this,’ ‘I am that.’ This is covered. How you can enjoy with these covered senses? So you have to uncover. You have to discover. That discovering process is devotional service. The more you are engaged in devotional service, the more your senses become pure, or uncovered. And when it is completely uncovered, without any designation, then you are capable to serve Kṛṣṇa.” Lecture on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.33, Vṛndāvana, November 12, 1972
Generally today’s people are very enamored by certain enlightenment concepts, such as individual freedom, as being inherently beneficial to society. Those known as libertarians or market fundamentalists believe that, regardless of individual excesses such as avarice, people free to innovate will bring better products and services to their fellow citizens. This “invisible hand of the market” idea was first described by Adam Smith himself:
“As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.” The Wealth of Nations, Book 4, Chapter 2, our italics
By now, well into what has come to be called the post-modern period, intelligent, less-ideological people have recognized the limitations of fanatically employing such enlightenment ideals (“private vices yield public benefits”) into a never-ending future. The relatively miniscule consumer-working class of 300 years ago could hardly have anticipated today’s billions. Yet, the enlightenment era governing principles of today’s governments are largely the same.
One of the things they and Adam Smith hardly anticipated is what is now called “externalities,” such as pollution, widespread biodiversity decline or even changing the climate of the earth, as we are now experiencing. It turns out that private vices performed en-mass by billions also sometimes yield widespread public disturbances. Contrary to free market ideology, said markets have proved woefully inadequate in dealing with these. Certain “freedoms” are therefore turning out to be quite toxic for virtually all living beings here on planet earth. This environmental decline then becomes only further difficulty in the subject living entities’ terms of imprisonment in this material world.
What Comes Around
When industrial greed strips whole regions of timber, the habitat for untold billions of living things is destroyed and virtually all of them perish. When the ocean warms due to atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use, whole coral reefs perish, along with most of the other living beings dependent on a living reef. Just like when one kills animals to eat or when someone aborts a living human fetus, there are karmic reactions. These occur both individually and collectively for the society that causes this death, what to speak of for the individual capitalist responsible for the development or social activity, such as fossil fuel use. Speaking of meat eating, much deforestation is done to clear pasture for beef cattle. Many wildlife species in arid landscapes are also severely impacted and pushed towards annihilation when, in their native habitat, cattle competing for forage are being raised for slaughter.
“Every one of us, life after life, we are committing simple sinful activities, knowingly or unknowingly. Knowingly, I may kill one animal. That is sinful certainly. Even we do it unknowingly, that is also sinful. Just like while we are walking on the street, we are killing so many ants, unknowingly. So in our ordinary dealings, while cooking, while taking water, while using pestle and mortar for smashing spices, we are killing so many animals. So unless we remain Kṛṣṇa conscious, we are liable to be punished for all these unknowingly committing sinful activities. Knowingly, of course, you’ll be… That’s a fact. Unknowingly. Knowingly or unknowingly. Just like fire. A child unknowingly touches the fire. Does it mean that the fire will excuse the child? No. The nature’s law is so strict, so stringent, that there is no question of excuse. In the ordinary law also, ignorance is no excuse for legal obligation. If you go to the court, and if you say, ‘My lord, I did not know that the result of this action is this, criminal,’ that is not pleading that you’ll be excused. So therefore Kṛṣṇa consciousness must be there. If we actually want to be free from the reaction of sinful life, that we are doing, knowingly or unknowingly, then Kṛṣṇa consciousness must be there. Kṛṣṇa says, ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi (BG 18.66).” Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.39, Los Angeles, May 1, 1973
Compared to what the earth looked like before “the enlightenment,” just 300 years ago, industrial consumer society has stripped, plowed under, polluted and turned into waste dumps so much area that what little remains of wildlife is struggling to survive on the ever-decreasing remainder. Scientists have termed this the “sixth great extinction,” previous ones having taken place millions of years ago. The current geological era has also been named the “anthropocene” because the effects of man’s industrial consumer development have so shaped planetary events. One of these is the current climate crisis. This could be just one of the reactions, or as Srila Prabhupada said above, how “we are liable to be punished,” for all the death caused by society’s modern lifestyle. Actually much of nature’s destruction was done with coal and oil powered machinery, fuels whose greenhouse gas emissions are still warming the atmosphere. In this way what has gone around has now both literally and figuratively come around.
“A little family, a little community, that is your world. We do not think in that way. We include even the animals, trees, plants-brothers. That is our philosophy. We feel. When you cut a tree unnecessarily, we feel. This is our feeling. Unless there is absolute necessity, we do not wish to kill even a tree, what to speak of animals. When in our Bombay the coconut trees were being cut, I was feeling actually: ‘Why unnecessarily the coconut trees…?’ You cannot give anyone life, so how, what is living, you can kill? It may be tree or animal or plant. You cannot give him life. So you have to suffer for this.” Morning Walk, January 24, 1977, Bhuvanesvara
“The members of human society who strictly follow the principles of bhāgavata-dharma and live according to the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are called Āryans or ārya. A civilization of Āryans who strictly follow the instructions of the Lord and never deviate from those instructions is perfect. Such civilized men do not discriminate between trees, animals, human beings and other living entities. paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ: (BG 5.18) because they are completely educated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, they see all living beings equally. Āryans do not kill even a small plant unnecessarily, not to speak of cutting trees for sense gratification. At the present moment, throughout the world, killing is prominent. Men are killing trees, they are killing animals, and they are killing other human beings also, all for sense gratification. This is not an Āryan civilization. As stated here, sthira-cara-sattva-kadambeṣv apṛthag-dhiyaḥ. The word apṛthag-dhiyaḥ indicates that Āryans do not distinguish between lower and higher grades of life. All life should be protected. All living beings have a right to live, even the trees and plants. This is the basic principle of an Āryan civilization.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 6.16.43
Wanting Too Much
More or less, all the wildlife death and environmental decline is due to the private vice of minimally or completely unregulated greed. In the Vedic system this is the domain of the agricultural-business class, the vaishyas. In that system greed was regulated by the monarchs under the advice of the philosopher brahmanas. We have elaborated on the negative effects of the transition from the feudal system, or what could be called the last vestiges of Vedic culture, to the current one in our article Krishna Consciousness and Climate Change.
Even in the Christian tradition greed was considered one of the seven deadly sins. Sociologists may avoid any divine or absolute origin for such taboos, but they do acknowledge that previous societies must have come to these conclusions due to repeated observances of their negative effects. In this way our current society and any number of future generations are going to suffer the ill effects of letting the wrong kind of “freedom” go to head of humanity in ignorance of the common sense of untold previous generations. “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
dvāraṁ nāśanam ātmanaḥ
kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas
tasmād etat trayaṁ tyajet
“There are three gates leading to this hell – lust, anger, and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.” Bhagavad-gita 16.21
“The beginning of demoniac life is described herein. One tries to satisfy his lust, and when he cannot, anger and greed arise. A sane man who does not want to glide down to the species of demoniac life must try to give up these three enemies which can kill the self to such an extent that there will be no possibility of liberation from this material entanglement.”
“The next prediction to be fulfilled, which is already coming to pass, is that because of the sinful activities of the citizens and the government, rain will become increasingly scarce. Gradually there will be complete drought and no production of food grains. People will be reduced to eating flesh and seeds, and many good, spiritually inclined people will have to forsake their homes because they will be too harassed by drought, taxation and famine. The Krsna consciousness movement is the only hope to save the world from such devastation. It is the most scientific and authorized movement for the actual welfare of the whole human society.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 5.2.1
The ongoing effects of climate change have been projected into the future by many scientists. As the world warms agricultural conditions will change, leading to sometimes widespread crop failures, often aided by the increasing number of extreme weather events. Water will become scarce in certain regions, causing possible military confrontations between competing nations, as with nuclear-armed India and Pakistan having to share the declining meltwater from the Himalayan glaciers. Many of the conditions projected by scientists are similar to those described for Kali yuga in the twelfth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam (Srimad Bhagavatam 12.2.1-16). The materialistic, demoniac, industrial consumer society is thus creating hell on earth.
etam drstim avastabhya
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
The Bhagavatam also describes how the predicted food shortages are the result of the proliferation of demoniac mentality, as characterized by the toxic freedom and lifestyle of enlightenment-era thinking.
“Foodstuff is always sufficient. But when there are demons, the supply is restricted by nature. That we get information from Pṛthu Mahārāja’s history. When there was scarcity, Pṛthu Mahārāja wanted to kill the earthly god, or Pṛthvī. But she replied that, ‘I have restricted supply on account of demons, because they are not actually executing the purpose of life, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore I have restricted.’ So the more people become non–Kṛṣṇa conscious, materially conscious, the more there will be restriction of foodstuff. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, in the Twelfth Canto, it is stated that the end of Kali-yuga there will be no grain supply. Wheat, rice and milk and sugar will not be available. Now it is available still, because still people are little Kṛṣṇa conscious. For them only. But gradually, the things will deteriorate so much so that almost all supplies will be stopped.” Lecture on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.10, Vrndavana, October 21, 1972
Novelist Amitav Ghosh writes in his world climate change indictment, The Great Derangement, that one can’t really expect unprompted solutions from contemporary nation-states, and this has been shown by the failure of repeated UN climate conferences. Nation-states are, after all, another product of enlightenment practice and are almost inherently crafted to protect the toxic rights of the wrong kind of capitalists, the same people who often wrote their constitutions. Even if proposals to regulate the ecological consequences of products and development projects were put to a vote, we have already seen how the fossil fuel industry has millions to spend on spreading disinformation to both voters and their elected officials. These officials are also easy victims for the campaign contributions and favors of that industry. In other words, where even the design of the nation state provides for a possible solution to the crisis, it is far too easily corrupted by bad actors. There is also already a significant base of right-wing, free-market fundamentalist voters who is already convinced, largely as a result of industry misinformation, that the climate crisis is a hoax being used by closet communists to bring down “the most perfect economic system devised by God or man.”
Ghosh allows for some hope from religious organizations allied with secular activists, but the obstacles he had previously enumerated remain prodigious. For one, the fossil fuel industry is intimately wedded to the world’s most powerful militaries and therefore to those nations’ basis of world power. Easy access to petroleum largely determined the outcome of WWII. So it is nice to believe that non-violent protest is capable of forcing such democratic change, but power-obsessed sociopaths have repeatedly been known to respond only to a far different means of determining policy. In this regard, even some climate academics have lately taken to advocating eco-sabotage towards the fossil fuel industry and the wealthy.
In short, the world may have already gone too far down the enlightenment rabbit-hole to pull itself out before world temperature gets so high that the scientist’s feared “tipping points” are reached. A tipping point is the point at which small changes become significant enough to cause a larger, more critical change that can be abrupt, irreversible, and lead to cascading effects. Some of the big climate tipping points are the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, too much slowing of the world-encircling deep ocean current, Amazon deforestation and melting permafrost. Warming causing a variety of these would spell disaster for what we call civilization and any kind of ecological stability for perhaps many centuries. Indigenous spokespeople have compared such events to the earth freeing herself from the poisonous influence of an otherwise fatal parasite. This may also be the best analogy for the influence of the enlightenment era’s idea of freedom.
Darker Than Dark
The enlightenment era was preceded by another period called the “dark ages,” so named because of the economic, intellectual, and cultural decline between the fall of the Roman Empire and the enlightenment. Eurocentric scholars thus contrast this period with what they consider the light of the preceding and subsequent periods. However, if the warming predictions of scientists prove true, which barring a miracle is extremely likely, the coming era will make the dark ages seem comparatively good.
It should be noted that those predictions are little more than extensions of current trends, as human-caused fossil fuel use has, as of 1950, already raised atmospheric carbon to levels higher than it has been for hundreds of thousands of years. Current trends will continue until the tipping points are reached, after which they will only multiply in severity.
We have already mentioned the relatively more sustainable feudal and village-culture systems of the supposed dark ages and earlier periods. It is clear that, up until our current period of relative ecological awareness, Western historians and political scientists put virtually no value on society’s environmental sustainability. The neo-classical economists currently dominating world thinking still don’t consider it important, obsessed as they are with projected infinite growth on a finite planet – talk about insanity! These are, however, the “scholars” that, together with the bad-actor capitalists and politicians, are taking the world to this ominous future.
The essence of demoniac mentality is its attempt to avoid the control of God. The demon thinks he is the supreme. He takes God’s property as his own. The enlightenment era inflated these fantasies with private property and its advertisement that eventually industry and science would overcome all natures (or God’s) limitations, sometimes going so far as making man immortal. More or less, this was the same scheme, as described in the Srimad Bhagavatam, that Hiranyakasipu uses in his attempt to trick the creator god Brahma so that he could not be killed in any number of ways. In the end, however, both Hiranyakasipu’s and the enlightenment era’s demoniac ploys are being seen for the vain attempts they are. God’s real all-encompassing arrangement is proving far beyond the imagined glories of Francis Bacon, all the captains of industry, as well as the neo-classical economists. They have done little more than lead the world to the edge of the abyss, powered all the while by fossil fuels. Nature, or God, gets to bat last. Karma is really a bitch.
Krishna Consciousness and the Warming Climate
The oldest, still-extant, feudal-like culture is the Vedic culture of ancient India. Lord Krishna describes its different societal roles in the Bhagavad-gita, something which later became perverted into the hereditary caste system:
catur-varnyam maya srstam
tasya kartaram api mam
viddhy akartaram avyayam
“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed 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.” Bhagavad-gita 4.13
“The Lord is the creator of everything. Everything is born of Him, everything is sustained by Him, and everything, after annihilation, rests in Him. He is therefore the creator of the four divisions of the social order, beginning with the intelligent class of men, technically called brahmanas due to their being situated in the mode of goodness. Next is the administrative class, technically called the ksatriyas due to their being situated in the mode of passion. The mercantile men, called the vaisyas, are situated in the mixed modes of passion and ignorance, and the sudras, or laborer class, are situated in the ignorant mode of material nature.”
In this purport Srila Prabhupada describes to some extent the qualities of Lord Krishna’s four divisions, and these are very similar to those found in Western feudal arrangements, or that of virtually all organized ancient cultures larger than a (tribal) village or group of villages. In many places Srila Prabhupada compared the brahmanas to society’s head, the ksatriyas to its arms, vaisyas to the belly and sudras to the legs.
In feudal arrangements the peasant-sudras worked the land and gave the king or resident noble (ksatriya) a percentage of their crop in exchange for protection and administration. Although this was a cooperative relationship, the peasants weren’t really free. They were supervised by the royalty. When these people’s descendents became “freed’ by enlightenment era thinking it is not that they became any more intelligent. They just became wage-slaves for somebody’s company. They were still dependent on someone – sudras.
However, “freedom” did give them the ability to purchase land and consumer goods like cars. Unfortunately sudras usually can’t control their senses, especially in today’s hedonistic cultures. Today’s consumer-working class sudras are all being led by their noses by culture and advertisers to buy and buy as much as possible. It is the production of all these often useless consumer goods that is depleting the earth’s resources and filling the landfills, air and oceans with plastic and other waste. The cars and other energy needs of these billions of people are also producing vast amounts of the greenhouse gases that are overheating the atmosphere. Srila Prabhupada said that “freeing” sudras in this manner would inevitably have a bad result:
“A dog cannot live without master. A dog, if he hasn’t got a good master is a street dog. He may be killed at any time. He has no protection. Therefore this very word is used. Śūdra means dog. He must have a master, otherwise he cannot live. So there are classes of men, śūdras. No, they must have a protection. Women must have protection, because they cannot do anything independently. To give them independence means to create some trouble.” Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.1, Los Angeles, May 19, 1972
Srila Prabhupada considered the need for qualified, spiritually-realized brahmanas to be most important because their direction would be what was needed for the administrators to run things for everyone’s benefit, including, as described in the quotes above, the non-human entities. As detailed in Krishna Consciousness and Climate Change, the problem with our current system is that the administrators have become largely controlled by and beholding to the greedy capitalists or so-called vaisyas. In the Vedic and other ancient monarchies this was usually the other way around.
Lord Krishna’s arrangement, which He details somewhat extensively in later chapters of Bhagavad-gita, is very much dependent on people righteously following those directions, especially the brahmanas and ksatriyas. This is because the ksatriyas have the military power to coerce others. Without righteousness that system degrades into some variant of the corrupt monarchies that the enlightenment democracies replaced.
If Srila Prabhupada’s followers really want to perform the spiritual welfare work that will truly benefit all living beings in the upcoming climate-plagued era, they should take his and Lord Krishna’s instructions to heart and become genuinely qualified Vaishnava brahmanas. Then they will be both able to spiritually deliver the mass of humanity and guide society to live the ideals of Aryan society described previously.
“Formerly, though, society was divided into four classes—brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, shudras: advisors, administrators, merchants, and workers. The brahmanas were first-class men—ideal. But in today’s society there is no ideal man. Society should have some living example, so that people can see, ‘Oh, here is an ideal man.’ And the ideal man is described here in our Bhagavad-gita. Any man can be trained. And if even just one percent of the people become ideal, the remaining ninety-nine percent will see and follow. But now there are no ideal men. That is the defect. So we are training people to become ideal men. That is the purpose of this movement.” Conversation, Melbourne, May 21, 1975
samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness – these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” Bhagavad-gita 18.42
The advanced Vaishnava brahmana is the freest person in society because he has achieved the complete mercy of Krishna, the supreme absolute truth.
viṣayān indriyaiś caran
“One who can control his senses by practicing the regulated principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord and thus become free from all attachment and aversion.” Bhagavad-gita 2.64
“It is already explained that one may externally control the senses by some artificial process, but unless the senses are engaged in the transcendental service of the Lord, there is every chance of a fall. Although the person in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness may apparently be on the sensual plane, because of his being Kṛṣṇa conscious, he has no attachment to sensual activities. The Kṛṣṇa conscious person is concerned only with the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, and nothing else. Therefore he is transcendental to all attachment. If Kṛṣṇa wants, the devotee can do anything which is ordinarily undesirable; and if Kṛṣṇa does not want, he shall not do that which he would have ordinarily done for his own satisfaction. Therefore to act or not to act is within his control because he acts only under the direction of Kṛṣṇa. This consciousness is the causeless mercy of the Lord, which the devotee can achieve in spite of his being attached to the sensual platform.”
Unfortunately most of Srila Prabhupada’s followers, as they are now constituted, are in no position to act as truly qualified Vaishnava brahmanas. The vast majority have divided themselves into competing factions that constantly tear each other down. The largest assembly of such followers is the organization founded by him, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) institution. This worldwide group of tens of thousands has sadly been usurped by the leadership commission that he entrusted to manage it. Instead of training brahmanas in the qualities given by Lord Krishna above, this Governing Body Commission (GBC) has assumed absolute control and has all the group’s members, including the so-called brahmanas and gurus, signing loyalty oaths to them. A guru is supposed to be a brahmana, who is supposed to be completely dedicated to the truth and it’s telling. This means they will also always speak the truth about the GBC or their institution, something that goes directly against any kind of loyalty pledge.
“So a brahmana should be truthful in any circumstances. He will never speak lie. Truthful, satya. . . . A brahmana is not supposed to be crooked and duplicity. No. Simple. It is said even the enemy wants to know something from him, he will clearly say, ‘It is this.’ That is called simplicity.” Lecture, Melbourne, April 6, 1972
A real brahmana will never enter into a relationship based on blind loyalty that will compromise their ability to speak the truth according to the scriptures. He or she will never become part of something where they are obligated to serve someone in a mundane sense and thus be dependent on them. In the ISKCON institution the so-called gurus are all dependent on the GBC to be “authorized” to so-called initiate the group’s members. The arrangement functions much like a license or contract where the supposed guru agrees to tell their followers to also be loyal to the GBC.
“And servant, when one becomes servant, he has to execute anything which the masters order. Suppose one is serving some big man, he says that ‘You do this. I want.’ Now, to satisfy him one has to act according to his desire, which he may not like. Suppose one says that ‘You go and tell this lie. It is required by me.’ Now, because I am in service… Even great personalities like Bhīṣma, such a great personality, he could not join with the Pāṇḍava’s party, because he became a servant of the Kurus. So servitude is such a thing. A servant means a dog’s qualification. In the Bhāgavata it is stated that… Because the higher caste… The caste system, higher means the brāhmaṇas, the kṣatriyas and the vaiśyas, they will never become servant of anyone. Therefore they are higher. The śūdras, they accept service of others. So that was the stricture. And in the śāstra the brāhmaṇas and the kṣatriyas, the higher castes, and the vaiśyas, they would never serve. Now there is injunction in the Bhāgavata: if a brāhmaṇa is in trouble he can become…, he can take the profession of a vaiśya, but never take the profession of a dog. That never serve. Because as soon as one becomes servant, his independence is lost. So our independence… We can keep only our independence when we become servant of God, because there is no injustice.” Lecture on Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 22.14-19; New York, January 10, 1967
In this way, any so-called guru or brahmana in the ISKCON institution who pledges loyalty to the GBC instantly loses their independence and goes to the level of a dependent sudra, which Srila Prabhupada here compares to a dog. Of course, in Kali yuga people are very poor in terms of real intelligence, and they will wrongly rationalize that they are still brahmanas or gurus, what to speak of those who follow such people. Nevertheless in terms of the real qualities and spiritual empowerment of the genuine Vaishnava brahmana, these people do not have the goods needed to either spiritually deliver or guide society.
World society is already suffering many calamities due to the warming climate. As these multiply in severity and occurrence people will progressively give up their faith in the secular governments and institutions they now depend upon and trust. Increasingly impoverished, many will turn to God. Lord Krishna will provide for them the genuine and pure gurus that are currently lacking in and amongst Srila Prabhupada’s followers. Lord Chaitanya’s sankirtana movement will spread to every town and village under their direction.
prthivi-paryanta yata ache desa-grama
sarvatra sancara haibeka mora nama
“In every town and village of the world, the chanting of My name will be heard.” Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat, Antya Kanda 4.126
“Yes. Niṣkiñcanam, the devotee, the… You have to select a guru who is niṣkiñcana. Niṣkiñcana means who has no more anything materially desires. He has finished. The, another verse:
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta
jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ
brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam (SB 11.3.21)
One who has accept…, accepted the lotus feet of the Lord, brahmaṇy upaśama, he has finished the material desires—no more material desires. Niṣkiñ… That is called niṣkiñcana. Caitanya Mahāprabhu also said, niṣkiñcanasya bhagavad-bhajanonmukhasya. Bhagavad-bhajanonmukha, those who are actually desiring to be entered into the path of devotional service, must be niṣkiñcana. Caitanya Mahāprabhu said. Niṣkiñcanasya bhagavad-bhajanonmukhasya pāraṁ paraṁ jigamisor bhava-sāgarasya. Bhagavad-bhajana means to go on the other side of the ocean of nescience, not in this material world.” Lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, Vrndavana, November 10, 1972
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
“The material disease is due to thinking of becoming independent of everything. But the cruel material nature does not allow us to become independent. The false attempt to become independent of the stringent laws of nature is known as material advancement of experimental knowledge. The whole material world is moving on this false attempt of becoming independent of the laws of nature. Beginning from Ravana, who wanted to prepare a direct staircase to the planets of heaven, down to the present age, they are trying to overcome the laws of nature. They are trying now to approach distant planetary systems by electronic mechanical power.” Purport, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.37
Hari-sauri: (sings) “We are independent, we are independent.”
Svarupa Damodara: (laughs) That is the spirit of patriotism.
Prabhupada: Whatever it may be, you can say any name, any style or any trademark. Where is the independence? That is the question.
Svarupa Damodara: But Srila Prabhupada blessed yesterday around the Capitol. There were so many people, and they seemed like they liked…
Prabhupada: So many people, there are so many earthworms also. Ants also, gathered together. Does it mean they are independent? Hare Krsna. You know the earthworms? They heap up earth and disappear. So you are, if you take it in that way, that big, big buildings, just like earthworms gathering up earth and then disappears. Actually that is the… Like the worms, we gather together and become a nation and apply all our energy, heaps of buildings, then finished. We go somewhere, you go somewhere. And who knows what he’s going to be next life? Everything is going like that, family, community, national. Like the same earthworm, they gather so much huge dipi…, what is called dipi (?)in English?
Svarupa Damodara: Some sort of manure. – Morning Walk — July 5, 1976, Washington, D.C.