Civilization and Transcendence
If asked how humans have progressed over the past centuries, most people would point to technology and science and the knowledge and luxuries they have brought. But how do these things satisfy the soul’s desire for happiness and eternal life. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century, implores us not to lose sight of our true hankering’s and needs. Technology and science are good and have their place, but shouldn’t distract us from our most important pursuit: to transcend this world and awaken our spiritual nature.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, this questionnaire was sent to you by Bhavan’s Journal, a cultural and religious magazine in Bombay. They are questioning various religious and spiritual leaders, trying to get the answers to some of the important questions that are perplexing people today. So there’s a list of questions, and the first is this: “Is the influence of religion over the masses on the wane?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. This is predicted in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [12.2.1]:
tataś cānu-dinaṁ dharmaḥ
satyaṁ śaucaṁ kṣamā dayā
kālena balinā rājan
naṅkṣyaty āyur balaṁ smṛtiḥ
“In Kali-yuga, this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, there shall be a waning of these qualities: religiosity, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, memory, bodily strength, duration of life, and mercy.” These are the human assets – qualities which make a human being distinct from the animals. But these things will decline. There will be almost no mercy, there will be almost no truthfulness, memory will be shortened, duration of life shortened. Similarly, religion will practically vanish. So that means gradually human beings will descend to the platform of animals.
Especially when there is no religion, human beings are simply animals. This any common man can distinguish – that a dog does not understand what religion is. The dog is also a living being, but he’s not interested in what is being discussed here about Bhagavad-gītā or Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. That is the distinction between man and dog: the animal is not interested. So when human beings are becoming uninterested in religion, then they’re becoming animals.
And how can there be happiness or peace in animal society? The big leaders want to keep the citizenry as animals, and at the same time they are striving to make a United Nations. How is it possible? United Animals? Is it possible? Society for United Animals. [Laughter.] In the science of logic it is said, “Man is a rational animal.” So when rationality is missing, one becomes simply an animal. What is the possibility of being a human being?
In human society, whether you are a Christian or a Muhammadan or a Hindu or a Buddhist, it doesn’t matter. But there must be some system of religion – that is human society. And human society without religion – animal society. This is the plain fact. Why are people unhappy now? Because they are neglecting religion.
One gentleman has written me that Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” That means the Communists are very adamant against God consciousness because they think that religion has spoiled the whole social atmosphere. Religion might have been misused, but that does not mean that religion should be avoided. Real religion should be taken. Simply because religion has not been properly executed by the so-called priests, that does not mean religion should be rejected. If my eye is giving me some kind of trouble on account of a cataract, that doesn’t mean my eye should be plucked out. The cataract should be removed. So that is the idea of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement – to remove the cataract from people’s religious vision.
Generally, modern so-called religious leaders have no conception of God, and yet they are preaching religion. What good is that religion? People are simply being misled. Real religion means God’s order: dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam [SB 6.3.19]. If your religion has no conception of God, where is the question of religion? Still, without any conception of God, they are professing some religion. How long will it go on artificially? It will deteriorate. That ignorance about God has resulted in the present condition.
Religion means the order of God, just as law means the order of the state. Now, if in your social system there is no state, where is the question of the state’s order? You will simply manufacture your own order. Today that is going on in the field of religion: there is no conception of God and therefore no following of God’s order.
But we devotees of Kṛṣṇa have a clear conception of God. Here is God: Kṛṣṇa. And He’s giving orders. We accept those orders. So it is clear religion. But if there is no conception of God, no order of God, then where is the question of religion? Ask someone in some other religious system what their conception of the form of God is. Can anyone tell clearly? Nobody can say. But we shall immediately say,
veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is adept at playing on His flute, whose eyes are like petals of a blooming lotus, whose head is bedecked with a peacock’s feather, whose figure of beauty is tinged with the hue of blue clouds, and whose unique loveliness charms millions of Cupids.” [Brahma-saṁhitā 5.30]
Immediately, description – “Here is God.” Then there is religion. And if there is no conception of God, where is the question of religion? Bogus. That is why religiosity and the other noble human qualities are declining. People have no conception of God, and therefore there is no understanding of religion. As a result, the whole human civilization is declining. And because it is declining, human beings are becoming more and more like animals.
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