IN THE MID-SEVENTIES when I was in high school, I thought my Mom's self-correcting IBM Selectric typewriter was the ultimate tool for my writing projects. Today I wouldn't think of using anything but a Pentium computer to write this article. Of course, now that I depend on word processors, the word comes out that they may all be crashing on January 1, 2000 along with the power, transportation, food supplies, and utilities we modern-day humans have come to expect.
Everyone agrees that the Year 2000 computer bug known as "Y2K" is a problem. The debate rages over how big a problem it will be. When the year 2000 rolls around, some computers and computer chips, restricted by short-sighted, space-saving planners to only two digits to designate the year, will compute that it is now 1900. This will cause a series of miscalculations that some say will freeze bank accounts, stop planes and traffic lights, and silence phones. Others say the problem is restricted to very old computers. Repairs are underway, they say, and experts will foil Y2K before it surfaces.
As there are two mundane sides to the Y2K debate, there are two Krsna conscious positions to consider as well. First, as renounced yogis, why do devotees of Krsna use computers, electricity, and airplanes in the first place? It's because of the principle of yukta-vairagya practical renunciation that Srila Prabhupada borrowed from the previous acaryas and used with wonderful success to bring Krsna consciousness west. You can use nearly anything for Krsna if you intend to please Him. For spreading Krsna consciousness, the modern Hare Krsna movement uses all sorts of amenities and services that Y2K could knock out. The mission would be disturbed.
On the other hand, since Prabhupada warned against over dependence on artificial necessities, the Y2K problem could be a blessing in disguise. If indeed the amenities of modern life were unavailable, you and I would be forced to learn to live off the earth. We would either starve or learn to live by using oxen to plow, planting grains and vegetables, and milking cows. We would spin cotton or wool thread for our clothes, find medicinal herbs, and either stay at home or travel only short distances by animal power.
Imagine a mere computer glitch forcing us to turn our attention to gardening, storing and preserving food, and finding alternative sources of water, clothes, shelter, and other necessities. How the mighty have fallen!
In fact, whether cyber-originated or not, calamities always trouble us in this life. Even if you're born in a comfortable situation, birth is painful, adolescence awkward, old age distressing, and death unavoidable. Over and above problems arising from our own bodies, we also suffer from natural disturbances and the actions of others. You could say that Y2K is a misery imposed on us all by the developers of computer technology.
Whether it's catastrophic or microscopic, a wake-up call or a wash, one thing is for sure: Y2K is yet another good reason to chant Hare Krsna. Why?
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna says to tolerate all kinds of adversity. Without a higher, spiritual taste within, how can anyone tolerate external misery? As Lord Caitanya taught, chanting the Lord's names awakens our natural, higher taste. So we can store food, but we must know that chanting and spiritual awakening are always a good precaution for Y2K or anything else life in the material world may throw our way.