Srila Prabhupada Centennial note:
In the last issue I suggested growing something to offer for Prabhupada's Centennial feast on his appearance day in September. As you weed, water, and fertilize flowers and vegetables for the feast, remember to let the plants hear you chant Hare Krsna while you work.
Does your temple or your family have cows or oxen? If possible, save ghee so your temple can perform a fire sacrifice for Prabhupada using ghee from protected cows only. If the grains offered into the fire are grown by your own oxen, that will make an especially nice offering. Maybe you can even offer Prabhupada cloth you have made yourself.
Don't miss this chance to glorify Prabhupada with your efforts towards self-sufficiency.
LAST TIME WE SAW how women in England in the 1700s and 1800s set in motion the wheels of destruction of Western civilization. Their desire for "Kali's cloth," calico cloth imported from India, sped up the coming of the industrial revolution and its devastating effect on workers' lives. Now we'll see how the powerful goddess of material energy degraded civilization even further by entangling people more and more in material desires. And we'll see how Krsna's pure devotee Srila Prabhupada taught how to slash to shreds the bonds of material attachment by simple living and high thinking.
By the middle of the twentieth century, a funny thing happened in Western countries amid all the material progress and improvement in workers' lives: Multinational corporations discovered the miracle of cheap labor in the Third World. Once again, by a trick of the material energy, cloth makers found a way to make cheap cloth and clothing by using women and children to do the work. Today people are appalled to learn of the wide use of exploited children making rugs and clothing, and of women workers locked in Third World factories. But multinational corporations like women workers because, compared to men, women are cheaper and more compliant.
Unfortunately, hiring practices that favor women undermine the family. A man without a job feels he can't marry and support a family, but sex goes on anyway, and the babies keep coming. So when mother is at work, who takes care of the children? Who teaches them social values, spiritual values? Who gives them love? Is it any wonder that the gun and the needle abound in countries where the factory has practically wiped out the roles of mother and father? But, of course, that is not the concern of business.
In fact, women workers don't even have to be in a Third World country to be cheap, just from one. Indeed, the industrial revolution seems to have come full circle, because now we find instances of cheap clothing made in America with slave labor. In August 1995 authorities discovered about seventy illegal immigrants from Thailand all women held captive and forced to make clothing for prestigious retailers. And exploitation of illegal immigrants in places like New York's Chinatown appears more widespread than authorities had thought.
Reactions to Come
But whom should we pity the most, the suffering workers or the business owners who exploit them? The Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.26.36) tells us that people who enjoy wealth earned by sinfully exploiting others will soon pay a heavy price:
One who in this world or this life is very proud of his wealth always thinks, "I am so rich. Who can equal me?". . . Because of the sinful things he does to earn money, augment his wealth, and protect it, he is put into the hell called Sucimukha, where the officials of Yamaraja punish him by stitching thread through his entire body like weavers manufacturing cloth.
So what is that cloth we are wearing? It's the warp of the workers' agony now and the woof of the businessmen suffering in the future. No amount of boycotting and regulation can create happiness from such a product. Because machine civilization is driven by sense gratification, and because it relies on centralization, it is by nature impersonal and heartless. It is by nature opposed to humanity and opposed to spiritual life.
So what is the solution? Prabhupada's solution is to redefine what we mean by "progress" in human civilization:
Devotee: Localization may be possible in India but not in America.
Devotee: American people consider it backward.
Prabhupada: Then they have to be educated that "backward" is real life.
Devotee: They think they have achieved a higher standard of freedom by traveling all over the world.
Prabhupada: Where is your freedom? Where is your freedom if for your livelihood you have to go a hundred miles? Why are you illusioned? For your bread you have to go a hundred miles by car or by train. So where is your freedom?
Devotee: The freedom is in leisure time.
Prabhupada: Where is this leisure time? You rise early in the morning and start for your office. Where is your leisure time? This is all imagination. . . . Leaders, rich men can think, "I have leisure." But the workers in the lower class they have no freedom. No, it is we who are trying to give freedom to everyone, real freedom. Now you are forced to go to the factory and work in a hellish condition of life. Is that freedom? (Conversation on a train in India, January 11, 1977)
So progress does not mean that we import cloth from the other side of the world, manufactured by women and children treated like slaves. Progress does not mean setting aside humanity and spiritual life to make way for the triumph of the machine. These things are not progress.
Srila Prabhupada defines progress differently: Progress means to organize society so that each person's work is a loving offering to Krsna. That is called the daiva varnasrama organization of society. In progressive varnasrama, society is arranged so that people can make cloth right in their own homes. Very simple. No exploitation, no slavery. Making cloth at home is part of a way of life that makes room for spiritual realization. As Prabhupada put it, "It is my ambition that all devotees may remain self independent by producing vegetables, grains, milk, fruits, flowers, and by weaving their own cloth in hand looms. This simple life is very nice. Simple village life saves time for other engagements, like chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra."
In this way Prabhupada taught the importance of simple living and high thinking so we can throw off Durga Devi's cloak of ignorance and become Krsna conscious.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.