I LEFT LOS ANGELES EARLY on the morning of the riots. My departure was coincidental. I'd stayed in L.A. for two days, and now I was off to a meeting in Denver. So I missed it all. The pillars of smoke didn't start billowing into the sky till later that day.

I suppose it's not very saintly of me (no, I don't like to see people suffer), but there's something about the thought of L.A. going up in smoke that very much appeals to me. I picture myself driving up the San Diego Freeway past broad meadows, cows grazing on the site of what used to be Los Angeles.

Pleasant thoughts aside, we're still stuck with L.A. But it's just a matter of time.

It's said that Krsna in His incarnation as Lord Ananta lies at the bottom of the universe in the form of a gigantic serpent, waiting till the time for the cosmic annihilation. Then He'll scorch all the worlds to cinders with flames from His mouth.

Sometimes He'd like to do it sooner.

By Krsna's arrangement, human life in the material world is meant to give us a chance for self-realization. So when Lord Ananta sees what we're doing with that chance, He gets so angry He feels like torching the whole place, straight away.

Anyway, He doesn't. He holds off till it's time and that's still millions of years from now. Meanwhile we're busy making things hot for ourselves.

As in Los Angeles. From Beverly Hills to the city docks, it's a crummy, nasty, stinking city, full of air you don't want to breathe, people you don't want to see, streets you don't want to drive on, enterprises you'd like to shove into the ocean.

It's a bubbling, fuming brew of nature's lower modes, the modes of passion and ignorance. When the brew boils over, it's no surprise.

A gang of cops clubbed poor Rodney King, a decent Los Angeles citizen, "motorist Rodney King," drunk as a skunk, foot on the gas pedal, taking the cops on a car chase.

The police, of course, just did their duty, beating the guy to a pulp.

And so the trial, the riots, the drama of frustration and outrage. It's your standard B-grade Los Angeles movie, staged by Maya, screenplay by the modes of nature, a cast of thousands acting out their scripted parts, directed by lust, anger, and greed.

From close up, it all looks real. Seen from a distance, it's just another episode in Kali-yuga illusion.

Those who call Los Angeles home might be miffed at our dismissing things so easily. "Call everything illusion and forget about it." Is that Krsna consciousness just to trivialize big problems and write them off?

Such protests ignore what the biggest problem is: No matter who we are or what we are, whatever we put together for ourselves in this material world will sooner or later go up in smoke. Better to move out of Los Angeles or whatever other crummy, death-ridden place we call home and go back to our real home, back to Godhead.

Jayadvaita Swami