"East is east and West is west, and the twain shall never meet," sang English poet, Rudyard Kipling. What is it that is so different be· tween the East and the West? Stated analogically, the modern Western world view sees this world as a hotel, whereas the ancient Vedic world view sees it as a hospital. In a hotel, we command; in a hospital, we cooperate. In a hotel, we expect enjoyment; in a h ospital, we expect treatment.
Most modern people presume this world to be the arena for their planning, executing, and enjoying. Even if such people are nominally religious, they treat God like a cosmic waiter to be ordered by ringing the bell of religious rituals. But even a little experience of life can show that things don't always happen as we want them to. When faced with repeated obstacles or reversals, people become disheartened-all the more so when they expect to command and enjoy as in a hotel. This disappointment may aggravate into chronic depression and even suicidal thought, both of which are rampant in our society. Moreover the hotel world view is quite dehumanizing. How many hotel goers love and care for the waiters who are serving them? Similarly when people imagine that others exist only for ''waiting'' on them-facilitating their enjoyment, they become impersonal , insensitive, impatient and intolerant towards others. This selfish, en· joyment·centred world view is at the root of deteriorating relationships and rupturing families. Worse still, the frus· tration resulting from such a world view may escalate into anger and violence. Also in the hotel worldview, the final truth and end of Iife-death-defies explana. tion: if the world is a hotel, then why does death always spoil the party?
Let's understand the hospital worldview through a story.
Imagine a millionaire's son trave1ing in a car through a hill. Suddenly his car skids and falls hundreds of feet down. Somehow he jumps out of the car before it explodes. Fortunately he falls on a sand dune in the valley. He survives but gets amnesia due to a blow on the head. The tribals residing in the valley rescue him and give him a name and a role in their community. Though a prince, he now slaves as a woodcutt.er. His millianaire father comes searching for him, but he fails to even identify his own father, what to speake of returning back. His father has to employ a doctor who gives shock treatment to him. Though initially upset by the stock, he eventually recovers from the amnesia. And then. he returns back with his father to live happily ever after.
We are all the beloved children of God, who is the king of all kings, the supremely wealthy person . Krsna is not just a lakhapati (millianaire) or karopati (billionaire): He is Laxshmipati, the lord of the Goddess of Fortune. Unfortunately we have fallen. from our original home, the spiritual world, down to this material world and are afflicted by spiritual amnesia.
From our birth, society gives us an identity and a functian-youare so -and -so and your goal is to become a so -and -so professional . And we 0perate like programmed robots, struggling for paltry sensual pleasmes, breaking the trees of exams and projects and carrying the logs of anxieties and obligatians. Krsna comes to this world or sends His sons, prophets or devotees to invite us back to our eternal joyful life with Him. But we fail to even recognize our own eternal father, leave alone consider returning back to Him. Krsna, being our unconditionally benevolent fatherloves us too much to take offence at our neglecting or rejecting Him. But our non-cooperatian compels Him to take on the role of an expert doctor and treat us through a prudent blend of congen ial stimuli and jolting shocks all ultimately meant to awaken our spiritual memory and reinstate us in our divine glory. The shocks comprise of the threefold material miseries: adhyatmika klesa (mental stress, bodily disorders etc.), adhidaivika klesa (natural disasters, climatic inconveniences etc.), and adhibhautika klesa (quarrels, divor= etc.), and the fourfold material problems -old age, disease,death, and rebirth. Krsna doesn't want us to suffer, but if suffering is what is necessary to cure us, like any responsible father, He allows temporary material suffering for our eternal spiritual redemption.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder acarya of the International Society for Krsna Conciousness (ISKCON), Succinctly states: 'The: miseries of material existence: indirectly serve to remind us of our incompatibility with matter." How? These miseries, though disturbing, impel intelligent people to go to the representatives of God-the sacred scriptures and the saintly teachers. The enlightenment they offer commenoes the cure for our spiri tual amnesia and paves the way for our ultimate spiritual reinstaternent as divine princes."
Shock treatment may appea r undesirable to the uninformed patient, but the well-informed patient understands that it is not just desirable' but essential, for his ultimate well being. Similarly when we are spiritually well·informed, that is, when we see the Supreme as a doctar and not as a waiter, then we understand that reversal are a part of the divine shock treatment. Even if things are going 'wrong' as per our short·term perception, they are still going 'right' as per the long. term therapeutic plan. Thus the hospital worldview helps us make sense out of reversals and gives us hope, confidence, and strength.
Importantly, shock treatment is not the only way to cure amnesia. If the patient cooperates with the doctar, his dormant memory can be revived by suitable stimuli. Simi· larly we don't have to be shocked out of our bodily misidentification. If we cooperate with Krsna by submissively receiving the spiritual stimulus of His holy name, we awaken to our spiritual identity and glory. The more we accept the memory treatment, the less the doctor needs to use the shock treatment . Similarly, the more we seek shelter and pleasure in the chant· ing of the Hare Krsna mahamantra, the less will be our material miseries and b will be our disturbance due to whatever miseries are inevi· table. Lord Krsna proclaims this in the Bhagavad·gita (18.58), "If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all the obstacles of con· ditioned life by My grace. If, how· ever, you do not work in such conscioumess but act through false ego , not hearing Me, you will be lost."
Indeed when we have the right worldview, even death cannot cause us fear, for it becomes another phase in a multi·life treatment plan. If our amnesia is cured, then death becomes a discharge from the hospital so that we can return to our original home in the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. If our treatment is not yet complete. death is like the transfer of the patient to another unit for faster and better treatment.
People all over the world have been misled by the hotel wordview into having unrealistic expectation and enduring the consequent unbearable frustrations. The balm of the hospital worldview is the vital compass needed to equip people to steadily navigate through the journey of life. Lest we have second thoughts about this fundament and indispensable paradigm shift, the exhortation of eminent British historian Dr Arnold Toynbee can prod us on, "It is already becoming clear that a chap. ter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self destruction of the human race.At this supremely dangerous moment in his· tory, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way."
Caitanya Carana Dasa holds a degree in electronics and telecommunications engineering and serves full time at ISKCON Pune. To subscribe to his free cyber magazine, visit thespiritualscientist.com