Where Has Humanity Gone?

Nowadays, why are humans so much cruel and selfish? Why are most humans so much materialistic?
 —Sharmistha Mitra, via Facebook

Our reply: The Srimad- Bhagavatam is one of the most prominent Vedic texts specially meant for giving directions to human civilization in today’s degraded times (Srimad-Bhagavatam1.3.43). Canto 12, chapter 2 of this book is titled “The Symptoms of Kali-yuga.” The very first prediction says, “Then, O King, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the age of Kali.”

We may not doubt the veracity of later items mentioned in the list but sometimes we doubt the decline of the first item, religion, given the large numbers of people seen flocking a multitude of religious places all over the world. Unfortunately, due to lack of internal purity and correct vision, we mistake anything that resembles religion even vaguely as religion. Just as someone unfamiliar with gold can be cheated into purchasing a cheap metal which temporarily shines like gold, those of us who lack deeper insights into the concept of true religion can also be fooled into believing anything that gives us some peace of mind, some desirable benefits, a vague sense of being holier than others, etc. as also religion. True religion, however, is not about inconclusive philosophies or violent proliferation or about disturbing God with unlimited selfish demands. It is about loving and serving the Supreme Lord selflessly and unceasingly.

In the absence of true religion, everything else — truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance — also becomes absent in essence. For instance, people claiming to follow religion become most untruthful, unclean, intolerant, and merciless and so on. This is the special highlight of present times. In bygone ages like the Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga and Dvapara-yuga, this would rarely happen. Those who lacked basic human virtues would never be people claiming to be followers of God. They would be downright atheists disbelieving the existence of God. Today, however, the greatest problem is the proliferation of evil in the name of good. Materialism or overt attachment to matter is only a small by-product of such religion, which is just a disguised subversion from spirit.

Thus, any intelligent person would evaluate genuine religion not based on what the proselytizers profess but based on the correlation of core human virtues and the goals espoused by a certain path. When we discover such a path we will be pleasantly surprised to find its practioners negating the above prediction.

Unable to Read the Gita

I have started reading Bhagavadgita since two weeks. It is mentioned therein that Arjuna, who had saintly qualities, was unable to kill his family members and was not ready to fight. He was praised for his saintly qualities but was also disapproved by Lord Krishna because he was attached to them materially. The comparison of this situation is to that of saving the dress of a drowning man rather than the man himself. The Lord commanded Arjuna to kill his family as it was his duty as a ksatriya and also to prevent Arjuna from acting materialistically since the soul is immortal. My doubt is, suppose I see a person on the verge of dying, do I go and help him as a part of humanity or do I leave him to his fate because he is just going to change his body like one changes clothes and it is not his soul that is dying? A doctor can’t surely think the latter. What should I do since, unlike Arjuna, I don’t have Lord Krishna to command me what to do.
 —Lakshmi Shree, by email

Our reply: The great Mahabharata war fought between the Pandavas and their cousins the Kauravas is mistakenly perceived as a fratricidal battle, fought for mere domination of resources. In a larger context, it is evident that it was primarily Lord Krishna ’s plan to wipe out adharma from this planet and establish dharma. Lord Krishna had offered innumerable chances to the Kauravas to reform their diseased mentality only to be rejected by them. Thus, Thus, Lord Krishna ’s disapproval of Arjuna’s hesitation to kill his irreligious family members is based on the pivot of the concept of duty — to do what is right and necessary. It is to give him a deeper vision: unless evil in the heart is purified by punishment (after all other alternatives have been exhausted), this evil will only increase and flourish. It is necessary to kill evil-doers who refuse to reform themselves to end the evil, its influence and its effects.

We should note that Lord Krishna ’s command to Arjuna was not to kill the Kauravas per se but to kill those who were siding with adharma, who happened to be his own family members in this case. This command refined Arjuna’s vision and empowered him with finer powers of discrimination for perceiving adharma where it is not clearly visible and how to deal with it in practical circumstances. In our case, when we see a man dying, we aren’t sure about the man’s inclinations. Thus, abiding by social rules and using our common sense, we are obliged to try to save the dying man’s life. A sincere reader of the Bhagavadgita, however, will walk the proverbial extra mile bytrying to save his soul by personally helping him connect to God and engaging him in God’s loving service. Without the latter, even we will be guilty of the crime to save only the dying man’s clothes instead of the person.

In the absence of personal presence of Lord Krishna , we have the presence of the words of His pure representatives in parampara in the form of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. If we want further explanations to this book, we can seek advice from contemporary practicing devotees.
 —Lakshmi Sree