We read in Vedic literature about this present age that we are living in now, called the Age of Kali, the age of hypocrisy, quarrel and corruption. Aside from the statements of Vedic literature we can observe that the age is full of many vices; it is a veritable ocean of vices. There is widespread poverty, war, crime, and great attention given to intoxication and illicit sex life. Persons in this age have a very short duration of life, at least compared to descriptions we get of former ages; also, duration of memory, ability to concentrate, and interest in spiritual life were all formerly greater than in this current age. The reason this has come about is by the will of Krsna. This material universe is divided into vast periods of time, and the present age is the most degraded. Long, long ago there was a golden age called Satya-yuga. At that time almost one hundred percent of the people were God conscious, but one after another the different ages came like seasons, and society became increasingly degraded. This age of Kali-yuga is as inevitable as the seasonal cycle, but just because Kali-yuga is inevitably going to be more and more degrading does not imply that the influential, responsible people, especially the devotees of the Supreme Lord, will sit aloof and ignore or grow callous to this age of quarrel as it increases in corruption. Saintly persons are like older brothers in society, and they have great concern over the disintegration of religious principles in humanity. A pure devotee knows that no one can be happy in a society where people neglect rendering devotional service to the source, Krsna, or God.
The Practical Solution
Krsna consciousness is a practical solution to the problems of the age of Kali. The age of Kali is symptomized by the absence of religious principles. In the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam it is described that 5,000 years ago the entrance of Kali was first observed by the pious king of that time, Maharaja Pariksit. He was out inspecting his kingdom, and he saw a cow, the personification of religion, standing on one leg, being beaten by a very low-class man in the dress of a king. The pious king saw that the age of Kali was just beginning and three out of four of the cow's legs were broken. Since the cow is the emblem of religion, her legs are compared to the four basic religious principles austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness which are one by one being destroyed in this age. Austerity means to undergo a little difficulty in order to get something higher, just as a student may stay home and study and miss some nice entertainment because he has a higher goal. Austerity for the highest purpose, to develop love of God, is not being practiced at all in this age, and the main reason according to Srimad-Bhagavatam is that people are too proud of their money. Even a pauper becomes very proud and puffed up if he gets a little money; he thinks that he can buy everything he needs and that there is no need to hear about God consciousness. Pride wipes out austerity, and cleanliness is destroyed by illicit connections with women. Women and sex of course exist, but the perverted conception whereby the whole society, the whole civilization, is pinpointed simply on sex life is most degraded. And the principle of mercy is being destroyed by lying propaganda on the national, international and familial levels. Everyone has this lying propensity. The age of Kali, however, is described to be like the rainy season. Even though the rain has to come, this does not mean that one should not take precautions and go out with an umbrella.
Everyone Should Help
In this age of Kali, when people are very unfortunate and distracted, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has entered the picture. Krsna consciousness is not a new religion; it is the oldest the eternal science of God. It was first brought to the United States in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. According to Vedic literature, no material adjustment can solve the problems of man and society, but if spiritual education is propagated, then all ills will be removed. Krsna consciousness is an educational institution, and we are trying to propagate very pure teachings. The government, of course, is not meant to be partial to a particular faith. But the government should not be indifferent to religious principles. How can a good government be in favor of wiping out corruption but not be in favor of religious principles? Such principles have nothing to do with a particular faith. There is no point in one's changing from Hindu to Christian or from Muslim to Jew if one is not actually practicing religious principles. It does not matter which faith one belongs to, but the basic religious principles have to be followed because they lead to love of God, which alone can bring happiness and perfection for all humanity. The Krsna consciousness movement is therefore teaching everyone their true position: all persons are spirit souls, part and parcel of God. We are teaching how to love Krsna, and we want to propagate this teaching through all available media. All persons are asked to contribute in some way to the propagation of this message. It's not meant for only a few people; it's meant for everyone. We are publishing books with our press, but we need to expand. More and more books are needed all over the world. We propagate Krsna consciousness by disseminating literature, by chanting Hare Krsna, by distributing prasadam and broadcasting with the transcendental words coming from God Himself as recorded in the Vedic scriptures.
When we ask for donations, people often ask us. "What are you doing collecting money? What is it for?" They should know that our spiritual master keeps nothing for himself, nor for His disciples. Everything is being used in Krsna's service because everything actually belongs to Krsna. That's why we're telling people, "Please, don't think that whatever you have is yours. That is illusion. Everything belongs to Krsna." Now, while we have this human form of life, let us engage it in Krsna's service. This will actually bring us happiness and will benefit everyone because this is Krsna's world. People should understand that everything belongs to God. It is God's property, even these bodies. Therefore everything should be used in Krsna's service.
It Is Sanctioned
The sanction and guidance to do this are received from a pure devotee of Krsna who comes and preaches to all classes of people. Please serve the Supreme Lord. Whatever money we get we use to publish more books and spread Krsna consciousness. Also, we are opening temples whenever we can. In this material world, men are parched and are searching for some nectar and joy. The material world is like a desert; one cannot find relief. But just as in a desert, one can find an oasis, the temples are like oases in the material world. We have about fifty temples all over tht world, and every month more are being opened. But to help spread Krsna consciousness, to open temples and publish books, we need the help of all people.
There is a story told about a man who was drowning in a river. Many people on the shore saw him drowning, and one man went out to save him. Everyone was anticipating a rescue, but the rescuer came back with only the man's shirt and pants. He was severely ridiculed: "You have not saved the man. You saved his shirt and pants." In this way, welfare activities of a mundane altruistic and philanthropic nature opening hospitals but neglecting God consciousness do not save the real man. This body, Bhagavad-gita explains, is just a temporary manifestation. Our real self is the eternal spirit soul. People do not have to be great philosophers; they should just try this process of chanting the holy name of God, taking prasadam, and reading books like Krsna and Back to Godhead magazine. This will revive the dormant love of God that is in everyone's heart.
To further this end, our spiritual master has now begun a life membership program. Many people want to take to Krsna consciousness, but because of business and family commitments they are not able to come and live in the temple. They do, however, want to help. For those who want to help this movement in some way we have begun a program of life membership whereby a life member can receive all the books we have publisihed so far and all that we will publish in the future. A life member also receives a lifetime subscription to Back to Godhead, and he can also stay at any one of our temples. All our temples now are arranging accommodations guest rooms where a life member can come and stay; he can take prasadam and stay as long as he likes, whether it be in Paris or London or Boston. Now everyone can prosecute their duty in Krsna consciousness. A life membership costs $1,111. The idea is to propagate Krsna Consciousness, produce more books and encourage someone who wants to commit himself to helping Krsna consciousness. We do not expect the politicians and the leaders of the world to shave their heads and wear robes, but if they can take some advice from a pure devotee, that would be very helpful for everyone. It is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that a pure devotee does not want a political post, nor does he want power, but his suggestions of how to propagate real peace and prosperity should be listened to. This is Krsna consciousness. One can become a donor member in ISKCON and can receive all our books to date and a lifetime subscription to Back to Godhead for $555.00. Actually all our programs are free. We ask a dollar for attendance at our Sunday feast, but if anyone does not have a dollar, he does not go away; he can come anyway. Similarly, we freely distribute our magazine, Back to Godhead. One will notice that there is no price on this magazine. We ask a donation. If someone is interested and does not have anything, we invite him to take it and read about Krsna consciousness. Krsna consciousness is free for everyone. But if one wishes to patronize this nice movement, the opportunity is there. Become a life member, become a donor member, or become a subscriber for $222.00 and receive Back to Godhead for life, or simply become a regular member and subscribe to the magazine for a year for $4.50. Our spiritual master wants to spiritualize this planet, and engage everyone in any way by their money, by their talent, by their advice. Or let us come to your home, give out prasadam and show a film and speak. People can gather their friends, and we will come and have sankirtana in their home. If we do not spread this movement, someone else will. It is not that this work is going to be neglected. It is stated by Lord Caitanya, who is an incarnation of Krsna, that the chanting of Hare Krsna will be heard in every town and village in the world. But if someone can take the opportunity and help in this mission of the Supreme Lord, it will be very auspicious for himself personally, and whatever he does will benefit all humanity.