If things get bad, you will need more than just canned food and safe water.

MATERIALLY, I DON'T know what to make of the Y2K computer bug. People are spending billions of dollars to stop it, so it's no joke. A homesteader acquaintance says there are too many faulty chips and not enough time. He declares our society to be so computer-dependent that Y2K will be the end of CAWKI civilization as we know it. A friend who works for IBM laughs and says the Y2K scare is a hoax dreamed up by clever businessmen.

Millenium Bugs

Meanwhile, my local power company sends a reassuring circular saying that they are going to be completely ready for Y2K. They've already fixed their customer information computers, assuring me of accurate billing into the next millennium.

As a family man with two kids, I decide it's prudent to be prepared. Fortunately we live in the country with our own well, garden, and septic system. (What would city folks do without water in the taps and power in the sockets?) My wife and I store a little food and make a list of this and that. Somehow we'll get water. My neighbor is cutting trees, so I stash a year's supply of firewood. Materially, I'm preparing for Y2K as I would for any emergency.

All the while I know this is just an illusion. Materially, neither my family nor I will ever be safe. Even if Y2K turns out to be a hoax, something else will come along and break up our happy routine.

I don't like the idea of a Y2K computer meltdown. I'm used to inexpensive hot water for bathing and washing dishes and a thermostat in my house. A word processor makes typing incomparably easier. My ten-year-old needs an electric respirator from time to time.

Losing all this on January 1, 2000, would be a disaster for my family and me and we're better prepared than most. If power, water, food, and gas are unavailable, what will become of our life? Will ravaging, starving gangs of inner-city refugees assault us? Will we be cut off from friends and family who aren't in walking distance? No one can tell me with certainty what will or won't happen.

Although the Y2K scare has put us on alert, the plain, unpalatable fact is that disaster hangs over all of our heads every day. Hurricane? Earthquake? Car crash? Assault? Cancer? Old age? It's only a matter of time until we all confront the loss of this fragile physical frame that has come to mean our very life.

When it comes to the point where my comfortable daily life becomes a harrowing struggle for survival, how will I handle it? My family may be counting on me, not only for material protection, but also for emotional stability and spiritual strength. In this department, platitudes, generators, or solar panels just don't help. What will?

As with any disaster, I must be prepared spiritually prepared to handle Y2K.

Spiritual Preparedness

In his books, Srila Prabhupada explains in many ways how to be spiritually prepared. Here are some of his points.

Among other things, spiritual preparedness means to assimilate and apply enough spiritual knowledge to be comfortably detached from external situations. If massive computer crashes or something else beyond my control suddenly and drastically changed my external life, lamenting or ranting would waste precious energy. Nor in an emergency would I be able to cater to the delicate whims of my physical senses.

I can see the value of detachment, of not expecting too much out of my physical life. On one hand, I'm not ready to detach myself like great yogis who leave society and meditate in the heat or cold of the woods. On the other hand, even now I can begin to understand myself as a spiritual being, distinct from the physical body. I, the soul, am the one who has survived my body's changes from infancy to middle age. And I, the soul, will move on when this body no longer works. This spiritual knowledge is the key to detachment, to keeping a cool head and being content with little.

Spiritual knowledge comes from authentic scriptures. No church or organization can claim exclusive domain on spiritual knowledge, for such wisdom is scientific. Just as gravity works the same way for everyone, spiritual science is the same whether I consider myself a Hindu, a Catholic, or a Jew. Though they may differ in style and detail, almost all scriptures agree on essential points of spiritual knowledge. But these days, with so much else to read, scriptures aren't always our first choice. In preparing for Y2K, for instance, my first instinct is to reach for a homesteader catalog.

Although scriptures are the one reliable source of information that can prepare us for disaster, many of us ignore or consider them irrelevant. An otherwise reasonable person may close his eyes, pull some notion out of his mind, and consider it absolute spiritual truth. Genuine scriptures are God's instruction manuals for man. Would you make up your own computer manual and expect to get somewhere?

Rather than getting bogged down with the relative value of various scriptures, let us consider what are the essential, common points of all scriptural knowledge:

• You are not this temporary flesh and blood. You are the eternal soul within. • This temporary world is not your permanent home. • A compassionate, understanding God loves you and wants to help you.

If I could fully assimilate and apply these facts in my life if I could realize them I would be ready for a Y2K meltdown, or any other disaster this world could throw my way. Disaster would neither shock nor intimidate me. If I could then convey the same realization to my friends and family members, I could help them be prepared as well. In fact, I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit by this information.

Now is the time for spiritual realization while the hot water's running and the lights are on and I have the time and the ability.

Kalakantha Dasa writes, runs a small business, and oversees circulation for Back to Godhead. He and his wife, both disciples of Srila Prabhupada, live with their two children in Gainesville, Florida.