Some people take a quick glance at the Krsna consciousness movement and conclude that its members are not working to solve humanity's day-to-day crises. These people tend to think that by chanting the names of God (Hare Krsna), the devotees have become "otherworldly," "out of touch with reality." Or, if they stop a moment and hear what the devotees have to say about the world's problems, they may think, "Spiritual solutions can't really help anyone." Neither of these misgivings holds true. Let us consider, for example, the Krsna conscious approach to one of the worst problems facing the world today-food shortage.
Experts often tell us that the world is in danger: we can expect more and more people and less and less food, with little hope that the supply will increase. But no one who's read Bhagavad-gita or has his fair share of common sense will go along with the idea that the earth is incapable of producing more food. After all, food is ultimately coming from nature's bounty, or, simply, from God. As anyone knows, grain (the main food substance for all living beings) is not manufactured in the scientist's laboratory but results from the Lord's mercy in the form of rainfall and fertile fields.
So we should accept God's arrangement and make the most of the natural source of food He has given us. All we have to do is increase our agricultural development all over the world. But thanks to the artificial values of industrialized society, the world's population has swung away from the farms and into the cities. And as a consequence, countries like Africa, India, America, and Australia have vast tracts of uncultivated wasted land.
To set an example on a small scale, the Krsna consciousness society is developing self-sufficient farms based on the principle of "simple living and high thinking." Already, devotees have started some twenty of these farms around the world. By raising their own grains and vegetables, and by protecting the cows and drawing milk from them, the devotees are proving that a life based on cultivating God consciousness and accepting the mercy of God in the form of grain and milk products is a plain and simple solution to the starvation problem. (It's, as well, a solution to almost all other problems.) These self-sufficient farm communities are totally beyond comparison either spiritually or materially with the crime- and crisis-filled cities.
Of course, if all the people in the world are going to move to God conscious, agricultural communities, that will require a complete cultural revolution. The Krsna consciousness movement is advocating just this kind of overhaul in consciousness, but admittedly today's propaganda for industrialization and consumption is making things difficult. Even though the Krsna conscious village plan is sound, economically and in every other way, people tend to dismiss it with remarks like, "Your plan may work for you, but what if some people don't go along with it? We'll still have our big cities, our vast tracts of uncultivated land, and our food shortage."
Yet even if people don't move en masse to God conscious farm communities, and even if, as the experts promise, the population keeps growing, there's still enough food being produced around the world to feed everyone. Our only real shortage is a shortage of Krsna (God) consciousness. What makes one group of people in one part of the world think they can throw away thousands of tons of grain and pay farmers not to produce while people in other parts of the world starve? Simple. A shortage of God consciousness. The various "isms" such as nationalism, capitalism, and communism are all based on the bodily concept of life, and do not permit the spiritual vision which would enable people to share the fruits of the earth. As long as we are thinking black-vs.-white, American-vs.-Russian, Palestinian-vs.-Israeli, this-vs.-that, we cannot share the bounty of the earth. This problem can be alleviated only by spiritual understanding. We have to become God conscious and realize that we're all part and parcel of God that's how we're all alike, and that's how we can share and share alike.
The critics may still object: "It seems you'll help the starving only if they become devotees of God; otherwise, you'll let them go on starving." Not so. Even now, near eastern India's Bangladesh, ISKCON Food Relief is feeding an average of twenty thousand people each month. (CARE has offered additional supplies.) And not long ago, when a cyclone killed tens of thousands in southern India's Andhra Pradesh province, ISKCON Food Relief came through for the survivors with emergency food distribution.
But more important than the immediate meals that ISKCON makes available is the dissemination of Krsna consciousness, which alone can put an end to food shortage and starvation. As Bhagavad-gita informs us, the suffering conditions around the world are simply karma, nature's reactions to our sinful actions, and we cannot avoid these reactions through altruism or political maneuvering. We have witnessed repeatedly that human efforts make almost no dent in drought and famine conditions. Who can control nature but the Supreme? Only with His blessing will nature provide us with rain and crops. True, in times of famine wealthy men may come forward and offer huge donations, but if there is no grain available, then their money is totally useless.
After all, whatever sufferings people are undergoing are prescribed by God's natural law. And these laws aren't subject to change by presumptuous meddlers who think they know more than God. In a hospital, for instance, the doctor may give orders that some of his patients should fast. Now, if some do-gooder wants to ignore the doctor's orders and provide the starving patients with full meals, the hospital authorities will take his so-called compassion as meddling. In the same way, when welfare workers ignore the law of karma they are just wasting their time. For anyone who has gone against God's natural law, suffering is inevitable.
One final note about the charge that devotees are "otherworldly." In one sense, it's true. As Bhagavad-gita explains, this temporary material world will always have its quota of suffering; that is its nature. The eternal soul can be perfectly happy only when he returns to the eternal, blissful, spiritual world. Of course, we can go back to Godhead only if we have developed our love for God in this world. And if we'll just do that, then all our worries about a food shortage are over.