The World Seen Through the Eyes of Vedic Knowledge

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL headline jumped out at me: "China Market Opening Up One Billion New Consumer Units." The article was almost giddy with the thought of this huge field of untapped senses waiting to be titillated. Here were living, breathing consumer units, with desires and needs they never knew they had. The article mentioned Russia, the big news in Moscow being the opening of the world's largest McDonald's. (What for? So Russians too can drop dead of cancer from red meat, or heart attacks from too much cholesterol? Or is it so they can help us bury the world under fast-food wrappers?)

The basic axiom of salesmanship says, "Create a need, then fill it." Consider this snow job: Before we feel we can even face one another in the morning, the average man uses eight different personal-hygiene items, and the average woman twelve.

Stimulus, response, stimulus, response, like donkeys we are induced onto a treadmill for our sensual carrots.

The Bhagavad-gita says it succinctly:

An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. Sensory pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.
Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.
Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.

During the democracy demonstrations in Tiananmin Square, some students carried a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Many an immigrant has sailed into New York's harbor past that statue, as she holds high her torch and proclaims, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

But the real guiding torchlight is the wisdom found in the Bhagavad-gita, and the real fresh air of freedom is the pure life of devotional service to the Supreme Lord.

The students and other seekers of freedom in China may in time succeed in throwing off their old masters. But if in exchange they accept the yoke and whip of consumerism, theirs will be a sad and hollow victory.

Badrinarayana Dasa is ISKCON's Governing Body Commissioner for southern California and several western and mid-western states.