Modern man seems to be able to invent anything – except the key to happiness
Back in 1876, the telephone was an exciting invention. Although able to connect only two locations, the first telephone brought to people's lives the amazement of sound transmitted to a distant place through electricity. Little by little it spread across a country, over a continent, and across the ocean, until it ended up as an accessory as common as a toothbrush. The "miracle" of sound transmission that produced such a thrill in the beginning became as unnoticed in its everyday use as the blinking of an eye.
As ever-active spirit souls we cannot stand the boring nature of things we come in contact with in this world. Because our natural desire is to relish the ever-fresh variety of the spiritual world, we always try to find something new in the wrong place the material world. So, we had to invent another phone: the mobile phone. Like children in front of a new toy, people wanted to see it, to use it, to own it. It broke the old boundaries of communication that confined speakers to a certain place, giving us anillusory feeling of victory. But it too has become common. The video phone is here now, along with newer and faster cars, computers, and airplanes. But no new eyes for people to see that all these inventions which absorb so much human effort and intelligencen ever change the disappointing nature of material achievement.
My father was a famous inventor in my country, Romania. He had more than seventy mechanical inventions, most of them having to do with servomotors. He received gold medals at exhibitions and worldwide recognition. After building up a career-born, like all prestigious careers, out of the mode of passion he gradually came to a deeper understanding. "You know," he used to tell us children, "this fame and glory, these successes and achievements, just come and go. It's not worth looking for such things in life."
That was the most valuable lesson he ever taught me. It impressed upon me that pursuing material purposes was pointless. Human life is perfectly endowed for self-realization. Being able to experience both the satisfaction of fulfilled desires and the dissatisfaction of their temporary results, we can come to understand what this world is about and eventually turn to our real happiness in the spiritual realm.
As spirit souls, we are meant for eternal happiness and full knowledge. We look for rhis happiness in things like new inventions, not being aware that it already exists in our true nature. We are like a sick person who can't taste palatable food but won't take the cure that would reawaken his taste buds.
Our innate desire is to play with Krsna to our heart's content, but we falsely hope to find that happiness in things like movies, television, and computer games. Deluded, we mistake a copy for the original. The desire to enjoy matter impels us to accept such copies as real happiness and to come under their sway.
Technology makes us fascinated with technique and form, and we lose sight of the content or deep meaning of things. A well done movie or video clip will draw our attention and appreciation, even if it promotes things that degrade the human condition.
TECHNOLOGY FALLS SHORT
Krsna Himself showed that technology is not worthy of our undying fascination. In destroying the demon Salva and his magnificent airplane which could even disappear Krsna revealed that His own technology supersedes all others. After all, He creates the universe and the laws that make it work.
The tendency of modern man to enthrone technology as the undisputed king of the world resembles Salva's mentality. But Lord Krsna in the form of time, "destroys" technological innovations one by one by making them uninteresting and old fashioned.
When Lord krsna came here five hundred years ago as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He didn't destroy technology, perse, but He destroyed the delusion that makes us think that technology is the key to happiness. His transcendental weapon to accomplish this is the Hare Krsna mantra. Chanting Hare Krsna is a spiritual technology. Unlike material inventions, it never has to be updated. It is imported not from another country, but from the spiritual world. If one uses it correctly, with care and attention, one never tires of it. In fact , one enjoys it more and more. Chanting takes us on a spiritual journey to a place unreachable by any material aircraft the spiritual world.
LORD BRAHMA'S EXAMPLE
The feeling of emptiness that accompanies existence in this world was present even in Lord Brahma, the first engineer, at the very beginning of creation. Unsure of the purpose of his existence, he meditated and prayed. Lord Krsna enlightened him and empowered him to c reate the wonders of the universe.
Because of his spiritual stature, Brahma did not become proud of his technological mastery. He understood that He was using Krsna's energy in Krsna's service. We, on the other hand, create one small machine and think it's ours to fully enjoy. Thoughtful people, however, see that such attempts to enjoy are futile. And they want to know how to find true happiness.
Our God given intelligence and ingenuity allow us to understand the laws of nature and use them to surpass the limitations of our bodies. We fly in the sky with planes and swim underwater with air tanks. But all achievements are of no real value if not used for a higher purpose. I recall my father saying that we should keep the body healthy and live long but that a long life should be spent for a noble cause. He said that a long life lived in vain, with the empty feeling of not knowing what it is lived for, can be more painful than a short one. The human intelligence capable of inventing so many new and ingenious things can also perceive the longing of the soul for its real position in relationship with Krsna That is why no invention can really satisfy us in the long run, why everything that seems fresh in the beginning becomes stale in the end. The lack of a spiritual purpose renders things stale and futile. If inventions do indeed save us time and energy, we can give them purpose by using that savings for culti vating spiritual life.
But instead, people misuse saved time by inventing newer and newer things for sense gratification, for improving how we eat, sleep, mate, and defendanimal activities. Unlike animals, human beings can control themselves for higher pursuits. We shouldn't let technology become such a distraction that we lose sight of the goal of life. Even my father had to admit that inventions "come and go."
The purpose of life transcends anything that comes and goes, even "the progress of humankind through science and technology" the slogan of the inventor. By serving matter and neglecting its cause, the Supreme Spirit, we remain perpetually involved with the temporary, including inventions that will some day be good enough only for the history of technology.
If we are to dedicate ourselves to a goal, it should be the highest goal. If we are to serve, we should serve the greatest. My father's inventions will be of eternal benefit if they happen to promote even once the devotional service of the Lord.