Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

Remember all those well-intentioned New Year's resolutions you made a few months ago? Probably not. Most of us have trouble keeping them. But at least we had hope before science hit us with another of their "latest discoveries." According to new scientific evidence, you might as well not even make resolutions. Scientists now think that what we are has a lot more to do with heredity than with the circumstances we were raised under. We're born the way we are and we're stuck with it. It's in the genes.

Pretty discouraging, isn't it? It means that you were born with some character trait that forced you to start smoking, drinking, and all the other things you'd like to give up. But you can't give them up, because that genetic character trait has you under control. So don't try to improve yourself: learn to live with it.

Fortunately, those who listen to the age-old wisdom of the Vedic literature can keep right on making New Year's resolutions to their heart's content, and, more important, they can maintain hope that someday they might follow them. The Vedic literature affords humanity a much more exalted status than the lowly chemical existence deigned to us by modern science. Each of us is essentially an eternal spiritual being, and within each of us lies the free will not only to kick a few bad habits in the face but also to kick the habit of material life and its inherent suffering once and for all.

No doubt we all have character traits that seem to stick with us. And some of the bad habits we've picked up are deeply ingrained. But the obvious question is, "To whom do these character traits and bad habits belong?" They belong. temporarily, to the real person, whose own eternal personality yearns to express itself, seeking relief from layers of hereditary, cultural, and social conditioning. That eternal spark of divine consciousness, the living soul, is ultimately beyond the body and its genes and conditionings.

We tend to think that traits and habits are temporary, and we sometimes want to change them. We thought we could change, until scientists started telling us differently. But if we can't change our habits, why do we keep trying to?

Well. we can change. In fact, our attempts at self-improvement are an expression of our deep-seated desire to change back to our original, pure condition. The soul's problems are much more serious than a stubborn case of nail-biting or overeating. His real problem is that he has contracted the material disease of falsely identifying himself with the temporary, miserable material body. His original home is the realm of pure goodness, and in his original consciousness he is completely good and acts perfectly, fulfilling his natural function in his relationship with God.

God wants us back in that relationship. So, when we want to improve ourselves, He helps. But it takes more than a cursory shucking of a few layers of bad habits. Our worst habits are sinful activities like meat-eating, illicit sex. intoxication. and gambling. These must be given up.

Living a sinless life, however, is only the beginning of a total self-improvement course. To reenter our fully satisfying relationship with God, we have to be "good" not just morally, although that is certainly important, but also in the highest sense of the word: We have to become completely devoted and surrendered to God.

Our greatest challenge, then, is overcoming our insane unwillingness to accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead as our dearmost friend and well-wisher. We must resolve to defeat this formidable enemy, and we can get inspiration by hearing from the Vedic literature, the spiritual master, and the great God-realized saints of the past. If we listen instead only to the speculative conclusions of the scientists, we'll think we can't change, and we'll miss a great opportunity.

Cooling The Global Greenhouse

by Visnu dasa

The growing use of fossil fuel has so increased the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide and of certain other gases that they now pose a serious threat to life on earth. These gases create a "greenhouse effect," whereby heat from the sun-warmed earth reflects back down to the earth's surface, creating an ecological imbalance of cataclysmic proportions. The increase in the earth's surface temperature resulting from the greenhouse effect will begin to cause the polar ice caps to melt, raising ocean levels. By the year 2100 ocean levels could rise between two and twelve feet, flooding coastal cities, destroying farmlands and beaches, and polluting sources of irrigation and drinking water.

So what's the solution? We have to slow down. The increasing use of fossil fuels, which is causing the greenhouse effect, is due to our insatiable demand for energy. It takes a lot of fossil fuel to send us flying down the highways in fast cars and around the globe in much faster jets. It takes a lot of fossil fuel to keep the home fires burning in a zillion factories all over the planet. It takes a lot of fossil fuel to light up our increasingly dangerous cities so we can pursue the good life from sunset to sunrise. And it takes a lot of fossil fuel to produce an endless barrage of unnecessary consumer products.

Some people think we simply have to replace fossil fuel with another fuel. No need to slow down, they say; we have to progress. Fossil fuels have served us well until now, and better fuels are on the horizon. We need only push ahead. But to replace fossil fuels with other energy sources misses the point. This world has been created with a spiritual purpose, and any solution not in line with that purpose inevitably creates more problems.

The best solution is to be satisfied with less. Of course no one likes to hear this proposal. And no amount of rhetoric from scientists or politicians ever seems enough to convince the members of today's hedonistic society to slow down. When things get tight, we don't slow down. We just scheme all the more so that we don't have to suffer with less.

You can't force people to abruptly change their lifestyles. What's required instead is a change of consciousness, a change in the way we perceive our existence here. Our limited environment can't keep up with all of us trying to enjoy life with gusto. Mother Earth has plenty to give, but we have to learn how to work within her natural order, not against it.

The Vedic literatures explain that we are meant to use this life and the bountiful gifts of Mother Earth not for selfish sensual gratification but for making progress in understanding God and our relationship with Him. When self-realization becomes the goal of life, we naturally live more simply, satisfied with what we actually need for a peaceful, happy life. Once we discover that the pleasures of spiritual life far exceed the flickering sensations of so-called material happiness, we will easily sacrifice the useless commodities that now entice us.

We have to stop believing "the one with the most toys wins." No amount of material commodities can satisfy the innate hankering of the soul. We don't need more cars, stereos, and VCRs. We need a genuine awakening of spiritual consciousness. The Vedic scriptures recommend the chanting of the holy names of God especially the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare as the most effective means in this age for awakening our spiritual consciousness.

When we awaken our spiritual consciousness, our material fever will subside and our lives will come into balance. We will be in harmony with the creator and with the creation, thus relieving the threat of the greenhouse effect once and for all.