In Siberia and in North Dakota, deep below the desolate plains and prairies, the missile crews are waiting. Beneath the oceans glide the nuclear-powered submarines, stocked with their deadly loads of MIRVed warheads. Soviet soldiers in their helicopters, tanks, and troop carriers are roaring into Afghanistan. At Ft. Bragg the airborne battalions are getting restless. And if you look up at the sky at night, you'll see the spy satellites cruising by overhead, seeming to weave in and out of the stars and planets, keeping a lifeless eye on everything.
The forces of time and violence whirl. Destruction starts its slow dance. Who knows where it will all end?
Today at UCLA some students are demonstrating against the draft. A leftist girl grabs the bullhorn and screams to the crowd that the imperialists are creating war hysteria and we've got to stop the bosses' racist war.
"There are seven bills before Congress to start up the draft!" she says. "Don't you see what's happening?"
Now some fraternity boys waving American flags push their way in, and cool, crack media people surge forward like assault troops, so that their mikes and cameras can catch the conflict for the evening news.
The students want to be detached, free to enjoy themselves and develop their careers and potentials. But now they feel themselves being pulled out to sea by the undertow of historical forces. They have to program into their futures the likelihood, however slight, of war, just as they have already programmed recession.
But it's not only the students who are feeling the pinch. The Gallup pollsters recently found that eighty-four percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going. And they are convinced things are going to get worse. In his bestseller How toProsper During the Coming Bad Years, Howard J. Ruff predicts an "international monetary holocaust which will sweep all paper currencies down the drain and turn the world upside down." Tens of thousands of average homeowners and businessmen pay big fees to attend Ruff's survival seminars. And he's not alone. The apocalyptic vision of financial collapse has spawned an entire industry of newsletter writers and purveyors of survival equipment.
People are storing supplies of food and water in their cars, just in case the war or depression breaks out while they're on the way to the supermarket or drive-in. Waterbeds are enjoying renewed popularity, because survivalists have discovered that they are good for storing large amounts of water up to 225 gallons. Kerosene lamps and wood-burning stoves are selling more than they have since the beginning of the century. And then there are the guns an advertisement in a gun magazine shows a pretty young lady holding a big semiautomatic rifle and saying, with a smile, "Make love not war, but be prepared for both."
But wait a minute. Is any of this really going to help anyone survive? Ultimately no one survives. After all, each individual must submit to the force of time; he must age and die.
Nobody is going to walk out of this world alive. The Americans, the Russians, the Afghans, the Shah, the President, the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, the postman all are going to get zapped one way or another.
And this is why the Vedic sages called the earth Martyaloka, the planet of death. In the West St. Augustine wrote that "our whole life is nothing but a race towards death." Some of us may survive for a few years, but in the end we cannot avoid the common fate, which is truly "as sure as death and taxes."
And what will happen to us as a result of death? We will have to give up everything home, family, wealth, bank balance, gold, guns, dehydrated food cache, and whatever else we happen to be attached to. As the Supreme Lord says in Bhagavad-gita, mrtyuh sarva-haras caham "I am all-devouring death." In the end He takes back everything including our very body.
This is a simple observation, but most people prefer to avoid it. Many thousands of years ago, in India, a great saint asked a king, "What is the most amazing thing in the world'?" The king replied, "The most amazing thing is this: at every moment hundreds and thousands of living entities meet death, but a foolish living being nonetheless thinks Himself deathless and does not prepare for the inevitable." Instead, everyone becomes a survivalist; everyone makes elaborate plans and arrangements to live forever.
Admittedly, the situation in the Mideast and in Southwest Asia is perilous. The fifty-three Americans held captive . . . the Soviets overrunning Afghanistan . . . OPEC pushing the world economy toward collapse. No wonder the price of gold has been going up and down like a yo-yo. The stakes are high. Millions are afraid for their survival, both financial and physical.
But don't forget even if the world were a garden of peace and everybody had tons of gold and perfect happiness and satisfaction, everybody would still be in danger of death at every moment. In the end nobody would survive.
Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: an intelligent person realizes that no matter how pleasant or unpleasant his environment may be, he cannot avoid miseries such as old age, disease, and death.
So a real survivalist must deal with this basic question how to overcome death. At first glance this appears impossible. Death seems compulsory. But it isn't. It can be overcome not with automatic weapons, stashes of gold, dehydrated food, four-wheel-drive vehicles, or CB radios, but with spiritual knowledge.
In that sense, the best survival manual in the world is the Bhagavad-gita. Nobody should be without a copy. After all, if people are going to invest so much time, money, and energy in preparing for a nuclear war or financial disaster that may or may not happen, then why not spend some time preparing for the disaster that is 100% certain to strike everyone? For that, Bhagavad-gita is essential.
The Gita tells us that the first step to surviving death is to understand the real nature of the self. Without this knowledge one is sure to panic in the clutch. The key concept to remember is that your self is different from your body. The self is permanent; the body is temporary. Armed with this understanding, you are equipped to pass the ultimate test. According to Lord Krsna, the self "is not slain when the body is slain." The Lord further explains, "Only the material body of the indestructible living entity is subject to destruction."
How can this be? Actually the self is seated in the body like a driver on a machine. Here's an example just imagine that we do finally get into a war. You're with an armored column that has just smashed through the enemy's front lines, and you are dashing toward his border at top speed. Then WHAM. A fighter-bomber catches you with an air-to-ground missle. Your M61 tank is out of commission, totaled. But you get out, hop into an armored personnel carrier, and go on with the war. You are in a different vehicle, but you are the same person. In the same way, we change our bodies lifetime after lifetime. At a certain point in time, your body is bound to be destroyed. And then you'll enter another body, and another, and another. Needless to say, this constant changing of bodies is not the ideal condition. Dying and being reborn thousands of times is not exactly fun.
At this point we have to reevaluate our concept of death it isn't just a one-shot thing. We can take some consolation in the fact that the self never really perishes. Yet unless we can somehow get out of the cycle of repeated birth and death, we must still suffer.
The natural position of the self is to exist in the spiritual world, which is described in the Vedas as being sac-cid-ananda. Sat means eternal, cit means full of knowledge, and ananda means full of ever-increasing pleasure. Such is the nature of the spiritual world, where there exist countless spiritual and very beautiful personalities.
And among all these personalities, one is Supreme God. In Sanskrit, the language of the sacred books of India, He is called Krsna. In Krsna's world there is no struggle for survival. Life goes on naturally, from moment to moment, always very mellow, forever. The Vedas call the spiritual world Vaikuntha, which means "free from anxiety." That is where we've all come from.
Each of us is like a spiritual spark emanating from the fire of the Absolute Truth. But when a spark falls away from the central fire, it loses its fiery glow. In the same way, when some of the tiny spiritual beings leave the supreme spiritual being, they lose their eternal nature and take on different material bodies, one after another, in the material world.
But actually, our sufferings in this world are like the suffering one experiences in a dream. Imagine you are dreaming that you are an explorer walking through a tropical forest. There are orchids in the trees. Parrots are flying here and there. You hear the sound of a waterfall. The air is warm and fragrant with the perfume of exotic flowers. Then suddenly you hear a roar, and you see the tiger leaping upon you with claws extended, glaring yellow eyes, and fearsome fangs. But if you can see yourself being attacked by the tiger, logically it can't really be you that's in trouble even in the middle of sleep your intellect is struggling to tell you that. But no, the dream is too strong, and you experience a terror that's all too real, until you wake up and realize who you really are. Then both the terror and the dream disappear.
In the same way, we are now asleep to our real, spiritual identity. We are all originally eternal servants of the Supreme Lord, residents of the kingdom of God, but we are now sleeping and dreaming in the material world. We are identifying with a dreamlike body. We are struggling to survive amid many fearful situations. We are trying to counteract these situations in many ways, but in the Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn, "When we have a troublesome dream, we cannot relieve it with a troublesome hallucination. One can counteract a dream only by awaking." Similarly, our material existence is due to ignorance and illusion. Unless we awaken to spiritual consciousness, we cannot be relieved of such dreams. For the ultimate solution to all problems, we must awaken to spiritual consciousness.
And how do we awaken? The best process for awakening a sleeping person is sound vibration. So in this age the Vedas recommend that in order to awaken from the sleeping condition of material life, which is very fearful, one should chant the transcendental sound vibration of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. Krsna Krsna. Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama. Hare Hare. This chanting awakens the self to its natural condition of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
But even though we can free ourselves from all kinds of fear and danger by studying the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita and chanting the Lord's names, many are reluctant to try it. Instead, they continue to make plans for a permanent settlement in an impermanent world. Actually, their survival mania is less a solution to than a symptom of the collapse of human civilization. A mentality dominated by the drive for bodily survival at all costs is little better than an animal's.
According to the sages of ancient India, man shares four activities with the animals eating, sleeping, mating, and fearing. And of these drives, fear is the strongest. An animal eats, sleeps, and mates in a climate of fear. If you approach an animal while it is eating, sleeping, or mating, it becomes very fearful and prepares to defend itself or run. So the human beings who are spending so much time and energy preparing for physical survival should not feel very proud after all, even an animal will fight for its food, for its lair, for its mate and offspring. A human being who is concerned only with such matters is no better than an animal. He may indeed survive for some time, but his efforts will ultimately be wasted. In his next life he will probably wind up being born as an animal.
Human life is meant for more than surviving in order to eat, sleep, and have sex. It is meant for solving the greatest problem of human existence how to become free of death. That is real survival.