THE INDIAN'S FAITH in God, the soul, karma, and reincarnation is his greatest asset, an asset inherited from Vedic culture. When a person has deep faith that his happiness and distress stem directly from his pious or sinful acts of past lives or this life, he holds himself away from sin and embraces piety.
Such a person has faith that happiness will come unsought, just like distress. So he is not preoccupied with seeking material happiness, nor does he resort to unethical acts. A person nourished by Vedic culture is patient, knowing that happiness will come of its own accord.
The Vedic culture speaks strongly against the vices of meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling. It points one instead towards virtues like mercy, austerity, purity, and truthfulness. And when vices are curbed and virtues encouraged, society flourishes.
Consider, in contrast, what happens in a materialistic culture. In America, where I live, even the government and many churches encourage or tacitly approve of meat-eating, drinking, smoking, illicit sex, and gambling. So the highly industrious Americans pay heavily, with broken families, crime, sickness, lost production, and mental and emotional distress.
Fortunately, despite heavy propaganda from industries peddling vices, many Americans are slowly learning the truth about what is good and bad about the way they live. More and more Americans are turning to vegetarianism. More and more corporations, universities, and cities are banning smoking in the workplace. More and more communities are imposing controls on industries that dump junk into the air, water, and land.
America is suffering reactions to vices, and these reactions should be a warning to those shaky about preserving India's Vedic culture. A person nourished by Vedic culture doesn't seek pleasure in the vices of meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex, or gambling. He knows that within the body he is a spirit soul, and he knows that any pleasure that comes only from the body is flimsy and temporary. He is convinced that vices will hurt him instead of helping. True and lasting happiness will come by seeing more to the needs of the soul than those of the body.
The world will be heaven if we drive away vices and promote the virtues of austerity, purity, cleanliness, and truthfulness.
Gadadhara Dasa holds an M.S. in mathematics from the University of Houston and earned a Visarada in Sanskrit in Allahabad, India. He was initiated by Tamal Krishna Goswami in 1983.