Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

Where's Your Heart

The Beef Industry Council, seeing the waning popularity of meat-eating in America, has launched a $30 million ad campaign to beef up sales. The Council's ad men recruited Cybill Shepherd, a well-known actress with a seductive girl-next-door look, to bring us the good news about the joy of eating a burger "something so hot and juicy and so utterly simple you can eat it with your hands."

The ad never mentions the links between meat-eating and heart disease, stroke, and cancer; or medical findings that reveal how a meat diet adversely affects chemical brain functions; or, of course, the bad karma incurred because of animal slaughter and meat consumption.

Rather, Cybill's enticing message ends on this unsettling note: "I know some people who don't eat burgers. But I'm not sure I trust them."

In an interview with Family Circle magazine, however, Cybill disclosed her real position: she herself stays away from red meat.

Since hamburgers contain red meat, Cybill no doubt caused her erstwhile employers some consternation. Obviously she wasn't convinced of the message she delivered in the ad.

But her employers must be firm believers in meat-eating fanatics practically. Because they're the ones laying out thirty million for their ad campaign, and they're the ones saying you should be leery of people who don't eat burgers.

Well, Mr. Cattle Rancher, it's a free country if you don't happen to be a steer, that is so I guess you're entitled to your opinion. By the same token I'd like to respond to you ad:

Really? You don't trust people who are content to live without encroaching on the well-being of other creatures? You don't trust people who are sensitive enough to feel for the plight of animals living on Auschwitz-type factory farms? You don't trust people who, when they hear the facts about meat-eating being a major cause of certain diseases and totally unnecessary for a balanced diet, are clear-headed and kindhearted enough to cut it out from their diet? You don't trust people who want to live in harmony with God's creatures? Don't you feel there's something admirable, something noble, something to be encouraged in such people?

If, as you imply, I can't trust such people, then why should I trust you? You want me to ask, "Where's the beef?" But I ask you, "Where's your heart?"

Death At The Polls

by Paramatma dasa

One point we often make in Back to Godhead is that death is everyone's worst fear. According to the results of one poll, we appear to be wrong.

At the library the other day I came across The Book of Lists. Browsing through, I read the entry under "The 14 Worst Human Fears." Someone had asked three thousand Americans, "What are you must afraid of?"

Many name more that one fear, but death was neither first, second, nor third on the list. Forty-one percent said "speaking before a group"; thirty-two percent, "heights"; twenty-two percent, "insects and bugs," financial problems," "deep water"; nineteen percent, "sickness," "death."

And, in descending order: flying, loneliness, dogs, riding in or driving a car, darkness, elevators, and escalators.

There it was in black and white scientific proof that not only was death not the most feared of all, it only ranked a paltry fourth place.

This bit of news caused me some uneasiness. I felt the poll challenged the validity of our claim that death is the most feared. And, of course, nobody likes to find out he's been wrong about something he's believed with complete conviction. I wondered if we could dare continue touting death as number one.

I still believed our stance was correct, but how could I justify it in light of this new evidence?

I also know we were not about to change our editorial slant in Back to Godhead and start running "How to" pieces on overcoming fear of speaking before a group. Toastmaster International was already filling that need. And besides, people don't join the Hare Krsna movement for overcoming fear of public speaking.

Still pondering the poll, I returned to the temple for lunch. I mentioned the poll to some of the devotees.

"I don't see this as a proof that we're wrong," one devotee said. "I see it more as a confirmation of our philosophy."

"How's that?" I asked.

"Well, I think it confirms the section in the Mahabharata where Yamaraja asked Yudhisthira a series of questions: What is the most valuable possession? What is good fortune? and so on. You remember that part?"

"Yeah… sort of."

"You remember the one where Yamaraja asked, 'What is the most amazing thing of all?' "

"That's the only one I remember where Yudhisthira replied, 'Every day death takes lives beyond counting, yet those who live don't think about their own inevitable death."

"Right, so if a poll shows that people fear speaking to a group more than they fear death, that only confirms Yudhisthira's point: people don't think about their inevitable death. That's why they're more scared of other things.

"Actually," he added, "the poll was useful. Now you know that nineteen percent of the population consider death their worst fear. Those people, at least, are more likely to appreciate the philosophy of Krsna consciousness."

"That's a good point," I said.

"One thing about these other fears." another devotee said, "is that you can make adjustments to avoid the fearful situations. If you're that scared of public speaking, you could probably avoid it catch a cold, change professions, or something. Death is another story altogether. Who can avoid it?"

"Yes," another devotee said, "in my mind there's no comparison between fear of death and fear of public speaking. Yet you say only nineteen percent feared death the most. Just as Yudhisthira said that's really amazing!"

Mastering The Fundamentalists

by Mathuresa dasa

People of uncommon ability often place an uncommon emphasis on fundamentals: a master cook may insist on careful measurement of quality ingredients; a prima ballerina may daily practice the simplest steps. Since dedication to fundamentals is an element of excellence, we could call those who excel in any field "fundamentalists."

Mastering The Fundamentalists

We could but we wouldn't because the news media most often use the word fundamentalist to denote a religious fanatic, a zealot eager to force his belief on you. Two hundred U.S. Marines die in a Beruit bomb blast; tourists are gunned down in the Rome airport; Sunday-morning TV viewers lose millions in an evangelical swindle and according to news reports the perpetrators in each case are "fundamentalists."

It's too bad that religious fundamentalism has a bad name, because in religion as in cooking or ballet a command of fundamentals should foster a universally laudable excellence. Since religious fundamentalism instead fosters a universally unlaudable fanaticism, we should conclude that today's fundamentalists haven't truly grasped their fundamentals.

According to the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, there are in every religion first-, second-, and third-class devotees of God, and fundamentalism in its fanatic feature is the domain of the third-class, or neophyte, devotees, who tend to be in the majority. Neophytes devoutly worship God in the church, mosque, or temple, strictly practicing the appropriate rituals and following the various moral codes set down in their scriptures. Neophytes are intolerant of even superficial differences in methods of worship, and they see members of other religions as outsiders destined for hell.

Though second-class devotees may be equally strict in practicing the rituals of their religion, they have through such strict practice and through careful study of scripture achieved a broader philosophical understanding of religion's purpose. In particular, the second-class devotee worships God not only in the church, mosque, or temple but in the heart of every living creature as well. As the neophyte respects his place of worship because it is "God's house," the second-class devotee sees every living body as a residence both for an eternal, individual soul and for the Supersoul, or God.

Thus one of his "rituals" the second-class devotee practices offering respect to all living creatures, not just to his place of worship or to the members of his own denomination. For practical reasons the second-class devotee may avoid both atheists and those who, though nominally theistic, have a narrow, fanatic, sectarian, neophyte world view. But in principle, at least, the second-class devotee sees everyone equally.

On the first-class platform, the devotee does not even distinguish between the atheists and the pious or between an ignorant fanatic and a more advanced devotee. Although he can clearly see material distinctions, because of his fully mature spiritual vision he considers these distinctions superficial. By his strong conviction based on perfect realization, the first-class devotee can teach the universal spiritual principle of offering respect to the soul and the Supersoul, and thus he does not emphasize temporary differences.

The first-class devotee is therefore the genuinely laudable religious fundamentalist, since he has fully understood that all living entities, as eternal spiritual parts of God, are fundamentally equal. The second-class devotee too is a fundamentalist, though not fully mature. It is only the neophyte whose so-called fundamentalism is distasteful for its narrow sectarianism.

So whatever our denomination may be, we can reduce the ill effects of sectarian fundamentalism by following the Bhagavad-gita's instruction that we serve and follow first-class devotees, whatever their denomination may be.