PROBLEMS OF MODERN CIVILIZATION
“Pray for me” is a common request we get to hear from many people here in Singapore, especially when they are in some trouble. Everyone, not only in Singapore but all over the world, constantly feels the pangs of material miseries. Despite massive advancement in materialistic civilization in modern times, the miserable conditions have all but diminished. Much to the contrary they have multiplied manifold in the shape of physical and mental health problems, large-scale damage to the environmental equilibrium, wars, terrorism, accidents, man-made and even natural disasters to name a few.
All of that coupled with an education system that is entirely lacking in spiritual values has thrown the human civilization into a hopeless and helpless situation. Ironically, despite all the problematic conditions of living here, no one desires to leave this material world due to the insurmountable illusory potency of the almighty God. They would rather compromise with the miserable conditions and live here for as long as they can than to get out of here entirely. But in course of time, even that attempt is defeated as death comes and forcibly drags us out of the scene and plants us somewhere else to continue the vicious cycle again.
THE IMAGINED CONTRACT OF REDEMPTION
Those who are a little more pious than the others have slight faith that prayer to God is the answer but they do not have firm conviction in this regard and are therefore lazy to perform any prayers by themselves nor do they have the know-how of approaching God in the first place. So they attempt to outsource this prayer business to some clergyman hoping that by the outsourced prayers, one’s sinful reactions become nullified and the sufferings that result thereof are removed and they can continue a comfortable life in this material world.
In this way, in the eye of the common man, the whole idea of religion has come to be known as a path to facilitate our material enjoyment. So people usually ‘dump’ their sins either onto some bābā or whosoever claims he is either an agent of God or God Himself and keep continuing their sinful lives. They think that they have signed a contract of redemption with these saintly people or God and are hence, safe. However, this is hardly the way it actually works. This is also the fundamental reason why so many fake gurus are flourishing nowadays. It is the people who want to cheat themselves, and so the cheater gurus are there ready to exploit them.
Notwithstanding, there is some truth in the idea that the agents or messengers or sons of God do take up a contract of redemption of the fallen suffering souls of this world. What redemption is and what exactly are the terms and conditions of that contract of redemption shall be spelt out herein.
ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
Fortunately, the world is not without an answer to this difficult question. Lord Kṛṣṇa, who appeared to worldly vision about 5,000 years ago, spoke in the famous Bhagavad-gītā [15.7] as follows: mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ — “The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts.”
Now, what is the relationship between a part and the Whole? A crude analogy can be drawn to better elucidate this point. A finger is a part and parcel of the entire body. It’s natural position is to cooperate with or serve the interest of the entire body, especially to feed the stomach. The finger has to place foodstuff into the mouth and eventually into the stomach. In that service, the well being of the finger is also automatically taken care of and it is in a healthy condition. But, if for some reason the finger cannot cooperate and is not usable, it is sometimes even amputated.
Similarly, we being parts and parcels of the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, our natural position is to serve Him or to cooperate with His interest. In that service, our well being is automatically taken care of. Attention here is also requested to the word sanātanaḥ, meaning eternal. We are His servants eternally, irrespective of our position whether in the spiritual or material worlds. Lord Caitanya, who is an incarnation of Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in medieval India, also taught us that jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya — kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’ — “It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa.” [Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, 20.108]
But when we decide to give up that position of servitude to Kṛṣṇa and think of becoming an independent master, we are amputated from the kingdom of God and accommodated in this limited space of the material world wherein repeated occurrences of birth, death, old age and disease along with the threefold sources of miseries, namely disturbances caused by one’s own mind and body, by other living entities and by the supernatural powers such as natural disasters and wars, etc. continuously torment the souls that are rebellious towards the Supreme Lord. It is exactly like a prison house which accommodates the outlaws.
GOD’S PLAN FOR OUR REDEMPTION
Nevertheless, out of His unbounded compassion for the fallen souls, the Supreme Lord does not leave us here to rot eternally. He sets up a system whereby the rebellious attitude of the fallen soul can be corrected and he can be reinstated into the kingdom of God to live in God’s company for eternity. This system is what is called religion. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam [6.3.19] defines religion as dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaṁ — “The principles of dharma, or religion, are the direct orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
The purpose of the Vedas is to establish such principles under the order of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord directly orders, at the end of the Bhagavad-gītā, that the highest principle of religion is to surrender unto Him only, and nothing more. The Vedic principles push one towards complete surrender unto Him; and whenever such principles are disturbed by the demoniac, the Lord appears to protect His obedient followers, curb the demoniac elements and reestablish the principles of religion not only for that particular time but for the future of mankind as well by delineating His instructions in scriptures like the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and many others.
THE AGENTS OF GOD
In order to further secure His mission, He sends His confidential servants into this world and empowers them to teach the conditioned souls the practical application of the scriptural principles. Such empowered servants or agents of God love Him from the core of their hearts and therefore automatically live in strict obedience to His orders and out of great compassion for the suffering fallen souls, set out to educate them about the transcendental knowledge of the relationship between the part-and-parcel living entity and the Supreme Whole God, the process of devotional service by which one can go back to Him and knowledge of the kingdom of God.
These confidential servants are called ācāryas because they teach by example as well as precept. Such ācāryas do not take upon themselves the sins of others for each is accountable for his own actions. What they do is teach the suffering souls the practical method to surrender unto the Lord according to the time and circumstance. This process in itself saves one from infinite sinful reactions, uproots the tendency to commit further sinful actions and gives one the highest fruit — love of God, which is the sole criterion to enter into the kingdom of God. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam [10.2.31] states:
svayaṁ samuttīrya sudustaraṁ dyuman
bhavārṇavaṁ bhīmam adabhra-sauhṛdāḥ
bhavat-padāmbhoruha-nāvam atra te
nidhāya yātāḥ sad-anugraho bhavān
“O Lord, who resemble the shining sun, You are always ready to fulfill the desire of Your devotee. When ācāryas completely take shelter under Your lotus feet in order to cross the fierce ocean of nescience, they leave behind on earth the method by which they cross, and because You are very merciful to Your other devotees, You accept this method to help them.”
THE REAL CONTRACT — TERMS & CONDITIONS
So we should stick to the method given by the ācārya, or the bona fide spiritual master. Then we shall be redeemed from this material world. Just by calling him as spiritual master but not following any strictures does not bear any fruit. We will be cheating ourselves that way and the spiritual master is no more obliged to redeem us. The contract is deemed broken. These are the terms and conditions of the contract of redemption.
A nice example in this connection is a flock of birds. When we look at a flock of birds in the sky, we see that there is one leader bird who leads the way and the rest of them following that leader bird. Although the leader bird is leading the way, the follower birds have to flap their wings and follow the leader bird. They cannot say, “Oh, the leader is leading, so I don’t have to do anything.” If they think like that and stop flapping the wings, they will fall down and die.
So we have to first of all get the right guru or ācārya coming in the authorized disciplic succession and then follow his instructions without deviation. We cannot be complacent in this matter and imagine that we can outsource this business to someone.
THE PRACTICAL SOLUTION
So what are the rules and regulations to be followed? The followers of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement obey the following rule and the prohibitions as prescribed by our Founder-Ācārya His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in strict accordance with scripture:
Chant at least 16 rounds (of rosary containing 108 beads) of the mahā-mantra:
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
- No meat-eating
- No illicit sex (sex outside of marriage ties)
- No gambling and
- No intoxication
In order to gain more understanding of the great science of God and to strengthen one’s faith, one must read the clear and simple books authored by Śrīla Prabhupāda. These are bona fide instructions and are an absolute mandate for those interested to solve all problems for good and go back home, back to Godhead.