His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
the Hare Krsna movement)
His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
the Hare Krsna movement)
Spiritual Answers to Environmental Challenges
by Makhancora dasa
The spirit soul in the material world in due course of its evolution enters the human form of body, endowed with developed and fairly uncovered consciousness. Our existence in this material realm is characterized by perpetual struggle for existence through exploitation of natural resources. All the bodies work under the laws of material nature and each body is like a filter, a coloured glass, through which the light of the soul - the consciousness - shines. According to the filter, the light, originally pure and intense, appears to be of different hues and intensity. Thus each plant, mushroom or animal exhibits a particular behaviour befitting the particular specie. They don't go beyond their "program". They are not extravagant. They follow their own nature.
It's an interesting sight. Everything works perfectly in natural sequence, the whole ecosystem is like one body where everyone has his place, function and purpose. Nothing is missing and nothing is extra.
Yet we see a disruption of this divine arrangement. Especially at present times, the modern man creates a situation, where in his own struggle for existence, in his attempt to exploit natural resources for the pleasure of his senses he violates natural sequences. He extends the inputs of enjoyable stimulus even beyond the capacity of his senses to actually absorb them and the ultimate result of this unwise and blind policy is his own frustration and confusion accompanied by gradual destruction of the world not just for himself, but for everyone else as well. The material body and this world is given to the living entity as a tool for enjoyment of the senses under a false idea of material identity, but after millions of births and deaths in millions of species, after one realizes the futility of his attempts to become the supreme master and enjoyer of the world, the same material body and the same world are to be utilised as an instrument for his liberation. Human form of life can facilitate this process of liberation through proper action in the world executed on account of purified consciousness, but without the right vision and spiritual education we can't ever be truly satisfied and cease to drain our environment for flickering pleasures of our gross and subtle bodies.
EVERYTHING PERFECT AND COMPLETE
The invocation mantra of Sri Isopanisad tells us, that this world is an emanation from the Supreme Absolute Truth, God, Krsna and as such it is perfectly equipped as a complete whole. Nature exhibits this quality of wholeness and perfection at every step, beginning from particles comprising an atom, up through more complex molecular structures, DNA, the cell, to each and every organ our bodies contain; different bodies meet together to create societies which, within the natural sequence are also perfect and complete (just see the bees or ants); water circulates, beginning in the ocean where it is conserved by salt, through clouds, icebergs, streams and rivers, plants etc., through the bodies of living entities back to the rivers and ultimately the ocean in a complete and perfect arrangement. A tiny seed falls on the ground, becomes moist and sprouts. The seedling catches sunrays and within its simple-looking leaves miraculously turns light, water and carbon dioxide into sugar for itself, to fuel its body, and oxygen for others to breathe. In time the seedling grows into a tree and blossoms. A bee flies in, sits on the flower, collects the pollen and pollinates other flowers. Thus a fruit comes into being by another arrangement and the bee goes home to make sweet honey. When the new fruit ripens, it will contain more seeds and each seed has the potential to become another tree, which will produce millions of fruits and billions of new seeds... But what's the use of describing these wonderful connections other than to glorify the Lord? Anyone can see around him how nature works and examine by his intelligence to actually understand that a man in this world is simply a tiny part of a divine machinery. Everything is perfect and complete. Our food is ready, our shelter is easy to make, but because we drift away from God consciousness, we are losing this vision. The whole Western so called modern civilization is simply a manifestation of this loss of spiritual consciousness. Our so called achievements in architecture, engineering, energetic etc. are products of a hard struggle against nature with an explicit goal to surmount her (which will never be possible) instead of humble cooperation and aligning ourselves with the natural sequence which already exists and which reflects God's perfect design.
Someone may argue that if everything is so perfect and complete, why is there famine, shortage or epidemics in the world? Why are there wars, slavery and inequality? If there is God, who is supposed to be perfect and all-good, how does He allow all this? It's a common argument. In fact, God gives us perfect and complete knowledge embedded in the Vedas, on how to utilise this world, how to produce and distribute wealth and how to live in harmony with each other. The only fault is that we do not take the good advise. The formula is there, but we think we know better.
The world of plants and animals is always balanced. The reason for that is that they do not create their own schemes but they follow the natural order. Of course, they can't do otherwise, because in an animal body the free will of the soul doesn't manifest, yet the fact remains, that our progress of civilization towards "making this world better" by exercising our developed intelligence and skills is simply an illusion. Birth, death, old age and disease always accompany us, whether we remain primitive or technologically advanced, but on top of that we, especially today, create a world of artificial complexity that aggravates our anxiety instead of relieving it.
Seeing the world as incomplete due to lack of spiritual vision triggers the chain of actions and reactions which disrupt the natural order and just like the disbalance in the body leads to illness, so the disbalance in the environment caused by spiritually blind men in charge of the world leads to enhanced suffering for all living beings.
EARTH IS OUR MOTHER
Vedic literature states, that a man has seven mothers: One's own mother, who gave him birth, the nurse, the wife of the spiritual master, the wife of the king - the queen, the wife of a brahmana, the cow and the earth, which, ultimately, gives us everything. This planet is also a living being and her name is Bhumi.
When a woman gives birth to a child, as a mother she naturally provides everything the child requires for its sustenance. The mother is very kind towards her child who completely depends on her and she is also very tolerant, but sometimes she slaps the mischievous child on his face in order to correct him.
Within the earth element all other elements like water, fire, air and ether are present and thus the earth contains all the sense objects like the fragrance, taste, form, touch and sound. In the bodily concept of life, happiness is derived from the contact of senses with their objects. Thus earth is the source of all material happiness. Everything comes from the earth. The fragrance of a rose or any other flower is stored in the earth. The taste of our favourite fruit is also stored in the earth along with its shape. All the fragrances, tastes and shapes are simultaneously present within the earth and it is the particular seed which, when grown into a plant or a tree, extracts them from the earth to manifest a particular kind of flower or fruit with its fragrance, taste or shape. And what to speak of all the minerals, metals or oil that we extract for our usage, all the wood that grows from earth and the earth itself, which, when mixed with water and baked in fire, becomes a brick so we can build our houses. Planet Earth is the mother of all the beings inhabiting her and the earth element is an agent though which all living entities on this planet are provided by the Lord.
When the child grows up, he leaves the mother to walk his own path and sometimes it so happens, that their connection is lost completely. The mother no longer provides for her child, who is now independent from her. But we can never become independent from mother earth and she keeps nourishing us and provides us with all our necessities. It is impossible to cut ourselves off. Mother Earth is tolerant. She keeps us here despite so much disturbance that we create. We blow atom bombs on and underneath the surface of her face, we drill oil and dig minerals extensively, but still, she tolerates. From time to time she slaps us also, gives us a warning in a form of a hurricane, drought or flood, hailstorm or a tsunami, showing us our utter helplessness in our attempt to subjugate her. Daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya (Bg.7.14). Krsna says that His material energy is difficult to overcome. We are weak when confronted with natural forces of wind, fire or water, which repeatedly exhibit their unfathomable strength, and we are also weak when confronted with the force of time that wears down everything we create here, and which takes away even our own bodies. "Time I am" Krsna claims. Only those who surrender unto His lotus feet are able to safely make their way in this world and in the next.
Mother Earth is very liberal and generous, but still, there is a condition to our well being here. In Bhagavad-gita the Lord says, that our necessities are provided as a result of sacrifice: "All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties." (Bg 3.14) Sacrifice is performed by pious people, but those who are impious do not perform sacrifices. They simply want to enjoy without giving anything back, either to Krsna, or to the demigods or their fellow living beings. As the time progresses, the piety of people in general decreases, less and less sacrifice is performed and as a result of that, natural resources are being slowly withdrawn from us. There are descriptions in the scriptures of how the earth was giving when the world was ruled by saintly kings who led people to life of piety: "During the reign of Maharaja Yudhisthira, the clouds showered all the water that people needed, and the earth produced all the necessities of man in profusion. Due to its fatty milk bag and cheerful attitude, the cow used to moisten the grazing ground with milk. (SB 1.10.4). "O Gadadhara [Krsna], our kingdom is now being marked by the impressions of Your feet, and therefore it appears beautiful. But when You leave, it will no longer be so. All these cities and villages are flourishing in all respects because the herbs and grains are in abundance, the trees are full of fruits, the rivers are flowing, the hills are full of minerals and the oceans full of wealth. And this is all due to Your glancing over them." (SB 1.8.39-40)
In Bhagavad-gita the formula for maintaining man's natural prosperity is given: "In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Visnu, and blessed them by saying, "Be thou happy by this yajna [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you all desirable things. The demigods, being pleased by sacrifices, will also please you, and thus, by mutual cooperation, there will reign general prosperity for all. Being in charge of the various supplies, the demigods satisfied by the performance of yajna [sacrifice], award men with all the necessities of life. Therefore, he who enjoys such gifts without offering them to the demigods in return is certainly a thief." (Bg.3.10-12)
We have to reciprocate. If one person in a relationship simply takes and doesn't give anything back, then that relationship is disbalanced and ultimately none of them will be happy. In the same way, we should reciprocate with Mother Earth by caring for her, enjoying only what is allotted to us and not more and ultimately by performing sacrifice, which in this age is performed by the simple chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsan, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Those who chant this maha-mantra and hear the sublime philosophy of Bhagavad-gita will realize their spiritual satisfaction and cease to unduly exploit her resources for some fake pleasure of the body, which can never satisfy the self.
IDEAL HUMAN SETTLEMENTS
When Lord Krsna was present on this planet 5000 years ago, by His internal spiritual potency He displayed the spiritual world within the realm of matter which we now inhabit. In Vrndavana the Lord enjoyed His forest wanderings on the banks of crystal-clear river Yamuna, tending to His cows, accompanied by His friends, the cowherd-boys. The inhabitants of Vrndavana were rich by producing grains, vegetables, fruits, by protecting the cows and receiving from them the real wealth in form of milk, butter, ghi and yoghurt. Vrndavana is a village in forest, everything there is simple and joyful. And this is God, Krsna, in His original form, performing His supremely blissful and intimate pastimes - a simple cowherd boy with a flute, hugging a calf.
In Mathura or in Dvaraka He shows an ideal of life in the city, the essential infrastructure and how persons deal with each other with high etiquettes...
"The city of Dvarakapuri was filled with the opulences of all seasons. There were hermitages, orchards, flower gardens, parks and reservoirs of water breeding lotus flowers all over." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.12)
Srila Prabhupda elaborates: "Perfection of human civilization is made possible by utilizing the gifts of nature in their own way. As we find herewith in the description of its opulence, Dvaraka was surrounded by flower gardens and fruit orchards along with reservoirs of water and growing lotuses. There is no mention of mills and factories supported by slaughterhouses, which are the necessary paraphernalia of the modern metropolis. The propensity to utilize nature's own gifts is still there, even in the heart of modern civilized man. The leaders of modern civilization select their own residential quarters in a place where there are such naturally beautiful gardens and reservoirs of water, but they leave the common men to reside in congested areas without parks and gardens. Herein of course we find a different description of the city of Dvaraka. It is understood that the whole dhama, or residential quarter, was surrounded by such gardens and parks with reservoirs of water where lotuses grew. It is understood that all the people depended on nature's gifts of fruits and flowers without industrial enterprises promoting filthy huts and slums for residential quarters. Advancement of civilization is estimated not on the growth of mills and factories to deteriorate the finer instincts of the human being, but on developing the potent spiritual instincts of human beings and giving them a chance to go back to Godhead. Development of factories and mills is called ugra-karma, or pungent activities, and such activities deteriorate the finer sentiments of the human being and thus turn society into a dungeon of demons.
We find herein the mention of pious trees which produce seasonal flowers and fruits. The impious trees are useless jungles only, and they can only be used to supply fuels. In the modern civilization such impious trees are planted on the sides of roads. Human energy should be properly utilized in developing the finer senses for spiritual understanding, in which lies the solution of life. Fruits, flowers, beautiful gardens, parks and reservoirs of water with ducks and swans playing in the midst of lotus flowers, and cows giving sufficient milk and butter are essential for developing the finer tissues of the human body. As against this, the dungeons of mines, factories and workshops develop demoniac propensities in the working class. The vested interests flourish at the cost of the working class, and consequently there are severe clashes between them in so many ways. The description of Dvaraka-dhama is the ideal of human civilization."
SIMPLE LIVING, HIGH THINKING
The environmental disaster of today has many causes and these are continuously discussed from all angles. Yet, the root cause is one - lack of spiritual understanding. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the great acarya in our disciplic succession said that there is no scarcity in this world except that people lack Krsna consciousness - knowledge of and loving devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna.
We are spirit souls, not these bodies. We all look for pleasure and that is natural, because the soul is made of pleasure. We are sat-cit-ananda-vigraha - eternal individuals full of knowledge and bliss. Yet, in our present conditional existence, this eternal, fully cognisant and ecstatic nature is covered by matter which is of temporary forms, unconscious and obscuring the soul's pleasure just like a cloth wrapped around the tongue obscures the taste of a lollipop. Through the agency of false ego we identify with our temporary, insentient and miserable bodily covering and mistake our eternal pleasure of the self with contact of the senses with their objects. The eyes long for beautiful forms, ears long for beautiful sounds, nose longs for something nice to smell, tongue longs for a taste it likes and our skin longs for touching something pleasurable. Above that, the mind is also considered to be one of the senses and has objects of pleasure in form of thoughts or emotions. If we go to the root, our civilization, our education, our careers, our advanced technology, science, art or social interaction, whether actual or virtual is simply a complicated attempt to allow the senses to contact their objects.
An actually advanced human being should understand, by cultivation of knowledge from a proper source, that he is not the body, and that the pleasure of senses which cover his true spiritual self is not his pleasure. The proof is, that if we keep ourselves exposed to one particular type of pleasurable object, the same object which caused us pleasure in the beginning of our exposure will become distasteful and even disturbing in due course of time. Whether it's food, music, visual art or even the highest pleasure of sex, if we repeatedly expose ourselves to those sense objects, our senses reach a saturation point where the pleasure is gone and where pleasure turns into disgust and even physical sickness.
The real pleasure is of the soul and that pleasure is obtainable by contacting the reservoir of all pleasure, God, Krsna. For contacting Krsna there is no need of a sophisticated babylon-like civilization with all its gadgets. On the other hand, since they already exist, devotees are capable of utilizing them for the same purpose - to facilitate devotional service. Nothing is denied or excluded, the root idea is how to utilize Krsna's energy in any shape in His devotional service. Still, ultimately there is no need of technological revolutions to enhance our ability to contact God, since the relationship of the living entity with Krsna is purely on spiritual platform.
The speaker of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Sukadeva Goswami, describes that an advanced transcendentalist doesn't need to struggle for his bare necessities. Everything is already provided for one who is self-satisfied:
"For this reason the enlightened person should endeavor only for the minimum necessities of life while in the world of names. He should be intelligently fixed and never endeavor for unwanted things, being competent to perceive practically that all such endeavors are merely hard labor for nothing. When there are ample earthly flats to lie on, what is the necessity of cots and beds? When one can use his own arms, what is the necessity of a pillow? When one can use the palms of his hands, what is the necessity of varieties of utensils? When there is ample covering, or the skins of trees, what is the necessity of clothing? Are there no torn clothes lying on the common road? Do the trees, which exist for maintaining others, no longer give alms in charity? Do the rivers, being dried up, no longer supply water to the thirsty? Are the caves of the mountains now closed, or, above all, does the Almighty Lord not protect the fully surrendered souls? Why then do the learned sages go to flatter those who are intoxicated by hard-earned wealth? Thus being fixed, one must render service unto the Supersoul situated in one's own heart by His omnipotency. Because He is the Almighty Personality of Godhead, eternal and unlimited, He is the ultimate goal of life, and by worshiping Him one can end the cause of the conditioned state of existence." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.2.3-6)
This is the life of complete freedom and independence. In such life one depends on Krsna and nature, but he is independent from the machinery of earning, spending, securing, gaining, loosing, planning, calculating etc. Even Lord Jesus Christ says:
"You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day."
Thus one who is with God has no need to overly excert himself in order to acquire his necessities of life, as they are already given to him, just as they are given to an ant, to an elephant, to a bird of the air or to a blade of grass, the lilie of the field. So far the pleasure, the ananda after which we all look here is concerned, that constantly flows through his purified heart and does not depend on any external cause, because no material contamination hampers the stream of bliss coming from Krsna, God, the fountainhead of all pleasure.
SEEING EVERYONE EQUALLY
This state of self-satisfaction on a spiritual level is called brahma-bhuta. Lord Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita: "Being purified by his intelligence, and controlling the mind with determination, giving up the objects of sense gratification, without any attachment or hatred, one who lives in a secluded place, who eats little, who controls the body, mind and the power of speaking, and who is always in trance and detached; who is without false ego, false strength, false pride, lust, anger and who does not accept material things — such a person freed from the claims to proprietorship is certainly elevated to the position of self-realization and thus becomes peaceful. One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments nor desires to have anything. He is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he achieves pure devotional service unto Me." (Bg.18.53-54)
But the mind of a modern man is uncontrolled and constantly bombarded with teasers of sense gratification. Possession of sense objects is considered to be success of life and person who is spiritually dead is ready to acquire such objects without consideration of others well-being or suffering. Contemplation of sense objects produces attachment, from attachment lust is produced and when lust is not satisfied, anger and hatred arises. Unsatisfied and lusty we fight each other over a dry bone, over an already chewed and sucked out sugar-cane stick which doesn't give any juice anymore. Chewing the chewed refuse of material sense pleasure the modern man lives in congested cities, overeats with garbage so called food produced from genetically modified crops (which are the ultimate display of man's "I am God" illusion), fills his mind up with nonsensical philosophies and then ventilates them in return in endless stream of nonsensical talks. Proud, lusty, angry and hoarding material possessions, the modern man is far away from spiritual realization and inner peace. He's a killer. He kills himself by polluting his body and mind and letting the chance for spiritual enlightenment available in human form to pass by unnoticed and he kills others, either for food or for his illusory supremacy in the dog-eat-dog rat-race.. Animals are killed by him body-wise, but he also kills his fellow human beings socially, economically or emotionally, seeing himself as the centre of the universe, the supreme controller and the supreme enjoyer.
With this kind of twisted vision one can never be a blessing for his surroundings, neither can he benefit himself. This is the mentality of exploiters, ruthless, beastlike personalities also known as demons.
"Those who are born with demoniac qualities exhibit pride, arrogance, false prestige, anger, harshness, and ignorance, O son of Prtha. ... Those of demoniac quality do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them. They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation or God in control. It is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust. Following such conclusions, the demoniac people, who are lost to themselves and devoid of intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. The demoniac, taking shelter of insatiable lust, pride and false prestige, and being thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent. Their belief is that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus, there is no end to their anxiety up until the last point of death. Being bound by a network of innumerable desires, always absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification. The demoniac person thinks: "So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemy will also be killed. I am the lord of everything, I am the enjoyer, I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice." In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance. Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, one becomes too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and falls down into the dirt of hell."
If we, as humankind, actually want to avoid our seemingly inevitable destruction, towards which we are more or less apparently heading, we have to start cultivating higher, godly vision based on the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, because only a person who understands his self as situated beyond the body and his pleasure as existing beyond the material senses can see others as equal with him - in spiritual quality. As spirit souls, a blade of grass and myself are one. A learned brahmana or a fool, a dog or the dog eater, an elephant or a cow - there is a soul non-different from myself in each and every body. Everyone feels pain and pleasure, everyone has his purpose to fulfil and I have no right to interfere with other's life to satisfy my longings. Sri Isopanisad states: "Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and must not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong."
The basic principles of illusion is described by two simple words: "aham" and "mama" - "I" and "mine". "I" refers to the false ego through which we identify with our bodies as "black, white, ugly, beautiful, tall, small, christian, muslim, man, woman, dog", etc. "Mine" refers to the false notion of proprietorship of anything within this world. We take birth empty handed and completely helpless and we die in the same manner. Yet, in-between these two points we develop and cultivate the false idea of "I" and "mine".
"Consequently all living entities, beginning from Brahma, the highest demigod, down to the lowest ant, have the right to use natural resources. Narada Muni points out that we can use these resources as much as we require, but if we take more than required, we become thieves. Unfortunately everyone is trying to conquer and predominate. Countries race to the moon in order to put up their flags and claim that planet. When Europeans came to America, they put up their flag and claimed it for their nation. This flag planting and flag waving is all due to ignorance. We do not stop to think where we are putting our flag. It is not our property, but God's. Knowing this is knowledge, and thinking that it is my property is ignorance. We have the right to utilize but not to claim or hoard.
If we throw a bag of grain into the street, pigeons may come and eat four or five small grains and then go away. They will not take more than they can eat, and having eaten they go freely on their way. But if we were to put many bags of flour on the sidewalk and invite people to come and get them, one man would take ten or twenty bags and another would take fifteen or thirty bags and so on. But those who do not have the means to carry so much away will not be able to take more than a bag or two. Thus the distribution will be uneven. This is called advancement of civilization; we are even lacking in the knowledge which the pigeons, dogs and cats have. Everything belongs to the Supreme Lord, and we can accept whatever we need, but not more. That is knowledge. By the Lord's arrangement the world is so made that there is no scarcity of anything. Everything is sufficient, provided that we know how to distribute it. However, the deplorable condition today is that one is taking more than he needs while another is starving. Consequently the starving masses are revolting and asking, "Why should we starve?" But their methods are imperfect. The perfection of spiritual communism is found in the knowledge that everything belongs to God. By knowing the science of Krsna, we can easily cross over the ignorance of false proprietorship. (Raja-vidya ch7)
We can only save ourselves by spiritual knowledge. Ignorance of the self is the cause of gradual, but overall destruction.
REAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
GDP - the higher, the better. But at what cost? In chase for meaningless numbers we're cutting the branch we sit on. Economic development is the means of sense gratification. I've heard a good joke: "Nothing is too expensive. You just earn too little." No money, no honey. And still, the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries often suffer depression and feelings of emptiness and loss of meaning. Excessive economic prosperity as conceived of today also entails unavoidable damage to the environment. The cunning fact of our time is that the grievous side effects of enjoying economic prosperity by one group of people is hidden from their sight, because the items of their pleasure and resources necessary for their production come from a place at the other side of the globe, somewhere in the "third world" as they arrogantly named it. For example Africa - resource-wise practically the richest continent is witnessing some of the worst conditions of life for its people. We arranged like that, not God. Corrupt puppet governments are kept in power by western (and eastern) money and weaponry, countries are kept in perpetual state of chaos through civil wars and private global companies drain the land with unimaginable profits. Coffee, tobacco or rubber trees are grown instead of grains. Children work in mines practically for free to get precious metals for our smartphones. If at least we would utilize those smartphones properly... Although it is indeed a wonderful technology and in combination with the internet it allows people of economically developed countries in general to access the incredibly vast ocean of information for upliftment of consciousness and education (of all kinds), the general mass of people in the West, most visibly the youth, is getting dumber, more distracted and shallow, utilizing this advanced technology to take pictures of their meals (halves of which will end up in dustbins) or their cats or naked bodies or to play "farmville" or some nonsense like that instead of actually learn how to do it and go to work the land and grow actual food... And so on.
The real purpose of economic development should be to secure our material needs, so a man doesn't have to struggle for his necessities, but can save time for spiritual life. Of course, not everyone can live like Sukadeva Goswami recommends, not to even have a bowl to put his food or water into. Especially in this age it is hardly possible for anyone to surrender to such an extent, but it also isn't necessary. However, this idea of accepting only the necessary for a peaceful life and concentrating on higher consciousness is universally applicable. If we are not satisfied with the level of economy we already have in the West and push for more "growth", someone else somewhere else has to get less of the "cake". As it is said, the problem is not how to feed the poor, but how to feed the rich, the greedy. Greed is another form of lust and lust develops by meditating on the objects of material sense pleasure. Our present Western civilization is nothing but a futile attempt to satisfy this lust. It is like trying to extinguish a blazing fire by pouring gasoline on it. It just won't work. It will get worse. It will explode. Srila Prabhupada gives the actual formula for economic development in his Bhagavatam purports:
"Human prosperity flourishes by natural gifts and not by gigantic industrial enterprises. The gigantic industrial enterprises are products of a godless civilization, and they cause the destruction of the noble aims of human life. The more we go on increasing such troublesome industries to squeeze out the vital energy of the human being, the more there will be unrest and dissatisfaction of the people in general, although a few only can live lavishly by exploitation. The natural gifts such as grains and vegetables, fruits, rivers, the hills of jewels and minerals, and the seas full of pearls are supplied by the order of the Supreme, and as He desires, material nature produces them in abundance or restricts them at times. The natural law is that the human being may take advantage of these godly gifts by nature and satisfactorily flourish on them without being captivated by the exploitative motive of lording it over material nature. The more we attempt to exploit material nature according to our whims of enjoyment, the more we shall become entrapped by the reaction of such exploitative attempts. If we have sufficient grains, fruits, vegetables and herbs, then what is the necessity of running a slaughterhouse and killing poor animals? A man need not kill an animal if he has sufficient grains and vegetables to eat. The flow of river waters fertilizes the fields, and there is more than what we need. Minerals are produced in the hills, and the jewels in the ocean. If the human civilization has sufficient grains, minerals, jewels, water, milk, etc., then why should it hanker after terrible industrial enterprises at the cost of the labor of some unfortunate men? But all these natural gifts are dependent on the mercy of the Lord. What we need, therefore, is to be obedient to the laws of the Lord and achieve the perfection of human life by devotional service. The indications by Kuntidevi are just to the point. She desires that God's mercy be bestowed upon them so that natural prosperity be maintained by His grace."
"The basic principle of economic development is centered on land and cows. The necessities of human society are food grains, fruits, milk, minerals, clothing, wood, etc. One requires all these items to fulfill the material needs of the body. Certainly one does not require flesh and fish or iron tools and machinery. During the regime of Maharaja Yudhisthira, all over the world there were regulated rainfalls. Rainfalls are not in the control of the human being. The heavenly King Indradeva is the controller of rains, and he is the servant of the Lord. When the Lord is obeyed by the king and the people under the king's administration, there are regulated rains from the horizon, and these rains are the causes of all varieties of production on the land. Not only do regulated rains help ample production of grains and fruits, but when they combine with astronomical influences there is ample production of valuable stones and pearls. Grains and vegetables can sumptuously feed a man and animals, and a fatty cow delivers enough milk to supply a man sumptuously with vigor and vitality. If there is enough milk, enough grain, enough fruit, enough cotton, enough silk and enough jewels, then why do people need economic development in the shape of tools and machines? Can tools and machines supply vigor and vitality to men and animals? Can machinery produce grain, fruit and milk, or jewels and silk? Are jewels and silk, along with varieties of foodstuffs prepared with ghee, grain, milk and fruits, not sufficient for man's pure, luxurious and healthy life? Then what is the need of an artificial luxurious life of cinemas, cars, radio, flesh and hotels? Has this civilization produced anything more than the doggish mentality of quarreling individually and nationally? Has this civilization enhanced the cause of equality and fraternity by sending thousands of men into a hellish factory and the war fields at the whims of a particular man?
It is said here that the cows used to moisten the pasturing land with milk because their milk bags were fatty and the animals were joyful. Do they not require, therefore, proper protection for a joyful life by being fed with a sufficient quantity of grass in the field? Why should men kill cows for their selfish purposes? Why should man not be satisfied with grains, fruits and milk, which, combined together, can produce hundreds and thousands of palatable dishes? Why are there slaughterhouses all over the world to kill innocent animals? Maharaja Pariksit, grandson of Maharaja Yudhisthira, while touring his vast kingdom, saw a black man attempting to kill a cow. The King at once arrested the butcher and chastised him sufficiently. Should not a king or executive head protect the lives of the poor animals who are unable to defend themselves? Is this humanity? Are not the animals of a country citizens also? Then why are they allowed to be butchered in organized slaughterhouses? Are these the signs of equality, fraternity and nonviolence?
Therefore, in contrast with the modern, advanced, civilized form of government, an autocracy like Maharaja Yudhisthira's is by far superior to a so-called democracy in which animals are killed and a man less than an animal is allowed to cast votes for another less-than-animal man.
We are all creatures of material nature. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the Lord Himself is the seed-giving father and material nature is the mother of all living beings in all shapes. Thus mother material nature has enough foodstuff both for animals and for men, by the grace of the Father Almighty, Sri Krsna. The human being is the elder brother of all other living beings. He is endowed with intelligence more powerful than animals for realizing the course of nature and the indications of the Almighty Father. Human civilizations should depend on the production of material nature without artificially attempting economic development to turn the world into a chaos of artificial greed and power only for the purpose of artificial luxuries and sense gratification. This is but the life of dogs and hogs.
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.40 & 1.10.4)
THE VEDIC WAY
We, the followers of the Vedas, appreciate all the endeavour of our many friends who engage themselves in activities of environmental relief - activists eco-movements and initiatives, organic farmers, permaculturists, sustainable, fair economy pioneers, animal rights warriors etc. Yet, unless all these activities are permeated by God consciousness, they will not lead to a complete and perfect result. They will remain on a platform of trying to nourish a tree by watering its leaves and branches without watering the root. If we want to nourish a tree, we have to pour the water on its root. By this simple process of watering the root, the whole tree is nourished perfectly and scientifically. We are all parts of one Tree of existence, of the Absolute Truth and all this that exists sprouts from one Root, the Cause of all causes, God, Krsna. By satisfying the Lord through the simple and sublime process of loving devotional service as taught by a bona-fide spiritual master we become satisfied within the self, just as all the leaves and branches become automatically nourished by watering the root of the tree. A person satisfied within himself doesn't hanker for more than he has. He eats four capatis today, but doesn't hoard for tomorrow. He knows that his four capatis are there, ready for tomorrow, and if not, that is also good for him, because God wants him to fast that day. Everything is ok, there is nothing to adjust, nothing to force and nothing to control, except one's own mind and senses. That is the platform of freedom from anxiety. Devotees of the Lord are automatically peaceful, they are automatically vegetarian (or vegan, more and more nowadays), they automatically produce less garbage, consume less energy, positively cultivate their environment, care for the animals etc., because that is what Krsna shows as an ideal of life. Whether in a forest or in a city, a devotee naturally follows this path of "simple living, high thinking" - without any extraneous endeavour. Simple living and high thinking is inherently part and parcel of Krsna consciousness.
On the other hand, any -ism, may it be of the best intentions, if not connected with God, Krsna consciousness, is like a detached branch of a tree. You can water it as much as you like, it will wither gradually.
Human form of life is ultimately meant for self-realization and stabile, clean and sustainably productive environment helps one to focus on this actual purpose. Amongst all the species on this planet only humans have the power to dramatically change the world they live in and this ability may be their great blessing as well as their fatal curse. If our physical, mental and intellectual abilities are not guided by profound knowledge of the soul and the Supreme Soul, their relationship and ways of re-establishing that spiritual connection, we simply tend to exploit the world without actually benefiting ourselves or other fellow living beings. Mother Earth and nature herself are but energies of the Supreme Complete Whole, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Seeing only the nature as a "divine energy" without her connection to the Source is an incomplete vision. Seeing the Mother without the Father is incomplete. When our vision becomes complete, the ultimate benefit of the human form of life is at hand.
"There is complete facility for the small complete units, namely the living beings, to realize the Complete; and all sorts of incompleteness are experienced on account of incomplete knowledge of the Complete. The human form of life is a complete manifestation of the complete consciousness of the living being, which is obtained after completing the evolution through 8,400,000 species of life in the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, if a human being does not realize his completeness in relation to the Complete in this complete life of complete consciousness, he loses the chance of realizing his completeness, and is put again into the cycle of evolutionary process by the complete law of complete material nature.
Because we do not know that there is a complete arrangement in the complete nature for our maintenance, we make efforts to utilize the resources of nature to create a so-called complete life of sense enjoyment. This misleading life and sense enjoyment is called illusion, because the living entity cannot enjoy life or his senses without being dovetailed with the complete whole. For example, the hand of a body is a complete unit as long as it is attached to the complete body. When the hand is detached from the body, it may appear like a hand, but actually it has none of the potency of a hand. Similarly, the living beings are parts and parcels of the complete whole; and as long as the parts and parcels are detached from the complete whole, the illusory representation of completeness certainly cannot bring the desired result.
The completeness of human life can only be realized when the human form of life is engaged in the complete service of the complete whole. Any service in this world, whether social, political, communal, international, or even inter-planetary, will remain incomplete unless and until it is dovetailed with the complete whole. And, when everything is dovetailed with the complete whole, the attached parts and parcels also become complete in themselves." (Sri Isopanisad invocation purport by Srila Prabhupada)