Today, when we are noticing an increasing number of terrorist attacks across the world, when lives are being taken mercilessly in the name of religion, when it is no more easy to trust and provide shelter to another, when intolerance and hate is brewing in the society like never before, it is time to introspect into the very values and principles that make us humane and civilized, distinct from the animals.
The oldest texts of the world, the Vedic literature, give us the much required insight into the current scenario. The teachings of the Vedas have been handed down through the ages by means of a guru-disciple tradition, also known as parampara. The fact that the Vedic literatures are the oldest in the world, can be historically, linguistically and philosophically proven. Sanatana Dharma or ‘Eternal Religion’ is the way of life of those who adhere to and practice the teachings and conclusions of the Vedic science. Even today, one who is sincere, may connect to a bonafide disciple succession , to receive and imbibe the unadulterated, timeless wisdom of the Vedic scriptures.
What is Dharma ?
‘Dharma’ is a word that is often translated to Religion, according to the modern English dictionaries. But actually the word dharma originates from the Sanskrit word ‘dhr’ which means ‘to hold’, ‘to bear’ or ‘to support’.Dharma is incorrectly translated to ‘religion’. A religion or faith of a person might change, but Dharma,by definition, is something which cannot be separated from the entity; infact it is the characteristic of the particular entity. For example, Heat and light cannot be separated from Fire. Heat and light are the dharma or characteristics of fire. Similarly sweetness is the Dharma of sugar, and liquidity that of water.
So what is the Dharma of human beings or more correctly all living beings ?
The Vedic literatures instruct us that we living beings(including plants and animals) are essentially spiritual souls and are all eternally the servants of God. In fact, it is quite noticeable in our day-to-day life, that we are all impelled to serve someone or something. The mother serves the son, the son serves his wife and family, the employee serves his boss, the king serves his subjects and so on. If someone has none to serve, then he/she keeps a pet dog or cat in order to serve him.
This service attitude, according to the Vedic scriptures, cannot be separated from the living entity and hence constitutes its Dharma.
The Predicament of the Modern world
The Problem with us living beings in this world is that our dharma, the service attitude, is wrongly directed. The Vedic literatures instruct us that we are all eternally the servants of the Lord. Without the Lord in our lives, we are like that fish out of water, who cannot be satisfied with no matter how much pleasure is provided on the land. But the problem with the world is that, instead of serving the Lord, we are busy serving our senses and sense objects. And inspite of serving to the best of our ability, neither are we satisfied nor is the person whom we are serving, satisfied. The more we become a servant to our senses and brood over sense objects, the more we end up suffering.
Misdirected Service on an individual level
In the course of satisfying their senses, people indulge in intoxication, in illicit relationships, in gambling, etc. Any of these habits can wreak havoc in one’s life, as we all know. They destroy relationships, destroy consciousness , destroy families. Hence ironically, indulgence in all these bad habits, instead of pleasing and satisfying us, destroy our lives, and only gives us more reasons to lament.
Another symptom of such misdirected service, is envy and jealousy towards the others. Being frustrated by his futile endeavors to satisfy his own senses, the sense gratifier finds it difficult tolerating the peace and happiness in others’ lives. Sometimes such persons with their uncontrolled senses, develop a strong attraction towards others’ possessions, and might even resort to hostile means to try and obtain them.
The Bhagavad Gita (2.62,2.63) describe the predicament of such bewildered materialists :
While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool.
Hence we understand, that serving our senses , can never end up satisfying us. It has a disastrous effect on our lives and ends up creating more problems for others. When the frustration spills over, such people can even resort to harming others. Mass shootings which have become a commonplace in today’s world, are usually the work of such overly frustrated sense-serving maniacs. In 2015, more than 330 mass shootings have been reported in the US alone, which has ended up killing more than 600 people. (Source – click here)
Misdirected Service on a societal level
Another problem with today’s world is that the people are increasingly misidentifying with their bodies. The Vedic literatures instruct us that we, living beings, are not bodies but spirit souls. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that “As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by ﬁre, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same”
Ignorant of their real self and considering themselves a product of matter, people start identifying with their bodies and indulge in serving others of the same society, community or nation. Failing to appreciate that others are also spiritual beings like themselves and children of the same father, people nurture the intentions of proving their supremacy, or imposing their ways of life or ideologies upon the others, sometimes even resorting to violence to get their ways. Most of the wars that are fought between nations are as a result of such misconceptions.
Another factor that often leads to fights and bloodshed is the element of greed. Again when the service attitude is misdirected towards the sense objects and the phenomenon occurs on the level of the nation or society, the resultant lust and envy may lead to fights or in extreme cases wars.
There is a beautiful verse in Sri isopanishad in this regard :
īśāvāsyam idam sarvaṁ
yat kiñca jagatyāṁ jagat
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā
mā gṛdhaḥ kasya svid dhanam
Translation : Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.
Hence, if we all start loving all other living beings as our own brothers and sisters, and be content with the possessions that the Lord has mercifully granted upon us, the world would become a much better place.
When a living being renders his service attitude towards imperfect ideologies or philosophies, not only does he bring misfortune upon himself, but his actions might also be a cause of concern for others. Instead of keeping the lord in the center, and loving the fellow living beings as the children of the same father, these people develop hatred towards the others who refuse to follow their ideologies.
Serving such imperfect ideologies and nurturing the wrong ambitions, they further harden their hearts and destroy their own conscience. Their false ego cannot stand the others leading different philosophies and lifestyles, and they sometimes even try to overcome/subdue them with the use of force.
The growing instances of the terrorist attacks across the world, or the clashes between the communists and the capitalists of the cold war era, are symptoms of such misdirected love towards imperfect ideologies.
The Perfect Dharma (Service)
The supreme occupation for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self [SB 1.2.6]
Actually the living entity is entangled in the material existence since time immemorial, an existence which is temporary and full of miseries. They are trying extremely hard to satisfy themselves by pleasing their senses or sense objects, but are only getting frustrated in the process. The reason being, as discussed above, that their Dharma (or service attitude) is misdirected.
According to the Vedic civilization, the perfection of life is to realize one’s relationship with God. In the Bhagavad-Gita, which is accepted by all authorities in transcendental science as the basis of all Vedic knowledge, we understand that not only human beings but all living entities are parts and parcels of God. The parts are meant for serving the whole, just as the legs, hands, fingers, and ears are meant for serving the total body. We living entities, being parts and parcels of God, are duty-bound to serve Him.
If we want to render service to a tree, we must water the root. If we pour water on the leaves, branches, and twigs, there is little benefit. If the Supreme Personality of Godhead is served, all other parts and parcels will be automatically satisfied. Consequently all welfare activities as well as service to society, family, and nation are realized by serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Bhagavad Gita emphasizes the superiority of loving devotional service in the following verse :
And of all yogīs, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself and renders transcendental loving service to Me – he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion. [BG 6.47]
So when we render loving devotional service to the Lord, we, living beings, become completely satisfied and inspiring others to experience the same is the greatest welfare activity that can ever be performed. Hence all we need to do is switch from an ‘I’ centric life to a ‘God’ centric life to bring about peace and happiness in this world.
Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, descended to perform His beautiful pastimes on this earth, 5000 years ago, in a small village in Northern India, called Vrindavana. We need to connect to a bonafide disciplic succession, to receive the message of Godhead as it is without adulteration, and try to cultivate the mood of the residents of Vrindavana , in order to lead the perfect life of devotional service. The residents of Vrindavana were engrossed in their service to little Krishna 24 hours a day- whether it be as servants, or in friendship, in parental relationship or as lovers.
While the description of Krishna’s beautiful pastimes in Vrindavana, is out of scope of this article, the reader is advised to relish the same from the pages of Bhagavata Purana.
How to Revive our Love for God?
Well, to revive our love(devotional service) for God, we need to pray to Him to engage us in His service. In the Srimad Bhagavatam it is mentioned that “although Kaliyuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age. It is that simply by chanting Hare Krsna maha mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom.” (Srimad Bhagvatam 12.3.51)
Hence, although the situation seems to be very gloomy in this dark age of quarrel and hypocrisy, and people in general are ignorant and averse to spirituality, still there is a ray of hope in the form of chanting of the holy names of the Lord, which can not only counter all the ill effects of Kali Yuga, and relieve one of the pangs of material miseries, but also make one situated in the perfect stage of pure love (devotional service) with the Lord.
Chanting the holy name of the Lord is especially advised in this age of kali, and described as the only means of deliverance. In Brhad Naradiya Purana(38.126) for instance, it is mentioned : “In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.”
In the Kali Santarana Upnishad (1-11), the Hare Krishna Mahamantra is established as the only means of deliverance in this age of kali .
Lord Brahma replied, “The sixteen words-
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
Rama Rama, Hare Hare
are especially meant for completely destroying all the contamination of Kali. To save oneself from the contamination of Kali-yuga, there is no alternative in all the Vedas except the chanting of this sixteen-word mantra. “
Hence let us all chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra and make the world a happier and a more peaceful place to reside in.
I leave you with the purport to the Hare Krishna mahamantra given by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada ,founder Acharya of Iskcon, who fulfilled Lord Chaitanya’s prediction that the Holy name of the Supreme lord will one day be distributed to every town and village of the world :
“This transcendental vibration–the chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare | Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare – is the sublime method for reviving our Krishna consciousness. As living spiritual souls, we are all originally Krishna conscious entities, but due to our association with matter since time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted by material atmosphere. In this polluted concept of life, we are all trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in our complexities. This illusion is called maya, or hard struggle for existence over the stringent laws of material nature. This illusory struggle against the material nature can at once be stopped by revival of our Krishna consciousness.
Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. This consciousness is the original energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived. And the process is recommended by authorities for this age. By practical experience also, we can perceive that by chanting this maha-mantra, or the Great Chanting for Deliverance, one can at once feel transcendental ecstasy from the spiritual stratum. When one is factually on the plane of spiritual understanding, surpassing the stages of sense, mind and intelligence, one is situated on the transcendental plane.
This chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare | Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is directly enacted from the spiritual platform, surpassing all lower states of consciousness–namely sensual, mental and intellectual. There is no need of understanding the language of the mantra, nor is there any need of mental speculation nor any intellectual adjustment for chanting this maha-mantra. It springs automatically from the spiritual platform, and as such, anyone can take part in this transcendental sound vibration, without any previous qualification, and dance in ecstasy.
We have seen it practically. Even a child can take part in the chanting, or even a dog can take part in it. The chanting should be heard, however, from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord, so that immediate effect can be achieved. As far as possible, chanting from the lips of a non-devotee should be avoided, as much as milk touched by the lips of a serpent causes poisonous effect.
The word Hara is a form of addressing the energy of the Lord. Both Krishna and Rama are forms of addressing directly the Lord, and they mean “the highest pleasure, eternal”. Hara is the supreme pleasure potency of the Lord. This potency, when addressed as Hare, helps us in reaching the Supreme Lord.
The material energy, called as maya, is also one of the multipotencies of the Lord, as much as we are also marginal potency of the Lord. The living entities are described as superior energy than matter. When the superior energy is in contact with inferior energy, it becomes an incompatible situation. But when the supreme marginal potency is in contact with the spiritual potency, Hara, it becomes the happy, normal condition of the living entity.
The three words, namely Hara, Krishna and Rama, are transcendental seeds of the maha-mantra, and the chanting is a spiritual call for the Lord and His internal energy, Hara, for giving protection to the conditioned soul. The chanting is exactly like a genuine cry by the child for the mother. Mother Hara helps in achieving the grace of the supreme father, Hari, or Krsna, and the Lord reveals Himself to such a sincere devotee.
No other means, therefore, of spiritual realization is as effective in this age, as chanting the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare | Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
By Dwaipayan De, Kolkata, India