Vol 1 Issue 12
Guided Missiles & Misguided Men
September 11, 2001. One of the darkest days in the history of the modern world. A group of misguided men guided a missile in the form of an airplane into one of the world's tallest buildings and brought it crashing down, causing the death of thousands of innocent people.
Martin Luther King, Jr, stated in his From Strength to Love, "The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." Little did he know how prophetic his words would be in a literal sense several decades later.
A Comfortable State of Misery
In the modern times, we have achieved considerable ability to manipulate our external environment with the help of science and technology. Technological gadgets have helped make life comfortable and easy to a large extent, relieving us of many of the discomforts and inconveniences associated with a traditional way of life. The ads go so far as to claim that the world is now at your fingertips.
Yet have all these comforts made us more peaceful or happy?
So despite the bluff and the bravado of the comfortable life, most modern people find themselves in mental distress. They thus live in a comfortable state of misery. And the tragic irony is that most of this misery is self-inflicted. For example, no one needs to smoke to survive but still people smoke and bring disease and suffering upon themselves.
Thus modern society may have succeeded in guiding missiles but has failed utterly in guiding human beings. What is the cause of this unfortunate, indeed tragic, state of affairs - guided missiles and misguided men?
The Enemies Within
An analysis of the current world scenario from the Vedic perspective provides thought-provoking insights. The Vedic texts explain that within the human psyche are six formidable forces which misguide a person constantly and impel him to self-destructive behavioral patterns. These are lust, anger, greed, pride, envy and illusion. Among these, lust, greed and anger are the most dangerous and are declared in the Bhagavad-gita to be "the three gates to hell". Let us see how these relate to the problems plaguing the present-day world.
It is the source of all kinds of sexual drives. While regulated sex is necessary for procreation, lust tends to create uncontrollable sexual urges within a person. While modern media - and practically the entire modern society - portrays passionate lust as a gateway to unlimited bodily pleasures, such a conception is in reality short-lived and treacherous; it is individually frustrating and socially disastrous. Enamored by erotic fantasies, a person tries to enjoy in newer ways and with newer partners. But each successive experience leaves him increasingly disappointed - and craving for more. For the highest pleasure the body can offer is heartbreakingly brief. Frustrated in his quest for erotic enjoyment, such a person turns in despair to perverted sources of pleasure like smoking, drinking and drug abuse.
As far as the family is concerned, uncontrolled lust in either or both of the spouses wreaks havoc in the lives of both of them as well as of their children, as discussed earlier.
Deadly sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like AIDS, which result from uncontrolled lust, have devastating individual and social consequences, which need no elaboration.
Greed makes one crave for far more than what one needs. A person victimized by greed does not find satisfaction no matter how much he accumulates. At the same time, his greed forces him to exploit others and strip them of even their basic needs in order to achieve his selfish ends.
During a morning walk through a slum area, Srila Prabhupada noticed some stout people jogging along the road. He poignantly commented that in the huts people did not get enough to eat, while the wealthy tended to overeat and were therefore forced to jog to decrease their weight.
Consider the following UNICEF statistics about the world hunger problem:
The irony with greed is that the greedy person forces others to die of starvation and himself ends up dying of anxiety.
Anger arises when one's lusty desires are frustrated. Anger leads to all forms of violence ranging from petty quarrels to world wars. The modern media with its vivid depiction of violence portrays anger as a heroic quality. This is a major cause of the spiraling rates of violent criminality in modern societies. While most people recognize that in real life anger is not a desirable emotion, they savor the violent scenes in the movies. And then strangely enough they wonder why they themselves, in fits of anger, speak such words and do such deeds which break the hearts of their loved ones and which they themselves bitterly regret later. Anger thus destroys relationships and ruins lives.
Anger is also a known cause of a large variety of ailments ranging from high blood pressure to heart attacks.
This brief analysis gives us an idea of how the three internal enemies lust, greed and anger are the actual cause of a large variety of problems. The Vedic texts explain that practically every problem, individual or social, local or global, has its origin in the six misguiding forces - lust, greed, anger, pride, envy and illusion.
Just as material technology enables us to control the world around us, spiritual technology helps us to control the world within us. The Vedic society was oriented to make people expert in spiritual technology so that they could protect themselves from lust, greed and anger. This was done through a harmonious combination of education, culture and devotion.
Education: In Vedic society, education did not mean just learning how to earn a living. It focussed on acquiring spiritual knowledge, which gave the student a clear vision to see the deadly nature of the internal enemies. Vedic education also provided the student with the knowhow and the training to fight and conquer these enemies when they attacked. Overcoming lust, anger and greed did not however mean being condemned to live a dry life without any desires or ambitions. Vedic education enabled the student to utilize his desires and talents positively in pursuance of his enlightened self-interest so as to achieve lasting happiness.
Culture: Vedic culture was based on the implicit understanding that human happiness came not by external aggrandizement meant to satisfy one's lust, anger and greed, but by inner realization that gradually freed one from these internal enemies. Life in Vedic times was therefore not a rat race for wealth, but was arranged to enable one to utilize one's inherent material abilities in satisfying and productive service to society. Simultaneously the social environment provided abundant facilities and encouragement for one to develop oneself spiritually and thus find happiness within oneself.
Devotion: In Vedic society devotion to God was inculcated right from birth. Due to their firm devotion the people experienced sublime non-material satisfaction and that gave them inner spiritual strength. Being content within, they could resist the otherwise irresistible pushings of lust, greed and anger. (Modern studies in psychology have also started discovering the power of faith as the best insurance from self-destructive behavioral patterns) In the Vedic times, genuine devotion to God did much more than protect people from addictions; it made them honest, kind, considerate,loving and selfless and thus facilitated a peaceful and harmonious society.
Let us compare Vedic society with modern society.
Education: Modern education focuses mainly on the development of intellect (the ability to recollect and manipulate information) rather than the development of intelligence (the ability to discriminate between the right and the wrong, the beneficial and the harmful). It does not emphasize inculcating ethical, moral or spiritual values. Those educated in this way are able to control the world around them with material technology but fail miserably in controlling the world within them as they have no knowledge of spiritual technology. The result is tragic - a world with guided missiles and misguided men.
Culture: The heroes of modern society are the icons of lust - filmstars with sex appeal, anger - action heroes and greed - successful businessmen. The modern media with its undisguised promotion of a consumer culture and the entire society with its emphasis on material success fuels almost unlimitedly greed within people. Thus modern culture far from discouraging lust, greed and anger encourages them as the trappings of success.
Devotion: In the modern times, even those who profess to be believers do so mostly out of social custom or fear of the unknown. They have very little scientific understanding of God and are therefore not serious about their devotion. So when lust, greed and anger attack them, they can muster very little inner strength to fight with them and consequently they become easily victimized. This is all the more true for those who are openly atheistic and materialistic.
Modern society thus gives a free play to its worst enemies - lust, greed and anger. Is it then a surprise that the modern world is in a state of chaos?
Healing a Wounded World
An important principle in medicine is to treat the cause of the disease rather than its symptoms. The world is today plagued by a large variety of problems - poverty, starvation, violence, disease and pollution, to name a few. Social welfare workers are trying to deal with these problems - on a material level. These efforts are only a part of the solution; they fail to address the underlying cause. The problems confronting the world are symptoms of the real disease afflicting the social body - victimization by lust, greed and anger. Intelligent attempts to heal the world need to therefore tackle this root cause of the disease. As long as an individual is not freed from slavery to the internal enemies, he cannot be peaceful or happy. And as long as the individual is not peaceful and happy, there is no question of a peaceful or happy world.
ISKCON is among the very few organizations in the world arming people with spiritual technology to enable them to fight with and conquer the internal enemies. ISKCON provides education, culture and devotion, which is based on the Vedic texts and is suitably adapted to the modern times. This empowers ISKCON devotees to protect themselves from the insidious influences of lust, greed and anger and live a pure life filled with peace and joy.
Consider for example the four principal activities of an individual misguided by lust, anger and greed - intoxication, gambling, illicit sex and meat eating. Intelligent people can easily recognize the harmful nature of these activities and can also understand that a world free from these activities would be a much better place. Most people unfortunately indulge in these activities either voluntarily with a bestial relish or involuntarily, being forced by lust, greed and anger. Serious ISKCON devotees however refrain from these activities as a basic regulative principle for spiritual advancement. That they are able to do so in a world that is slave to these activities is itself eloquent testimony of the protection through wisdom that ISKCON is offering.
ISKCON is of course working at a humanitarian level to mitigate suffering and distress; it runs the world's largest vegetarian food relief program - Food for Life. But the highest service that ISKCON offers to the people of the world is its tireless attempts to provide them protection from their internal enemies and to enable them to find peace and happiness within themselves.
The Spiritual Scientist
Investigating Reality from the Higher Dimensional
Perspective of Vedic Wisdom