“When the senses are satisfied in the seer-Supersoul, the Personality of Godhead, and merge in Him, all miseries are completely vanquished, as after a sound sleep.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.7.13)
In the late 1980s, a popular fad amongst celebrities and notable personalities was the red ribbon. Worn as a symbol of support for the fight against AIDS, the ribbon was used as both a political statement and as a way of showing dislike for a disease that started to garner much attention. In more recent times, similar behavior is seen with those wanting to raise awareness for causes like breast cancer, leukemia, and other diseases. Even supporters of military men and women have adopted ribbons and other symbols to show their support. While there are many causes that a person can take up, there is only one issue that if solved automatically provides the solution to all other causes at the same time.
In a democracy, issues take on an added importance, with individuals joining together to form special interest groups in hopes of swaying the opinion of the ruling class. According to the Vedic definition, and also the opinion of those with common sense, government exists to provide protection to the innocent. Protect life and property; these are the two primary functions of government. What tends to happen, however, is that when protection is provided at high levels, citizens start to look for more things from their government. In addition to providing protection, the government is looked to to solve issues of happiness, needs, and wants.
This mindset leads to problems in that everyone’s needs and wants vary. One person may find a particular issue appealing, while another person may not. There are special interest groups for just about everything. There is a group that looks to stamp out the practice of circumcision, while another hopes to ban soda pop and coconut oil from restaurants. Members of both factions believe that their issue is important enough to warrant the formation of a non-profit organization which raises money to be used to influence politicians. These are just two of the many organizations out there, so we can imagine what a chaotic condition results. For a government official, there is no fair way to decide whose issue is more important. Therefore, what results is a situation where people are always unhappy, with turnover in leadership occurring on a regular basis.
What can be done to solve the problem? How do we decide whose issues are more important? Should we spend more money on fighting cancer or on helping the poor? To reach the solution, we first need to take a look at how these issues come about. The Vedas are the ancient scriptures of India, a set of law codes and instructions passed down by the Supreme Lord Himself. Even for those who don’t believe in God, the Vedas provide much cogent instruction and philosophy. The original keepers of the faith, the great saints of India, had the time to both ponder high philosophy and also to mull over the eternal truths passed down by Supreme Divine Entity. If we tap into this storehouse of knowledge passed down to us, we are sure to find all the issues of today addressed, along with their root causes and viable solutions.
According to Vedic wisdom, the “cause” mentality comes about as a result of two primary activities: accepting and rejecting. As soon as the living entities take birth, they begin this process of acceptance and rejection. They find things that they like and thus accept them as palatable. After a short period of time, they may then reject the same thing. A “cause”, or an issue of importance to an activist, comes about when there is a strong rejection. Something very unpalatable comes about in life and a person decides that they need to do whatever they can to make sure the unwanted situation never occurs again. This is a general description, but the scope of this mindset is quite far-reaching.
Let’s take two examples to see how the seeds of activism are born. In America today, one will notice that most of the soft drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of natural sugar. There is actually a reason behind this. Sugar is certainly a superior sweetener, since it is natural and has a better taste than corn syrup. Yet problems arose for sugar farmers in America when foreign sugar began to be imported into the country. This sugar was less expensive than the sugar produced by the American farmers, so this caused an issue. The American sugar farmers were faced with an unpalatable condition, something they wanted to reject. They saw their profits diminishing and the prospect of being put out of business. This negative condition caused enough fear that they decided to take up the issue with Congress. Instead of switching to another line of work or finding ways to produce their sugar at a lower cost, the sugar farmers lobbied Congress to take action. They asked for the government to impose tariffs on sugar, so as to raise the price of imported sugar, thus keeping the farmers in business. Congress viewed this “cause” as important enough to take up and thus granted the farmers their tariffs. Congress also started to subsidize corn production as a result of similar lobbying efforts by corn farmers, thus making corn products cheaper. As a result of these two government actions, soda manufacturers then chose to use the less expensive high fructose corn syrup in lieu of sugar so as to keep their profit margins the same.
The sugar example dealt with profits and a person’s means for earning a living, but there are other examples of rejection relating to completely different areas of life. Fighting cancer is one of the most popular causes in America. Companies often organize charity races where members of the general public can pledge donations to the participants of the race. Charity golf outings are similar in this regard. The money raised is then used to fund research to find cures for cancer and also to find ways to treat the deadly disease. What’s interesting to note is that the founders of these organizations usually have had their own dealings with cancer. A friend or family member died as a result of the illness, so the affected relative decided to make the fight against cancer the primary cause of their life. The sudden death of a relative turned out to be a negative condition which was deemed important enough to reject on a grand scale.
These are just two examples of the countless causes that are adopted. Even amongst followers of spiritual traditions, there are minor causes taken up such as cow protection, violence against animals, environmental protection, childhood hunger, etc. So what do we make of all this? Which cause is the most important? How can we even say that one cause is more worthy of attention than another? After all, each cause is taken up by those who were personally affected by the issue, so who is to say whose issue was more harmful? The Vedic seers, the self-realized sages of the past, tell us that there is one cause that is superior to all others. Those who take up this sublime engagement will have all other issues in life resolved. This cause is the reawakening of the dormant God consciousness of the individual living entity, the connection of spirit with Supreme Spirit.
As mentioned before, the primary cause of activism is rejection. Things that are acceptable are not given as much attention because the favorable condition is somewhat taken for granted. Moreover, those who take to activism feel that the eradication of the negative condition will eventually lead to a positive condition. The Vedic conclusion is that in this world there is no possibility of a permanent positive condition. The concept of acceptance and rejection, bhoga and tyaga, is a product of material nature, an illusory and temporary world which is meant to be miserable. “God, show to mankind that you really exist. Then explain to us the meaning of chaos.” These are sentiments echoed by many of us at some point in our lives. This world is so miserable and the cause of so much frustration that we have a kneejerk reaction to point the finger at God. This is actually a good beginning, but we need to go one step further in order to have our miseries removed.
The purified condition of the living entity is achieved once it is in constant connection with the Supreme Spirit, or God. Currently this connection is broken, thus the living entity constantly toggles between bhoga and tyaga. God created this material world and everything inside of it, so how can we be disconnected from Him while living here? Of course God is always absolute and never disconnected from anything, but matter is considered an external energy, a separate and inferior manifestation of the Supreme Lord’s potencies. This is by design, because only through association with an inferior energy can the wayward spirit souls derive the false enjoyment they are looking for. What does this mean exactly? In simple terms, only through association with matter can we living entities pretend to be God. In the spiritual world, where everyone is constantly linked with the Supreme, this flawed desire to imitate Him cannot be acted upon. The spiritual world represents a realm where the superior energy reigns supreme, thus there is no chance for bewilderment, acceptance, rejection, misery, chaos, tumult, despair, etc. In order to imitate God, the spirit soul must be placed in a realm where they are allowed to forget Him, taking shelter of an inferior energy. Hence the material world was born.
This seems quite bleak. Luckily for us, there is a way out. Those who take to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, can fix their broken connection. Devotional service is the natural engagement of the soul, so it is not an artificially concocted remedy like those of the bhogis and tyagis. The beauty of bhakti-yoga is that one who practices it properly can automatically solve all the other issues of life. We shouldn’t misunderstand this point; it is not as if the unfavorable conditions get resolved in a manner similar to that of government action. Devotional service doesn’t involve raising money to fight cancer or lobbying the government for sugar tariffs. Devotional service tackles the root of the problem, the eradication of the original negative condition. If someone is always connected with the Divine, the unfavorable situations are either ignored or their effects limited.
Devotional service also involves the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, the soul, and the constitutional position of the living entity allows a person to determine the proper course of action in all situations. Therefore, there is no need to get up to speed on any issue because everything is thought of in terms of its relation to God. In the Vedic tradition, Lord Krishna is taken to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the all-attractive form of the Lord. Krishna can accept devotees from around the world, regardless of their religious affiliation, personal circumstances, age, gender, or ethnicity. When every issue is seen in its relation to Krishna, one automatically acquires the knowledge needed to tackle the problem.
Based on these facts, we see that there is only one cause that is really worth taking up: the rekindling of the spiritual love we feel for Krishna. The quickest and most effective method for reconnecting with our long lost friend is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Additionally, we should try to take up this cause on behalf of every other person as well, kindly asking them to chant and devote themselves to Krishna’s service. In this way, others will eventually realize how to take care of their fellow man, offer them a helping hand during times of trouble, and respect their desires and wants. A devotee looks at another man’s wealth as poison, his wife as their own mother, and his good fortune as the greatest source of happiness. The devotees acquire all good qualities and thus become the greatest welfare workers in the world. Connecting with Krishna is the only cause, the cause to end all causes.