“Those who are not actually philosophers, scientists, educators, administrators, etc., but who pose themselves as such for material gain, do not accept the plan or path of the Supreme Lord. They have no idea of God; they simply manufacture their own worldly plans and consequently complicate the problems of material existence in their vain attempts to solve them. Because material energy (nature) is so powerful, it can resist the unauthorized plans of the atheists and baffle the knowledge of ‘planning commissions.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15 Purport)
“The government should help out the little guy. There are people really struggling out there, and I’d have no problem with my tax dollars being used to help them out. What is the alternative? We should let them starve to death? The same goes for healthcare. Do we want people to die? Are we going to deny them coverage if they don’t have the money to pay for it? This seems cruel and heartless. We should avoid the pain by relying on government action, if possible.”
This opinion seems logical enough, and it will always win majority support against the argument that says government should not take money from one group of citizens for the purpose of giving it to another. The philosophical explanation required for the latter argument also doesn’t play well in the era of the sound bite, where news is consumed through short clips. Also, when using video technology, if you want to get your message across, it is better to appeal to emotion rather than intellect; you will make a better case in illusion than through reality.
A quick review of the common sentiments which call for government intervention to redress societal inequities shows that other issues are missed which actually cause the same pain to the constituents. The call for governments around the world to end poverty is a call to avoid pain, after all. Being poor is not fun, especially if you desire more for yourself. To give someone food is to help them avoid the pain of hunger. To give them medical treatment is to save them from the effects of disease.
But what if the beleaguered party doesn’t accept government handouts? What if they refuse to go to the doctor even if their medical care is paid for? “Oh, well then that’s their fault. If we’re helping them and they refuse that help, they deserve the pain that comes their way.” Really? Is not the pain the same regardless? If one person suffers from hunger because they can’t afford food and another person suffers because they’ve spent the money given to them for food on other things, are they not both in the same situation?
With a government or planning commission, there is only so much that can be done. The pains in life come from many different areas. For instance, the person who drinks alcohol and then drives their car puts their life at risk. They also jeopardize the lives of the innocent drivers on the road who aren’t drunk. Should there be a government administrator in charge of following every citizen around and making sure that they don’t drink and drive? There is also pain in losing in gambling. There is pain from rejection in an amorous relationship. How is any person, whether in government or not, supposed to prevent such pain from occurring? And remember, the pain is the same regardless of the original circumstances. Whether help is available or not, the pain from loss, hunger, despair, dejection, disease, etc. hurts all the same.
The flaw in the recommendations of the planning commissions is rooted in the denial of God’s existence. Accompanying that denial is the ignorance of His features, one of which includes full control over the material energy. Pain is the result of a material existence, and more specifically doing something the wrong way. That which goes against the established guidelines is known as sin, and it is tagged as such specifically for the negative reaction it brings. No matter what one does in a material existence, despite how hard they may try to adjust their lives, there is never perfection; misery will always be the result.
The Supreme Lord controls the material nature, so by surrendering to Him, the pain is transcended. And this devotion also insulates one from the greatest trouble, that of not knowing what to do with one’s life. In the scenarios mentioned above, there is something lacking materially. There is poverty or the inability to pay for medical resources. In the case of the drunkard there is the temporary and illusory escape from the senses which brings damaging results.
“All men are forced to act helplessly according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.5)
But what if you got everything you wanted materially? You succeeded in all your ventures, you married the person of your dreams, your family is with you all the time, and you don’t have to work another day in your life if you don’t want to. Ah, but you must work. Otherwise you will go crazy. You need something to do. In bhakti-yoga, that something is available from the time of birth all the way up until the time of death. It is so pleasurable that one doesn’t want to give it up; they want to continue their devotion into the next life. And since the object of their worship is the Supreme Powerful, He makes that desire a reality.
How does this work exactly? Surrender to God means to abandon the hope for perfection in a material existence. Surrender is relinquishing the fight; throwing in the towel. This doesn’t mean that you stop working. On the contrary, you keep working but just change the objective that you’re working for. The people of Vrindavana some five thousand years ago worked very hard during the day and slept soundly at night. And yet they were in complete yoga because they thought of their beloved Krishna all the time.
Krishna is God. He is the detail behind the abstract conception touched upon in the many spiritual traditions of the world. One way He is known is through His control over the material energy. But He is more than just an impersonal administrative force. He is the reservoir of pleasure, and His transcendental body is full of sweetness. Surrender to Him is to think of Him all the time in a mood of love. To love someone is to serve them in such a way that they are pleased. With Krishna, just the desire to be with Him puts a smile on His face, so through something as simple as chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, one offers perfect service.
The pain is the same regardless of whether or not the higher authorities and their planning commissions act to redress the perceived ills in society. The rich man and the poor man are both suffering; a fact easily understood through steady practice of bhakti-yoga. The person who is fully immersed in serving Krishna, who never stops thinking about Him, who wishes only to continue in that service, never has to worry over material pains, as these don’t get in the way of their service which brings so much pleasure.
Material nature very difficult to overcome,
Applies to all, not only to some.
Plans the commission in power will make,
To bring needed aid for the people’s sake.
Yet pain for all will still unfold,
For complete control no one holds.
This world Supreme Lord did create,
Our pain instantly away He can take.
Yoga in devotion is the only way,
So Hare and Krishna always say.