“Prahlada Maharaja preached bhagavata-dharma among his classmates as soon as an opportunity was afforded by the absence of his teachers from the classroom. He said that from the very beginning of life, from the age of five, children should be instructed about bhagavata-dharma because the human form of life, which is very rarely obtained, is meant for understanding this subject.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.16.43 Purport)
“What do you mean you have no money for food? Dad gave us each twenty dollars for a meal. He specifically told us that the money was to be used for eating while we were on our trip. I don’t understand how you don’t have any money now. You spent it on playing video games at the arcade? Well, who told you to do that? Did you not realize it was wrong? How are you supposed to eat now? Are you going to blame Dad for this? It’s definitely not his fault. He gave you specific instructions on how that money was to be spent. Now that you did the wrong thing and screwed up, you’re going to have to go without eating. I could give you some of my money, but then how will you learn?”
This hypothetical scenario, though isolated to a specific situation, sort of sums up the predicament of the living entities in the material world. There is a specific use targeted for the playing field that is composed of earth, water, fire, air and ether. There is a specific way in which the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego are to be used. In the present age, due to the degraded condition, it is rare enough to merely find out about those uses, what to speak of implementing them. Nevertheless, the harm of ignoring the proper use is always the same.
In the above referenced situation, whether the child knew about how to use the money or not does not matter in the end if they spent the money unwisely. Whether they know that the money is to be used for food makes no difference if it is squandered on playing games instead. Sure, the crime on the part of the person with the money is worse if they had knowledge beforehand, as they then deliberately ignored the instructions given to them. The instructions also could have been given to a higher authority, who then didn’t relay the information. We can think of the Kali Yuga, the present age, as the latter situation. Over time the rules and guidelines handed down by the original authority figure stopped being passed down. This was due to hubris on the part of living entities who thought they knew better than their closest authority figure. They didn’t, and as a result they brought both themselves and future generations down into a pit of misery.
The miseries start at the time of birth. The newborn who joins this earth is immediately subjected to intense heat and bitter cold, the interference of other living entities looking to compete for resources and enjoyment, the fear tactics employed by the mind, and the diseases created within the body. The original authority figure passed down helpful hints on how to make one’s life better, especially on how to ease the pain from these miseries. The ultimate goal was always to have everyone return back to His realm, the place which was their original home. Due to the threefold miseries, understanding this goal at the outset is very difficult; hence the need for a systematic way of knowledge gathering coupled with renunciation.
The methodical approach towards true enlightenment also explains why there are various religious systems in existence. It seems that deity figures of the various traditions have similar histories, and from that one wonders whether the figures are just mental concoctions. The similarities make sense, though, especially when you consider the different circumstances based on time. The world was vastly different five thousand years ago than it is today. It was even more different millions of years ago. We can’t, therefore, expect the prescribed rules and regulations for spiritual life to always be identical. The underlying principles certainly are, as they address an entity who is eternal in its existence, but the exact implementations can indeed vary.
From the Bhagavad-gita we get a summary of Vedic philosophy. Veda means knowledge, and Vedic philosophy thus refers to the study of knowledge. This isn’t knowledge on how to build an airplane, lose weight, or increase memory. This knowledge specifically pertains to the living entity’s true identity and where they are meant to live. Since the ideal home is not the land burdened by the threefold miseries, the philosophy delves into why residence in the present land exists and how one can change residences. The tendencies of the living entities, from good people to bad people, are all explained, as well as the benefits and detriments of each entity type.
More importantly, it is understood that from learning Vedic philosophy and following its principles all good things come. The “good” is also properly defined for the first time. No more does one think of good only in terms of money, wine, women, victory in competition, and longevity. Good means to be more pure in consciousness. A purer consciousness thinks more about God, and in this way there is real happiness. He can be thought of at any time, by any person, from any background, and at any age. He is all-attractive, which means that the mind always has something to hold on to when contemplating Him. Because of this feature in Him, one of His names is Krishna.
Whereas following Vedic philosophy brings all good things, ignoring it brings the opposite. Indeed, every negative condition we encounter can be traced to this negligence. Sometimes it is mere forgetfulness, but originally it was defiance. That turn towards the worse may have taken place many lifetimes ago, but from the mere fact that we took birth in this life indicates that there was a turn against God made at some point.
In the negative outcomes that follow, the Supreme Lord is not to blame. This is hard to come to grips with, especially after tragedies like hurricanes, earthquakes, and deaths of family members due to disease. We don’t see the original cause, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. We eat fruits and smell flowers that are sold at the store, but we didn’t actually see those seeds get planted. But we know that such fruits couldn’t result without the planting of a seed. In the same way, know that a sinful reaction cannot exist without an original sin.
The concept of sin shouldn’t be exclusive to religion. The sin is just doing something the wrong way. Just as if you put your hand in a fire, you will get burned, if you ignore the philosophy that is meant to better the condition of the soul, you will see unfavorable consequences. If the field of the material land is used properly, however, all good things can come. In this age of Kali it is very difficult to rise to a position free of sin, especially given the rampant godlessness. Therefore the Supreme Lord in this age has made the process simple: just chant His names. Chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Through this mantra hear God. See Him within your mind. Take supreme pleasure in this process, so much so that you’ll rearrange the rest of your activities so that you can chant as much as possible. In this way reach the same endpoint as from the recommended practices of previous ages. Reach the goal of God consciousness, which is your birthright, your ideal destination targeted by the Supreme Father, who is always looking out for His children.
“Dad money to you gave,
So that for food you would save.
If arcade machines your cash did eat,
How desires for food will you meet?”
Though result of bad deed the same,
In this instance father not to blame.
Elements of this world for us God did allot,
But ignoring proper use misery we got.
From Bhagavad-gita philosophy learn the right way,
Reach God consciousness by Krishna’s name to say.