Rummaging Through Garbage

Lord Brahma on swan carrier“In the bird society, there are crows and swans, and crows are interested in places where filthy things are thrown. However, swans prefer nice clear water with lotus flowers, and it is in such places that they take their pleasure. Similarly, there are men who are like crows and men like swans. That is a natural division.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Lord Kapila, Vs 12 Purport)

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“Have I heard the latest news? No, I haven’t. Lately I have had no taste for watching any televised news. I don’t even want to check the latest headlines on the internet. Why? I’ve finally picked up on the trend. The lead stories are always about something negative. ‘Teenagers murder innocent man at gas station.’ ‘Infant found in dumpster after mother dropped her there.’ ‘Politician such and such caught on tape making racist remarks.’ ‘Union X is on strike to lobby for better benefits.’

“Seeing these headlines every day, I started to wonder. What is it exactly that goes into making a newspaper? If I were in charge of the nightly newscast, how would I go about putting it together? Seeing the end result, and doing some reverse-engineering, I see that the way it is done now is to look for anything bad that happens. Did someone get killed through something other than natural causes? If so, that is a story. Did someone of prominence make a disparaging remark about someone else? That is news fit to print as well.

“But in taking a step back, we see that so many things happen each day. The murders are minuscule in number compared to the lives that are maintained in any given day. The number of people who take care of their children, tell the truth, hold doors open for others, smile as they pass by, and give in charity is far greater than the liars, cheats and scoundrels combined. And yet the good behavior is rarely reported on. It might make the later segments of the newscast. Those segments are commonly referred to as fluff pieces or light-hearted news, and no serious journalist makes a career doing them.

Online news stories“Why should the positive get ignored? Why should the negative be given more importance? The obvious answer is that the negative will attract more attention. A murder is more noteworthy than a life maintained. A plane crash is more of a spectacle than a plane landing safely. The news is a business after all, and so if the media outlets don’t get viewership or readership, how will they stay in business? If they focus on the positive, they won’t get much attention.

“And yet the level of attention shouldn’t determine which news is more important. News is discussed, after all. A famous person of royalty dies in a tragic car accident, and thousands come to her funeral. A common person loses their life in the same manner, and not nearly as much attention is given. This doesn’t make sense to me. Just because of attention, we have to focus on the negative? Why would I want to live my life this way?”

From the ancient Sanskrit texts of India we get the word “paramahamsa.” This translates to “supreme swan.” It is used to describe an enlightened being, someone who sees everything in the right context. The difference between the knowledgeable and the unintelligent is vision. The unintelligent steal from someone else for a short term gain, but they fail to see the hard work that went into acquiring that money. They fail to see how they would object if they were the victim of the same act.

The unintelligent, suffering from a lack of vision, are more prone to the crow’s behavior. The crow rummages through garbage. Perfectly nice food could be available nearby, but the crow would rather look through weeds and dried grass. The swan, meanwhile, takes only the good. It stays amidst lotus flowers on the calm pond. It cannot act like the crow because it has no interest to. If the supreme swan has to go through garbage it will look for anything good in it. It will pick out the jewels and discard the rubbish.

“How can that female swan who is accustomed to sporting with the king of swans amidst lotus flowers ever cast her eyes on a water-crow that stays amidst bunches of grass?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.20)

Lakshmi Devi amidst lotus flowersThe enlightened being sees God in everything. God is the Truth, the lone entity who is beyond duality and never subject to its influence. The thief acts in duality because they are on the side of injustice when behaving in the way that earns them their title. The same thief can then turn straight and thus flip in behavior. God is never in such duality. He is neither a thief nor a pious person. He is neither right nor wrong. That is why He is described as the “absolute” Truth. Everything about Him is pure goodness, or pure right.

The paramahamsa sees Him in everything, and so even the good news is noteworthy to them. The person who takes care of their child shows the loving nature of the Supreme Lord. The act of a mother carrying her young infant reminds the paramahamsa of how mother Yashoda tends to Shri Krishna in Vrindavana. Since God is the Supreme Father, it is difficult for others to serve Him with the urgent care that only a parent offers. Therefore in Vrindavana He accepts parents who are exalted beings looking to serve God through parental affection.

Mother Yashoda feeding KrishnaThe paramahamsa thinks that the safe landing of a flight is noteworthy because it shows the affection that living beings naturally have for one another. The pilot is responsible for so many innocent lives. The soul is naturally blissful, knowledgeable and eternal. The dharma of the soul is to serve, and so the real religion, which goes beyond sectarian designations, is service to God. As a byproduct of that dharma, man serves his fellow man as well. Each living being is a part and parcel of God, so showing affection for one another is only natural.

The paramahamsa finds goodness in everything, and so they are at the top end of the enlightened scale. To be knowledgeable should be a good thing. More knowledge shouldn’t mean more misery. Without God in the picture, however, consuming more and more news does indeed make one less happy. Reaching the human species through the evolutionary chain is the greatest punishment if one remains ignorant of God. The animals have it better than the non-devoted human since they don’t have to worry as much over what happens to others. They also aren’t wise enough to be consumed with fear over the future.

maha-mantraThe ability to accept higher knowledge targeted for the human species is indeed a benefit. The paramahamsa proves that. Thus in all cases it is better to live like a supreme swan than a lowly crow. The crows are converted to swans through bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, which though originating from the ancient Vedic texts is the constitutional occupation for all souls. The whole world can unite under the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” which is the sweet nectar of transcendence found even in a world of duality. In any situation this mantra can be chanted, thus showing that God’s presence is available for extraction by any person, at any time, and at any place.

In Closing:

Why paper to always give news bad?

My mind only then to be more sad.


To be less viewership understood,

If only focused on happenings good.


Situation still not of any sense to me,

Goodness in all situations rather to see.


Paramahamsa acts like swan supreme,

Divine influence from everything to glean.


In bhakti aspire to state of the swan.

Make days of crow long gone.

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