“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.20)
paras tasmāt tu bhāvo ‘nyo
‘vyakto ‘vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
naśyatsu na vinaśyati
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada utilized technology when necessary. Though he promoted the age-old motto of “simple living, high thinking,” as a rule he did not automatically prohibit the use of any single object. Everything is evaluated first to see if it can help promote Krishna consciousness, which is the original consciousness. Everyone is originally with the Supreme Lord the person, and because of forgetfulness of Him they fall into the material world, which is a sort of imitation land, a shadow of what’s actually available in the imperishable land.
This concept of using objects while remaining detached from material sense gratification is known as yukta-vairagya. There is yukta in terms of the connection to the Divine, while there is vairagya in terms of detachment from the objects themselves. As an example, if you have a car, you can use it for travelling to different places that will help purify your consciousness. Though you’re using the car, you’re detached from it. You’re not concerned with its design or upgrading to the latest version. You’re using the object to become attached to God the person.
Along these lines, the representatives of the Supreme Lord are not so impressed with the latest technology. Particularly, they don’t consider it to be awe-inspiring. This apathy is due to their intimate knowledge of the Supreme, who can do much more amazing things. Indeed, many of the advancements in the modern age represent abilities already found in other, less intelligent species. Roland was explaining this to his friend one day in an email exchange. His friend wondered why the teachers in the bhakti tradition don’t offer high praise to things like the cell phone or the airplane. Roland replied by relaying a story from his childhood.
It’s not that they don’t appreciate these advancements. They know deep down that these things only create artificial needs. It’s like when you’re super bummed about the power being out. If you didn’t rely so much on electricity, then there wouldn’t be a big problem. Remember a few years back when that hurricane led to major delays in shipment of oil? They had to ration gas. I remember because when it was a day that I could purchase it, I would get up early to be the first in line.
As far as the technological advancements, let me tell you a quick story from my childhood. I had a friend over one day after school and we were playing video games. I think it was Legend of Zelda. We were pretty into the game but all of a sudden we heard shouting in the adjacent room. It was my uncle and aunt, who were living with us at the time. We couldn’t tell what was going on, but we knew that both of them were upset.
My friend made a suggestion. He said that we should take a drinking glass and place it up against the wall. With the rim of the glass along the wall and our ear touching the other side, we would be able to hear what was going on. I thought he was crazy. Anyway, we gave it a try. I was amazed. It was like we were in the other room! We could hear everything. We listened for a few minutes, but then the door to their room opened. I think one of them left the room. Anyway, we scrambled to get back to playing video games, not wanting to get caught.
Later that night I told my older brother about it. “You won’t believe what I’m going to tell you,” I said. “If you put a drinking glass up to the wall, you can hear what’s going on in the next room.” He wasn’t surprised. “Yeah, I already knew that,” he said. “Do you know that a telephone already does the same thing? You can call someone living halfway across the globe and hear what they say. More importantly, they can hear you too. So why should I be impressed with your little glass experiment?”
So the teachers in bhakti-yoga have a similar attitude. The airplanes can fly and that’s pretty cool. But the birds already have this ability. After rigorous training a person can increase their speed in running, but a cheetah naturally has this ability. Even the mystic powers acquired by yogis don’t impress them. This is because they know that God manipulates the material elements effortlessly. He holds up all the planets and empowers the sun. He puts time into motion that makes everything change. Birth and death are due to time.
The Vaishnava is more impressed by what Krishna, the all-attractive Lord, can do with His direct intervention. They are more amazed at the potency of the holy names, which can rescue any person. That sound is so powerful and it doesn’t need special conductors to get the job done. Evidence is seen in the reformed souls who always chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They too were once bewildered by the dualities of like and dislike, heat and cold, and happiness and sadness. Through attachment to the sound that is the holy name, everything changed for them. You should trust their example and follow the same. You’ll see what I’m talking about then.
Fly the birds already can do,
So why humans to imitate too?
Remarkable, noteworthy so,
But interest of wise beyond to go.
Like how Krishna the planets to hold,
And through His time changes to unfold.
How identical is He to the name,
Potency of His bringing the same.