“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
Friend1: Kali Yuga. The age of quarrel and hypocrisy.
Friend2: The last of the four ages. Things don’t look so good, but know that there is always a silver lining.
Friend1: The sankirtana movement, the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend2: Think of how merciful Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is. He came in this most troublesome time period. Who will listen to someone speak about dharma when society itself barely follows it? Three of the four legs are broken. Just one remains, and it is wobbly at that.
Friend1: I like these analogies. What would you say is the best way to describe Kali Yuga to someone who is totally unfamiliar with Vedic culture?
Friend2: Besides the four ages thing, where the universe, the creation within, the population also, goes through cycles?
Friend1: Yeah, that’s a longer explanation. Brevity is the soul of wit. Give me one sentence.
Friend2: It’s the time period where everything is the opposite of how it should be.
Friend1: Oh, I like that. How should things be, then? Who determines that?
Friend2: Shastra, which descends from the Supreme Lord. Guru, sadhu and shastra – they meet together. They have the same interest. They all represent the original person, adi-purusha.
Friend1: Can you give me an example of something that is the opposite? I know the Shrimad Bhagavatam lists many such conditions. It’s amazing that it predicted these things years before they occurred.
Friend2: Some of them are pretty amazing. Men and women will marry according to desire rather than culture. The brahmanas, the priestly class, will lower themselves to take the role of menial servant, while the less intelligent will ascend to the top of society. There are so many predictions that have come true already.
Friend1: Is there one in particular that makes you sit back and think, “Wow, that is quintessential Kali Yuga”?
Friend2: [laughs] That’s pretty good. I do have one. It might offend some people, though.
Friend1: Since when do you care about offending people?
Friend2: I don’t want you to go home tonight and cry in your pillow.
Friend1: Hey, I only do that when my favorite sports team loses [smiling].
Friend2: Well, you know about kama, right?
Friend1: Yes. It is lust.
Friend2: It can also mean “sense gratification” and “desire.” Anyway, in the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna declares it to be the all-devouring enemy of this world. This is not a concept exclusive to Vedic culture. You look in any religion and there is restriction placed on kama. Indeed, you could say that is the underlying purpose to all religious rituals, rites and regulations. Man can control their kama, if they so choose.
Friend1: Right. Like marriage puts controls on it.
Friend2: There you go. Anyway, prior to Kali Yuga, in the ages where adherence to dharma was generally higher, people would take pride in their ability to control kama. You’ve heard of the term jitendriya?
Friend2: Jita means “victory” or “conquering” and indriya means “senses.” Jitendriya is someone who has conquered the senses. It’s a complimentary term.
Friend2: You’ll find in the Ramayana that Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama, one time refers to Ravana as ajita-indriya. This is someone who has not conquered their senses. It is a derogatory term, especially for a king. Ravana should have been leading the way in controlling the senses, setting the best example for the citizens. Not only was he controlled by his senses, but that deficiency would lead to doom for the entire city.
“O Ravana, inevitably all of the Rakshasas will be completely destroyed, for they have a person like you, who is stupid, lustful, and unable to control his senses, for their king.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 48.22)
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Fast forward to today. A person is praised for how much they indulge their senses. Look at all the pictures that get shared online. There are different varieties, but the message is essentially the same. “Look at my kama. See how much I am controlled by my senses. In fact, I am more controlled by them than you are.”
Friend1: I never thought about it that way. It’s true, though. You’re saying people would be better off showing how renounced they are?
Friend2: The showing off thing is not necessary, but it’s the principle behind it. Kama is the all-devouring enemy for a reason. It’s not so easy to conquer. Nevertheless, a person should at least make an attempt. All good things come as a result. In Kali Yuga, the principle is reversed. What is wrong gets taken to be right. What chance, then, do people have at spiritual perfection?
Friend1: That’s why Lord Chaitanya came.
Friend2: Exactly. The sound of the holy names can cleanse the heart. That name should be chanted all the time, under the guidance of guru, sadhu, and shastra. Then there can be paradise even within the dark age of Kali.
Take everything how it should be,
In Kali’s age upside down just see.
Krishna saying kama devouring enemy all,
But now attention to indulgence to call.
Ravana over senses control having none,
Thus all his opulence, his power undone.
Even in this age where dark and no hope in sight,
Rescue from sound of holy names light.