“One should not give up anything which can be utilized in the service of the Lord. That is a secret of devotional service. Anything that can be utilized in advancing Krishna consciousness and devotional service should be accepted.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 14)
Friend1: I know that you’re not worried about changing patterns in terms of economics.
Friend2: Where is this coming from?
Friend1: As far as jobs shifting overseas, industries being eliminated through technology and the advancements in productivity.
Friend2: Oh, are you referencing how I like to bring up the fact that over one hundred years ago primarily everyone was involved in farming?
Friend1: Yes. You like to mention the telephone switchboard operators, as well.
Friend2: Yeah, that was a heavily-serviced industry. Those jobs don’t really exist anymore. Machines have taken over. Yet people are still working. It’s stressful, for sure. It would be better if more people were engaged in farming, sustaining themselves through the land, but that is not the case.
Friend1: Rather than get sidetracked into a discussion on economics, let’s focus on the impact to bhakti-yoga.
Friend2: Good. The impact of what, though?
Friend1: The latest buzz is about robotics. Automation.
Friend2: Like the driverless car?
Friend1: Exactly. Things like that. I mean I just bought one of those robot vacuums.
Friend2: Oh? How is it?
Friend1: Not bad, I must say. It doesn’t replace a full vacuum by any means, but it’s great for keeping the place clean on a regular basis. They make ones that mop, too. We’re going to have robots everywhere.
Friend2: That seems to be the trend.
Friend1: What is the impact on bhakti-yoga? Let’s say that I had a machine that could perform arati every morning. This way I wouldn’t have to get up and offer the lamps myself. The machine could make the food to offer, another machine to clean the dishes, and one more for keeping the food fresh for a few days.
Friend2: You already mentioned so many machines. There are different angles of vision here. For starters, there are so many aspects of nature that function on their own. In other words, the Supreme Lord is already being worshiped automatically, without human effort.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: The workings of the material world. Everyone is trapped in maya, which is illusion. That stuff comes from Krishna, after all. They are paying homage to Him, but indirectly.
Friend1: I’m talking about direct worship, though. Programming a robot to do it. Not that I am going down that path, but what if someone does? Is that considered bad?
Friend2: The guiding principle comes from Shrila Rupa Gosvami. If something is unfavorable for bhakti, reject it. If it is favorable, accept it. We use technology already to help us in devotion. There is automation in the printing press that produces books glorifying Bhagavan. There is a computer inside of the automobile that helps us travel to different places of worship. There is automation in the machine that cleans the dishes used for offering food. These things don’t need to be rejected.
Friend1: What is the negative side, though?
Friend2: If you use automation as a way to avoid service in bhakti-yoga. As you said in the example, have a machine offer arati; meanwhile, you sleep. Have another machine sing a devotional song, while you’re off doing something else. The worshiping process is for our benefit. Shri Krishna is atmarama, or self-satisfied. He doesn’t need to be worshiped in the temple. He doesn’t require anyone’s service. He accepts it because He knows that will make us the happiest; it is for our purification.
Coming quickly the revolution,
Machines everywhere, automation.
How bhakti-yoga to affect,
Machines always to reject?
Guiding principle Shrila Rupa giving,
That with the favorable living.
Helpful, but not as excuse to skip out,
For our benefit, devotion He can live without.