“Since the present civilization is not very congenial to the living entities, Krishna consciousness is recommended. Through Krishna consciousness, society will develop the mode of goodness. When the mode of goodness is developed, people will see things as they are. In the mode of ignorance, people are just like animals and cannot see things clearly. In the mode of ignorance, for example, they do not see that by killing one animal they are taking a chance of being killed by the same animal in the next life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 14.17 Purport)
In one of the more famous lines from a Presidential debate, a candidate asked the people watching at home if they were better off today than they were four years ago. This was an obvious question to ask from a challenger attempting to shed light on the poor record of the incumbent. Subsequent campaigns would ask similar questions, as the answer was considered a good way to predict the result come election day.
If the same question is asked of society in general, taking the conditions at present, comparing to ages past, the Vedas give a very simple and clear answer. No, we are not better off today than we were in the previous ages. This decline was predicted beforehand, and is guaranteed to occur when a key component within the people is lacking.
The present age is known as Kali, and it is the last of four when the cycle of population and destruction is divided for analytical purposes. The beginning is the golden age and the decline begins from there. Indeed, there are many obvious signs of why the present civilization is not very congenial to the living entities.
1. Rampant animal killing
Today there is tremendous advancement in science and technology. The truth cannot be denied. One nation now produces enough food to feed the entire world, if the need should arrive. There is something called an industrialized nation, and in those places one of the biggest problems for the poor and children is obesity. There is too much food to eat.
It should logically follow that animal killing would be on the decline. After all, it is not like everyone is living in the wild and relying on an animal to come around in order to eat. Unfortunately, it looks like just the opposite is occurring. Technology and industrialization are being used to round up even more animals, the most innocent of them, too, like the cow, and slaughter them by the millions.
This is congenial for neither the animal being killed nor the person doing the killing. As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada notes, when the mode of ignorance takes over a person does not see things as they are. They kill an innocent animal for food, not understanding the risk. The same spirit soul might come back in the future and turn the tables; the killed becomes the killer. This is the most basic law of fairness, understood in common conversation as karma.
2. Quarrels over nothing
The football game just ended. Let’s watch the postgame show. There are five analysts at the table. Since they each have a job to do, it is most likely that the same opinions won’t be shared. In Vedic culture it is said that a muni, or wise thinker, is not legitimate unless and until they disagree with another muni.
The result is quarrel and argument over the most trivial issues. Sports, politics, celebrities, entertaining, the conclusion to a scripted program – everything is up for discussion. The most visible sign of Kali’s arrival is the increase in quarrel and hypocrisy. Rather than live peacefully, everyone stays upset, even when the side they favor succeeds. They want to get revenge on the person who argued with them; they have to get the last word in.
3. Widespread intoxication
As referenced previously, the mode of ignorance is not helpful. It is the way of the animal community. They only know basic instincts. They cannot learn to read the paper, contemplate the future, or understand birth and death.
The human being has the chance to rise to the mode of goodness, but the elevation is made more difficult than it needs to be through activities in the mode of ignorance, like intoxication. Widespread intoxication is a sign of defeat, that material nature has gained a dominating influence. As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, the spirit souls in the material world are actually a superior energy; they are above matter.
“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)
There are legalized forms of intoxication, which are widely taken advantage of, but that is not enough. Kama is very strong. The sense desires are like a fire not easily extinguished. Thus there is the push to legalize more forms of intoxication. There is danger even in going to the doctor, as the medicine they prescribe can lead to strong addiction.
4. Forgetfulness of God
It is in this area that the human birth takes on its real value. It is said that the devas, the demigods residing in the heavenly realm, have great appreciation for the human birth. They already live in high material comfort. They have plenty of intoxication available through drinking Soma-rasa. They can get whatever they want at a moment’s notice through approaching a surataru, or desire tree. They live much longer than the inhabitants of earth do.
The human birth is enviable since there is the chance to remember God. That is the result of reaching the mode of goodness and going beyond. Yet in present civilization God is all but forgotten. Religion is considered an ancient relic, something primitive people followed since they didn’t know any better. Science and technology are the way for the civilized; machines are the new god.
Shrila Prabhupada and the like-minded acharyas of the Vedic tradition agree that the only solution is Krishna consciousness. Not sectarian religion, not insistence on allegiance to a specific institution – have real consciousness of the Almighty. Since He is a person and all-attractive in every one of His transcendental features, one way to address Him is Krishna.
Krishna consciousness is within every person already. It is the constitutional position, and with the human birth comes the chance to reawaken from the slumber of ignorance and find again the soothing, blissful life of transcendence. When that consciousness returns, even the mode of goodness is surpassed and any situation and place, even in the present civilization, becomes congenial. This is because at any moment the merciful Supreme Lord can be remembered through chanting His holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Despite from violence blood spilling,
Sin not seen of animal killing.
Arguments from what on television to see,
Back and forth, never resolved to be.
Not known that future again birth to take,
So instead life of sense gratification to make.
Civilization of congeniality bereft,
Krishna consciousness only option left.
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