“According to the law of karma, a man takes his birth in a high family, or becomes rich, or very well educated, or very beautiful because of good work in the past. The demoniac thinks that all these things are accidental and due to the strength of his personal ability. He does not sense any arrangement behind all the varieties of people, beauty, and education. Anyone who comes into competition with such a demoniac man is his enemy. There are many demoniac people, and each is enemy to the others. This enmity becomes more and more deep-between persons, then between families, then between societies, and at last between nations.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.16 Purport)
The failure to recognize the existence of a higher authority, the highest in fact, who manages everything in the manifest and unmanifest worlds, leads to problems in more than just the afterlife. The root of every difficulty, every misery, is this ignorance.
It is indeed ignorance, since only a foolish person would consider the vast variety in circumstances surrounding birth to be due to randomness or worse, their personal effort. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describes this mentality as demoniac.
Such a person thinks that the wealthy home they were born into was due to their own effort. If only others had tried as hard. Good fortune, personal beauty, and enhanced ability in business are also due solely to what the individual possesses. Karma does not exist, though in truth it explains everything.
A person is free to do as they wish, so acceptance of the higher power is not a strict requirement for living. However, from this ignorance enmity quickly develops, and like a small fire lit in a densely wooded forest, the resulting blaze is difficult to contain.
1. Between persons
The enmity starts from competition. If I have beauty, I will be envious of someone who possesses a similar level. I must bring them down, find ways to explain why they are the same as me. Otherwise, I would have to acknowledge that my beauty is due to forces of nature over which I have no control. My entire worldview would be turned upside down.
The easier choice is to go with enmity. Hold grudges. Create vendettas. “This person is my enemy. That person is my friend. I like this person. I hate that one.” Going through life in this way it is easy to create individual rivalries with many people, as beauty is not the only opulence found in the material world. If someone drives a better car, owns a larger home, has a more beautiful spouse, or has a higher annual salary then they are a target for my wrath.
2. Between families
A feud between individuals can quickly spread to the entire family. My father has several brothers. They are also family, but for some reason there is a rivalry. I want my father’s family to be better off materially than my uncles and cousins. If they advance further, then I will be envious. Something simple like not calling often enough can cause the relationships to deteriorate.
3. Between societies
People of a certain ethnicity live in a certain kind of neighborhood. Another kind of people live in the opposite conditions. Thus a rivalry is born. Before even getting to know someone, just based on their appearance, I make the determination of friend or foe. Not every person of a specific skin color has the same personality, but in this case the competitive attitude has gotten hold of my better judgment.
4. Between nations
The local news has only bad things to say about this other country. The people live in poverty. They are unclean. They don’t treat minorities very well. They are always attacking other nations. They live in fear of foreigners.
The people of that country resent the blind judgment made against them. They hold similar prejudices against outsiders. In this way it is easy for nations to fight amongst themselves. Not recognizing the power of the Divine, the controlling hand of time, the inevitability of death, only the present circumstances take precedence.
The solution is straightforward. The more people are truly God conscious, the less enmity there will be. What need is there to be jealous of someone who received good fortune in this life as a result of pious deeds in a previous one? What need is there to look down at someone struggling today when it is known that tomorrow the situation could reverse?
Rather, the wise person appreciates the blessed opportunity of a human birth, which represents the best chance to go back home, back to Godhead. In that spiritual land even something resembling envy is positive, as it creates further impetus to serve the all-attractive one, whose company is like enjoying nectar whose sweetness continues to increase, without any limit.
By my effort this situation got,
Acknowledging higher authority not.
Envy found within family one,
Understanding of others none.
Then to societies to extend,
And nations in war to defend.
But human fortunate and blessed,
Emphasis on spiritual stressed.
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