“Nothing within this material world can be permanent, although scientists, philosophers, workers and everyone else are trying to make things permanent. One foolish scientist recently declared that eventually life will be made permanent through science. Some so-called scientists are also trying to manufacture living entities within the laboratory. Thus in one way or another everyone is busy denying the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and rejecting the supreme authority of the Lord. However, the Lord is so powerful that He destroys everything in the form of death.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam. 4.24.65 Purport)
Friend1: A teaching from the Bhagavad-gita that really stands out for me describes how this world is miserable and temporary.
Friend2: Duhkhalayam and ashashvatam.
Friend1: Not something you would be consciously aware of, otherwise. At least in my opinion. Some would say it is a pessimistic view.
Friend2: Only if you believe there is no other place to live. Or if you think that there is no way to change the situation.
Friend1: Umm, hasn’t mankind been trying to change the situation since before we can remember? Otherwise, what is the purpose of science and technology? Progress means going from a place that was defective in some way towards a better position.
Friend2: I was addressing your characterization of the teaching as pessimistic.
Friend1: Let’s stay with this other idea for a moment.
Friend1: Couldn’t you say that man is progressing towards reversing those two conditions?
Friend2: You mean that this world is becoming pleasurable and permanent? Seriously? Is this part of your new stand-up routine?
Friend1: Look at the advancements in science. Open-heart surgery is now much easier to perform. There are treatments for so many diseases.
Friend2: Ah, yes. A pill for every ill. Offer a score of injections to your children before they reach the age of two. That is working out really well, isn’t it?
Friend1: They say that the life expectancy is increasing.
Friend2: I’ve heard that the statistic is misleading.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: Because the real advancement is in infant mortality. Meaning that people aren’t necessarily living to a larger age in number, but that the average is increasing because less people are dying right after birth.
Friend1: Oh, interesting.
Friend2: Secondly, even if people were living up to one hundred years on average, what does that really mean in the grand scheme of things? Take twenty years. That is a significant improvement, right? Divide twenty into a million and what percentage do you get?
Friend1: Too small to matter.
Friend2: I’m using a million as a randomly chosen high number. The earth is many more years older than that. How, then, can you say that things are becoming more permanent?
Friend1: That is the trend. Scientists say that one day they will eradicate death.
Friend2: Let them say whatever, but you and I know the truth.
जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्
ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च
तस्माद् अपरिहार्ये ऽर्थे
न त्वं शोचितुम् अर्हसि
jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur
dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca
tasmād aparihārye ‘rthe
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
Friend1: Okay, but what about the living experience being more pleasurable? Automobiles. Indoor plumbing. Supermarkets. Smartphones.
Friend2: Is anyone able to enjoy these things? If they were, no one would take to intoxication. Everyone I know is high or drunk half the time. I mean, you can’t blame them. There is so much stress just to maintain life.
Friend1: Complex living, low thinking.
Friend2: Or even no thinking. No contemplation on what the purpose to it all is. Just try to reverse the properties that are ingrained in the nature around us.
Friend1: What is the alternative, though? Wait for heaven? That’s a tough sell.
Friend2: For sure there is a way out of the cycle of birth and death. Consciousness is the determining factor. The same process that stops reincarnation also changes the nature of living in this world.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: The reason the world is temporary and miserable is because kala acts. This is time. Kala is one rupa of the Supreme Lord. It is one way that every person, regardless of their religious inclination, sees the Divine. For those surrendered to Him, kala becomes a sort of friend. Time increases the auspiciousness of the surroundings, bringing more opportunities for devotional service, which is performed blissfully, susukham.
पवित्रम् इदम् उत्तमम्
सु-सुखं कर्तुम् अव्ययम्
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam
“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)
While engaged in such service the ocean of suffering which was previously so difficult to overcome becomes much easier to deal with. This is because of the helping hand of Bhagavan, who is the controller of the nature to begin with.
Temporary and miserable you say,
But scientists hard at work and play.
Reversing situation to try,
But laws of nature can’t defy.
Since Krishna as kala to act,
Devastating toll to exact.
Better with devotional path taking,
Everlasting benefit making.