“To know exactly the permanency of spiritual existence, one must voluntarily practice possessing less or only the minimum to maintain one’s material existence without difficulty. One should not create artificial needs. That will help one be satisfied with the minimum. Artificial needs of life are activities of the senses. The modern advancement of civilization is based on these activities of the senses, or, in other words, it is a civilization of sense gratification. Perfect civilization is the civilization of atma, or the soul proper.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.18 Purport)
Friend1: Do you ever run into people who are excited about the future of technology?
Friend2: What exactly about the future? As in, what new devices and gadgets will be invented?
Friend1: Exactly. No one could have imagined the smartphone. Though I know certain entrepreneurs long ago envisioned the idea of having so many books available to you in the palm of your hand.
Friend2: They probably didn’t see the devaluation of what a book means.
Friend1: Not sure I follow.
Friend2: Well, previously you had to take the effort to publish physical copies. That meant some financial burden. With that risk there had to be some reward, i.e. people to buy the books. That automatically increases the quality of the content.
Friend1: I never thought of it that way.
Friend2: It is how nature works. The rising and setting of the sun forces us to finish work in a certain duration of time. The deadline imposed by the manager at the office serves as impetus to get started. The fear of losing your job enables you to arise out of bed and get ready for a day spent outside.
Friend1: How does that relate to books again?
Friend2: If it is easier to publish, you won’t have as many forces at play checking and validating the content. I am sure you have noticed the degradation of media. Some of the headlines today are downright childish; they wouldn’t pass in an elementary school class on journalism. But since it is easier to publish through the digital medium, the quality of the content is not as important.
Friend1: That is interesting. Anyway, with technology in general, shouldn’t we be excited about the future?
Friend2: What is going to happen? Have you solved birth and death? That is the real question. Is there an end to suffering?
Friend1: You don’t think it is beneficial to be able to contact someone easily when in an emergency situation? How about being able to order food without getting up? A world of content available at your fingertips. Advances in medical treatment. The list is endless.
Friend2: You and I surely take advantage of those things, but have the real issues of life been addressed? That is something to be excited over. How can I better serve the Supreme Lord? Will I be able to focus on Him throughout the day? Will I receive more opportunities for service?
Friend1: It seems to me that scientific advancements wouldn’t really impact that.
Friend2: Nothing from the material world can; though we should always look for situations that are favorable to the advancement of the consciousness. The two Sanskrit words: ahaituki and apratihata.
Friend1: Unmotivated and uninterrupted.
Friend2: This means that you could be living in the stone ages or on a station set up in space – the conditions are not important. Real progress is understanding the spirit inside and how every living being is equal at the defining level. The human birth is itself an achievement of evolution, but there is one step remaining: liberation.
Human birth to gain,
But one step to remain.
Liberation towards attracting,
But illusory progress distracting.
Creating artificial need,
And not the soul to feed.
Excited for opportunities more,
When Shri Krishna’s pleasure for.