“Poverty will be looked on as dishonorable, while a hypocrite who can put on a show will be thought pious. Marriage will be based on arbitrary agreement, and simply taking a bath will be considered proper cleansing and decoration of the body.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 12.2.5)
साधुत्वे दम्भ एव तु
स्वीकार एव चोद्वाहे
स्नानम् एव प्रसाधनम्
sādhutve dambha eva tu
svīkāra eva codvāhe
snānam eva prasādhanam
Friend1: I came across a verse in Shrimad Bhagavatam about the conditions of life in Kali-yuga.
Friend2: That is the last age in terms of dividing the creation of the population.
Friend1: Yes, one yuga represents a complete cycle. The same word gets used for the four divisions within. Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. We are in the midst of the last one.
Friend2: Another comparison is to a table with four legs. This table represents dharma, which is something like duty, righteousness, piety, adherence to religious principles, and the like. In Kali-yuga, dharma stands on only one leg.
Friend1: Basically, with each successive age, one leg from the table gets knocked off. Like so many others, I am amazed at how accurate some of these predictions are.
Friend2: Within Shrimad Bhagavatam?
Friend1: Yes. They are speaking of the future, bhavishya. This is some five thousand years ago. It is not hindsight forecasting. Thousands of years prior we see just exactly what would be considered the inverted situation.
Friend2: In a juxtaposition with the period of time, or how things ought to be. The marriage one stands out to me.
Friend1: How it is now based simply on agreement, svikara. No science applied. Nothing to do with the families.
Friend2: Explains why it breaks so easily, as well. Where there was once agreement, there is now disagreement. Bye-bye to the partner.
Friend1: Marriage should be in dharma, or duty. Anyway, one of the predictions kind of surprises me. It says that in Kali-yuga a poor person will be considered dishonorable.
Friend2: Why does that surprise you?
Friend1: Because think of the negation. When dharma stands on four legs, a poor person would be considered honorable?
Friend2: They wouldn’t be viewed with derision. It wouldn’t be considered a great failure to not be loaded with wealth.
Friend1: Okay, but that still doesn’t make sense. Does this mean we should strive for poverty, that wealth is not really honorable?
Friend2: We should not consider a person to be honorable, worthy of respect, based only on their net worth. Shri Krishna explains in the same Bhagavatam that the wealth of a miser leads them to hell in two ways:
न सुखाय कदाचन
मृतस्य नरकाय च
na sukhāya kadācana
mṛtasya narakāya ca
“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)
Friend1: In this life I am always distracted by my money and how to protect it.
Friend2: Which, in turn, leads to miserliness, which results in a hellish existence in the afterlife.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Within varnashrama-dharma the highest division of occupation is brahmana. They are not meant to earn lots of money. They accept in charity and also distribute it, dana-pratigraha. But if they happen to be poor, that is not a mark against them.
Friend1: Whereas today we think something is wrong if there isn’t a high net worth.
Friend2: Right. Like they have failed in life or something. They weren’t smart enough to earn money. You see the derision cast by the elites against those without a college degree, for instance. The simple people who line up to go to church the night before service, who survive without a flashy car to show everyone in the neighborhood.
Friend1: You are saying that money isn’t everything.
Friend2: Not me; shastra. A person is honorable based on their intelligence, on the way they view others. Because of true knowledge, vidya, a person sees the variety of living entities as equals, though they may be temporarily in different situations:
ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि
शुनि चैव श्व-पाके च
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
This is a great lesson in terms of tolerance, compassion, respect, and equality of vision. A wise person understands the collective link to the Almighty. A shared experience, if you will.
Considered a failure or weak,
Odd if wealth not to seek.
Where expensive car not driving,
And a bank balance not thriving.
But when in knowledge and connection,
Then moving in right direction.
So for others something valuable to give,
How with spiritual consciousness to live.