“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)
अपरेयम् इतस् त्व् अन्यां
प्रकृतिं विद्धि मे पराम्
ययेदं धार्यते जगत्
apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
Through the ages the nature of living changes, as particularly evidenced by the last one hundred years or so. While there is rapid advancement in areas affecting daily life, one thing certainly does not change. Each generation has their lamentation and concern regarding the future. They were accustomed to growing up a certain way and they see that the next generation has it a lot easier.
“In my day, we didn’t have television. I am serious. There was not this large appliance in the house that everyone sat around throughout the day. We had the radio. We would receive vital information that way. Newspapers and published works. We considered books to be a luxury. The library was the favorite place for people seeking knowledge.
“The arrival of a new book brought tremendous excitement. Especially if the subject matter was foreign to us, it was like opening up a whole new world. We could immediately travel to a different place, see how other people lived, and possibly learn a thing or two from them.
“Most importantly, we never felt deprived. We were not bored during the daytime. Children played outside after school. We were active. There wasn’t a public campaign against childhood obesity. We had so much fun throughout the year. In the winter it was throwing snowballs and shoveling the driveways of the neighbors. In the summer it was pretending to be baseball players we heard about on the radio or saw live at the stadium.”
2. Cable television
“When I was growing up we didn’t have cable television. It was just beginning to gain in popularity. I remember an extended family member had it hooked up in their home. They lived far away from the city, so they had no other option. The free channels could not be picked up by an antenna.
“As children, we were certainly excited whenever we visited this family member. It was great to watch baseball games, wrestling and cartoons on these extra channels, but in general everything was fine at home. We were plenty entertained with the over-the-air stations.
“In fact, this large congregation of viewers forced the networks to provide better content. Everything was family-friendly. They were catering to the needs of the customer. They were not pointing the finger at society, in general, lecturing them about their supposed flaws without ever having met them.”
“It is strange to think about today, but we grew up without internet. If you had a favorite recording artist, you could not just type their name into a search engine and see what they looked like. You had to purchase their music from a physical store and then see the artwork inside of the cassette or CD package. You had to find their interviews in magazines and newspapers.
“More often than not, you just waited for their music to appear on television. We had a video cassette recorder, so we tried to preserve content that way. Nevertheless, the consumption of information was vastly different than it is today.
“To be honest, there were no issues. We did not feel as if we were missing anything. As far as I could tell, people were not clamoring for something better. I noticed that they tended to retain information better. Think about it: we had to. For instance, I knew the fifty states in America and each capital. I could not quickly look it up on the internet. My ability to spell was also better than it is now.”
“This is probably one of those inventions that a lot of people wish could be undone. Eliminate it altogether. Return to a time when there was more direct social interaction. People sitting down to a meal and actually looking at one another. A safer time on the roads, with drivers less distracted.
“We did not grow up with smartphones. We had the larger cell phones, and some of them were with a fold-out keyboard. We could send text messages, which was a valuable feature. Nevertheless, these devices were strictly for communication. We were not keeping them close by throughout the day. We were not slowly going blind by looking at them from morning until night.”
5. Social media
“When I was growing up, people consumed content without commentary. If someone published an article on a particular political topic, you could read the entire thing without interference. You would then contemplate. If you had a rebuttal, you would write an official reply to the publisher. Maybe you would try to publish your own views on the subject matter.
“There was no time wasted on petty feuds. There were these forums and message boards, but I quickly realized those were not places for me. It was an insult contest. Find some nameless, faceless user and try your best to make them cry.
“We lacked social media, and I think people were a lot happier. Today, it seems like we can’t live without this method of communication, but let me assure you that we managed just fine without it. People found a way to congregate, to join forces for a common interest, and to share precious moments with friends and family.”
Choose any arbitrary point in the vast timeline of existence and you can find a person with a similar story. A common term used to describe them is, “old fuddy duddy.” They are old-fashioned or considered a traditionalist.
While it may be amusing to listen to the complaints of such a person, they all essentially have the same message:
“We lived in the past without a lot of what is available today. Not only did we survive, but we were happier than you people are today.”
This highlights an important truth put forward by the acharyas of the Vedic tradition. They define real progress as the advancement of the consciousness. The human birth is itself a milestone. Appearing from the womb of the mother is an achievement to be celebrated, as then begins the opportunity for inquiring into Brahman.
That inquiry hopefully leads to the second birth, the one given by the combination of spiritual master and Vedic literature; guru and shastra. The human being has the unique opportunity for this second birth, and there is no hindrance based on the circumstances of the time.
That is to say we can achieve perfection in life regardless of the timeline of progress for technology. Whether there is a smartphone around or only printed books at the local library, the goal remains the same. The philosophy is, “simple living and high thinking.”
As Krishna confirms in Bhagavad-gita, the living entities are actually part of the superior energy. They fall prey to the transformations within the inferior energy, struggling with what they think they can’t live without. In truth, it is the living entities who dominate.
Vairagya tied to the pursuit of excellence in spiritual living brings real and lasting happiness. Otherwise, every new so-called advancement is another source of bondage, a way to tie me to the cycle of birth and death. In the next life I will have to start over, hoping to get the chance at understanding transcendence.
I may have grown up without an amenity vital to the modern world, but if I have the shelter of the guru and Bhagavan, I am the most fortunate person in this world. My life is meant for service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the original author of everything great in this world. If I stay close to Him in a lifetime engagement of devotional service, I will always feel as if no one is luckier than me.
Since Divine shelter to see,
No one luckier than me.
The guru my prospects to save,
Timeless Vedic wisdom gave.
So that in any situation can thrive,
Even in destitution to feel alive.
Proper association through sound,
Now to eternal life bound.
Categories: the five