“Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrishni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.36)
अथ केन प्रयुक्तो ऽयं
पापं चरति पूरुषः
अनिच्छन्न् अपि वार्ष्णेय
बलाद् इव नियोजितः
atha kena prayukto ‘yaṁ
pāpaṁ carati pūruṣaḥ
anicchann api vārṣṇeya
balād iva niyojitaḥ
“I realize that in those times there were no libraries. There was no internet search engine or an online encyclopedia that was crowd-contributed. Even when I was a child, we didn’t have information so readily available. We had the television and certain cable channels, but you had to wait for them to provide information; it was not like you could choose what content to see at a given moment.
“Yet word still gets around. I remember knowing the starting lineups to every major league baseball team. I knew what the players looked like and how they positioned themselves in the batter’s box. For the pitchers, I had the motions memorized. I don’t know how that happened, but it wasn’t easy.
“In the ancient times of which I reference today, the people still had a general idea. They were aware of significant incidents from the past. Case in point the Dvapara Yuga and the time of Shri Krishna’s advent to this world. There is the incident of Shrimati Radharani criticizing Krishna for behavior in His past life as Shri Ramachandra. She and the other gopis knew about the Ramayana history, and that information must have been distributed by word of mouth, solely.
“Where I am going is that even during Ravana’s time there was the history of Hiranyakashipu. People understood that a higher power had brought down a well-known atheist. The most powerful king in the world still lost, if you want to put it that way.
“Why would someone repeat behavior that they otherwise know to be harmful? Why dip the toe into the scorching hot water after previously getting burned? Why take a sip of alcohol after the catastrophic results the last time around?”
Fortunately, the ever-wise bow-warrior named Arjuna once asked a similar question. Why do people follow behavior that they know is wrong? Why do they act as if they have no control over themselves? We’ve seen vivid examples in our own journey through life. Perhaps a loved one underwent an ordeal with addiction to drugs or alcohol. They had to take up residence in a rehabilitation facility to finally kick the habit; if they were successful at all.
The explanation is that kama drives a person in directions that they would otherwise not go. Kama, which is material desire, quickly turns into krodha, or wrath, if left unfulfilled. How many times have I thrown the golf clubs in anger? What was the point of kicking that wall in frustration? Why did I yell at someone when they had done nothing wrong?
By understanding kama, krodha, lobha, and karma, we see how the situations repeat. If I am unable to control wrath, I fall down again into the pool of suffering known as the material world. This itself is a cycle, wherein birth and death repeat. The experience in between is the same, so it feels like déjà vu, even though we can’t specifically recall the previous instance.
क्रोधाद् भवति सम्मोहः
krodhād bhavati sammohaḥ
“From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.63)
Education [vidya] plays a vital role in this regard. The same history available to Ravana is well-documented today. The help of someone familiar with the culture and terminology is required for properly assimilating the lessons.
We have documented evidence of someone extraordinary appearing in this world. He and others claim equivalence with Divinity. In other words, God is real and He has shown Himself in the saguna form many times. As many waves as there are in the ocean, that is how many incarnations of Vishnu we can count, if we so attempted.
Vishnu is our way out. He is the one who can end the déjà vu like experience. Attachment to His lotus feet, connection with Him in consciousness, service in a mood of pure love, interest only for His well-being – these will stop rebirth and guarantee placement in the spiritual realm of Vaikuntha.
Rather than rely on faith alone, the benefits are real and can be tasted even within this lifetime. That is the only explanation for large groups of people collectively chanting a single mantra, day after day, with ever-increasing bliss and happiness: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Despite human birth to win,
Seems like on wheel to spin.
Where bad behavior the same,
Where not even knowledge to tame.
By kama in this way compelled,
Into vicious cycle propelled.
Knowledge way out giving,
Gita wisdom’s eternal living.