“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)
“I work in the technology space. To people on the outside, I am in information technology. People on the inside understand that there is a wide span of job titles and functions within that specific sector of the economy.
“On the inside, I am known as a developer. Getting further granular, I work on the website side of things. I don’t do much with databases, managing servers, configuring networks, and the like. Someone on my team recently made a joke that got me to thinking. He said that we, as a team, are building the legacy applications of tomorrow, today.
“This was taking a jab at the technology leadership of the company, implying that they are slow to innovate. The developers get bogged down in tasks that might help applications in the short-term, but end up being outdated soon thereafter. Then you are stuck trying to find developers who will support old technology, which tends to stifle career ascension.
“While the comment is appropriate for my current place of employment, it got me to thinking that it is actually true across the entire spectrum of technology. Imagine the people working on the first popular home video game console. After a few short years, there was intense competition to upgrade, to take advantage of advancements in chips and television display capabilities.
“This problem squares with the issue raised by the acharyas of the Vedic tradition. I have heard different terms associated with the problem, such as ugra-karma, kama, and anartha. Basically, we are wasting our time in these endeavors. They have only temporary relevance, and soon after we are left in the same position that we started from.
“I agree with that. It makes sense. But what about the opposing viewpoint? Are we supposed to stifle innovation? If someone makes a better mousetrap, why shouldn’t we use it? Isn’t it silly to sit back and ignore everything around us? How do you keep a distance in interest without shooting yourself in the foot?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says to avoid creating artificial needs. These are so prevalent that it does not take long to identify one. The smartphone is the latest example. For centuries, people lived without these devices. They did not stare at screens the entire day. They were not so distracted while driving, and they didn’t think an internet outage was the end of the world.
At the same time, the smartphone has allowed great convenience. It has even saved lives, in facilitating quick communication during emergency situations. Yet to be addicted to any piece of technology is the quintessential case of an artificial need.
The principle is not for creating a competition in renunciation, either. Simple living and high thinking are for advancing the consciousness. This is the real reason for our enhanced intelligence. We were not placed in the human form of body in order to spend hours and days upgrading devices and software, troubleshooting issues, or eagerly anticipating the release of the next gadget that will soon be outdated.
Perfect civilization focuses on the atma. The spirit soul remains intact, the source of vitality through the eternal time continuum. I will always be who I am, spirit soul. I am always Brahman, which is the spiritual energy.
Why not work in a way that matches my eternal nature? Why not meet the needs of the soul instead of the senses? Why not at least try reducing sense gratification, coupling with spiritual activities, to see if there is a notable difference in quality of life? As Shri Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita, there cannot be happiness without peace.
नास्ति बुद्धिर् अयुक्तस्य
न चायुक्तस्य भावना
न चाभावयतः शान्तिर्
अशान्तस्य कुतः सुखम्
nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham
“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)
As proof that spiritual endeavors do not suffer from upgrade requirements brought on by time, we see that the original text of works like Bhagavad-gita is still studied, revered, contemplated, memorized, and applied to this day. A brief moment on a battlefield, with two friends talking, where one becomes the guru and the other the disciple. The output of that work continues to be just as vibrant and alive today as it was some five thousand years ago.
The same applies to my work, if I should follow in the footsteps of Arjuna. If I do everything for Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then my work is spiritual. Never mind in what industry I find myself. Never mind how many future births I have to take. Krishna is the one I will never forsake, and that will leave a lasting impression for both myself and those I have influenced.
Working in specific line,
But of different mindset to find.
Caring only about Krishna pleasing,
Not of my daily troubles easing.
Because whatever built today,
Later as outdated to say.
Bhakti’s results like Him to endure,
Shri Krishna my lasting benefit to ensure.