19361125 - A Wrong Civilization by A.C. Das

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada




(Bhaktivedanta Swami)

Source: Harmonist, Volume 33, # 3, Nov 25, 1936.


Submitted by His Holiness Bhakti Vikasa Swami


When we speak of civilization, we mean the civilization of human society individual or collective, nation or people and it bears a meaning of a gradual process of evolution of a certain standard of life. The etymological explanation of the word civilization, as we find often in the dictionary, is the state of being refined in manners from the rude savage life and improved in arts and learning. Thus by civilization we mean a progress of life towards a certain desired ideal, by the human race only. Civilization is applicable to human society only, because in other forms of life there is no possibility of a gradual process of improvement in the standard of life. Generally speaking objects that are visible to our naked eyes are divided into two broad groups. The one is animation and the other is dead matter. In the animate group we find that a life is born, stays here for a certain period of time and then dies.

According to Sree Geeta matter cannot have any separate existence:

(Sanskrit text)

With the birth of a living being we see a certain quantity of matter also, as covering of the living being, and with the advancing age of the particular living being the material covering also undergoes a gradual change, and when the living being leaves that material covering the corpse remains as dead matter for a different purpose independently of the living being with whom it had been born.

We cannot, however, accept the theory of life being born out of matter, but it is not at present the subject-matter of our discussion. Empiric Science only deals with matter. We, therefore, accept the authority of Sree Geeta which defines life as the principle which holds together this material universe.

Under the circumstances, progress is applicable to life only and not to dead matter which is always subservient to life. The animate kingdom is divided into two groups namely the sthabar and the jangama. The sthabar means that which cannot move from one place to another, under which heading comes plant and stone life. Modern science has more or less accepted the vegetable kingdom as having life, but the Hindu scriptures state that there is also life in stone e.g. the hills etc. The jangama are those that can move from one place to another. Amongst the jangama group are aquatic animals, animals that move on land and those that fly in the air. Amongst animals that move on land the human form of life is considered to be the highest. There are different gradations of man beginning from life in the most savage and barberous state of society to the most polished and advanced form of cultured society.

Whenever there is animation there is also free initiative which is the prime symptom of life; and civilization can be interpreted as the development of this initiative. Man is a rational animal. We can distinguish human form of life from other forms of animation by the principle of rationality. The more the rationality of man individually or collectively is developed, the society is considered to be more civilized. All other animals are as if under the guidance of mother Nature. Men are considered to be her elderly children who are given to certain amount of freedom to make the best use of their rational portion of life which is a special gift to them. Therefore, a man without rationality is no better than the lower animals.

It is quite reasonable, therefore, to think that the misuse of this rational portion of life may result in our being degraded from this highest form of life to the lowest one. The Darwinian theory of the gradual progress of species by differentiation and development may be partially correct; but according to the authorities of the Vedas and the Geeta, etc., a human form of life is considered to be a better chance for the soul which if not properly used, causes the offender to be hurled back into the whirlpool of lower births and deaths in the cycle of eighty-four lacs of types of life. It is said, therefore, in the Bhagabat,

(Sanskrit text)

We have got this human form of life after crores of births and deaths, and, therefore, it should not be misused.

But the modern trend of civilization is more or less suicidal to the policy of this progress of life; and, therefore, it can be termed as wrong civilization. The word progress denote movement from one state to another, but out of our misunderstanding the movement is directed towards the wrong side the progress becomes degradation, and this is what we think has happened in the modern trend of civilization. In the lower form of life we cannot understand what is really good for us, but in the human form of life, we have the highest developed form of consciousness to study the phenomenal objects, and naturally and inquisitiveness arises within ourselves to know what we are and about the real nature of this world and the creator. There is no denying the fact that this inquisitiveness never arises in the consciousness of the lower animals, and as such the true function of human being is to culture this part of his special gift by a systematic quest for the proper solution of the above metaphysical questions. There is no difference of physical necessities between a lower animal and a human being, and unless and until we engage ourselves in the study of the metaphysical questions and reach to the Absolute goal, the so-called civilization of human society may be termed as polished animalism. The civilization that had developed in ancient India had a different vision and the sages, who were able to discover the real necessities of human civilization, were above the mere physical wants. They discovered four common principles of animal life. They are as follows Ahara i.e. the principle of eating or drinking, Nidra i.e. the principle of sleeping, Bhaya i.e. the principle of fearing from others, Maithuna i.e. the sexuality. If our civilization is bound up within the walls of these four categories, we must accept that we have not improved the rational portion of our life by an inch. These four principles of life are common to the lower as well as the higher forms of life. In plain language these four principles cover only the physical wants of our life and they may be termed as sensuous enjoyments sought after by all classes of animals.

The objects that minister to these sensuous enjoyments are called Bishayas, and they are equally attainable by all forms of animation. Nature has given us sufficient resources to fulfil this aspect of our life, and they are supplied to us even without any effort on our part and even in the most degraded form of our existence. Let us, therefore, think over our present position to ascertain whether we have endeavoured for something more than these.

The so-called civilization of modern society is more or less and organised expression of all the above mentioned sensuous enjoyment and all improvements in science, art, manners or learning are targetted towards this end only. It will take a long time for us to go into the details of the list of these sensuous enjoyments. The scholars of the Scriptures call them the traps of the deluding energy. Why they are called traps may be understood by the close perusal of the following lines.

We have undoubtedly learnt the art of preparing good dishes for the relish of our palate, and invented varieties of food-stuff which the lower animals cannot do; but the results derived by eating the cooked or uncooked food-stuff are the same both to animals and to human beings. Our civilization in this connection has not helped us in the least to prepare such food-stuff by eating which we can make our material body immortal any more than the lower animals. Science and art or culture have deceived us as far as this point is concerned.

By our inventions of various kinds of up-to-date furniture and sleeping accommodations in the most fashionable and comfortable cushions with decorated electric lights and fans, which are considered to the best gifts of modern civilization, we have not improved the quality of our sleeping more than the lower animals. On the contrary, our conventional and extraordinary arrangements for sleeping-comforts have brought forth in their turn an ugly disease known as Insomnia which the lower animals do not dream of. Recently we read in the papers that a Marwari millionaire offered a few lacs to any one who could cure his Insomnia. We cannot, therefore, be proud of our civilization from this point of view, as the lower animals are free from such maladies.

Similarly we have not been able to minimise the volume of our fearfulness by inventing or improving the art of killing others. The lower animals such as dogs are always envious of fellow-dogs, and we do not think we are less envious of our fellow-men by the advancement of our present civilization. Individually or collectively we are always fearful of our fellow-brothers out of fear for loss. The dogs can improve their collective interests and combine in a society at a certain locality and, influenced by the extended selfishness, they can effectively make an attack on another dog or group of dogs from a different locality, and we do not think we have much improved this dogqualification in ourselves any more than they. One man is afraid of another fellow-man inspite of the slogans of equality and fraternity etc., and in a broader sense one community or nation is afraid of another community or nation. The ideals of Political Philosophy in the shape of the League of Nations are, therefore, prospering at the expense of the less organised nations. So in this respect also we are no better than the lower animals.

And lastly in the matter of sexuality, we do not think we have made any greater advance than the lower animals. There are many animals who are expert in producing more children than ourselves and there are many more animals who can abstain from sexuality more voluntarily more than ourselves. Human society has developed a sense of hypocrisy in matters of sexuality with the advance of civilization. The leaders of society now openly reject the ideals of voluntary check of sexuality as is enjoined by religious Scriptures, and they have adopted artificial means of birth-control; while, on the other hand, they are too much eager to introduce the re-marriage of widows who had been accustomed to abstain from sexuality. So they are equivocal at one and the same time for increasing or decreasing the rapid growth of population. These symptoms prove nothing but encouragement of sensuous enjoyment for all, irrespective of social or economic restraint. But this sort of unrestricted sexuality is absent from the society of the lower animals.

It is quite evident, therefore, from the study of the above facts that the trend of present civilization in its crude sense is no improvement on the animal portion of our life, and, therefore, it may be safely concluded that we are in the trap of the deluding energy. And by the progress of the present system of civilization we have no chance of improving status quo inspite of our having been given a chance of utilising the rational part of our life. In other words, the whole arrangement is an unqualified failure. And because it is a failure even on the highest ideals of manners and improvement in arts and literature there is always a tint of canine barbarism within. The present civilization is not a healthy one. The big cities which are considered to be the highest gifts of modern civilization, are in many respects worse than big forests. They are infested with organised gangs of criminals and robbers who are far worse than the wild beasts of the forests.

But simple condemnation of the present system of civilization is not all. We must try to find out the cause of it. After all we are human beings and it lies in our power to rectify the mistakes already committed and take up the proper path for actual progress. Sree Gurudev can alone teach us how even the traps of the deluding energy can be utilised for the service of the Absolute by the awakened soul.

So before we are competent enough for correcting the gross mistakes that have crept into our present system of civilization we must be awakened souls. We have been pulling too much stress on the material side of our existence, and, therefore, the whole thing has been a merely destructive contrivance, without any reference to the constructive side of civilization pertaining to the living entity, - we mean the necessity of the soul.

As we have already mentioned herein before that matter has no separate useful existence from life, so our present civilization which puts too much importance on the material side without any reference to the life or soul, is undoubtedly found to be wrong civilization. It is quite understandable that a house has no useful existence if there is no living resident within the house. The upkeep of the material house is needed as much as is congenial to the health of the living residents within the house. But if we misunderstand the whole position by mistaking the house for the residents and go on polishing and improving the house only, it does not certainly show any good use of our intelligence. When there is an outbreak of fire, the fire-brigade members show their ingenuity by saving the lives within the house and not simply by extinguishing the fire itself. Extinguishing is not to be neglected, but the lives within the house must be saved at all costs. It will be no wisdom to extinguish the fire at the cost of the lives within. The authors of modern civilization have given too much weight to the exoteric view of human life, and, therefore, it cannot satisfy the same members of human society who possess the esoteric view. The wrong type of civilization can be accepted as being good in itself only by dormant souls, and it requires to be overhauled from every side by those who are awakened.

Some 450 years ago Lord Chaitanya Himself appeared as a great religious Teacher in Bengal for bringing this message of the awakened soul home to everybody. That remains the only hidden treasure for all humanity, nay for the whole of this mundane universe. The whole world is painfully labouring under the pressure of a wrong civilization and paying a heavy toll for all the misdoings. The beginning of human civilization proper dates only from the establishment of Varnashrama Dharma. The system of Varnashrama Dharma was long ago in practice in India, but with the fall of the indigenous civilization of India, the Varnashrama Dharama has also been wrecked. Time is ripe for the revival of Varnashrama Dharma under the guidance of the Teaching of Lord Chaitanya, and we are glad that there is missive light already shining. The modern civilized people are out to lord it over Nature or Maya, and they are trying their utmost to control the forces of Maya. But they do not know that Maya cannot be really over-come by any conditioned soul.

An awakened soul can point out that all our frail tactics to avoid the traps of the deluding energy are nothing but a waste of energy and throwing stones in the darkness. Therefore, a warning halt should be sounded for the endeavours of all conditioned souls if they do not desire to be victims of Maya. The Message of Lord Chaitanya needs to be broadcasted all the world over for thorough over-hauling of the Wrong Civilization.