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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

The Cause of Suffering

Mahisāsura, the most powerful demon, who was the personification of the forces of evil, was in fact endowed with intelligence, education, wealth, the ability to perform severe penances and attract large followings, and so on. His present-day followers, possessing identical qualifications, are no less enterprising and expert in exploiting the divine energy. They carry out elaborate scientific research, misspending huge amounts of money, time, energy, intelligence, men, and so on. But instead of bringing peace and joy, what they discover through these researches ends up producing untold misery for humanity. This is a perfect example of daivī māyā's throwing agency in action. All these evil activities bring great losses to human society. As a result of this evil, the mundane scientists incur grievous sin, which destroys their real intelligence. And this loss of intelligence turns them away from God and robs them of their chance to surrender to Him. Thus in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.15) the Supreme Lord says:

na māṁ duṣkṛtino muḍhāḥ
prapadyante narādhamāḥ
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ

"Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me."

In the Bhagavad-gītā (16.7-20) the Supreme Lord has exhaustively described the nature of such atheistic demons:

Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behaviour nor truth is found in them. They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust. Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world. Taking shelter of insatiable lust and absorbed in the conceit of pride and false prestige, the demoniac, thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent.

They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of life their anxiety is immeasurable. Bound by a network of hundreds and thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification. The demoniac person thinks, 'So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemies will also be killed. I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful, and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.' In this way such persons are deluded by ignorance. Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, they become too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and fall down into hell.

Self-complacent and always impudent, deluded by wealth and false prestige, they sometimes proudly perform sacrifices in name only, without following any rules or regulations. Bewildered by false ego, strength, pride, lust, and anger, the demons become envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is situated in their own bodies and in the bodies of others, and blaspheme against the real religion. Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, I perpetually cast into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life. Attaining repeated birth amongst the species of demoniac life, O son of Kuntī, such persons can never approach Me. Gradually they sink down to the most abominable type of existence.

These verses from the Gītā aptly describe the demoniac nature.

There have always existed two types of men, the devotee and the demon. Long ago there lived a big demon named Rāvaṇa, who disguised himself as a sannyāsī, a renounced mendicant, and tried to steal the wife of the Supreme Lord, Rāmacandra. She was the goddess of fortune, Sītā-devī. In this way the demon brought about his own destruction.

But now, in modern times, Rāvaṇa's dynasty has multiplied into millions. This has given rise to many different opinions, which have made the demons inimical toward one another. Thus they are all competing tooth and nail, trying to kidnap the goddess of fortune, Sītā-devī. Each one is thinking, "I am the most cunning, and so I will enjoy Sītā-devī all by myself." But like Rāvaṇa, all these demons, along with their entire families, are being destroyed. So many powerful leaders like Hitler have come, but enamoured by the illusion of enjoying and exploiting the Supreme Lord's energy and consort—Sītā-devī, the goddess of fortune—all of them have been thwarted and crushed in the past, are being thwarted and crushed in the present, and will be thwarted and crushed in the future. The root cause of the aforementioned lament—"In the dispensation of providence, mankind cannot have any rest"—is this demoniac mentality of exploiting and enjoying the Lord's divine energy.

The demons do not know when or where to renounce, nor do they know when or where to accept or receive. When diagnosing a patient, one has to properly judge this accepting and rejecting principle. So, in order to cure the demoniac mentality in human society, which causes the Rāvaṇa syndrome of trying to steal Sītā-devī, it is essential that the demoniac nature be transformed. For any treatment, two important factors are that the patient be in clean surroundings and that his medicine and food be administered punctually. Similarly, to transform the demoniac mentality, people have to be clean, disciplined, and truthful. This end is not served by advocating the theory of yata mat, tata path—that "there are as many ways to salvation as there are opinions"—for in this way one confuses and deceives the populace. By bringing the clean and the unclean, the disciplined and undisciplined, the truthful and the untruthful onto the same level, one will find it impossible to cure or even treat any patient.