RTW 1.7

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


=How to Cure the Material Disease

The general populace simply follows the dictates and decisions of the leaders, who are bereft of any spiritual realization. Therefore it is advised that the leaders of society should act responsibly. The easy path to prosperity opens up when these leaders intelligently put into practice the precepts of karma-yoga. Without first becoming adept at curing one's own disease, why try to treat many patients? This is unreasonable. First a leader has to adopt the principles of karma-yoga in his own life; then he has to diagnose the disease of the people; then the medicine is to be prescribed and the proper diet given. Simply to offer the suffering people a sense-gratificatory cure that titillates their senses—this is not going to make them healthy. Rather, this will spread the disease further, and at one stage the doctor himself will be infected and finally die from it.

Forgetfulness of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu, is human society's real and original disease. So, if one does not treat this ailment but instead shows insincere and shallow concern for the patients, one might give them some momentary relief and pleasure, but ultimately such a course of action cannot cure them permanently. If the patient goes for proper medicine and diet but is instead administered bad medicine and diet, then he is certainly in the jaws of death.

The remnants of food offered to the Supreme Lord, known as prasādam, is the best diet for all patients. And to discuss and hear topics glorifying the Supreme Lord, to see the Lord's Deity form and offer worship to Him, and to completely surrender oneself to the Lord—these constitute the greatest medicine, the panacea. These activities are the only secure path to prosperity, whereas other activities will wreak disaster. The practices of devotional service to the Lord can never cause harm to society; rather, they can only usher in an age of opportunities and benedictions. Those who are opportunists and financial speculators should calmly consider these facts.

Stalwarts of society like Mahātmā Gandhi are trying in various ways to usher in an age of peace, but because such endeavors are not inspired or blessed by the spiritually evolved saints, they are not turning out successful, nor will they be fruitful in the future. The God of the monists, or Māyāvādīs, cannot eat, see, or hear. Such a concocted, formless God can never bring peace to the world. How can a God who has no sensory organs see the miseries of the people or hear their heartfelt prayers? To worship such a formless God in the name of searching for spiritual truth can only produce misfortune in the world, never good fortune. In the Māyāvāda school of philosophy, discussions on pure knowledge can throw some light on the real nature of the Absolute Truth, but they are unable to fully reveal the esoteric and personal aspects of the Supreme Absolute Being. These dry, empirical discussions fall far short of their objective: a complete understanding of the Absolute Truth. Therefore only if leaders like Mahatma Gandhi strive to realize the Supreme Absolute Person-not a formless energy—can they truly benefit human society.

Conditioned human beings are expert at dealing with this material body and mind. These gross materialists, who cannot see beyond materialistic activities, find it impossible to believe that besides our material universe, a spiritual universe exists. Completely identifying with the body, such materialists are like animals, simply eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. They are so captivated by these four animalistic propensities that they lose the power to discriminate between sinful and pious activities. They tirelessly endeavor for a little sense gratification, but all their efforts end in futility. Many modern scientists have taken up the role of priests facilitating such gross activities, which are unbeneficial and fatal. These scientists have made available a variety of products meant simply to titillate the senses, thus creating a deadly competitive mood among the materialists, which has in turn caused an obnoxious atmosphere in society. People think they become free and independent through such sensual activities, but factually they become more tightly bound up in chains. The greater their accumulated wealth, the greater their anxiety and depravity. As much as they try to usurp the Supreme Lord's position of being the only enjoyer, that much and more are they drawn into the jaws of a horrible death. And these activities make a Herculean task out of such a simple and basic activity as sustaining the body, which needs a little nourishment only.

A grade higher than this mean class of gross materialists are those who believe in the transmigration of the soul. These are the fruitive workers who perform pious activities such as giving in charity, but their only motive is to ensure that their next life is one of luxury and sense enjoyment. Neither of these grades of fruitive workers realizes that both pious as well as sinful activities cause bondage. These materialists do not know that karma-yoga, activity performed without fruitive desire, is the best form of activity. Therefore they often think that the karma-yogīs are as attached to this material world as the gross materialists. The sole motive of the karma-yogī, however, is to instruct the members of society for their benefit. As Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.25) "As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, the learned may similarly act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path."

Like others, sages who are in knowledge of the Absolute Truth maintain their bodies, but the difference is that the goal of all their activities is to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu. Although the general mass of people may wrongly think that the sages' activities are the same as their own, in fact the sages are performing karma-yoga, not fruitive activity.

Present times have seen the widespread expansion of modern science and technology in our world in a variety of forms, which have entangled society more and more in the vicious cycle of karma. Huge factories, universities, hospitals, and so on, are certain to entangle society further in the karmic cycle. Bygone ages never witnessed such huge, complex arrangements for gross materialistic activities. Wrong and simply bad association has tightly bound up the innocent populace in mean activities. But the learned man, the karma-yogī, can show society how to perform all these activities for the satisfaction of the Lord.

Previously, sages arranged for Lord Viṣṇu's Deity to be worshiped in practically every household, thereby creating the atmosphere for people to become karma-yogīs. Similarly, it is now urgent that similar arrangements be made to worship and serve Lord Viṣṇu in the huge factories, mercantile firms, hospitals, and so on. This can firmly establish true equality among men under a spiritual banner. Lord Nārāyaṇa is not poor; He is the Supreme Lord of Lords. And hence attempts to say that the poor people are "Nārāyaṇas" is foolish. Rather, by widely organizing the worship and service of the Lord, one can greatly benefit everyone, including the poor. The Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests Himself in many forms, but the sages have chosen three of His multifarious forms to serve and worship as the Deity. They are Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa, Sītā-Rāma, and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. These three Deity couples are widely worshiped all over the Indian subcontinent. Therefore, we request the owners of large factories and business firms to establish the worship and service of any of these three Deities in their establishments. The owners can then distribute prasādam, offered food, to everyone. This practice will repair any disagreements between worker and owner, because both will become karma-yogīs.

Most factory workers and other laborers cannot maintain a good character and thus slide down to depravities. And if such derelicts increase in population, the world has no chance for a prosperous and fortunate future. But if the owners give their laborers and office staff prasādam, then both the givers and the receivers will gradually become purified and more attracted to the Supreme Lord. The whole society will become elevated, civilized, and united in harmony. On the other hand, by trying to achieve only their selfish interests, the owners create a situation in which any harmony or unity is not only fragile but dangerous. And when the owners fire these degraded laborers in pursuit of their crass self-interest, neither the owners themselves nor the laborers are benefited. Soon the workers automatically turn inimical toward their employers.

When laborers and bosses perform activities that are not intended to please Lord Viṣṇu and are in fact troublesome to the Lord, they end up arguing and fighting with each other, thus creating an awful situation in society. The Communists and Socialists are spending money, intelligence, and even lives propagating their "isms"; the Bolsheviks revolted, disrupting the entire land of Russia and promising to fulfill the people's dream of a prosperous household life on a mass scale; the workers' unions are constantly at odds with the employers. All these complicated problems have one simple solution: everyone should perform karma-yoga, or work meant to please the Supreme Lord.

The endeavors human beings have made to establish a close and harmonious relationship with one another have culminated in the United Nations. This organization is based on the concept of the family unit. The gradual expansion of the family unit to a large community, to a village, to a state, to a country, and finally to a continent has given the clue for the formation of the United Nations. The thing to be noted, however, is its center. What is the central attraction? If the process of expansion were reversed, we would end up with the human body as the basic unit. The senses are of prime importance in the body; more important than the senses is the mind, then intelligence, and finally the false ego. And more important than the false ego is the real self, a pure spiritual being that is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. Therefore the conclusion is that the fountainhead of everything is Lord Viṣṇu. For this reason Prahlāda Mahārāja said,

Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Viṣṇu.

Those who lose sight of the center and become attracted to the externals are shallow and misguided. These misguided persons are in a sense blind; hence the world cannot expect them to give any guidance toward enlightenment. However much these blind people may pretend to guide and benefit other blind people, factually they are fully controlled by the will of providence. We should make the effort to understand that the cause and source of everything is Lord Viṣṇu, the Absolute Truth, and that the fullest manifestation of this Absolute Truth is Lord Kṛṣṇa, the source of even Lord Viṣṇu. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.7), "O conqueror of wealth, [Arjuna], there is no truth superior to Me."

Thus the ultimate source of everything is indeed Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. After considerable deliberation, the sages in the past concluded that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Being, the origin of all expansions and manifestations of the Supreme Absolute Truth. As the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.3.28) declares, "All of the abovementioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead..." Later we will discuss more thoroughly the subject of the expansions of Lord Viṣṇu, but for now let us establish that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the highest aspect of the Supreme. The Brahma-saṁhitā (5.1) confirms this: "Kṛṣṇa who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes."

Thus if we can transcend the material body and its physical relationships and become connected with everyone through the Lord Kṛṣṇa, the original Godhead, we can relate on a platform of truth and reality. Then the actual meaning of fraternity and equality will crystalize.