By Swami Abhayananda Tirtha

Year - 1996, Place – Atlanta, Event - Olympics 

Will he? Won’t he? As the world waited with bated breadth, Mr. Mohammed Ali, the boxing legend held the torch nervously. Three decades ago with the same fists he had punched off one adversary after another and proclaimed, “I am the greatest”. Now after months of practice Mr. Ali, paralyzed from Parkinson’s disease had millions on the edge of their seats.

Anxious moments passed and finally he did it!! He had lit the Olympic flame and upheld the games’ spirit of grit and courage. While a few celebrated the victory of human endurance over natural deterrents, the organizers simply heaved a sigh of relief. None however realized that Mother Nature had humbled and taken yet another victim in her stride……

Is the modern man a success or a failure?
The more man prides himself at conquering nature and being an achiever, more intense is the backlash. Manipulating the material elements to create a civilization centered on incredible modern luxuries, one wonders what’s more in store. The fertile brain which God has bestowed man with, has been utilized to conquer space, exploit atomic and nuclear energy, reduce time barriers and expand communication network. Yet interestingly enough the history of mankind has never seen a more helpless and fearful situation as now. For example over a hundred years ago none knew of movies, computers, refrigerators, washing machines and all the other amenities.

These inventions, motivated by a desire to make life more comfortable and peaceful have ironically belied the expectations. Rather than have more free time, today man is working much harder, hoping to lead a relaxed and lazy life some day in future. High speed cars may promise to save time but man has to drive many hours to work, inhaling gallons of smoke and carbon dioxide on the way. Facing cut throat competition and sharp dead lines for projects, he is stressed out. Gulping over a dozen cups of coffee he relieves himself with a cigarette break. Having no free time and munching the ever attractive junk food, Mr. successful is a zombie, lost in the bad and crazy world of ‘Achievers’. With all the inventions and discoveries promising unlimited hope and happiness, what can be more pitiable than to know that the same hundred year period has witnessed two most destructive wars in history, namely the first and second world war. The WTC tragedy followed by the SARS and Anthrax scare, and then more terror strikes, only made the sober of the lot wonder what more the human brain could do to debilitate its already fragile state of existence.

Illusions dispelled!
A few years ago, North American and Canadian States witnessed an unprecedented blackout ( on 23rd August’ 2003) and panic reactions and images of WTC type attacks haunted the citizens. Five million people were paralyzed and although a few nervously proclaimed it was fascinating, they nevertheless experienced a terrifying chill going down their spines. Uncertainty looming large, Ontario state premier declared a state of emergency. People roamed with beer in hand, looting and unsuspecting pedestrians were hit by desperately running cars. Wealthy businessman stranded at airports and suffocated in the heat had to sleep on the sidewalk. Electricity has been assumed away by man as readily available and also indispensable for survival. It was simply unthinkable for millionaires to just live without power and electricity. The television viewers’ mourning was unparalleled, as they had absolutely no idea of what to do without their favorite T.V. show on.

The illusion is that we are all trying to be lords of material nature, while actually we are under the grip of her stringent laws. We are all trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities. Therefore, although we are engaged in a hard struggle to conquer nature, we are ever more dependent on her.

Accepting shelter of God
When electricity did give away, the superficial grounds on which the modern civilization is founded stood exposed. A building might appear most attractive, however if the foundation is weak, the tallest skyscraper could fall off like a pack of cards. Similarly the high-tech razzle-dazzle of the developed nations can easily enamor one to believe in its reality. Unfortunately lacking in the substance of a purposeful direction and goal in life, these clueless pursuits pale off as a dwindling shadow. On the one hand science and technology has enabled man to provide himself incredible facilities for enjoyment. His control over the material energy is laudable.

However on the other hand human civilization is completely dependent on this artificial creation to the extent that its failure is seen as synonymous with comic dissolution. Lord Krishna warns: “This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it”. (Bg – 7.15) The more one thinks he has figured out the complicated working of the physical laws in nature, more he is fooling himself. When huge cyclones hit the richest coasts, world’s best armies can at best be spectators. As earthquakes shatter the strongest lands on globe, scientists can only give perfect measurement on the Richter’s scale. The solution Krishna provides is simple, “mam eva prapadyante..” Surrender and dependence on God, absolves one of this entanglement and helps transcend the material world.

The constitutional position of every living entity is to serve God. However when one desires to be the master and controller, he is put in this material world where he faces constant frustration in his endeavors. Repeatedly embarrassed by the material perplexities, it behooves one to humbly accept defeat. Being naturally dependent on God for sustenance, the propensity remains even in the rebellious soul. It simply gets misdirected as he now willingly allows to be dictated by the modern gadgets. A farmer in the Vedic society works on a plot of land and depends exclusively on God for rain and favorable weather. A modern industrialist however has access to advanced irrigation technologies and thinks he can make alternate arrangements. Unfortunately he too is helplessly dependent. Instead of God he banks on television, refrigeration, sleeping pills, liquor, addictions etc. to give him relief and strength. It is more profitable to keep life simple and depend on God. A ‘black-out’ in a devotee’s life is welcome as he uses this opportunity to become humble, glorify God and chant the holy names.

As the sun of spiritual life rises in the heart, all the darkness born of ignorance and frustration of this world is dispelled. As the world is plunged in the dark ocean of gloom, the rich spiritual culture of India heralds the rising sun of new hope and promise.

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