As we greet the New Year we should be aware of the opportunities as well as the responsibilities that this moment brings. According to climate experts like numerous scientists and geologists, all the toxic waste, pollution, greenhouse effect, gases and synthetic chemicals in the ozone and everywhere else are making our planet a very polluted place. Even from the spiritual perspective, collective karma is
The Vedic solution always goes to the essential cause and consciousness is the essential cause of everything. If we deal properly with consciousness, then we can substantially and realistically deal with the problems of this world. Else we are just doing patchwork.
In the Bhagvad Gita, Krishna explains from the perspective of the divine that there are eight material elements: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and the ego, but beyond this there is a superior energy, the jiva, the source of consciousness. Consciousness is the sustaining force of creation.
What is the nature of ‘greed’?
It can never be satisfied. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, Prahlad Maharaj explains that even if you conquer, control and become the proprietor of everything within the entire universe, your greed will never be satisfied. It’s insatiable and burns like fire. The more fuel you put in it the harder and higher it burns.
The Vedic solution is to learn how to be content and satisfied with simple things. Due to ignorance or avidya, we are trying to find happiness in material things, but the soul is part of God. The soul—the heart—needs love.
It’s the only thing that can satisfy us. Even if you have everything but if you don’t have someone to love, there can be no real satisfaction. Sensual pleasures and mental pleasures do not touch the heart, and satisfaction is not the thing of the flesh. Our nature is to love God and in loving God we see every living being as part of God. We naturally love every living being. That brings contentment.
Relationships bring satisfaction but unfortunately we become so obsessed that we don’t have healthy, satisfying relationships. We don’t take responsibilities for our relationships. And in these so called developed countries materially, we find massive divorce rates, massive mental depression. Why? Because their bank accounts may be overflowing but their hearts are empty. Their prestige and their fame may be skyrocketing but without meaningful, deep loving relationships, there is nothing inside the heart to fill that emptiness.
We become greedy, lusty and if we don’t get what we want, we become envious and depressed. These are all just symptoms of a very sick and empty state of consciousness and yet in today’s world the people who are the sickest get ahead and are considered great heroes.
Simple living, high thinking
The Vedic solution is something very different. And that is to find substantial satisfaction within—‘simple living and high thinking’. We don’t need unnecessary things. Whether you are living in a beautiful palace or in a hut or in a cave, if you are satisfied within, you will be happy but if you are not satisfied within, you are going to be depressed.
Story of Vamana Dev asking for three steps of land from Bali Maharaj
When little Vamana Dev approached Bali Maharaj, he was a pennyless little dwarf. He asked Bali, “Give me three steps of land.” Bali said, “Do you know who I am? I am the king. Why do you ask for only three steps of land? I will give you houses and property. I will give you a planet, I will give you everything you want. I have everything.” Vamana Dev said, “What do you have? I have nothing but I have peace of mind. I am happy. You have everything but because you don’t have peace of mind you are miserable.” Bali Maharaj couldn’t argue with that reply.
So, if you are not happy within yourself, you cannot be happy no matter what you get, no matter what you achieve. And if you are happy within yourself, you will be happy no matter what. If you can’t be satisfied with little, you can’t be satisfied with a lot and that is an eternal principle.
So Bhagvad Gita is not teaching poverty, but at the same time it is also teaching poverty—in a different way. We see Mahabharata, Srimad Bhagavatam, and so many scriptures. Many of the great saints we read about are kings and queens; they have royal wealth but they are self-realised and are perfect yogis. They don’t consider their wealth to be their own, they consider everything to be the property of God. They care for it and utilise it not only for their own wellbeing but for their families and for the world’s wellbeing. They are not greedy. They are generous, kind, and compassionate. So we find kings and we find sadhus who just sleep on banks of rivers, they both have the same wealth within.
How further does humanity go away from the essence
Unless our consciousness returns to its original nature, we will not be satisfied and humanity will go further away from the essence of who we are. We have been endowed with a magnificent and incredibly creative brain by God. But the more we become entangled in polluted consciousness—instead of using it to create a civilisation in harmony with our essence—we will destroy our planet.
The author is the spiritual leader of ISKCON