When reality TV stars and mercenary businessmen become leaders of the ‘free’ world, mental and physical health deteriorates exponentially across the globe and people and animals are slaughtered in their millions every day, it’s fair to say that the time may well have come to re-assess the way we are living.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a rant from an embittered madman fired up by a mass media that’s broken loose of its mooring; it’s actually a celebration of spring, of the crocuses which push through frozen soil to announce the onset of new life and of all the Rocky Balboas out there who have fought back after being bloodied, beaten and well and truly on the ropes.
After all, it isn’t just the press & politicians who have proclaimed society to be broken: it’s right there in a series of startling predictions made in the Srimad Bhagavatam, a bona fide spiritual treatise which was written in Sanskrit 5,000 years ago to uplift and enlighten a society which is destined to go to the dogs:
“Sukadeva Gosvami said: Then, O King, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the age of Kali.
In Kali-yuga, wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man’s good birth, proper behavior and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power.
Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one’s expertise in sex, and a man will be known as a brahmana just by his wearing a thread.
A person’s spiritual position will be ascertained merely according to external symbols, and on that same basis people will change from one spiritual order to the next. A person’s propriety will be seriously questioned if he does not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar.
A person will be judged unholy if he does not have money, and hypocrisy will be accepted as virtue. Marriage will be arranged simply by verbal agreement, and a person will think he is fit to appear in public if he has merely taken a bath.
A sacred place will be taken to consist of no more than a reservoir of water located at a distance, and beauty will be thought to depend on one’s hairstyle. Filling the belly will become the goal of life, and one who is audacious will be accepted as truthful. He who can maintain a family will be regarded as an expert man, and the principles of religion will be observed only for the sake of reputation.
As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power.” Srimad Bhagavatam: 12th Canto, Second Chapter, Texts 1-7.
There’s simply no getting away from the crushing tragedy of it all: what we are experiencing on planet earth today is the most extreme level of suffering imaginable being dealt out to the most disenfranchised and vulnerable population in modern history.
But as shocking as it is, it’s actually nothing new: everything which is born must eventually wither and die, and as the material world as we know it follows its course along the vagaries of time, one stage inevitably passes into another, just like the seasons we know so well. It just so happens that right now we’re hitting a particularly bleak winter.
Thankfully, the very same text which thousands of years ago painted our contemporary woes in stark neo-realism also explains how to extricate ourselves from them just as candidly.
So let’s get practical: how do we subject the dark times to the alchemical process of spiritualisation? The Bhagavatam urges us to take knowledge from self-realised souls and to follow in the footsteps of great saints, sages & avatars by glorifying, serving and meditating constantly upon the Supreme.
In this way we are able to move far beyond the dog-eat-dog struggle for sense gratification and live in a carefully God-centred society where greed, egotism and sectarianism are a thing of the past and every individual works according to their true nature on the path to collective spiritual advancement.
How does this happen? Well, history (and the popular fiction which is based on it) is peppered with divine heroes overcoming dark forces to preserve and uphold moral decency. The Srimad Bhagavatam makes no mention of any such knight in shining armour coming over our horizon any time soon, though: instead it explains that the powers-that-be in our degraded society will eventually destroy one another in a maelstrom of greed and envy. Fingers hovering over big red buttons is hardly the stuff of fantasy these days, is it?
It is in the aftermath of this destruction that the lotus flower of a spiritual society really blossoms: people bewildered by the violent failure of a social structure they had so much faith in naturally seek shelter from those who are genuinely able to lead people on the path of peace and prosperity. In this context it is easy to see what a crucial part we all play today in laying the foundations for such a society.
If the Srimad Bhagavatam sounded like a dusty anachronism in today’s fast-paced digital world, hopefully it won’t any more: it’s presence on this planet shouldn’t be underestimated. Like other bona-fide spiritual texts it deals in what is known as absolute truth: something whose relevance isn’t dependant on external circumstances and which shines like a jewel set beautifully against the golden hue of those saintly souls who deliver its wisdom to us.
One day, when the world’s resources have been plundered and things like electricity, wifi and computer chips are suddenly pretty scarce, spiritual books will still be hanging around, waiting patiently in the candlelight to offer unconditional love, support and advice to those in most need of it.
(Artwork can be found here: http://nicebleedart.deviantart.com/art/Bomb-Ride-258672089 )