Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #41 – The Last Stand of Truth

October 14th, 2019

Perhaps some of you have heard this story: When Mahārāja Parīkṣit heard that a low-class man was beating a bull in his kingdom, he immediately left his palace to confront the miscreant. The bull, who was religion personified, had been so cruelly beaten that he was left standing only on one leg. This not only angered the king, but observing the scene left him with a significant message:

 

Sad times are ahead. Of the four legs of the bull, which represent the four pillars of religion -mercy, austerity, cleanliness and truthfulness, only the leg of truthfulness was still barely standing. Thus, the only thing separating man from complete hell was whatever integrity he could muster.

 

It’s not difficult to see the truth of this ancient story from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in terms of predicting how the present age is unfolding. Can anyone doubt that there is an assault on the last leg of religion, which plagues today’s world left and right with rampant hypocrisy and cheating in practically every quarter of society? What can possibly be done?

 

Integrity is the strong impression (saṁskāra) in the consciousness generally instilled at youth that, “I must conform my words and actions to what is and what I know as true.” If family and society is not focused on strongly instilling this value in the next generation as their primary mission, the void will certainly be filled by the message of modernity based on hedonism and moral relativism, leaving little left to be true to, including one’s word. People of true integrity will be increasingly few and far between and the world will sink further into confusion.

 

Traditionally, such integrity was reinforced by the stories and history of the lives of exemplars of character that were read and retold practically as the society’s main entertainment. Who are our heroes today?  What does our entertainment promote? Is there any wonder that, with rare exception, the present leaders in government and media mostly raised in modernity have no qualms of expediently twisting the truth to suit their agendas?

 

When I came to India over forty year ago, I was able to meet people of another generation who were raised in villages and towns where the regular recitation of books of dharma, like the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata, were heard daily. I was thus fortunate to have the acquaintance of many people so deeply inculcated with these messages of integrity that they would rather die than not keep their word. Where are such people today?

 

Yesterday I was reading about Queen Kunti in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. I couldn’t help but be impressed by her integrity. Her husband, the noble emperor of the world, was cursed to die the minute he approached any woman intimately. Out of care and concern for his wife Kunti, he implored her to use the boon she had received from the powerful Durvāsā Muni to petition any demigod for a child. Despite her loving husband’s strong urging, out of faithfulness and chastity, she repeatedly refused. It’s a long story, and eventually she was able to have children without compromising her principles, but I couldn’t help but become struck with her example of duty over self and lament the lack of such exemplars today.

 

As the story forewarned thousands of years ago, only truthfulness, the final pillar of civilization, is standing today, and barely at that. From media to government, ideologues of all shades threaten the last modicum of truthfulness left. I doubt the solution is political change either. After all, in a democracy our leaders only reflect the values of the populace, and that does not bode well for whatever political tribe garners victory. It seems the last leg of religion is doomed until we ourselves develop deep honesty and pass that on to coming generations. It’s a daunting task, but history has shown that the best way for a society to maintain a culture of integrity is to inspire its populace with oral and written traditions that describe moral and spiritual exemplars taught to the people by honest teachers. And that may be the last stand of truth!

 

 

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