Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #36 – But the Quality of Life Hasn’t Improved!

September 7th, 2020

Two months ago, I woke up with some stiffness in my left thigh that was quite debilitating. Within two days, I could no longer find a comfortable position to sleep at night and was forced to rest in a recliner chair. The stiffness began to shift to different parts of my body until I couldn’t even put on my socks or lift a t-shirt over my head without great difficulty. I was constantly cold and required two blankets and a sweatshirt at night even though it was the summer. My comprehensive blood work could not come up with the cause of my illness. As my condition had already persisted for six weeks, the doctor offered the option of steroids to relieve my discomfort, which I postponed to first seek an alternative. Fortunately, soon after my blood test, a devotee with a certification in Chinese Medicine called to offer a visit. The cause of my debilitation was immediately identified. I had textbook symptoms of B1 syndrome dampness. A protocol for recovering my health was recommended, including acupuncture, fresh ground Chinese herbs, and avoidance of the foods causing the disturbance. I was seventy per cent better after the first two acupuncture treatments. After a month, my condition is almost back to normal. My personal experience of the profound effect of an ancient medical system reminded me what Śrīla Prabhupāda often stressed—that the advancement of civilization based on modern scientific and technological improvement is a myth.

 

Certainly, there is no dearth of advanced material knowledge in ancient life traditions, such as medicine and architecture, to challenge the view that advancement in civilization is exclusive to the evolvement of modern society over time. What is even a stronger argument to debunk the view that progress in civilization is advancing over time is that the real template of what makes civilization advanced is its ability to elevate the consciousness of its citizens, and in that regard modern civilization has sorely failed. That the standard of advancement of civilization should primarily deal with the mind is just common sense. What value does a new gadget have, or anything for that matter, no matter how startling the wizardry, if it is not connected with the elevation of the mind? And what does Elon Musk and Silicon Valley contribute to that?

 

Śrīla Prabhupāda would often give a clear example to illustrate how advancement in technology is not commensurate in itself with the advancement of civilization. He defined animal life as eating, sleeping, mating, and defending and challenged how using a sophisticated car to pursue those goals is more advanced than the four legs of a dog moving for the same objectives.

 

I sometimes wonder if we modern yogis have a disconnect with what we read in the texts of our traditions about the advancement of civilization and how we live our lives. Have we gauged the environment that we have weaved around us and its effect on the upliftment of our minds? Have we been subtly conditioned to a false standard of happiness based on technology and in the process sacrificed a more evolved mode of living and thinking?  Do we even notice?

 

In 1980, when I returned to the USA to visit my parents after three years of living in India, my mother immediately took me to the supermarket to pick up a few things that suited my diet. I was taken aback when the price of the items we purchased were marked and added immediately on the cash register just by touching them to the counter, an innovation introduced only after I had already left for India. I immediately blurted out, “Things have advanced so much!” I paused, then immediately corrected myself based on what I had been taught, “But the quality of life has not improved!” The cashier shook her head affirmatively, and even my mother could see the validity of what I said.

 

I sit here writing this in fairly good health in a world that is imbued with the marvels of technology and reflect how what I said forty years ago is more relevant today than ever before: “But the quality of life hasn’t improved!”

 

 

 

You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.”
― Wendell Berry

 

(When asked what he thought of Western civilization): “I think it would be a good idea.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

 

“Civilization is a hopeless race to discover remedies for the evils it produces.”
― Rousseau

 

“The truest test of civilization is not the census, size of cities, or crops; but the kind of man the country turns out.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“Progressive civilization is based on Brahminical culture,[1] God consciousness and protection of cows”[2][3]

―  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

 

 

 


[1] A society and its culture guided by people in sattva-guṇa (the mode of goodness) who are thus learned and well-behaved.

[2] Bhag. 1.19.3, Purport

[3] This is a bit unorthodox, but I need to include here a note from my previous Monday Morning Greetings. I saw the necessity to end my last piece about “regret” with a haiku. I received a lot of feedback that people liked it. I didn’t sufficiently make clear its origin, and I wanted to clarify that. After I wrote it, I sent it to my friend Jan Potemkin, who studied Asian Literature in graduate school and is a poet. He found that one essential component of the haiku needed to be enhanced ― that it must have more imagery. So, he rewrote it and sent it back.

 

 

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