Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #29 – Have I Become Pavlov’s Dog?

July 19th, 2021

Have I Become Pavlov’s Dog?[1]

 

Ding! How the hell did a message from my iPhone pop up on my watch? I was recently gifted a new Fitbit to monitor my exercise. I am so technologically challenged that I just didn’t know my watch could even be connected to my phone. I immediately jumped up to check my phone across the room, but I then caught myself: “Wait a second! What in the world am I doing? Have I become Pavlov’s dog?”

 

I was surprised by how much I had been subtly conditioned by social media, especially since I am not even on Facebook or Instagram. That sound, and my subsequent response, did make me question if I should even keep an iPhone at all. Yes, the world has become our village and technology is necessary to keep us connected spiritually, but at what price? I think of my friend Carucandra who went off the grid in Kentucky. He works on his simple dwelling, peacefully chants his rounds, and then spends most of his day studying and writing curriculum by hand for the Śrī Rūpanūga Paramārthika Vidyāpīṭha in Mayapur. That type of integrity in this world of constant compromise is, in many ways, a potent example for others. Don’t get me wrong, evolved souls do efficiently and cautiously use modern technology to share good ideas for the benefit of others. I myself try to deal with the medium responsibly, but one is foolish if one does not take careful note of its potential to degrade the consciousness. In that regard, I noted a few things:

 

The internet is anti-yoga

If yoga is extinguishing thought, or in bhakti frivolous thought, social media puts a funnel to the brain to download a rush of extraneous thought—a magnitude of frivolity that could not be imagined even fifty years ago. Frankly, it is almost as if we are left with a choice: media or meditate?

 

The internet creates an alternate reality

In the world of the internet, individual people and the “mainstream” and “alternative” media constantly weave narratives according to their own view of reality under the modes of nature. It is so easy to be sucked into another’s impure self-created world. For a bhakta, that can be tantamount to spiritual death, for the more we can rise above illusion and see reality, which is God and God’s energies, the more our vision will inspire devotion within our hearts. Again, it is almost as if we are left with a choice: social media or śāstra?

 

The internet kills bhakti with idle talk and consequent Vaiṣṇava-aparādha

There is no doubt that the internet can facilitate meaningful exchanges. I hope we are having one here. And there is also no doubt that it can be, and usually is, an ocean of idle talk. Sādhu beware: “To abuse the reign of our self-control and allow ourselves to enter into discussions of anything and everything—that is prajalpa. Prajalpa generally becomes parā-doṣānusandhava—finding faults with others. That is generally the subject matter of idle talks.”[2] In this case, however, it is a bit different. There seems to be little choice. It is internet and idle talk!

 

Again, the internet has given a wonderful facility to share Krishna consciousness in what has become a global village, but after “ding!” I just thought there was a need for a “reality check” and to sincerely ponder: “How much does my use of technology, especially in terms of communication, enhance my service to Krishna, and how much does it degrade it? Am I becoming Pavlov’s dog?”

 

 


[1] Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist who deepened the study of classical conditioning. His most famous experiment was conditioning a dog to salivate even when there was no food, by initially ringing a bell every time the dog was fed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_conditioning

[2] Upadesamrita, translation and commentary by Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Goswami, p.24.

 

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