Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #18 – A Soul Killing Civilization

May 2nd, 2022

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purport was fiery. Jaya Jagannath’s comment on it struck me: “What some people would look at forty or fifty years ago in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books as polemical, would now just be read by the same people as news.”[1] Yes, the slaughterhouse of modern education, rascal scientists, demons trying to rule the world, and the degradation and oppression of modern civilization—all the things that he spoke about so strongly—seem to be playing out right before our eyes.


I was also thinking of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s desire for self-sustainable communities and his lack of faith that the modern economic system was conducive to practicing Krishna consciousness. I see that now more clearly than ever.


I visited a devotee for dinner. He gets very lucrative overtime pay in his union job, but he is forced to work nine hours a day. His wife also works, but the expenses for his family, mortgage, building repairs, and high taxes force him to keep working at that pace whenever the opportunity arises. A younger student came to me for counsel. She shared her woes. If she ever wanted to take initiation, she would have to quit her job as a consultant for a leadership seminar company. The too often nine-hour seminars daily were crushing her spirit. Of course, these were extraordinary cases—but were they? For some reason, in the last few days, story after story came to me of oppressive work situations, economic woes, exhaustion, and the toll modern life is taking on people’s spiritual life.


Of course, Śrīla Prabhupāda envisioned a solution: an alternate rural lifestyle for families in devotional communities based on simple living and high thinking. It does seem ideal, but can we live that way? I have my doubts. Most devotees are so conditioned by a false standard of opulence[2] that I see few spiritual aspirants or leaders who have made any effort to move in that direction, despite Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vision.


What to do?  Do we just wallow in our present situation crushed by the oppression of working in a materialistic society that continually increases our desires and inflates our needs so that even our hard-earned paycheck returns to their corporate coffers as we are forced to buy what we have labored so hard to produce?


It seems that if we want a more nourishing spiritual life, we require the faith and courage to exert our free will to either change our present situation to one more conducive for spiritual life—if that is within the range of our destiny to do so—or make the sacrifice to live more spiritually within our present situation—if changing our situation is beyond the parameters of our destiny.[3] One can’t therefore discuss making needed life changes without understanding the dynamics of faith. But what is that faith, and why is it so important?


Our faith is our goal and our conviction in the worth of that objective, and for a bhakta it is the trust in the sublimity of devotional service. Without such faith, how will it be possible to gain the inspiration to take the calculated risks necessary to transcend our fear-based narrative of resignment and complacency that immobilize us to a status quo that is killing our soul?


Therefore, the first principle of exacting change is an internal one beginning with prayer, and that prayer is for sādhu-saṅga, for only the bhakta can give us the faith to achieve the things that may well be waiting for us on the other side of our fear.[4] That type of courage-based faith is certainly the story of the success of Śrīla Prabhupāda and other great souls, and the story of those that followed them to give bhakti to the world, and it can be ours at least in making bhakti a more vibrant part of our life.


I will end with a story because I think there is another element to change. We all must deal with our psychology, which often requires tools to overcome the fear of taking reasonable risks. I should also give a disclaimer that I don’t accept that just wishing for something will allow one to achieve it, although certainly when Krishna sees our desire to serve, He is quite capable of moving the world around us to facilitate our devotion.


Sybel assisted me for seven years organizing the very popular Bhakti Immersion Retreat. She was expert, and those who attended the retreats appreciated how well-organized they were. A couple of years ago she called me for counsel. She was tired and exhausted by the grind of her job as a vice president for Morgan Stanley, one of the biggest financial institutions in the world. The hours, stress, and pressure were killing her. I had just happened to have watched a Ted Talk that very effectively discussed how to overcome the impediments to making needed changes in life and thought it would be relevant for her. It was. Sybel watched it, followed the recommended exercises, and quit her job to look for another. Instead of the grind and dissatisfaction of serving the world bankers, which also included a long commute three times a week from her home in Pennsylvania to New York City, she found a more rewarding high management position in a hospital chain for similar money only fifteen minutes from her home.




Let’s end where we began with Śrīla Prabhupāda and his prophetic words and advice:


“’Why should we work so hard, simply for eating, sleeping?’ […] But at the modern age, the human society is so made that one has to work like ass, whole day and night […] But this is not civilization. This is not civilization. Then how can they understand God?” (Lecture, August 23, 1972 Los Angeles)



[1] I attended the morning class of Jaya Jagannatha dasa when I was at Shyam Ashram in Cali last month. This is a paraphrase of a point that he made.

[2] Śrīla Prabhupāda asked Tejiyas das, a former Peace Corps    worker in India, to start a kisan (farm) movement in ISKCON. He spent two years in Boston studying every book he could read on self-sustainable economics. When I would visit him, he would share his realizations. He concluded that farm communities in ISKCON mostly failed because the devotees in the west were conditioned to a false and inflated standard of opulence and thus were deterred by simple life, not realizing that real opulence is a simple life in a devotional community with fresh air and home-grown food with a temple in walking distance.

[3] Change must always be done thoughtfully and with consultation. I know one couple that prematurely renounced a stable situation for a supposedly more devotional one. It didn’t work out and affected their marriage.

[4] This concept of the other side of fear is found in a quote by George Addair that was the basis of the following article that is relevant to our discussion: https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyblaschka/2018/09/04/everything-youve-ever-wanted-is-sitting-on-the-other-side-of-fear/?sh=11622ccf3979


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