Yesterday I set out to prove that in this day and age chanting of the Holy Names is the only rational activity for human beings. I don’t think I was successful, I spent too much time discussing Ukraine to say anything about chanting at all, so today the story continues.
First, the outline of the argument – the world is going to dogs and there’s no cure for it therefore intelligent people should try to find another way out – spiritual development, which in this age is achieved via chanting.
It seems easy and we hear this in our Bhāgavatam and Gīta classes everyday but I’m talking about a whole different level of understanding. I hope to achieve the stage where, after careful consideration, one starts spontaneously chanting the mahāmantra because it seems like the only reasonable thing to do.
I mean that even if we chant our sixteen rounds everyday we do it for various other reasons – we made a promise, we feel bad if we don’t complete our quota, it has become a habit, or we might even like the chanting itself. I know I do, but not in the way it was intended – chanting lets my mind go free and explore things I never think about otherwise.
This is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen – we are supposed to spontaneously think of Kṛṣṇa while doing something else but I spontaneously think of everything else when ostensibly being engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service.
I know it’s wrong but I would be lying to myself if I said my mind doesn’t find any pleasure in running away from listening to the Holy Names.
Why does this happen? Because I don’t think that chanting is really that important, that my interests can be better served by doing something else. Sometimes I assume that I need to think about cooking the next meal, sometimes about sex, sometimes about next work project, sometimes about cars, sometimes about news, sometimes about stuff that goes on in my family and so on.
My mind decides that at this particular moment I should be addressing all those concerns even though my mouth is engaged in chanting. I also know I can do both – chant the mantra and think of something else, so I see it as multitasking and even saving time.
That’s why I’m talking about the level of intelligence, level of understanding where one can clearly see that only chanting is important, at all times. Like Prabhupāda is quoted as saying “Chanting IS thinking”. I’m talking about the state of mind where thinking about anything else is seen as a clear waste of time and chanting itself is seen as the solution to all problems.
I’m talking about the stage where one looks at any particular problem appearing in his mind and decides that the best and natural solution to it is to chant. By natural I mean one shouldn’t even think twice about it or weigh any other methods – one should KNOW that chanting is the only answer.
On that level one should clearly know why chanting is the only solution to any particular problem. Why it’s better than any other alternatives, and one should have enough experience to confirm this view, too.
This level of knowledge should not require explanations either, like if you drop a coin on the floor you bend down and pick it up – it’s such an obvious reaction that you don’t need to explain it. You can, if asked, but you don’t even think about it anymore.
So, why Ukraine? How would that case help anyone to understand the necessity of chanting?
Because it’s a real intractable problem with no solution and because it seems to lead the rest of the world into a bottomless pit of war, too. The world as we know it will slowly but steadily deteriorate until it becomes unrecognizable and we all realize that we have no shelter in it. I suppose māyā will always offer us some temporary solutions but we should be intelligent enough to see through them.
At its heart it’s the same argument as with dying or solving our other fundamental problems like old age and disease but let’s be honest – we don’t see ourselves as dying, we don’t feel ourselves as old, and diseases can be fairly easily cured, at least enough of them to accept good health as normalcy.
War in Ukraine, otoh, is like getting news of cancer – it’s definite and very personal for each one of us. There are other doomsday scenarios as well – climate change or financial time bombs, I chose Ukraine because it unravels somewhat faster and it’s always in the news. It’s different from other insolvable hotspots like Palestine because it’s a vortex that drags everyone into its orbit while Palestine has been largely isolated and has no impact on the rest of the world.
There are ways to diffuse Ukrainian situation, too, and on Tuesday there will be a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian presidents so something might come out of it but preliminary news is that no deals will be made and some say that Ukrainian Poroshenko might even skip the talks.
To recapitulate – Ukraine suffers from the lack of national identity. Half the country cherish their Russian/Soviet roots, another half wants to live in Europe. They’ve managed to co-exist for a quarter of a century but events of the past year made any cohabitation of the same space impossible.
Germany, the self-appointed mediator, tries to seek a negotiated divorce but Ukrainian nationalists find it completely unacceptable so the war must go on. Poroshenko has no room to negotiate there, he’d be crucified back at home if he accepts anything less than total capitulation of the separatists. Separatists, however, are in no mood to surrender and see victory firmly within their grasp given how Ukraine has exhausted all their resources and left their military forces hanging dry, surrounded and cut off from their supplies in territories they enthusiastically reported as “liberated” only a week ago.
In a month or so autumn will settle in and with it come the rains, meaning that Ukrainians will lose the advantage of having lots of tanks and armored vehicles that they can drive anywhere in the countryside when it’s dry but become pita when the land turns mushy. Rebels can’t wait for the opening of that “hunting season”.
Then will come winter and Ukraine needs coal mined in the East and gas imported from Russia to heat the country. Coal is a no go and Russia can turn off the gas at any moment, Ukraine has not money to pay for it anyway.
The point is – Ukraine can’t afford to drag the war into the winter, it can’t finish it off, and it can’t negotiate. There’s no winning scenario there, it’s going to be a disaster no matter what.
Okay, but how does it affect the rest of the world? One word – sanctions, against Russia. Paraphrasing Henry Kissinger (WP): “the demonization of Russia is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.”
For some reasons, which don’t even matter anymore, the US managed to coax Europe into imposing painful sanctions on Russia, Russia retaliated in return, and everyone already feels the pain. They can’t back off sanctions either and, as sanctions go, they need to tightened up almost indefinitely to achieve any effect, so, without settlement in Ukraine, it will only get worse, and it will only be the beginning of the redrawing of the world order.
The US and its allies as well as IMF and World Bank will never be seen as trusted partners by Russians anymore, nor by Europeans bearing the grunt of sanctions, nor by Chinese and Asians. The US, in turn, will not give up its world leader status either and will inevitably force itself onto more and more “uncooperative” nations.
It can’t step back from their business of regime changes even after failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine. It can’t withdraw from the world because it needs to consume world’s resources five times above the average and no one is going to give away his own share voluntarily anymore.
Neither China nor Russia are ready to provide alternative leadership either. Without order there will be anarchy, free for all power grabs, ie Libya and Iraq on a much larger scale.
Maybe I’m being an alarmist here but I do not see any hope for prosperity for the rest of my life. It’s only a question of how long can we all hang on onto our carefully crafted comfortable lives but if, or rather when, unemployment hits 25% like in parts of Europe while billions of people retire from the workforce without any replacement, everyone will be affected. Everyone’s job security will be affected, everyone sense of security will be affected.
Carefree days of years past are not going to return anytime soon. When devotees came out of the temples and applied for credit cards in the 80s they discovered that there’s life outside ISKCON, too, and it can get pretty comfortable. This is going to change and it will be impossible to fix.
That’s why the only solution to this deteriorating situation is to chant like crazy and try to reach shelter of Lord’s lotus feet before proverbial shit hits the fan.
In ten years your job will be gone and your savings will be wiped out by the next financial crisis, don’t make any plans, don’t nurture any hopes. Instead, try to save your soul while you still have time, chant for your future, invest in Kṛṣṇa’s names instead.
That would be an intelligent thing to do.