Vanity thought #1659. It’s all the same

Yesterday I mentioned that peer review is as prone to corruption as democracy but I didn’t expand on it and it feels like there’s a good insight to be had there. At first it appeared obvious to me but on second thought two processes are fairly different and have very little in common. How could they be corrupted in the same way? Why should it even matter?

Well, if we know how Kali yuga gets to us we should be able to smell its influence a mile away in our own lives. It might not seem particularly relevant to our service but this is what we do instead of serving the Lord without even realizing it. This is what holds us back. I’m hoping to dig up and expose some anarthas here, which is always a good thing in our condition.

Perhaps a few words about anarthas first. We typically think of anarthas as “sins” – greed, lust, envy etc, but they work a lot subtler than that. Etymologically anartha means something without value. Sins are easy to spot but attachment to things without value covers a lot wider range of emotions and desires, things we’d normally not pay any attention to because of our conditioning.

When lust or envy rises in our hearts they are bloody obvious, their strength makes them easily noticeable and then we can put up a good fight. Most of the anarthas are invisible to us, however, because they are part of our nature. We don’t think about it, we just assume it’s “true”. These are values that we’ve absorbed from a very young age and they formed and shaped our entire lives, they are part of our being, we don’t know any other way and we don’t even think of alternatives. Try to get rid of something you don’t know exists and see how difficult it is.

Democracy is one of those values but there are many others. Recently I caught a glimpse of a new TV series and I was surprised how cliche it was. It was something from ancient history of Israel – because that’s the cradle of our civilization (along with Greece), other cultures have no history or it’s not worth being told. All the actors spoke with British accents, which is another stereotype perpetuated by Hollywood and the TV. Britain is the birthplace of modern democracy, they gave the world their Magna Carta, so ancient Israelis waking up from tyranny should better speak British.

Tyranny is, of course, the natural state of all ancient societies. Fifteen minutes in and we’ve already witnessed brutal and unfair tax collection where people were flogged for not coming up with money. The reason they didn’t have any was that a lion killed all their sheep but the state didn’t care. Over in India at that time it was king’s duty to protect vaiśyas from that sort of trouble but, apparently, not in Israel and not according to this modern story telling.

Then we were treated to a good king trying to finally unite twelve tribes of Israel. That’s another cliched narrative – all societies must stay united with equal rights, ie democratic. Any other arrangement is deemed backwards and tyrannical. Being a “vassal state” is assumed to be demeaning and totally unacceptable, and everyone always strives for freedom. Not according to the Vedic civilization, of course.

We know what “freedom” does to one’s spiritual development and we know that people who want it are inviting their own doom. Or do we? Maybe when we talk among ourselves but when we are out with the people we never ever challenge their assumption that freedom is good. When we are out there we assume identities imposed on us by others and so value freedom just like they do. Quite often we see this desire to do your own thing in devotees, too, and usually no one bats a lid. Do I have to explain that doing what I want means it’s the guru who should adjust his expectations and accept my personal likes, which is a decidedly non-devotional attitude. Well, if this needs explanation then maybe some other time.

Next up was the arranged marriage, naturally. I didn’t watch long enough to learn who loves whom there but, typically, the girl has a secret lover, her true love, and we should all root for success of that relationship and certainly not for the success of the arranged one. I have never seen anyone challenging this assumption ever. It’s unthinkable to suggest that maybe the girl should forget her secret crush and focus on developing love for her assigned husband instead. No one ever suggests that it’s even possible, and yet that’s how the world lived for thousands of years.

Once again we, as devotees, should know better but we rarely object to this in public. I don’t know what people are thinking there – do they seriously believe that this puppy love is going to grow into something stable? Don’t they know from their own lives that this infatuation can’t possibly last and by the age of thirty this girl would have three-four different “he is the one” partners?

I suppose they assume that it’s a much better life than staying in an arranged marriage but who are they kidding? Themselves? The faster people get married and have children the bigger chance that they’d stay together and build a life. Under society’s pressure they might still grow apart, being pulled in different directions by their careers, but at least they’d have an accomplished family and kids to show for it. What do those looking for that romantic “one true love” will have by the age of thirty? Nothing but a string of broken relationships and deep seated, incurable mistrust and cynicism. Well, they can also say that they had fun but the operative word here is “had”, because this type of fun doesn’t last and after thirty they are not the marriage material anymore.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, the examples of subversive values that sabotage our spiritual lives because we take them for granted. One could say “but I don’t care about freedoms and rights and romantic love so it does not relate to me” but I bet he would be wrong because these examples are only gross manifestations while the main damage is done deep within our hearts and outside our view.

Take that quest for personal freedom – it’s the most basic, most fundamental, most deep seated desire we can ever have – to be free from Kṛṣṇa. We just have to have it our own way, we should be free to pursue our desires, we should be free to do what we want – even when we offer so called “service”. Or take that desire to be equal with others. I suppose Indians and Asians don’t have it but all westerners see others as peers first and then accept someone being higher or lower later, and only according to clear qualifications.

This is where I’m finally getting to my original point about peer review and democracy but now it needs to be left for another day.

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