Maybe my memory is very selective but I can’t remember if there’s a simple answer to a question why modern civilization is so successful at what it does. We can easily dismiss this success as heading in the wrong direction, we can blast it for not paying any attention to the spiritual side of life, but we don’t have an answer to why it works at what it does when, in Kali yuga, it should fail miserably instead.
Well, Kali yuga isn’t over yet and current period of prosperity is still only a short blip on Kali’s five thousand year history, but still – why are these atheistic materialists so successful? It’s this success that lets them declare that they don’t need God anymore and they’ve been on this godless path for about a hundred years now and are still going strong. What’s the matter?
My answer is that their atheism is phony. They might declare that there’s no God but they still vehemently defend God’s laws. Things have changed since approximately the turn of the century and the millennials are not sticklers for the rules anymore but then the millennials haven’t produced anything of notice so far and probably never will. It’s the old school science that still carries the burden and they know the difference between right and wrong better than anyone else, sometimes even better than us – as in cases when we in ISKCON failed by their standards in areas like child or women protection.
These days there’s a serious push for alternative, non-religion based morality but all they are doing is offering non-religious justification for the same rules, they are not inventing anything new. There are cases now where they use a completely new rule book, like sexual relationships, but so far they have nothing to show for it and they can’t built a sustainable society that generates enough new members with the way they practice sex now. Everything else, as I said, is just another justification for the old, God given rules of no kill and no steal.
As I said yesterday, from the point of view of the universe and the law of karma acknowledgement of God is not necessary for the kind of results they need, simply following the rules would be enough. They are not going to discover God or attain self-realization but they are not aiming for those goals so it’s not considered a failure in their view. They can completely detach the rules from God and the rules would still work because the universe is self-sustaining that way, it has everything it needs to maintain its human population without drawing on Kṛṣṇa’s resources – pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate – it’s complete.
We, as devotees, should know this as we should know that these rules work precisely because they are originally God given, no matter what the atheists say. Kṛṣṇa personally set up the varṇāśrama system, He said so in Bhagavad Gītā (BG 4.13). Outside of India it’s not called varṇāśrama, of course, but the human societies all over the world naturally divide themselves into four varṇas and aśramas.
There are students, there are householders, there are retired people, and there’s no sannyāsa because no one in Kali yuga is capable of following it. There are rulers, there are businessmen, there is labor, and there are academics and consultants. Soviets tried to create a classless society but they still had their workers and farmers and their intelligentsia, and they also had their untouchable ruling class and plenty of ideologists to oversee every section of the society. Soviet Union collapsed anyway and with it their classless experiment.
In any society there are clear traditional rules for everyone to follow. Everyone knows who to seek safety and protection from and who to give protection to. Everyone knows when to get up and what to do during the day, everyone knows when it’s time to work and when it’s time to relax. Everyone knows the duties of the fathers, mothers, husbands, sons etc, and they are remarkably similar all across the world. Farmers everywhere get up before sunrise, for example, while the rulers tend to overindulge in sense gratification and sleep late, while teachers and academics are natural moral examples for everyone else to follow.
When we talk about Bible based rules we instantly remember the ten commandments but these commandments do not explicitly describe how the society should function, I’m not even sure it’s possible to trace the duties of kings or farmers to Biblical origins. This gives an opening for the atheists to propose evolution as the root of our rules but every religious person unquestionably attributes them to God anyway, whether it’s actually said in the Bible or Koran to get up early or not. Procreation is a clear God given order, on the other hand, and so are other duties for the āśramas. We know varṇāśrama is God given, Muslims and Christians know it’s God given, so let’s not waste time on exploring the possibility that it’s the product of gene mutation and natural selection.
And here is the deal – people following their prescribed rules naturally please Viṣṇu and they know when Viṣṇu is pleased or not because Lord’s satisfaction registers deep in their hearts. Mothers know that raising their kids is ultimately satisfying even against all the arguments about lost sleep and missed career chances. Husbands providing for their families also know that it makes them happier than thoughts of running away from this unnecessary burden.
When it comes to their professional lives people also know that doing their jobs is what brings them the ultimate happiness, not their remuneration packages. Things gradually change, of course, but there are still billions of people in the world who would prefer to honestly do their jobs and would not sell out no matter what. People know when Viṣṇu is pleased and nothing can replace that odd feeling of deep satisfaction, they don’t need to know His name to feel it.
A coupe of days ago I argued that democracy as a system of government is a form of saṅkīrtana, too, because it’s congregational and it’s dedicated to perfecting God given rules for the society – if done with the attitude of jointly considering how to better implement Lord’s will.
These people aren’t nominally devotees but their engagement with the Lord through following His rules is to be admired, which we never do in our society. We never appreciate the kind of sacrifice these non-devotees perform and we do not acknowledge how it might actually please our Lord. We claim the Lord all to ourselves and we can’t accept the possibility that other people, especially our sworn enemies – atheists, might please Him, too.
We shoot for the stars, as I said yesterday, but we measure our progress on the material level by the same standards as atheists and this means that we must engage in the same type of sacrifice – strictly following God’s rules, which we don’t like to do because we consider ourselves very special. Or maybe we even hope to avoid honestly performing our duties because we expect the holy name to compensate for our shortcomings. Since we pursue the same materialistic goals – building big temples, collecting big money, and attracting a big number of followers, this attitude becomes offensive because it means we maintain our material attachments despite of chanting.
So, when atheists succeed in whatever endeavor our reaction has a mixture of it all – envy that the Lord favors them and not us, laziness to follow the same rules and procedures, and an offensive attitude of desiring the same success for ourselves. And what we don’t normally see is how this success is ultimately attributed to serving the Lord even if attained by avowed atheists.