Vanity thought #1456. Pashandis

Pāṣaṇḍīs is our go to word for atheists. I think it’s more technical than mūḍha, fools, though sometimes they go together like in this verse where Śrīla Prabhupāda expands on various meanings of the word pāṣaṇḍī as explained by the previous ācāryas. Apparently, there are many ways one can qualify as an atheist but can it happen to devotees?

Technically, it’s not possible, because Kṛṣṇa’s devotees never lose their bhakti and Kṛṣṇa forever preserves whatever they have, plus He assures failed yogīs that they can resume their path in the next life. This, however, is a long term view, outside of scope where we can use words like “he became an atheist”. In such a long run all those pāṣaṇḍī designations are temporary and not worthy of attention.

Say one commits offenses, gets cast in hell, returns, and resumes cultivating his devotion. Fits perfectly both with what Kṛṣṇa says would happen to such a person and with our immediate desire to label him an atheist. Devotees never go to hell, of course, but there are many other ways Kṛṣṇa can dish out an appropriate punishment, which is more of a lesson than actual suffering. By devotee here I mean anyone who has ever sincerely called Kṛṣṇa’s name, which is enough to save himself from clutches of māyā forever and earn a place at Lord’s lotus feet. In the long run – we are speaking of multiple lifetimes here – hundreds of lifetimes if one rejects his guru, for example.

The verse that promises to “carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have” has a condition attached, however (BG 9.22):

    But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.

One must continue worshiping the Lord with exclusive devotion to qualify for the assurance that his bhakti will be preserved, or so it appears from direct meaning. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains the kind of worship, meditation, and “exclusive devotion” needed in the purport:

    One who is unable to live for a moment without Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot but think of Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day, being engaged in devotional service by hearing, chanting, remembering, offering prayers, worshiping, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, rendering other services, cultivating friendship and surrendering fully to the Lord.

There’s some leeway in not thinking of Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day but “unable to live for a moment without” KC is tough. Can any of us honestly say we can’t live without Kṛṣṇa even for a moment? I’m tempted to say that I had plenty of those but, on second thought, I probably haven’t. One way or another, but ever since I first opened Śrīla Prabhupāda’s book I’ve always defined myself as Kṛṣṇa’s servant, or Lord Caitanya’s, to be precise, as historically it was this form of the Lord that I saw as my eternal master.

One could say it’s a pride talking and I am very well aware of that but denying and denigrating Lord’s mercy is a far greater offense to commit. People can call be proud and whatever but I’m not going to deny that Lord Caitanya has extended His mercy, took me under His shelter, and never left me since, even if always keeping me at a safe distance from Himself. I am not going to deny this reality for that would make me a pāṣaṇḍī myself. I’d rather be a foolishly proud devotee wannabe than a pāṣaṇḍī.

Here’s the thing that atheists don’t understand – that there’s another reality beyond what they are able to perceive themselves. They think that devotees imagine things but we don’t. Lord’s mercy is as real as anything else we see in the world around us and even more real in a sense that it’s constant and is always there while all other observed phenomena are like lose bits of colored glass constantly rotating in the kaleidoscope of life.

Atheists might come to a certain understanding how the world works and they think they figured it all out but with a little twist of fate the entire picture changes and new, previously unthought of connections are born and they need to rework their entire science again.

Look at the current financial market turmoil – in the past couple of days all stock indices crashed about 10%, which is huge, and it probably indicates start of a long term “correction” rather than a fluke. The projection so far has been that the US has finally overcome its recession and is headed for the first interest rate hike in September. Interest rates are important as basically they show how profitable the economy is – when everything is growing you ought to charge people more. Since 2008 it has been near zero while historical healthy average is about 2-4%. Current crash means that expectations of the US finally returning to normalcy need to be abandoned and with this come difficult questions about money printing and high level of debt. The answers so far hinged on “it’s all going according to plan” mantra but if it clearly isn’t then dollars and US bonds might become worthless and no one knows what will come next.

There’s plenty of ground for speculation about world economy but my point here is that science of economics suddenly has become useless and they need to create new theories about how it all works, which they will have to abandon the moment the next crisis hit.

The other day I saw a perfect definition of what atheism means but it was given as a sarcastic observation of a former Christian so it’s not quotable. The gist is simple, however – any answer to the question “Do you accept JC as your only savior” that isn’t an absolute unqualifiable “yes” is atheism. “Unqualifiable” is not a word but the meaning is clear.

By this logic we are all atheists in one way or another. We don’t particularly care about JC, of course, but any look at the world as real in its disconnect from Kṛṣṇa is atheism – we do not see God. Any time we do not see Kṛṣṇa we are atheists. Any time we instinctively enjoy our senses we are atheists because senses are meant for enjoyment by Kṛṣṇa, not by us.

The only question is the degree of our atheism and the duration of its spells, otherwise the word is meaningless for any conditioned soul because we are all atheists by our [conditioned] nature.

If we hope that as devotees we are spared of the full blown atheism and will never go back to our old life (never mind the habits for the moment) there’s still the mystery of jīva falldown. If we somehow turned our face away from Kṛṣṇa while in His company and got dropped into the material world it means there’s always a chance of going back on our nascent bhakti here, too. It’s not safe here for everyone, which is what our ācāryas have been saying all along.

I could finish this post by saying that the only answer lies in chanting the Holy Name but I think the immortal words of the original “pāṣaṇḍī”, Adi Śaṅkara, would be just as suitable:

    You fools, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda. Your grammatical knowledge and word jugglery will not save you at the time of death.

It’s the first verse of Bhaja Govindam often quoted by Śrīla Prabhupāda. Check out the full translation linked on that page, it’s worth it.

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Vanity thought #1303. Future uncertainties

Still on the topic of the imminent collapse of the existing world order. Perhaps I’m totally wrong about it and there will be no crash but two things are indisputable – there will be a crisis of some sorts, they always happen, and the current world order is unsustainable. It might just take a lot longer for it to be replaced by something else. In that case the change will be slow and evolutionary, which is probably the best outcome for ordinary people.

Let’s recap. 2008 crisis exposed flaws in US financial system but affected the rest of the world just as hard. Practically every country realized the need to be protected from external shocks like that. China and the rest of Asia diversified their trade and sought new partners all over the world to diminish their dependence on the US. Financially, countries diversified their portfolios from holding solely dollar denominated assets to currency baskets.

It was all half measures so far and there’s still no alternative to dollar based financial system. Only in the past couple of years alternative institutions started to materialize but they haven’t brought any benefits yet. That new Chinese initiative, AIIB bank, is about to sign up Germany, France, and Italy, in addition to the UK. Australia will also likely to jump aboard. No actual projects have been financed, however, and I have no idea when the bank will start lending.

So, what happened after 2008 was that US has lost moral right to lead the financial world but the physical instruments are still in American hands. Next crisis will probably take this de-facto leadership out of American hands for good. It will be extremely painful for everybody because of everybody’s exposure to dollar – every country’s paper wealth is going to be wiped out – and so this might be the reason even Russia and China would rather see a gradual transition and would try to avert a crisis as much as possible.

The inescapable reality, however, is that unipolar world is going to be the thing of the past regardless. The US simply doesn’t have political, economical and even military leverage to run the entire world. All their democratization projects for the past twenty years failed miserably, their military couldn’t solve any problems, except overthrowing regimes, which created even more chaos.

No one wants to get in their sights but seeing how the US is unable and unwilling to fight and win its wars anymore it’s only a matter of time before countries will start to assert their independence.

Same thing will happen with the US financial grip – seeing how they are unwilling to put money where their mouth is countries will simply defy the US and do their own thing. I mean that war in Syria is sponsored by Arabs, not Americans. Egypt is propped by Arabs, not Americans, and Ukraine, the country that placed all its faith in democracy and Western protection, is not getting any financial help, none whatsoever, only IMF loans that are used to pay off debts to Russia.

Okay then, what does it mean for us, for ISKCON? How will this transition to multi-polar world affect us and our mission?

The bad news first – we ARE the American project. If America goes down so will our credibility. In 1960s Śrīla Prabhupāda wisely observed that if one wants to influence the whole world he should start with winning over America, not Britain. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī was sending preachers to the UK and Europe but after WWII it became clear who the world leader was, and it wasn’t the Old Continent.

It worked like magic. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s American disciples quickly took over the world, in just ten years they established ISKCON centers in all major countries on all continents. Sure, Prabhupāda had disciples from other countries, too, but they all came from American vassal states, vassal societies that bought American values wholesale – democracy, capitalism, culture, jeans, everything.

I mean, by all accounts, Prabhupāda had mostly western disciples and in this context there’s little difference between western and American values.

No wonder ISKCON didn’t get a lot of traction outside the western world. We didn’t impress anyone in Russia, Kṛṣṇa consciousness being presented by Americans didn’t help a lot. There was some initial success in Iran but at that time Iran was run by a pro-American shah, I don’t think we survived Iranian revolution there in any shape or form. India deserves a special mention here but probably not now.

Of course we later had an explosion in former Soviet Union but we should also remember that it was a personal plea by Nancy Reagan that put a stop to prosecution of Hare Kṛṣṇas. The campaign to release them from jails was also run by western playbook, with protests outside the embassies and writing notes and letters.

It’s also worth noting that Moscow, by far the biggest ISKCON center there, still doesn’t own a temple, devotees are simply not allowed to. In the entire Russia there’s only one Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa temple somewhere in Siberia, and we all remember Church’s attempt to ban Bhagavad Gītā as extremist literature. We are not loved there by powers that be even if no one sees devotees as CIA agents anymore.

ISKCON has changed since 70s, Americans and other westerners are probably a minority now even though they still control the GBC. There are signs of cultural divide between them and devotees who come from more traditional backgrounds, or who want to return to traditional culture. The entire female dīkṣā guru issue is the most glaring example.

All this women equality is such a western idea and so it faces strong resistance everywhere outside western circles. Indians will have none of it and so there are rumors that GBC is prepared to have separate female dīkṣā guru rules for countries that are “prepared” for this equality and countries that aren’t. I used “prepared” in quotes because there’s an implication that equality is a natural evolution of society and Indians and other traditionalists are simply backward people that will eventually come around.

To be honest, there’s nothing good coming out of America these days. They gave us fascination with māyāvadī kīrtanīyās, they gave us temples that will not admit association with Śrīla Prabhupāda, they made ISKCON temples into Hindu affairs with demigod worship and weddings for non-devotees. They also make a bulk of ISKCON critics, which is not surprising given that it’s the America that saw a massive exodus of devotees in the 80s.

So, what do we do now? The cultural wave that carried Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples is not there anymore, the devotees who were carried on that wave are not with us, what should be the soul of our movement then?

We can say that ISKCON is transcendental and so we don’t need to attach ourselves to any particular ideas, be it democracy or equality, but I think we would be lying to themselves. As a preaching movement we need to speak the language of the people outside and we need to present values that are appreciated by general population. Some of our old ones are not so valuable anymore and we might need to start looking for replacements.

To put it simply – we can’t be seen as too American in neither Russia nor China, nor any other country that is outside of American sphere of influence.

Anyway, I think I’ve said enough for today, seeking our soul, in a material sense of the world, is beyond me at the moment, will continue tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1302. In a bubble

Continuing yesterday’s topic – what’s so bad about key economic indicators running on perception rather than their fundamentals? I’m sure it matters to investors and the like but what has it got to do with us? These people can fool themselves all they like, their entire lives are supported by lying to themselves, why pay attention to them now? Because this time it might be different.

2008 economic crisis was bad, so bad that the world still hasn’t recovered fully. Europe and Japan haven’t. China’s economy slowed down considerably. The US is spinning the numbers to cheer up the disbelieving populace. It’s bad. There’s more to come, however.

Major crises strike about once in a decade, give or take a few years. I suppose they follow human psychology cycles, too. Our collective memories are short, in about ten years we forget almost everything and return to our old habits. The example is current anti-Russian rhetoric that sounds very much like pre-Iraq war hysteria. The fact that it comes from exactly the same people, the neocons, doesn’t help either. A decade ago Americans got frustrated with then president Bush and the Republicans but now Republican brand is as strong as ever. These people seem to never learn.

Same thing happens with economy. Cheap loans and unsubstantiated euphoria might crash one’s dreams for a while but eventually it all comes back. People hate the reality, it’s not exciting enough, they want progress and promises, they want risks and living on edge. If everything goes well they want to improve it. Moved by the mode of passion they are compelled to make exactly the same dubious decisions as last time, old lessons unable to get hold of their memories.

Back in 2008 it was subprime mortgages that crashed the world. At that time people were sold on the dream of ever increasing real estate values and taking a loan was seen not as a liability but as a fool-proof investment. People believed they couldn’t go wrong by buying the most expensive houses they could afford.

Actually, it wasn’t so much the people themselves but the bankers who wanted to make tons of money off them. General folks were simply swayed by advertisements and their greed, their behavior was totally predictable, it’s the bankers who were reckless there. And now they are back.

Those in charge of creating and controlling the narrative believe they learned their lessons and 2008 crisis will never repeat itself and they are might be right, but the real problem wasn’t repackaging of worthless loans, the problem is the desire to get rich quickly. Once this greed become unchecked it will find itself another channel no one has thought of before and manifest itself in an entirely new and unpredictable manner.

Well, not entirely unpredictable, there are enough analysts in the world for someone to get it right and guess the next fault line correctly. The problem is that no one is going to listen to them, their predictions will become prophetic only after the fact. For now everyone is busy creating conditions for the new crash, not preparing to protect themselves when it happens.

Personally, I think that unbridled optimism about the dollar and current financial system is what going to cause the next big crash. Last time it was faith in loan system that was undermined, this time it would be faith in the entire setup.

After 2008 economies outside the US, notably China and Russia, have decided to limit their exposure to Western finances. They didn’t do anything wrong but were caught in the storm caused by the Wall Street and it was unfair, they thought. To protect themselves they thought the world needed a new currency and a new set of lending institutions to go with it.

Nothing big came out of it because replacing the dollar is nearly impossible under the circumstances but they’ve made some progress in setting up alternative banking system. Just this week there’s the news about a major G7 economy,the UK, signing up for the new Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank, a Chinese outfit that is supposed to replace US run Asian Development Bank. On the currency front China has entered into a number of currency swap agreements with its partners to avoid conducting their trade in US dollars. It’s not enough yet to undermine dollar as a reserve currency but it’s an important first step. I don’t know if it would save Chinese from aftershocks of the next crush but at least they know what can protect them.

The US, otoh, keeps pushing its dollar as irreplaceable. It goes to great pains to ensure that dollar appears strong and unassailable and all challengers are crushed like little bugs (ie Russia). Problem is, if they can’t sustain this perception repercussions will be very very severe because they made everything tied up to their dollar.

The US has debt that it would never be able to repay, it’s completely out of question, they gave up on that idea long time ago. Instead they say that they only have to have enough money to pay interest on their debt obligations, and they are not shy of borrowing new money if they don’t have enough cash.

Over the time these interest payments will start taking bigger and bigger proportion of the government budget, money that should have been invested elsewhere, like infrastructure or healthcare or public services or social welfare. This would undermine the fundamental strength of the US as a country but it won’t cause a sudden crash. Inability to serve those interest payments because of the rising costs of borrowing would kill it, however.

For as long as I can remember money has been very cheap, smart folks were actually getting paid to borrow. People are so used to having interest rates near zero they can’t imagine what would happen to them if rates started to rise. It’s not the people who I’m worried about now, though, it’s the bankers and investors who developed the same mentality, they hold an enormous amount of power in their hands and if they can’t pull it through no one else will survive.

If interest rates rise to the point where US can’t service its debt and perception of dollar changes, the crash will be swift and brutal. First, no one will buy their Treasuries anymore, meaning they won’t be able to borrow or create money even if they start printing it again. Not being able to pay, not being able to borrow they will be doomed. From there it’s only a short step towards default, and US in default will wipe out an unimaginable amount of “paper wealth” accumulated by the rest of the world.

The bubble of US invincibility will burst and the entire world financial system will go down with it. There will be no trust and no rules left, the globalization will be over and god knows what will happen to MNC’s assets around the world.

Okay, but what has it got to do with us? Would it affect ISKCON? Would it affect our preaching? I see two major forces at play here, but, as usual, it should be a thought for another day.

Vanity thought #1301. Brewing storms

I wish I had something spiritual to discuss on Ekādāśī but I have nothing but more gripes about the state of the world. I guess it’s my age talking or, alternatively, the world is really becoming a screwed up place. To me it looks more so than the last time I worried about it, which was about a month ago. So, what changed?

For me it was perky job reports from the US government. They’ve reached a full employment, they say, which means unemployment rate at 5.5%. They are very close, by their own account, so it’s all good. The reality, however, might be very very different.

The media, including my local newspapers, faithfully republish government figures and they are counted everywhere as Gospel truth. I looked up at various financial forecasts and stock market advice sites – they are all cheering the US as a fully recovered economy leading the world out of recession. This year will be another remarkable year for the US dollar, Forex gurus intone. Full employment is going to seal the deal as happy workers will part with their cash and get the ball rolling even faster.

Well, thanks to the internet, finding an alternative views is easy, it’s just that no news organization would lend its space to propagating them. It’s not the time to seed doubts, they would argue, I guess, good, sustainable recovery is as much about the perception as it is about reality.

So, what’s that reality I’m talking about?

First, the unemployment figures. They are seriously misleading. Numbers are massaged and cherry picked, and some are simply inexplicable.

Christmas sales last year were extremely disappointing. They actually shrank comparing to November. A household name like Radio Shack went out of business. What did the retailers do in response, according to government numbers? They went out and hired more workers than any other sector in the economy. To sell what? No one is buying anything, especially after Christmas. Why would retailers expand their workforce and their payroll when sales are dropping? I don’t know the answer to that, no one does, I haven’t seen a good theory explaining how it could happen.

Spinning the unemployment numbers, however, is very well documented thanks to the wealth of publicly available information. Unemployment is counted as a number of people seeking jobs as a percentage of the total labor pool. To manipulate the result you need to manipulate these two figures – number of job seekers and size of the total pool. What the government did was very simple – they excluded as many people as possible both from the labor pool and from job seeking lists.

We are not talking peanuts here, to get the idea of the size of the manipulation – since the 2008 crisis the US population grew by 16 million people while the labor pool shrank by 12 million. How’s that possible? More on that later.

On the unemployed side they demand people to regularly report to their local offices. If they stop coming they are not counted as unemployed anymore. And they get excluded from the labor pool, too. There are certain periods before people get taken off the lists. The government uses two cut off dates – three and six weeks since the last report. Consequently, there are two unemployment numbers – U3 and U6. The one publicized everywhere, 5.6%, is the lowest of them. The higher number is there but no one talks about it, for if they mentioned it in the media the entire narrative of full employment in a fully recovered economy would collapse. It’s 11%, double the officially declared rate.

There are folks out there who produce their own numbers and their result is even worse – if one counts the real labor pool, not the one reduced by government statisticians, then the unemployment rate would be 23%. That would not be simply a scandal, it would be a catastrophe.

I don’t trust this unofficial number, to be fair, it might have been produced by people with agendas who massage their stats in a different direction from the government, I can’t check their methods. It is still indicative, though. So what if they added a couple of percentage points? It would still be a catastrophe if they added a full ten percent, though a bit smaller one.

There’s another indisputable official number – percentage of fully employed. It’s 44%, meaning less than half US workers have full time jobs. Part time jobs also help reduce the overall unemployment rate – you are off the lists if you work an hour a week or get paid 20 dollars.

The whole thing is a sham.

What has happened to the labor pool? Official answer is that people over 55 chose to retire early, which makes sense, but there are also employment statistics gathered by age. Contrary to official version, these numbers show that since the 2008 crisis labor participation has dropped for all ages. The only age group that has more workers in it now than in 2008 is, surprisingly, over 55. Exactly those who the government said chose to retire early.

I think a far more probable explanation is that initially they indeed preferred the retirement but were forced to come out and take those part time jobs. Perhaps these are the “pity” jobs retailers created in January and February, I don’t know, but it looks like a reasonable guess.

Labor stats are a crucial element in building the whole picture but it’s far from being the only one. All other economic indicators are nothing to write home about, and they could be as easily massaged anyway. The stock market has fully recovered since the crisis but the bull run might finally be over.

In the first years after bailouts listed companies performed far better than the rest of the economy as they took bigger and bigger share of newly created wealth. While middle class struggled, the rich got a lot richer. The problem with stocks, however, is that they are tied up to fundamentals. They can’t grow forever if companies do not produce sufficient profits. Perception can create only so much value there and eventually stock prices need to be adjusted to reflect the actual state of the economy.

All the gains made since the beginning of the year have been wiped out and government cheerful job report didn’t help a bit. This year the US is the only engine of world growth and multinationals have nowhere else to go. Therefore if no major good news comes up pretty soon the long bull run might be officially over, there’s no more intrinsic value to squeeze out of the stocks.

Another major measurement of economic performance is the foreign exchange rates. So far the dollar shines in that market like a newly minted coin, and that makes no sense whatsoever. Coming off the massive “quantitative easing” program, ie printing tons and tons of money, dollar should have depreciated. The perception of QE success, however, created an aura of invincibility and instead of being treated according to classical economics dollar is being presented as a new standard. Whatever it does is good, classical economics can go home.

There are official explanations to dollar strength, too, but to me they don’t sound convincing. Mainly, dollar looks strong relative to other major currencies – Euro and Japanese Yen, which have big QE programs of their own. Their QE devalued their values more that American QE devalued the dollar. It makes sense but Forex market is more about perception than any other – if Americans admitted their actual unemployment situation this perception would change right away and dollar would drop like a brick.

Another argument against official line is that dollar appreciated against commodities, too. Not just oil but all of them. As the world keeps producing things like gold, corn, soybean, cotton etc the value of these products goes down and down, for many years now. The US “produced” far more dollars during this time but dollars got more valuable. Classical economics is being abused again.

The production of gold, for example, is steady, it’s not going up, yet the gold becomes cheaper and cheaper. A while ago there were reports in the media that Russia and China were buying as much physical gold as they could. Russians effectively traded their oil for gold, and cheaper gold helps them offset cheaper oil. The key point here is that they buy physical gold, a market that is many many times smaller than “paper” gold that exists as various contracts. So far the price of the gold bullion is determined not by physical gold supply and demand but by things like “future contracts”, which is another potential pitfall.

The thing about these futures, ie bets on how much gold would cost six months from now, is that they are self-fulfilling prophecies. The same market players trade both futures and spots and they are not going to bet against themselves, they want to see spot price being close to predicted future price so as not to lose money.

At some point Russians and Chinese might buy all available physical gold and create a shortage of such proportions that “paper” gold price would skyrocket, too. Maybe that’s what they are betting on, who knows. What we do know is that they are seeking an alternative to the dollar and so far it looks like they see gold as a future safe haven.

I think this post is getting too long, it’s better to continue it tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1182. Meet the fan

Something is not well with the world, the picture perfect image of the western civilization conquering time and space and imagination of our devotees is showing some cracks. So far they might be just harmless hairline fractures but they could also turn out to be signs of unsustainable stress fatigue and everything is about to snap.

I have no access to any reliable data, nor do I have the capacity to analyze it, but we all can look at secondary sources and make educated guesses about what is going on outside our view. I mean that there are two contradictory lines of discourse being pushed out to the public and they both look compelling, which means that at least one side is getting it terribly wrong, but which one?

Earlier this month Republicans swept mid-term elections in the US. Why? Most commentators agree that it was a message of dissatisfaction with Obama. It is true that all presidents in their second term face hostile Congress but that is not the whole picture – Republican message of slow recovery and loss of leadership hit the chord with the people. Just about enough to galvanize its supporters and keep Democrat voters on the back foot.

It could be blamed on complacent Democrat voters being too lazy to go out and vote for no particular reason while Republicans genuinely wanted to make themselves heard but, perhaps, recovery is really not felt across the country, jobs are back on paper but they don’t pay enough, and life is getting worse all around. People do not vote for raising minimum wage when times are good, everybody feels the pain and need for protection even though they might not be personally affected.

Perhaps the most telling number is that one in six Americans depends on food stamps to sustain himself. It’s not a third world poverty but it’s a bad sign nevertheless.

The other message is that everything is great, better than ever. Massive QE did its job, economy is back on track, perfectly primed for boundless expansion. Dollar is getting stronger every day, oil is cheap, and so is gold, and days of doom and gloom are finally over, and the whole world is looking to America for leadership.

This message looks to me to be the most worrying. I’m not a fan of doomsday scenarios and people trying to predict the next big crisis every couple of weeks in hope that one day they’d be able to say “I told you so”. Still, the arguments they raise deserve attention.

I’m not sure what to make of dollar getting stronger on the back of the biggest devaluation in modern history, aka QE, perhaps it’s simply returning to its actual value, but cheap oil is very suspicious. Its price just does not reflect its market value, it looks manipulated.

Lots of OPEC countries are struggling with production, lots of them calculate their annual budgets on the prices above current, the demand hasn’t dropped as much as the price would suggest, so something smells fishy here. The drive for cheap oil is led by Saudis, and they are the guys involved in another major hotspot – the war on ISIS.

Of course it’s all planned by Americans, Saudis are just playing along (or so they say), but Americans themselves seem to be acting against their own interests. Their celebrated energy independence depends on high oil prices, not low. Saudis are able to extract it at 30 dollars a barrel but American shale oil needs the price to stay about 100, not below 80 as it is now. Don’t quote me on numbers, I’m talking ballpark figures only.

So why would Americans push oil price down when it threatens their own massive investments and energy independence they fought so hard for? They were just about to walk away from the Middle East, not needing their oil anymore. One word answer – Russia.

Pesky Putin must be punished and made to toe the line. While Americans have an understanding with the Chinese, Putin has gone completely off the rails, he is off the leash.

Russian currency is under attack, draining their Central Bank resources to support it. Russia can’t make any profit at oil prices below 80, and without income they are bound to swallow their pride and stop making troubles for Americans. Ukraine, it is argued in this line of thought, is one of the methods to draw them into unwinnable war. They’ve already committed themselves to Crimea, now they will have to shoulder Donbass, which was an economic sinkhole even before it was totally ruined by bombings. Well, Donbass is heavy industrialized and the most profitable region in Ukraine but it needs massive modernization to simply survive, it’s still a Soviet era economy depending on Soviet era business connections.

The heart of the problem, however, is Putin’s insolence and boldly stated desire to live by his own rules in his own kingdom. He openly rejects US role as the world’s sole leader and guardian, he wants a “multipolar” world instead, the one where Indians, Chinese, Brazilians and the like are free to follow their own agendas instead of cooperating for the sake of US prosperity.

Russia might be a small fry but these other countries make up half the world population, so the lesson must be taught, no one should be able to publicly challenge the US and get away with it.

Russians have far reaching plans, they want an alternative world currency, for example. Their trade with the US is minimal but it’s all conducted in US dollars, and they have no control over US dollar value. They are also bound to invest these US dollars in the US itself, mostly in the form of government bonds, there’s also significant rent to be exacted on dollar denominated trade, it might be a very small percentage but it adds up.

The US is not going to give up on “petrodollar” and they are not letting any alternative currency to succeed. That explains the sudden drop in gold price. Publicly, gold is called just another precious metal compared to the real thing – dollar, but Alan Greenspan recently dropped the bomb by saying that gold IS currency, something his successors at US Federal Reserve would vehemently deny.

US, of course, is the world’s largest holder of gold. IMF, the bastion of dollar domination, also managed to become the third placed gold holder. Germans are in second place, afaik, but they do not actually possess their gold, it’s locked in the US for “safe keeping”, and when they asked for it be transferred back into their custody the US told them it would take decades to repatriate it, so it’s better for this gold to stay where it is – in America.

So, manipulation of market prices of these three most important instruments – dollar, oil, and gold, would mean that something is definitely wrong with the world. It means that someone is making a serious political commitment and is prepared to bear high risk and high price associated with such market interventions. Russians are not going to back down either so confrontation is unavoidable.

There is no good way out of this, we can’t have Russians waving their nukes and banging shoes on UN tables, and we can’t go against market prices indefinitely, and the upcoming karma for QE is not going to dissolve itself.

The US is fighting hard to preserve its status and fight means serious, serious losses. It’s also a fight they can’t win because their time of ruling the world is over. China is in a state of inflating their own bubble, too, their karma is just around the corner, they have to pay for their overconfidence and dreams of perpetual 10% growth. Russians will probably lock themselves in, go into hibernation and survive on potatoes, they are of no help to anybody.

Major economic crises come about once in every decade, we are seven years away from the last one, and two-three years look like a reasonable time for the above mentioned karma to bear fruit. And we haven’t fully recovered from 2008 yet.

So, the proverbial unmentionable substance – meet the fan, you are going to spend a lot of time together.

Why am I talking about this? Mostly, because it’s on my mind and it refuses to go away. Maybe by typing this up I’ll feel myself relieved. I also hope that I’ll relieve myself from the persisting illusion that there is life outside Kṛṣṇa, that there’s another way, and that a relatively good life of the past half a century is here to stay.

Maybe it’s not spiritual knowledge per se but knowledge of nescience is useful and necessary for spiritual progress, too.