Thursday, December 27, 2007

Politics of Assassination

In my previous blog entry of 25th December, i wrote about the distance between rhetoric and reality when it comes to peace in our world. How songwriters, politicians and popes talk of peace, yet it remains always beyond our reach. And how Srila Prabhupada cited a famous verse in Lord Sri Krishna's Bhagavad-gita (Ch. 5.29) as the "Peace Formula." Without following this formula, he told us, peace shall remain a dream.

Today's breaking news is from Pakistan. Opposition political leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at a rally. A suicide terrorist fatally shot her and then blew himself up along with 20 innocent persons. The details and analysis of the assassination you can find on any news site. What is striking to me is how easy it is in this kali yuga to destroy hope. It takes just a few madmen to destroy the hopes of millions.

I'm old enough to remember how hope was crushed when JFK was assassinated. Then a few years later, it was Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy whose hope giving presence was darkened by assassins' bullets. Then John Lennon, the world's most influential songwriter, was violently killed. Anwar Sadat of Egypt and later, Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, were struck down by their own countrymen. Both leaders courageously tried to move their country away from conflict towards peace, and both paid the price with their lives. Today it was Benazir Bhutto's turn. She had twice been Prime Minister of Pakistan and was a voice against the barbaric Taleban and for the rule of reason.

It seems that the personality of Kali yuga is not disposed towards peace. He appears to sacrifice leaders who represent hope and peace. I guess when sacrifice to God (Sankirtan, the Sacrifice of the Holy Names) is not performed in society, one way that Kali makes the population suffer is by letting madmen and killers sacrifice the public's most hopeful leaders. Mediocre and repressive leaders remain while the politics of assassination kills off the best and the brightest. Kali yuga is tough.


Babhru das said...

I remember that, shaken by all the murders, especially Dr. King's and Sen. Kennedy's, I had my own lyrics to David Crosby's "Long Time Coming":
"But don't try to get yourself elected;
If you do you had better duck your head."

I knew it didn't rhyme, but it seemed more to the point.

Billy said...

Compared to the darkness we could be living under now, the ignorance of so called "Radical Islam" - spiritual decendents of the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood that collaborated with Hitler against the US and Britain in WWII - this is really a relatively minor thing. But it certainly is a signifigant and difficult challenge to be met, and one that does force us to examine our own understanding. One thing that needs to be clearly understood I think, is that Faith that is coerced cannot ever be a True faith, because it is not a Free Will choice. Without Free Will, there is no True Faith. The civilized World needs to make that argument, as many Islamic Scholars and Muftis - even in Iran - are now teaching at great personal cost.

Christianity came to this kind of realization beginning some 400 or so years ago, and in many ways this is the legacy that led to the American experiment in Government. Christian Protestant philosophy developed an understanding that put itself out of the business of State rule. I think Islam is now going through a similar time, with a lot of turmoil such as Christianity faced during the religious/"100 Year" wars in Europe. But we can deal with this, and to do so now will cost us less - in every way - than if we put it off till later.

Anyway, we are beings created as Divine Images - in potential - with free will, and nothing is predestined I think except that eventually we will fufill that potential. So please forgive me for saying so but I often detect a streak of fatalism, maybe even a throwing up of the hands, when I hear people talk about the age of "Kali Yuga". Is what is written in the stars more important than the free divine will of the human child of God? Is it really predestined and immutable that man will remain in darkness for the next 400,000 literal years? I don't think so, and in fact we have overcome many major challenges recently as humankind, and things could be much much worse.

For example, what would have happened had mankind failed the challenges of WWI and WWII, the temptations of Naziism and Fascism? And what if the anti-God Atheistic Marxist States, which ruled half the earth until recently, had prevailed and conquered in the Cold War? Perhaps *then* we would have thousands of years of darkness before us, as all spirituality on this Earth was crushed under the heel of World State Atheism!

Yes, man's spiritual progress still requires that Arjuna has to pick up his bow and sword, so to speak. But progress is progress, nonetheless. And as I see it, this is a time of daybreak for humanity, not sunset. For I hear the birds of dawn singing...

jauvana said...

Certainly one of the greatest divine qualities that God bestows on his jivas is that of free will. Krishna's will creates and destroys all universes, and our will is also a powerful creative or destructive force, both for our own destiny and for the world. But ultimately, we are tiny, and God's will prevails. It was not Ronald Reagan who defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It was God's desire to give those jivas more freedom.

To understand His desire He speaks directly or indirectly. He sends messengers, prophets and teachers to attract us to His desire. It is our free will that must be activated for us to follow a particular teacher and find our way out of the darkness.

The material world is compared to darkness because it is under the influence of God's inferior and unconscious energy, matter. Spirit is superior to matter but it can be covered by matter. Material identity subjects the eternal soul to repeated birth in various identities such as animals, plants and human beings. Matter inspires the false ego to perceive the material world as all in all, to see itself as the ultimate "doer" and independent "lord" and to be alienated from God. That is known as maya, or illusion, since everything is actually connected to and the energy of God.

There are times that are nicer, more like heaven, and times less nice, more like hell. These are the different yugas, like the changing seasons. Even within these seasons, there are better times and worse, just as the weather is always different. But the yugas are cosmic seasons that set the tone and influence the collective consciousness.

Kali yuga is often praised in the scripture for being the most liberal time to achieve liberation. Since conditions are so difficult, God is most merciful. The descent of the holy name is considered His most generous gift in Kali yuga, as that gives direct and immediate access to the spiritual world even in any material condition. This world could be transformed into a kind of paradise if the enough people seriously engaged in chanting any of the unlimited holy names of the Lord. That is the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. A huge positive, "Yes!"

Short of that, the achievements of science, democracy and other reasonable pursuits may ameliorate the situation temporarily, but in the end, material solutions will create more problems than they solve. They can never create a 'heaven on earth' without a change of consciousness, and that requires a critical mass of saintly persons.

Billy said...

I would argue that the reason Democracy exists at all is because of "a change of consciousness". The "Divine Right of Kings" has given way to the equal rights of all people as Children of the same the Divine Creator. Lineage, money, power does not matter according to this political ideal, and this trend - Democracy, which has significantly expanded in the last 20 years - is the result of the influence of religious thought on Government. Is not India the World's largest Democracy, having rejected the oppressive Caste system which some religious authorities once excused as being "predestination" and "reincarnation"?

But in any event, my point is it is self defeating to observe the challenges mankind faces at this hour and say it's because of anything other than people being ignorant and making bad choices. And we can, and have to change that. This is I believe expected of all of us. It's the responsibility of human beings to solve the problem of ignorance, and of evil, no matter where the stars are or whether the rain is falling or the sun is shining.

I do wish to honor the sacrifice of a woman like Benazir Bhutto, despite some political disagreements. Taking responsibility for a nation is certainly is not easy, and few of us are of say, Gandhi's inner stature. But I never heard Gandhi say that man's inhumanity to man was the fault of the seasons. Rather it's a fault of man's creation, and so also man's job to clean it up. Even if it is a mess of our Brothers' making.

Anyway, I guess murders and assassinations call out my sense of righteous indignation. Where's the outrage - the will to confront the challenges of History? Like a Warrior on a spiritual battlefield? For as George wrote, "Beware of sadness". And sadness does not serve us well in these circumstances, I believe.