Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Original "Why?"

This morning, reading the 7th Chapter of Bhagavad gita, which usually gives me some transcendental pleasure, a question that had previously come up for me reappeared. Why did we, the marginal energy of the Lord, make the wrong choice to come to this material world? Why, if we are superior energy, did we not choose to remain under the protection of the internal energy, rather than be covered by the inferior energy? Now the obvious answer i know: as part & parcel of Parambrahman, we have a spark of free will. Free will is intrinsic to our nature as jivas. So we were given a choice, and we chose to enter the material world to compete with Krishna, to act as false enjoyers and lords. But that begs the question: how could we have made that choice when anyone in knowledge would never have made it, knowing that the consequences would be endless suffering here in this material world?

It does not seem possible to me that we, as jivas, were in knowledge when we made this basic choice. That would imply that we were covered by ignorance from our very beginning. The Sanskrit term, nitya bandha, implies the same: eternally conditioned. So then the question comes back to Krishna. Why, as the all merciful (karuna sindu) friend of the fallen (dina bandhu) would the Supreme Lord cover his own children, his parts and parcels, by ignorance, from what appears to be their very beginning, knowing they would then make the wrong choice?

So, this is my question. If i were deeply sincere, like Adwaita Acarya when he could not understand one verse in the Gita, i would fast until Krishna kindly revealed some answer or gave me an insight to clear up this doubt. Since i am an insincere rascal, such austerity and determination are not possible for me.

I know that this question is related to the controversy over where the jiva actually comes from. I don't buy the official "BBT" version that the jiva was with Krishna in the spiritual world in his original swarup and then fell down. No one falls down from Goloka. I also know that Srila Prabhupada spoke and wrote various different perspectives on this subject, but he stressed that it is not important to know how we got here, but absolutely necessary to know how to get out. Still, our philosophy should be able to clearly explain the ontology of the jiva. How and why did we make this terrible choice to enter samsara?

Ironically, it may only be after we are well on our way out that we'll understand the answer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Running Out of Time

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal (as mainstream as media gets) about peak oil. The gist of the piece is that the world is not really running out of oil, but it's running out of capacity to produce more of it. As it gets more expensive to extract oil, the world keeps consuming more and more of it. So sometime soon, according to the CEOs of giant oil companies, a production plateau will be reached while consumption keeps rising. In other words, a major energy crisis is around the corner. Gone will be the days when we can fly to India whenever we want. Being in one place will become more of a necessity than a choice. Even basic things like heating and food supply may radically change.

The world is also running out of balanced weather. While it's been good to Al Gore (he won half the Nobel Peace Prize this year for his film about it), global warming will not be good for mother earth. Severe weather, floods and droughts are expected to increase. And it's not just a result of carbon emissions from machinery and transportation that accounts for it. The methane produced by the billions of domestic animals raised to slaughter each year, i've been told, produces more carbon gases than automobile exhausts do. (All those cows, pigs and chickens eat a lot and pee, shit and fart a lot before they are killed.) So the culture of animal slaughter that has now become globalized, has helped create the climate crisis. That connection between global warming and animal concentration camps is something Al Gore should think about.

The dollar is so weak now, one British pound costs more than $2.20 in dollars. It's around $1.50 for a Euro. The President of Iran wants to stop pegging oil to the dollar, which he called "a useless piece of paper." For the first time that i remember, the Canadian dollar is worth more than a buck. In India, the dollar is below 40 rupees, an exchange rate that is the lowest since the rupee was deregulated. If your money is in dollars, as mine is, you're running out of money.

But the most important problem facing the world today is the same one that has faced the planet since time immemorial. We're running out of time. "Time I am, destroyer of all worlds," says Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Gita. This simple paradigm means that even if we can fix our self-created global energy, climate, money problems, we cannot fix the God-created time problem. This daivi prakriti, divine energy, is impossible to overcome, Krishna tells us, unless we do something more radical than fixing another material problem with external adjustments. We need to accept that He is the real essence behind everything, including our lives and our consciousness. Moving towards Him, we need to stop trying to run away from time. No one can get away from time and no one can keep time. The nine processes of bhakti, focused on hearing and chanting, are the only ways to let go of time, oil, money and hold on to sanity. It may be difficult, but it's the only sane solution.