Go to the Philosophy Page
for the United States of America
by Bhakta James S. Seymour, II
As our eternal Spiritual Master, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada repeatedly said, paraphrased, "Materially speaking, Americans have it all." We have been endowed with great material abundance in the shape of wealth, education, natural resources, and global influence. This was why Srila Prabhupada came here to America and inaugurated the Krishna Consciousness Movement. He understood that the United States sets the standard for the rest of the world. As Krishna devotees and followers of Srila Prabhupada, it is our responsibility and ongoing duty to see things as they are, through the eyes of our spiritual master.
Prabhupada continually stressed the fact that everything we require to push on with his mission already exists. We simply have to employ it in the service of Krishna. He often liked to use the example of a microphone. To paraphrase: "The Mayavadis will say that this microphone is false. It is not false, but its use is false. If we use this microphone to spread some political propaganda, that is false, material. But if we use it to preach Krishna consciousness, then we purify it and make it spiritual."
My intent in writing this little article is to share my realizations that this same principle not only can, but also must be applied to our situation here in America.
Obviously, since September 11, the world media has been flooded with all things pertaining to America. At the present moment, the United States is literally leading the planet to hell, full throttle. I don’t feel the need to articulate the myriad ways in which we are doing this as a nation. This should be very clear to anyone who has studied our brutal history and the flow of today’s current events. Suffice it to say that since the industrial revolution, America has catapulted the world towards a precipice of destruction: socio-economically, militarily, environmentally, and of course, spiritually.
This past summer, I attended a teacher workshop on the American Revolutionary War in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. So the other day, I was pondering the very documents and credos that shape our collective American psyche. Some very profound realizations struck a chord with me. For instance, on all of our coins and currency, you will find the phrase, "In God We Trust." Of course at present, this phrase is meaningless, because it is simply a sentiment. There is no real understanding of its purport among today’s Americans.
The obvious question that must surely arise in the mind of a Krishna devotee is this: How can you trust someone you do not know? And what to speak of loving Him?
I was also reflecting on the very wording of our Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, which among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Now, first, as an aspiring neophyte devotee of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, and second, as a California high school teacher, I am compelled by conscience to attempt to define what this actually means to us as servants of God and all of His children.
Materially speaking, all people are obviously not created equal. Hence we see innumerable physical, economic, and social differences among the peoples of this world. But spiritually speaking, we are all, of course, created equal. Our true equality is found in the fact that we are all God’s children, and as such, we are all originally God-conscious, or Krishna conscious living entities. We are eternally situated as servants of the Lord. To quote Srila Prabhupada, "But due to our association with matter from time immemorial, this consciousness is now polluted by material atmosphere. In this polluted concept of life, we are all trying to exploit the resources of material nature. But actually, we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities."
So because of an obvious lack of real education and spiritual culture in our godless American landscape, we are becoming "more and more entangled" in the complexities of material life. Hence, we are again at war with an illusory enemy.
The other striking thought that hit me was our "certain inalienable rights" for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Again, as a student of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, I feel compelled to redefine what these Great American Aphorisms actually mean.
First of all, let’s examine the term "life." What is life? Life means the living entities, the spirit souls. Life comes from life. From the Vedic literature, we learn that all living entities are sat, cid, ananda. We are eternal, full of knowledge, and blissful. So, life means eternal life.
How are we eternally situated? Our eternal, constitutional positions are as loving, devotional servants to the Supreme Lord. And once we re-engage ourselves in our sanatana dharma, or our eternal duties as servants of God, then the term "life" will become truly meaningful.
Similarly, let us examine the term "liberty." Of course traditionally, Americans interpret the term liberty as "being free to do anything we want, at anytime, and in any place." But as students of the science of self-realization, we know that no one is free to do anything at all.
We can factually understand (from all of the Vedic literature) that as materially entangled living entities, we are strictly bound by the stringent laws of material nature to samsara, or the cycle of birth and death. By dint of the actions in our past lives, we are literally forced to accept birth, old age, disease, and ultimately death.
We are further forced to eat, sleep, mate, and defend ourselves. All the while we are forced to struggle hard to counteract the threefold miseries: (miseries arising from our own bodies and minds, those arising from other living entities, and those inflicted upon us from supernatural forces). What’s more, we are constantly forced and assaulted by six pushings: the urge to speak, the actions of the mind, anger, and the cravings of the tongue, belly, and genitals.
So, where (at any moment) are we ever actually experiencing liberty? We falsely misinterpret liberty to mean that we are allowed to haphazardly follow any course we so choose. The illusory ideals of Rugged Individualism and the Entrepreneurial Spirit— so prevalent here in the United States— assume that we have abundant, equal opportunities for improvement of our economic situation. Of course we know that this is a total hoax. All of these things are locked in for us at the time of birth by the reactions to our past karma, (or our past pious and sinful activities). We cannot diminish, negate, nor improve our material lots in this life. We are simply being forced to undergo a set term of incarceration (or happiness and distress) while we serve our sentence here in this material world.
So as I understand it, the real meaning of the word "liberty" means to liberate oneself from the cycle of birth and death, through the ongoing practice of bhakti yoga, or Krishna consciousness.
Last, I’d like to address the phrase "pursuit of happiness."
Needless to say, because of the sorry state of our educational system in this country, no one is learning any real knowledge, i.e. knowledge of the true self, the soul. All of our so-called learning centers on material science, material technologies, and material industries. This dangerously one-sided education promotes an overall thrust toward valuing only economic development. Wherever there can be a return on investment, regardless of the consequences, this is considered to be fair game in our capitalist ideology.
Thus snared in this false, material, bodily concept of life, we are left with no option but to plunge headlong into unrestricted sense gratification. Now couple all of this with a nationally prevailing "Christian" theology that loudly and foolishly proclaims, "We only live once, so you better grab all you can now." Whoa!
Being so bamboozled and cheated by our godless leaders, scientists, and educators into believing that the pursuit of happiness entails a path of only sensual enjoyment, is it any wonder that today’s America is plagued with obesity, decadence, and an all-pervading attitude of self-righteousness, self-centeredness, sloth, hedonism, and apathy as well as a complete ignorance of life’s actual goal? To add insult to injury, (Mind you, from a God that no one actually even knows), we arrogantly demand that He "bless America." (Sometimes, as representatives of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and mission, the task that lies before us is a daunting prospect to fathom.) But nevertheless…
It can be known for certain, that the correct purport of "all men are created equal," and the notions of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" actually mean the following:
Life means eternal life. We are endowed by our Creator with the right to engage in our eternal lives of bhakti, or devotional service to the Supreme Lord.
By so doing, we will naturally progress toward the true meaning of the word liberty. Liberty comes from the word liberation, which simply implies liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
The pursuit of happiness means re-awakening our dormant God consciousness through the practice of rendering devotional service unto Him, and thus becoming re-established in our true natures as sat, cid, ananda. Ananda means bliss. This is the pursuit of happiness.
In conclusion, I’d like to simply say that there are unlimited preaching opportunities for Krishna devotees within this matrix of Maya known as the United States of America. Prabhupada actually wanted devotees to rise to positions of national influence so that a group of first-class individuals could at the very least provide an alternative to this backslide towards a hellish global environment.
From the Bhagavad-gita, we note in chapter 3, text 21, it is said:
yad yad acarati sresthas
Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
Our eternal spiritual master Srila Prabhupada, being a pure devotee of the Lord, was one such great man.
Obviously, because he is no longer physically present before us, it is our duty that we carry on with his sterling example to the best of our abilities. To this end, we are indeed very fortunate to reside here in America. We are protected by the Constitution of these United States for the freedoms of speech, press, religion, and peaceful assembly.
To reiterate what Prabhupada said about this material environment: everything is already here, so we don’t have to manufacture anything. (This reminds me of one of my favorite Prabhupada video clips…I can see Srila Prabhupada on that morning walk from 1975 in Denver, discussing "Ajara vriti." The mouse works very hard to dig a nice hole in which to live. Then, the big "Ajara" snake comes along, eats that mouse, and lives comfortably!)
The advantage of all these material benedictions found here in the USA, (which include the tenets and credos of this "great nation") is that we can simply employ them for the glorification of God. We must take advantage of America’s position in the world as a leader. If America can actually do right by the phrase printed on all of our money— In God We Trust— then the whole world may begin to follow.
You may ask whether this horrible momentum of Kali Yuga, which is being accelerated by the USA, can ever be reversed? I obviously do not know. However, as an ex football coach, the last thing I feel like doing is lying down and giving up. For me personally, all I need to do to feel inspired is to think about how Srila Prabhupada was totally alone for an entire year in New York, with no financial support and nowhere to live. He didn’t give up. And as his followers, neither should we.
All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Thank you all for reading this. And please, always chant Hare Krishna.
Your eternally fallen servant,
Please feel free to contact me at this Email address: email@example.com
© CHAKRA 18 February 2002
Go to the Philosophy Page
© Copyright November, 2003 by oldchakra.com. All rights reserved.
about this website or to report an
error, write to firstname.lastname@example.org