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Let’s be Against Something! Yeah!

Karnamrita Das

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so to not listen, mute your speakers.)
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You might consider this blog as a mirror, or opposite, of my last one on amazing things. I have often noticed how it is easier for people to be against something, than for something, and was reminded of this topic by a few comments on some Facebook posts. One person was upset with my “amazing topics” blog that I didn’t include something he was attached to, and then someone complained about my Bhagavad Gita quote, since it is a translation by Prabhupada with certain editing they don’t approve of. While I understand their complaints, I post on my Facebook page and share my blogs to (hopefully) inspire devotees and as my service to them—certainly not to upset them, though hopefully to get them to think—which is, of course, hard work, while reacting is easy, and is the just the opposite. Anyway, along with being a tad annoyed, I had to laugh at human nature (always a good idea), and was grateful for a blog topic that I think is quite interesting.

If you want to get a big group together in “agreement,” find something to be against, some pending problem or disaster, or the shortcomings of a public leader, and you will likely be successful. This is why negative political ads work. Even though the general population says they don’t like them, they still listen. Another way to "unite" people is to discuss, or complain about, the news! Bad news and scandals' sell and make headlines, while good news or stories of a Good Samaritan are often hidden inside the paper or website. If they do make the front page, they are only one out of twenty stories.

News is business, and a news business means readers or viewers are require to make money. Thus they want to give people news that gets their attention through being sensational, or shocking, which in reality doesn’t often reflect the sum total of what is really going on. And the result of constantly hearing bad news is that people become more afraid, cynical, and negative about life.
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Many years ago, after being overseas for six months, when I returned to the U.S., I could feel the sum total of the fear in this country. When you have much the downside is that you have to protect it and may fear of losing it. I am not that sensitive of a person, but the feeling was profound. Without a spiritual practice to elevate one beyond the base survival instincts, one will be more prone toward the animal propensities, one of which is fear, or to be on the defensive.

Another experience I had that confirms the power of being against something was working in a warehouse for twelve years. During that time, I noticed that the workers never spontaneously gathered together to express their gratitude for having a job, or the stellar performance of the company's general manager. Even though they dutifully did their assigned jobs, they were rarely joyful (except on payday), or enthusiastic. However, if someone shared some complaint about the company or working conditions, or found some discrepancy in their supervisors or general manager, they seemed to garner enthusiastic responses from whoever they spoke with. It seemed like the subject was a strange kind of elixir that enthused whoever heard it, and impelled them to spread it all over the warehouse. These experiences got me to thinking of the phenomenon of fault-finding and complaining about life or other people. Why would we rather complain or criticize than praise or appreciate—or specifically to this article, why do we tend to be more excited against, than for, something?

I have thought of many reasons. In a general sense, as those who see the Vedas as an expression of revealed truth understand, we are currently in the Age of Kali, or a period of quarrel and hypocrisy. Quarrel means seeing differences and faults in others, emphasizing those, and being blind to a person, or group’s, true qualities. We learn in the Gita’s 17th chapter that to be peaceful and happy, spiritual practices are essential. Such practices include certain austerities of the mind, such as “satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, self-control and purification of one's existence.”
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If we think acquisition alone can make us happy and are in competition with others to display the latest techno gadget—or material facilities or advantages—we may be good consumers, but our mind will be disturbed, our heart unsettled. From the Gita’s perspective we will be happy when we're peaceful and we'll be peaceful when we are primarily in the mode (guna), or quality, of goodness. Materialistic cultures are fueled by the qualities of passion and ignorance which guarantee the population will tend toward dissatisfaction, disagreement, criticism, negative thinking, and activities which disturb society.

While there are problems to be solved in the world and causes to be a part of, ideally we will endeavor to be solutions-oriented instead of problem, or fault-focused. It should be obvious the contradiction in saying, “We are fighting for peace!” At the same time, the emphasis of having a “war on drugs,” being “tough on crime”, or “a three strikes and you’re out” policy (locking someone up in prison) while galvanizing public support, miss the point. Is drug use, or crime really the problem? Or is the problem the consciousness or habits of the people that cause disturbances? Admittedly, it is much more difficult and time consuming (and interestingly, less popular) to go the root of these problems. However, problems will only be lessened when we deal with their root, not just the symptoms.
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The most important point of this blog is that if we are by nature, or conditioning, predisposed to negative thinking and finding fault, or are most excited to be against something, our attempt to change this tendency will not be easy--and yet positive change is what spiritual growth is about. The first, and sometimes most difficult awareness is to understand that we have a problem, and then to know it can be solved. From a spiritual perspective being attached to material enjoyment independent of God, and the exploitive, selfish mentality that comes from it, are the root cause of our physical embodiment and suffering. Yet in the bhakti school, the emphasis is on awakening our dormant spiritual consciousness and love for Krishna (prema). In other words, while certain actions are recommended to be given up or avoided, the main orientation is a positive one, or to be absorbed in Krishna through hearing and chanting about him, engaging in active service, and keeping saintly company.

To end, here Shrila Prabhupada sums it all up: “Negation of the nonessentials does not mean negation of the essential. Similarly, detachment from material forms does not mean nullifying the positive form. The bhakti culture is meant for realization of the positive form. When the positive form is realized, the negative forms are automatically eliminated. Therefore, with the development of the bhakti culture, with the application of positive service to the positive form, one naturally becomes detached from inferior things, and he becomes attached to superior things. Similarly, the bhakti culture, being the supermost occupation of the living being, leads him out of material sense enjoyment. That is the sign of a pure devotee. He is not a fool, nor is he engaged in the inferior energies, nor does he have material values.” [part of SP’s purport to Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.2.7]
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