"Spiritual Strategies for the Age of Iron"
Ravindra Svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler)
Behind Srila Prabhupada's appearance on the alien Manhattan streets stand five millennia of planning and effort. The story of it opens one sunrise fifty centuries ago in the Himalayas, where the sage Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasa sits in trance on the bank of the Sarasvati. In his meditation, Vyasa sees a future of unrelieved horror unfold before him. He sees Kali Yuga, the age of iron, begin and bring with it universal deterioration...
The harassment of hard times upon an increasingly witless populace hastens its moral and spiritual decline. People begin to slaughter animals for food; they become more and more enslaved by drugs; they lose all sexual restraint. These habits further their physical and mental deterioration. Vyasa watches them sink deeper and deeper into sexuality and ignorance.
Families break up, and women and children are abandoned. Increasingly degraded generations, conceived in lust and growing up wild, swarm over the earth. Leadership falls into the hands of unprincipled criminals who use their power to loot the people. The world teems with ideologues, mystagogues, fanatics, and spiritual bunko artists who win huge followings among a people dazed by social and moral anarchy. Unspeakable depravities and atrocities flourish under a rhetoric of high ideals.
Vyasa sees horror piled upon horror; he sees the end of everything human; he sees the gathering darkness engulf the world.
This is Vyasa's prophetic vision on the eve of Kali Yuga, five thousand years ago. It spurs him into action. For Vyasa's appearance on the brink of this temporal decline is not fortuitous. Vyasa is an avatar, the empowered literary incarnation of God, sent by Krishna specifically to prepare the knowledge of Vedic civilization for transmission through the coming millennia of darkness.
Without such an undertaking, the erosion of human intelligence by the force of time would insure that all future generations would be completely cut off from their own cultural heritage and the matchless spiritual attainment of their forebears. Once the iron age began, they would not even realize that at one time the whole world had been governed by a single, supremely enlightened civilization; the Vedic culture.
In that Vedic culture, everything was organized to further self-realization. Self-realization marks the ultimate development of human potential, in which a person knows himself directly as an eternal spiritual being, infrangibly bound to the supreme spiritual being, and without intrinsic relation to a temporarily inhabited material body. By cultivating self-realization, the Vedic civilization brought off this unparalleled achievement: it was able to eliminate completely the evils of birth, old age, disease, and death, securing for its members an eternal existence of knowledge and ever-increasing bliss.
The Vedic culture recognized that not all souls who took human birth after transmigrating up through the animal forms would be able to make direct progress toward the supreme goal. Owing to different histories, people are born with different qualities and abilities. Nevertheless, Vedic culture enabled everyone to make some gradual advancement , and there were many arrangements for the gradual elevation of materialistic people. In any case, Vedic culture organized life so that everyone could satisfy the basic necessities in the simplest and most sensible way, leaving most of human energy free for the higher task.
Vyasa saw that all this would disappear in Kali Yuga, since the focus of civilization would shift away from self-realization to sense gratification. Yet even though Kali Yuga could not be stopped, he would be able to mitigate its effects and keep alive the tradition of spiritual culture, in the same way that emissaries of a higher civilization can preserve their heritage among barbarians, or that a well-provisioned village can survive a raging winter.
Vyasa was master of all the knowledge of Vedic culture--social, scientific, economic, political, ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual. This knowledge was contained in a single comprehensive canon called the Veda, a word that simply means "knowledge." Until the time of Vyasa, the Veda was not written, because writing had been unnecessary. Far from being a sign of intellectual advancement, the appearance of writing is a testimony of decline, a device seize upon by to compensate for that mental deterioration which includes the loss of the ability to remember.
It is interesting, by the way, that the Vedic date assigned to the advent of Kali Yuga (c. 3102 BC) corresponds closely to the date set by modern historians for the rise of civilized life, an event signaled by the appearance of literacy and the emergence of complex urban societies. All that historians recognize as recorded human history is, in fact, only human history in Kali Yuga. The academic historians' ignorance of the earlier and incalculably higher Vedic civilization is what we have to expect from people suffering from the mental retardation of the times...
They are unaware that simple living is the best basis for high thinking, and that a truly advanced civilization minimizes exploitation of nature and social complexity. They do not know that a real standard of progress is the caliber of people society produces. If we pursue material advancement at the expense of self-realization, measuring our standard of living only by the gratification of our senses, then we will only get a spiritually and morally debilitated people in control of an intricate and powerful technology--a terrifying combination that leads to horrors on a scale we are just beginning to experience.
"Manifesto for a Politics of Transcendence"
Ravindra Svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler)
...the November elections may give voters at least the appearance of a clear choice between a clear right and a clear left... My problem is that both sides seem to make good sense...I need consistency, and you pay dearly for contradiction, especially when it is embodied in social policy...
Varnashrama-dharma, as the social manifesto of the Krishna consciousness movement is called, is the blueprint for a spiritual civilization, for it is based upon the idea that people are spiritual beings...We cannot plausibly expect to attain happiness by relying on our bodies, as they are certain to become diseased, to age, and finally to die. Rather, our welfare can rest only upon cultivation of our authentic and eternal self, the soul. We suffer unremittingly because we identify ourselves with our bodies, besieged as they are by material nature.
So if a society wants to secure the highest good for all its members, it must arrange for all of them to attain enlightenment concerning the true self and thus enter into a full, pure consciousness that is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. At the same time, such a society must satisfy, as simply and efficiently as possible, all needs of the body. Varnashrama-dharma is designed to achieve both these goals...
It calls for society to be divided into four occupational groups (called varnas) and four spiritual orders (ashrams). This division into varnas is quite natural. No civilized society can do without four classes: intellectuals (called brahmanas), political and military leaders (kshatriyas), farmers and merchants (vaishyas), laborers and artisans (sudras). Lack of any one of these would obviously cripple a society. They form the head, arms, belly, and legs of the social body, which can be healthy only if all the parts are sound and working cooperatively...
This system might remind you, as it did me when I first heard it described, of the society of medieval Europe, a purportedly God-centere civilization with its four orders of clergy (brahmanas), feudal lords (kshatriyas), bourgeious (vaishyas), and serfs (sudras). For a time, at least, the European kings required priestly sanction to rule, they were crowned by the pontiff. The ideal king was supposed to be saintly. Yet this society was only a rather primitive approximation of varnashrama-dharma. The brahmanas never came to a sufficiently high standard of purity, and when they became corrupt, the civilization lost what spiritual vision it had, and the whole system crumbled. And it is still crumbling.
For the collapsing of the primitive medieval varnashrama-dharma has taken more than five hundred years, and it constitutes all of our modern European history. It began with the corruption of the brahmanas. When the brahmanas become tainted by worldly ambition, they lose their moral and spiritual authority--the only power they ever possess--and the kshatriyas begin to see them as worldly princes on the same level as themselves. There is no longer any justification for brahminical preeminence, and therefore the kshatriyas break loose from brahminical domination, a social revolution epitomized in Europe by the Protestant Reformation.
Without brahminical direction and restraint, the kshatriyas rapidly lose self-control and become intolerable tyrants. No longer can they justify their sovereignty by divine sanction. The vaishyas therefore rebel against the oppression of a corrupt and useless nobility, an upheaval epitomized by the French Revolution. The clever and enterprising vaishyas come to life, accumulate capital, build up industry and commerce and, in their untrammeled greed for profit, ruthlessly oppress and exploit the sudras, who mount their own rebellion, an upheaval exemplified by the...communist revolution.
The concept of varnashrama-dharma thus makes our own history intelligible, and several things become clear. One is that we have formed our ideas of society, class, and their relations on the basis of a society in various stages of progressive decay or collapse, and we are now living through the terminal stage of that collapse. The idea of varnashrama-dharma is thus quite relevant to our contemporary social and political experience.