This presentation is going to be a bit radical. After all, that is what this publication is all about. We are trying to offer an alternative; I am a member of a community dedicated to sparking a spiritual revolution. Revolution means to revolve, to turn around. Revolutions begin with radical ideas.
It is not that I am trying to be radical. Rather, I am trying to be objective; but while trying to be objective, one can’t help but be radical. That is because so much of the basis for today’s modern world is founded upon ideas and principles which have no solid philosophy and even less common sense. If we think of the world in this way, objective ideas become radical. Please try to read this with an open mind and an open heart. I too am open for criticism. Feel free to express yourself in the Open Mic section. I welcome only constructive criticism though. Please try to be philosophers rather than politicians. Think of what is written here in terms of philosophy, rather than politics or social norms.
Our bodies – all bodies – are made up of different senses. At times we are very happy to have these senses. At other times they become the source of our pain. In different species of life, different senses are prominent. For example, dogs can hear much better than humans. Their hearing organs are the most refined sense that they possess. Similarly, fish have an acute sense of taste. As a matter of fact, that’s how cruel people catch fish; attracting them by taste to the fishing hook. Humans however, have all the senses more or less equally developed; developed to an astonishing degree. The human mind and intellect, for example, are unmatched.
How do these senses give us pleasure and happiness? To the degree that one is developed in one’s sensual, mental, and intellectual sophistication, to that degree one can enjoy beautiful and ever more subtle things such as music, association, literature, philosophy, art, and creativity in many different ways. We can also use our senses to experience gross pleasures like eating and drinking, or having sex. In these ways we can employ our senses and enjoy life.
On the other hand, these senses can also give us a lot of trouble. A friend of mine once pointed out how much pain he experienced by smashing his little toe into a rock. He marveled at the idea that this toe did not add to his pleasure in life – in fact, he was hardly even aware of it – but still, it had the potential to cause him such pain. Similarly, our minds can go out of control and cause great emotional pain far worse than any physical ailment. Sometimes, people even need to be medicated just to get the mind under control so that they can participate in daily activities. Other people cannot control their appetite and become overweight and unhealthy. They suffer physical and emotional torment. Still others are mired in substance or alcohol abuse which exacts a great price upon their health and their relationships. All these problems – and countless more – come from uncontrolled senses. Our senses can certainly bring us great pleasures, and they can help us achieve our highest potential, but we should always remember that they can also cause us great pain.
Often, if you want to understand a thing well, you need to stand a bit away from it, in order to be truly objective. When you take a look at life from a distance, free from the influence of attachment and aversion, what do you see? Start from the beginning. You see yourself being born. Young and ignorant, you’re sucking your thumb and sticking everything you can get your hands on into your mouth. Roaming here and there, first on all fours and then on two feet, you’re learning about life; but you’re still ignorant. You are not very conscious of other living beings and their needs, but you do have this mother and father who seem to do stuff for you. In grade school you start to learn a bit more. You start to interact with the other kids and learn playground stuff like bullying and name calling. Or you’re a nice kid and you learn about sharing. Either way, your childhood is a blur and you can’t wait until you’re big.
Then one day, you become a teenager. Your body starts to change in all sorts of funny ways; your hormones boil up and you stop thinking with your brain and use your genitals instead. All you can think about is sex. In other words you lose the ability to be objective. You can not think dispassionately towards life and life situations because you’re just trying to get laid. By the end of your teenage years, if you are a guy, you’ve knocked up a girl, and if you are a girl, you’ve been impregnated by some guy who said he was in love. Suddenly you find yourself in a whole new world; a world of responsibilities. The picture you had as a teenager of a carefree life, with the whole world waiting for you to conquer, is suddenly gone. It’s shattered into a thousand pieces by the shrill sound of a newborn’s tears. A new reality sets in; one you weren’t expecting at all.
Work. You have to work to maintain your family…unless you want to be a bastard and walk away from the responsibility. Probably you’ll gut it out. Soon you’ll discover that maintaining a family takes a lot of hard work in fields you have never even dreamt about. You’ll spend the next two or three decades struggling to make ends meet. Buying diapers and baby food, making car payments, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the yard, driving the kids to soccer practice, laundry, boring school musicals, and going to work day after day in a job you hate just to make enough money to pay the mortgage on a home that’s worth less than you paid for it. These are all some of the exciting adventures that await you.
Then, one day you’ll wake up and discover that you’re sixty, seventy, eighty years old. All the promise in life is gone. Your body is shriveling up. Things that used to work effortlessly suddenly don’t. You’ve lost most of your hair where you wanted it, and sprouted fresh tufts in places where you didn’t want it, like in your ears. Your body starts to ache all over; you’ll take two dozen pills each day that you keep in a small color coated plastic container so you won’t forget. Your memory isn’t what it used to be – which is a good thing – because you can’t remember all the side effects of the drugs you’re taking. Your whole focus will shift to making yourself comfortable until the inevitable final departure. If you’re especially unlucky your ungrateful children will dump you in a nursing home; otherwise you’ll sit around your home with your spouse, waiting for one of you to pass, leaving the other one utterly alone. What will you have learned? What will you’re life have been for?
This is life when you look at it from a distance. I can already hear you protesting, “My life will be different!” Will it? Due to our inability to dispassionately evaluate life, we simply plug into this biological cycle. Spurred by our hormones, we blindly reproduce, thus creating, in most cases, further cycles of ignorance in the form of our offspring. We take on this immense struggle for the promise of mere biological reproduction – sex – which we use to spice up the weekends; the only time when we aren’t working our ass off.
“We settle for basic biological reproduction: we are ignorant; our hormones boil; we do something stupid; we find ourselves in the bleak world of hard work and maintenance; we get old; and then off we go.”
I know this might sound like a cynical view of the world. I am really not trying to offend anyone. Rather, I’m trying to stimulate thinking. Again, please don’t look at this from the political point of view. Look at it from the philosophical point of view.
We settle for basic biological reproduction: we are ignorant; our hormones boil; we do something stupid; we find ourselves in the bleak world of hard work and maintenance; we get old; and then off we go.
Worldwide statistics show that romance, on average, lasts just about a year. Just long enough for you to do the biological thing called “reproduction” and then face the real world. In other words, romance has a function in the reproductive system, that is, to get you in the game, to get you to bite the hook.
Why settle for something as mediocre as biological reproduction? I am not saying that we should completely do away with biological reproduction, but to settle down just for that is a bit sad. Why can’t we be more productive, more creative with our lives? There is a whole world waiting for us; the whole spiritual creation waiting to be discovered, yet we settle down for the mere biological thing.
For centuries before the modern, industrial, consumer-crazed society, people were doing all kinds of “radical” things like exploring a life of celibacy, as monks and nuns. They reduced their biological life in order to save time for awesome, truly important things such as self-realization and personal development. There is so much more for you besides a life centered upon mere biological reproduction. Don’t let trivial society bring you down to a trivial level. If you are so inclined, you too could be a radical. Pursue spiritual development; become a monk. Why not? Give yourself a brake. Not just a weekend. Take twenty, thirty, forty years or even your whole life. Why not? Express yourself. Be fine, refined; boldly experience life and the limits of the conscious human existence. Interact with the world. Discover your spiritual self. Go on a serious adventure. Why always be mediocre, or even puny, when you can do so much more?
So once more, I ask you to please not misunderstand me. I am not saying that we should do away with biological reproduction. I’m not even saying that everyone should become monks and nuns, although that would be quite blissful too. Rather, we shouldn’t settle down for the mere biological routine. That would show a great lack of imagination and creativity. Often times, many people find themselves living a life of great boredom and monotony, simply because they weren’t aware of an alternative. But there is one. Are you radical enough to accept it?
Nice. Everything was good. I liked your approach to the sinister life people enjoy so much.
Sometimes I really miss the few years I spent living at the temple. Sunrises still remind me of chanting japa and singing the Sri Chaitanya Siksastika next to Mission Bay. And Harinam was probably the most fun I’ve had in a city, like ever. I loved Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita classes, and the singing, and most everything in between. I hope people take you up on your challenge. I hope people stay for longer than I did, but even if they only get a year or three, they’ll be some of the best and most memorable years in their lives.
A few people have real material passions, but I notice a lot of people think they’ll do something really cool when they get free time from work. Then they play video games or time travel on the internet (where do the hours go?!). Devotional life has lots of stuff to actually do, to participate in. It’s not a spectator sport. It’s really wonderful. And it’s not a capitalist endeavor. We can go dancing and singing for free in temples every day, if only we’re lucky enough to live close to one. You can even get breakfast! Man, I miss temple breakfast prasadam. Best. Food. Ever.
Thanks for the article. It made me remember good times, and I hope it helps a lot of people find some of the most beautiful times of their own lives.