Of the 8.4million species of life; 400,000 are of the human species. This alone shows the rarity of human form of life. Humans are the only species capable for making sound inquiries to the problems of birth, death, old age and disease. Unfortunately, those of meagre intelligence simply choose to elaborate on the basic fundamentals of life which are eating, sleeping, mating and defending. For example, despite the availability of transcendental knowledge, atma-tattva, a materialist simply hears the numerous topics of social, political, etc… which only discusses the four basic propensities in different ways [SB 2.1.2]. Such mundane hearing of newer more intense ways of exercising the four propensities only agitates the mind and pollutes the heart with lust and selfishness. The Bhagavatam recommends hearing, glorifying and remembering the Lord, which can bring fearlessness and freedom from miseries [SB2.1.5]. The human form of life is meant for self-realization not sense gratification. It’s the only means to get free from the cycle of birth and death.
A person may argue that life is meant for enjoyment. The Bhagavatam agrees (anando mayo ‘bhyasat) but cautions that the kind of enjoyment should not be animalistic, i.e. devoid of God. Such a materialist’s life is frustrated in comparison with the long-living tress, his breathing rendered powerless compared to the pumping of the bellows and his enjoyment frustrated by the enjoyment experienced by beasts – because all these can act in better ways than him. He simply passed days in working and maintaining family and night s in sleeping and indulgence [SB 2.1.3], thus his duration of life decreases by the passage of time [SB 2.3.17]. One is advised to spend time by discussing topics of the Lord and as such achieve eternal life of happiness.
People of today work hard like asses and shamelessly like dogs trying to maintain themselves and their families, with the hope that these fallible soldiers will always protect and comfort him [SB 2.3.19& 2.1.4]. The Bhagavatam suggests training in spiritual values, so that one can properly discriminate from what is real and unreal, what is forbidden and sanctioned, what can be accepted/eaten, etc. Such a life of values is called ‘arthadam’ and is even aspired by demigods because it promises the change to go back home, back to Godhead.
Engage not Exploit
The senses demand enjoyment and contacting them with objects of dead matter (jada-vasthu) for sources of pleasure is like trying to squeeze water out of a rock. Such is the materialistic tendency, foolishly exploiting the senses. Instead, the sense has to be contacted with the spiritual matter (cin-maya) which is full of life and nourishing – that is called engagement. The limbs of a materialist are thus compared to being useless because it’s impure, having not been engaged in devotional service [SB 2.3.20-24]. Devotional sercie is rendered by all limbs and is a transcendental dynamic force of the spirit soul (sa vai manah Krsna padaravindayoh).
The ears instead of hearing news and mundane vibrations should hear topics of the Lord and the tongue used to speak loudly of the Lord – to benefit others. The legs that do not go to the holy places are no better than trees, because after thinking that he has gone everywhere, a materialist having not visited a dham or temple has actually gone nowhere and is static like a tree (sthavarah). A devotee like Ambarisha Maharaja is exemplary for engaging all his limbs in devotional service.
Dust of a Devotee
A materialist is fond of decorating himself, holding his head high and lording over others. But above everything if he doesn’t take the dust of the Lord’s devotees upon his head – he is as good as dead although breathing. This is because only by the association of devotees can one learn the knowledge of spiritual matters and thus perfect his life. Also, it’s only by the grace of devotees that one can get Krishna. Krishna being the property of devotee can only be delivered by a devotee. Therefore, one should be more serious about seeking the devotee’s mercy.
Thus, in the modern age, people should heed these five solutions offered by the Bhagavatam [1) hearing, glorifying and remembering Lord, 2) discussing topics of the Lord, 3) Training in spiritual values, 4) Engagement in Devotional Service, 5) Association of devotees] to perfect the human form of life by all means. These are principles, and executing them are details. One may hear kirtans on the radio or read a Krishna Conscious magazine, dine at a prasadam outlet or even work to satisfy the Lord – ultimately the human life achieves perfection when its connected to Krishna and His devotees.
The following article is an answer to the Open Book Exam (Canto 2), by Hemarupa Caitanya Dasa, to the question:“How are Sukadev Goswami’s descriptions of materialistic people apparent in the modern society? Present your ideas, based on your understanding of SB and Bhaktivedanta purports for educating materialistic people in the solution to come out of such life.”