Humanity today practically puts no energy or focus at all in understanding the inner self. One of the great authors of the West, Ralph Waldo Emerson, has said, “The reason the world is in such disunity and lies in heaps and wastes is because a man is disunited from his own self.” This is a principle that is universal. What would you gain if you achieve the whole world, but you lose your own eternal self?
Radhanath Swami speaks of 3 popular views of the world
There are three basic views of the world we live. One is the very materialistic view, wherein people see the world as the only real reality. Other is the mayavad view, that the world is an illusion. And the third is the Vaishnav view, that the world is the sacred property of God; it is real, but it is temporary in its manifestation.
Implications of the materialist view
The conception that the world is the only true reality leads to the consciousness that it really doesn’t matter what we do as long as we get what we want: ‘Even if we hurt people, if we trample on moral values, ethical principles, but if we get money, if we get fame, if we get power, if we get sensual and emotional pleasures, it is all justified. Eat, drink and be merry, because tomorrow may never come.’
When we believe that this world is the only reality, then even our so called moral principles are built on a very weak foundation. When temptations and fear come, the attitude is – ‘Why not break moral and ethical values, if I can get something better!’ Then we become servants, victimized servants of greed, envy, lust, anger, arrogance and illusion. And we see it so prevalent within the world today: people take certain types of intoxications that are proven to destroy one’s health.
“Sometimes the world we live in today is called ‘me generation’. So much is based upon what makes me happy, what I can acquire to call mine. ‘I am this, I am that. I have done. I have not done.’ In other words, it is a world that is so much conquered by this tendency of selfishness and egoism. And so much of that is born of the conception that this world is the only reality.” – Radhanath Swami
Implications of the Mayavadi view
The Ganga and the Yamuna, by western standards they are literally hundreds and hundreds of times more dangerous – because of the bacteria and germs in them – than that which is considered acceptable for human sustainability. And yet we keep dumping more and more and more pollution in them! If we start using so much of the funds and the human energy that we are using in so many of other areas to actually clean the air, clean the rivers and clean the earth, it could be done for sure. But there is no prioritization.
This philosophy that the world is an illusion, if we view the world in that way, even when we see all this stuff happening, our attitude will be – ‘Who cares?! It doesn’t exist. Let everybody pollute the rivers and pollute the air; let everybody die of cancer and all kinds of stressful heart diseases. It really does not make any difference whether people suffer, whether animals suffer, because this world is an illusion. Let’s get out of this crazy, contaminated, condemned world. Let’s get out, and whatever we leave behind really doesn’t make any difference at all, because the world is an illusion.’
“With this world view, where is the call for action within the world we live? The call for action is only to get out.” – Radhanath Swami
Implications of the Vaishnav view
The Vaishnav philosophy is the philosophy of Srimad Bhagvatam and Bhagvad Gita, the philosophy that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vallabhacharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya, and other great souls taught. They taught us Om Purnamadah Purnamidam – the Absolute Truth is the source of everything that exists; the Absolute Truth is perfect and complete, and everything emanating from the Absolute Truth is also perfect and complete.
Krishna says in the Bhagvad gita that this whole world is God’s property.
If we see it in this way, we are freed from that greed, envy, anger and lust; we understand, ‘I am not proprietor. I am the caretaker.’ If we see somebody else doing well, we celebrate their good fortune, because we understand that we are all brother and sisters; we are all spirit souls; we are all children of God. Exploitation is a symptom of a diseased, selfish and egoistic heart. Compassion is a symptom of a person who has actually found inner fulfillment. So this is so important for the world today: to understand that everything is sacred and to build our relationships on that principle – with all living beings, and with mother earth.
“Wherever there is life, there is a sacred child of God. Everything is the property of God, and we are meant to be a family to utilize that property. Everything in this world is meant to be used for the purpose of seva, or unselfish service.” – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami Summarizes
If we consider this world as the only reality, then our attitude will be – ‘Who cares? As long as we become millionaires and billionaires, it really does not matter how many people suffer. Ultimately, it’s about me.
And if we consider this world an illusion, then our attitude will be – ‘Let’s just meditate and get out of this contaminated and filthy world forever. And let people do whatever they want with it. I am out.’
But this Vaishnav philosophy, this Gita philosophy, is such an incredible key to the future of life. And in order to actually go beyond – to actually get out of this world, to attain prema, and to go to Krishna’s abode – we have to, while in this world, treat it as God’s sacred property, and treat every living being as God’s sacred child.