The Sydney Olympics–The Best Games Ever!
Yesterday in Sydney we saw the end of the 2000 Olympic games. The organizers turned the games into perhaps the biggest party Sydney has ever seen. Even the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch said the Sydney games had been the greatest ever. They could not have been better. Therefore I am proud and happy to proclaim that you have presented to the world the best Olympic games ever…
It is perhaps true. Probably no one can organize a party as well as the Australians and it would be difficult to find a nicer city than Sydney to host the games. Srila Prabhupada visited Sydney on many occasions and noted the beauty of the city. “In Sydney, Australia, there are many nice parks with water.” “I have come from India, and in other parts of the world also there is drought. There is no rainfall. But in Australia, especially in Sydney, I see there is good rainfall. So how the distinction can be adjusted? In some places there is no rainfall, but here in Sydney we have got sufficient rainfall at the present moment. It is God’s mercy. You cannot do it. When there is shortage of rainfall they cannot bring in the rainfall by their scientific advancement of knowledge. That is not possible. You have to depend on God, on the mercy of God.” “Your proposal to purchase a new temple in Sydney is good. I remember the bay side. It is a very nice bay. It will certainly increase the preaching there.”
“Sydney? Sydney? Do you know why this city is known as Sydney?” “No.” “Sir Philip Sydney, a great commander, during the fighting time, when he was shot he asked for water, and the water was not supplied and he died. Now, he was a very generous man. He was the commander. Water was brought, and at the same time another soldier was being carried. He was looking for the water. So immediately Sir Philip Sydney said, “give this water to him.” And he died. He was very generous. He knew that “I am going to die. If he can be saved, give him this water…”
In October 1977 the Sydney devotees sent a telegram to Srila Prabhupada in Vrndavana just weeks before he left his body, saying, “Dearest Srila Prabhupada, please do not leave us, for without your lotus feet we have no shelter. We are trying to distribute more books. Your eternal servants at Sydney Mandir.” Prabhupada replied, “Yes, I am willing to stay. After all it is Krishna’s desire…”
In the past the preaching in Sydney has been very nice. “Here in Australia they have got one double-decker bus, like you have seen in London streets, and they have painted it very brightly, and as it moves there is a kirtan party inside chanting very loudly, and on the top floor there is sleeping space and a kitchen. On the whole it is so nice that I am suggesting that Dayananda supply you and Krishna das with information how you may purchase such busses in London and drive them all over the European continent, and these “Hare Krishna Movement” busses will make us famous all over the world. I am enclosing one photo of their Australian bus in Sydney.”
“I especially have great hopes for our Australian yatra. I noticed when I was there so many young people without any spiritual direction. So your mission is to attract them somehow or other to our philosophy of Krishna consciousness. Make the covers of the books very attractive so that automatically they will read the knowledge inside. The covers are like the mind and the senses, and the contents of the book are the soul. So sometimes to attract people in order to find out what is the soul we have to decorate the mind and the senses and make the presentation of Krishna consciousness very palatable to them.”
This is not really about the Olympics. Sydney is a very successful, materialistic city. Here every conceivable form of sense gratification is available, the weather is nice, the beaches are nice, the parks and gardens are beautiful and everywhere, everything is nice. The people are easy going and, as they say, “laid back…” So one would think in this almost heavenly atmosphere the people would be happy. But it does not seem to be the case…
A couple of weeks ago the Sydney City Weekly tried to pin down this problem in paradise. “Everybody knows that sitting in an air-conditioned office for up to 10 hours a day is not good for you… Lets face it, corporate restructuring, advanced international communications and massive changes in industrial relations during the nervous nineties have developed a work ethic among most city workers that has effectively turned us all into the battery chickens of the workplace…
“Nowadays, your receptionist is taking tranquilizers; your typists all have RSI; you get migraines from the fluorescent lighting; and the mail clerk needs a degree in computer systems networking just to understand her job.”
To quantify the problem The Sydney Morning Herald conducted a survey and found: “Only 12 per cent of people are truly satisfied with their work.
“For 42 per cent life is a treadmill they cannot escape, where they are kept in place by the constant pressure of the day-to-day and 66 per cent say they cannot wait to get away from their present employer…”
While reading this it struck me that we, in the seventies, could not dream the future would become like this… In the seventies we were in awe of the amazing new technology that was going to revolutionize the workplace and provide us all with so much more leisure time. We were imagining how we would use all that extra leisure time… Everyone was thinking like that in the seventies, everyone except Srila Prabhupada who was the only one who understood what was actually going on.
“We are given this human form of life not just to work hard like the swine or dog, but to attain the highest perfection of life. If we do not want that perfection, then we will have to work very hard, for we will be forced by the laws of nature. In the closing days of Kali-yuga [the present age] men will have to work hard like asses for only a scrap of bread. This process has already begun, and every year the necessity for harder work for lesser wages will increase. Yet human beings are not meant to work hard like animals, and if a man fails to discharge his duties as a human being, he is forced to transmigrate to the lower species of life by the laws of nature. The Bhagavad-gita very vividly describes how a spirit soul, by the laws of nature takes his birth and gets a suitable body and sense organs for enjoying matter in the material world.” (from Science of Self Realization)
While reading this a couple of days ago it struck me that Srila Prabhupada actually knew the future. Who could have imagined in the seventies that now, in the new millenium, many city workers would be working more than 10 hours a day and on top of that spending 2-3 hours traveling to and from work? If someone had suggested to me in the seventies that people would be working 13 hours a day or more in the future I would have found it difficult to believe. But it has come to pass.
The point is we cannot actually improve the quality of life. Nowadays we are working so hard and long hours to pay for the so-called “higher” standard of life. But if we are always working where is the higher standard of life? That is why the Vedic scriptures recommend plain living and high thinking. If one lives simply he does not require so much money nor does he require to work such long hours and as a result he has plenty of time to develop the spiritual side of life, which is the actual purpose of the human form of life.
SB 2.2.37 P The Lord in the Heart
The sufferings of human society are due to a polluted aim of life, namely lording it over the material resources. The more human society engages in the exploitation of undeveloped material resources for sense gratification, the more it will be entrapped by the illusory, material energy of the Lord, and thus the distress of the world will be intensified instead of diminished.
The human necessities of life are fully supplied by the Lord in the shape of food grains, milk, fruit, wood, stone, sugar, silk, jewels, cotton, salt, water, vegetables, etc., in sufficient quantity to feed and care for the human race of the world as well as the living beings on each and every planet within the universe. The supply source is complete, and only a little energy by the human being is required to get his necessities into the proper channel.
There is no need of machines and tools or huge steel plants for artificially creating comforts of life. Life is never made comfortable by artificial needs, but by plain living and high thinking. The highest perfectional thinking for human society is suggested here by Sukadeva Gosvami, namely, sufficiently hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam. For men in this age of Kali, when they have lost the perfect vision of life, this Srimad-Bhagavatam is the torchlight by which to see the real path. Srila Jiva Gosvami Prabhupada has commented on the kathamrtam mentioned in this verse and has indicated Srimad-Bhagavatam to be the nectarean message of the Personality of Godhead. By sufficient hearing of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the polluted aim of life, namely lording it over matter, will subside, and the people in general in all parts of the world will be able to live a peaceful life of knowledge and bliss.
SB 2.2.4 P The Lord in the Heart
The necessities of life for the protection and comfort of the body must not be unnecessarily increased. Human energy is spoiled in a vain search after such illusory happiness. If one is able to lie down on the floor, then why should one endeavor to get a good bedstead or soft cushion to lie on? If one can rest without any pillow and make use of the soft arms endowed by nature, there is no necessity of searching after a pillow.
If we make a study of the general life of the animals, we can see that they have no intelligence for building big houses, furniture, and other household paraphernalia, and yet they maintain a healthy life by lying down on the open land. They do not know how to cook or prepare foodstuff, yet they still live healthy lives more easily than the human being. This does not mean that human civilization should revert to animal life or that the human being should live naked in the jungles without any culture, education and sense of morality.
An intelligent human cannot live the life of an animal; rather, man should try to utilize his intelligence in arts and science, poetry and philosophy. In such a way he can further the progressive march of human civilization. But here the idea given by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami is that the reserve energy of human life, which is far superior to that of animals, should simply he utilized for self-realization.
Advancement of human civilization must be towards the goal of establishing our lost relationship with God, which is not possible in any form of life other than the human. One must realize the nullity of the material phenomenon, considering it a passing phantasmagoria, and must endeavor to make a solution to the miseries of life. Self-complacence with a polished type of animal civilization geared to sense gratification is delusion, and such a “civilization” is not worthy of the name. In pursuit of such false activities, a human being is in the clutches of maya, or illusion.
Great sages and saints in the days of yore were not living in palatial buildings furnished with good furniture and so-called amenities of life. They used to live in huts and groves and sit on the flat ground, and yet they have left immense treasures of high knowledge with all perfection. Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami were high-ranking ministers of state, but they were able to leave behind them immense writings on transcendental knowledge, while residing only for one night underneath one tree. They did not live even two nights under the same tree, and what to speak of well-furnished rooms with modern amenities. And still they were able to give us most important literatures of self-realization. So-called comforts of life are not actually helpful for progressive civilization; rather, they are detrimental to such progressive life.
In the system of sanatana-dharma, of four divisions of social life and four orders of progressive realization, there are ample opportunities and sufficient directions for a happy termination of the progressive life, and the sincere followers are advised therein to accept a voluntary life of renunciation in order to achieve the desired goal of life. If one is not accustomed to abiding by the life of renunciation and self-abnegation from the beginning, one should try to get into the habit at a later stage of life as recommended by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, and that will help one to achieve the desired success.
SB 4.22.24 P Prthu Maharaja’ s Meeting with the Four Kumaras
Another feature of the devotee is nirihaya, simple living. Niriha means “gentle,” “meek” or “simple.” A devotee should not live very gorgeously and imitate a materialistic person. Plain living and high thinking are recommended for a devotee. He should accept only so much as he needs to keep the material body fit for the execution of devotional service. He should not eat or sleep more than is required. Simply eating for living, and not living for eating, and sleeping only six to seven hours a day are principles to be followed by devotees. As long as the body is there it is subjected to the influence of climatic changes, disease and natural disturbances, the threefold miseries of material existence. We cannot avoid them. Sometimes we receive letters from neophyte devotees questioning why they have fallen sick, although pursuing Krsna consciousness. They should learn from this verse that they have to become tolerant (dvandva-titiksaya). This is the world of duality. One should not think that because he has fallen sick he has fallen from Krsna consciousness. Krsna consciousness can continue without impediment from any material opposition. Lord Sri Krsna therefore advises in Bhagavad-gita (2.14), tams titiksasva bharata: “My dear Arjuna, please try to tolerate all these disturbances. Be fixed in your Krsna conscious activities.”
68-06-14 Letter: Hayagriva
I have advised Kirtanananda and yourself to convert West Virginia into New Vrindaban. I understand the spot is very beautiful, and the hills may be renamed as New Govardhana. And if there are lakes, they can be renamed as Syamakunda and Radhakunda. Vrindaban does not require to be modernized because Krishna’s Vrindaban is transcendental village. They completely depend on nature’s beauty and nature’s protection. The community in which Krishna preferred to belong was Vaisya community, because Nanda Maharaja happened to be a Vaisya king, or landholder, and his main business was cow protection. It is understood that he had 900,000 cows and Krishna and Balarama used to take charge of them, along with His many cowherd boy friends, and every day, in the morning He used to go out with His friends and cows into the pasturing grounds.
So, if you seriously want to convert this new spot as New Vrindaban, I shall advise you not to make it very much modernized. But as you are American boys, you must make it just suitable to your minimum needs. Not to make it too much luxurious as generally Europeans and Americans are accustomed. Better to live there without modern amenities. But to live a natural healthy life for executing Krishna Consciousness. It may be an ideal village where the residents will have plain living and high thinking. For plain living we must have sufficient land for raising crops and pasturing grounds for the cows. If there is sufficient grains and production of milk, then the whole economic problem is solved.
You do not require any machines, cinema, hotels, slaughterhouses, brothels, nightclubs–all these modern amenities. People in the spell of maya are trying to squeeze out gross pleasure from the senses, which is not possible to derive to our heart’s content. Therefore we are confused and baffled in our attempt to eschew eternal pleasure from gross matter. Actually, joyful life is on the spiritual platform, therefore we should try to save our valuable time from material activities and engage them for Krishna Consciousness. But at the same time, because we have to keep our body and soul together to execute our mission, we must have sufficient (not extravagant) food to eat, and that will be supplied by grains, fruits, and milk. So if you can develop this place to that ideal life and the residents become ideal Krishna Conscious men, in that part of your country, I think not only many philosophically minded people will be attracted, but they will be benefited also.
68-10-17 Letter: Rayarama
Nobody should take to very hardship labor. The modern civilization has discovered severe types of dangerous industries, and laborers are attracted for high wages. But they should not accept such work. Then naturally there will be less capitalistic idea. Because the laborer cooperates, therefore demoniac persons they take advantage and make unnecessarily increase of artificial demands of the body.
Better one should be satisfied with agricultural produce than go into large cities to be engaged in industry. Peaceful life depending on agricultural produce can bring him real happiness and prosperity, not otherwise. The more persons will be satisfied at their home, with home economics, not to go outside the home, that is peaceful life. In India, Mahatma Gandhi tried to organize villages in that way so that not to drag the people to the town. So peaceful atmosphere can be attained only when there is large scale village organization, actually village life. Not to borrow the ideas from the cities in the village life; poet Cooper said that country is made by God, and the cities and towns are made by man. So that is the distinction.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada