STAYING FREE OF KALI-YUGA’S DARK INFLUENCE
By Stephen Knapp
As the age of Kali-yuga moves forward, many people are wondering how bad social conditions will get before they improve, and what can we do about it now. Yet the Vedic texts contain a specific prescription for staying free from the heavy influence that this age of Kali-yuga brings.
In spite of all the changes predicted to happen in society and on the planet, there are still many ways, both material and spiritual, to stifle or even get free of Kali-yuga’s influence. If we are going to change anything for the better, now is the time to work at it–while the Golden Age within Kali-yuga lasts.
One of the first things we must understand is that a perfect civilization is based on working with valor while depending on the Supreme. The more godless we become, the more deteriorated and degraded society and this world will be due to allowing the influence of Kali-yuga to come in without any interference. Therefore, we all need to work for our existence, but we need to recognize that we also are dependent on nature, or the gifts of God. For example, a farmer may have planned and worked so hard to acquire full facility to grow food, such as getting land, seeds, and equipment. But he is not in control of the rain. Without proper rainfall all of his endeavors are fruitless. Therefore, he is dependent on the higher powers who can provide such necessities. So although wanting to be independent of everything is natural for numerous people, this is not possible while living in this material world. We are all dependent on so many other beings and things to survive, including the laws of material nature. And, ultimately, it is the Supreme Being who is in charge of those laws. Therefore, the perfection of society is to work to contribute to family and society while depending on and working in harmony with the Supreme Will.
The proper and peaceful view of human existence is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam where it states: “All these cities and villages are flourishing in all respects because the herbs and grains are in abundance, the trees are full of fruits, the rivers are flowing, the hills are full of minerals and the oceans full of wealth. And this is all due to the glance of the Supreme Being.”21
It is natural for humankind and all life on this planet to flourish and be happy by taking advantage of the gifts of nature, such as fruits, grains, vegetables, unpolluted rivers and lakes, fresh air, minerals, jewels, etc. All are supplied by the arrangement of the Supreme. However, if the world is sufficient in these items, then what is the need to hanker after large industrial projects that often exploit men and resources at the cost of slowly destroying the planet and increasing unrest and dissatisfaction in society for the sake of acquiring money? Money may be necessary, but without spiritual knowledge and guidance, we won’t know how to use it or how to direct our actions in a proper occupation. And without that, peace is not possible.
Often we can see that where there are many industrial businesses, such as mines, factories, workshops, and slaughterhouses, the area becomes dark, filthy and dungeon-like, with low-class residential quarters and slums. The attitude of people in these areas often become low and miserable, with an increase in health problems and a consciousness geared toward immediate sense gratification. As moral standards and consideration of each other goes down, crimes goes up. As dependency on financial gain increases yet the economy and jobs deteriorate, people become more miserable and desperate.
Whereas when residential and working areas are made to nurture our well-being, and include flower gardens, parks, reservoirs of water, and flowering trees, everything is brighter and more enjoyable. When society depends more on the natural resources without the need for manipulating it for increased profits, which are often at the expense of our well-being, then people can live a more balanced and simpler life. Thus, advancement of society should not be estimated solely by the growth of industry and technology. Such measures must at least include the development of the spiritual and finer characteristics of human beings. Otherwise, spending one’s life in factories, slaughterhouses, and mills, simply dulls and deteriorates the finer sentiments of people and poisons the environment in so many ways.
The more dependent we become on artificial necessities, the more vulnerable we are to needless and artificial crises. True independence means being free from being dependent on such artificial needs. Such detachment and independence may be more important than we think if we are to survive those changes that are predicted to happen on the planet and in society. Things we take for granted now may one day be difficult to get.
Now from the spiritual point of view, the Vedic literature naturally puts great emphasis on which spiritual knowledge is necessary to free ourselves from the effects of Kali-yuga. It also explains the method needed to reach a higher level of consciousness and enter a new dimension and higher vibratory level of existence.
The Mahanirvana Tantra explains that Kali-yuga cannot harm those who are purified by truth, who have conquered their passions and senses, are compassionate, devoted to the service of their guru, take care of their mothers and wives, are adherents to the true dharma, and faithful to the performance of its duties. The age of Kali cannot harm those who are free of malice, envy, arrogance, and hatred, and who keep the company of those who are spiritually knowledgeable. The Kali age cannot harm those who perform their penances, pilgrimages, devotions, and purificatory rituals. The age of Kali is but a slave to those who are free of crookedness and falsehood, devoted to the good of others, and who follow the ways of dharma [spiritual merit].22
This may all sound quite lofty, so to help us in knowing the ways of true dharma and bring a change in the atmosphere and social environment, the Srimad Bhagavata-Mahatmya of the Padma Purana states that the Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) was expounded in Kali-yuga to guide us and purify the minds of those who listen and learn from it. The Bhagavata-Mahatmya says: “Suta replied: Saunaka, I shall disclose that which is the essence of all established conclusions. I shall tell you that which is capable of dispelling the fear of reincarnation, is prone to swell the tide of devotion, and is conducive to satisfying Lord Krishna. Hear it attentively. The holy scripture known by the name of Srimad-Bhagavatam was expounded in this age of Kali by the sage Shuka with the object of completely destroying the fear of being caught in the jaws of the serpent of time. There is no means other than this conducive to the purification of the mind. One gets to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam only when there is virtue earned in one’s past lives.”23
In this way, we begin to understand the potency of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and why it is so effective for changing the atmosphere and spreading genuine spiritual knowledge in this age. In fact, the Bhagavata-Mahatmya also states: “All these evils of Kali-yuga will surely disappear at the very chanting [or recitation] of Srimad-Bhagavatam, even as wolves take to flight at the very roar of a lion. Then Bhakti (devotion) and Jnana (knowledge) and Vairagya (detachment) will dance in every heart and in every home.”24
The Bhagavatam is considered so powerful that, “They [the seers and demigods] came to regard the holy book of Srimad-Bhagavatam as an embodiment of the Lord Himself in the Kali age and capable of conferring the reward of speedy access to Vaikuntha (the divine spiritual realm) by merely being read or heard.”25
Suta Gosvami states in the Bhagavatam itself that, “This Srimad-Bhagavatam is the literary incarnation of God, and is compiled by Srila Vyasadeva, the incarnation of God. It is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and it is all-successful, all-blissful and all-perfect.”26
The Bhagavata-Mahatmya relates many powerful characteristics of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. For example, it states that an opportunity to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam is so uncommon in this world that even the demigods [residents on the higher planetary systems] consider it a rarity to hear it.27 The four Kumaras also state that the Bhagavatam is the essence of the Vedas and Upanishads.28 And a house where it is read every day is a sacred place,29 and if you seek the highest destiny, read even a quarter verse of it every day.30 An assortment of other verses are found that signify that reading Srimad-Bhagavatam is superior to everything else,31 is important for reaching a high destiny and the spiritual world,32 and for gaining spiritual merit,33 and for making sure one’s life is not wasted.34 Other verses explain the importance of taking advantage of the rare opportunity of hearing the Bhagavatam,35 and how focusing on reading or hearing it is superior to everything, including fasting, rituals, going on pilgrimage, or practicing yoga and meditation.36 In conclusion, Srila Vyasadeva himself says that the Bhagavatam is the mature fruit of all Vedic wisdom: “This Bhagavat Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krishna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.”37
The point of all this is that as you understand this spiritual science, you will automatically understand the other aspects of this material creation and you will have your own spiritual realizations about who and what you are and how you fit into the scheme of things. The more you become spiritually purified, the more clear things will be. Just as when you have a million dollars all of your ten dollar problems are solved, similarly, once you begin to understand the highest levels of spiritual science you also understand the lower levels of existence. Thus, in order to spread as much light and spiritual knowledge in this age as possible, to counteract the pollution and confusion that pervades this planet and the consciousness of society, and to relieve humanity of the influence of Kali-yuga, the use of and familiarity with this Srimad-Bhagavatam is of the utmost importance.
21. Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.8.40)
22. Mahanirvana Tantra (4.57-69)
23. Padma Purana, Srimad-Bhagavata-Mahatmya (1.9-12)
24. Ibid., (2.62-63)
25. Ibid., (1.20)
26. Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.40)
27. Padma Purana, Srimad-Bhagavata-Mahatmya (1.17)
28. Ibid., (2.67)
29. Ibid., (3.29)
30. Ibid., (3.33)
31. Ibid., (3.32-39)
32. Ibid., (3.40-41)
33. Ibid., (3.30-31)
34. Ibid., (3.42)
35. Ibid., (3.44-50)
36. Ibid., (3.50-51)
37. Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.43)