Sunday, March 12, 2006

Yoga Vs. Drugs

Yoga versus Drugs

“People intoxicate themselves because they can’t stand their state of consciousness.”

“There is nothing more dangerous than liberty without responsibility. To appreciate and look for responsibility is to mature.”

Srila Guru Maharaj

Drugs, in their many forms, are not only obstacles to our wellbeing in the way that they affect our body and mind, but they prevent us from attaining the true purpose in life, which is self-realization. Drugs make it impossible for a person to find his or her true self, the permanent and natural happiness that is our eternal true nature, which is to be found beyond our relative, temporary understandings derived from our range of sense experience.

When we talk about drugs we refer to any stimulant, whether it is from a herb, synthetic chemical or fermented liquid, that influences our nervous system after being drunk, eaten, injected or smelt, which cause a change of consciousness in the consumer. This artificial and temporary change in consciousness manifests many symptoms, which will in general lead to an addictive nature in the consumer. One symptom is that the drug addict looses a principal characteristic of humanity, which is the ability to discriminate between right and wrong; someone under the influence of any type of drug will have the tendency to loose the reasonable conduct that is expected in a civilized society. How many people due to the influence of drugs cause family breakdowns because of lack of care? How many young people, including from well-to-do families, become delinquents just to finance their habits?

Drugs are an escape, a refuge in the darkest ignorance. The reasons to consume drugs may be many, but can be resumed into one simple reason – the inability to find happiness in life in its normal state. The consumption of toxic substances and stimulants is nothing new; it was always the symptom of decadence in an opulent and materially successful population, wherein intoxication just increases. The Romans are a good example of this.

Traditionally, intoxication has been in conflict with genuine religions who have denounced drugs as obstacles on the spiritual path, and as a destructive force to the mind and body which God gave us. Our contemporary materialistic and atheistic society is based on a philosophy which states that when the body dies everything is finished for that individual. Due to this viewpoint, all religious morality is seen only as a social construct which impedes our ability to enjoy life to its fullest. The modern world view negates any type of responsibility to a divine will. It does not try to free us from the excesses of something, which at the start may seem to be pleasant but in the end binds us in its intoxicating grip. It doesn’t try to free us from an erroneous concept which leads us to lose the precious opportunity the human form of life allows us. For intoxication is wholly negative; it leads us to be ungrateful, irresponsible, animalistic and barbaric.

We must seek values free from the tendency to exploit others. Although the modern world is forming based on universal rights as proclaimed in the United Nations, the underlying trend is that of materialism, which teaches us that might is right, not that to do right gives us might. This can not be the basis for a truly civilized society. On the contrary, it is the law of the jungle where fists and claws replace goodness and justice. There is, as ever, a contradiction between our higher goals and our more animalistic instincts. In this contaminated state, it is easy for us to question why we should seek higher values instead of just being hedonists, enjoying the moment to the maximum. In this sense, drugs offer us instant, intense enjoyment now. “Enjoy now, for tomorrow you may die” is the hedonists’ motto, “do what everyone else is doing and make life into a non-stop party”.

Another justification often used by the drug addict for their continual intoxication is due to their knowledge of ancient cultures where drugs, such as yahe, mushrooms, coca, mescaline, etc, formed parts of their cultural rituals, wherein they assigned, or made contact with, supernatural forces due to the drugs effects. But we must be honest to see that drug taking in the modern world is mostly just for sensual pleasure or to be drowned in an anesthetised ignorance.

To understand this theme scientifically, we must look to information given to us by spiritual masters, like Srila Prabhuapda. He came to the West to open our eyes with the torchlight of knowledge, and he inspired us to seek a pure life in the service of Krsna (God) without discriminating against race, sex, religion and all types of ‘isms’ that are not the true ‘the’ ism of pure theism. In the Bhagavad-Gita, one of the oldest books in the world, it explains that our being is made of three parts. The first part is the soul that animates our existence with conscious feeling and is part of the superior energy of anti-material spirit. The two divisions of the material body are known as the gross body and the subtle, astral body. The gross body is made of the five elemental states of solid, liquid, fire, air and space, which combine to form the physical bodies we inhabit. The astral body is made of a sense of false ego, intelligence and mind. Generally, the subtle, astral body is trapped by the demands of the gross body for its preservation and sensual enjoyment, especially of food and sex life.

These days, the existence of the astral body is not really recognized; we are led to believe by modern atheistic science that the mind is a product of the brain’s chemical reactions and that thought, emotions, etcetera, do not exist in and of themselves but are just an accidentally formed by-product of chemical bodies in their search to reproduce themselves. But as there is a physical reality, there also exists a mental reality, and this is called the astral world. There are many non-incarnate entities who have lost their physical bodies and in the process of transmigration are waiting to attain another body. Certain drugs, for example those used by indigenous Americans, open one to communicate with the astral world, as is the case of those gifted as spiritual mediums. Due to their incomplete understanding of the eternal nature of the spirit and the possibility to be freed form the bind of our material existence, it is often the case that by having a superior connexion with the astral sphere they can be deluded into believing they have a purely divine connexion, which is mostly not the case.

The Vedas emphasise the point that we are not the body, neither the physical or mental (astral) body, for we are the eternal feeling soul. In as such as a fish out of water can not be happy with a big bank balance, neither can the soul be happy via material means, not in this life or any other. When the soul discovers its eternal nature and becomes established in pure goodness it becomes liberated from the repeated cycles of birth and death and returns to its sweet spiritual home in the spiritual world. The astral body, especially the mind, causes us many problems in attaining to spiritual life. Notwithstanding, if out intelligence comes into contact with spiritual education and appropriate guides, especially in the form of a self-realised spiritual master, then we become capacitated to control our mind and senses and use them in marvellous ways in the function of the heart-felt spirit by helping others, especially in the spiritualization of their lives. In this way, someone who at the moment is a drug addict can come out of their desperate state and come to have extraordinary enthusiasm through spiritual love.

The question ‘why are we alive?’ can be answered – we live for Him, God, the Great Spirit. This is called a positive alternative to today’s egoistical answer of living for oneself alone. Above all, chanting the names of God, as in the Mahamantra Hare Krsna, connects the aspiring spiritual seekers to the spiritual platform and gives them strength of will power to beat the vices of our mental and physical bodies. Without having a strong will power it is very difficult to give up drugs.

So it can be seen that materialism is to blame for drug addiction. By bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion, in giving real spiritual knowledge we hope to awaken the consciousness of all that can be reached; so that the sober person or the drug addict can find solutions to resolve all of lives problems. Drugs are our enemies, even though at the start it may seem very friendly. Drugs bring so many problems; our mental and physical health deteriorate; our responsibilities in society are left uncared for; and in so many cases, there are left so many of our children uncared for or badly treated due to drugs of all kinds.

Deeper still, there are more serious effects of the drugs menace which are revealed in the teachings of yoga from the Vedic scriptures of India. According to the Vedas, our life is great lesson in the school of life. There are lessons of love, goodness, compassion, purity, sacrifice, honesty; and above all, to arrive at the realisation of our true, eternal nature. Self-realisation is to understand, to realise, one’s eternal, intrinsic position in the spiritual reality by being established in the correct relationship with God as an eternal servant. By arriving at this saintly position one graduates from the school of life, finishing with the hard school of knocks of repeated births and deaths and becomes eligible to enter the spiritual realm. This is the perfection of life, and if we do not strive to attain this position in this life we will have to keep being reborn according to the law of karma of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, receiving both good and bad reactions accordingly. If we think that others should suffer so that we can enjoy, then we will be put into the opposite situation as divine retribution, whether in this body or another. This is the law of karma, the infallible justice; we will get what is coming to us. Karma and reincarnation have been accepted doctrines for thousands of years by whole cultures and by many well known figures in the West, such as Socrates, Plato, and even the famous father of the Christian church, Origenes. But karma and reincarnation can be put to an end when we end our exploitative tendencies and surrender to Divine Will.

The use of drugs in life can be compared to using them in school; nothing is understood and the course is lost; another lost opportunity. And it is the drug taker who will suffer; someone who uses this valuable human life for the sensual pleasure derived in drug use may well not even receive another human form of life, having to be lowered into animal forms of consciousness in inferior species. We do not know the value of something until we lose it. If we do not value the precious gift of life we have by not seeking spiritual realisation then we are guaranteed to suffer. And what of those who die whilst intoxicated? The Vedas state that they will remain as ghosts for a long time; deprived of a physical body in which to enjoy they will seek ways to influence those in bodies, many on drugs, so as to try to have some physical enjoyment. The same is true for those who commit suicide. This information is not taken into account in the modern thinking of today’s society. Drugs symbolise escape. Escape from an ordinary, boring life, one without dynamism and real philosophy. Instead of having a spiritual perspective on drug use, the materialists try to discriminate between one drug and another in consideration of their effects. Legal drugs bring in tax revenues for the government, and illegal drugs bring in revenues for the traffickers; but both bring misery for the consumer.

Today, I was meditating on the people I know who still do not fully understand what danger drugs bring. Drugs damage ones self, and therefore they damage those around you. A damaged person can not be a good parent, brother, friend or partner. Drugs drive people to do such terrible things, violating the feelings and rights of those around them; they can steal from close relations as well as the general public, and they can easily lose the human qualities we would like to see in all of us. Many who take drugs also take anti-depressants, or one drug to counter the effects of another drug in a spiral of desperation. Even worse is drug use in those who have received spiritual knowledge, for the effects are even more serious; as a child who commits a crime is less punishable due to their ignorance than an adult who should know better. So many cases have been seen. Those with Vedic knowledge who then fall into drug use often become offensive to devotees, then even when they want to escape from the clutches of drug use, Krsna may not accept them back for a long time.

Drugs and drug addicts are a scourge on the planet. They are a sign of deviation from the path to God. The desire for instant enjoyment brings them to destroy so much in their lives, what to speak of true love, which is the most precious aspect of each of us, allowing us to be truly thankful to God and all life. Love conquers the wayward mind and sense of false ego. In a drug addict this true love becomes less and less attainable. He, in a drugged state, with a hungry child and a crying wife, laughs in his disgrace as all rots around him. Drugs or Krsna? There is no comparison. Krsna is the only one who can save us. Be aware that in the material world almost everyone takes some type of drug, escaping into the drugs effects. Very few live sober lives and face up to the ignorance of our exploitative egoism, which binds us to the material condition. Also the television is another form of drug, allowing us to live without thinking, without taking responsibility.

Therefore, friends, decide now. Nobody knows anything about God whilst continuing to take drugs. They become drowned, lost souls. Still I love them, but I beg them from the bottom of my heart, rid yourself of this horrible illusion, do not lose yourself in drugs repressive grip, but find yourself in God’s caring embrace. Do not trick yourself thinking that it is not so bad, that it is only a natural herb that helps in relaxation, that there are studies that show it is good for so and so, or that it takes away headaches, or that a little alcohol is not so bad, etcetera. Whoever intoxicates themselves is far from the correct path. Even if they correct themselves and recover, it may only last a few years as they do not really appreciate the negative nature of what they have become involved with. People become crazy, without intelligence; they can not and do not want to open their eyes to the truth. And as a half-measure they pretend to be adorers of Siva, who drank an ocean of poison to please the Lord; but he chants Hare Rama and protects the Dhama, the holy places; that is what is to be adored.

Who ever has a faithful captain has a way out of the dangerous ocean of drugs. A ship without rudder is a life without paramparar, disciplic succession. Therefore I beg you to your soul, to your consciousness – “get out now, associate with firm devotees and recover yourself”. Just a little time consuming drugs is enough to lose yourself. Do not play with your life.

Teachings of Sripad Paramadvaiti Swami
Editor Gopananda dasa

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