The value of the “old” over the “new”

(This article was posted in the ?Meditations? column of the Hindustan Times on 16 December 2002.) I?ve got to admit it? s getting better, a little better all the time – a Beatles song ?COMPARISONS ARE odious,? said an English Bard, but who doesn?t indulge? For example, are things getting better or worse? Time-honoured tests inform that the soul is indestructible (Gita 2.20). But the surroundings are troubling, because we tend to be concerned with Planet Earth?s and the human condition. Eternal companions of humanity are enjoyment, love, hate, birth, death, disease and old age. But recent leaps in technology have given inordinate ease, comfort and happiness to many. We love ?modernity: entertainment at the push of a button, easier travel, instant global communication, fast food, fashion, medical progress and freedom to choose wider varieties of goods. But at what cost? Satish Kumar, editor of UK?s Resurgence magazine, says people?s activities have contributed to more environmental destruction in the last 50 years than in the 5,000 years before. Plus, we hear of global warming?s dark predictions that within 60 years coastal inundation will force a billion people to relocate their hearths and houses. If it?s all true, Kumar?s analysis indicates that new ways compare badly with the old order. We might also mark the gladiatorial trend in films and TV, and the increasingly violent entertainment that trashes boundaries of decency with multiple images of sex and sadism. Some even say the planet is in the hands of madmen, and that terrorism will breed nuclear warfare. Resources from the past key us into things that have endured for millennia, things like the Himalayas and the seas. We read in ancient texts that mountains flew, when bravery, honesty, truth, cleanliness, voluntary abstinence, and compassion were the guiding stars of people?s lives. Technical advances based on such values could resolve most dilemmas of the modern world. But how to effectively combine the old with the new? Well, spiritual intelligence is the medium, and meaningful questions need to be asked. Spiritual intelligence is neither left- nor right-brained. It is not merely logical, psychological or emotional. It seeks answers to fundamental questions like ?why am I here?, ?where am I going?, ?who am I, and ?why do I keep going?? This type of searching ensures their inner-existence has beauty and life, even when events outside generate hate and destruction. Buddhi yoga, or spiritual intelligence means to reclaim our deepest natures and to ask on the profoundest levels: ?what makes life worth living?? The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission