(The following article was printed in the "Inner Voice" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest English language daily newspapers, on 1 March 2005.)
AN ESTIMATED 3.6 billion people in India go to the movies each year. This means that the average adult Indian sees between five and ten films a year.
Filmmakers are often called masters of illusion. They have perfected the art of re-creating reality, making it fun to spend an evening in a surreal world, to lose oneself for a few hours to celluloid fantasy.
Cinema is an illusion of an illusion and even when they're good clean fun, movies can hold so much sway on us that the smart dialogues and catchy songs might conceivably become part of our genetic code.
Many shastras inform us that the so-called real world we experience is only a fourth of the whole creation. Like a fIlm set or a dream, it isn't permanent. It isn't even the largest manifestation of reality, nor is it the genuine article. This phantom world has been referred to as Vipad-Vibhuti, whereas the greater part of creation is known as the Tripad-Vibhuti.
An inner voice tells all of us that the material world is a dream. Many ignore, refute or consider this voice as madness. We must however understand that the most substantial part of creation is the spiritual realm.
Works like the Bhagavata remind us that when we give in to the demands of our lower urges, we will necessarily be driven by our own minds and engage in the external energy of God. In this way we get eternally distracted.
Should I spend my discretionary time having some innocuous and wholesome fun at the flicks? Should I go for a spin and listen to music? Or should I try reading about spiritual knowledge and philosophy? Should I meditate? Perform pooja, chant, or visit temples? It's the story of our life. What is the ending we want? The choice is ours.
The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission