Krishna Consciousness Is Largely Incompatible with Modern Culture

Śrīla Prabhupāda forthrightly and untiringly pointed out the defects of modern society, because he wanted to awaken people to their plight and give them the truth of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is the only panacea for the myriad troubles of mankind. He referred to the “soul-killing civilization”and “the civilization of polished cats and dogs,” and analyzed the whole situation thus:

“The completely bewildered material civilization is wrongly directed toward the fulfillment of desires in sense gratification. In such civilization, in all spheres of life, the ultimate end is sense gratification. In politics, social service, altruism, philanthropy, and ultimately in religion or even in salvation, the very same tint of sense gratification is ever-increasingly predominant. In the political field the leaders of men fight with one another to fulfill their personal sense gratification. The voters adore the so-called leaders only when they promise sense gratification. As soon as the voters are dissatisfied in their own sense satisfaction, they dethrone the leaders. The leaders must always disappoint the voters by not satisfying their senses. The same is applicable in all other fields; no one is serious about the problems of life.”

Indubitably, modern society fits Kṛṣṇa’s description of the demons as given in chapter sixteen of the Bhagavad-gītā. It is a distinctly unpleasant civilization, characterized by monstrous efforts to amass wealth and to develop industry, science, the military, and educational institutions dedicated to spewing out ever more useless knowledge – all for the sake of outdoing and dominating others. Being based on dehātma-buddhi (the bodily concept of life) and the quest for sense gratification, it has a completely different outlook from the Vedic. A prime example is the modern attitude regarding women’s role in society.

Devotees should understand that the endeavor to be Kṛṣṇa conscious while operating on a template that is basically demonic will simply not work. Kṛṣṇa has prescribed a particular way of life (varṇāśrama-dharma), with rules and regulations to be followed and attitudes to be imbibed, and therefore it is foolish and arrogant to think that we have a better idea than Kṛṣṇa, or to consider it acceptable to neglect Kṛṣṇa’s prescription.

On Śrīla Prabhupāda’s order, and by his mercy, the preaching of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is continuing throughout the world. Persons who become inspired by that preaching and desire to become Kṛṣṇa conscious will want to know how to best practice devotional service. But the praxes of Kṛṣṇa consciousness do not go well with modern culture, because today’s lifestyle is based on sense gratification, whereas Kṛṣṇa consciousness ultimately requires that we forswear even the thought of sense gratification.

However, most devotees today have little choice but to try to make the best use of a bad bargain, because ISKCON has not yet developed the varṇāśrama alternative that Śrīla Prabhupāda mandated.

Reproduced with permission from the book Women: Mothers and Masters by Bhakti Vikasa Swami.