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THE DISAPPEARANCE OF RELIGIOSITY
We can get a hint of the trouble that the age of Kali-yuga will present when Lord Krishna Himself advises His friend Uddhava, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.7.4-5), that before Kali-yuga begins, he should simply prepare to leave this place. Krishna explains that He will soon depart from this world and the earth will then be bereft of all piety as it becomes overwhelmed by the characteristics of the age of Kali. People will be addicted to all kinds of sinful activities. So before Kali-yuga begins, Krishna tells Uddhava not to remain on this planet, but to purify himself and prepare to exit this world for the spiritual domain. So if He advised Uddhava in this way 5,000 years ago, what is there to say for us who are presently in the midst of this age?
The Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.24-25) describes that by the time the age of Kali begins, there will remain only 25 percent of all religious principles. As Kali-yuga unfolds, religious principles will decrease continuously until they all are finally destroyed. Herein, we can understand that Kali-yuga is the age when atheists become prominent in society. Thus, it is the age when we can experience the bitter results of irreligiosity. That is the purpose of this age. It is further explained (Bhag. 12.3.43-44) that in Kali-yuga atheism will divert people's intelligence and they will almost never offer any kind of worship to the Supreme Being. Although great and divine personalities that live far beyond the realm of human existence bow to the Supreme, in this age the miserable human beings will not do so. Even if a person is about to die and is terrified, collapsed on his bed, if he can simply utter the name of the Supreme, Sri Krishna, he could be freed from karma and able to achieve the spiritual world. But in this age of Kali people are too proud to do this.
One problem in Kali-yuga is the high number of bogus gurus and inept spiritual teachers. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.38) we find the explanation that uncultured men will pose as being affiliated with God and will accept charity and earn their livelihood by making a show of being a spiritual authority. Such impostors will sit on a high seat and speak on religious topics, although they know nothing about true spirituality and cannot offer any real guidance. Often such religious impostors offer only enough advice and hope for salvation to their audience or followers to keep the money coming in from those who are willing to give to such cheaters. This is further explained in the Vayu Purana (58.44-45, 50) that genuine saintly men will withdraw and keep aloof from the rest of society. Dharma, or religious duties, will become difficult to find and will deteriorate since the conduct of life of those who enjoy [nefarious activities] will be loose and uncontrollable. In the age of Kali there will be wicked persons in the guise of sages. And (58.52, 55, 64-66) the whole society will abound in heretics of foul conduct and activity with their false appearances. Thus, the earth will become devoid of good men. There will be many heretics, and the Vedas will not be studied.
Furthermore, the Linga Purana (40.5) states that those who are expected to be qualified, such as teachers, priests, and brahmanas, will be defective. They will not engage in the prescribed rites or duties, nor study the Vedas. In fact, the Narada Purana (1.41.52) also states that as Kali-yuga continues, the priests will crave for and indulge in sexual intercourse with low-class women and widows, and enjoy cooked food prepared by such women. [This is mentioned because it is understood that the consciousness or vibrations of the cook goes into the food that he or she is cooking. Thus, if brahmanas, or anyone on a strict spiritual path, eat the cooked food of low-minded people, then their consciousness will be affected in a similar way.]
The Bhagavatam (12.2.4-5) explains that people will view the spiritual position of someone merely by the external dress and symbols he wears, and by that standard people will change from one spiritual discipline or rank to the next. Regardless of a person's level of spiritual realizations and experience, if he is a good talker, efficient at juggling words, he will be considered a great scholar. This is one of the problems with people in Kali-yuga, they may have little knowledge but still want to teach as if they are a genuine authority.
The Kurma Purana (1.30.31) also verifies this and states that in Kali-yuga persons whose behavior is wicked yet practice vows that are useless or not sanctioned by the Vedas will delude others to follow false doctrines. The Narada Purana (1.41.54-55 & 59-60) also concludes that shudras will not serve the twice-born priests or qualified brahmanas but will consider themselves knowledgeable and practice holy rites. The shudras will clothe themselves in ochre robes, have matted hair, and will smear ashes on their bodies. Deceptively appearing like saintly men, they will converse on their faulty version of dharma [religious duties]. Many heretics, such as nude ascetics [as you find in India], red robed mendicants, etc., will roam about, most of whom will decry the Vedas and teach unauthorized, or false, unfruitful doctrines. Another point that is mentioned in these verses is that in Kali-yuga, men who generally destroy dharma often will be good at singing, acting, or playing musical instruments. This means that not just false teachers will spread false spiritual paths and various forms of materialism, but people who may be talented in other ways and respected for their abilities, such as popular musicians, singers, actors, politicians, and those of influence, will also destroy dharma by either what they say or by the misconduct or low behavior in their lifestyle. Thus, they provide bad examples that other people follow.
It is also related (Bhag.i23.32) that the true knowledge of the Vedas will be contaminated by the interpretations of speculators and atheists. The so-called priests will be devotees of their bellies and genitals. Thus, the final goal and real purpose of Vedic and spiritual knowledge will become obscured and hidden. The prevalence of these spiritual impostors is the unfortunate situation in Kali-yuga, especially for those who seriously are searching for genuine spiritual truth. As stated in the Bhagavatam (10.20.8): "In the evening twilight during the rainy season, the darkness allowed the glow worms but not the stars to shine forth, just as in the age of Kali the predominance of sinful activities allows atheistic doctrines to overshadow the true knowledge of the Vedas."
Within these predictions of the bogus gurus and false spiritual teachers are also the warning signs of who is unqualified. We can use these to discriminate between who is a real spiritual authority and who is not. If such people make a show of religiosity, or have a big ego and an attitude of self-importance, or offer only what seems like high philosophy but no real truth, then that person is bogus or lacks genuine spiritual experience and maturity. If they pose as religious but enjoy wicked habits, do not study the genuine spiritual texts, or do not perform religious duties, etc., then they are simply pretenders or worse. The above descriptions are of those we need to avoid. Herein we can understand how important it is to be careful regarding from whom we take knowledge and guidance. In considering from whom we take spiritual instruction, we must understand their lives, their habits, and the traditions they follow. Do they spread love and devotion? Or, do they spread the hope and desire for power and control? Have they manufactured their own religion, or do they accurately represent the teachings of the previous masters and authentic spiritual texts? According to the Vedic system of checks and balances, any tradition that spiritual teachers follow must be in line with three items: The authoritative spiritual texts or word of God, the previous acharyas or spiritual masters, and the present day spiritual authorities or sages. When these three references or guideposts all agree on any particular issue, then you can be sure that you are accepting authority and can follow appropriately. If spiritual teachers or acharyas are not backed by this system of three checks and balances, then we must be careful or we may be cheated and find ourselves on a negative or materialistic path rather than being a part of a true spiritual system. Any spiritual teacher who is not authorized by these three points in his behavior or his teachings is either bogus or incomplete in his understanding, experience, and level of spiritual realizations. Thus, he should be avoided.
A fourth factor in this regard is to understand which sampradaya or disciplic succession a teacher represents. Who is his or her spiritual master? The Vedic principle is that everyone, even an incarnation of God, must accept a spiritual master at least to teach by example. Which disciplic succession and spiritual master is accepted will also determine what school of thought he will teach and what audiority he has. Therefore, he must belong to an established and authorized line of disciplic succession that leads to a proper source of knowledge for a fruitful result for all who follow it. By making sure that a teacher is connected with a proper line of spiritual masters, with his teachings in accord with the above-mentioned three references, one can progress with assurance. By using these guideposts carefully, one can discern who is a proper teacher and which is the proper path to follow. Unfortunately, as Kali-yuga continues, all of this will be forgotten. Also explained in the Narada Purana (1.41.44) is that the brahmanas or churchmen will be greedy for money, and will take away the wealth of good men and pious widows, but will perform no holy observances. One of the reasons for this is explained in another verse (1.41.49) which relates that when Krishna descends in a dark color [at the end of Dvapara-yuga just before Kali-yuga] the wicked servants of the king will begin to beat the brahmanas and saintly people who perform the authorized sacred rites for extorting money from them.
This indicates that another reason for the continuing degenerating process in Kali-yuga is the pressure of the wicked government on genuine priests, nuns, or religious practitioners, most of whom have lived with little income or expenses. This means that the money hungry government politicians will force ministers, priests, monks, and devotees to make a business out of their religious practices. Such spiritually oriented people will be forced to charge more and more money for the services or knowledge they provide, or devise other means of getting more money in order to pay higher taxes, bribes, dues, and penalties to agents of the government. They also will need more money just to live and maintain their performance of religious activities, their process of propagating spiritual knowledge, or maintaining any buildings or property they may need. This, of course, causes further distractions and degradations in the ability of such people to function on a purely spiritual basis, and to keep the knowledge and traditions pure. In this way, the priests, monks, and sages will no longer be able to focus exclusively on their spiritual development or in delivering such knowledge to odiers. They will be forced to devise ways of acquiring money due to government harassment. It is further related that as Kali-yuga advances, a person will be considered unholy if he has no money or has accepted a state of poverty, as many nuns and monks presently do to remain focused on their spiritual path. And (Bhag. 12.2.6) the observance of religious principles will be only for show for the sake of one's reputation. Thus, we can see how twisted social customs will become in this area as the future unfolds. Of course, we can see much of this going on right now.
In this way, the attraction among the general populace will turn toward sensual activities, and anyone offering advice on how to advance in this way will become very popular. Thus, materialists, atheists, miscreants, cheaters, and manufacturers of false or new religions become quite prominent in the age of Kali, while those who follow genuine spiritual practices are ignored. This is explicitly pointed out in the Narada Purana (1.41.70) that sinners will criticize and dishonor the person who points to the genuine spiritual path. Those who are self-complacent and vain show no respect for those engaged in spiritual practices. The Padma Purana (7.26.31-32) agrees with this and states that people will laugh at those who are pious or devoted to God. People will prosper through wicked deeds and will, therefore, be addicted to sins. Gradually, in the latter years of Kali-yuga, all genuine spiritual truths will disappear from the face of the earth. Once all religiosity disappears, the times will give way to the philosophy of "anything goes." All morals and decency will be lost and any manner of degeneracy will abound. Without knowledge of the Supreme Being there will be no reason for people to think that they are at all accountable for their actions. Thus, people will think they can do anything they want if they can get away with it. In some areas, this is already the case. And if the priests and holy men are devotees of nothing but their belly and genitals, we can only imagine what practices they will incorporate into their religion to satisfy their desires and
The Mahanirvana Tantra (1.37-50) has more information to offer in this regard. It states that as dharma or religion and responsible duty are destroyed, Kali-yuga will be an age of evil ways, customs, and deceit. The Vedas will be forgotten and the Puranas will be destroyed. The brahmanas, priests, and religious leaders will be without faith or devotion, averse to all austerities, deceitful, ignorant, and will neglect their own prayers or fail to chant their mantras. Also (4.46), when people openly drink liquor and eat flesh without condemnation or punishment, that is the influence of the age of Kali. Furthermore, when Kali-yuga becomes strong, the Ganges River will be broken in some places and at others it will be diverted from its course. This means that it could stop flowing or become a series of small lakes before it begins to dry up or disappear in the same way as did the Sarasvati River.
The Brahma-vaivarta Purana confirms this possibility. Therein we find a conversation between Sri Krishna and Ganga Devi, the personification of the Ganges River. Lord Krishna tells Ganga Devi that there will be a golden age within Kali-yuga that will start about 5,000 years after the age of Kali begins. This will last for 10,000 years, after which the full force of Kali-yuga will be felt. Then, roughly 15,000 years after the age of Kali begins, the Ganges, Yamuna, and other sacred rivers should hide under the earth in the same way as the Sarasvati and wait to appear only at the beginning of the next Satya-yuga. From this description we can understand that with the loss of the Ganges River will come the loss of many of the most holy places in India. So considering the importance and sacredness of the Ganges River, the disappearance of it would portend to be the complete loss of any spiritual civilization or culture in India, as well as the rest of the world.
Just as spiritual knowledge will eventually fade away, the Bhagavatam (12.2.6) confirms that the sacred holy places will also disappear. It states that later in the age of Kali-yuga a sacred place will be considered as no more than a lake or river located some distance away. People will forget that the purpose of a place of pilgrimage is to hear from the holy men who live there. But even the ability to discern who is holy and who is not will also disappear. Another interesting point regarding the disappearance of holy places is found in the legend of the Narasimha Deity in the town of Joshimath, just south of Badrinath. The Deity is sitting in a lotus position and has very detailed features. It self-manifested from a sacred shalagram-shila stone. Shankaracharya originally installed this Deity nearly 1200 years ago. If you look closely at the wrist of the Deity, it is very thin and getting thinner. It is said that the wrist will break and His hand will fall when the dark influence of Kali-yuga becomes overwhelming. Then, the nearby mountains called Jaya and Vijaya, appropriately named after the two guards who protect the entrance into the spiritual world, will crumble and block the road leading to the holy place of Badrinath. Then this holy town will become inaccessible to all but the most serious pilgrims. Thus, it will become another holy place that will be forgotten.
More information in this connection was recently reported in the Times of India. The article, Krishna's Dwarka May Not be a Myth, by Gautam Mehta, released April 7, 1997, describes how the remains of Dwaraka have been found near the island of Bet Dwaraka. Dwaraka was the capital city of Lord Krishna, as we have described earlier in this volume, which was submerged under the sea after Krishna left the planet. S. R. Rao, who heads the underwater excavation project, is a marine archeologist and a consultant to the Marine Archeology Center of the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa. He relates that three temples and evidence of a township have been found on the seashore near the present Dwaraka temple. Another major township was found almost 30 kilometers away at a depth of 30 feet near the island of Bet Dwaraka with significant evidence uncovered, such as pottery, vessels, and equipment. Mr. Rao explains that Bet Dwaraka corresponds with the town of Kusasthali where the first town named Dwaraka was built under Krishna's direction as described in the Mahabharata. The present town of Dwaraka, on the mainland at the mouth of the Gomati River, stands where the second Dwaraka or Dwaravati was.
The disturbing thing about this report is that, as Mr. Rao describes, the submergences of the townships near Dwaraka provide a clear indication that the sea level along the Gujarat coast has risen as much as 30 feet in the last 3,600 years and it is continuing to rise. Archeologists and scientists of the National Institute of Oceanography estimate that, at the present pace of the rise of sea level, the ports and temples on the state sea coast may be completely submerged in another 1,000 years. Other scientists from around the world agree that the ocean is rising. In this case, not only will Dwaraka and Gujarat be effected, but there will be many other coastal holy places and temple towns that will disappear into the sea. Places such as Mumbai (Bombay) and the temples in the west, or Guruvayoor and Kanya Kumari in South India, or Calcutta, Mayapura and Jagannatha Puri on the east side of India mav also be effected. Thus, many other important coastal temples and holy places will begin to disappear.
The Vishnu Purana (Book Four, Chapter 24) further relates that as the full force of Kali-yuga is felt, there will be no special holy places anymore, and that water or any lake a distance away will constitute a holy place. Brahmanas or spiritual intellectuals will be known only by their outward dress, such as the priests' collar or the brahmanas' thread that anyone can purchase. Lowborn men will wear the outer marks of a religious person to live by begging and accepting donations. They will join any easy religious order and follow heretical and impious teachings. Property alone will establish rank. The only devotion will be toward getting wealth. Dignity will be based on clothes and appearance. Finally, the whole world will become totally depraved as piety decreases day by day. The Padma Purana (7.26.39-40) simply concludes in this regard that as there is a decrease in pious people in the age of Kali, there will be an equal increase of the wicked in the world. Such a scenario in the future of Kali-yuga is further described in the Vishnu Purana (Book Four, Chapter 38) in which it states that society, corrupted by the prominence of atheists, will decline from praising God, Lord Vishnu, the creator of all, and will challenge, "What authority do the Vedas hold? What are gods or brahmanasT Then the clouds will offer little rain, the corn will give ears of few kernels, the grains will be poor and of little substance, millet will be the common grain, clothes will be made from course fibers, all people will be lowborn, and whatever milk is available mostly will come from goats. People will take whatever text they like, the doctrine of anyone, and choose it as scripture, accepting any god as one to worship. Righteousness will constitute any kind of fasting, austerity, or liberality as is preferred by the so-called pious. There will be no effective spiritual line of disciplic succession who will carefully preserve and hand down spiritual knowledge to students, and no effective initiating process between spiritual master and disciple. Whatever initiation that does take place will have no meaning. Both the spiritual master and the disciple will be unqualified. This is how the disappearance of all spiritual culture will take place. This is verified in iheNarada Purana (1.41.84) which states that mendicants will take disciples using the acquisition of food and money as a consideration. Thus, teachers will not be qualified, nor will the students. In this way, instead of the teacher's concern for helping students advance to the stage of spiritual enlightenment, the disciple's value will be considered according to his ability to give food or money.
In the Bhagavat-Mahatmya (1.73-77) of the Padma Purana, Narada Muni explains his own observations of how religiosity disappears in the age of Kali. He describes that even those whose mind is agitated with passion, anger, excessive greed, and thirst for pleasure have superficially taken to an ascetic life; hence, the value of asceticism is gone. Due to greed, hypocrisy, and want of control over the mind, and due to people embracing heretical doctrines and abstaining from the study of sacred books, the fruit of dyana-yoga has disappeared. The learned pundits indulge in sexual commerce with their wives like buffaloes. They are expert in procreating children but are not able to achieve liberation from this world. Devotion to the Supreme, Lord Vishnu, or to following a genuine spiritual path is no where to be seen. Such, however, is the spirit of the times. That is why the Supreme Being seems so far away though abiding so close in our very hearts while tolerating all of this.
The Padma Purana (6.71.56-60) also agrees with this and states that as Kali-yuga unfolds, brahmanas [spiritual teachers and ministers] become heretics and engrossed in impious acts. They will not say their prayers or chant mantras, and will give up their vows. The low-class shudras will not be able to distinguish what is righteous or unrighteous, or beneficial or not. Everyone will be wicked and dirty, except for the devotees of Lord Vishnu. The above reference indicates that only those who are devotedly attracted to the Supreme, and whose motivation is real spiritual love and sincerity for one and all, will be able to avoid the pitfalls and wicked ways that become so prevalent in the age of Kali. Others will not have the necessary knowledge, perception, or potency to overcome the deteriorating effects of this age.
This is further substantiated in the NaradaPurana (1.41.24, 30, 48, 51, & 88) which explains the conditions in the distant future. It is related that all other classes of people in Kali-yuga will become averse to righteous behavior. The priests will turn away from the Vedas and genuine spiritual knowledge. Holy rites, perfect knowledge, and good conduct will perish. Thus, calamities will befall the world due to the prevalence of impious activities. The minds of none will be devoted to God. Even in the first quarter of Kali-yuga men will begin to censure knowledge of Hari, the Supreme, and near the end of the age, no one will have any knowledge of the Supreme spiritual reality, nor will they even speak of the name of Hari, Krishna. Finally, when all dharma or spiritual knowledge disappears, the whole world becomes hellish, and infant mortality becomes prominent. There will be a steady growth of irreligious materialism. Thus, irreligious activities will simply breed more and more wicked behavior with all of its characteristics as greed, dishonesty, and competition. This will increase to fighting, enslavement, and killing. Then the cycle of degeneration will be completely irreversible. In such a state, the world will become a hellish planet in which people are born only to suffer. Society will exhibit a continuous state of chaos and madness. * * *
To help avoid the above scenario, we need to remember that religion is the process of understanding God, our relationship with God, and our spiritual identity. The purpose of a religious organization or institution is to help spread this knowledge and guidance for the benefit of humanity, and to create a place where like-minded people can associate and enthuse one another in the process. Once a religion begins to establish forced control over others, or to make its teachings dogma that must be followed or punishment results, then that religion loses sight of true spiritual understanding. That is when it brings in the seeds of corruption. It replaces the need to promote true spiritual understanding with the desire to establish its superiority over others, which can lead to the ways of totalitarianism. Then politics, disunity, intrigue, and even war become prevalent. All true religions accept that God is the ultimate unifying principle, an omnipotent, supremely spiritual Being who has infinite intelligence and capabilities, and from whom comes pure and unlimited love for one and all. He reciprocates with us to the degree to which we surrender or desire to understand Him. A religion which cannot offer such an understanding, or whose followers have perverted the philosophy, or who cannot apply it in their daily lives, is not a truly progressive or elevating religion. In such a case, it becomes necessary to get away from the church to get closer to God. After all, the church should not make itself more important than the true spiritual knowledge it should be promoting. In other words, when the process of worship outweighs the object of worship, or God, then you have already lost Him. Such a religion will not be spiritually successful and should be either corrected or avoided.
What this means, as we head into the future, is that it will be most important for people to be spiritually knowledgeable and to think for themselves and recognize that forced dogma is not what true religion is about. We have already spent many centuries witnessing religions suppressing and persecuting others and we should have learned our lesson by now. As spiritual beings, we all have an eternal relationship with the Supreme Spirit. No church or institution or its representatives can interfere with that. We do not have to participate in any religion that forces us to be subservient to a faulty creed or misleading or corrupt leaders. We must only search out those individuals, pure devotees, who can assist us and give us the spiritual knowledge by which we can understand and reach the Supreme Being ourselves, with or without any institution or organized religion.