Words of stark and sobering reality for students of environmental science: A founder of ecological ethics, Aldo Leopold, wrote, “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to lay [people]. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise”

Devamrita Swami

Giving peace a chance? Humans slaughter 66 billion chickens, 1.5 billion pigs, half a billion sheep, half a billion goats, and 300 million cows each year. Particularly but not exclusively, in the United States, the vast majority of animals raised for slaughter suffer torturous conditions on animal death row--factory farms.

Devamrita Swami

So elegantly yet erroneously, American author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich writes: “You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and seize it as a brief opportunity to observe and interact with the living, ever-surprising world around us.”

Bhagavad-gita pinpoints the utter disaster in her eloquent but deluding depiction of life and death. The human body is a unique opportunity that nature awards, for our realizing what never changes although the body always changes.

First understanding and then experiencing the immortality of nonmaterial individuality establishes us in genuine yoga and meditation.

Attaining this blessed stage, we know that our pure eternal individuality is what allows us to unlimitedly flourish in pure spiritual reciprocation with Krishna, the Supreme Beloved, the ultimate goal of the yoga system.

Devamrita Swami

Intelligence begins with learning how to become free from the chained victimization that accompanies us, birth after birth. Bhagavad-gita advises us to act in bhakti—nonreactive endeavor—purifying all actions from all material consequences. “Strive for bhakti-yoga, Krishna exhorts, “the art of all activity, all pursuits.”

Devamrita Swami

Overrun, Outbred, Replaced? Whether First World or Third, tribalism, body identification—what yogis and meditators recognise as a mental disease— always increases the social ills of pride, greed, fear, and envy.

Devamrita Swami

For the seventh consecutive year, the global number of forcibly displaced persons has hit a post-World War II record.
The total figure, contained in the United Nations annual global trends report, includes refugees, asylum seekers and the internally displaced — that is, people forced from their homes who have not fled their countries. Refugees accounted for most of the ongoing increase.
The amount of people displaced by conflict reached 70.8 million last year, up from a little over 43 million a decade ago..
“We have become almost unable to make peace,” the UN high commissioner for refugees concluded.

Devamrita Swami

Everyone has the right to at least a level of simple living. Nevertheless, beyond that basic standard of necessities, the cruel paradox is that no matter how much people’s income increases, they will not retain happiness or satiation. Because internally we are not self-satisfied, our desires continually escalate. Meanwhile, externally our consumer societies continuously bombard us with agitation to have more, buy more.

Devamrita Swami

Some assert that "the mystery of life is not a problem to solve but a reality to experience.” 
Increasingly, around the world, people describe themselves as “humanist." They assure us that this life is the only one we have, that the world is a natural place with absolutely no supernatural side, and that we have the freedom to shape our own lives as we like.
This doctrine—its faithful clinging to the tenets religiously—leads to what, and is based on what?

Devamrita Swami

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.” (New York Times, May 6, 2019)

Devamrita Swami

Wherever in the world you live, the future of your nation’s governance is surveillance: controlling the masses through technology. Even poor third-world countries like Ecuador are doing it, financed by loans from China. Truly, you’ll never walk alone.

In a statement, Huawei said: “Huawei provides technology to support smart city and safe city programs across the world. In each case, Huawei does not get involved in setting public policy in terms of how that technology is used.”

Devamrita Swami

Living in the USA, land of paradoxes? Unemployment rates there have fallen to their lowest since the late 1960s. Yet some 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years. Americans are working harder, for less. The hard fact: Among the advanced countries, the USA is number one—for wealth inequality. Does it matter?

Devamrita Swami

Hopping from one university event to another in the USA, I presented to my audiences this striking insight from an academic study referred to by the New York Times:
Forty-two percent of the people in each of the two political parties regard their opposition as “downright evil.”
Nearly 20 percent of both Democrats and Republicans believe that their political adversaries “lack the traits to be considered fully human — they behave like animals.”
Roughly 20 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans say that the world would be better off if large numbers of the other party died.
The yogic verdict: When people, misled, identify with the body as the self, there can never be genuine love, lasting peace, and realistic harmony.

Devamrita Swami

A quarter of India’s 1.25 billion people are younger than 15. Just think: every month, until 2030, nearly a million Indians will turn 18. Will the promise of economic growth grant them the education and jobs they dream of?

Devamrita Swami

Follow the water, and you can understand much of humanity’s past and future.

Water makes up about 70% of the human body, and covers 70% of Earth’s surface.

Importantly, however, the 70% figure for the Earth grants scant solace to our ecological crisis. Seawater—salty—accounts for 97.5% of all that water on Earth.

A further 1.75% is frozen, at the poles, in glaciers or in permafrost. So the world has to rely on just 0.75% of the planet’s available water, almost all of which is subterranean groundwater. Yet of that 0.75% is the 0.3% on the surface. From that tiny amount of surface water, humanity draws 59% of its needs.

Let’s not take Nature’s gift of freshwater supplies for granted. And whose nature is it? Energy exists without an energetic source?

Devamrita Swami

MAD, the brilliance of Mutually Assured Destruction: “You give us trillions of dollars, and we will use the money to build nuclear weapons that will never be used.” Is that money-back guaranteed, for whomever would remain alive? A single Ohio-class nuclear submarine—a “boomer” —can mete out 2,000 times the destructive power of the A-bombs in WW2, which levelled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Devamrita Swami

Who would have thought that sand, so ordinary and plain, could be so pivotal? By far the largest mining endeavor globally is digging up sand, mainly for mixing into concrete to construct buildings. An estimated 40 billion tons of sand is excavated each year. There are no free lunches in our exploiting any natural resource—even something as lowly as sand. Globally, sand mining is exacting a serious environmental toll. Is there any ecological exploitation that we can get away with scot-free?

Devamrita Swami

When we consider that nine in ten persons in the world live in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits, we then question the notion of human progress. Fresh air, clean water, and healthy food are basic, standard human requirements—not information technology, robotics, or nuclear weaponry.

Devamrita Swami

Exuberantly marketed to us, material existence bewilders its faithful with an underlying mistaken pride that our mind and senses can deliver significant, laudable enjoyment.
To attain a minuscule material happiness, however, we must work arduously, struggle valiantly. Though the outcome is truly fleeting and qualitatively insignificant, nevertheless we become habituated to an insatiable craving—a ceaseless yearning that consumes much of our days and nights. This confusing paradox blinds the best of us.

Devamrita Swami

Global advertising expenditure this year will grow 4.5 percent, reaching $581 billion—most of the growth coming from search engines and social media. But humanity’s happiness has not grown—although depression is nearing epidemic proportions. Our prized consumer lifestyle is not just wrecking the ecosphere; it is also making us miserable.

Devamrita Swami

Rather than say matter is the cause of all causes, rather than endow matter with inconceivable potencies, the bhakti yoga text, our Krishna Conscious literature, spotlight consciousness, our individual consciousness and the Supreme Consciousness, as the fundamental basis of existence.

Devamrita Swami

“I’ve been lonely too long.” Yet another mass malady that afflicts especially the first world, loneliness is out of control. Social scientists now call it “an epidemic,” and a “silent plague” of civilisation. A telling reality: this year, the United Kingdom’s national government went so far as to appoint a Minister for Loneliness.

Devamrita Swami

Never mind the variations in weather patterns that may mix in some occasional cooler years. The global warming bottomline is clear. In the entire history of climate data and its record-keeping, 17 of the 18 hottest years have occured since 2001.

The score for 2018? So far, globally, it is heading for the title of just the . . . fourth-hottest year on record. Small consolation indeed, especially when we realize that the only years hotter were 2015 to 2017.

Devamrita Swami

The same negative patterns of behaviour that destroy individuals can also be recognized in the mass behaviour of entire societies. Chronic disorders such as "social traps" and "societal addictions” plague humanity. Though offering short-term boosts and rewards, these afflictions lead to an increasingly problematic and unsustainable future. Consider society’s entrenched addiction to over-consumption—doggedly powered by fossil fuels and hyperactively whipped onward by a “growth at all costs” mythology. Can therapies successful at the individual level work at the societal level, curing the mass human madness? Knowing bhakti-yoga can do this is what drives me.
Artwork credit to Steve Cutts.

Devamrita Swami

Our notorious over-dependency on social media is ruining our capacity for warm relationships and meditative introspection, by turning our life into a robotic extension of big tech’s machines.

Devamrita Swami

"For a materialist,” astrophysicist and novelist Alan Lightman writes, “death is the name that we give to a collection of atoms that once had the special arrangement of a functioning neuronal network and now no longer does so.”

But is that all there is to you and me?
Yogis vehemently assert there is much more.
And Krishna, master and controller of the entire yoga system and its ultimate goal, patiently elucidates, in Bhagavad-gita, the nonmaterial self.

The literary astrophysicist pushes onward, though. “Despite my belief that I am only a collection of atoms, that my awareness is passing away neuron by neuron, I am content with the *illusion* of life. I’ll take it. And I find a pleasure in knowing that a hundred years from now, even a thousand years from now, some of my atoms will remain on Lute Island [a summer retreat spot].”

Devamrita Swami

"We have a limit, a very discouraging limit- death." Best not to think about too much about this. After all, we surmise, no one can do anything about this maximum limitation- the final discouragement and ultimate humiliation. The bhakti-yoga system, however, tackles the apparently invincible death monster head on. Interested?

Devamrita Swami

A popular saying considers that "People are usually as happy as they make up their mind to be." More accurate would be to say "as they train their mind to be."

Devamrita Swami

Peace and prosperity—bombs away? This month is the first anniversary of the biggest non-nuclear bomb ever bestowed. Last year, April 13, around 8 p.m. Afghan time, a 21,600-pound (9698 kg) bomb dropped on a tiny village nestled between two forested hills. The intent? Attacking a decades-old tunnel system currently adopted by Afghan fighters claiming allegiance to the Islamic State. For eradicating this select target, taxpayers, of course, shall pick up the tab. Just this one mother of all non-nuclear bombs sent up in a cloud of dust and smoke a mere 16 million US dollars.

Devamrita Swami

Today the disintegrative agents splitting society are formidable, robust, and so are the harmonizers--those seeking to holistically align humanity with itself and all living beings. Consequently fasten your seat belts—we’re in for quite a ride.

Devamrita Swami

Is Yoga Religion? A broad definition of religion comes from William James, the pivotal American psychologist, who analyzed the central dynamic of religion as belief in an unseen order, coupled with the key tenet that our highest welfare lies in harmonizing with that veiled dimension.
The yoga system, at its peak potential, is the methodology and process for such ultimate harmonization - The Love Supreme, bhakti.

Devamrita Swami

A writer for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson, restated research on happiness published in the Journal of Consumer Research:

“Younger people, who view their future as extensive, gain more happiness from extraordinary experiences; however, ordinary experiences become increasingly associated with happiness as people get older, such that they produce as much happiness as extraordinary experiences when individuals have limited time remaining. Self-definition drives these effects: although extraordinary experiences are self-defining throughout one's life span, as people get older they increasingly define themselves by the ordinary experiences that comprise their daily lives.”

Devamrita Swami

Cape Town may be the first major city to face the treat of no drinking water, but not the last. The BBC reports: Despite covering about 70% of the Earth's surface, water, especially drinking water, is not as plentiful as one might think. Only 3% of it is fresh.
Over one billion people lack access to water and another 2.7 billion find it scarce for at least one month of the year. A 2014 survey of the world's 500 largest cities estimates that one in four are in a situation of "water stress"
According to UN-endorsed projections, global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030, thanks to a combination of climate change, human action and population growth.

Click here for a list of 11 other cities most likely to have no drinking water: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-42982959

Devamrita Swami

The Doomsday Clock, illustrating scientific concerns about humanity destroying itself and the Earth, was advanced to 2 minutes to midnight. A potent symbol conceived by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the clock was last so close to midnight -human annihilation- in 1953, during the Cold War.

The Bulletin's board of international experts explained: "In 2017, the world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation . . . as dangerous as it has been since World War ll."

Devamrita Swami

Bhakti-yogis see themselves as non-different from all beings. This vision of oneness specifically means they consider others happiness and distress as their own. Particularly through compassion, the equal vision of bhakti manifests.

Devamrita Swami

Solving world hunger is impossible? The UN has established that 30 billion USD annually would do it. Compare: the global total for military spending last year was 1.686 trillion. That’s 56.2 times more than the cost estimated for eradicating hunger.

Devamrita Swami

How we can authentically criticize ourselves as material: “I have pride that I can gain pleasure by body, senses, and mind."

Devamrita Swami

A real human civilization, a wisdom culture, transports its citizens from temporariness to permanence, existential ignorance to full knowledge, and suffering—both intermittent and residual--to complete happiness.

Devamrita Swami

Limited by time and space, the material body and mind can enjoy only happiness severely cramped and constrained by time and space. The nonmaterial self, the soul, however, although immeasurably minute in size, can enjoy immeasurably boundless happiness.

Devamrita Swami

The immortality of the individual person is the highest perfectional stage of yoga and meditation, because that pure eternal individuality allows us to unlimitedly flourish in A Love Supreme: pure spiritual reciprocation with Krishna, the ultimate goal of the yoga system.

Devamrita Swami

Environmentalism needs the spiritual backing and transformative potency that bhakti wisdom and practice supplies. The ozone hole over Antarctica is nearly as large today as when the 1987 treaty banning ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons was signed. A key reason is that brilliant humans invent and press into service new ozone-eating chemicals that the treaty doesn't cover. Obviously diplomacy alone can't cure our toxic consciousness and its effects.

Devamrita Swami

Ecoanxiety is on the move. Officially labelled in 2011, the American Psychological Association describes it as the dread and helplessness eating away at us, amid our ìwatching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations.

Devamrita Swami

The world is now witnessing masses of displaced persons to an extent not seen since the global mayhem of World War ll. The past year, refugees, asylum seekers, and persons forced from their homes totalled 65.6 million. Knowing this prompts us to ask, where is genuine human progress?

Devamrita Swami

You may have heard that "Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present." But, whether for later or now, what actually is happiness? Are we really sure that we know? Maybe what preoccupies us is imitation happiness-- a mere shadow of the real substance.

Devamrita Swami

Humanities scholars often point out that to most humans, both curiosity and inquisitiveness about higher things, the big questions, come naturally. But itís indifference to them that must be learned. The result? As the Gita explains: ìWhat is night for most people is dayóthe time of awakening and alertness--for the introspective sage, the transcendentalist, the urban or rural mystic. And vice versa.

Devamrita Swami

Bottles of Plastic Worry: Though most of the 1 million plastic bottles bought around the world every minute are recyclable, their burden far exceeds our present recycling capacities. The sad fact: fewer than half of all plastic bottles make it to recycling stations. Of those that do, only 7% become new bottles.

Devamrita Swami

Can you live a right life amid mass illusion? Do political and economic structures render inconsequential and ineffective our individual attempts to upgrade the ethics of our lifestyle?
It can seem that as individuals, for the most part, we are cast and framed within predetermined social roles.
Yes, we can choose our mask, swap costumes. But in a high-tech consumer society, arenít things the real players, the dynamic movers and shakers--not people?
In an artificial human civilization things, commodities, dance to the music. They have life, while we, their loyal subjects, are shells, spent and hollow.

Devamrita Swami

Would you like to bet your life on a purely physical theory of how life originated? Donít even bet your house. Biologists have no idea, beyond utter speculation, how life sprung on Earthó4 billion years ago, they say, from rocks, mud, and water. So then, why look for life elsewhere in the universe? Having trashed this planet, are we raring to ruin another, as well?
Whether searching for the genesis of earthly life or for the presence of extraterrestrial life, surely it helps to know what life actually is.
Fact: no scientific consensus exists for resolving this question.
The best chemical and biological brains cannot agree on a definition that distinguishes non-living matter from life.
You still opt to gamble?
Before spinning the roulette wheel, best to recall the famous junkyard challenge that the 20th century astrophysicist Fred Hoyle cleverly formulatedóa classic barrier that stands unbudgable today.
The odds of something like a bacterium emerging out of whatever primordial gunk you currently favour, Hoyle established, resemble the odds of a jumbo jet materializing from a junkyard pile after a tornado roars through.

Devamrita Swami

Is the species of human beings existing today truly homo sapiens? Think again. The title literally means "humankind that is wise, intelligent." Meanwhile, we can't restrain ourselves from doing what no other species does: destroying our own habitat.

Devamrita Swami

Efforts to control and enjoy the material energy and its arrangements mean mounting karmic debt. The more we try to possess and enjoy, the more we become karmically entangled.

Devamrita Swami

Crimes against humanity can appear in several horrific forms. The odiousness of genocide, for example, is obvious. Now environmentalists are advocating that since destruction of the biosphere affects the habitats of all living entities, humans included, therefore we should all feel culpableóecological degradation is at the very least a crime against humanity.
Letís consider another candidate for heinousness: the mass dulling of humanityís natural instinct for self-realisation. The bhakti-yoga texts declare that the human form of life is meant for enlightenment. But by our perpetuating soul-killing societies, we humans inflict upon ourselves the greatest injustice and havoc.

Devamrita Swami

We mistake drowning in an ocean of information for human advancement. Countless waves of news, opinions, and fake news overwhelm us, while a unique whirlwind, special to our times, sucks up any attempt at intelligence not firmly grounded. That funnel of a windstorm dictates that anything is knowable and every opinion on any topic is as good as any other.
In other words, no need of experts anymore because everyone is an expertóanyone can gurgle and ramble about anyone or anything.
To reject the advice of expertsóeven expertise itselfóis to mistakenly assert autonomy, to foolishly declare independence, to falsely empower oneself. How can you tell me I am wrong about anything, when we all can know everything on our own, in our own wayóno authorities or authoritativeness needed anymore? Individual and societal topsy-turviness is the only gain.

Devamrita Swami

Only genuine knowledge will allow the individual and society to truly advance, in a real human civilization. Authentic knowledge, leading to beneficial advancement, requires authoritativenessóthat is, the knowledge springs from an authoritative, flawless source. By existential necessity, we must lift our gaze beyond what the tiny human brain can misperceive, shackled by time, space, and chronic miscalculation.

Devamrita Swami

The word is out: just as the industrial revolution spawned a huge working class, similarly now the artificial intelligence revolution, already upon us, will breed a massive ìunworking class.î
Inflicting a fate worse than mere unemployment, AI will render the ìuseless classî ever more unemployable.
Contributing to society zero valueówhether political, economic or culturalóthis burgeoning unproductive and idle class will become ìthe issueî of this century.
Human beings, as Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, subsist not on plastics, bolts, or silicon chipsóand definitely not on fleshóbut on food grains, vegetables, and milk.
Time to go back to labor-intensive, traditionally organic farming.

Devamrita Swami

Should we allow the Bhagavad-gita, the prime and most comprehensive yoga text, to challenge and then uplift our idea of compassion? Why Krishna did not endorse Arjunaís initial magnanimity can seem a great mystery.
Let us meditate on this sage counsel from the commentary to Bhagavad-gita As It Is: ìCompassion for the soul is self-realization. . . . No one knows where compassion should be applied. Compassion for the dress of a drowning man is useless."

Devamrita Swami

Bhakti-yogis hold that our human life actually begins when we understand the difference between the self and the body. But wouldnít this knowledgeódeemed so crucialócancel out the human need for compassion? Why care about suffering and oppression in the world, whenóexternal, indeed, skin deepóit has nothing to do with the real self?
Because bhakti-yogis see to the core of all human misery, the potential for their compassion is far more deep-rooted and profound. Seeking to relieve the underlying cause of all suffering rather than just its symptoms is the most intense human activity of care and love. Letís try it.

Devamrita Swami

The political and media battle between globalists and nationalists dominates the news today. The globalists, urban and educated, would love a world like what John Lennon sings of in ìImagine.î No religions, barriers, or borders dividing peopleójust ìWe are the World.î
The nationalists see cosmic annihilation in that visionófew things could be more hellish. They feast daily upon a potent brew of ethnocentrism and the traditional bonds of nationhood. Passionate to fortify whatever they think is their native culture and to defend it from whomever they deem outsiders, the nationalists see nightmares of immigrants, refugeesóin short, anyone who doesnít look like them.
Both the globalistsósophisticated and cosmopolitanóand the nationalistsósimplistic and provincialóhave made a crucial error.
Both mistakenly identify with their body.
Whether, in our illusion, we assume a global or a national identity, the temporary material body is not the real self; nor are we its temporary material designations, brands, labels.

Devamrita Swami

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life,î the rugged Hollywood star of yesteryear John Wayne concluded. ìComes to us at midnight very clean. Itís perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands.î
Bhakti-yogis disagree.
The chain of karmaóaction and reaction, cause and effectómeans our yesterdays condition today, and whatís present today segues into tomorrow.
No clean slates in the material worldóno virgin dawns and spotless onsets. The three phases of timeópast, present and futureóare karmically cumulative and shackle all who DUI, drive under the influence of the material energy. There is, of course, a perfect escape route from this karmic entanglement.

Devamrita Swami

Am I baby, maybe? Belong yet to Club Am I?
Here are the conveniences, the relentless inner anxieties that what we call progress pours upon club members:
1. Am I as happy about my life, overall, as I should be?
2. Am I happy, most importantly, right this moment?
3. Am I with the right person?
4. Am I following my passion?
5. Am I doing what I love?
6. Am I living according to my own purpose in life?

Devamrita Swami

What complicates our identifying human benefit and well-being is the reality that we no longer live in an ìempty worldîóa planet relatively vacant of human population and full of virgin natural resources. Humans, now a geophysical force, both shake the earth and shape nature, all while draining and destroying the planetís natural beauty and bounty.

Devamrita Swami

For my university tour springtime in the USA, I decided to take a cue from Richard Spencer, primetime leader of Americaís now notorious ethno-nationalistic far right.
Ignoring the science that has abandoned the notion of race, coining a catchy mantra, he chants: "ìRace is real. Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.î To this I will broadcast: ìSpirit soul is real. Spirit soul matters. Spirit soul is the foundation of identity."

Devamrita Swami