The roomful of South African university students peered at me, silently, thoughtfully. I had delivered the goods, intact. Admirably they were processing.
“You’re too late.”
Who savours that conclusion? Flights missed, business opportunities squandered, romantic possibilities bungled? “Too late” means time has hurtled onward, forcing us to accept outcomes ranging from routine inconveniences to devastating setbacks.
My audience, young adult members of “the Rainbow Nation,” mostly African, are yearning, burning—oozing with the eagerness to succeed.
The barriers of the apartheid regime twenty years gone, eyes glued now to what appears an open expressway ahead, they’re flooring the accelerator pedal.
The hyped carnival of guaranteed, enduring material prosperity and happiness.
Craving self-immolation in a consumer paradise, they are desperate to writhe with the First World in the soul-killing flames of mythological material satisfaction. As throughout the developing world, these South African hopefuls feel they’ve stood by long enough. The global party lights flashing, bewitching—who can resist? And why? Especially the university students, afire with desire, crave their place on the planetary stage of the materialistic bash. “Our ancestors died, the freedom fighters endured, and the current national leaders connive—all to award us precious entrance to the hot party. Pursuing gratification and indulgence is a basic human right. Let’s get it on!”
But the midnight hour has long passed.
Smashed furniture, broken bottles, stained carpets
Remnants of party snacks strewn around
Drunken, drugged guests
Collapsed in stupor or colliding with one another
An argument here, vomiting there, pathetic hookups everywhere
You’ve arrived too late, I informed my audience. The all-night rave, one hell of a hedonistic blast, is over.
Politicians everywhere boldly promise to rake the dying embers, reigniting the wildfires of materialistic hopes. All the while, the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to widen. The 1 percent versus the 99 percent is a worldwide no-win situation for all.
Meanwhile, regardless of our location in the global economy, the environmental debacle has shamed us. Maddened by the fever of false progress, we’ve garbaged the planet. Though environmental woes are daily publicised, humanity can’t find the collective motivation to change course.
I beg my audience: Admit it, the main party is trashed and finished. A long shot the only hope, fire up an after-party! Rally your group of come-latelies and restart the riotous action—frantic, flickering, futile.
Dance amidst your tears.
My challenge to the students facing me: Why, here in South Africa, seek to beat the dead horse? Why compete for the chance to chomp what the First World has already thoroughly chewed? Don’t swallow it, I plead. Let’s push to build this relatively new nation on the spiritual platform.
As the phenomenal five-year-old bhakti-yogi, Prahlada Maharaja, stated in the Srimad-bhagavatam (7.5.30), the essential bhakti-yoga encyclopaedia:
Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons addicted to materialistic life do indeed make progress. But, to where? Their achievement is evermore complicated, unsolvable distresses—both individually and socially. Repeatedly, energetically, they chomp what previous generations have already chewed. Consequently their dormant inclinations toward nonmaterial lifestyles, leading to the all-attractive spiritual reality, to Krishna, are never aroused.
We need a solutions generation to grace the earth, a new wave striving to make a real difference by thoroughly comprehending that human problems are never truly solved on the same level that gave rise to them.
Real human progress kicks in when the mirage, the mass consensual trance, exhausts us. Weary of the matrix of illusion, we can no longer buy-in to what the usual material analyses promise us. When the constant stream of material attempts at solutions fatigues you, at that point mark it—your advancement in real human life has finally begun. Reject the feast of the same old stale, juiceless fibre of imaginary contentment.
In the prime yoga text Bhagavad-gita (4.36), Krishna assures:
You may have been the most deluded of hardcore materialists. You may have considered that nothing exists other than matter and its movements and modifications. Nevertheless, once you’re aboard the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will cross over the ocean of perpetual material bafflement and unrest.
Transcendental knowledge means information and education beyond what has a beginning and an end. That means it’s beyond the permutations and adaptations of physiology and psychology. What the Gita gives surpasses the limited, temporal domain of time and space.
Krishna goes on to declare that we’ll never find in this world any prosperity or acquisition as sublime and pure as nonmundane information, transcendental wisdom. By our seeking to understand who Krishna is through authenticated, nonmaterial processes, we walk away with what no GDP or financial market indices can measure. Our priceless treasure is irrevocably beyond the gains and losses, booms and busts, of temporary material existence.
Such knowledge is the mature fruit, the genuine culmination of all mysticism. The genuine yogi, accomplished in bhakti—the yoga of ultimate connection with Me—experiences and enjoys this knowledge within. – Bhagavad gita 4.38
Rather than our saluting a wanna-be civilisation insistent on partying itself to death, join with the wise who’ve had enough. Work to eradicate the material illusion—both individually and en masse. The timeless spiritual art, science, and culture that emanates from Krishna, the infinite Super consciousness, awaits us, the minute particles of consciousness.
One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun, and He is transcendental, beyond this material nature. – Bhagavad Gita 8.9
After focusing in this way, you can advance to the last stop in your quest for the most profound and comprehensive spiritual knowledge: awareness of Krishna as the Supreme Beloved and Enjoyer.