|Ever wondered what it would be like to live in the next millennium.
Well, imagine a world in which Science and Religion are in harmony with each other, a world so technologically advanced that everything you could ever want is literally at your fingertips, a world in which you can communicate by mere thinking, a world which radiates peace, unity and happiness - and you'll have the world of Tilak and Shanti...
The fresh breeze of a beautiful spring day never felt any better. Lying on the warm, relaxing beach, Tilak wondered if life had been any better. Although it was a school day like any other, he was sure that the Teacher mode of his info-link, HAL, would make learning fun as it always was nowadays. Info-link devices were now carried by almost every man, woman and child on the planet. They provided instant communication to anyone on the planet as well as instant access to information.
He leaned back and thought about all the conveniences that were available to him to learn, to communicate, to satisfy his curiosity. "Technology," he thought, "sure has made life easier and more productive. All the information I need about anything that has happened or is happening in the world is readily available with a spoken command." Of course, he knew that even that would be improved in the coming years. Why speak? Why not just think? Even though man was only a century into the third millennium, he knew that 2101 CE would provide even more progress. That is why he eagerly awaited next year's release of the first thought-fax. His mind wandered off in contemplation.
Having gone through extremely rough terrain, even risking self-annihilation at one point, man had come to terms with himself. He had learned the art of balance. 'Samatvam' - equilibrium - was now the theme of life. In education, in commerce, in health, in research, in daily life, in everything in fact - people strived for equilibrium. Even Science and Religion, two formerly bitter enemies, lived in harmony.
Of course it hadn't always been like that. From creation, the world had always been in harmony, which was the natural way of things. Working according to their own natural order - according to their 'Dharma' as it is now called - the planets, the sun, the trees, the moon, the animals, the seasons, the elements and man himself worked in unison to create a picture-perfect world, a world full of stability.
Unfortunately, though, man rapidly became dissatisfied with the gifts of nature. Driven by selfish desires and a passion for change, man began to wipe out forests, kill animals for profit, waste resources and disturb the delicate balance of the environment. Even his views of himself began to change. Trenching himself in a 'Seeing-is-Believing' mentality, he began to trust only his senses, ignoring the vast intuitive universe around him. Science taught him to do so. Although nature often retaliated harshly, he raised his fist in defiance. "We shall overcome," he bickered arrogantly. Owing to the vast differences in mentality, a gaping rift developed between Science and Religion. Religion attempted to tame the outward frenzy of Science but to no avail.
The situation eventually got out of hand. It had to; it wasn't natural; it wasn't in consonance with 'Dharma'. Tired of treating human beings in a 'scientific manner', managing companies on a 'scientific basis', operating a government in a 'scientific fashion', and organising lives through a 'scientific approach', Science examined its own scaffolding and restructured itself with more 'organic' scaffolding. Using the universal and eternal principles of Religion, it began to untangle the mass of webs it had created of its own accord. It realised that the main objective in all of man's endeavours was not just living, but good living. And Dharma taught what was good.
Physicists no longer thought of man merely as a mass of whirling protons, electrons and other nuclear particles. Biologists no longer viewed man as a succession of biochemical transformations and physiological processes. Eventually, man realised himself to be much more than a mere carbon-based automaton. Science's black and white world slowly accommodated the wooly grey shades of man's intuitive and emotional world. It also began to realise that man's role in the world was not that of a callous bully, intimidating anything that came his way.
That was 50 years ago. And now? In its docility, Science is so much more fruitful and purposeful! Sure there have been new inventions and new technologies which were unthinkable a century ago. There were new means. But now, the ends are different. Tolstoy had once taken a stab at Science when he said, "Science is meaningless because it gives no answer to our question, the only one important for us: 'What shall we do and how shall we live?'" But now Science is asking exactly these questions. Heeding the words of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who had said in the 1990's that Science should supply the speed, and Religion the direction, man has wisely placed Dharma in the driver's seat.
Equipoised in the 'dharmik' utopia of the Age of Bliss, Tilak stared into the blue sky and fell into deep thought about the Machine Age one-and-a-half centuries ago. "It wasn't called the Machine Age because of the abundance of machines, nor was it called so because of man's dependence upon them," he mumbled in his own mind. "It was due to man's changed attitude because of them that wreaked havoc. Instead of looking upon machines merely as aids towards attainment of certain ideals, man was spiritually overwhelmed. Drowned in an electronic deluge, he began to emulate the characteristics of the machine itself. Turning away from being a warm, emotional being that he was, he became a cold, steely automaton-like robot. Imitating a machine's cold objectivity, many executives began to regard dealing with fellow workers objectively a virtue. Imitating a machine's impersonal responses, many people considered human-heartedness a weakness. Imitating the mechanical crushing of a careless hand that crosses a machine's way, magnates pulverised any human obstacles that dared to trespass their empires. Thank God we learned to turn a bit more inward to usher in this Age of Bliss. Who knows where the Machine Age would have led us?"
In addition to coming to terms with himself, man had also come to terms with nature. Tilak felt lucky to be able to sit on a clean, unpolluted beach, enjoying the serene, rhythmic sound of the waves. Tall trees, wild animals, running streams and clear skies abounded nowadays. He had studied about the old days - before people learned to protect the land and water; those were dark days when the forests died due to selfishness, animals were killed for profit and the natural balance of the environment was upset due to carelessness.
Tilak felt a chilling fright run through his spine at the mere thought of those times. "How could anyone be so selfish and not think of posterity?" he questioned. Of course, now was the Age of Dharma. That, he knew, was the natural way of things and thus has become the guiding principle in decisions. Nature is respected; it is milked, not killed. Education, ecology, economics and ethics are all of equal concern now. Material wealth is acquired only with the object of serving society. Things are much more balanced. It was good to be alive.
Watching the rays of the sun shine off the sand, he thought about how his Spiritual Astronomy classes on HAL had so beautifully elaborated on the power of the sun. It bestowed the warmth needed by every single living entity on this planet. It endowed light to allow us to see. It even provided the gravity needed to keep us from drifting off into space. Without it the brilliant world of colours we see around us would not have been possible. "It's no wonder our ancient Hindu ancestors worshipped the sun," he thought. Sure, even the scientists of the previous age had also worshipped it, albeit in a different manner. They worshipped it by asking, "What is it?" Thereby, they found its composition, its age, its properties and the source of its power - fusion. "It seems so much more rewarding," he thought, "that we have learned to ask an even more meaningful question. Nowadays, a new discovery about the universe makes us ask, 'What does it mean?' That is why we now view it as being much more than a billion kg Helium fusion reactor. Nowadays, we not only know about the sun, we appreciate it." Emphasis had shifted from information to awareness.
Learning about the vastness of the universe in this manner was more and more humbling. Each new discovery in Science kept reminding man about his minute place in it. Newton, probably the most famous scientist of all time, was forced to claim, "I know not now what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself in now and then, finding a smooth pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
Man had learned a lot about what makes everything tick, but the way they ticked was nothing short of amazing. Occupying a miniscule corner in a miniscule galaxy in a multi-billion light-year universe, man had long since bowed his head to the Creator. It certainly was not an accident. In the 1900's, even Emerson had to claim, "Nature is too thin a screen - the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere." Looking around with his eyes, his mind and his spiritual element - the soul - man reoriented himself towards peace. "Shanti - that's it! We are all striving for Shanti. That's the word our sages use now."
Just then a thought flashed in his mind, "Shanti! I wonder what Shanti is up to. I know he's been ill this last week and probably feels lonely trapped in between four walls." He turned over in the warm sand, ordered HAL into communicator mode and asked for Shanti. In a flash, Tilak's surroundings were filled with a holographic view of Shanti in his bedroom engrossed in listening to his favourite kirtans using his info-link. People had learned how to pass even periods of illness spiritually!
"Shanti!" yelled Tilak into HAL, forgetting for a moment that their 5,300 miles distance was no reason for yelling into an info-link. "How are you feeling? You must be feeling a bit lonely."
"Sure I am," replied Shanti in a deep, serene voice. "You know that all the info-links in the world cannot replace the living voice of a human. Anyway, I'll get over my illness soon. I've prayed as the doctor recommended. You know, if I were living 100 years ago, I would have been taking those dreaded things called 'pills'. What a waste!"
"It was a great discovery wasn't it? You can change your life simply by changing the attitude of your mind. It's a good thing we accepted it and radically improved life in one grand sweep. Sure people still become ill. But our remedy is ...."
"Tell me Shanti," Tilak interrupted out of enthusiasm, did you tune in to last week's International Youth Sabha on the Universal Net? It was awesome. Really! We saw rare 'videos' of the Suvarna Tula of Shastriji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. It was in 2-D; they didn't have 3-D projection systems then. But it was really emotional. The theme of the sabha was 'Then and Now'. There was also a fascinating lecture by Vignanswarup Swami. He talked on 'The Taming of Science'. Out of this world!"
"Go on," Shanti suggested to Tilak. "You have captured it on your personal records, haven't you?"
"Yup! Here it is." Tilak ordered his info-link to replay the lecture and instantly Shanti's info-link projected lifelike holograms of the sabha into his room, making him feel as if he were actually present there. The image focused itself in front of him and with a 3-D caption 'Then and Now - The Taming of Science' hanging in mid-air, the lecture commenced.