Atmosphere. Ask any true sports fan. It’s the atmosphere that draws him hundreds of miles from the comfort of his armchair and satellite TV connection to watch his favourite team in action.
Such craving to ‘absorb the atmosphere’ of ‘match day’ forces him to part with his hard-earned cash. Even though he’ll get a better view of the action on TV – and save himself transport, food, accommodation, ticket costs and a whole lot of hassle – a true sports fan will treat his weekly trip to the stadium as a pilgrimage. He’ll spend every second of his time there ‘absorbing the atmosphere.’ And sometimes – increasingly these days – the atmosphere is not too pleasant. It’s not that there is a foul smell in the air – but others can make the surroundings hostile. Emotions are charged. And if the team plays badly the fans’ frustration is transformed into acts of destruction and violence. Yet still, a true fan remains undeterred. He continues his weekly pilgrimage to the match, for it temporarily relieves him of his worries and gives him short-lived enjoyment.
On the whole, viewing sports does not teach negative behaviour. But the entertainment industry in the form of TV and cinema has little positive to offer. Recent studies reveal that people spend an average of three hours per day watching TV. This is the time spent watching TV without doing anything else simultaneously. For example, watching TV while eating or reading is not counted as watching TV.
The negative consequences of TV have been known since early in the TV era. In 1972, just 26 years after TV broadcasting began in 1946, the US Surgeon General commented, “…televised violence, indeed, does have adverse effects on certain members of our society.”
More recently, on 26 July 2000, six major professional bodies in the US – the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association – issued a Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children stating that “the data point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behaviour.”
As for cinema, even economic recessions do not seem to deter people from spending their hard-earned money for a visit to the movies. The top ten box office hits between 1997 and 2004 raked in over $10.1 billion. Apart from the short-term entertainment, what long-term positive messages will all these viewers have learnt in exchange for their money? How many will have been inspired by these films to study harder, work more sincerely, avoid addictions and lead morally pure lives?
It’s not just TV and cinema, but discos, bars, restaurants and many other venues also rob people of their values and teach damaging habits. Still people expose themselves willingly to atmospheres which will ruin their lives – and pay for the privilege, too!
So, despite all the hazards and drawbacks, people are willing to risk life and limb, and to incur enormous expense for such temporary gains.
People worry about the effects of global warming, acid rain, air pollution and noise pollution, but cheerfully overlook the consequences of spiritual cooling and cultural pollution. In fact, ask someone to visit the mandir. Explain to them that entry is free and that the effects of the mandir atmosphere, in contrast to the stadium atmosphere, is 100% beneficial and long-term, and still you’ll meet resistance. A whole list of excuses are reeled off one after another to ward off your noble efforts: “I’ve so much homework”; “I’ve got a part-time job”; “I always have visitors at home”; (Well bring them with you.) “It’s not my cup of tea!” (Then what is?)
Increasingly these days, young and old alike are reluctant to come and absorb the atmosphere of the mandir.
As Hindus, this act of visiting the mandir for darshan is one of our obligations to God. Our shastras prescribe that we should attend the mandir daily. But if this is not possible, once a week will do for a start. Yet many only visit on a major festival days, others only once or twice a year and some can’t even remember the last time they saw a mandir – let alone entered it for darshan!
This sad situation is a reflection of the times and the influence of other cultures on the Hindu psyche. Are we that weak-minded that we let others rob us of our traditions? And are we not courageous enough to stand up for our own beliefs? If we cannot fulfil even our basic obligations, are we true Hindus, or just armchair Hindus. Now is the time to act – so arise and awake, for it’s not yet too late. The divine atmosphere of the mandir has to be experienced to be appreciated. Once you absorb the peace and divine atmosphere of the mandir and the positive influence it has in your day-to-day life, you’ll return for more, often. That is why Pramukh Swami Maharaj says:
A Mandir stabilizes the mind.
A Mandir gives ultimate peace.
A Mandir inspires nobler living.
A Mandir teaches mutual respect.
A Mandir preserves and protects culture and tradition.
A Mandir strengthens belief in our true identity.
A Mandir takes us to God.
Ask yourself, are you absorbing the right atmosphere?