Paradox of Advancement

Until recently, most ancient settled societies across the globe were constituted of the four major social groups: priests, warriors, merchants and laborer [1]. These ancient societies were driven mainly by religious principles. And the economy of such societies majorly depended on agricultural output. But the modern advancement, characterized by technological and intellectual revolution, changed the nature of societies and increased the economic output, promising better living standards.

How did the modern advancement uplift the standards of living?

The industrial and intellectual revolution produced varieties of products and services in the fields of agriculture, transportation, communication, education, health, etc. The goal was to make the four aspects of life: eating, working, enjoying and sleeping relatively advanced and comfortable.

Did the modern advancement really uplift the standards of living?

The answer is No. Because:

1) We are working more than ever in order to fulfill the demand for advanced products and services of various categories. One may wonder, what’s wrong with overwork? Researches state that overwork has significantly contributed to the global issues like insomnia, heart diseases, stress, addiction, crimes etc. [2]

2) Once we get what we wanted, we want even better. The process of acquiring better is an unending process because the definition of “better” keeps changing. Thus at no point of time we can say that we have better living. For example, an average man might have wanted better sue, around 250 years ago. And an average man, around 150 years ago, might have wanted bicycle. 80 years ago, a bike. 30 years ago, a car. Now a cheap air travel. And when the air travel will become easily affordable, average man would want to travel in space. Struggling hard for better never ends, and every better thing comes with huge price.  

3) The more we innovate, the more complex problems we discover as every innovation has inherent shortcomings. To overcome those shortcomings more inventors, researchers, engineers, thinkers and labors have to work. For example, by the late 1800s, large cities all around the world were “drowning in horse manure” as thousands of horses were on the road transporting people and goods around the city on carts and drays [3]. Then came the invention of motor car, which replaced horse-drawn vehicles with motorized vehicles. But production of motorized vehicles demanded great deal of stressful labor in manufacturing of OEM, auto components, raw material factories, automobile dealers, service centers and other enabling sectors. Story doesn’t end there. The motorized vehicles has driven away the fear of horse manure piling on the street but has raised the fear of polluted air piling on the surface of earth.

4) Furthermore the current advanced civilization ensures that people are not happy. Because if people were happy with what they had, why would they want more? An anti-aging moisturizer industry can sell its product only by making us worry about aging. A smartphone company can make us buy a new smartphone only by making us feel like being left behind. A TV channel can make us watch its show only by making us worry about missing it. An automobile company can make us buy a new car only by promising a better status. An insurance company can run only if it makes us worry about everything.

Thus the advancement of modern civilization, based on industrial and technological revolution, has not advanced the living standard but dissatisfaction, stress, unrest, hard labor, mental and physical health issues etc.

What went wrong with the advancement?

The modern advancement of civilization has its origin in three big events of 18th century namely the illuminism, the industrial revolution and the French revolution. These events emphasized on liberalism, utilitarianism and scientific principles for living in present to maximize the satisfaction of body and mind not considering the ultimate goal of life. Thus the typical man of modern society spends his whole life following his instincts at times without considering the goal of the journey of life. Since there is always a conflict between instincts of individuals, families, communities, societies, states and nations, the world is put into unrestful situation.

What is the perfect advancement?

If men start considering the goal of life, which is common to all, then they will not just avoid the conflict with each other but live the progressive life of happiness & satisfaction at every stage of his life. What is that common goal? The common goal is to put the permanent end to the unavoidable miseries of life like diseases, old age, death and birth again by entering into the spiritual world. When the efforts of whole civilization is to understand and achieve this goal, for all its members, then it would characterize the perfect advancement.

Directing the modern advancement towards the perfection

All human beings have four inherent defects namely the tendency to commit mistakes, to be illusioned, to cheat and to have imperfect senses. So no human can reach the conclusion of knowledge pertaining to the real self, soul, by any number of experiments and observation. The knowledge pertaining to the self, world, ultimate and purpose of all can be obtained from Vedas, which are not contaminated by the four defects of human life. Based on the Vedic knowledge, the hints for perfecting the advancement can be found in the book titled Science of Self Realization by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as follows:

“According to Vedic civilization, the perfection of life is to realize one's relationship with Krishna, or God. In the Bhagavad-gita, which is accepted by all authorities in transcendental science as the basis of all Vedic knowledge, we understand that not only human beings but all living entities are parts and parcels of God. The parts are meant for serving the whole, just as the legs, hands, fingers, and ears are meant for serving the total body. We living entities, being parts and parcels of God, are duty-bound to serve Him.

Actually our position is that we are always rendering service to someone, either to our family, country, or society. If we have no one to serve, sometimes we keep a pet cat or dog and render service to it. All these factors prove that we are constitutionally meant to render service, yet in spite of serving to the best of our ability, we are not satisfied. Nor is the person to whom we are rendering that service satisfied. On the material platform, everyone is frustrated. The reason for this is that the service being rendered is not properly directed. For example, if we want to render service to a tree, we must water the root. If we pour water on the leaves, branches, and twigs, there is little benefit. If the Supreme Personality of Godhead is served, all other parts and parcels will be automatically satisfied. Consequently all welfare activities as well as service to society, family, and nation are realized by serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

The perfection of advancement can be achieved by directing all its amenities for incorporating the service to Krishna in four aspects of life: eating, working, enjoying and sleeping for all people. The practical guidelines for this are given in Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.