The following editorial was written in 2002, but the message is still relevant today.
Ever since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the world has been faced with unprecedented danger and uncertainty. Recent headlines suggest that the threat of terrorism has reached critical proportions. News of another possible attack in the U.S. has been circulating in the press and the rhetoric of war has dominated world politics for quite some time. Once again we are forced to contemplate our fragility and mortality in this material world. Anything can happen now and we know it.
For those of us old enough to remember, these recent events may conjure up memories of the Great Northeast Blackout in 1965. As a resident of Canada, I remember it well. Although quite young at the time, I distinctly recall the sense of fear and vulnerability that arose in my heart. I realized for the first time that our civilization wasn't as strong and secure as we had been led to believe.
"At 5:27 p.m., November 9, 1965, the entire Northeast area of the United States and large parts of Canada went dark. From Buffalo to the eastern border of New Hampshire and from New York City to Ontario, a massive power outage struck without warning. Trains were stuck between subway stops. People were trapped in elevators. Failed traffic signals stopped traffic dead. And, at the height of the Cold War, many thought Armageddon had arrived. One pilot flying over a darkened New York City stated, 'I thought it was another Pearl Harbor!' By 5:40 p.m. that evening, 80,000 square miles of the Northeast United States and Ontario, Canada, were without power, leaving 30 million people in the dark. New York City was particularly hit by this blackout, due to its reliance on electricity for nearly all aspects of city life."
(The Blackout History Project)
At the time, Srila Prabhupada was staying in New York at Dr. Mishra's yoga studio on Riverside Drive. He had recently arrived from Butler, Pennsylvania where he had been a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Agarwal for a month after arriving in the U.S. from India. Describing the blackout in a letter to Sally Agarwal, Srila Prabhupada wrote the following words:
"Yes there was all darkness in New York on the 10th instant and it was not a happy incident. I learn that many people remained in the elevators and in the subway trains for more than seven to eight hours in darkness. I do not read newspapers but there must have been some mishaps also which we do not know. That is the way of material civilisation too much depending on machine. At any time the whole thing may collapse and therefore we may not be self complacent depending so much on artificial life. The modern life of civilisation depends wholly on electricity and petrol and both of them are artificial for man."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, November 13, 1965)
More than forty years later, the world is even more dependent on electricity and petrol. The Internet (on which this website is being published) has become the preferred method of communication. We now have satellites orbiting the earth which allow us to communicate across the globe in seconds. Our methods of warfare are now laser-guided and accurate to the Nth degree. Yet are we any safer as a result?
Intelligence reports suggest that the Internet is now being used by terrorists and others of ill intent who communicate freely with each other. In fact, the World Wide Web itself may be attacked and brought down at a moment's notice. The very fabric and infrastructure of our society could unravel without warning. The situation is perilous. Therefore Srila Prabhupada continually warned us that there is danger at every step in this material world (padam padam yad vipadam), and he urged us to immediately take to Krishna consciousness for the solution to all problems:
"As long as we are in this material world, there must be calamities because this is the place of calamity. But even with calamities our business should be to develop our Krishna consciousness, so that after giving up this body we may go back home, back to Krishna."
(Teachings of Queen Kunti, Chapter 8)
Not only has Srila Prabhupada helped us to identify the source of our miseries in this temporary world (duhkhalayam asasvatam), but he has meticulously provided the means of relief in his voluminous books and instructions. Despite that we are now in the midst of troubled times in a perpetually troubled world, we are still very fortunate to have Srila Prabhupada as our eternal spiritual preceptor. Although he has physically departed from this world, Srila Prabhupada so mercifully continues to guide us. The only qualification is that we hear from him sincerely and faithfully.
"In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything which you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, November 22, 1974)
In whatever condition of life we may now find ourselves, it is to our eternal benefit to arrange our lives in such a way that we can follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions to the best of our ability. Although we can never fully repay him for the tremendous gift that he has given us all, at the very least we can be loyal to Srila Prabhupada and stick tightly to his lotus feet. After all, there is no safer place to be.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.