Why are we averse to authority?
It seems many of us do not like the government telling us how we should conduct our lives. The current lockdown has elicited vigorous opposition in certain corners of the media, and indeed on many streets around the world. The suggestions that a vaccine may become mandatory, if and when it is eventually developed, will no doubt create even bigger waves of resistance. Professor Ian Philip, a health expert at Sheffield University and government advisor, said, “The real challenge is that people don’t want to hear messages from government…”
I am sure that many of us can relate to the problem; the resistance we often have to being directed by others, especially authorities. I know I can. Recently I took delivery of a new mobile phone. Quite a complex affair, boasting a range of amazing new features. Being a typical male, with an inbuilt aversion to being told how to do anything, I tossed aside the instruction manual and set about figuring it all out for myself. Soon I had managed to connect to the internet, send off a couple of video mails, and record a short film of the clutter on my desk–but had not succeeded in setting up my speed dials, the first thing I had attempted. Needless to say, I ended up consulting the manual anyway.
Sadly, it is not only with phones that I have this problem. Never mind the government’s helpful advice, I struggle with even the supreme authority. As shocking as it may sound, I must confess to not always being a paragon of perfect virtue. Although I daily study my scriptures, I will admit that I don’t always do what they say. However, the inevitable result is the same as with my new phone. I end up frustrated. But one thing I have managed to learn over the years is that such frustration is actually a good thing, for me it is the Lord’s mercy, letting me realise that I am getting it wrong, ignoring his directions. In truth we have very little control over this world. We try our best, but at the end of the day there is a power beyond us all in control.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna tells us that this power is him. “This material energy is working under my control.” When we recognise and surrender to that divine power, things are so much easier, as the Lord goes on to explain. “One who takes shelter of me very easily crosses over the otherwise insurmountable material energy.” Understanding this, Martin Luther King said that when he faced a particularly difficult time he would “spend an extra hour on his knees in prayer”, rather than working longer and harder trying to solve the problems himself.
God has already given us so much help. After all, as the creator and controller of the world we could expect him to provide information about how it all works, just like the manufacturer of a phone or whatever. And he does. Scriptures are like divine instruction manuals. They are not meant to curb our creative freedom, but to show us how to get what we want, which means happiness. That is what Krishna wants for us also. By guiding us away from excessive indulgence and towards spiritual life he is not some kind of killjoy, aiming to make our lives miserable. In fact, by following him we find our misery subsiding and eventually disappearing. The result, described in Vedic terms, is eternity, pure self-knowledge and bliss–our real spiritual existence.
Surely if we pursue pleasure at any cost, oblivious to God’s guidance, we can never achieve enduring happiness. This is the road down which we are currently racing, chasing more and more material progress, but we need to stop and look where we are going. Martin Luther King summed it up nicely when he said, “The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
So as well as taking the government’s carefully considered advice meant for our physical well-being, let’s also ensure that we adhere to the Lord’s guidance, meant for our eternal spiritual welfare.