from Back to Godhead, September-October 1995
Yes, I’ve got one. Use it all the time. And I’ve been close to them for more than twenty years, since the days when we first computerized our typesetting. They save lots of work, and make the impossible possible.
But they’re dangerous, devilish machines, and we use them at our peril. I’m not talking about low-level radiation, or the computer’s role in weapons of mass destruction. What I have in mind is its role in mass distraction.
Here I am with a short human lifetime, and somehow, by good fortune, I’ve discovered it’s meant for spiritual realization. But for spiritual perfection one needs to focus tightly. One has to mold one’s life in such a way that one constantly remembers the Supreme, or Krishna.
In the present age, therefore, the Vedic sages have recommended we focus our minds on the Absolute, on Krishna, through the chanting of transcendental sound, as found in the Hare Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. As soon as we say “Krishna,” we’re at once in touch with Krishna, so meditation becomes very easy.
We can chant Hare Krishna, talk about Krishna, hear about Krishna, remember Krishna, serve Krishna. And in this way we can absorb ourselves in Krishna consciousness and attain the perfection of life.
But Maya says no—Maya, “the illusory energy,” the force whose job it is to distract us from what’s real and enchant us with what’s false, to draw us away from spirit and keep our eyes on matter.
“Here,” she says, “have a computer.” And a wonderful thing it is. You can calculate, simulate, innovate, communicate. The French were perhaps the first to discover you can even use it to fornicate. (When France got its homes all wired up with the Minitel, a little box that tells you train schedules, checks your bank account, and whatnot, the clever French soon found more colorful uses—they came up with “la messagerie rose,” a sort of online brothel.)
But even apart from la messagerie rose, the computer is an invitation to illusion. The Vedic sages say the main illusions we get hooked on are two: “I am the enjoyer” and “I am the controller.” And for being the controller, the computer is great. You give it instructions, commands. You figure out how to make it do things. You point and click.
And soon, as with the television, as with the car, you think you’ve got a computer, but in fact the computer has you.
Soon our minds are there, deep in silicon, preoccupied with chip speed, disk drives, memory, modems, operating systems, applications, upgrades, viruses, bugs. We meet with our friends and talk hardware, software.
And what happened to spiritual realization? What happened to Krishna? Forgotten. For hours at a time, days at a time, entire lifetimes …
Computers are great—like everything material, we can use them for Krishna. Then they have spiritual value. But as with everything material, we should use them with constant mindfulness of Krishna, or we’ll end up used by Maya. We need to stay focused undistractedly on Krishna, the ultimate goal of life. At the end of life, our computer won’t save us. Krishna will.