What characterizes civilization is not the presence of comforts, but the purification of consciousness

Many people consider as civilized societies that have comforts such as cars, cellphones and computers. Societies without these are deemed primitive, backward and uncivilized.

Such equalization of comforts with civilization overlooks the reality that people having all such comforts are still capable of the barbarism normally associated with the uncivilized. In fact, the very technology that produced those comforts can be abused by tyrants to perpetrate perversities of the kind that would make even barbarians shudder. A chilling example is Nazi Germany with its state-of-the-art technology and its gas chambers – and the Holocaust.

Those whose consciousness is purified by spiritual practices don’t succumb to the selfishness that drives materialists to competitive hostility towards others.

Echoing the historical record, Gita wisdom underscores that material advancement is no guarantee of civilization. The Bhagavad-gita in its sixteenth chapter describes godless materialists who attain position, power and prosperity – all signs of material advancement. Yet the Gita (16.18) underscores that because their consciousness is defiled by dangerous passions such as arrogance, lust and anger, they act in envy and animosity towards others, thus imitating the ways of the uncivilized.

In contrast, the Gita (12.13) characterizes advanced devotees who have purified themselves of such base passions as benefactors of everyone. Such benevolence characterizes not just devotees but all serious spiritualists, as the Gita (05.25; 12.04) indicates. Those whose consciousness is purified by spiritual practices don’t succumb to the selfishness that drives materialists to competitive hostility towards others. Spiritualists see others not as their competitors but as their partners, for they perceive everyone as linked with the supreme spiritual reality and on the same journey towards that reality.

What makes people civilized is the purification of their consciousness – purification that is manifested in their conduct as service attitude, selflessness and spiritual focus of life. Those with such purified consciousness may be with or without modern comforts, but they are actually civilized.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 16 Text 18

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To shift our emotional center of gravity, we need gravity much more than emotionality
Krishna is not a jealous God; he is a zealous God
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  1. Wonderful explanation. Such an important message given out in such a lucid way. CCD Prabhu ki jai
    Hare Krsna

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    • One more barbaric act witnessed at the present times is the killing of Muslims in Serbenica in Bosnia by the Serbs. The Serbian forces well equipped with tanks and other sophisticated military gadgets broke loose on unprepared and unequipped common man living in Serbenica and thousands of innocent civilians were handed over to the Serb killing machine by Dutch peacekeepers. The perpetrators were hand in glove with UN Peace keeping forces and officials. This shows modern education, military advancement and peacekeeping forces and organizations which are considered to be benchmarks of the progressive civilization fail when the consciousness is polluted

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