The One-Eyed Modern Guru
It is television that we are talking about. Television has become an integral part of every modern house. It is thought by most modern people to be an indispensable necessity that offers them a much-needed break from the tension and boredom of modern, high stress life-style. Although a few whispers are often heard here and there about the detrimental affects of TV, they are generally drowned out by the overwhelming uproar of those wanting the enjoyment offered by television.
Television is not run by social workers interested in the welfare of the audience. TV is run by businessmen who are ready to do anything and everything to maximize their profits. Although people eagerly savor the various programs on television, little do they know the deadly effect it is having on their minds. Most TV programs show levels of opulence and enjoyment that are unattainable for common people. Such programs, coupled with the alluring advertisements of various luxury products that are periodically aired between all programs, ensures that the audience’s hearts become filled with uncontrollable and most often insatiable desires for wealth and pleasure. This inevitably results in people behaving like programmed robots working hard to try to earn money – by hook or by crook – to enjoy life the way it is portrayed on TV. TV doesn’t offer harmless, innocent entertainment; it determines the values and goals of people.
Television is becoming the guru of the modern man; it teaches him how to dress, how to walk, how to talk, how to eat. However, TV is a treacherous guru.
Consider the following facts and figures about the TV habit in America compiled by the Washington-based Realvision, a project of the global TV-turnoff network:
I. TV Undermines Family Life
Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other. -Ann Landers
- Amount of television that the average American watches per day: over 4 hours
- Time per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5 minutes
- Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked, would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers: 54
II. TV Harms Children and Hampers Education
I wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence. There’s a knob called “brightness,” but that doesn’t work. -Author Unknown
- Number of hours recommended by the American Pediatric Association for children two and under: 0
- Average daily time American children under age two will spend in front of a screen: 2 hours, 5 minutes
- Average time per week that the American child ages 2-17 spends watching television: 19 hours, 40 minutes
- Hours of TV watching per week shown to negatively affect academic achievement: 10 or more
- Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900
- Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1,023
III. TV Promotes Obesity
Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object. -Author Unknown
- Factor by which men who watch more than 21 hours of TV a week increase their risk of Type 2 diabetes: 2
- Economic cost of obesity in the United States in 2000: $117 billion
IV. TV Promotes Overconsumption
Television is simply automated day-dreaming. -Lee Lovinger
- Number of TV commercials viewed by American children a year: 40,000
- Age by which children can develop brand loyalty: 2
- Percentage of American children age six and under who have products based on characters from TV shows or movies: 97
V. TV Promotes Violence
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” -John Lennon
- Number of violent acts the average American child sees on TV by age 18: 200,000
- Number of murders witnessed by children on television by the age 18: 16,000
- Percentage of youth violence directly attributable to TV viewing: 10
- Percentage of Hollywood executives who believe there is a link between TV violence and real violence: 80
- Percentage of children polled who said they felt “upset” or “scared” by violence on television: 91
When the children are exposed to ghastly violence, it’s natural that some of these children go with guns to schools and shoot their teachers and co-students. Many intelligent Americans including eminent film stars, social activists and national leaders have joined hands in forming a “no TV” campaign group. They and their children have minimized TV viewing to the barest minimum necessary. Their concern is mostly material; excessive TV viewing inhibits creativity, creates lethargy and wastes time.
TV – The Culture-Killer
But from the point of India, which has the most glorious cultural and spiritual heritage in the world, the effects of TV are far more insidious.
The Vedic scriptures explain that we are spiritual beings, souls. It is our eternal birthright to rejoice in divine love with the all-attractive Supreme Person, Krishna. The philosophy and practice of the eternal love between the soul and the Supersoul is the greatest legacy of ancient India not only for India, but for the whole world.
Indians are meant to lead the world through the spiritual wisdom and culture. Srila Prabhupada would lament that Indians are sitting on jewels but are begging for broken glass. Instead of being victimized by the bombardment of Western culture though TV, Indians have the opportunity to find the treasure of divine love and happiness that lies dormant within their own heart and share it with the whole world. The original television meaning ‘vision from a distance’ was when Sanjaya observed from the court in Hastinapura the events on the battlefield of Kurukshetra and narrated them to Dhritarashtra. Thus the message of the Bhagavad Gita is India’s ancient TV program and it was this – and similar – program that Indians have been relishing for millennia.
What 700 years of Mogul rule could not accomplish, what 200 years of British rule could not do, television has done in just 30 years. Television has attacked and damaged severely the very foundation of Vedic culture. In the past, everyone in India would gather every evening as a family in a local temple or under a nearby banyan tree to sing bhajans, kirtans and hear the glorious stories of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna and the timeless message of the Bhagavad-gita — of the soul and its loving relationship with God. Their minds and hearts saturated with these divine vibrations, people would sleep happily, wake up enthusiastically and joyfully advance towards the ultimate goal of life — to return back to the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, nowadays instead of coming together to glorify God, people come together in front of the modern deity — TV. There they sit together united in a stupor of illusion, burning with passion and desire, dissatisfied and frustrated, imagining happiness in the vicarious, inane pleasures offered by the idiot box. The insipidity of the entertainment on TV is well-expressed by Frank Lloyd Wright, who dubbed TV as “chewing gum for the eyes.”
That’s why Fred Allen put the growing popularity of TV as “the triumph of machine over people.”
The Better-Than-TV Option
But we don’t have to live lifelong with second-hand pleasures.
That same ancient cultural and philosophical legacy has been made accessible to the whole world by Srila Prabhupada through the Krishna consciousness movement, ISKCON. ISKCON offers fulfilling and uplifting engagements like practical and powerful meditation techniques, joyful spiritual chanting and dancing programs, enlightening discourses and books that can strengthen and sharpen our intelligence and various services for making humanity happier and more harmonized with the Lord. When all these activities fill their lives, devotees have no struggle in giving up TV addiction. In fact, they don’t even miss TV; they feel that those who are giving up the sublime devotional pleasure for the inane TV pleasures are missing so much.
Maybe we should give the better-than-TV option a try?