08.19 – Material existence: Linear progress or cyclic process?
Most people are materialists today primarily because our mainstream culture makes us believe that life at the material level can be progressive, that we can make things better materially. This belief is so deeply ingrained in our culture that we hardly ever examine it, or even notice it consciously.
However, this belief is not reflected in the course of material nature. Everywhere in nature are demonstrations of not linear progress, but cyclic process. Within each generation, trees grow shed leaves in cycles. From one generation to another, life forms repeat the same cycles: creation, growth, maintenance, reproduction, destruction, again and again. Overhead, the planets move about in cycles. The phases of the moon are in cycles, as are the alteration of seasons. Our units of time, too, are cyclic. No wonder the Bhagavad-gita (8.19) underscores that such cyclic changes of repeated creation, maintenance and destruction are an inherent, invariable feature of material existence.
OF course, we humans have more free will than other species. So we can, if we so desire, militate against this cyclic nature. We can temporarily bend nature through human-made technology and temporarily coax history through selective rewriting to support our pet notion of linear progress.
But we just can’t change the cyclic nature of our own lives: we begin with childhood and end in the second childhood, old age, where we often become helpless like children. We can’t change the cyclic nature the repetition of birth and death.
Gita wisdom, therefore, urges us to use our free will to not bend material nature from cyclic to linear, but to transcend material nature by linear progress through spiritual advancement. When we use our intelligence and initiative to connect with Krishna, then and then alone do our hopes for linear progress attain result – eternal, ecstatic, ever-expanding result.