Newsletter by Krishna Kshetra Swami, Issue #10 – February 15th, 2020
Chapter 17 verse 3 of Bhagavad-gita goes as follows:
sraddha bhavati bharata
sraddha-mayo ‘yam puruso
yo yac-chraddha sa eva sah
“O son of Bharata, according to one’s existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.”
Srila Prabhupada’s purport elaborates on this subject of three modes of nature and how we all are carried by them, because all aspects of our lives are connected with the modes of nature and so also our faith. The word sraddha-mayo… maya here means “consisting of” or, as Srila Prabhupada translates it, “full of” or in other words, everyone is full of faith. What does it mean? It means that also the atheist is full of faith. The atheist’s faith is that there is no God. If everyone is full of faith—and we see all kinds of different sorts of faith—then what does that mean? What are some implications?
One of the implications is in relation to my subject, which is conspiracy theories. It is the faith or belief that some conspiracy is going on. I have been more or less aware of conspiracy theories since I was a child. Because at that time the big danger thought to be there for America was the Russians. “The Russians are coming!” So much fear was there that in school we had drills, we had practice for what to do if there would be an attack by the Russians. And Russians had it the other way around—they were fearful of the Americans. Then, when I was thirteen years old our president of America, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. And in America it was such a shocking event, that if you ask any one in America who was older than ten at that time, “Where were you when you heard that Kennedy was shot?”, everyone remembers exactly where they were or what they were doing. But my point is that sometime after that the conspiracy theories started. “How did that happen that this person was assassinated? Who was behind this? Who knows, maybe the government.” How many books have been written on this? Tons of books probably, whole libraries. Then, more recently, you all remember 9/11, the Twin Towers suddenly came crushing down and it became very suspicious, how it would be possible that these huge buildings came down so quickly into the ground. And some of us became quite convinced that this only could be by a conspiracy.
Recently I have become aware of the conspiracy that we all believe falsely that the earth planet is a globe, when we should be knowing that it is a disc, flat. Maybe you all can name other conspiracy theories. Yes, that people did not go to the moon, perhaps to Rahu, so there is a kind of conspiracy too. And the most recent, someone wrote to me that he was very concerned about chemtrails. What, you do not know about chemtrails? We are all getting showered with chemicals! So the talk goes. And there are many more such conspiracy theories.
A little bit on the word conspiracy from Wikipedia. According to the Oxford English dictionary it is “the theory that an event or phenomenon occurs as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties; specifically, a belief that some covert but influential agency (typically political in motivation and oppressive in intent) is responsible for an unexplained event.” The first usage of the word comes from 1909 or actually from some journal of 1870 and the word “conspiracy” derives from Latin prefix con which means “with” and spirare, “to breathe”. They further mention some examples of conspiracy theories: famous deaths, government activities, new technologies, terrorism and questions of alien life.
It seems that conspiracy theories are especially prominent starting from the 20th century, which then leads to the point that whereas conspiracy theories have in the past been promoted by fringe groups or fringe people, now because of mass media they become mainstream. One interesting example they give of conspiracy theories is—depending on how you look at it (whether it is a conspiracy in your eyes or not)—the idea of climate change. There is the idea of climate change and there is an idea of the denial of it. And the climate change deniers are saying that the idea of climate change is a conspiracy.
Where conspiracy theories are propagated nowadays? Right! Youtube, Facebook, any social media. Interesting is the way they all function, how easy it is to forward, to share something you have received. Isn’t it? You receive something and you think, “Wow, that is interesting! That is fun. Yes, I believe it. Or yes, it makes sense. Share!” And it is sent to all your friends, most of those on Facebook you do not even know. I have so many “friends” on Facebook whom I have never met personally.
What strikes me is how the conspiracy theories seem to thrive now and it seems to be very linked to technology. Media on one side and technology in general. And it seems to me that it has to do with our sense of helplessness in the face of technology—that there is the sense that technology is there and it is a kind of creeping thing. It is there more and more and it is a problem because it is a love-hate affair. We actually love these little gadgets (like mobile phones), and we hate them also. Because they can be exasperating. Especially when they suddenly don’t work.
It is interesting to think about technology relating to faith. Sraddhamayo…, the word sraddha is srad plus dha. Placing (dha) in the heart (srad). It is what keeps us getting up in the morning, doing what we do. Because we have faith. And then conspiracy theory is a sense that there is some great arrangement being made of illusion or untruth. And we do not know what it is, because it is hidden. We cannot control it. So, whatever we see that we cannot control—and it somehow affects us negatively—there must be somebody behind it. Somebody who is pulling the strings. There is that painting—I do not know if that was Jadurani or who painted it—it illustrates the three modes of nature, with everyone like puppets controlled by strings held by the demigods…
What do we remember based on where is our faith? And vice versa. How does our memory reinforce our faith? We have selective memory. We think we remember something because of a certain way of understanding reality. There have been some analyses by psychologists and political scientists, sociologists, and I think that this is all very interesting. I think about it and I also wonder because it looks like conspiracy theories have become particularly popular amongst devotees. Certainly, our skepticism seems to be very limited. We are skeptical about mass media but this skepticism kind of shuts off when it comes to some idea about whatever else there is. Isn’t it? Our skepticism towards mainstream culture is also there, but there seems to be a very strong tendency towards gullibility elsewhere.
Faith is the deeper level of belief. The Gita is talking about faith as a matter of orientation according to the modes of nature. It seems to be the orientation or disposition of the heart, which then permits for different sorts of belief. Like Prabhupada says, “Belief can change.” So, different faith for different types of people. People with different natures acquire different faith. But that faith is not what we usually refer to as faith in this or that. And I think also it does not mean a religious faith as such. It is something deeper than that. I do not want to beat this subject to death, but I thought conspiracy theories are interesting.
There are different types of conspiracy theories. According to one American author there are five kinds. The first one is the “Enemy Outside”. It refers to theories based on figures alleged to be scheming against a community from without. This type extended and continued in the late ‘60s when America got involved in the Vietnam war. There the paranoia was external, with the enemy outside, and the so called “domino theory” was promoted. This domino theory was: if Vietnam falls to the communists, what will come next? Then Cambodia, then Australia, then Japan, then Hawaii, then California… Then we will all be finished. The second type is the “Enemy Within”. It finds the conspirators lurking inside the nation, indistinguishable from ordinary citizens. This is what was going on when I was growing up in America in the 1950s. That decade was called the McCarthy’s era, because of one politician, Joseph McCarthy, who promoted the ‘red scare’, the idea that communism has infiltrated in America. He became very powerful, because of the paranoia people had. According to him communists were hiding behind the bushes in your back garden. The third type of conspiracy is the “Enemy Above”, which involves powerful people manipulating events for their own gain. This is all over the news about whether there is a scheming between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, whether there was manipulating so he could win the presidential election. The next one, the “Enemy Below” features the lower classes working to overturn the social order, which is of course Marx’s theory. Karl Marx anticipated (with hope), “The lower classes will all rise up and take over.” The last type is “Benevolent Conspiracies”, angelic forces that work behind the scenes to improve the world and help people. These are author Jesse Walker’s five kinds of conspiracy theories.
Of course, there are conspiracies that are proven to be true. The famous one from the Roman time is the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Our Hare Krishna movement is also sometimes seen as a conspiracy. People see us also as dangerous, and I can see a lot of reasons why people can perceive us as dangerous. Basically, we could be the cause of destruction of a huge sector of the economy… exactly: slaughterhouses. That is pretty dangerous. We might also end up destroying fur, leather, alcohol and tobacco industries.
Then there is the threefold conspiracy theory typology of Prof. Michael Barkun. First there are event conspiracy theories. This refers to limited and well-defined events, like the Kennedy assassination, 9/11 and the spread of AIDS. The second type is systemic conspiracy theories. This type is believed to have broad goals like controlling or undermining the security system of a country, a region or even the entire world. The goals are sweeping, whilst the conspiratorial machinery is simple. A single, evil organization implements a plan to infiltrate and subvert existing institutions. This is a common scenario in conspiracy theories that focus on the alleged machinations of Jews, Freemasons, Communism, or the Catholic Church. Barkun’s third type is super conspiracy theories. Such theories link multiple alleged conspiracies together hierarchically. At the summit is a distant but all-powerful evil force…
Could we put under super conspiracy theories our understanding of Maya? Perhaps we could. Because in the Bhagavatam it is said: vilajjamanaya yasya sthatum iksa-pate ‘muya (SB 2.5.13). Out of shyness or embarrassment Maya stands at a distance to Krishna. Why? Because she has a thankless task to give everyone the mentality of “I” and “mine”. So, there is indeed a super conspiracy and it actually happens to be Krishna’s conspiracy. Because it is all under the Lord’s control, daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya… Mama maya. Krishna says, “It is My maya.” So, the original conspirator is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and He has created a super conspiracy. We all are participating in Krishna’s super conspiracy, the main choreographer of which is Maya-devi.
Back to Wikipedia: “The word conspiracy derives from the Latin prefix con which means “with” and spirare, “to breathe”. To breathe together. What happens when we have sankirtan? Yes, we breathe together. When we chant in congregation one person sings and breathes and then we all sing which means we all are breathing out together. That is conspiracy. What then would be the best conspiracy theory? Yes, the Hare Krishna movement. Yes, that is what I am saying, we are the best conspiracy theory. That is the literal meaning of conspiracy. Con and spirare—to breathe together. We breathe Hare Krishna together when we have sankirtan.
—From a lecture by Krishna Kshetra Swami in London, Bushey, August 2nd, 2018
Mayapur, India: to 20-2-2020
Delhi, India: 21-2-2020 to 2-3-2020
Mumbai, India: 2-3-2020 to 17-3-2020
Ukraine: 17-3-2020 to 27-3-2020
Hungary: 28-3- 2020 to 1-4-2020*
Vienna, Austria: 1-4-2020 to 3-4-2020*
Slovenia: 3-4-2020 to 30-4-2020
*the dates for Hungary and Vienna might shift slightly