(Notes #5)
Safe and Easy Space Travel

One of the first books that I read by Srila Prabhupada was Easy Journey to Other Planets in 1972. At the time, UFO's were a big thing. Television programs like "My Favorite Martian" and "Star Trek" were all the rage. Everyone was talking about the latest sightings of flying saucers in their part of the country. As a youngster, my imagination ran wild. I used to wonder what it would be like to transfer myself to another planet or dimension. It seemed within the realm of possibility.

Over the years, humankind has made numerous attempts to reach the far galaxies and try to discover what lies beyond. According to Srila Prabhupada, this is quite natural. In his purport to the first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam, he states the following:

"It is natural that a philosophical mind wants to know about the origin of creation. At night he sees the stars in the sky, and he naturally speculates about their inhabitants. Such inquiries are natural for man because man has a developed consciousness which is higher than that of the animals." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1., Purport)

Are we the only living beings in the universe? This is a nagging question that never seems to go away. As of yet, we haven't reached a definitive conclusion; but even in the face of disasters such as yesterday's, we keep on trying. Perhaps we'll never know for certain in this lifetime (or for many generations) if we rely solely on the efforts of imperfect human beings. In the Vedic tradition, however, there is another way of receiving knowledge -- not through sense perception, but through the process of hearing from spiritual authority:

"There is a spiritual sky. There is another nature, which is beyond manifestation and nonmanifestation. But how will you know that there is a sky where the planets and inhabitants are eternal? All this knowledge is there, but how will you make experiments? It is not possible. Therefore you have to take the assistance of the Vedas. This is called Vedic knowledge." (Sri Isopanisad, Introduction)

Our material senses are imperfect, and so anything created by our senses -- including spacecraft -- will also be imperfect. Everything within the material atmosphere is conditional or dependent upon other material arrangements. If one piece or element should fail, then the entire whole will collapse. Nothing here is perfectly indestructible. In fact, the Vedas refer to this world as martyaloka, or the world of death.

Fuelled by this realization (at least in part), many young people during the sixties and seventies were seeking a permanent solution. The search for the fountain of youth was raging in full force. So I distinctly recall the joy in my heart when I first laid eyes on Prabhupada's small book, Easy Journey to Other Planets. There, on the front cover, was a mystic yogi immersed in trance, floating in a cornucopia of stars and planets. On the first page of the Preface, Srila Prabhupada writes:

"The latest desire man has developed is the desire to travel to other planets. This is also quite natural, because he has the constitutional right to go to any part of the material or spiritual skies. Such travel is very tempting and exciting because these skies are full of unlimited globes of varying qualities, and they are occupied by all types of living entities. The desire to travel there can be fulfilled by the process of yoga, which serves as a means by which one can transfer himself to whatever planet he likes -- possibly to planets where life is not only eternal and blissful, but where there are multiple varieties of enjoyable energies. Anyone who can attain the freedom of the spiritual planets need never return to this miserable land of birth, old age, disease and death." (Easy Journey to Other Planets, Preface)

When I read these words, I knew that I had found what I was looking for. Srila Prabhupada spoke with the gravity, surety and authority which I had been seeking for so long. Star Trek was fun, but it was only guesswork and imaginative. Science fiction abounded, but it was only that -- fiction. On the contrary, Prabhupada represented a chain of spiritual masters that went back thousands of years. Lord Krsna declared in the Bhagavad-gita, "I spoke this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan." Now who can rival that? Yet surprisingly, the Vedic system of interplanetary space travel does not require a flight on a dangerous man-made spaceship. Neither does one have to join an exclusive club or pay a large membership fee. Srila Prabhupada explains:

"One can attain this stage of perfection very easily by his individual effort. He can simply follow, in his own home, the prescribed method of bhakti-yoga. This method, under proper guidance, is simple and enjoyable. An attempt is made herein to give information to the people in general, and to philosophers and religionists in particular, as to how one can transfer oneself to other planets by this process of bhakti-yoga -- the highest of all yogic processes." (Easy Journey to Other Planets, Preface)

It's interesting to note that people are still seeking answers through space travel and science fiction. The Star Trek series continues (in one incarnation or another), and so will space flights in spite of the terrible tragedy of February 1, 2003. Man's thirst for information about other planets and life forms is unceasing. It's only when we discover the true source of knowledge that our imaginations will be satisfied. The Vedic literatures are replete with information and descriptions of other planets, both material and spiritual. Therefore it behooves us all to take advantage of such timeless wisdom and make a permanent solution to the problems of the material world. Srila Prabhupada spent his life trying to disseminate this ancient Vedic knowledge for the benefit of humankind. As an authorized representative of Srila Vyasadeva (the original author of the Vedas), Prabhupada's message is unadulterated and pure. His books are therefore a treasury of spiritual knowledge through which we can safely and easily satisfy our innermost longings for intergalactic space travel and timelessness.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
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