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I hope to offer some of the ideas of Vaishnava Vedanta which have particular application in revealing the bigger picture of life and the universe as well as many of the simple things of life.

Drugs, Abstinence through a higher taste

ThoughtsPosted by Akhandadhi das Mon, June 08, 2009 23:30:43

Thought for the Day

29th February 1996

Good Morning. John Major says he won’t intervene on her behalf during his trip to Thailand, but Sandra Gregory seems to have aroused a measure of public concern not usually reserved for someone caught smuggling Class A drugs.

We may applaud stiff treatment for those supplying deadly narcotics, yet baulk at the thought of a thirty year-old tourist put away for 25 years in a Bankhok gaol. Perhaps, the unease is that the real baddies have again escaped, and what we are witnessing is another young life destroyed by drugs - or, specifically, the drugs business.

Here in Britain, the war against drug abuse intensified with the campaign launched by the Government last week to provide young people clear information about the effects of various substances. Such an effort must be commended.

Mind you, government health warnings on cigarettes have made little difference to the seasoned smoker. Fears for the future do not seem to be a priority for the Me Now generation.

We are a fast-fix society. We expect instant relief from pain, depression, coughs and sneezes - all with the drop of a pill. Then, we turn to socially acceptable intoxicants to ease stress, relieve boredom and to help us really enjoy life.

What a wonderfully fertile environment in which a drugs culture can flourish - not just amongst lost soul teenagers with no vision of hope for their future, but also trendy executives and lonely housewives desperate to escape their mid-life doldrums.

There’s the old joke that it is easy to quit smoking - “I do it every week.” Hinduism’s scripture, the Bhagavad-gita echoes the sorry truth behind that witticism when it says “all living beings are essentially seekers of pleasure; and that it is, therefore, impossible to give up any activity we enjoy, unless we can replace it with a higher taste”.

So, there is no abstinence without a higher pleasure or purpose. We cannot exist in a vacuum. The issue facing a society stricken with substance abuse is more than how to feed the facts, it is how to cultivate a higher taste - an attraction for pleasures which nurture our well-being, rather than destroy us.

Despite the world dominance of hedonistic ideologies, there are still many Hindus who abstain from all types of intoxicants - including alcohol, tobacco - even caffeine. The motivation is not simply submission to doctrine.

It stems from a view of the body as a temple of God, and that the potential for spiritual enlightenment, which is the great gift of human life, may be missed if we cloud our consciousness with chemical stimulation.

Those who have discovered that spiritual experience say it offers the highest taste of all.

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.