If you had one chance, a single unique opportunity, to present Krishna Consciousness to a Joint Session of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, the legislative branches of the most powerful government on the face of the Earth, what points would you stress?
Srila Prabhupada was once asked this very question. He was unequivocal in his response. “Yes. The main point is that ‘In God we trust.’” He was also quick to point out the difficulty with such a presentation. “What do you mean by God and what is trust? That you do not know. So you have to explain what is God and what is trust, thoroughly, from our books.”
For Srila Prabhupada, trust and God were inseparable concepts that have a tangible expression in the character of man and his civilization. “A man who trusts in God, he is the ideal man. He will never create any trouble…there is need of God and everyone must trust in God. This is the standard of civilization. God is there. Without God there cannot be anything existing.”
For others, who have no knowledge of God, trust is a difficult concept that is all too often marred by disillusion. In The Conversation, an online commentary which features two New York Times columnists talking between their columns, David Brooks and Dick Cavett discuss, “In What Can We Trust?”
Although their Conversation is inspired by some of the people and things which have recently undermined our national trust — Tiger Woods (role model athlete), John Edwards (former Vice Presidential candidate), Toyota (automaker), David Patterson (sitting Governor of New York), Wall Street bonuses (your money in their hands), and the housing market (my little money in their hands) — Cavett quickly questions his religious experience as a source of trust:
: David, your use of the word “trust” in our last conversation has haunted me through the week. It’s a square-sounding word. Like one of those boring topics for discussion around the fire at church camp. Your question: Have we lost trust with the “national project?” produces a galvanic skin response. You’ve got me thinking that “trust” may just be the word.
: I’d say that trust is about reciprocity. About establishing a pattern of communication and then cooperative volleys that get coated by emotional and moral commitment.
: David, I’m sure you agree that one searching for reasons to be pessimistic about our country’s various shortcomings needn’t long for Sherlock Holmes to find a few.
: Dick, there you’ve got me. My own trust in our political leaders is at a personal low. And I actually know and like these people. I just think they are trapped in a system that buries their good qualities and brings out the bad.
These are thoughtful and intelligent men, but their Conversation is nothing more than a lot of talk with few answers to the question, “In what can we trust?” As Srila Prabhupada points out, such confusion is the result of not knowing what is trust and what is God.
What is trust? Trust is natural. It’s a valuable commodity that people utilize everyday to better themselves and their society. In their Conversation, David Brooks mentions a 2005 study by the World Bank, Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century. Don’t let the title fool you, this study is not about dollars and cents, it’s about the value of trust in human interaction. The study makes the argument that the real wealth of a nation, up to 77% of all wealth in a society, lies in what its calls intangible capital, an asset largely comprised of the level of trust in a society and the quality of its formal and informal institutions. According to World Bank environmental economist Kirk Hamilton, “social institutions are most crucial.” Trust is the intangible building block of social institutions.
What is God? God is the creator of everything. Just as God creates man, his abilities, and natural resources for his benefit, He also creates the framework for social interaction, institutions that promote the growth of individuals and societies. God’s creation is the reason social institutions built on trust have the intrinsic value discussed in the World Bank study.
Trust and God have a natural correlation. In a 1974 conversation with members of the United Nations World Health Organization, Srila Prabhupada explained the social institution created by God which is described in Bhagavad-gita, varnasrama dharma.
“In the Vedic system, society has four natural groupings. The brahmanas, or thoughtful group, instruct and advise. The kshatriyas, or dynamic group, protect and organize. Then the vaishyas, or mercantile group, look after the land and cows and see to food production. And the shudras, or laboring group, assist the other groups.”
Varnasrama dharma is a system of cooperative social interaction that is both a natural expression of God’s will, and a practical way for individuals and societies to demonstrate trust in God.
As a society we have strayed from these basic understandings of God and Trust. Should there be any surprise, then, that those in whom we place our trust disappoint us, that disillusion has become the norm, and that such a valuable natural asset as trust has been depleted. Yet, all is not lost. Timeless and eternally relevant scriptures such as Bhagavad-gita teach that we need only to return to what is natural, our trusting relationship with God. In God We Trust.