Last September, I got an email from Sprint telling me that if I wanted to, I could upgrade my current smartphone to an iPhone 4 for free. The iPhone 5 was hitting the shelves, and no one wanted to buy a 4 or 4S, so most providers had a large surplus of iPhones just sitting around. The offer seemed like a fair deal: I could stop using my ancient, crusty LG and switch over to a still-reliable piece of hardware, without paying for it. Of course, when I got to the Sprint store and started filling out the paperwork, there was the matter of the activation fee, shipping for the new phone to get to the store for pickup, and was I sure I didn’t want to shell out another $100 to get a 4S?
We live in a time, in a country where technology has so successfully permeated our lives, we don’t think twice about paying more for the smallest of upgrades. Two cameras in a device instead of one, increased graphics or processing speed, a smaller screen or a larger one, the price doesn’t matter. It’s very easy to fall into a trap of spending too much on things we don’t necessarily need, items that straddle the boundary line between luxury and essential function. We are easily confused, misled, because it’s how we are marketed to by technology’s advocates. A bigger screen is better for watching movies, but smaller screens are more portable. The latest, fastest, shiniest rendition of a thing is always more desirable than previous designs, even if there is no immediate, telling difference. This model says you have attitude, this model says you fit in, this model says you like to have fun.
In all of this confusion, it’s so easy to forget that technology doesn’t exist to make us look better or to win us social acceptance. All of these smartphones, computers and headsets are tools, to make our lives easier, to advance the progress of civilization. I’m not trying to impose limitations on what technology should or could do for us. Rather, I want to consider how these tools can further us in other ways. Can we use smartphone technology to help with global mapping projects, like Google Maps? Are there other ways to develop high-end computer products that are more environmentally friendly? Most importantly, how can we use existing technologies to further our spiritual practice?
On an everyday level, our world and the technology that’s a part of it gets in the way of our devotion to God. It is a distraction, a nuisance, something we should turn off and put away. But the fault is actually our own, not some inherent mischief of the device. Our usage of the modern world is what breeds the attachment, sets up the expectations, and causes so much frustration. We have so firmly told ourselves and others that phones and computers are harmful to devotion, but there are plenty of ways for ordinary human beings to utilize technology for spiritual benefit.
Radha Madhav Dham’s website provides numerous opportunities. Sign up to receive weekly translations of Shree Maharajji’s speeches, or read Diwakari Didi’s blog. You can shop our online store, make a donation, even perform the arti of Radha Krishn! Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat also has online resources to take advantage of, and there are many outlets on Facebook for various preachers, organizations and programs. Subscribe to Radha Madhav Dham’s YouTube channel or JKP’s channel, and you’ll find Maharajji’s speeches, lectures by various preachers, and videos of events going on all over the world.
But it all comes down to how you use it. The first thing I did on my new iPhone 4 was download the app for Radha Madhav Dham Radio, which comes in handy when you need a little kirtan to brighten your day. My background screen is my favorite picture of Radha Krishna. I’m a part of several Facebook groups and pages focused on devotional activities, and I still play video games, watch movies on Netflix, and read blogs. The resources, the tools for further devotion, are out there, if we just reach out and use them.