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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Suhotra Dasa Tapovanachari > Personalism

Transcendental Personalism


Suhotra Dasa Tapovanachari



About This Book



   My previous book, *Substance and Shadow*, focused a number of basic

problems of philosophy and dealt with them from the standpoint of Vedic

knowledge as I've learned it from my spiritual master, His Divine Grace

A.C.  Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  This book, *Transcendental

Personalism--Vedic Answers for the Human Situation*, focuses on just one

question that Western philosophy beginning with Socrates terms "a beautiful

risk".*  The question is: "What does it mean to be a person?"


     Now, why is it a risk to seek an answer to this question?  For one

thing, for someone to ask why he or she is a person is to admit that one

finds no meaning in life.  Dr.  Charles Tart, a distinguised professor of

psychology at the Davis Campus of the University of California, reports

that in the 1950s, psychotherapists began to see a new type of client: the

"successful malcontent."  This type of person is normally successful by

contemporary social standards, has a reasonable job, income, family life,

and enjoys acceptance and respect in the community.  All these rewards are

supposed to bring happiness in our society, and the successful malcontent

knows that by these standards, one ought to have no problems.  But

nevertheless he or she finds life to empty.  The successful malcontent goes

to a psychologist and asks, "Isn't there more to life than money, career,

consumer goods, social life?  Where is the *meaning?*"  Conventional therapy,

based on conventional theories about the nature of humans and personality, is

of little value to these people.  The central question of the deeper

meaning of life is largely untouched in psychology.


     *Transcendental Personalism* offers an unconventional answer to that

question, derived from such Vedic texts as this, *Visnu Purana* 1.12.69:


                        *hladini sandhini samvit

                       tvayy eka sarva-samsraye

                         hlada-tapa-kari misra

                         tvayi no guna-varjite*


     O Supreme Person Visnu, You are the reservoir of all

     transcendental qualities such as bliss, eternality and

     knowledge.  These qualities are one as your internal

     potency.  You are the soul of all souls.  The souls within

     the material world sometimes enjoy pleasure, sometimes

     suffer pain and sometimes experience a mixture of pain

     and pleasure.  This is due to their being touched by matter.

     However, because You are above the material qualities, such

     relativities are not found in You.


     To be a person means to be a soul.  Each soul numbers as one of unlimited

spiritual persons sheltered in Visnu or Krsna, who is the Supreme Person

because He is the reservoir of unlimited varieties of eternal, all-knowing

bliss.  Because we are tiny aspects of Krsna, we naturally seek a full

variety of personal experience.  Unfortunately, for we who have fallen into

the cycle of birth and death, the attempt to realize the full potential of

personality is blocked by our contact with matter.  Thus instead of bliss,

we experience pleasure and pain.  Instead of eternality, we experience old

age and death.  Instead of knowledge, we experience bafflement.  Even if we

win enviable material success, we remain discontented.  The Vaisnava

philosophy therefore directs us to stop trying to serve our own pleasure

and serve the pleasure of the Supreme Lord.  As we learn to satisfy Him,

the Lord lovingly lifts us up to our rightful transcendental position.


     Even at this stage of personalism, beyond the touch of matter, a risk

still remains.  To paraphrase a letter Srila Prabhupada wrote in 1972, it

is the nature of personhood to exhibit faults.  In the spiritual world,

faults are evident even in the divine affairs of love between Lord Krsna

and the *gopis* (cowherd maidens) of Vrndavana headed by Srimati Radharani.

Sometimes the *gopis* quarrel over Krsna's favor.  Sometimes in their hasty

preparations to meet Krsna, they smear *kumkum* and mascara in the wrong

places, and they put on their clothing in childlike disarray.  Srila

Prabhupada concluded that because devotees are persons, they will always

seem to lack something.  The difference is that *their lack is

transcendental* because their only program of self-fulfillment is service

to Krsna.  Krsna alone is the answer to their lack.  Yet as Krsna satisfies

their lack, they need Him even more.  And so they serve Him with greater

and greater loving intensity.  Krsna returns that love with greater and

greater mercy.  This exchange, known as *rasa*, grows sweeter and sweeter

without end.


     "But isn't this Krsna just a foolish village boy?"  So thought

powerful Indra, the king of the demigods in heaven and the controller of

rainfall.  He judged the residents of Vrndavana at fault for their

exclusive devotion to Krsna.  Once they even stopped a sacrificial offering

to Indra at Krsna's request.  And so, considering them offenders, Indra

tried to drown them all in a flood of torrential rain.  But Lord Krsna

lifted the Govardhana Mountain the way a village boy plucks a mushroom, and

held it aloft for seven days on the end of the little finger of His left

hand.  The mountain served as a gigantic umbrella for all of Krsna's

devotees.  Defeated by Krsna's little finger, Indra surrendered to the

Lord's lotus feet.


     Yes, the exclusive dedication to Krsna's service is certainly risky.

It may even attract the wrath of the demigods.  But that risk is beautiful

because it is for the all-beautiful Sri Krsna.  And that is the whole

point--to do whatever it takes to satisfy that charming youth of dark hue

whose intoxicating glance and tender smile melt the heart.  The *gopis*

risk their reputations as wives and mothers when, heeding the call of His

flute, they abandon their homes to join Him in the moonlit *kadamba* groves

of Vrndavana forest.  Arjuna risked his life for Him on the Kuruksetra

battlefield.  At the age of seventy, Srila Prabhupada risked his life for

Krsna by sailing to New York on the steamship *Jaladuta.* From Srila

Prabhupada, the members of the International Society for Krsna

Consciousness inherited the risky enterprise of expanding the message of

Krsna in a world sold out to materialism.


     Men who are ignorant cannot appreciate activities in Krsna

     consciousness, and therefore Lord Krsna advises us not to

     disturb them and simply waste valuable time. But the devotees

     of the Lord are more kind than the Lord because they understand

     the purpose of the Lord.  Consequently they undertake all kinds

     of risks, even to the point of approaching ignorant men to try

     to engage them in the acts of Krsna consciousness, which are

     absolutely necessary for the human being.


     This book is about *why* such risk-taking for the purpose of the

Supreme Person is not to be dismissed as foolishness or fanaticism.

*Transcendental Personalism* argues that our personal nature inveighs upon

us to rise up in love beyond our individual limits toward the limitless

Supreme Person and His parts and parcels, the souls that animate all living

entities great and small.  It is only love that can push one beyond his

personal limits without loss to his personhood.  All other attempts to

surpass personal limits end in impersonalism.


     I continue a theme that brought my previous book, *Substance and

Shadow*, to its close: that to the degree one attempts to serve one's own

self separately, he is in ignorance; and to the degree one serves Krsna,

the Soul of all souls, he is in knowledge.  Some readers complained

*Substance and Shadow* was "too philosophical."  I'm afraid they'll again

be disappointed with me for spending so much time with logic and

philosophy.  I apologize for not resonating rich emotions in a book about

personalism.  But emotion and devotion are so often greeted with cynicism:

yet another risk of personalism!  Thus I feel it necessary to approach the

subject with some care, dealing soberly with issues that make personalism a

difficult ground to hold in the modern world.


     *Substance and Shadow* had pages of notes at the end of each

chapter.  *Transcendental Personalism* is not annotated at all.  Nor have

I always supplied full referencing for the quotations of Srila Prabhupada

I give herein.  Many of my readers are members of the International Society

for Krsna Consciousness who have at their disposal the BBT Vedabase

computer program.  With this wonderful aid, all words I attribute to Srila

Prabhupada can be quickly verified.  For readers who are not members of

ISKCON and/or who don't have Vedabase, scrupulous attention on my part to

the details of reference would probably make for tedious reading.  Still,

it's my habit to cite chapter and verse from Prabhupada's sastric

translations. But I've paid less attention to nailing down quotations from

purports, lectures, interviews, morning walks, conversations, and letters.





*Jean Wahl, *The Philosopher's Way*, 1948, p. 231: "We may recall at

this point the words of Socrates when, having presented his proofs for

the immortality of the soul, he concludes by saying that they are like

some divine enchantments, that a question still remains, and that there

is a `beautiful risk' to run.  We thus have to ask ourselves whether we

shall remain wholly within ourselves or run the risk of transcending

ourselves and reaching toward other persons."                               



Introduction:  What is the Human Situation?



     It is said that history is philosophy learned from examples.  Among the

sacred Vedic scriptures of India, the Puranas are those that teach philosophy

by way of historical narratives.  Among the Puranas, the most

renowned is *Srimad-Bhagavatam*,

a work of 18,000 Sanskrit verses in twelve cantos.  The eleventh canto

contains a discussion about the human situation that took place many thousands

of years ago between a saintly king named Maharaja Nimi and nine perfected

mystics known as the Navayogendras.  Drumila, one of the nine sages,

gives a perspective on the human situation that I shall pursue in this book.


     Drumila describes the universe as a gigantic body made of earth, water,

fire, air and ethereal space.  This is the body of Narayana, the Supreme

Person, in whom all living beings are sheltered.  Lord Narayana generated the

great cosmos from His original spiritual form.  Because He enters the cosmos

and accepts it as His own physical body, the Lord is called Purusa.  Within

that universal body, He elaborately arranged the stars and planets in

divisions of *bhur*, *bhuvah* and *svar* (gross, subtle and celestial).  The

Lord's transcendental senses pervade all regions.  They are the source of the

cognitive and motor senses of creatures everywhere.  His limitless awareness

is the basis of their limited knowledge.  From His breath comes their bodily

strength, sensory power and life activities.  He moves the world by activating

the three modes in which material nature operates--goodness, passion and

ignorance.  In Him the whole universe is created, maintained and destroyed.


     Elsewhere in the same canto of the *Bhagavatam*, Lord Krsna tells Uddhava

that while it is natural for human beings to try to understand this vast

cosmic manifestation, it bewilders them.  In their bewilderment, they invent

many different programs for happiness.  Some say happiness is to be found in

religious piety.  Others seek it in wealth, fame, sense gratification,

morality or other esteemed ideals.  Krsna says that though they may bring about

temporary fruits, because all these efforts are based upon ignorance, future

unhappiness is their ultimate reward.  Even as human beings enjoy the fruits of

such endeavors, they lament at the same time.


     Throughout the ages, thoughtful people have come to admit that despite

our best efforts, there is something very wrong with life in the material



     ...for the world which seems

     To lie before us, like a land of dreams,

     So various, so beautiful, so new,

     Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

     Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain

     And we are here as on a darkling plain

     Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight

     Where ignorant armies clash by night.

          (from "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, 1822-1888)


     Situated as we are on this darkling plain of our brief moment of humanity,

what confuses and alarms us?  Inescapable death; differing religions;

contradictory theories of knowledge; questions of sin and virtue; human freedom

versus human nature; the needs of the individual versus the needs of society;

man's relationship to the planet; the population explosion; the world's future;

war and nationalism; the limitations of language; the influence of irrational

urges upon behavior; the unknown.


     And what's the point of all this?  Philosophers have long tried to answer

that question with theories of their own invention.  In the East, nondualists

argued the real point we need to understand is that there is only one self in

the universe--one all-inclusive "I." Other thinkers said our problems are

imposed upon us by supernatural powers.  Yet another viewpoint is that the

chain of actions (*karma*) we performed in previous lifetimes placed us

in the predicament we all find ourselves today.  There were also Eastern

philosophers who advocated materialism, arguing that the cause of our world is

matter alone.  But they were refuted by others who argued the cause cannot be

demonstrated by argument, imagination and words.


     All of these positions (mentioned in *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 1.17.19 and 20)

have had at different times their advocates in the Western world.  In ancient

Greece, the Eleatic philosophers (Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Zeno) were

impersonal monists who held the One Being to be true, and personality, motion

and change to be illusions.  In his *Iliad* and *Odyssey*, Homer portrayed

mankind as being subject to two kinds of supernatural intervention--*menos*: a

positive power, strength, insight or ability that descends on a man to lead

him to success; and *ate*: a negative infatuation or moral blindness that

descends on a man to lead him to disaster.  The basic elements of the *karma*

doctrine are evident in the writings of the two famous German philosophers

of the will, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.  Schopenhauer believed that what

other philosophers call spirit is "the will" by which beings manipulate

matter.  The will is the source of all life and the eternal principle of

organization and activity in the universe.  It also makes life miserable.

Nietzche thought will makes the world "a circular movement that has already

repeated itself infinitely often." "This life as you now live it and have

lived it," he wrote in *The Joyful Wisdom*, "you will have to live once more

and innumerable times more." During a period of some four decades up to about

1900, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Ernst Haeckel and Wilhelm Ostwald laid

down the modern ideology of scientific materialism, which includes

evolutionary biology; the notion that matter organizes itself spontaneously;

the *a priori* denial of the possibility of knowledge outside sensory

experience; the *a priori* denial of the personality of God, the immortality

of the soul and the freedom of the will; the definition of "good" as

pleasurable activity; and the reduction of reality to impersonal physical

energy.  But many scientists admit that David Hume was correct in pointing out

that science can never prove why anything happens.  All science can do is

observe that certain events follow other events; however, the precise

connection of "cause" to "effect" remains ever beyond human imagination,

arguments and words.


     Now, the Vedic position is that these and all speculative attempts to

analyze and explain the problem of the human situation must fail to solve that

problem.  *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 11.23.49 states that human intelligence is just

not up to the task.  It is blind (*andha-dhiyo manusyah*).  That blindness

takes the form of false objectivity: *eso 'ham anyo 'yam iti bhramena duranta-

pare tamasi bhramanti*--"because of their illusion of `this is I, but that is

someone else,' they wander in endless darkness."


     To analyze something, we must objectify it.  By "objectify", I mean to

identify a problem as *existing outside of my mind* as a *separate object of

study*--"this is I, that is something else."  But I cannot objectify the human

situation because *I am part of the problem of humanity.* Moreover, the

intellect--the very instrument with which I propose to study the human

situation--is itself humanity's problem, because human intellect is laden with

material desires.  Materialistic intelligence forces us to relate to

everything and everyone around us as objects.  In *The Fear of Freedom*,

psychologist Erich Fromm writes:


     the individual appears fully equipped with biologically given

     drives, which need to be satisfied. In order to satisfy them,

     the individual enters into relationships with other "objects".

     Other individuals thus are always a mean's to one's end, the

     satisfaction of strivings which in themselves originate in

     the individual before he enters into contact with others.


     Now, material objects cannot satisfy the spirit soul.  When the

materialistic intellect selects as an object of satisfaction something

that does not satisfy, the intellect just creates an "objective problem." *Thus

the problem of the human situation is just an illusory creation of the

intellect,* which is trying without success to satisfy desires--but due to

false ego, can't admit that the whole attempt to enjoy matter is useless.  And

so the intellect cheats us: "Your problem is *out there*.  But don't

worry, I'll help you solve it." There is a story of a village in Bengal

that was harrassed by an mysterious midnight burglar.  Security measures

were taken; not before too many nights a guard spied the thief sneaking

into the window of a house.  The alarm was raised and the whole village

assembled outside the house to catch the rascal.  "Catch the thief!

Catch the thief!" they cried.  But the clever thief rushed out of the

house frantically pointing to something behind the crowd.  "There he

goes!" he shouted.  "Catch him!  He's running away!" The villagers let

the real thief lead them on a chase after an imagined thief.  While they

wandered in darkness shouting "Catch the thief!", the thief gave them the

slip.  Mankind's obedience to "objective" intellectualism is the same as

the village's obedience to the thief.  In both cases, the "object" identified

as the culprit is an imaginary artifice constructed by the real culprit:

"this is I, the problem is something else."


     According to the Vedas, there can be no clear consciousness of our

situation without acknowledging the co-consciousness of the Supreme Soul and

the unlimited individual souls who expand from Him.  My intellect presupposes

"I" am the original subject, and everything around me is the object of my

satisfaction--matter.  But this is a selfish, unreal perspective.  The

absolute perspective is that I am a spiritual object of God's love.  And

like all other souls, I am meant to satisfy His desires.  Mantras 6 and 7 of

*Sri Isopanisad* state:


     He who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who

     sees all entities as His parts and parcels and who sees the

     Supreme Lord within everything, never hates anything nor any



     One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks,

     in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things.

     What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?


     Thus the Vedas reveal that our anxiety about our situation in this world

is grounded upon illusion.  The real basis of the existence of the world is

the inseparable, eternal tie of all beings to the Supreme Being.  To ignore

this fundamental fact is to suffer the pangs of material existence.  Brahma,

speaking in *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 3.9.6 and 9, makes this very clear.


     Oh my Lord, the people of the world are embarrassed by all

     material anxieties--they are always afraid.  They always

     try to protect wealth, body and friends, they are filled

     with lamentation and unlawful desires and paraphernalia,

     and they avariciously base their undertakings on the

     perishable conceptions of "my" and "mine."  As long as they

     do not take shelter of Your safe lotus feet, they are

     full of such anxieties.


     Oh my Lord, the material miseries are without factual

     existence for the soul.  Yet as long as the conditioned

     soul sees the body meant for sense enjoyment, he cannot

     get out of the entanglement of material miseries, being

     influenced by Your external energy.


     In this spirit, *Transcendental Personalism--Vedic Answers to the Human

Situation*, examines the problem of human existence.  The solution is to

participate with the Lord and all living beings in transcendental personalism,

which is the real state of everyone's existence.  Yes, you and I are meant to

satisfy desires--*the personal desires of Krsna.*  Then only can you and I be

satisfied.  As long as we fail to satisfy desires by the transcendental method,

our uncontrolled senses and minds will entrap us in a cocoon of individual



     The foolish embodied living entity, inept at controlling his

     senses and mind, is forced to act according to the influence

     of the modes of material nature, against his desires. He is

     like a silkworm that uses its own saliva to create a cocoon

     and then becomes trapped in it, with no possibility of getting

     out. The living entity traps himself in a network of his own

     fruitive activities and then can find no way to release himself.

     Thus he is always bewildered, and repeatedly he dies.

                                                   (*Bhag.* 6.1.52)


     With this wonderful example of the cocoon, the *Bhagavatam* gives a most

picturesque clarification of the modern philosophical concept known as the

"matrix of experience", explained at length in the first chapter of this book.

Trapped in a cocoon of subjective cognizance, the living entity experiences

"fatness, thinness, physical and mental distress, thirst, hunger, fear,

quarrel, desire, old age, sleep, attachment, anger, lamentation, illusion and

bodily identity," none of which, according to *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 5.10.10, have

anything to with the real person, the soul.  Lord Krsna therefore tells

Uddhava, *samsrtir na tu vastavi*, "material existence has no substance."

(*Bhag.* 11.11.2)


     How, in my little cocoon of illusion, shall I determine what is

objectively true?  We are usually advised to practice "intellectual honesty",

which means we ought to take the trouble to separate facts from fiction, then

analyze these facts with great care from all points of view, and finally

synthesize them into knowledge.  But as a philosopher of recent times,

Theodor Adorno, observed:


     ...the demand for intellectual honesty is itself dishonest...

     knowledge comes to us through a network of prejudices, opinions,

     innovations, self-corrections, presumptions and exaggerations...


     Another modern philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, remarked:


     Philosophy is inseparable from scepticism, which follows it

     like a shadow that it chases away by refuting it, only to

     find it once again under its feet.


     Within the cocoon of mundane experience, there are no final proofs

nor disproofs. Anything we hold to be "true" is always open to

doubt--and we have only three ways to respond.  None of these responses

clear our proposition of doubt (this, by the way, is a formulation of logic

called Agrippa's Trilemma).


     Let us suppose you and I are having a debate.  You propose as a truth

that "Individuals should be free to express their opinions." I reply, "That's

just your opinion." You can 1) refuse to respond; 2) stand by what you said:

"No, it's *true*,"; or 3) come up with a new proposition to defend your

position.  If you take the first course, your silence means you agree with me.

If you take the second course, my natural response--"How do you know?"--will

force you to resort to 1) or 3).  If you take the third course, you embark on

an infinite regress: you have to back up your first proposition ("freedom to

express opinions") with a second one, for example "the sanctity of the

individual." But again I can reply: "That's just your opinion." Once more you

have three options of response.  If you press your point (option 2 and then

3), you must put forward yet another proposition, now "the equality of

individuals." There is no end to this--we are moving round a logical loop.

After all, by your own philosophy I have the right to put forward my opinion

that each proposition you put forward is just your opinion--because *that is my

thought as an individual, and you should allow me to express it.*


     You can attempt to break out of the loop by citing supportive evidence:

"experience shows us it is true," "it is reasonable," "Erich Fromm said `human

existence and freedom are inseparable'", or even "Srila Prabhupada says `If we

respect Krsna, we respect everyone, even an ant.'" To each of these replies

I can reply that it is just your opinion that this evidence makes true the

claim "Individuals should be free to express their thoughts."  Again you are

faced with three options.


     From the Vedic point of view, experience (*pratyaksa*), reason

(*anumana*) and the testimony of a mundane authority like Erich Fromm, are not

self-evident proof (*svatah-pramana*).  So there is no way to establish

certain truth from these.  Now, suppose we agree that Srila Prabhupada's

words are unquestionable.  Still I may raise a doubt about what is termed the

*evidential connection*: "I accept Srila Prabhupada's statement, `If we

respect Krsna, we respect everyone, even an ant,' but I question how you are

trying to connect it, as evidence, to your proposition, `Individuals should be

free to express their thoughts.'" Again you are faced with three options.


     As long as the discussion is about what you or I propose to understand

within the darkness of our material cocoons, there is no end to argument, even

if we cite unimpeachable authorities.  That is because the statements of

unimpeachable authorities are not about mundane understanding. 


     There is a well-known story of five blind men who were told by a

man with sight, "Before you stands an elephant--tell me what kind of

creature it is." The five touched different parts of the elephant's body

and soon broke into a hot argument as to what an elephant actually is--"a

tree" (so said the blind man who felt a leg), "a big snake" (so said the

blind man who felt the trunk), and so on.  On the authority of the man with

sight, the five accepted the mysterious entity to be "an elephant"; but due

to their persistent blindness, they still could not understand the elephant

in truth.


    Srila Prabhupada is offering spiritual vision to eyes darkened by

materialism.  But if we quote his words blindly, just to support opinions

we've formed within our cocoons of mundane experience, we are like blind

men who argue "an elephant is a tree" or "an elephant is a snake."  The

unimpeachable authority of Vedic teachings is not meant to perpetuate the

blindness of our human situation, but to situate us in transcendence.  The

challenge is to rectify the human intelligence, which persistently

objectifies our blindness, fooling us into believing that the darkness of

our shadow-existence is reality.  That is why we think we have no other

method of knowledge apart from wandering in the darkness, experimenting,

speculating, and debating about what is real and what is not.


    A human being is not really intelligent until he comes out of the

darkness of material experience into the light of transcendental

personalism: co-consciousness with the omniscient Supreme Personality of

Godhead.  In this, there is a beautiful risk.  We are faced with a choice

between two identities--that whom we think we are, and that whom Krsna

knows each of us to be.  As long as we choose to be who we think we are, we

perpetuate the blindness of the human situation.  How can we become

convinced to choose the identity Lord Krsna sees for each of us?  Read on.




Chapter One:  On Being a Person in Time


     In this chapter, three premises are developed.


     1) Being (identity, or self) is irreducibly personal: *in

        substance, I am a person.*


     2) Decision-making (choosing beween truth and error) is essential

        to my person.


     3) That feature of myself designated "human being," a creature in

        time, is *the shadow of personality, made of material energy.*


     We decide things by entertaining, in consciousness, one

opportunity or possibility as "correct," "better," "hopeful," and

another as not.  Sentient beings thus plot their movement through life.

Now, material elements move, as clouds do through the sky.  But clouds do

not *decide* a particular direction to be "correct," "better," or "hopeful"

and another not.  What can it mean for a cloud to make a wrong move?  Even

if in the previous sentence we replace the word "cloud" with "computer", the

question remains unanswered at least from the computer's point of view,

since the computer has no point of view.


     To restate the argument, a person is aware of a menu of possible

movements, and has the willful independence to choose from that menu a

move he intuits to be best under the circumstances.  Though it moves, a

cloud lacks awareness, independence and intuition.  True, a computer does a

better job than a cloud of *appearing* to be aware--as seen in May 1997 in

New York, where IBM's Deep Blue 2 computer defeated grandmaster Gary

Kasparov in a chess competition.  (Actually it was only a technical defeat,

as Kasparov won the first game  and quit the match in the second.)  As

*New Scientist* (p. 28) noted a  month later, Deep Blue


     cannot tell chess sense from nonsense, and it is blind

     to what a chess position or chess game is all about. ...

     Forget artificial intelligence.  Deep Blue is a product

     of human intelligence to modern computing technologies.


     Thus a computer has no point of view on questions of right and wrong.

Whatever choices it seems capable of making are actually pre-deliberated by

a conscious programmer.  With superhuman speed a computer blindly follows

the schemata of those deliberations when so commanded by a conscious user.

The user inputs choices that the computer mechanically processes to logical

conclusions.  But only the user sees those conclusions to be "correct",

"better", "hopeful" or "wrong"; the machine, seeing nothing, makes no



     The programmer-computer-user triad provides an analogy useful to our

understanding of the Supersoul-body-soul triad presented in the Vedic

scriptures.  Computer hardware and software work according to a complex

architecture of rules designed by programmers who intend the computer to

perform certain tasks.  One is the task of self-regulation.  Thus BIOS,

clock, screen saver and power consumption programs are designed.  Another

task is the processing of commands and data inputted by the user.  Thus

processor hardware and algorithmic software are designed.  Another task is

the outputting of processed data.  Thus a visual display and a line-printer

are designed.  Similarly, the Supersoul designs systems of bodily self-

regulation like breathing, blood circulation, immunity, digestion,

autonomic nervous activity and so on.  And the body, like a computer, is

programmed to respond to many different commands inputted by its operator,

the soul.  For example, it is estimated that in an eighty-year lifespan,

the human brain processes some 10 terabytes of data, enough to fill

7,000,000,000,000,000 floppies.  The rule here is the same as with

computers: "garbage in, garbage out"--if the operator makes a bad choice of

commands, he'll get a bad result back.  In *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 5.1.13-17,

we learn that the Supersoul programs physical bodies for birth and death,

activity, lamentation, illusion, fear of the future, happiness and

distress, while like computer operators, the individual souls are permitted

to use these bodies as per Vedic injunctions (much like a computer user is

guided by manuals authorized by the hardware and software programmers).  If

an operator does not control his body according to those injunctions, he

violates the laws of nature and is subject to pain.


     Because modern culture is ignorance of the Vedic injunctions, humanity

finds itself under punishment of fear of the future.  The business of

making life choices today is fraught with worry--shall I stay in school or

quit to take a job?  Shall I meekly obey my boss or stand up for my rights?

Shall I make up or break up with Peggy Sue?  Most of us hope for the day we

can leave behind the stress of decision-making and reach an inner state of

peaceful repose.  To that end, some thinkers suggest there must be an

"essential self" beyond the personal self.  In the essential self there are

no choices.  By realizing we are not persons, we free ourselves from the

stress of decision-making.  As an author of a book of modern notions of

personality argues: essence there is no sense of a personal self.  There is

     nobody doing, or having, or being guided.  Attention is

     stationed in an at-one connection with the environment and

     with other people; and in that state of mind, we act

     naturally and accurately without being aware of personal

     thoughts or feelings.


     This is one form of a widespread philosophy known as impersonalism or

neutral monism.  It depicts the highest consciousness as neutrality, with no

choice to be made even in the midst of activity.  At the peak state of mind,

all functions are automatic, like a computer.  But the impersonalist is not

neutral about his doctrine.  For him, impersonalism is right, and other

points of view are wrong.  That he chooses a particular philosophy shows he

is a person, not an impersonal neutrality.  Now, what of the state of mind

described above, in which a person functions "at-one" with everything around



     The impersonalist says this is attained by silencing the mind's mundane chatter

until only a hollow of empty awareness remains at the center of perception

and action.  The personalist replies that this hollow will sooner or later

be filled again with chatter unless we choose  to serve the

personal will of the divine, and thus be chosen to receive loving direction.

This mutual, personal choice shared between an individual and God, in which

there is no room for mental static because the mind is fully

focused upon nectarean exchanges of love with the Lord, is called *lila*

(transcendental pastime).


The self and the waves of time


     A person's moment of decision is always *now*.  The decision I

make in the present is influenced by my previous experience of life.

And that decision is aimed at what I hope will be a better future.  But

my core person, the *decisive* self, exists in a continual present,

bobbed ceaselessly by the *kala-strotra*, the waves of time that ripple

through the mind.  My memories of the past, and my hopes and fears for

the world to come, flicker upon these waves like sparkles of light upon

the surface of a lake.


     The timeless, immediate presence of my own person is not

verifiable by sense perception, as I might verify the existence of a

material object.  Nor is it implied by my logical speculation.

Whatever I perceive and think comes and goes.  My presence simply *is.*

My experience of perceptions and thoughts is a time-defined context

into which I, the elusive person, am "poured."  Only in that context do

I see and think myself strengthened, reduced, transformed, distorted

and disciplined by time.  This context we call our "humanity."


Limited free will


     While the human context is not the person, it is his *mode of

self-representation.*  A person represents himself to himself and to

others by his perceptions, attractions, repulsions, emotions, thoughts,

memories, beliefs, talks, actions and relationships.  But his mode of

self-representation is *not* himself.  Again, it is a shadow of the

person, formed out of the stuff of biology, psychology and society.  Thus

a person does not always prefer to take part in his own mode of self-

representation.  Often he is dissatisfied, shamed or even angered by

what he represents.  Still, for better or for worse, that is his self-

image.  This reveals a most important truth about our person and our

power of choice: we are limited.  We do not have the free will to be

all that we might want to be.


     It may be asked if we have any freedom at all.  Are actions that seem

to be the product of our own wills already fated to happen?  If

so, then where is our power of choice?  Many people find life to be

totally out of their control.  But that in itself speaks for free will.

How could a man feel as an obstacle the destiny that hangs over him if

he did not also feel in himself free will?  That bit of free will that

appears as his dissatisfaction indicates that as much as he might pour

himself into his time-defined self-image, he is never emptied by that

pouring.  He never wholly *becomes* what his actions represent, as good

or as bad as they might be.  This fact is apparent in the statement, "I

was not myself when I did that."  Detachment begins with this



     Willpower is essential to a person, but like other powers, we may

strengthen or weaken it within limits.  By culturing detachment, a

person strengthens his will and gains more control over his life.  By

culturing attachment, a person weakens his will and loses control.  But

under no circumstances can free will be either extinguished or all-



The matrix, or field of activities


     Some recent philosophers describe the human being as a *matrix.*  The

dictionary defines a matrix as a mold or a shell in which something, in

this case the "poured" person, is cast or shaped.  Modern psychology

defines a matrix as a lifelong pattern of physical, emotional and

symbolic (i.e. mental) experiences.  *Bhagavad-gita* calls that pattern

the *ksetra*, a person's "field" of physical, emotional and mental



     We might compare the *ksetra* to a *field of force*, a notion

found in the physical sciences.  For example, surrounding any flow of

electric current is a field of magnetic force.  That field, a pattern

of attraction and repulsion, interacts with the same current pouring

through it to alter its trajectory.  When that interaction is

intelligently controlled--by trapping the current and making it

repeatedly change its direction of motion--this gives rise to agents

called broadcast signals that inform us and change our lives.

Similarly, the matrix that surrounds the current of consciousness and

interacts with it is a field of powerful *agents of experience.*  An

agent is a force that informs us and causes change.  Experience is the

first-person proof of consciousness that manifests as an awareness of what

is happening in the inner and outer world.  An agent of experience bends

and shapes that awareness by attraction and repulsion, informing us of

our physical, emotional and mental conditions and functions.


     There is another interesting parallel between the *ksetra* and the

model of a force field.  Science tells us that electricity and

magnetism are two aspects of one electromagnetic reality.  Similarly,

consciousness and the agents of its experience are two aspects of one

divine reality, Brahman.  Consciousness is spirit.  The agents are

matter in two categories of elements--*sthula* (the gross elements of

earth, water, fire, air and ether) and *suksma* (the subtle elements of

mind, intelligence and false ego).  Above the Brahman of matter and

spirit is the Parabrahman (Supersoul or Supreme Person), the "electrician"

who controls both.


The agents of experience


     First among the agents of experience is the false ego, the force

that holds the soul fast within the material field.  Then there is the mind,

which "screens" experience.  This screening may be understood in two

ways.  One is like that of a cinema screen, upon which unreal

but enthralling imagery appears.  Another is like that of a

filtering screen.  The mind gives its attention to some images,

considering them to be desirable or dangerous, but screens out other

images as unimportant.  This filtering function is also known as the

intelligence, for it is by intelligence that we distinguish between the

important and unimportant.  For example, the sense data that registers

the form of an attractive woman upon the screen of a man's mind will

inevitably contain incongruent imagery: an unsightly wart here, an

unpleasant smell there, and so on.  But when the intelligence dedicates

itself to enjoy this female form, it filters that incongruent

imagery out.  Behind this "editing function" is the choice of the

conscious self.


     The *Bhagavad-gita* lists additional agents of experience:

the life symptoms, the perceptive and active senses, sense

objects, convictions, desire, hatred, happiness and distress.

Because each agent has power to attract and repel consciousness, each

induces a person to make choices.  The power of the agents to affect

us, to force us to choose, is derived from time.


     The agents configure our human experience according to laws of

nature.  Indeed, the matrix of experience is configured and

reconfigured lifetime after lifetime, not only as human experience, but

as the experience of 8,400,000 species.  This constant reconfiguration

is known as the change of bodies, or reincarnation.  The process is

summed up by the phrase *prakrteh kriyamanani* (from *Bhagavad-gita*

3.27).  As translated by Srila Prabhupada in one of his commentaries,

*prakrteh kriyamanani* means "according to the laws of material nature

one is controlled by the demigods."


The wheel of fortune


     The demigods, like us, are persons.  But they wield vast power and

influence within the universe.  Though the demigods stand largely

outside our matrix, they are functionally represented within it by the

material agents of our experience.  Precisely how the demigods interact

with us through these agents is determined by a schedule of natural

law.  This schedule men call destiny or fortune.  Since ancient times,

civilized peoples have tried to discern the schedule of their destiny in

the astrological signs rotated through the heavens by the *kala-cakra*,

the wheel of time.


     By what natural law do the demigods schedule our fortune?  By the

law of the three modes (*tri-guna*) of work (*karma*).  Every day of

our life, the stimuli to work prevails upon us to choose what to

do next.  Stimuli of all kinds--sensations, ideas, emotional moods,

spatial locations and the kind of work we do--are produced from three

modes of nature: goodness (*sattva-guna*), passion (*rajo-guna*) and

ignorance (*tamo-guna*).  For example, work that is regulated by

religious scripture and performed with a tranquil mind, without

attachment, and not motivated by material results, is in the mode of

goodness.  Work that is performed with great effort by one seeking to

gratify desires under the influence of the false ego is in the mode of

passion.  Work that is performed in illusion, that disregards

scriptural injunction, that is unheedful of sinful reactions, that is

violent and distressful, is in the mode of ignorance.


     Work in the superior mode (*sattva-guna*) gives rise to good

fortune, work in the middle mode (*rajo-guna*) to mixed fortune, and

work in the lower mode (*tamo-guna*) to misfortune.  The destiny that

befalls us now is nothing but the result of our deeds committed in a

prior state of existence.  There is no such thing as chance.  What seems

accidental to us is actually justice, meted out by the demigods in

accordance with the law of *karma.*


     The modes of *karma* fluctuate in time and space.  A deed that

is good at one time, place and circumstance may be bad at another.

A very simple analogy is that of the rules of the road in

different countries: in England, it is "good" to drive on the left

side of the road, but just across the channel, it is "bad."

Whether what we do at any moment is good or bad is determined by the

modes, not by our private notions of right and wrong.  It is impossible

for a human being to accurately judge from moment to moment how these

modes are changing.  But the demigods know, and they implacably reward

or punish us accordingly.  Thus *karma* inevitably yields good, mixed

and bad fortune, no matter how sincerely by our own estimation we may

try to do only good.


     To summarize, a person is an eternal being with limited freedom of

choice.  His awareness of what choices lie before him is shaped by

time-bound material phenomena, which include experiences that are

physical, emotional and mental.  The phenomena a person now experiences

are in reaction to his past actions.  These reactions are plotted by

the demigods in accordance with three modes of work.  Due to his past

work within these modes, a person presently has good, mediocre and bad

physical, emotional and mental experiences.  All such experiences are



     In the midst of the matrix of my experience, what do I, a person,

ultimately seek?  The answer is freedom.  "What light is to

the eyes," said a wise man, "what air is to the lungs, what love is to

the heart, liberty is to the soul of man."  Everybody wants liberation,

Srila Prabhupada explains, because that is the constitution position of

the soul.  Constitutionally, we are eternal, complete in knowledge, and

full of happiness.  But the experience of matter suppresses the

experience of our original nature.  Now we find ourselves subject to time,

ignorance and misery.  Innately, we all yearn for freedom from that



Three false conceptions of freedom


     A liberated person is free to make real choices.  Real choice is

possible where there are options of real satisfaction.  Unfortunately,

the matrix of our experience does not permit us free choice.  Why?  The

answer is quite simple: we are eternal, yet the options available to us

in this world aren't.  We want the experience of unadulterated bliss,

yet the options available to us in this world are mixed up with

distress.  Choice as we know it now, within the matrix of our present

experience, is insubstantial.  We select shadows--of love, social life,

recreation and so on--that appear and disappear in time.  Yet within

the confines of our experience, it seems very difficult for us to

understand that we have no *real* freedom of choice.  The matrix even

supplies us with three notions of freedom--in goodness, in passion and

in ignorance.  Unfortunately, they are not real.


     Though it too is ultimately false, the *sattvic* (good) conception

of freedom is superior to the others.  Here, a person aspires for

freedom by knowledge and morality--virtues that greatly boost the power

of detachment.  But as Srila Prabhupada warns, knowledge and morality

do not grant us authority over our senses, namely the eyes, the tongue,

the nose, the ear and touch.  Even in goodness, consciousness remains

*subject* on all sides to physical, emotional and mental phenomena

arising uncontrollably out of good, bad and mixed fortune.  A learned,

moral person experiences those phenomena in an analytical, self-

composed manner.  Being detached from his experience, he may think

himself liberated.  But he is not really liberated if in the name of

goodness he remains habituated to a life of imprisonment within mundane

sensation.  In *Raja Vidya*, Chapter Seven, Srila Prabhupada explains:


     Goodness is also a kind of contamination. In goodness one

     becomes aware of his position and transcendental subjects,

     etc., but his defect is in thinking, "Now I have understood

     everything.  Now I am all right." He wants to stay here. In

     other words, the man in the mode of goodness becomes a first

     class prisoner and, becoming happy in the prison house,

     wants to stay there.


Our two natures


     Our first nature, the substance of our person, is eternal spirit.

Our second nature, as Srila Prabhupada often pointed out, is habit.

For example, we have the habit to rejoice or lament our change of

fortune.  In the language of *Bhagavad-gita*, this habit is *dvandva-

moha*, the bewilderment of duality, which captivates all creatures born

into the material world.  In a lecture, Srila Prabhupada gave the

illustration of a man crying over the death of a son.  Who in the world

will not cry if his son dies?  Even a man of learning and morality will

cry at such a loss.  "It is habitual," Srila Prabhupada said.  But a

man in the mode of goodness tries to be philosophical about it.


     In the ancient world, philosophy meant primarily the intellectual

method of distinguishing the spirit self from the habits of body and

mind.  Philosophers of the classical Mediterranean culture, which sired

European civilization, knew that our first nature can be made well or

unwell.  The first nature is made well by the cultivation of virtue.

Conversely, as one loses his virtue, his first nature sickens.


     In the Latin language, like Sanskrit, the root *vir* means

"strong;" hence virtue is the quality of a strong, healthy spirit.  In

European culture there are four classical virtues, foremost of which is

*sophia*, true knowledge of the self beyond time.  The others are

fortitude, justice and temperance.  In Vedic culture too there are four

similar virtues: truthfulness, austerity, mercy and cleanliness.  These

are fostered when we refrain from gambling (including mental

speculation), intoxication, meat-eating and illicit sex.


     Attachment to truth is essential to detachment from matter.  Above

all, truth means the timeless truth beyond my temporal self-image.  The

image of myself as a father of a son is "true" in a biological,

psychological and social sense--*but in fact it is not true in the

highest sense* because my role as a father is only temporary.  It takes

real virtue to admit this.


     As he laments the death of a son, the grief of a virtuous father

is tempered by a sober insight into the deeper meaning of his change of

fortune.  He knows that what is given and taken away by the demigods is

not his own, for the eternal soul can possess nothing that is

temporary.  Hence, misfortune for a good man is not really bad.  It

often serves a lesson healthier than good fortune can, since in so-

called good times we tend to forget that nothing in this world can

last.  As Philosophia, goddess of Greek and Roman thought, declares in

*The Consolation of Philosophy* by Boethius: "But if you could see the

plan of providence, you would not think there was evil anywhere."


     The world is so planned that misfortune follows good fortune.

The childless King Citraketu felt himself greatly blessed by providence

when at last his wife bore him a son.  Shortly, in a palace intrigue,

the baby was poisoned.  The king was emotionally crushed.  But the sage

Narada showed Citraketu that this loss was the very same gain he'd

celebrated days before.  Thus the son was "good" and "evil", "friend" and

"enemy", the object of both the king's happiness and distress.  When he

understood this, Citraketu really gained something--detachment.


     For one detached from material gain and loss, "being" is far more

important than "becoming" (a father, for instance).  No matter what

good or ill fortune comes with time, the virtuous person chooses

timeless being--his spiritual substance--over any material situation.

On the other hand, a man of weak virtue is attached to the ebb and flow

of his destiny.  He sees the appearance and disappearance of pleasant

and unpleasant experiences within time as good or evil.  Because he is

blind to his own *karma* under the wheel of fate, he supposes fate to

be blind chance.  Or he supposes there is no fate at all, that success

is tenacity of purpose, and failure the reward for laziness.  In any

case, his habit is to identify his self with the matrix into which his

person is poured, and to identify his self-interest with the

experiences he finds in that matrix.  Thus he, who is pure spirit,

becomes dependent upon the shifting arrangements of matter (*prakrti*).

Such is his bad habit.


     When a man becomes increasingly dependent upon and controlled by a

bad habit, he is said to be addicted.  That addiction is sin.  Sin is

persistent ignorance of our first nature.  Sin develops from meat-

eating, illicit sex, gambling (or mental speculation) and intoxication,

four kinds of behavior that corrode virtue.


"Freedom" in the mode of passion


     In lectures, Srila Prabhupada sometimes translated the word

*prakrti* as "instrument," or, more specifically, "instrument of

enjoyment."  An instrument is a machine.  The material body that

encapsulates each one of us is an infinitely complex machine formed of

gross and subtle matter.  Like the modern automobile, it holds forth

the promise of freedom and carefree enjoyment.


     The instrumentation of the body includes cognitive senses

(*jnanindriya*: the ear, the skin, the eye, the nose, the tongue) and

the motor senses (*karmindriya*: the mouth, the hand, the leg, the

genitalia and the rectum).  All are features of the mode of passion.

They invite us to get comfortable as they serve our every desire.

However, these sensory instruments are not our servants.  They are our

captors.  Their so-called service of our desire is dangerously habit-



     Over many lifetimes in lower species, our habit has been to slake

our desire for enjoyment by giving free play to the senses.  As the

senses roam, desire increases, and as desire increases, so does our

dependence upon the senses.  Even for a human being seemingly liberated

by goodness, the latent habits of excessive eating, sleeping and sex

may be aroused at any time.  Srila Prabhupada writes:


     A liberated soul is a person who has sufficient knowledge

     of this material world and is therefore unattached to the

     bodily conception of life. But because of association with

     the modes of material nature for a very long time, even

     liberated souls sometimes become captivated by the illusory

     energy due to inattentiveness in the transcendental position.


     Thus knowledge and morality are not enough to completely break the

habit of sense gratification.  As said in the second chapter of

*Bhagavad-gita*, the senses are so strong and impetuous that they can

forcibly carry away the mind of an intelligent man who is endeavoring

to control them.  The mind is of the nature of goodness.  Though the

senses are passionate, they are very near the mind, for they are its

organs of information gathering (hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and

smelling) and work (eating, vocalization, grasping, locomotion, sex and

elimination of bodily waste).  The senses can at any time be

agitated by material objects and drag the mind of a good man away from

remembrance of the timeless self.  The mind itself then becomes an

agent of time--and the worst enemy of the soul.


     In the world of time, the mind hunts for sensual delights that are

in turn hunted by old age, disease, death and rebirth.  Yet it is our

habit to cherish the restless mind and senses as the agents of our

hope.  From this habit a passionate philosophy of freedom develops, one

that some thinkers call "instrumentalism."


     An instrumentalist is a person for whom the "instrument panel" of

the mind and senses is the only valid source of knowledge.  He believes

the human being can find with the help of these instruments the answer

to the complex problems of material existence.  Man is distinguished

from other creatures not by his virtues but by the complexity of his

problems.  Human questions of right and wrong, true and false, can be

solved only on the basis of useful facts, for usefulness is the measure

of truth.  Theories of the soul and its virtues are useless in practical

affairs.  Therefore they are untrue.  Theories are to be judged not by

their "goodness" but by their consequences: what results they give us.


     The passionate instrumentalist uses his mind and senses like

tools, to locate and dig up treasures buried deep within material

nature--riches, rare pleasures, sources of energy, cosmic secrets--that

he hopes will serve the needs of the human race.  His outlook is

*prospective*, since his faith is invested in the future.  Thus

"becoming" is far more important than "being."


     But what will he become?  He will certainly not become free.  His

future holds countless births and deaths, for the philosophy of

instrumentalism is simply the philosophy of embodied existence.  For

example, aerospace technology has made it possible for mankind to fly

high in the sky.  If in the human body I convince myself that the most

important problems of life are those that flight can solve, I deserve

no better than to become a bird in my next life.


"Freedom" in the mode of ignorance


     The person in the mode of goodness seeks freedom in being rather

than becoming.  The person in the mode of passion seeks freedom in

becoming rather than being.  The person in the mode of ignorance seeks

freedom in non-being, or nihilism.  He is *retrospective* in his

outlook, in that in his heart he nurses unending dismay, anger and

frustration about his past experience.  Thus he sees hope neither in the

present nor future.  He chooses to cancel out further involvement in this

world by negating his personal self.  There are demanding, highly

disciplined philosophical systems dedicated to losing one's self; but in

today's Western world, many people try it the easy way, through alcohol,

drugs and suicide.  Now, there are other angry, frustrated individuals who

are not content to passively extinguish themselves.  They want to drag the

world down with them.  Through aggressive, violent behavior and the

oppressive domination of others, they seek freedom from the trouble of

having to think rationally about the purpose of life.  Striking out at the

world in blind hatred and trampling it underfoot is just a motif of self-

annihilation, as is clear from the examples of history's famous tyrants like

Caligula and Adolf Hitler.  Thus, whether he takes the passive or aggressive

path, the nihilist's goal is to eradicate all differences in his life, which

means to eradicate life itself.


     A creed of voidism is, *ex nihilo omne ens qua ens fit*--"Every being

in so far as it is being is made out of nothing."  If my being is nothing,

then neither my self who chooses nor the world of choices has real

importance.  For a man in goodness, it *is* important to always choose

internal well-being over entanglement in external variety.  For a man in

passion, it *is* important to entangle oneself in external variety; yes,

more important even than internal well-being.  But for a man in ignorance,

all this is not worth the trouble.


     Good people struggle to be free from the loss of the self to

material attraction.  Passionate people have no problem with losing

themselves in that way.  But they struggle to get free from the

problems that result from their attraction to matter.  The ignorant

person claims freedom by disclaiming the importance of the struggles of

goodness and passion.  He thinks eternal life and worldly happiness are

impossible, and the effort to attain them is a waste, an absurdity, a

nothingness.  In *Caligula*, the French philosopher Albert Camus



     Really this world of ours, this scheme of things as they

     call it, is quite intolerable.  That's why I want the moon,

     or happiness, or eternal life--something, in fact, that may

     sound crazy, but which isn't this world...This world has no

     importance; once a man realizes that, he wins his freedom...

     And yet I know...all I need is for the impossible to be.

     The impossible!


     On one side, Camus advocated the *tamasic* freedom gained by

rejecting  life in this world.  But that freedom is negative.

It is like getting rid of a persistent headache by chopping off the

head.  On the other side, he admitted this is not what we *positively*

want and need.  We want and need positive freedom *to do the

impossible.*  And what is this impossible "which isn't this world",

which isn't the matrix of our present experience?  As explained before,

it is the freedom to choose among options of real satisfaction, options

formed out of the nature of eternal existence, complete knowledge and

pure bliss.  But to one in ignorance, because it is impossible, it is crazy.


The supreme power


     Inasmuch as one is captivated by the three modes of material nature,

real freedom *is* impossible.  Thus after many lifetimes of attempts at

finding freedom in the modes, one may become inclined to transcend matter

altogether.  But to transcend matter, one must transcend the interest to

wield power over the material world--to wit, the power of aloofness from

the world (goodness), the power to control it (passion), and the power to

negate it (ignorance).  These powers belong to God.  The material bondage

of the soul is caused by imitating the power of God, who alone is

Gunesvara, the all-powerful master of the *tri-guna.*  It is impossible

to become God.  The attempt to imitate Him brings the soul under the

influence of the three modes.


     However, the philosophers of the impossible are tenacious.  Some

will agree that naively trying to become God is futile.  But "naive",

they say, means to *try to become God in a personal sense.*  God is

better understood as the oneness of all beings devoid of *gunas*

(distinguishing characteristics).  Divinity is the total absence of name,

form, quality, activity and relationship.


     Mystical trance invokes the power of divinity.  This power

gradually dissolves the difference between "you" and "me" and "this"

and "that." At the highest stage, the self is known to be the universe,

the universe is known to be God, and God is known to be every living

being.  The All-One Self is thus freed from the modes.  But what then of

the freedom of real choice?


     With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;

     nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.

     All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,

     with no exertion of the mind's power.

     Here thought, feeling, knowledge and imagination

     are of no value.


     This, a Buddhist poem, returns us to the problem of impersonalism.

Where all is empty, where thought, feeling, knowledge and imagination

have no value, there can be no substantial power of choice, and thus no

real personal freedom.  That notwithstanding, this poem is an

expression of choice.  Seng-st'an, the poet, had a conscious aim in

life--to cling to nothing and have nothing cling to him, as opposed to

clinging to something and having something cling to him.  He could not

escape the essence of his personhood--*choice*--even in impersonalism.


     The effort to neutralize the self, to render it inactive by spiritual

power, is contradictory.  *Spirit is active, not inactive.*


                    *dehendriya-prana-mano-dhiyo 'mi

                  yad-amsa-viddhah pracaranti karmasu

                    naivanyada lauham ivaprataptam

                    sthanesu tad drastrapadesam eti*


     As iron has the power to burn when made red-hot in the

     association of fire, so the body, senses, living force,

     mind and intelligence, although merely lumps of matter,

     can function in their activities when infused with a

     particle of consciousness by the Supreme Personality of

     Godhead. As iron cannot burn unless heated by fire, the

     bodily senses cannot act unless favored by the Supreme

     Brahman.           (*Srimad-Bhagavatam * 6.16.24)


     The particle of consciousness (*amsa*) mentioned here is the soul.

It emanates from the Supreme Person.  The next chapter will explain the

Supreme Person in detail; here we need note only that this Supreme

Person and His emanation, the soul, are dynamic spirit.  Spirit is

compared to fire, and the matrix (body, senses, vital air or *prana*,

mind and intelligence) is compared to iron.  When fire energizes iron,

iron acquires the power to burn.  Similarly, a moving spiritual charge

activates the matrix of mundane experience, just as a magnetic field is

activated by a moving electric charge.  The medium by which spirit

activates matter is time.  Time is the Supreme Person's power over the

universe, as He Himself declares in the eleventh chapter of *Bhagavad-

gita.*  The phases of universal time manifest as the modes of nature:

creation (passion), maintenance (goodness) and destruction (ignorance).


     *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 3.25.15 explains how a person can be bound by

and liberated from the three modes of nature:


                       *cetah khalv asya bandhaya

                         muktaye catmano matam

                         gunesu saktam bandhaya

                         ratam va pumsi muktaye*


     The stage in which the consciousness of the living entity is

     attracted by the three modes of material nature is called

     conditional life. But when that same consciousness is

     attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one is

     situated in the consciousness of liberation.


     Choice, the essential function of an individual's consciousness,

is defined here.  We have two options: to choose to associate with the

three modes of nature, or to choose to associate with the Supreme



     If we choose the modes of nature, we are entrapped by them (the

word *guna* means "rope"; each of the modes is a strand of a rope that

binds the soul within the matrix of temporal experience).  Once so

trapped, the soul's dynamic essence, his power of choice, alternates

rapidly back and forth between material dualities: mind and matter,

intelligence and foolishness, good and evil, light and darkness, male

and female, young and old, sickness and health, heat and cold, pleasure

and pain, happiness and distress, wealth and poverty, beauty and

ugliness, excitement and boredom, sobriety and whimsy, sanity and

insanity, honor and dishonor, fame and infamy, birth and death, up and



     As long as the soul continues to chooses between duality, the

*ksetra*--his field of material activities--is perpetuated life after

life.  Choosing to associate with the Supreme Person unties the knot of

bondage to material duality.  As we shall see, liberation in

association with the Supreme Person affords the soul unlimited

opportunities of substantial choice.



Chapter Two:  The Supreme Person



     It is possible, with a clarity that is breathtaking, for a human

being to take a peek beyond the matrix of time-bound experience.  I do

not refer to an otherworldly vision that stuns life to a standstill.  I

mean an insight into something as simple as a sentence spoken by a

friend.  Such insight is readily at hand for those willing to perform

the small miracle of perceiving how we perceive things.  Philosophers

call this *apperception*.


     The mind's logical mechanism (*anumana*) puts events into an order

of *before* and *after.*  We cannot logically assign *now* to an event

that occured a moment before, or to one that will occur a moment from

now.  To know *beyond time* events passing *in time* is beyond logic.

*Yet the meaning we perceive in events is beyond the time of their

duration.* This fact is so obvious we usually miss it.


     When we "catch" in consciousness a melody or a spoken sentence, we

do not separate the notes or words we hear at this moment from those we

heard a moment before and those we shall hear a moment later.  *Vinayai

tu grahanena vinavadasya va sabdo grhitah*, it is said in the

Upanisads: "the notes played on a vina are caught all together."

The melody--a vibrant, graceful form that emerges from somewhere within

us--reveals itself as beauty *beyond* the momentary tones struck by the

player.  Another Upanisadic verse speaks of "that which is not revealed

by speech, but that which reveals speech" (*yad vacan abhyuditam yena

vag abhyudyate*).  When a person speaks a sentence to us, he has "a

point" he wants us to understand.  But catching his point is not an

effort of catching the meaning of each word as he fires it from his

mouth--like having to catch a rapid volley of tennis balls, each with

one word inscribed on it--and mentally tying these meanings together.

We catch the point of his sentence all at once, not in the logic of

time (horology).  His point is revealed by knowledge that emerges from

within.  But why knowledge emerges to make sense out of his muddled

speech (often even before he finishes speaking) cannot be known from

what he is saying.


     There are modern philosophers who consider *the knowing of

the beauty and meaning of experience*--exemplified here by our

"catching" a melody or an idea from events streaming by--to be "the

real world in which consciousness itself is proper being," or "the

absolute separate from everything." They say we unfortunately throw "a

network of time" over that real world, this network being the

mechanistic logic that blinds us to the way melodies and meanings are

revealed to us *out of time.*


The light of absolute knowledge


     The Mahajanas are Vedic authorities fully conversant with the

absolute knowledge that stands separate from the fleeting impressions

of matter.  There are twelve Mahajanas; Brahma is the Mahajana who

assists the Supreme Person in His pastime of creating the universe.  In

*Srimad-Bhagavatam* he says the Lord is the *avikriyam satyam*, the

unchanging truth, as opposed to the shifting "facts" of material

existence.  The unchanging truth is hidden within everyone's heart

beyond mundane words and arguments, and cannot be defined by the mind.

The Supreme Person is *arthendriyabhasam*, the inner light that

illuminates the objects of perception that appear and disappear in



     Mahajana Rudra, who destroys the universe, explains that to

understand anything, we require *param jyoti*, "the supreme light."

This timeless light emanates from *eka adyah purusa*, "one original

person" (Purusa) who, like the sun, stands behind a cloud of His own

making.  This is the cloud of *maya*, the ever-changing material

energy, which covers the clear sky of our consciousness.  The effulgent

Purusa illuminates that cloud, making sense of the sensations we

experience under the influence of *maya*--sounds, feelings, forms,

tastes and smells.  Without His timeless light, there could be no

experience of the swirling, temporal cloud of material energy.  But

that Purusa remains hidden to all except those whose hearts are

*amala*, spotless.  He is *kevala*, completely pure.  Rudra informs us

that this one original person is named Krsna.


     Another Mahajana, Kapiladeva, says that Lord Krsna is Bhagavan,

the unlimited source of six opulences: knowledge, beauty, power, fame,

richness and renunciation.  As the Purusa, Bhagavan Sri Krsna resides

within our hearts.  Simultaneously He is external to us in His form of

time (*kala-rupena yo bahih*).


     Thus Krsna is our inner power to know; and He is Time, which

drives the functions of the mind, emotions, senses and sense objects.

As the power to know illuminates these time-driven agents, we recognize

opulences like *jnana* (knowledge) and *sri* (beauty) as they dawn on

us in passing words and musical tones.  These opulences give shape,

depth, direction, meaning, potency, and attraction to our experience.

Without them, all would be void.


     Consider now the opulence of *bala* (power).  Looking at a

mountain, I see data--an enormous mass of rock--registered by the eyes.

This is *bahya-pratyaksa*, external perception.  I am made aware of

this data by the light of knowledge shining from the hidden core of the

heart.  That light likewise reveals an emotional mood--awe--that the

mind associates with the physical form of the mountain.  This is

*antara-pratyaksa*, the inner perception of a psychological state.

These sensory, mental and emotional functions accompany--*but do not

explain*--the recognition of majestic power as I look at the mountain.

Yes, the eyes register a mass of rock, and the mind responds to that

data with awe and wonder--but between these two functions is a mystery.

From whence does the recognition of power emerge?


     The answer is that it emerges from *consciousness itself*, just as

beauty emerges from consciousness when we hear music, and knowledge

emerges from consciousness when we hear a sentence.  In his purport to

*Srimad-Bhagavatam* 1.19.23, Srila Prabhupada explains that the

individual soul shares to a lesser degree the six transcendental

opulences of Bhagavan.  But they are dimmed by a covering of the

material energy, just as the sun is dimmed by a cover of cloud.  As

light is the medium that links our vision to the sun, so consciousness

is the medium that links the soul and God.  This is true whether the

soul faces up to God or not.  All that we know in life is the

interface of individual consciousness with supreme consciousness.  The

time-bound matrix--the mechanism of mental, emotional, sensory and

physical experience--is also a product of that interface, just as a

cloud in the sky is a product of the sunlight interfacing with our

vision.  But it is an unwanted product, like static that disturbs our

reception of a radio program.  Catching a glimpse of the timeless

opulence of knowledge and beauty through fleeting words and musical

notes is like catching a glimpse of the sun through a passing cloud.


     The cloudy covering is an effect of our *ignorance of the presence

of God before us*.  As the sun is so much vaster in size than a cloud,

so much greater is God than what is suggested of Him through our mind

and senses.  Our ignorance of His presence before us is the result of

our insignificant perspective.  Similarly, because we are so tiny, a

small cloud covers our vision of the gigantic sun.


     There is no consciousness without co-consciousness, that which the

individual soul shares with the Lord in the Heart.  When in ignorance

of co-consciousness, we get carried away by time-driven mental

functions, what we "know" looks as if it comes from the mind.  When in

ignorance we get carried away by time-driven sensory functions, what we

"know" looks as if it comes from the senses.  But knowledge does not

come from the mind and senses, no more than light comes from the cloud

covering the sun.  To a person in pure consciousness--whose knowledge

is not obstructed by the cloud of *maya*--what he knows comes from God:

His timeless knowledge, beauty, power, fame, richness and renunciation.


All is personal


     Therefore the *Purusa-sukta* hymn of the *Rg Veda* states, *purusa

evedam sarvam*, "the Supreme Person is everything."  But at present we

do not see Him *as a person*.  The reason again is that our present

perspective is insignificant.  Consider the point of view of a tiny

insect.  I am certainly a person, but when an insect crawls across my

hand, it perceives me as a mass of impersonal "stuff."  In a similar

way, human beings perceive the creation (the external form of the

Supreme Person) to be impersonal.  However, there is an important

difference between an insect and a human being.  A human being can ask

what is really behind the world he perceives.  The same Vedic hymn

replies, *etavanasya mahimato jyayams ca purusah*: "all this (the

creation) proclaims His greatness, but greater than this is the

Person."  Thus the great creation is brought forth *by the greatest

person* just to draw human reason, our instrument of inquiry, *to that



     But atheistic intellectuals cannot accept this.  In their view,

our instrument of inquiry is prone to an unfortunate weakness for the

supernatural.  The hard facts of sense perception are the best medicine

against this weakness.  Our senses don't show us anything superior to

nature.  Thus nature is the only valid object of human inquiry.  It is

the duty of the serious seeker of truth to firmly join reason

to sense perception.  Only then will the mind not float into the error

of speculation about things beyond nature--the supernatural.


     Atheists notwithstanding, nature *naturally* inspires reason to

consider supernature.  Space scientists marvel at astrophysical

structures of mind-boggling proportions: countless gigantic stars that

are estimated to move at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second in

ever-greater formations called galaxies, clusters and supercluster

complexes.  At the other end of the scale, a single living cell viewed

at the microscopic level presents biologists with a huge, complicated

vista of planetary dimensions, crowded with more detail and activity

than their minds can absorb.


     Most scientists think it reasonable that behind the movement and

transformation by time of the many things great and small in nature,

there must be unchanging, timeless laws.  Without such laws, no

discernable pattern could emerge out of the flux of matter.  In the

opinion of a modern physicist, matter itself is ultimately just "a

radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup." But our

ability to predict movement and transformation within this soup

indicates that there is a fixed reality somewhere.  The question is,

*where* is that somewhere?  Science has no answer.


     The *Purusa-sukta* states, *pado 'sya visvabhutani*, "the entire

material creation is only one-fourth of the potency of the Supreme

Person." Beyond that, *tripadasya mritam divi*, "three-fourths of His

potency is transcendental."  The word *divi* refers to *daivi-prakrti*,

the divine, superior nature beyond time.  There, the opulences of

beauty, knowledge, strength, fame, richness and renunciation are

manifest in unlimited fullness as the Lord's personal qualities.  The

ever-changing material creation, the external object of our present

experience, covers the superior nature like a cloud.  From behind that

cloud, Krsna's attractive opulences peek out at us, endowing the

material nature will all its attractive features.  In our ignorance,

hardly do we recognize them as His personal attributes.


     The Supreme Person is the all-attractive focus of His two natures,

the material and the spiritual.  He is their original organizing

principle, the cause of their causation, the quality of their

qualities, the truth of their truths.  *Without effort* He is all this.

"He has nothing to do," the Vedas declare.  His natures--who are

actually personal, being features of His own self--serve Him by their

own free will.  Why?  *Taittiriya Upanisad* replies, *raso vai sah,

rasa eva hi ayam labhva anandi bhavati*: "He is Rasa; whosoever attains

Him knows true happiness."


     Rasa means that the Supreme Person (*Purusa*) is the original

substance of taste, fully ripened and sweet.  Another meaning of

the word *purusa* is "enjoyer."  Hence in the spiritual and material

realms the Purusa enjoys His own taste as Rasa.  It is incorrect to

assume that He chooses between "true enjoyment" in the transcendental

realm and "false enjoyment" in the material realm.  In both realms He

enjoys only Himself.  Thus there is no difference between His enjoyment

here or there.


     Yet we should not minimize the difference between the two realms.

The spiritual realm eternally celebrates Krsna's eternal enjoyment of

Himself.  Thus it is not different from His enjoyment, as much as

tasteful clothing worn by an attractive woman in celebration of her own

beauty is not different from her enjoyment of that beauty.  The

material world, on the other hand, hides His enjoyment.  It is like a

long, loose-fitting veiled drape that covers a lady from head to toe.

The drape suggests, but does not celebrate, her beauty.  Still, even

while wearing such tasteless attire, the same woman may inwardly

continue to enjoy the hidden fact that she is very beautiful.


True happiness for the soul


     We individual souls are samples of the original Purusa.  We are

persons.  We want happiness.  That is why some verses of the *Bhagavad-

gita* refer to the soul as *purusa.*  However, compared to Krsna, who

is called Purusottama (the greatest person), we are insignificant.

Krsna encompasses and surpasses the material and spiritual natures, but

we souls are poised delicately on the *tatastha* (margin) between the

two.  Krsna's *sakti* or power over the two natures is unlimited.  Our

*sakti* is limited to a choice of which of the two natures we will

serve.  Thus, among other names of the soul (*purusa*, *jiva*, *atma*),

the term *tatastha-sakti* defines him as an entity that always faces

the choice between truth and error.  We may choose to surrender to the

substance of bliss--the spiritual nature, our true nature.  Or we may

choose to pursue the shadow that plays upon the waves of time--the

material nature, our false nature.


     But that shadow is also a form of the Supreme Person.  Then why

is it wrong for the soul to choose to enjoy matter?  It is wrong

because the material world is not free, just as a prison is not free.

Freedom is the very thing that makes real happiness possible.  Krsna is

absolutely free to enjoy Himself eternally.  The spiritual world

celebrates that freedom, but the material world does not.  A liberated

soul is he who eternally chooses to celebrate Krsna's happiness.  That

celebration is his key to the spiritual world.  But the soul who once

chooses to enjoy matter throws liberation away.  He is bound by the

three modes of nature within the matrix of mundane experience.


     No doubt some happiness is available in a prison, but it is far

outweighed by the distress of confinement--repeated birth, death,

disease and old age.  Material happiness is nothing else than the

Lord's own beauty, knowledge, power, fame, richness and renunciation as

glimpsed by persons entrapped in the matrix.


     A famous devotee poet compared material happiness to a drop of

water in a desert.  While water is certainly the means of quenching his

thirst, how will one drop satisfy a man lost in a desert?  But in the

absence of anything more, the taste of this one drop enthuses the

thirsty soul in his *karma*, the compulsive struggle within the *gunas*

(ropes) that bind him tighter the more he tries to get free.




Intensity of being


     In the previous chapter, a two-sided problem was raised about

eternality, action and time.  On the one side, if my desire to act

originates in the timeless soul, how can I fulfill this desire without

forfeiting my eternality by acting in time?  On the other side, if I

wish to return to my original spiritual state of timeless being, what

shall I do about the desire to act, which is essential to that being?

The problem can be expressed as one simple question: must "being" be

ever opposed to "doing"?


     Krsna's being is concentrated in mellows of sweeter and sweeter

intensity, called *rasas.* The *rasas* are His moods of loving

interplay (*lila*) with His liberated devotees.  That interplay is

transcendental activity, beyond material space and time.


     *Rasa* is an experience far beyond the matrix of mundane

experience.  In *rasa*, the soul recognizes that all opulences

originate in Bhagavan.  "The Supreme Lord is full in six opulences,"

writes Srila Prabhupada in his purport to *Bhagavad-gita* 14.27, "and

when a devotee approaches Him there is an exchange of these six

opulences."  To approach the Lord means to leave behind the

insignificant perspective of impersonalism.  It is due to this

perspective that now we may at most glimpse a dim glow of spiritual

opulence behind a roiling psychosensory cloud.  The free exchange, in

pure consciousness, of spiritual opulence--the soul's own with that of

the Lord--is possible only from the perspective of *rasa*, or

transcendental personalism.


     *Rasa* is immediate to the soul--which means it is experienced in

the deepest core of the heart as the intensification of the soul's very

being.  There, in the heart, Lord Krsna personally floods the soul with

nectarean relish for the Supreme Being.  This relish wells forth from

the unfathomable spring of the individual person's beginningless tie to



     Within the sweetness of that relish, Krsna's transcendental name,

form, qualities, activities and His relationships with His pure

devotees in the spiritual world are revealed at the meeting point of

the subjectivity of the individual person and the objectivity of the

Supreme Person.  This is the peak of quintessential virtue (spiritual

strength), where a soul's relish of Being--Krsna's being plus his own

being devoted to Krsna--surpasses all possible mundane attractions.

Reaching this peak takes the soul beyond the reach of the three modes

of nature.


     *Rasa* is where the soul meets God face to face.  It is the

perfection of a person's desire for activity, because activity in

*rasa* is perfect.  It is the perfection of his power to choose,

because all choice in *rasa* is perfect.  *Rasa* is spiritual

perfection in love of God.


     Experts in *rasa* use the term *ghana* (concentrated) to indicate

the level of intensity at which His person of divine nature--*sat*

(eternality), *cit (absolute knowledge), *ananda* (ever-increasing

bliss), and *vigraha* (all-attractive spiritual form)--is known in

truth (*tattva*).  In *Bhagavad-gita 9.13 and 14, Lord Krsna describes

the visible symptoms of the great souls (*mahatmas*) who know Him in

truth.  He says they are protected by the divine nature by virtue of

their determination to always chant Krsna's glories, to bow down before

Him and to worship Him in pure devotion.


The beginning of impersonalism


     *Bhagavad-gita* 9.15 speaks of a path different from that of the

*mahatmas.*  It is taken by those who want to know Krsna indirectly,

rather than in His full concentration.  This, Srila Prabhupada said, is

the difficult path called *jnana-yoga*.  In his purport to *Srimad-

Bhagavatam* 3.32.33, he says further:


     By the process of *jnana-yoga* the same Personality of

     Godhead appears to be impersonal. As the same object

     appears to be different when perceived by different

     senses, the same Supreme Lord appears to be impersonal

     by mental speculation. A hill appears cloudy from a

     distance, and one who does not know may speculate that

     the hill is a cloud.


     *Jnana-yoga*, then, shifts a soul's perspective of the Supreme

Being from personal to impersonal.  The shift of perspective begins as

a doubt in the absolute nature of the personal God.  The problem can be

appreciated by considering the meaning of the word "absolute."  As

Sorbonne philosopher Jean Wahl explained in *The Philosopher's Way*:


     the term "absolute" has two meanings, and the interest which

     it invokes is due in part to this ambiguity, this play of

     meanings, this shimmering of its two facets of separateness

     and inclusiveness.


     Wahl (p. 308) rendered the two meanings as "separate from

everything" and "a reality comprehending all other realities."  These

correspond to the Sanskrit words *svarat* (independant) and *abhijna*

(all-knowing).  Srila Prabhupada writes in *Teachings of Lord



     The Sanskrit words *abhijna* and *svarat*, appearing in the

     first verse of *Srimad-Bhagavatam*, are significant. These

     two words distinguish the Lord from all other living entities.

     No living entity other than the supreme being, the Absolute

     Personality of Godhead is either *abhijna* or *svarat*--that

     is, none of them are either fully cognizant or fully independent.

     Everyone has to learn from his superior about knowledge; even

     Brahma, who is the first living being within this material

     world, has to meditate upon the Supreme Lord and take help

     from Him in order to create. If Brahma or the sun cannot

     create anything without acquiring knowledge from a superior,

     then what is the situation with the material scientists who

     are fully dependent on so many things?


     But the *jnani* has doubts.  How can a personal being at one and

the same time be separate from everything and yet include everything?

It is more logical, thinks the *jnani*, to understand the absolute from

an impersonal perspective.  *Bhagavad-gita* 19.15 mentions that the

*jnanis* are attracted to three indirect God concepts: "one without a

second" (*ekatvena prthaktvena*), "diverse in many" (*bahudha*) and

"the universal form" (*visvato-mukham*).  Each is a philosophical

approach to the problem of the absolute.  Philosophers of all times and

cultures seek a logic of unity, plurality, form, relation and

universality by which they hope to explain the absolute.  The Vedic

literatures give such philosphers these three God concepts as the

subject matter of mental speculation.  The highest of the three is

*visvato-mukham*, the idea of the universe as the supreme organism.

The *Bhagavad-gita* confirms that the *visva* or cosmos is a form of

Krsna.  The Lord accepts this form to suggest to those inclined to

impersonalism that the universe rests upon a personal foundation.


     The word *cosmos* comes to English from the Greek language.  It

originally meant "the form or structure of a thing." Common people in

ancient Greece used it to signify the harmonious ornamentation--

necklaces and earrings, for example--worn by women to beautify

themselves.  This is why the modern word "cosmetic" owes its origin to



     The idea of "cosmos" as something worn by a person is comparable

to the "matrix" idea of the previous chapter.  In one sense the two

amount to the same thing: the structure of gross and subtle matter that

a living entity experiences while in material existence.  The

difference is that the cosmos is *freely worn as ornamentation* by the

Supreme Person, whereas the matrix *confines and shapes* the

consciousness of the individual person, the soul.  In *Bhagavad-gita*

7.7, Krsna Himself compares the cosmos supported by Him to a necklace

of pearls, while in *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 6.1.52, Mahajana Narada Muni

compares the *karmic* experience of the soul to a cocoon that

entraps a silkworm.


The macrocosm


     It may be observed that the Vedic scriptures present three

"alloforms" (alternative shapes) of the cosmos.  The first is the

macrocosm ("great cosmos," in Sanskrit *virat*), which the Supreme

Person displays within the vast space of our universe, which is

enclosed by a shell of elemental layers.


     The gigantic universal form of the Personality of Godhead,

     within the universal shell made of sevenfold material

     elements, is conceived of as the *virat*. [*Bhag.* 2.1.25]


     The *virat* is the total structure of material elements.  The

Supreme Person accepts the *virat* as His dress and so activates

creation within the universal shell.


     As the Lord, in His plenary portion, entered into the

     elements of the universal creation, they transformed into

     the gigantic form in which all the planetary systems and all

     movable and immovable creations rest.  [*Bhag.* 3.6.5]


     Because the transcendental Person who wears these elements is

Yogesvara, the master of all mysticism, the material elements

effortlessly assemble into the form of the total cosmos.  *Srimad-

Bhagavatam* 2.5.42 states He wears the celestial region (*svar-loka*)

of the universe on His chest and head.  He wears the middle region

(*bhuvar-loka*) on His navel, and the nether region (*bhur-loka*) on

His legs.  This description helps us arrive at a picture of the *virat*

in our minds.   But with the word *kalpita* the verse advises us that

this picture is imaginary.  The *virat* is hyperdimensional and thus



Higher dimensions


     What is meant here by the word hyperdimensional?  In the next few

paragraphs, I'll offer an explanation of this term gleaned from a space

exploration conference held at the United Nations in New York City on

February 27, 1992.


     The human matrix of experience is configured in "three-space," or

three spatial dimensions (length, width and height) resting upon a

foundation of time.  But over and above three-space, mathematicians and

topologists have worked out theoretical configurations for twenty or

more dimensions of "higher level state space."  These theoretical

models predict the existence of a hyperdimensional substance that

surpasses our experience of length, width and height.  This substance

is reflected back into our matrix of experience as three-space shadow

...  the shadow we take to be reality.


     It needs to be mentioned again that such models are only

hypothetical.  Still, they echo the nature of the Vedic macrocosm.  It

seems some scientists seriously propose that heavenly bodies (the sun,

planets and stars) are gateways leading away from our present

experience, the gross "reality of the everyday," to subtler dimensions

from where the reality of the everyday is controlled.  These scientists

arrived at this hypothesis after concluding that conventional three-

space theories do not account for the amount of energy that radiates

from the sun, stars and some planets.


     Now, if "our" cosmos is the three-space reflection of a

hyperdimensional macrocosm, then all we have to go by in our efforts

to understand the sun, stars and planets is but a low-level experience

of a high-level process.  We are like children who, watching the sun

rise above the horizon of the sea, perceive the sea to be the

birthplace of the sun's great power.  The high-level process of cosmic

energy, unknown to scientists today, is *yajna* (sacrifice).


     The demigods reside in the hyperdimensional sun, moon, planets and

stars.  They constantly offer sacrifice to Yajna, a name of the Cosmic

Person.  In return He empowers them with authority over nature.  The

Vedas ordain humanity to offer sacrifice to the demigods, who bestow in

return sunshine, rain, bountiful crops and good projeny.  The *Purusa-

sukta* describes these demigods as nought other than aspects of the

cosmic Lord Himself.  Candra (the moon-deity) is His mind, Surya (the

sun-deity) His eye, Agni (the fire-deity) His mouth and Vayu (the wind-

deity) His breath.  Thus the Vedic conclusion is that only the Supreme

Person is to be worshiped.


Waves of *prana*


     Yajna regulates the flow of the vital force (*prana*) throughout

all the dimensions of the universe.  *Prana* is the vibrant power of

life over material elements.  Without *prana*, our power to choose

would have no effect at all on our material bodies and the world

beyond.  *Prana* expands from the Supreme Person and encompasses all

souls in the cosmos to facilitate their material desires.  Whatever a

soul may experience of the universe, and whatever ability he may have

to manipulate gross matter, are appearances within the undulating waves

of *prana*.


     *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 2.10.28 declares that *prana* vibrates forth

from the navel of the Supreme Person.  Brahma, who is the direct son of

the Lord, the incarnation of Vedic sound and the first Vedic sage,

appeared at the dawn of cosmic history from that navel.  Brahma's

duty is to situate the souls--who are sleeping sparks of the Supreme's

spiritual potency--in *prana* so that the activities they dream of will

manifest within its waves.  According to *Satapaha Brahmana*,

the all-pervading cosmic *prana* is Brahma's own body (*yatsarvaminn

asrayanta tasmad u sariram. sa eva purusah prajapatir bhavat*).  His

fundamental *pranic* wave carries 8,400,000 sets of lesser waves.

Each set defines a grade of consciousness--that is, a species of

*ksetra* (field of activities, matrix of experience).  Brahma imparts

the Vedic scriptures so that the souls floating in *prana* can learn

how to satisfy their desires properly, and how to awaken from their

dreams to real spiritual life.




     In *Life Comes From Life*, Srila Prabhupada indicates that a

species is defined by three characteristics--body, intelligence and

duration of life.  Each species experiences up to one hundred years of

life.  But the hundred-year span of one matrix is not the same as the

hundred-year span of others.


     Both we and the ant live for one hundred years, but the

     length of our hundred-year life-span is relative to our

     bodies.  Even Brahma, the longest-living entity in this

     universe, lives for one hundred years. To us the ant's

     life-span may seem only a few days.


     To Brahma, a human life spans only a moment of time; from the

human point of view, Brahma lives for hundreds of trillions of solar

years.  But within his matrix Brahma experiences the passage of his own

life at the same rate we do.  The hyperdimensions of perception,

activity, intelligence and duration of life that are enjoyed by the

different species of life--demigods, humans, animals, plants and

aquatics--are marked out by different grades of *pranic* waves which in

turn are regulated by the Supreme Person, who is the original stimulus

of *pranic* vibration.


Fundamentals of matter


     For 2500 years, Western scientists have labored to discover

what matter really is.  Ancient Greek physicists like Democritus

believed it to be the motion of indestructible atoms in the void.

Modern physics changes that picture drastically.  The void has given

way to an infinite wavefunction.  The wave is not exactly physical like

a wave of water; it is a function of time that marks out in space the

probable location of a unit of matter like an electron.  There is a

certain similarity here to the Vedic account of the appearance of the

fundamental material elements within the waves of *prana*.  But in the

Western conception, if anything governs the wavefunction, it is just

chance--though science knows no "law" of chance to explain why the wave

functions.  The wave just functions from an unknown beginning to an

unknown end.  According to Vedic science, the force that ripples

through *prana* is the spiritual sound of the Vedas breathed by the

Supreme Person.


     Modern scientists invest great sums of money in their

investigations of the fundamental waveform, but they have yet to

discover that it transmits information of ultimate value.  We are

offered the experience of the cosmos as a chance to receive that

information in the form of the Vedic literature, of which Brahma is the

first *guru* or teacher.  Lower forms of life are equipped only to

experience the cosmos as gross matter.  Vedic knowledge is hidden from

them, as their consciousness is fully absorbed in the rudimentary

affairs of eating, sleeping, mating and defending.


     The macrocosmic display is temporary.  Just as at the dawn of

creation the vital force of the universe emanated from the navel of the

Supreme Person, making possible all life in the material sphere, so in

the future *prana* will be withdrawn.  This is the *maha-pralaya*, the

universal cataclysm. The period between cosmic creation and cosmic

destruction is calculated to be 325 trillion solar years.  Creation and

destruction are cyclical; as an individual soul is born again after

casting off his body, so too is the universe reborn anew after its






The microcosm


     The second alloform of the universe is the microcosm.  The form of

each creature in the universe is a microcosm worn by (and covering) the

Supersoul.  In the core of the heart, the Supersoul is the Lord who

personally stands beside each soul in whatever body that soul may find

himself.   From His transcendental position, the Supersoul witnesses

the soul's restless desires in that body.  According to how a soul

chooses to satisfy his desires, that individual's matrix of experience

is configured by the Supersoul to yield what he deserves.  This

configuration of experience is called *dehantara-prapti*, the change of



     We do not simply change bodies from one life to the next.  Even

within one lifetime, the passage from childhood to youth to old age is

also *dehantara-prapti.* Just as a series of photos, when flashed

before the eye, create the experience of "motion pictures," so the

series of each experience in one human life is a series of momentary

configurations of the matrix.


     Of all the forms of life, the human form is most crucial in the

total plan of the universe.  The choices a person makes in one human

lifetime can schedule enough reconfigurations of the matrix to carry

him onward into many future lifetimes.  And so the soul transmigrates

through 8,400,000 kinds of bodies (species) within the macrocosm, just

to receive the reactions due it from choices made in the human form of

life. As much as a person is preoccupied with exploring the realm of

experience, that much he is preoccupied with his microcosm.

The Supersoul supplies the soul with knowledge appropriate to the

species into which he is now born, surrounding him in an individual

dimension of conscious experience.  To be a human being, a dog, a worm

or a demigod means to dwell within a miniature universe made up of

whatever the Lord permits us to know.


     In this condition, two levels of knowledge are available to us:

gross and subtle.  First, we are informed by our senses about the

manifest qualities of matter--sound, touch, form, taste and smell.

These sensations (*pratyaksa*) make up our gross knowledge.  The subtle

level of knowledge (*anumana*) begins at the point the mind (*manas*)

contemplates sense perceptions.  The world thus becomes a very

contradictory place.  The mind finds a sensation like heat sometimes

very inviting, at other times very threatening.  The intelligence

(*buddhi*) tries to put our thoughts about sensations into logical

order.  In seeking an explanation for our perceptions and thoughts, the

intelligence gives them symbolic meaning (for example, as words and

numbers), and files this data away in its memory bank.


     But what does this sensory, mental and intellectual information

add up to?  "The universe," we may answer.  But actually it is

impossible for us to say what the universe is *in truth* on the basis

of our gross and subtle knowledge.  That knowledge is limited.  There

is a point where sensations, thoughts and memories fail, where symbols

mislead, where order and meaning fade into blooming, buzzing confusion.

This is edge of "our" microcosm, a murky curtain of ignorance that

rustles and stirs with mysterious energy, sometimes parting just a

crack to allow brief glimpses into what philosophers term the *occult

qualities* of the hyperdimensional universe.


The occult background of worldly knowledge


     Many reports are on record of occult experiences, gotten by

extrasensory perception, mystical visions, precognitive dreams and so

on.  These are data carried by higher-dimensional waves of cosmic

*prana* that under extraordinary circumstances are picked up on the

human-level *pranic* wavelength.  Apparently even animals are tuned to

occult experiences, as indicated by their panicked flight from an area

hours before an earthquake strikes.  Millions of people find all this

to be very fascinating today.  They look to the occult as a new

frontier of knowledge.  For millions of other people, occultism is

fantasy.  Real knowledge is the "hard data" of the senses, mind and



     But the distinction people make between worldly and occult

knowledge is misleading in a number of ways.  As we learned earlier in

this chapter, the Mahajanas say that knowledge is a light that shines

*from a source outside our experience* upon the things within our

experience.  Hence, even worldly knowledge has occult origins.  For

example, our speech is full of phrases like, "A wonderful idea came

into my head," "An inspiration struck me," "It occured to me,"

"Suddenly it was clear to me."  Since childhood we've grown accustomed

to the popping of ideas, inspirations and intuitive hunches into our

everyday field of experience.  Thus we take it for granted.  But the

plain fact is that they pop up out of an unknown dimension.  And with

ideas that spring from an occult source, we try to understand and

explain the "everyday" world around us!


     The previous chapter introduced as "an instrumentalist" the person

who equates truth with practicality.  While admitting that there is a

mystery to inspired ideas, he argues that we only need to know whether

they have the power to advance solutions to the problems of human life.

When they do, that's real knowledge.  When they don't, that's

some sort of dreaming--the covering of the external world with internal

imagery.  "It is interesting, entertaining and even healthy to let off

excess psychic energy in the form of imagery, fantasies and occult

wishful thinking.  But that can't improve our lot in life.  Whatever it

may be, it isn't knowledge." This argument doesn't go far.  Everyone

will admit that old age, disease and death are the greatest problems

facing human beings.  The instrumentalists struggle valiantly against

them, but in spite of advancement in "practical knowledge"--medical

technology, for example--the solution to the real problems of life

remains as elusive as ever.  In the ultimate issue, practical knowledge

is also a kind of dreaming.


     The instrumentalist argues further that anything deserving the

title knowledge must explain what we experience without distorting

reality.  Occult knowledge always threatens to distort reality because

only a few people are privy to it.  The rest of us are asked to accept

occult claims blindly.  That leaves us open to reality-distortion by

so-called prophets, *gurus*, mystics and other manipulators.  Fine, but

*what is reality?*


     Reality, according to worldly philosophy, means two kinds of

clarity: perceptual clarity and logical clarity.  Thus factual

knowledge should 1) correspond to what most people *see as clear*, and

2) cohere to what most people *think as clear*.  The first theory is

called empiricism, the second rationalism.


     The first argues that a line can be called "really straight" when

we perceive clearly that it is straight.  The second argues that in

nature there are no really straight lines; "straightness" is purely a

human mental conception, an ideal.  Finding a straight line cut in the

side of a tree, it is instantly obvious to me that it was created by a

man who imposed his will upon nature.  Even then, an extremely detailed

measurement would show this line to be imperfectly straight.  We can

clearly agree a line is "really straight" only if we share the same

opinion of mind.  By these definitions, *the more people agree* they

see or think a line is straight, the clearer it becomes that it *really

is straight*.


     But because people are defective--we have imperfect senses and

minds, we are subject to illusion, we make mistakes and we are prone to

cheat one another--the reality of "straightness" *in itself* always

remains open to question.  Simply stated, *reality is occult.* If it

were not occult, then it would be easy for one individual to come to

terms with another about what is real.  But it is not easy, because

each of us lives in a microcosm.  People dispute whether the evening TV

news is real.  They dispute who really killed John F. Kennedy.  They

dispute what really causes AIDS.  They dispute what really happened

yesterday, what is really happening right now, and what will really

happen tomorrow.


     But I can't dispute that a world that *appears to me* to be real

is now present within one unitary field of consciousness--my own.  In

the face of uncertainty, disagreement and distrust, I can reduce

"knowledge" down to what I choose to hold real in my own microcosm.

And this surely *is* what people do.  As stated in a popular book about

man's relation to the universe: "I look as a forest or a flower or a

bird now, and say, `That is me, part of me.'"  The world each person

maintains as real within himself is a world of the occult.  Each is a

world hidden from all others, centered around a different person.


     Now we've come face to face with the logic of *ekatvena

prtaktvena* (the one without a second): I am reality.  He who follows

this logic thinks his ignorance about what is beyond the edge of his

microcosm is simply ignorance of his very own self.  But if I admit

that right now I am ignorant of my complete self, how can I at the same

time insist that the reality of the universe as a whole is ultimately

decided by my own self that as of yet is not completely known to me?


Real knowledge is knowing the source of knowledge


     What I need to know within and beyond myself is the Supersoul.  He

is the only creator of the microcosm and the macrocosm.  From Him alone

comes my knowledge (perceptual, mental, intellectual and occult), and

my ignorance of where my knowledge *really* comes from.  Explaining

this in *Science of Self Realization*, Srila Prabhupada states,


     Krsna supplies forgetfulness and remembrance according to

     the living entity's desire. If we want to forget Krsna and

     enjoy the material world, He will give us the necessary

     intelligence so that we can forget Him for good.


     Thus the unknown within me and beyond me is simply my ignorance of

the Lord.  Whether it is perceptual, mental, intellectual or occult,

knowledge that is ignorant of the source of knowledge is not real

knowledge.  It is illusion.  For example, a friend once told me of a

time he and a few others got lost at night on a lonely hillside

footpath.  After hours of groping through the darkness they came round

a bend and were elated to see the lights of a village ahead.  But

shortly they were disappointed by the realization that these lights

were really just a swarm of fireflies.  The lights were indeed

perceptual knowledge, but because my friend was ignorant of the source

of that knowledge, he and the others fell into illusion.


     Now, if all knowledge comes from God and God is all-good, why

would He cheat me by supplying knowledge that is actually illusion?

But the fact is, I cheat myself by desiring knowledge that helps me to

forget God.  My responsibility as a person is to choose between truth

and error.  The truth is knowledge that reveals God, and error is

knowledge that hides God.  If I choose error as truth, whose fault is



     For example, many sorcerers of old and scientists of late have

tried to uncover and master the fundamental principles that caused the

universe.  This desire to wield cosmic power places them in serious

error.  *Vedanta-sutra* makes clear that the power to create a universe

is never within the grasp of an individual soul (*jagad-vyapara-

varjam*).  At most the living entity can be a subordinate creator

within the plan of the Lord's creation.


     In his purport to *Bhagavat-gita* 9.15, Srila Prabhupada

identifies one who thinks himself to be the Supreme Lord, the origin of

the universe, to be the lowest of the three kinds of impersonalist

philosophers.  By considering himself the cause of the microcosm, such

a philosopher may differentiate himself, the soul, from his supposed

creation.  Thus some idea of transcendence is made available by this



The mesocosm


     The third alloform of the universe is the mesocosm.  The prefix

*meso-* means "between;" thus mid-way between the total universe and

the individual human being is the mesocosm, the social body.  Four

orders in human society appear from four organs of the gigantic

*virat*: the mouth, arms, belly and legs.


     The mouth is the organ of speech.  In all civilized societies

there is a class of men who broadcast scientific and philosophical

knowledge; the Vedas say this order is situated on the mouth of the

Cosmic Person and is called *brahmanas.*


     The arms are organs of power and protection.  In all civilized

societies there are rulers, soldiers and government officers who

preserve peace in society by protecting and managing the populace; this

order is situated on the arms of the Cosmic Person and is called the



     The belly is the organ that makes food available for the whole

body.  In all civilized societies there are farmers, merchants and

shopkeepers who provide the rest of the populace with food and other

items necessary for life; this order is situated on the belly of the

Cosmic Person and is called the *vaisyas.*


     In all civilized societies there is a class of working men who

assist the other three classes.  This order is situated on the feet of

the Cosmic Person and is called the *sudras.*


     Together the four orders are called the *varnas.*  A person is

classified in a particular *varna* according to his *dharma*,

translated by Srila Prabhupada as "constitutional and functional duty."

Srila Prabhupada always used the word "constitutional" in reference to

the soul's eternal relationship to Krsna, which is that of a servant to

his master.  The word "functional" has to do with a human being's

occupational competence.  A person's implicit *dharma* as a servant of

God is explicit in his *varna* or occupational function.  Whether he is

a *brahmana*, *ksatriya*, *vaisya* or *sudra*, he must serve a

multitude of social responsibilities in the form of family, career,

economy, community, religion, behavioral norms, tradition, government,

law, superiors, peers, and subordinants.


Krsna is Dharma-varman


     But instead of struggling in our external social functions at the

neglect of our constitutional duty, we human beings are supposed to

simply do one thing: serve Dharma-varman, "He who embodies all

principles of *dharma*." Dharma-varman is Lord Krsna, who wears as a

dress all *dharmas* or social functions.  Social duties performed in

consciousness of Him are called *yajna.*  The *Chandogya Upanisad*

calls upon every human being to execute his life's duties in sacrifice

to the Supreme (*puruso vava yajnah*...).


     Nobody can avoid involvement in social duties.  From birth to

death, each of us is integrated into a social context that has a life,

an *entity* (existence), of its own.  Our emotional states, our values,

our beliefs, our behavior, our education, our science, even our

aggravations and regrets--all these are just ties to a greater social

entity, who through such ties moves each of us as easily as a puppeteer

moves marionettes by pulling their strings.  The plain fact is that we

are already the surrendered servants of this mesocosmic entity.  The

question is whether we recognize that entity to be Krsna.


     *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 11.5.12 says that the real fruit of social duties

is a virtuous and religious life, the basis of *jnanam sa-vijnanam*,

philosophical knowledge that matures into direct perception of the Absolute

Truth.  Thus *dharma* is meant to be a stepping-stone to personal

association with Dharma-varman.  When the members of the four *varnas*

perform their duties to that end, their sacrifice culminates in the

chanting of the holy names of Krsna, the *yajna* that is directly Krsna

Himself (cf. *Bg* 10.25).  This is the way of the *mahatmas*.  But when

people execute *dharma* for materialistic aims, their religious progress

is thrown off the path that leads to the Supreme Person.


The Cosmic Egg


     From  world history, we learn that the ancient Egyptians and other

people religiously divided society according to *varna*,

and performed sacrifice. Yet they did not approach the Supreme

Person  Dharma-varman.  Instead of worshiping God, they worshiped

cosmic diversity (*bahudha*) in the form of the celestial demigod

society (or *pantheon*, as the Greeks called it), which was supposed to

be responsible for the many natural phenomena.  And where did the

demigods come from?  An ancient Egyptian text says they hatched from a

cosmic egg that appeared in a primordial ocean.  Pre-Christian creation

accounts from Greece, Finland, Phoenecia, Iran, Indonesia, Polynesia,

and South and Central America similarly depict an egg to be the source

of the sun, sky, moon, storms, the elements, animals and vegetation,

each of which is ruled by a deity.  These diverse deities were

worshiped in diverse forms by diverse civilizations.  Priests and kings

offered sacrifice to their local pantheons to ensure protection and

prosperity for their societies.


     The Vedic scriptures present the most detailed account of this

system.  The universe appears as a seed from the breath of Maha-Visnu,

a form of Sri Krsna who lies eternally upon the *karana-jala*, the

causal ocean.  Upon these waters, the universe develops like a

tremendous egg (*anda*) of golden effulgence.  A plenary portion of

Visnu enters into that egg and lies down, generating a cosmic ocean

within.  From His navel a lotus grows and opens, revealing four-headed

Brahma, the creator.  After receiving the Vedic knowledge from Lord

Visnu, Brahma brings forth the first society, that of the demigods.

The celestial hierarchy of the demigods (with Brhaspati as priest,

Indra as king, Kuvera as treasurer, Visvakarma as architect, etc.)

became the model for human social organization. Satisfying these demigods

with *karma-kanda* rituals ensured *sattvic* human social prosperity;

moreover, the ritualists could take  their next birth in celestial society.


     Up to 5000 years ago, the Vedic mesocosmic religion, called

*varnasrama-dharma*, flourished all over the world.  *Varnasrama-dharma* is

the scientific means to spiritually elevate the general mass of people,

whose hearts are very strongly bound to *samsara*.  The word *samsara*

means both "cycle of birth and death" and "family circle".  The idea is

that a soul is bound to birth and death by family attachment.  To be

attached to the family is to be attached to shapes of dead matter that

resemble persons.  In this way, the attraction a soul should have for the

Supreme Person is entangled in what the Vedas call the *prajatantu* [note:

the second "a" is long], or the chain of generation: our departed

ancestors, our living relatives and our future descendents.  Still, for a

person with Vedic knowledge, this *prajatantu* can serve as a link between

humanity, the demigods and the Supreme Person.  The souls who appear in the

generations of men and demigods were brought forth by Brahma from the

navel-lotus of Lord Visnu, the seed-giving father of all species of life.

The ritualism prescribed in the Vedas sets the materially attached soul on

the path of returning to Visnu by way of the *prajatantu.* In other words,

Vedic ritualism exploits family attachment for a higher purpose than just

the animalistic breeding of offspring.


     There are two sides to this purpose.  Narada Muni, speaking to King

Yudhisthira in *Srimad-Bhagavatam* Canto Seven Chapter Fifteen

("Instructions for Civilized Human Beings"), says one side of the Vedic

purpose is *pravrtti* or *pitr-yana*, which yields material prosperity.

Persons who satisfy the demigods by *pitr-yana* fire sacrifices ascend at

death to the celestial dimensions of Dhuma, Ratri, Krsnapaksa, Daksinam and

Soma.  Here they join their ancestors for a life of heavenly sense pleasure

that extends for many thousands of earthly years.  At the same time, the

demigods bless families on earth with the births of pious souls whose

celestial *karma* is exhausted.  These souls take human bodies to

accumulate *sukrta* (pious deeds) that will return them to heaven in the

next lifetime.  This “commerce” between earth and heaven along the

*prajatantu* graces human society with all variety of desirable material

things.  But because a human being is innately a spiritual person, he

cannot be satisfied by prosperity alone.  He comes to want esoteric

knowledge of the higher meaning of sacrifice, which Narada calls *nivrtti*

or *deva-yana.*


     One who aspires to follow the *deva-yana* path embarks on the quest of

tracing the *prajatantu* to its ultimate origin.  His sacrifice takes the

form of mystic yoga, not *karma-kanda* ritualism, for he is no longer

interested in winning material benefits for himself and human society, but

in liberation from birth and death.  By the accumulation of mystic power,

the soul ascends the *deva-yana* path beyond the dimension of Soma.  After

passing the regions of the patriarchs (Maharloka) and the great sages

(Janaloka and Tapaloka), he finally enters Brahmaloka, where the generation

of men and demigods began.  He dwells there for millions of millions of

years until the end of the cosmic manifestation draws nigh.  Giving up his

connection to the gross universe, he withdraws into the subtle self-

conception of being distinct from matter.  From there he withdraws further

into the causal self-conception of having creative power over the material

manifestation.  Finally he attains the pure state of knowing the Purusa,

Maha-Visnu, to be the source of his identity.  This, the Paramatma

(Supersoul) stage of realization, is higher than oneness in impersonal

Brahman.  However, because the process of realization is mystical and not

devotional, Supersoul realization is not committed to a loving exchange

with the Supreme Person.


     Thus, even after having traversed the *deva-yana*, unless the soul

surrenders in love to Krsna, he does not attain ultimate liberation.  By

His inward breath, Maha-Visnu brings one cosmic cycle to a close, and by

His outward breath, initiates the next.  He sets forth countless new golden

eggs upon the surface of the causal ocean.  Those same souls who, by the

nondevotional mystic method, traced their origin to Visnu, the Supreme

Father, now become captivated by His display of *bahudha* (diversity).

They re-enter the creative process as Brahmas, great sages, patriarchs and

so on.


From varnasrama to pandemonium


The worship of diverse demigods in "classical civilizations" (Egypt,

Greece, Rome and elsewhere) marked the decline of worldwide *varnasrama-

dharma.* In those days, civilized people understood human progress to mean

the cultivation of the mode of goodness.  Good *karma* yields good fortune;

hence the great cities of the ancient world were famously wealthy.  But

*varnasrama-dharma* society is supposed to offer up that wealth for the

satisfaction of Dharma-varman in an ongoing cycle of sacrifice.  The more

that is received by the mercy of the Lord, the more ought be offered to Him,

that even more mercy may be received.  The mercy of Dharma-varman is twofold.

In the first place, He bestows upon the sacrificer His *daivi-sampat* or

perfectional virtue.  Thus the good qualities of the demigods manifest

in the body of the worshiper; he becomes one in goodness with the Lord.

In the second place, through the agency of the demigods, the Lord bestows

material prosperity.


     Thus the demigods are satisfied when the Supreme Person is satisfied.

The satisfaction of the Supreme Person depends upon the purity of the

offering.  An offering is pure when the offerer is virtuous: he must be

situated in the truth of his spiritual identity as a servant of Krsna,

austere in his sacrifical duties, his heart clean of lust for the material

rewards of *yajna.*  As we learn from the lives of saintly Vedic kings

like Prthu, Antardhana and Nabhi, such immaculate virtue and purity is easily

sustained by the sacrificer who has *sraddha* (faith) and *bhakti*

(devotion).  Faith and devotion attract the supremely virtuous and pure

Lord Krsna, who enters into the body of the performer of sacrifice to

ensure that all he thinks and does will be free of contamination.  Thus

faith and devotion ensure virtue, virtue insures purity, purity ensures

the satisfaction of the Supreme Person, and the satisfaction of the

Supreme Person ensures the increase of both social prosperity and the

*daivi-sampat* by which one becomes worthy to associate constantly with

the Absolute Truth.


     Sacrifices performed without faith and devotion, with only with a view to

the material development of society, are impure (cf. *Bhag.* 7.7.40).  Though

the demigods bestow prosperity even upon the impure performer of sacrifice,

for want of *daivi-sampat*, the demigod worshiper remains tightly

cocooned within the material mind and senses.  And so the heavenly

benedictions of vast riches, alluring women, luxurious comforts and imperial

grandeur simply agitate his mind and senses.  As Lord Krsna explains in the

second chapter of *Bhagavad-gita*, the mind of one agitated by sense objects

becomes many-branched (*bahu-sakhah*).  He loses the determination to

cultivate virtues that benefit his soul.  Instead he succumbs to the fallen

habits of sense gratification.  This degredation spelled the end of the

classical period of human civilization.


     In His instructions to Uddhava (*Srimad-Bhagavatam* Eleventh Canto

chapter 10), Krsna says that those who worship demigods describe the

Supreme Person as *bahudha*, i.e.  diversely manifest as *kala* (time),

*atma* (the individual soul), *agama* (scriptural knowledge), *loka* (the

universe), *svabhava* (one's own natural inclinations) and *dharma*

(religious ceremonies).  But due to their strong inclinations to sense

pleasure, they forget Him as the only enjoyer of sacrifice.  Yet their own

attempts to enjoy the results of sacrifice become fraught with many

obstacles.  Whatever they achieve is plundered by time.  Abandoning virtue,

demigod worshipers descend into irreligion in the name of religion.  Their

rituals become polluted by animal slaughter and ghost-worship, symptoms of

the mode of ignorance.


     When the mode of ignorance becomes predominant, the demigods distance

themselves from human affairs.  The *prajatantu* linking earth and heaven

is closed off.  Instead of pious souls descending to take birth on earth

for elevation again, demons are born to plunder the accumulated riches of

society.  As the world fills up with demons, all semblance of Vedic culture

comes to an end.  Such is the situation of mankind today.  Srila Prabhupada

called this state of affairs a *pandemonium*, a general uproar of demons.

Our word "demon" comes from the old Greek *daimon*, which meant an unknown

supernatural being (as distinct from known gods like Zeus and Athena).

Thus Srila Prabhupada's choice of words is most apt, since the events of

today's society are prompted by ungoverned, irrational forces.


     In Greek philosophy, the irrational state of mind provoked by an unknown

*daimon* was considered to be madness.  According to the Vedic literatures,

the present age, called Kali-yuga, is a time when demonic entities led by Kali

(quarrel personified) completely overtake human society, driving it mad.

The four classes--intellectuals, administrators, farmers, merchants and

workers--are addicted to the four sinful habits.  Of the four virtues, only

truthfulness still struggles against the tide.  For example, at the end of the

twentieth century we are witness to a great upswing of doubt in the

"scientific" dogma that a person does not survive the body at the time of

death.  Millions of people today seek the truth about the self beyond the

body--by meditation, by transpersonal psychology, by channeling.  Yet all the

while, their physical and moral cleanliness is lost to whimsical sexuality;

their austerity and mercy are lost to meat-eating, intoxication and pride.

Thus even though modern man seeks truth about himself, his untamed nature

makes the consequences of this truth--"I am not this body, but pure spirit

soul"--a hard burden to bear.  "There is a wolf in me," wrote a famous poet of

the twentieth century.  "I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me

and this wilderness will not let it go."  Modern man, the cerebral wolf, ever

on the hunt in the dark wilderness of ignorance about his origins, his destiny

and his very self, may at times poke his nose into transcendence...but then,

hearing the call of the wild, he is just as likely to lope off in pursuit of

fresh meat or nervous, anonymous sex.


     He can't help himself, because his social philosophy is *economic

determinism.*  After the collapse of *varnasrama-dharma*, what determines

the direction of civilization?  Economic forces, which are nothing more than

the urges of a society's collective stomach and genitalia: hunger and sex.

Economic determinism wills man to work, to fight, to kill--for food, for

sexual partners and for a safe place to enjoy coitus.  This is Economic Man, a

marauder occupying the mesocosmic station of the *vaisya*, who slaughters cows

instead of protects them, who generates economy by any means possible

regardless of the spiritual and moral cost.  By that economy he controls the

social body as a whole.  Economic Man hires Power Man to work the arms and

Mechanical Man to work both the head and the legs.  Power Man conquers the

world to make way for more economic development, and protects the global

marketplace.  Possessed of a mind that computes with clockwork precision,

skillful both in artistry and automation, Mechanical Man develops science,

philosophy, industry and entertainment to suit Economic Man's program of

raising the standard of sense enjoyment higher and higher.


     Like a wolfpack skeletonizing a carcass, Economic Man, Power Man and

Mechanical Man plunder the assets of both nature and the social traditions of

their forefathers with resentful and nihilistic savagery.  In place of

sacrifice, this is today's program for social prosperity.  Vedic sacrifice

sanctified and ritualized both nature and elder traditions as representing the

hierarchy of diverse causes personified by the demigods.  Economic Man and his

cohorts reject all that as "mythic fantasy."  But to justify their program of

stripping the resources of man and nature, they go on to preach diverse causes

hatched from their imaginations: the cause of freedom, the spirit of the

nation, the power of the people, the wave of the future.  Everywhere

scientists, political activists, business magnates and entertainers are hailed

as personifications of newer and newer causes that supposedly advance society

by freeing us from nature and the traditions of our elders.  But like wolves,

Economic Man, Power Man and Mechanical Man (the "demigods" of Kali-yuga

ideology) end up snapping viciously at one another over the bones of nature

and civilization.  Thus the arenas of modern culture are simply battlegrounds

of conflicting ideologies.  From beginning to end, the life of people born

into pandemonium is full of hellish anxiety.


Pandemonium and *upadharma*


     The reader may wonder where the religions of Judaeo-Christianity, Islam

and Buddhism fit into this contrast of Vedic culture and pandemonium.  From

the Vedic viewpoint, these are *upadharmas* ("near-*dharmas*") that, by the

grace of the Supreme Person, arose at different places and times during the

same historical period that the worldwide *varnasrama* system faded into

pandemonium.  An *upadharma* leads people away from demoniac society toward a

virtuous life of faith, submission before the holy, compassion for one's

fellow beings, chastity, honesty, and so on.


     Judaeo-Christianity, Islam and Buddhism began among minorities persecuted

by a demoniac majority society.  Moses and the Israelites were persecuted in

Pharaonic Egypt.  Jesus and his disciples were persecuted in the Roman Empire.

Muhammed and his disciples were persecuted in Mecca.  Buddha and his disciples

were persecuted in Indian kingdoms where ritualistic animal slaughter was

rampant.  Thus each of these religions defines evil as the particular pattern

of social suffering, injustice and degradation that its founder was moved to

preached against.  The faithful of each religion believe liberation to be

deliverance from that pattern of evil.


     However, rooted as each religion is in time, place and circumstance,

their concepts of liberation gradually become irrelevant as the conditions

of the mesocosm change.  In India for example, Buddhism came to prominence

as a reaction against anomalies in brahminical culture.  The Buddha rejected

the brahminism of his time because of its cruel animal sacrifice, caste

prejudices and spiritual blindness.  But when brahminical culture was

reformed under the direction of the Vedantist Sankara, Buddhism lost its

appeal (though it continued to spread outside India's borders to other

Asian countries).  As society in the Judaeo-Christian West developed

economically and bread became abundant, many people gave up praying for

their daily bread.  Nowadays there are wealthy Christian countries in

which 90 percent of the population see no need to attend church with any



     Thus whenever people think the benefit of religious virtue is liberation

from a certain historical pattern of social ills, time's inevitable change of

those social conditions spells the decline of that religion.  Furthermore,

when people take liberation to be nothing more than progress in social

comforts, they abandon virtue altogether in the name of that so-called

progress.  In *The Anatomy of the Soul*, Anthony Kenny writes.


     It is characteristic of our age to endeavor to replace virtues

     by technology.  That is to say, wherever possible we strive to

     use methods of physical or social engineering to achieve goals

     which our ancestors thought attainable only by the training of

     character.  Thus, we try so far as possible to make contraception

     take the place of chastity, and anaesthetics to take the place

     of fortitude ...

Threefold suffering


     In *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 7.6.14, a Mahajana of the name Prahlada says

that those who make social progress the goal of their life are subject to

three kinds of suffering: *adhidaivika*, *adhyatmika* and *adhibhautika.*

Each corresponds to one of the cosmic

conceptions detailed above.  The first suffering is due to the soul's

coming under the jurisdiction of the demigods, who are features of the

*virat*, the macrocosmic form of God.  The demigods impose upon us

excessive heat, cold, drought, famine, earthquakes and other

disturbances of nature.  The second suffering is due to the soul's

residence within a material body and mind--his microcosm.  Even when

there is no external cause of distress, the body and mind disturb us

with their urges, discomforts, mistakes, anxieties, delusions and other

frailties.  The third suffering is due to the soul's interaction with

diverse living beings.  Inevitably, the people around me, even those I

love, are a regular source of botheration.  And apart from the human

species, other creatures offer me any number of harrassments, from

mosquito bites to shark attacks.


     All material existence is a composite of these three sufferings,

each of which is associated with a feature of the cosmos.  Due to our

fascination with the macro-, meso- and microcosm, a fascination that

has divided our consciousness from Krsna, we suffer.  The reality is

that the Supreme wears the three features of the cosmos upon His

person.  The universe only seems attractive to us because He, the all-

attractive Sri Krsna, illuminates matter with the effulgent beauty of

His spiritual form.  Thus even our attraction to matter is really only

attraction to Him.  Our mistake is in thinking that the energies of the

cosmos generate names, forms, varieties and activities *separately* and

*independently* from Krsna.  This mistake leads us into a Godless

obsession with, and entanglement in, the "mysteries" of the universe,

our selves, and society.  This is *maya.*


     There is no end to the mystery until we simply give it up.  The

third canto of *Srimad-Bhagavatam*, chapter six, states that when the

Supreme Person entered the prime matter of the cosmic egg, his presence

brought shape and order to the universe.  The three states of

*adhidaivika*, *adhyatmika* and *adhibhautika* develop from three

potencies of the Supreme Person.  The first is the divine potency of

His own heart, the one heart in which all souls in the cosmos dwell.

(It is also said that the Lord dwells in the heart of all living

beings; but in the first case the whole universe is the heart of

Supreme Soul, Visnu, as we see in *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 3.5.6).  At the

center of the universal heart lies the Supreme Person, who is the

generating force of all cosmic phenomena.  The second potency of the

Supreme Person is His *kriya-sakti*, which is the *prana* of ten kinds

that makes all movement in the universe possible.  The third potency is

His *atma-sakti*, the power of consciousness, which divides into the

bodies, minds and senses of the higher demigods, the middle human

beings and the lower creatures, along with the abilities and duties of

the four *varnas.* This whole display of cosmic energy is

inconceivable.  Therefore we simply have to offer our respectful

obeisances unto the Supreme Person as a matter of duty.  The only thing

that stands in our way is the tendency to speculate.



Chapter Three:  Beyond the Myth of Difficulty



          One of the most effective means by which

     intellectuals have always used in order to advance

     their role as agents of mystification has been the

     promulgation of what might be called "the myth of

     difficulty." ...  We still tend to believe that

     the "laws" of human nature are secret, mysterious,

     cryptic and inaccessible, and that they can be

     formulated only by means of abstruse theories, or

     through the construction of abstract models of



     This, a quotation from a recent book called *Why Freud Was Wrong*,

points to the failure of twentieth-century thinkers to solve the

predicament of mankind's threefold situation in individual life,

collective life, and in the natural universe.  Sigmund Freud, in

*Civilization and Its Discontents*, traced the whole of mankind's

problems to these three situations.  He and many other famous

intellectuals believed that liberation from this threefold suffering is

possible only when mankind discovers the truth about himself.  But, as

explained in the previous chapter, for thinkers ignorant of the Supreme

Person, *truth is occult.*  When faced with a mystery, the

investigative mind is wont to speculate.  And so, over thousands of

years, mankind developed a rich spectrum of theories to attack the

riddle of the human situation.  But as this quotation suggests, the

invention of theories just makes the human situation more difficult.

Still, every new generation continues the speculative search for

freedom from man's threefold suffering.  As Srila Prabhupada remarked,

"The entire human civilization is trying to get freedom from



Human life and animal life


     Like the lower forms of life, we human beings are very preoccupied

with eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  The difference is that

lower forms of life are much less sensitive to inconveniences than are

human beings.  A tree stands in one spot for hundreds of years without

complaining.  During the mating season, male animals regularly duel

with other males, risking severe injury or death without ever

questioning why.  Creatures of the wild are satisfied to live in trees,

in the tall grass and in holes in the ground.  To civilized human

beings, such conditions are terribly inconvenient.  Indeed, we organize

ourselves into civilization as a means of freeing ourselves from such



     Yet ridding ourselves of discontent is not merely a matter of

improved living conditions.  We of the modern world are blessed with

many extravagant conveniences.  But though we eat, sleep, mate and

defend with great sophistication, still anxiety, doubt and self-

contempt gnaw at our hearts.  Why?  *Because we are not free.*  We are

trapped within the four walls of birth, old age, disease and death.


     Animals have not even an inkling of how to investigate a solution

to old age, disease and death, whereas that solution is eagerly sought

by legions of human intellectuals.  Undeniably, human beings have a

deeper mission of life to fulfill than do animals.


     In Krsna's plan for human society, the intellectuals--the

*brahmanas*--are meant to teach the other classes the way to freedom

from all difficulty.  Actual freedom is *vimukti*, or spiritual

liberation from from the *klesa-traya*, the threefold miseries of the

human situation.  But the *Srimad-Bhagavatam* stipulates that only

service to a *brahmana* who is a *mahatma* (a pure devotee of the

Supreme Person) can open the door to *vimukti*: *mahat-sevam dvaram

ahur vimuktes.*


Spiritual fortune


     The method of liberation taught by the *mahatmas* is constant

chanting of Krsna's glories (*satatam kirtayanto mam*).  The Hare Krsna

*mahamantra*--Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare--is the most simple yet complete vibration of His



     The material condition of the soul is a condition similar to

sleep.  The personhood of the soul is asleep to his real nature.  A

person is defined as a conscious entity with a power to choose among

possible experiences.  A sleeping person has only dream-experiences to

choose from; similarly, a sleeping spirit soul has only material

experiences to choose from.  The pure sound of the *mahamantra* awakens

the soul to the spiritual experience of love of God.


     But unless the soul casts off completely his bad habit of dreaming

in the lap of matter, there is every chance of his falling back to

sleep after having once being roused by the transcendental sound.  The

safe position is *mantra-yoga*, in which consciousness vibrates

constantly, day and night, with the syllables of God's name.  To that

end we should take to the regular discipline of chanting Hare Krsna

under the guidance of a spiritual master, Krsna's pure representative.

This is the eternal Vedic method of liberation through sound, made easy

for the fallen modern age.  In earlier ages, many *mantras* were

prescribed; in this age, only one--the easiest yet most powerful: Hare

Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare

Hare.  "What is the difficulty?" Srila Prabhupada asked.  "But they'll

not do it.  Therefore unfortunate. But it is possible if one is



     Srila Prabhupada is saying that by *spiritual* good fortune, a

soul takes to the practice of chanting Hare Krsna.  Spiritual fortune

does not depend on the three kinds of *material* fortune (good, bad and

mixed) explained in the first chapter of this book.  The demigods make

material fortune available in accordance with a person's *karma.* But

it is beyond the competence of the demigods to schedule a soul's

spiritual fortune.  Spiritual fortune is offered to a soul by the

spiritual master.  If he takes that offer, the soul becomes truly



     By material good fortune, a person achieves a high station in the

universe--for example, a birth among the demigods or in an aristocratic

family on earth.  Socially, he enjoys great prominence.  Individually,

his life is ornamented by wealth, education and bodily beauty.  Mixed

fortune yields a mediocre cosmic, social and individual standing.  Bad

fortune yields a corresponding low standing.  But in any case, if a

person has no attraction to hear and chant about Krsna, he is

unfortunate, because all positions in the material world are temporary.

Good material fortune inevitably changes to misfortune.  Actually, our

constant misfortune is that we are not free.  Merely changing our

material status from bad to good is not *vimukti*.


     When a person becomes spiritually fortunate, he sees all material

positions as the same.  He neither desires nor fears any of them:


                         *narayana-parah sarve

                         na kutascana bibhyati


                        api tulyartha-darsinah*


     A person who is devoted to the Supreme Person is not afraid

     of anything. Elevation to the heavenly kingdom, condemnation

     to hell and liberation from material bondage all appear the

     same to a devotee. (*Srimad-Bhagavatam* 6.17.28)


     How is it that the devotee experiences any material situation, whether

heavenly or hellish, *as the same even as liberation?*  It is because

of his *personal* perspective on reality.  He sees the macro-, meso-

and microcosmos as nothing other than the outer dress of the Supreme

Person.  Whether one is in heaven, hell or inbetween, *his situation

rests upon Krsna, the supreme liberated person.*  Just as when a man

puts his feet on stone, brick or wood, he really puts his feet on earth

since all three are essentially earth, so wherever a person might be in

the cosmos, he is really always with Krsna.  Krsna assures Arjuna that

one who sees the Lord everywhere and all things within Him is never

lost.  By the strength of his attachment to Krsna, the devotee is

detached from all that obsesses a soul entrapped by matter--including

the obsession for liberation from matter.


     In the *Srimad-Bhagavatam*, Mahajana Brahma speaks a famous verse

that contains the phrase *sthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-

manobhir.* Explaining this, Srila Prabhupada said:


     You, whatever you are, have no need of change.

     It is very difficult to change position.  Better

     remain in your position, but hear about Krsna.


     Persons entrapped by difficulty naturally want freedom.  It is the

mission of every human being to liberate himself.  But if in his

obsession for freedom, a man exchanges one material situation for

another, he'll find new difficulty.  Shifting a heavy weight from one

shoulder to another may bring temporary relief, but it does not free

him from the burden.


     It is not a "matter" of whether our material fortune is good or

bad, nor whether our position is high or low.  We must become free of

the burden of matter.  In the pure sound of Krsna's names and

narrations, we experience the intensification of *our very being as

liberated persons* in the association of the Supreme Liberated Person

and his liberated associates.


     Krsna effortlessly supports countless material worlds while

enjoying His own divine bliss.  He is so eager to share His own bliss

with souls who approach Him in loving devotion that He assumes

responsiblity for their material welfare, preserving what they have and

carrying what they lack.  There are many pure devotees who serve within the

matrix of a material body and mind.  But they know no difficulty in this

position--indeed, they wear their bodies as lightly as the Lord wears the

universe.  Kapiladeva compares them to drunken men who do not know whether

they are wearing clothes or not.  Internally they drink the nectar of *bhakti-

rasa*, and externally they are maintained by the supreme controller of matter,

time and the demigods.


     Narada, in chapter six of the first canto of *Srimad-Bhagavatam*,

explains that as a pure devotee meditates upon the Lord in ecstatic love, His

spiritual form emerges from the core of consciousness deep within the

heart.  Each of the devotee's senses is electrified by the Lord's presence,

and with lives of their own, hearing, touch, vision, taste and smell rush to

render Him service.  Thus a devotee surpasses even the mode of goodness.  His

senses, intoxicated by direct contact with the personal form of Krsna, are

never agitated in the proximity of material sense objects.  His mind,

completely satisfied in devotional service, has no interest in speculations

about the spinning wheel of material fortune.  As Narada points out, the Lord

takes charge of the devotee's *karmic* destiny.


The bad habit of mental speculation


     Srila Prabhupada explains another phrase from Brahma's famous

verse thusly:


     Brahma is the topmost living creature within this

     universe.  He said, "A person must give up this

     nonsense habit of speculation": *jnane prayasam

     udapasya.*  One must become submissive.  One should

     not pose that he knows something, that he can speculate,

     that he can invent.  The so-called scientists are simply

     speculating and wasting labor.  Nothing can be done

     by you.  Everything is already arranged. You cannot

     change the law.  You can simply see how it is working.


     The agitated mind urges us to change our situation--in the universe, in

society or at least within ourselves.  Scripture compares the mind to the

restless wind or to an impetuous, uncontrolled horse.  Though the mind calls

for change, change doesn't satisfy the mind.  Change is taking place anyway--

life after life we change our cosmic, social and mental situations, sometimes

getting the form of a Brahma, sometimes that of an ant.  But throughout it

all, the mind remains unsatisfied.  Srila Prabhupada called this utopianism--a

never-ending search for noplace, or Utopia (from Greek *ou*, "not" and

*topos*, "a place").  Dissatisfaction of mind simply drives us onward in the

cycle of birth and death.


     It is the human habit to resort to speculation to relieve ourselves of

utopian anxiety.  Speculation generates "new discoveries," and new discoveries

inflate pride in human progress.  But pride stands behind the mind's utopian

anxiety: "this situation I'm in now isn't good enough for me." Thus new

discoveries breed new anxieties.  For example, Rontgen's [note to Rajavidya--

umlaut about "o" in Rontgen] discovery of X-rays in 1895 sparked a revolution

in medical and dental diagnostics.  Now we are told that every year an

alarming number of people contract cancer from medical and dental X-rays.


     Speculative knowledge is called *jnana.*  This is a different *jnana*

from that Lord Krsna taught to his disciples Arjuna and Uddhava.  The Lord's

system of *jnana-yoga* is not aimed at changing one's position.  It teaches

how the mind and senses are to be purified under the direction of the

spiritual master.  But as the Personified Vedas say (*Bhag.* 10.87.33), for

one who abandons the lotus feet of his spiritual master, the attempt to pacify

the mind is full of distress.  He encounters many obstacles and is never

successful.  The attempt to pacify the mind by means other than the mercy of

*guru* and Krsna is precisely the kind of *jnana* that Brahma orders us to

stop.  From the above words of Srila Prabhupada, this kind of *jnana* can be

identified by five symptoms: 1) unsubmissiveness due to thinking one already

has knowledge; 2) the habit to speculate; 3) the habit to invent something

new; 4) the habit to change the law (*dharma*); 5) laborious wasting of time.


Dry knowledge and Vedic knowledge


     The logic behind speculative *jnana* is very different from the real

purpose of the Vedas taught by Brahma, who was entrusted by Lord Krsna to be

the *guru* of all genuine Vedic *gurus*.  The Vedic purpose is *ratir atman

yato bhavet*, the cultivation of attraction to the Supreme Soul.  Lord Krsna

says that if someone masters Vedic knowledge but has no attraction to the

Lord, he is like a man who keeps a cow that gives no milk.  Thus speculative

*jnana* is called *suska-jnana*, or dry knowledge.


     The logic of *suska-jnana* reduces the Vedic teachings to impersonal

axioms.  Axioms are basic rules of thought that are not supposed to be

questioned--they are simply "given," though the impersonalist admits no need

for a personal Giver.  The goal of this dry analysis is never *rasa*, which

is irreducibly personal.  Thus because from the start they favor an impersonal

interpretation, *suska-jnanis* are unsubmissive to the goal advised by the

greatest Vedic authorities, Lord Krsna and His son Brahma.  As Srila

Prabhupada points out, the *jnanis* think they know better.


     There are two phases of *suksa-jnana*: *purva* (the lower) and *uttara*

(the higher).  At the *purva* stage, *trai vidya* (three-fold knowledge) is

studied.  *Trai vidya* is variously explained as the three Vedas (*Rig*,

*Yajur* and *Sama*); as *manas* (mind), *prana* (vital force) and *vak* (Vedic

sound vibration); as *adhidaivika*, *adhibautika* and *adhyatmika* (the three

cosmic levels at which every material thing exists simultaneously); and as the

*tri-varga* (the three material objectives of *dharma* or piety, *artha* or

wealth, and *kama* or sensual pleasure).  In any case, *trai vidya* pertains

to the enjoyment of the three modes of nature: *trai-gunya-visaya veda*, as

Krsna tells Arjuna in *Bhagavad-gita* 2.45.  The goal is to change position by

moving upward into higher cosmic dimensions of sense enjoyment.


     At the *uttara* stage, *trai vidya* is reduced to impersonal Brahman, the

ultimate axiom of *susksa-jnana.* By Brahman, the *jnanis* mean the all-

pervading spiritual effulgence called *brahmajyoti.* Like the rays of light

streaming from the sun, the *brahmajyoti* emanates from Krsna's transcendental

form (though *jnanis* do not know that Krsna is its source).  If he is able to

supress the influence of the material mind and senses by *yoga*, the

impersonalist experiences the Lord's opulence of knowledge as a flood of

glaring light into which his individual identity merges.  The goal here is to

change position by becoming God.


     Srila Prabhupada says a *jnani* is prone to speculate.  At the

*purva* stage, *jnanis* speculate about material elevation through

Vedic sacrificial rituals.  At the *uttara* stage, the speculations of

the *purva* stage are negated, and the *jnani* speculates that he has

become one with God, the impersonal absolute.  Srila Prabhupada says the

*jnanis* want to invent.  They invent an impersonal conception of reality.

Srila Prabhupada says the *jnanis* want to change the law.  The supreme law or

*dharma* according to Lord Krsna is for the soul to surrender to Him in pure

devotion.  The *jnanis* try to change that to mean the merging of the soul

into the impersonal absolute.  Finally, Srila Prabhupada says the *jnanis*

waste time laboriously.  *Avyakta hi gatir duhkham dehavadbhir avapyate*:

"progress toward the impersonal goal is difficult for embodied souls."

(*Bg.* 12.5)  Even if a *suksa-jnani* manages to attain the *brahmajyoti*, his

persistent ignorance of the Supreme Person beyond the light leaves him

spiritually unsatisfied.  For want of *rasa*, his personal desires pull him

back down into the world of time: *aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah patanty

adho 'nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah*.  (*Bhag.* 10.2.32)


     Therefore Krsna says that it takes many, many births for a *jnani* to

become *jnanavan*, truly wise--by knowing at last the Supreme Person to be

everything, both at the *purva* and *uttara* stages.  This change of heart

comes when the *jnani* is blessed by association with a *mahatma* who corrects

his impersonal perspective.  The *jnani* learns from the *mahatama* that "I am

Krsna's", and stops speculating "I am God."  Thus he becomes a *mahatma*



The method of modern *susksa-jnanis*


     The *jnanis* of Western civilization do not adhere to Vedic knowledge.

But they do aim to change the position of man in the world through the

cultivation of scientific and philosophical knowledge, and they consider

mental speculation to be the *sine qua non* of that cultivation.  Indeed, they

believe the core essence of human consciousness is mental speculation.

"Abstract, theoretical or scientific thinking, which we call reason,

constitutes the main content, the nucleus of man's consciousness," said Dr.

Assen Kojarov in his address to the 1973 World Congress of Philosophy.


     Now, human speculation is not perfect.  How is truth to be distinguished

from error?  "Sometimes there may be errors," writes Oxford mathematician

Roger Penrose, "but the errors are correctable.  What is important is the fact

that there *is* an impersonal (ideal) standard against which the errors can be

measured." Penrose is saying our speculations must reduce to an impersonal

truth.  This is an axiom, a "given" given by nobody, a rule that should not be



     Thus modern systems of knowledge are founded upon an ideology of

impersonalism.  An ideology is a set of axioms that we are barely conscious

of.  It silently directs our efforts to give shape and coherence to the world.

Dry philosophers both East and West are directed by the same ideology.

Another common feature is their false humility.  The Eastern *jnani* seems to

humble himself before the Vedic teachings, but his intent is to exploit Vedic

knowledge for changing his position from man to God.  The Western *jnani*

seems to humble himself before the natural cosmos.  But his intent is likewise

to become God.


     Francis Bacon was one of the first "modern" thinkers; though he lived

four centuries ago (1561-1626), his writings on knowledge and how to get it

are still celebrated today.  In a book entitled *The Phaenomena of the

Universe*, he argued that humility demands mankind to submissively peruse the

"volume of the creation" with a mind well-purged of opinions, idols and false

notions.  Similarly, the learned T.H. Huxley (1825-1895) advised men to

sit down before the fact of the natural world and humbly follow "wherever and

to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing."  This another

axiom of the modern method of knowledge: a person can know the truth only if

he opens his mind.  What is meant by opening the mind?  Emptying it of

personal values like good and evil, holy and unholy--thus reducing

consciousness to a space that is to be occupied by material knowledge.


The conceit of the "open mind"


     The mind must be opened because it has a big job to do.  Like the mouth

of a tremendous python, it has to swallow, bit by bit, the whole universe.

The more it engorges the universe, the more the mind puffs up with

"knowledge." A statement by astronomer and mathematician Pierre-Simon de

Laplace (1749-1827) makes clear that this is indeed the agenda of the Western



     A mind that in a given instance knew all the forces

     by which nature is animated and the position of all

     the bodies of which it is composed, if it were vast

     enough to include all these data within his analysis,

     could embrace in one single formula the movements of

     the largest bodies of the universe and of the smallest

     atoms; nothing would be uncertain for him; the future

     and the past would be equally before his eyes.


     Clear enough: the mind should be "vast" so as to engulf "the movements of

the largest bodies of the universe and of the smallest atoms."  Thus sciences

hopes to attain God-like knowledge and mastery over nature.  But the data my

mind swallows comes from *my* matrix of experience.  The data your mind

swallows comes from *your* matrix.  Undoubtedly one person's experience of the

universe is similar in many ways to another's.  But significant differences

always remain.  No matter how humble we try to become before the creation, my

data and yours can never be identical.  No matter how much I try to purge my

mind of opinions, idols and false notions, what I think about the cosmos and

what you think about it will never be the same.  As I write these words, I

have before me the May 1997 edition of *Scientific American.* On page 14 is an

article entitled "Vanishing World," about a debate between astronomers as to

whether a planet discovered in 1989 orbiting the star 51 Pegasus is real or a

mirage.  Whose macrocosmic data is true and whose is false?


Is truth a judgement of society?


     "Truth ultimately resides in the collective judgement of people

who are committed to consensus and consistency," answers physics

professor Alan Cromer in *Uncommon Sense*, a book about the scientific

method.  The axiom here is that man can never judge what is true at the

macrocosmic level.  Macrocosmic data must be reduced to the mesocosmic level.

In other words, if we want knowledge of the universe, we have to humble

ourselves before society.  As Cromer argues, "Science, like democratic

politics, is a social activity." He calls science "an extension of rhetoric."

Only by the democratic exchange of viewpoints through the medium of language

can we arrive at a unified understanding of our diverse experiences.  Society

crowns as the winner the best argument emerging from that exchange.  But

though the winning argument is crowned "truth," social judgement hardly

insures that truth is crowned the winning argument.  History repeatedly shows

the scientific community handing the crown to an untrue argument.  Up until

the year 1800, it was the collective judgement of scientists that rocks do not

fall from the sky.  In 1768, a good number of French villagers witnessed a

meteor crash to earth in their locale.  Where it landed, there, for all to

see, was a rock from sky.  But member of the French Academy of Sciences

Antoine Lavosier, having arrived four years later to investigate, argued that

the stone was always on the ground, and that the villagers had only witnessed

a thunderbolt strike it.  The scientific community crowned his argument the



     Scientists want to lord it over material nature (to "swallow the

universe").  What most commands the attention of a society seeking lordship?

Power, not truth.  An argument may have winning power simply because it

confirms the prejudice of the majority ("rocks can't fall from the sky").  It

may have winning power because the opposing arguments are even weaker.  It may

have winning power due to the ignorance of society, or because of vote-rigging

and influence peddling.


     Truth dispels ignorance.  The scientific community is uncomfortably short

of explanations that dispel ignorance.  The British science journal *Focus*

(August and September '96) published "one hundred greatest mysteries

unanswerable in the world of science."  Among them: Does God exist?  What

gives human beings their consciousness?  What links humans to the cosmos?

What is time?  What is the universe made of?  Where do the galaxies come from?

Where do the oceans come from?  How did life on earth begin?  Why are heavy

things hard to push?  Exactly how do anaesthetics work?  What is the ideal

diet?  Why does sex exist?  Why do humans sleep?  What exactly is complexity?


Social truth and social trust


     In spite of such lapses in their own knowledge, the scientific community

presumes to decide for the rest of the world what is and isn't valid

knowledge: evolution is, creationism isn't; reductionism is, vitalism isn't;

naturalism is, supernaturalism isn't.  And why?  Evolution, reductionism

and naturalism are faithful servants of

economic determinism.  Like blinders that a farmer puts on the head of a

workhorse so that the animal will pull its load straight ahead without

distraction, these "truths" help fix the public mind on economic development

as the only goal of life.  What is good for the economy is good for science.

Yet the public isn't buying  into scientific "truths" like it used to.  For example, while scientists  overwhelmingly agree that once a year the earth revolves around the sun, less

than fifty percent of the adult population of the United States acknowledges

that to be true.  Recent books like Carl Sagan's *The Demon-Haunted World:

Science as a Candle in the Dark* (1996) evince the dismay of leading

scientists at the common man's diminishing respect for so-called scientific



     It gets worse: this diminishing respect can be linked to a widespread

suspicion that top scientists are involved in some kind of worldwide plot to

deceive the public.  Hollywood panders to this paranoia with hugely successful

films and TV series (*The X-Files*, *Conspiracy Theory*, *Men in Black*).  Is

it all just showbiz and mass delusion?  Well, even scientists testify there's

something to worry about.  In 1996, a nuclear physicist published a book

documenting the existence of MJ-12, a secret council on UFOs formed in 1947 by

top US scientists, government experts and military brass.  Though the official

dogma is that there is no such thing as flying saucers piloted by alien

humanoids, MJ-12 may have accumulated physical evidence (even bodies) from UFO

crashes.  Also in 1996, a microbiologist published a book documenting how the

official dogma about AIDS is a lie.  There is no proof that the HIV virus

causes AIDS; the author argues the HIV virus is blamed because other virus

epidemics like polio were stopped by global vaccination--and the development

of a vaccine against the virus a frightened global public *thinks* causes AIDS

is sure to earn huge profits.  His book also accuses doctors who treat AIDS

with the standard drugs--azidothymidine (ATZ), dideoxycytidine (ddC), and

dideoxyinosine (ddI)--of poisoning their patients.


     It is beside the point how factual such accusations really are.  The

point is that such accusations are the subject of movies, documentaries, news

programs, network specials, newpaper stories, magazine covers, talk shows,

seminars, Internet chatter and tabloid fantasies.  This proves that society is

far from convinced that science--at least the high-level government-funded

kind of science--is open, democratic and thus "socially" truthful.


     Even if the grand conspiracy theories are questionable, that does not

make "normal" science trustworthy.  In 1995, the British Library Science

Reference and Information Service published a documented review of the social

origins of fraud in science.  Polls of the scientific community taken by *New

Scientist* magazine (1976 and 1987), the *British Medical Journal* (1988),

the Society of University Surgeons (1989), the American Association

for the Advancment of Science (1992), *American Scientist* magazine

(1993), and the journal *Science, Technology and Human Values*

(1994) report that cheating (falsification and manipulation of data) and

plagarism are alarmingly common among professionals.  Five main causes

of fraud were identified: personality factors, the pressure to publish,

the academic rat race, commercialism, and pressure from sponsors.

Without these five, there surely could be *no* social activity in science.

Yet when asked, scientists admit each breeds ruthlessness, dishonesty and



Microcosmic mysticism


     Not only is human knowledge full of controversy, it is a never-ending

torrent of information that grows more and more diverse every day.  It is

beyond the mental capacity of an individual scientist to swallow it all.  Even

the entire scientific community can't make sense of it.  This a problem called

"the fragmentation of knowledge."  No wonder some modern *jnanis* escape from

scientific social activity into a mystical realm beyond debate, beyond

language altogether.  In a lecture delivered at the University of California

in Santa Barbara, T.H.  Huxley's famous grandson Aldous (1894-1963) said:


     the enlightened individual goes beyond grammar.  He has what

     may be called a `grammar-transcending experience' which

     permits him to live in the divine continuum of the world

     and to see the one continually manifest in the many.  The

     enlightened person is, so to speak, *after* the rise of

     language; he lives in language and then goes beyond it.


     In Huxley's view, knowledge exchanged through the medium of language is

unavoidably misleading.  To get beyond error a person must leave behind

language, which addresses only "the many" outside ourselves.  We must reduce

our search for knowledge to the unspoken "one" within the microcosm.  Whatever

is manifest as the many outside is only the one within.  The mystic humbles

himself before that one--his own self--knowing it to be the truth.


     We've touched on three axioms of modern knowledge--1) the open individual

mind can gradually swallow the universe; or 2) the open (i.e.  democratic)

collective mind of society can gradually swallow the universe; or 3) the

enlightened mind can know itself as one with the universe.


     There's little to see in the way of real humility in any one

of these methods.  Each is a statement of exaggerated faith in the power of

the human mind.  Each method turns out to be a mental concoction rooted in the

false ego, which is a diseased spirit of "I" and "mine." The first method

tries to make the world "mine" by knowledge, and the second "ours" (which is

just a collection of "mines").  The third tries to erase by knowledge the

difference between "I" and "the world."  "As long as one is a servant of

mental concoctions," Srila Prabhupada explains, "one cannot be completely free

from the disease of `I' and `mine.'" The disease of I and mine is a disease of

rebelliousness against Truth--the Supreme Person.  It appears in

consciousness as a spirit of false lordship over matter, and is the root cause

of our material existence.


"Our world" is a world of mental speculation


     The material creation is meant for rebellious souls

     who are not prepared to accept subordination under the

     Supreme Lord.  This spirit of false lordship is called

     false ego.  It is manifested in three modes of material

     nature, and it exists in mental speculation only.


     We live in a world of mental speculation, says Srila Prabhupada in

this segment of his purport to *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 3.5.29.  To be sure,

he does *not* say the creation itself is nothing more than a state of

my own mind.  Energies like fire and water do exist in objective

reality.  But they do not exist in the way we think they do--as objects

of our selfish happiness and distress.  In the cold of winter, for

example, the mind associates a fiery wood stove with happiness and the

water of a river with distress.  In the heat of summer the mind gives

fire and water exactly opposite connotations.  Such conceptions of fire

and water *exist in mental speculation only*.  Thus, as Srila

Prabhupada explains in *Message of Godhead*, the world as we know it

"is simply subjective--that is, subject to our sense perceptions as

they relate to our processes of thinking, feeling, and willing."


     The three modes of nature ripple through our "I" and "mine" conceptions

as the waves of thinking, feeling and willing.  The world of mental

speculation--which Srila Prabhupada terms "unreal reality"--manifests within

those waves.  For example, waves of thought flood the conception "this world

is mine" with curiosity about the many possible ways to experience this world.

Waves of feeling sort "my" sense impressions of the world into categories such

as positive, negative, and ambiguous.  The intelligence (*buddhi*) invents

ways to help the senses come in contact with positive objects, avoid negative

ones, and investigate ambiguous ones.  Waves of will push "my" senses to do

something about these feelings and plans.  When we will something to happen,

our sense of lordship over creation becomes frankly apparent.


     Thinking, feeling and willing condition the soul to believe himself the

controller of the laws that govern "his" world.  For instance, as I write this

sentence, I think that the room I'm in is hot and stuffy.  I know that

physical law dictates that a closed room under a bright summer sun will heat

up.  I feel I should change this situation by getting up and opening the

window.  And sure enough, willing this to be done, my body gets up, opens the

window, and fresh air pours into the room.  But this willpower over the laws

of the cosmos is illusory, because I do not really know *what the law is* that

I am trying to change.


     The law is *karma,* and what I don't know is what sufferings and

enjoyments I am destined to obtain by the work I now perform.  I do know I am

in this hot room and that I have an option of choice--I can just sit here and

tolerate the heat, or I can do something.  When I choose to do something, the

matrix responds to my desire.  I experience getting up, walking over a few

steps, reaching out and turning a handle, and pulling the window frame open.

But while this is going on, I cannot predict with certainty where material

nature is leading me.  I do not know whether *my goal*--to be relieved by

fresh air--is really what is in store for me.  The breeze may carry a foul

stench, forcing me to shut the window immediately.  Mosquitos may fly in

and distract me even more than the heat did.  The effort of opening the

window may trigger a heart attack.  And finally, whatever option I

choose within the matrix does not substantially change my situation.

Whether I open the window or not, I do not change the law of *karma.*  If I am

destined to suffer in this room, I will suffer in this room, one way or

another.  As Srila Prabhupada said, "Everything is already arranged. You

cannot change the law.  You can simply see how it is working."


Intellectual rebellion against the Supreme Person


     Modern civilization suffers from an unfortunate propensity to

idolize the human mind.  People tend to believe that famous scientists have

some extraordinary power to sculpt a perfect model of the world from a block

crystalline logic, this logical world being the pure form of reality.  But

because intellectuals are in difficulty, their so-called logical worlds are

likewise full of difficulties.  With a bit more sophistication, intellectuals

just do what even lower creatures do: they mentally impose their own

subjective values upon what their senses perceive.  These values end in the

physical affairs of eating, sleeping, mating and defending, which in turn end

in death.


     No, we do not "really" live within the logical worlds of dead or dying

scientist and philosophers.  We really live within the Supreme Person.

*Purusa evedam sarvam*--"all this is He." The true intellectual class, the

*brahmanas*, are meant to instruct us in an exacting understanding of God as

the origin and controller of the universe.  Knowing Him in truth, we shall

know Him as our only means to get free from the grip of death.  But when

intellectuals are infected with the disease of "I" and "mine", they act as

agents of mystification.  They concoct models of mind to take the place of the

Supreme Person.  Then, acting as priests, they conduct the rest of society in

worshiping these models as idols.


     Take for example the modern idol of space science.  Merchants and workers

of leading nations make offerings to this idol in the form of taxes collected

by the administrators.  This wealth is taken by clever rocket scientists

who ceremoniously shoot it into the sky.  The scientists sometimes defend this

wasteful enterprise as being motivated by humility before the vast cosmos.

But this humility is deceptive.  The actual intent behind the worship of the

idol of space science is the conquest of the universe.  To conquer the

universe, mankind has to somehow find a way to free himself from the authority

of the Supreme Person, represented by the laws of material nature.  This

is impossible.  But when an intellectual acts as an agent of mystification,

he persuades society to believe the impossible: "Others dream dreams and ask

why, I dream dreams and ask why not."


     Vedic histories record the account of one Trisankhu, a *sudra* who

attempted to enter the celestial realm of *svarga* in his earthly

physical body with the help of the *brahmana* Visvamrta, a master of

mystic power.  But Trisankhu was not successful; the laws of nature did not

permit it.  The law is that one can attain heaven in the next life by choosing

to live a life of goodness on earth.  *Urdhvam gacchanti sattva stha*,

declares the *Bhagavad-gita*: after giving up the earthly body, a person in

goodness goes upward to receive a superhuman body in the celestial world.


The future of bad science


     Today's rocket scientists hope to do with machinery what Visvamrita could

not do by mystic power.  Allen Cromer has this sobering observation:


     The idea that spaceships may someday trek from star to star

     makes great science fiction but bad science.  The laws of

     physics and the properties of matter limit the speed of

     spaceships, making it impossible to travel between stars

     in any reasonable time. (*Uncommon Sense*, 1993, p. 184)


     But bad science gets big money.  Just as some scientists spend incredible

sums of money on machines to conquer space, others spend money on the

mechanical conquest of the microcosm, as popularized by films like *Robocop*,

*Terminator* and *Johnny Memnonic*.  The hope is the development of a human

body and mind improved by computerized prostheses: limbs endowed with

increased strength and speed; artificial eyes that see far beyond the visible

spectrum; neural implants that enable direct mind-linkage with computer

networks and instant downloading of data into the brain.


     The scientific future of the mesocosm (human society) is

*technopoly*, defined by communications theorist Neil Postman as "the

submission of all forms of cultural life to the sovereignty of

technique and technology." Postman explains:


     Technopoly is a state of culture.  It is also a state of mind.

     It consists in the deification of technology, which means

     that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds

     its satisfaction in technology, and takes its orders from

     technology.  This requires the development of a new kind of

     social order, and of necessity leads to the rapid dissolution

     of much that is associated with traditional beliefs.

     (*Technopoly*, 1992)


     Scenarios of "a new kind of social order" have for many decades been a

staple of science fiction.  Probably the most celebrated works of this type

are *Brave New World*, *1984*, and, written more recently, *This Perfect Day*

(which depicts the world of tomorrow governed by a giant computer).  Each book

foresees a highly automated society wherein everybody has a job, crime is

abolished, social roles are completely stereotyped--and human life has no

meaning.  As a character in *This Perfect Day* muses, "Machines are at home in

the universe; people are aliens."


     Yes, we are spiritual aliens in a material universe.  That is why, after

all is said and done, we want out of here.  Machines are at home here because

the world functions under *karma*, the impersonal law of action and reaction.

People naturally seek freedom from *karma*.  As we learned in the first

chapter, they try either to detach themselves from it, change it, or negate

it.  Western science is a program to change it.  It hopes to rebuild the

world--first with mental models, then with physical machinery.  But that is an

act of rebellion against Krsna's plan.  It is impossible for humanity to free

itself from the laws of material nature by rebellion.  This rebellious spirit

that is the disease of the soul, and its symptom is mental speculation.


No independence


     A human being wants freedom from the laws of material nature because

in essence he is not material.  He is spirit soul.  But there are

two categories of soul--supreme and subordinate.  We are in the

subordinate category.  For freedom from the laws of nature, we are

ever-dependent upon Krsna, the Supreme Soul.  As long we do not choose

to take His shelter, our habit is to depend upon His external energy,

matter.  But dependence upon matter brings us under its control.  Srila

Prabhupada writes, "This material energy is also called Durga, which

indicates that it is a force which is very difficult to surpass.  No

one can surpass the laws of Durga by any amount of childish plans." In

*Bhagavad-gita*, Lord Krsna declares that only when the subordinate

person takes complete shelter of the Supreme can he cross beyond the

difficulties of material existence.


     The quotation that opens this chapter suggests that to suppose higher

knowledge to be "secret, mysterious, cryptic and inaccessible" is wrong.

Higher knowledge needs not at all to be mysterious.  But our problem is that

we confuse knowledge with speculation.  For example, it is sheer speculation

that mankind is destined to conquer the laws of nature; yet this is a guiding

tenet of scientific progress.  Old age, disease and death remain as

problematic now as they were 2500 years ago when the Greeks began laying the

foundations of Western science.  So it is certainly secret, mysterious,

cryptic and inaccessible how these problems will be one day solved by Western

science.  Mental models of a world perfected by scientific and technological

progress Srila Prabhupada called "humbug with no clear explanation."


     The notion that the human mind can figure out a way to overcome

the laws of nature is founded upon a notion that the mind is independent of

the laws of nature.  This is the so-called Cartesian assumption (named after

Rene Descartes, "the father of modern philosophy," who believed the mind to be

spirit, not matter; he argued that rational thought, when perfected, can make

man master and possessor of material nature).  This assumption is at the

bottom of modern scientific and technical thought.


The problem of the human situation


     Scientific and technical thinking "objectifies" problems.  This simply

means that all problems and their solutions are considered to be objects

external to the mind.  This is quite reasonable for problems in the

commonplace (*laukika*) sphere of human life.  For example, if one evening all

the lights in my house go out, it is rational to assume that the problem and

its solution are objectively electrical.  It wouldn't be considered very

rational to assume that the problem and solution are subjective--that is,

within my mind: "The lights went off just after I had a nasty thought.  I

shall now think good thoughts to bring the lights back on."


     But when we think of solving the problem of the human situation,

objectification won't work.  I and my mind are part of the problem of the

human situation, and so are you and your mind.  Therefore the solution--

freedom--is not an object the mind will find "out there" in the external

world.  Nor can the mind model a theoretical solution that has any hope of

success, since the mind itself is the problem.  Our inner mental functions

(thinking, feeling and willing), by which we try to solve objective problems,

are the very cause of the bondage we human beings struggle to free ourselves



     Underlying the workings of the mind is the Supeme Person.  He dwells

within the heart of every living being, observing their intention towards His

material energy.  Almost all living entities in this world desire to be

independent lords over matter.  The real Lord permits His material energy of

three modes to delude the materialistic souls with the waves of thinking,

feeling and willing.  Willing creates *karma*, sensory actions that are

recorded by the demigods who facilitate the souls' experience of sensory

actions.  The *karmic* record of the human lifetime is most significant.  It

is evidence judged by the Supreme Person at the time of a person's death.  He

weighs that soul's good, bad and mixed actions, determining from this the

appropriate next birth.  The demigods reconfigure that soul's matrix of

experience accordingly.


     The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a

     certain type of ear, eye, tongue, nose and sense of touch,

     which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular

     set of sense objects.  (*Bhagavad-gita* 15.9)


     Human "knowledge" that does not heed the Supreme Person and His law of

*karma* leads the soul deeper and deeper into the ocean of birth and death.

It is a myth that modern science leads to progress.  It is really a form of

ignorance that makes human life ever more difficult.


     Lord Krsna gives a summary of the items of real knowledge

in the thirteenth chapter of *Bhagavad-gita*, verses 8-12.  There are

twenty items.  Of these, one--constant and unalloyed devotion to Krsna--

is "the most important point," in Srila Prabhupada's words.  Devotion

to Krsna, as explained before, begins with hearing and chanting His

name and glories.  When devotion is constant (*nityam*) and unalloyed

(*avyabhicarini*), the functions of the senses and mind break all

dependence upon matter and connect directly with transcendence.


     For example, instead of being preoccupied with a "model of mind"

manufactured by mental speculation, a pure devotee meditates on the

transcendental form of the Lord.  The form of Lord Krsna is never material.

But as explained in the previous chapter, in order to maintain the living

entities within material creation, He accepts the dress of the threefold

cosmos.  Similarly, so that we who live within creation may meditate upon Him,

Krsna assumes a form *for us to maintain* through personal services like

cooking, cleaning and decoration.  This form is called the Deity (*arca-

vigraha*).  The devotees fashion the Deity from stone, metal, wood or paint

according to specifications given in the Vedic scriptures.  Thus, though our

senses are dim to transcendence, we see can see Him, touch Him and

render Him service.


"Matter" is transcendental


     Someone might ask, "But how can something--this `Deity'--be

transcendental when all it is made from is stone, metal, wood or paint?  These

are just material ingredients existing well within our mundane experience."

Yet in the last analysis, whatever we call "material" transcends our

experience.  We do not experience from where matter originates, nor how the

material world came to be structured as the matrix of our experience.  If we

think that we know all about the Deity from what we know about matter, we are

being pretty silly.  What do we know about matter anyway?  As long as we

depend upon the blunt instruments of the mind and senses for knowledge, we can

know only our ignorance of matter.  Several years ago two scientists published

a book entitled *The Matter Myth.* The purport is the more science studies

matter, the more matter vanishes.  If that is all we can say about what matter

*really* is, then certainly human knowledge about matter amounts to ignorance.


     The Vedic sound transmits to our ears knowledge coming from beyond the

limits of our mind and senses.  This sound reveals that matter 1) is the

energy of the Supreme Person; 2) can be experienced by us only because it is

given shape by His divine form; 3) is meant to be engaged in His

service.  The transcendent source of matter becomes self-evident as

soon as we stop thinking about matter in our ordinary, habitual,

ignorant way and engage it in the service of Lord Krsna's personal



     How we ordinarily think about matter is evident in our eating

habits.  From the instrumentalist point of view, any lump of matter

that can be ingested and digested is classified as food.  But this is

animalistic.  The Vedas warn of many types of "food" not fit for human

consumption--meat, fish and eggs, for example.  For human beings, God

provides six food groups--vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, milk and

sugar.  These are meant to be offered in sacrifice to the Deity.  A

human being should eat only the remnants of such offerings, called

*prasadam* (the Lord's mercy).  If he does not, then all that he eats,

even if he is a vegetarian, submerges his consciousness within the

waves of materialistic thinking, feeling and willing.  He remains

entrapped by the matrix of mundane experience life after life, unable

to realize his original identity as a liberated associate of the

Supreme Person.


     *Prasadam*, chanting the holy name and Deity worship nourish a

purified state of being, termed *vasudeva-sattva*, that surpasses the

material mode of goodness.  Material goodness is uncertain.  People equate

goodness with morality, but as the modern moral philosopher Francis Scheffler

noted, morality "is an aspect of human psychology and social relations, and

not a system of propositions"--which just means that people in material

consciousness cannot fix morality to a permanent standard.  People define

moral behavior according to their state of mind and the state of their

society--and these states, of course, change with time.  Beyond time-defined

ethics is the eternal code of *yajna* or sacrifice, as found for example in

the Chandogya Upanisad: *puruso vava yajnah*, "the entire life of a person is

meant to be conducted as a sacrifice for the Supreme."  Lord Krsna warns

those who do not follow the Vedic system of sacrifice that their human

life is in vain.  And those who do, achieve the supreme eternal

atmosphere of pure goodness.


     A soul situated in *vasudeva-sattva* is free of the disease of "I"

and "mine."  Consequently he is not mystified by speculation about the

macro-, meso- and microcosm.  He knows all planets in the universe to

be the property of Krsna.  He knows that the sacrifices of human

society are meant to be enjoyed by Krsna alone.  He knows Krsna to be

the indwelling friend within the heart of every individual.  As Krsna

confirms in *Bhagavad-gita* 5.29, this knowledge delivers the soul from

the threefold pangs of material life.  As soon as he is freed from the

pushings of the three modes, waves of transcendental attraction push

the devoted soul towards Krsna.


Clearing consciousness of mental idolatry


     Krsna consciousness is consciousness clear of the idolatry of the

mind that has interrupted our individual connection to the Supreme Person.  In

clear consciousness, it is self-evident that the sound of the holy name, the

sight of the Deity and the taste of His *prasadam* are in no way different

from the pure spiritual form of God Himself.  The proof is that these

experiences initiate the flow of *rasa* within the heart.  The ecstasy of

*rasa* intensifies the soul's spiritual personhood, revealing the limitless

depth of his intimate loving relationship with the Lord of his heart, Sri

Krsna.  This is why *bhakti*, personal devotional service to the Supreme Lord

expressed as hearing and chanting His glories, serving His Deity form and

accepting *prasadam*, is the most important item of transcendental knowledge.


     But it must be admitted that a neophyte devotee lacks the spirit of

selfless devotion seen in the *mahatmas.*  He may operate less under *bhakti*

and more under a mechanical sense of duty.  He may serve God out of fear of

death or disease.  He may be trying to rectify his sins.  He may be a victim