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By Suhotra Dasa Tapovanachari

Introduction to Transcendental Psychology

It appears that as ISKCON evolves from its origins as a tightly-focused missionary movement into a broad-based spiritual culture ("a house in which the whole world can live"), more and more devotees find it important to understand the mind. There is no doubt that in his teachings Srila Prabhupada emphasized the importance of discriminating between mind, intelligence, false ego, and the actual self.

In the past, say 10 and more years ago, it was more fashionable for devotees to advertise themselves as being callous and insensitive toward the mind. The mind was just something to be beaten a hundred times every day, like a mangy flea-bitten dog. Or it was a thing that simply is not real.

No, the mind is a very real thing. It is listed among the eight elements of creation. It is subtle, but it has substance. It is substance. In this connection, kindly note these two quotations from Srila Prabhupada's purports.

Since mind is a product of the mode of goodness, if it is fixed upon the Lord of the mind, Aniruddha, then the mind can be changed to Krsna consciousness. It is stated by Narottama dasa Thakura that we always have desires. Desire cannot be stopped. But if we transfer our desires to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that is the perfection of life. As soon as the desire is transferred to lording it over material nature, it becomes contaminated by matter. [ SB 3.26.31p]

The essential point is that the mind, which is contaminated by material attraction, has to be bridled and concentrated on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [ SB 3.28.7p]

In these two quotations, five basic points can be discerned. The five points make up the foundation of this introduction, and indeed the whole series I plan to write. What are they?

1. The essential substance of the mind is the mode of goodness, which is the energy of Lord Aniruddha, who is the localized Supersoul feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

2. When that sattvik mental substance is dedicated to the Lord, it is transformed to Krishna consciousness, the state of infallible goodness above the three material modes of nature.

3. To dedicate the mind to the Lord, we must channel the flow of our desires toward His lotus feet. Hence there is no question of "controlling the mind," "fixing the mind," "pacifying the mind," without the reformation of desire. Our quality of mind is subject to the quality of our desire.

4. From the logic of the above point 2, it is clear that the original condition of the mind is Krishna consciousness. That original condition is contaminated as soon as our desire flows toward the lording over of matter.

5. Thus what we know to be "the material mind" is in essence the condition of material attraction.

The mind is a real thing because it is the energy of the Supersoul. Thus on the energetic level our mental activities--thinking, imagination, visualization, concentration and so forth--are real movements. They are real movements that unfold as per a complex pattern. And why so complex? Why does the study of the mind's movements (the study we know by the word psychology) become so mysterious and convoluted? That is because the mind moves according to our desires. Hence, it is our desires--meaning, in our present state, our material attraction--that complicates our mental processes.

The mind can be perceived as a real thing due to the fact that by nature's arrangement, the movements of the mind have physical effects. These effects are both immediate and remote. In Bhagavad-gita your immediate environment is called "the field of activities." What is that field? It is your body. The remote environment is practically everything beyond your body.

Because the body and the world surrounding it respond to our state of mind, we have this often-discussed notion of "mind over matter." Some people believe "mind over matter" means that they can change themselves and their whole world simply by a mental adjustment. However, as indicated above, changes of mind, or what we term mental activity, is itself impelled by desire. Yes, you can control matter with your mind. In fact this is happening constantly. But what controls your mind? Desire.

To wrest the mind from the control of desire is not easy. (Actually, it is impossible; the only option we have is a choice as to whether our mind shall be controlled by material or spiritual desire--but more about that later.) Repeatedly we find ourselves girding up for a final battle with our desires, the aim being to defeat desire once and for all and to be free of it at last. This is very daunting, to say the least.

But before we enter the fight we must know that our desires constitute an extremely powerful and mostly invisible army called kama (lust) that has captured our senses, mind and intelligence. This is made clear in Bhagavad- gita 3.40. In the purport, Srila Prabhupada explains that the mind is the reservoir of all ideas of sense gratification, and therefore lust infiltrates the senses and the intelligence from the mind.

After their minds get them into trouble, people are so quick to say, "I never wanted this!" But are you so sure you know what you want? Desires are by nature more subtle than the mind. To illustrate this fact, I offer you a quotation from a 1974 Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture by Srila Prabhupada:

Just like in the water, in a pond sometimes you will find all of a sudden one bubble comes from within. Phat! That means the dirty things are within, stocked.

The surface of the pond is the surface awareness of the mind. The bubble that rises from the bottom of the pond is a desire. Suddenly, phat! There it is, a filthy desire breaking into our sublime thoughts. "Why?" we ask ourselves. "Why am I again troubled by this nonsense which I thought, after so many years of chanting Hare Krishna, I had rid myself of?"

Well, the point here is that it is not all that difficult for sadhakas (devotees engaged in the practice of bhakti-yoga under rules and regulations) to make the visible surface of the mind calm and peaceful; yet mostly we don't even know about the host of desires that lurk beneath the surface. That stock of hidden desires is sometimes called the subconscious, a more subtle level of mental activity than commonplace thinking.

This rising of desire bubbles, this unexpected bursting of the subconscious into your surface awareness, demonstrates that your mind is capable of reproducing any type of sensual impression you have ever experienced. It can even manufacture impressions you have never before experienced, as long as they are constructed out of known elements. (We find in Srila Prabhupada's books the example of the mind combining the known elements of "gold" and "mountain" to create an impression of a golden mountain.) Thus the mind is a most formidable television into the storehouse of subconscious desires. By the power of mind you may see, hear, taste, smell and feel things that are not directly present before the senses. As sadhakas we control our external sensory impressions. For example we do not permit our eyes to see forms that stimulate lust. But the mind is capable of introducing such forms into our consciousness even without the help of the eyes.

Except in deep sleep, the mind is always active. It is always responding to your various desires. Not only that, but there is also a feedback. As you contemplate the mind's "show," new desires are generated out of the mind's contemplation of the mind! Therefore it is often said that the mind produces unlimited desires.

maya manah srjati karmamayam baliyah
kalena codita-gunanumatena pumsah
chandomayam yad ajayarpita-sodasaram
samsara-cakram aja ko 'titaret tvad-anyah

O Lord, O Supreme Eternal, by expanding Your plenary portion You have created the subtle bodies of the living entities through the agency of Your external energy, which is agitated by time. Thus the mind entraps the living entity in unlimited varieties of desires to be fulfilled by the Vedic directions of karma-kanda [fruitive activity] and the sixteen elements. Who can get free from this entanglement unless he takes shelter at Your lotus feet?" [ SB 7.9.21]

Prabhupada, in his word-for-word translation, marked the word manah (mind) with an asterisk and in the footnote elaborates: "The mind is always planning how to remain in the material world and struggle for existence. It is the chief part of the subtle body, which consists of mind, intelligence and false ego."

It is not possible at this stage to know what all your desires are. You are only able to perceive desires that are well-established, those that took tangible shape earlier in your life in the context of your social, moral and other patterns of conditioning. For example, some of our desires are agreeable to most other people around us; they match the idea of what we think we are or want to be. I observe here in Tarunpur how Sudevi, the daughter of my friend Murari Gupta, likes to pay careful attention to what clothes she wears each day. Murari's three sons, on the other hand, are not nearly so attentive to how they dress. So even though Sudevi is only three years old, some of her feminine desires are already apparent. The female interest in looking nice is socially agreeable. It gets reinforced by family and friends and thus becomes a part of a grown woman's identity.

But there are other desires--and here I am still talking about the ones we are conscious of, that get "concretized" into our identity from a young age-- that are disagreeable. We are well aware we have such desires, but we hide them from others and even from ourselves. An apt example is masturbation. Studies show that many, many people, both men and women, form this habit early in life. But people are conditioned by society and morality to be ashamed of masturbation. Nobody wants to talk about it. So masturbation constitutes a dark side of the personality. The mind censors it from our public self-image by mental contortions that are well-understood by psychologists to be unhealthy.

Many desires are so "underground" that they get their chance only when we sleep. Our dreams alone are where we act them out. But even these desires exert their influence on the mind during the wakeful state.

It is generally not so practical for devotees to go through a process of identifying all their desires. We begin with an assumption that our basic desire, the one that brought us to the material world, is to enjoy and control, or in other words, to be God. To meditate on this point is the beginning of Transcendental Psychology.

It can seem really uninspiring for a devotee to have to contemplate, "The undercurrent of my psycho-physical being is: 'I actually HATE Krishna and do not want to serve Him. Rather I want to take over His position.'" But to admit this to oneself and to others is the evidence that one is becoming purified! Consider the message of such songs of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura as Hari Hari Biphale and Gopinatha.

Basically, there are two sides to gaining control of the mind. One is positive and the other is negative. The negative aspect consists of rules, restrictions and mechanical exercises that close off the channel to lower, material consciousness. The positive aspect opens up the channel of higher consciousness that leads the soul back home, Back to Godhead. Opening this channel means contemplating transcendental subject matter plus occupying the senses with varieties of devotional service.

A devotee in the sadhaka category masters both positive and the negative systems. It is actually not possible to separate these two processes and to become accomplished in only one of them. We are advised to develop sbvkills in both.

Here is more from the purport to SB 3.28.7 that I cited earlier:

Etair anyais ca. The general yoga process entails observing the rules and regulations, practicing the different sitting postures, concentrating the mind on the vital circulation of the air and then thinking of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His Vaikuntha pastimes. This is the general process of yoga. This same concentration can be achieved by other recommended processes, and therefore anyais ca, other methods, also can be applied. The essential point is that the mind, which is contaminated by material attraction, has to be bridled and concentrated on the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

"Bridling the mind" means the negative aspect, and "concentrating on the Supreme Godhead" means the positive aspect. Both constitute what Srila Prabhupada here terms "the essential point." Dear reader, kindly note carefully that Srila Prabhupada states, "This same concentration can be achieved by other recommended processes, and therefore anyais ca, other methods, also can be applied." In this series of articles on Transcendental Psychology I shall discuss the process of gaining control over the mind from a number of angles of vision, all of which can be helpful in this formidable task of turning our worst enemy (the mind) into our best friend.

We must come to the point of discriminating between the self and the mind. Memorizing the technical details of sastra is not enough to do that. Mechanical repitition of rituals is not enough to do that. We need to enact the transcendental level of our existence. This is so because the self is by nature pure spiritual energy. We are spirit soul, and so the nonmaterial force innate to the real self must be initialized. By the mercy of a pure devotee you can rise to the transcendental level and catch a glimpse of your true nature. This is initiation, the entry point into your svarupa or original identity. In a 1970 initiation lecture, Srila Prabhupada explained:

If you simply stick to this principle, gopi-bhartur pada- kamalayor dasa-dasa-dasanudasa, that "I am nothing except the eternal servant of Krsna," then you are in the liberated platform. Krsna consciousness is so nice. You keep yourself. And for keeping yourself in that consciousness, the simple method is this chanting, Hare Krsna. You keep yourself chanting as many hours, twenty-four hours. Why as many hours? Twenty-four hours. Kirtaniyah sada harih. Lord Caitanya says, this is to be practiced twenty-four hours. And that you can do. It requires simply practice. Even in sleeping you can chant Hare Krsna. Even in sleeping. And there is no bar. In sleeping, in eating, in going to the toilet room, there is no restriction. You can go on, "Hare Krsna." You see. That will keep you in your svarupa, in your real identification, and you'll never be attacked by maya .

Chanting twenty-four hours? "I am not on that platform," the mind wants us to say. But Srila Prabhupada says, "That you can do. It requires simply practice." By the mercy of the spiritual master, we are initiated into the chanting of Krsna's names. Look in the dictionary. Initiation means beginning. So our task at hand is to work on the practice of perfecting what initiation has introduced us into. The perfection of initiation is described by His Divine Grace in the preceeding quotation.

Understand that as you continue to chant Hare Krsna, the merciful favor of the spiritual energy flows your way and enlivens the real self, the soul. Without this chanting, there is no way to know how to discriminate between mind and the self. Thus there is no way to control the mind.

Your endeavor to control the mind begins and ends with chanting. This chanting is a combination of the positive and negative control I explained before. The positive part is the holy name itself. The negative part is the exclusion of any other thought and activities other than the holy name and service to the holy name.

Again, only a small fraction of your desires are known to you. So many strong desires lurk deep within the subconscious portion of the mind. The mind is thus your personal battlefield.

Know that you can win over the secret army of anti-devotional desires. How? By investigating the difference between you and your mind. Yes, it is not easy. Still, you must at least be interested in doing it! Maintaining that interest by trying to chant seriously is your key to ultimate victory.

The Paingala Upanisad 2.11-12 states that the jiva remains in bondage as long as there is no desire in him for liberation. Bondage is lack of investigation, while liberation follows investigation. In the years I have been part of this movement for Krishna consciousness, I have known more than a few devotees whose krishnanushilanam (determination to serve Krishna) crumbled because the investigation into the difference between their selves and their minds held little appeal for them. With apparent humility some folded their hands and begged, "Please forgive me for my ignorance." Then, flashing the badge of "honesty," they dove straight into the depths of ignorance and disappeared. "It's my nature to be this way, so what can I do?" they sighed. "After all, as the Gita says, 'What can repression accomplish?'"

Yes, but the Gita has a lot more to say than just that; what we actually find out from Krishna's instructions to Arjuna is that this way of arguing "don't repress your nature" is but a feeble, soul-ignoring excuse for shirking what Krishna really wants us to do. It's fatalism, and Bhagavad- gita is certainly no text that advocates fatalism. Krishna does not tell Arjuna, "O son of Prtha, I hate to admit it, but you are fated that your present conditioned nature will not allow your eternal spiritual nature to rise to follow My command. Fate is indeed insurmountable. Maybe when you're older you'll get serious about spiritual life. Or maybe in another life."

One who resorts to such pleas about his insurmountable fate and about the heavy weight matter has loaded upon his fragile spirit soul often defends his position with half-baked varnasrama arguments. In this connection, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura writes in Brahmana and Vaishnava:

If varnasrama and other fruitive activities enjoined in the sastras become prominent in one's life, then one cannot become kincana, or fully dependent on the Lord; rather these activities provoke offenses against the chanting of the holy names in the form of conceptions of "I" and "mine." If a person who is fully surrendered to Krishna becomes proud of following varnasrama principles, then it must be considered he has become most unfortunate. Due to the influence of association with women, the whole material world is daily advancing in aversion to Hari.

This resistance to God- and self-realization in the name of "accepting my nature" really just proves that one takes more comfort in the gross and subtle bodily conception than in his or her true identity. And that is what is unfortunate: not simply that one is in the bodily conception (after all, who isn't?), but that one finds comfort in it and is loath to being shaken out of it.

sutesu daresu dhanesu cintayan
sanketa vidvan kukalevaratyayad
yas asya yatnah srama eva kevalam

Materialists are generally very attached to their present bodily comforts and to the bodily comforts they expect in the future. Therefore they are always absorbed in thoughts of their wives, children and wealth and are afraid of giving up their bodies, which are full of stool and urine. If a person engaged in Krsna consciousness, however, is also afraid of giving up his body, what is the use of his having labored to study the sastras? It was simply a waste of time. [ SB 5.19.14]

No doubt the bodily conception continues for a long time to haunt those who attempt sadhana-bhakti, but if we can keep alive a burning interest to be free of our false identity, this interest will create an atmosphere of watchfulness around us. We will take note how our attempt to hear Krsna's name is repeatedly interrupted by various thought patterns. Though we really don't want to get involved with these things, they keep attacking our concentration. This disturbance is indeed troublesome, but it shows us that what is actually going on is that two opposing desires--one spiritual, one material--are battling over which will have control over our mind. And in the beginning we will find the spiritual desire to hear Krsna's name is the weaker one. But take heart in Sri Krishna's personal encouragement!

Lord Sri Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment. [ Bg 6.35]

In short, this spark of interest to know the difference between self and mind takes practical shape in the form of practice (positive) and detachment (negative). And when our practice and detachment is directed by Lord Krishna's teachings, our efforts attract His mercy.

Now, there is another challenge to our attempt to purify the mind. Not only do we have conflicting material and spiritual desires, but furthemore the mind is not inclined to accept any control at all--neither spiritual nor material. The mind has a natural proclivity to roam about, to "flip out" and to zoom in as near and zoom out as far away as it likes. There needs only be a little push in some direction and the mind will doggedly pursue that line of thought for a long time. Great effort is required to stop it or to change its direction. Thus as I indicated at the start of this introduction, we must admit to ourselves, "This mind is a real thing--a stubborn, independent thing. It is not a mere wisp or shadow, something I can trifle with." The mind is a powerful mechanism that needs to be handled with great expertise.

Then there is what is sometimes called compulsive thinking. "Compulsive thinking" is actually a term for a pathological mental state, but to some degree it is present in all of us. We all know that the mind babbles constantly like some inner radio. Some call this the inner dialogue. It is the nature of the mind to generate a continuous stream of thoughts and images; but along with the mind's babble is our fear of losing things we are attached to. The combination of the two yields compulsive thinking. How does it effect you? When you read here that a devotee ought learn to control the mind, your mind may get all excited and shout that if you did this you would lose your ability to make decisions or to solve problems or to deal with even the most simple things in the world, because you need to have this inner voice ranting and raving in your head all the time. Compulsive thinking is rooted in the notion that "I will cease to exist if my mental dialogue stops."

Gradually, by trying to chant properly and by giving the mind and senses higher engagements, you will begin to uncover the desires that are stored deep in your heart. When you know these desires, you can perfect your mind control. You can support the spiritual desires and uproot the bad ones. You will also begin to discover things about your personality. For example, you may see that you have been only artificially humble, or simply not humble at all. But now that your mind has become a little clear, now that you have learned to keep it bridled, you can have a closer look at the material conditioning that for so long you took to be your own self: lust, anger, greed, madness, illusion, and envy. It is not pretty. Some devotees protest: "I can't bear to see myself so negatively." But here's the point. That ugly thing you see is not your self. You only think it is, and that's your mistake. When you really see this false self for what it is, then you can really become humble. Only then can you really appreciate other devotees because you stop struggling to surpass them. Instead you struggle to serve them. A pure devotional servant: that is our real svarupa or form. From out of the spiritual heart of this liberated form the true desire of the living entity shines forth in absolute pristine glory. That desire is to love Krishna.

Spiritual truths--"I am not the body; I am the servant of the servant of the servant of Sri Krishna"--are simple truths. Srila Prabhupada told Dhananjaya Prabhu, "Krishna consciousness is so simple you'll miss it." "Simple" means "straightforward."

It is a fact that our mental problems have something to do with our karma from previous lifetimes and our childhood upbringing in this life. They may have something to do with genetics (for example in my case, on my mother's side of the family there have been numerous cases of depression, and thus I have inherited from her the tendency to become depressed). All such factors can be analyzed in so many ways, and in this series I will look at some of these factors and their psychological ramifications. But in the end there is a simple, spiritual explanation for the mental troubles we suffer as devotees. And that is, we are not always well-situated in the pure, blissful practice of bhakti-yoga. Thus we become affected by material psychological disturbances. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to texts 23-24 of Chapter Twenty-six of Srimad- Bhagavatam Canto Three:

Not only must one come to the stage of pure Krsna consciousness, but one must also be very careful. Any inattentiveness or carelessness may cause falldown. This falldown is due to false ego. From the status of pure consciousness, the false ego is born because of misuse of independence. We cannot argue about why false ego arises from pure consciousness. Factually, there is always the chance that this will happen, and therefore one has to be very careful. False ego is the basic principle for all material activities, which are executed in the modes of material nature. As soon as one deviates from pure Krsna consciousness, he increases his entanglement in material reaction. The entanglement of materialism is the material mind, and from this material mind, the senses and material organs become manifest.

In his purport to Text Two of Bhagavad-gita Chapter Seventeen, Srila Prabhupada makes the same point in short summary as follows:

Those who know the rules and regulations of the scriptures but out of laziness or indolence give up following these rules and regulations are governed by the modes of material nature.

If one remains under the modes of nature, where there can be no pure service to the Lord, why would one still assume for himself the prestige of being an advanced devotee? The devastating answer is found in Chapter 89 of Krsna book, where Srila Prabhupada writes,

One should therefore not take to the demoniac activity of claiming to be a Vaisnava just for false prestige, without performing service to the Lord.

Look at your condition in the light of these simple, straightforward truths. Is there any wonder you suffer from mental stress in your life as a devotee? You are warring with your own demonic nature! Or rather it is a war with an ancient ignorance that covers your true nature. Ignorance is at the heart of the demonic nature. "But those who are asuras," said Srila Prabhupada in a lecture, "they do not know how to end this life of suffering and accept the life of anandamayo 'bhyasat, simply ananda in Vaikuntha, in Goloka Vrndavana."

Fortunately, as Lord Krishna confirms in the Third Chapter of the Gita , the soul's innermost nature is to be the jnani or knower of the Absolute Truth. This is what "psychology" is really about. Psyche, a Greek word, means soul, and logy means "knowledge of." Real psychology reveals the knowledge that the soul needs to have in order to be what he really is: a pure eternal servant of the Supreme Soul, Sri Krishna. This is the psychology we shall be discussing in this series here in In2-MeC.


Essay One :
Relationship and Attachment

My humblest respects go out to all of you intelligent devotees who wish to investigate with me the subject of psychology from the point of view of Vaishnava siddhanta. This is the first essay of the series I call Transcendental Psychology. In writing it I have tried my best to connect each argument clearly with Srila Prabhupada's teachings. You, dear reader, may find the different quotations and philosophical insights difficult to absorb. I am sorry if they tax your brain. But each item of information should be noted as significant because it probably will be developed in essays to come. This first essay, I hope you will see, is built upon basic ideas I laid down in the Introduction. This is how I plan the series to move forward, as a steady clarification of points that came before.

It is only to be expected that any process of clarification will be more difficult in the beginning. But step by step, as we become more familiar with the issues, the subject matter gets easier to grasp. This is especially true of Vedic psychology, which starts with principles (harder to grasp) and progresses to practical behavior (easier to grasp). Western psychology proceeds oppositely; it tries to uncover principles by starting with the study of behavior. This approach leads one deeper and deeper into confusion.

I'd like to make clear now, at the start, that even when this series arrives at behavior, I will be more concerned with "how to see one's self" than "what one's self should do." I'm aiming at the subject of psychology, after all, not at rules of conduct, social issues, institutional reform, or controversies of the moment. Psychology certainly has a lot to do with those concerns. But I think of Transcendental Psychology as self-realization, which for devotees means spirit-soul realization, eternal servant of Krishna realization. Srila Prabhupada said "realization means discrimination." When one is self-realized, one is blessed with proper discrimination in all kinds of practical affairs.

A major theme of this first essay will be one Sanskrit word, anyonya, a contraction of anyah anya (literally "other-other"). It crops up repeatedly in Srimad-Bhagavatam. From Srila Prabhupada's word-for- word translation for different verses we learn that anyonya can mean "one after another," "each other," and "one another." In essence, this word is about relationship.

Relationship is the central issue of psychology. I have before me a book by an American psychiatrist. He begins the prologue with a Yiddish proverb: "The one wishes to remember, the other wishes to forget." So here we have it: "one," "another"--anyonya.

A conflict between two persons usually means that one wishes to remember something that happened between them, while the other wishes to forget it. Even a single individual can be torn by opposition between "one-another." This is called mental conflict. One part of us wants to remember something, another part wants to forget. According to the Western disciplines of psychiatry and abnormal psychology, the condition of neurosis--which includes anxiety states, obsessions, and hysteria--is all about mental conflict.

The Conflicted Mind

In Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.13.8, Uddhava asks a question of Lord Krishna about the conflicted mind.

Sri Uddhava said: My dear Krishna, generally human beings know that material life brings great future unhappiness, and still they try to enjoy material life. My dear Lord, how can one in knowledge act just like a dog, an ass or a goat?

In the course of His answer to Uddhava, Sri Krishna recounts a question the four Kumaras asked of Brahma. This is found in verse 17 of the same chapter. In this question of the small sages to their father, the word anyonya makes its appearance.

sanakadaya ucuh
gunesv avisate ceto
gunas cetasi ca prabho
katham anyonya-santyago
mumuksor atititirsoh

The sages headed by Sanaka said: O Lord, people's minds are naturally attracted to material sense objects, and similarly the sense objects in the form of desire enter within the mind. Therefore, how can a person who desires liberation, who desires to cross over activities of sense gratification, destroy this mutual relationship between the sense objects and the mind? Please explain this to us.

Here the word anyonya is translated as, "of the mutual relationship between the sense objects and the mind." It is extremely important for us to note that this verse outlines for our understanding the mechanics of material attachment.What topic is more sensitive, more provocative, more painful in the lives of devotees than material attachment?

Today I heard a Bhagavatam class given by an ISKCON sannyasi. He remarked that even senior disciples of Srila Prabhupada have confided to him how difficult they find it to completely overcome the mind's attachment to material things. Now, through the pages of Srimad- Bhagavatam, let us now try to see clearly just how attachment works.

The Puzzling Nature of Attachment

Yes, we all know from Gita that when we contemplate the pancha- tanmatra, the five objects of the senses--sabda or sound, sparsa or touch, rupa or visible form, rasa or taste, and gandha or smell--the mind becomes attached to those objects (Bg 2.62: dhyayato visayan pumsah sangas tesupajayate). Out of this relationship between the mind and the sense objects, desire makes its appearance (sangat sanjayate kamah).

The Kumaras pointed out a dimension to this process that we may not have considered from our study of the Gita. It seems quite an insidious arrangement, but the fact is that the mind and the sense objects are made for each other. They fit together so seamlessly that the four great sages found no way to separate them. So invaded is the mind by the sense objects, and so invaded are the sense objects by the mind, that trying to precisely tell them apart is a profound challenge to the intellect.

Consider for a moment the smell of puris being fried in ghee. As soon as you perceive that smell your mind forms an attachment to it: "Hmmm, this is good." But where is the good?

Is the good of the smell objective, meaning that the vapors of the fried food "outside you" are themselves good? Or is it subjective, meaning that the sensation "inside you" stimulated by the vapors is good? After thinking about it awhile, we'd most likely venture that the good in the smell is a result of the combination of objective and subjective factors.

Fine. Let's accept that for starters. Next question: is the good of the smell real? "Yes!" would be our answer as devotees of the Lord. The reality of the good smell is confirmed again and again by our collective experience.

When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's disciples were frying up feast preparations for a Hare Krishna festival in Burma, the local people complained about the horrible stench. Burmese people consider a good smell to be that of fish sauce left to ferment inside a clay pot for three years. If the "good" of the smell of fried puris is a real, substantial value, and not just a matter of personal attachment, how could the Burmese react as they did?

Does a smell exist in any way, good or bad, if there are no minds around to perceive and judge it? Consider the same problem from the opposite approach. Would a mind really be a mind if it was absolutely devoid of even the slightest impression of sense objects? Such questions are paradoxical, and they provoked this witty response from Thomas Key (1799-1875): "What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind."

Beyond the ontological problems of where to position the existence of a good smell (outside us? inside us? inbetween?), and whether a good smell all by itself is really anything at all, and whether a mind all by itself is really anything at all, there is the psychological consideration: if, as the Kumaras said, the mind and sense objects are always and inseparably attached to one another, then desire must be ever-present in us. If so, how can a person seeking liberation ever overcome desire?


Allow me, dear reader, to observe that the question of the four Kumaras is about "the principle of complementarity in attachment mechanics." Now just what do I wish to indicate by using such cumbersome terminology? My hope is that you may better appreciate that the question the Kumaras posed to their father is capable of baffling even the greatest intelligence in the universe. Thus the problem of the relationship of the mind and sense objects can be compared to the principle of complementarity in quantum mechanics, which baffles the greatest minds among our present-day scientists.

I ask the reader to kindly indulge me while I take a few moments to try to make the above paragraph as clear as I can. There is a system of mechanics that is supposed to operate at the subatomic level. Scientists call it quantum or wave mechanics. It is based on a duality observed in, for instance, radiant phenomena like light. Experiments show that photons, the subatomic units of light, behave as waves and as particles, depending upon circumstances. In 1927 the Danish physicist Neils Bohr put forward a principle derived from such experiments. It is called the principle of complementarity. It argues that an experiment on, for example, the wave aspect of photons destroys the possibility of learning about the particle aspect. The opposite is true as well: an experiment on the particle aspect destroys knowledge of the wave aspect. Thus a photon is called a wave-particle because the two aspects are complementary. Even though scientists cannot observe both simultaneously, the wave aspect and the particle aspect complement one another to form a more complete theory of what a photon is like. I stress the word theory because what scientists do observe--"photon as wave" and "photon as particle"--exist only as experimental models...models that are not only incomplete but mutually contradictory! Since they contradict one another, they do not add up to a concrete whole. Thus a wave-particle is not a "real thing" like a pebble or an orange. Yet light is a "real thing," and light appears to be made up of wave-particles. Of course, this state of affairs is baffling. Thus Neils Bohr concluded that the study of physics reveals only what we can say about nature, not how nature actually is.

It is possible that you, o intelligent reader, are already glimpsing from the above explanation the complementarity that the four Kumaras found baffling in the relationship of the mind and sense objects. But kindly allow me to strengthen the bridge between wave-particle complementarity and mind-sense objects complementarity. I shall now turn to a book entitled Physics and Philosophy (Cambridge 1948) by the eminent British scientist Professor Sir James Jeans. In a section beginning on page 136, he argues that the wave aspect of a photon may be understood as "waves of knowledge" because they are nothing other than mathematical maps of probability. He writes on page 139 that "the waves, as we have seen, are mere mental constructs and possess no physical existence." Hence the quantum waves are mind. But what are the quantum particles? From page 201: "The particle-picture depicts the phenomena; its ingredients are those of the ordinary picture of the material world." In other words, quantum particles are sense objects. On page 204 he comes to this conclusion: "There is no longer a dualism of mind and matter, but of waves and particles; these seem to be the direct, although almost unrecognizable, descendants of the older mind and matter, the waves replacing mind and the particles matter."

A word of caution: it is not my purpose to endorse, or speculate upon, the philosophical link that Professor Jeans draws between the complementarity of wave-particles and that of mind and sense objects. What I find useful is that both dualisms, one described by modern science, and the other described by the ancient Vedic sages, tax the intellect severely.

Mind and Sense Objects: Dual Aspects of a Higher Reality

Kindly allow me to make one more point in this regard. Some scientists propose that the wave-particle is all that we know of a higher- dimensional state intruding into our lower-dimensional awareness. A thought experiment is given as an illustration. Set up two video cameras to view an aquarium with a single large fish in it. Focus one camera on the front of the aquarium, and train the other to view one side of it. Connect each camera to one of two monitors positioned side-by-side in another room. The one fish will always look like two fish when observed through the two monitors. This is because the fish itself exists in three dimensions but the monitors are only able to show us two dimensions. Whenever in one monitor we see the front of the face of the fish, in the other we see only its side. And so it may be with the wave-particle. As we shall learn shortly from Srimad- Bhagavatam, this is precisely the case with the dualism of mind and sense objects: it is of a higher order of reality than we are able to grasp.

Even Brahma Had No Answer

Let us return to Sri Krishna's narrative about the question put by the Kumaras to their father Brahma. "My dear Uddhava," the Lord says in Text 18 to His dear friend and devotee, "Brahma himself, who is born directly from the body of the Lord and who is the creator of all living entities within the material world, being the best of the demigods, seriously contemplated the question of his sons headed by Sanaka. The intelligence of Brahma, however, was affected by his own activities of creation, and thus he could not discover the essential answer to this question."

Again I must beg the reader's indulgence as I attempt to shed light on why Brahmaji found the question of his sons so challenging. Here Lord Krishna points to Brahma's activities of creation as blocking his sight of the answer. This indicates that the structure of the universe (i.e. its cosmology) is so subtle and involving that it diverts even the creator's intelligence from the Absolute Truth.

Modern science invests much brainpower in problems of cosmology; in the world of antiquity it was no less a topic of investigation, although then the investigation proceeded along Vedic lines. This was true even in the ancient Western world. I shall take the liberty of citing a British philosopher of mysticism, G.S.R. Mead, from a book he published in 1919 entitled The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in the Western Tradition, page 9.

The astral or sidereal religion of antiquity revolved around the central notion of an intimate correspondence between man's psychical and sensible apparatus, or his inner embodiment, and the subtle nature of the universe...The ground conviction of astral religion held that there was a subtle organon of great nature, an interior economy of the world-soul. Man's nature was so to say an excerpt from this greater nature; and it was conceived of as a germ or seed as it were of the universal tree of life. Man was the microcosm of the macrocosm.

On page 8, Mr. Mead notes that in India, this doctrine ("of an intimate correspondence between man's psychical and sensible apparatus...and the subtle nature of the universe") reached its most mature expression.

Now, even my most attentive readers may find Mr. Mead's language somewhat obscure. His style of writing harks back to the Victorian era. Let me try to make it plainer.

The Subtle Nature of the Universe

I will start with Mr. Mead's term, "world-soul." Visvatma (soul of the universe) is a name of Sri Vishnu, the Supersoul. "In the Vedic hymns it is said: patim visvasyatmesvaram. Therefore, the Lord of the living entities is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu." (Bg 3.10p) In the same purport Srila Prabhupada writes, "The praja-pati is Lord Vishnu, and He is the Lord of all living creatures, all worlds, and all beauties, and the protector of everyone." Krishna tells Arjuna in Bhagavat-gita 13.5:

The Supersoul is the original source of all senses, yet He is without senses. He is unattached, although He is the maintainer of all living beings. He transcends the modes of nature, and at the same time He is the master of all the modes of material nature.

For the purpose of creation, the Supersoul invests His son Brahma, born from the lotus of His navel, with the fiery spiritual essence that foments the rajo-guna (see Brahma-samhita 5.62). Thus Brahmaji, though not a direct vishnu-tattva expansion of the Lord, also acts as the world-soul. In the Vedic literatures he too is addressed as Prajapati. But unlike Sri Vishnu, Brahma is himself possessed of material senses even as he bestows material senses on all other creatures. Brahma tends to become attached to his work of creation, while the Lord Himself is never attached. Brahma is not beyond the modes of nature, for he is the rajo-guna avatara of the Supersoul. This is why Brahma was unable to answer the question of his sons. From the purport to SB 11.13.18:

Srila Jiva Gosvami has quoted three verses from the Second Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam as follows. In the Ninth Chapter, verse 32, Lord Krishna blessed Brahma with realized knowledge of the Lord's actual form, qualities and activities. In the Ninth Chapter, verse 37, the Lord ordered Brahma to rigidly carry out the Lord's injunctions and affirmed that Brahma would thus never be bewildered in his cosmic decision-making. In the Sixth Chapter, verse 34, Lord Brahma assured his son Narada, "O Narada, because I have caught hold of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, with great zeal, whatever I say has never proved to have been false, nor is the progress of my mind ever deterred, nor are my senses ever degraded by temporary attachment to matter." In the present verse in this Thirteenth Chapter of the Eleventh Canto, Lord Krishna states that Brahma unfortunately did become bewildered by his creative functions, thus providing a grave lesson to all of the Lord's empowered representatives. Although one may be elevated to an exalted position in the Lord's transcendental service, at any moment there is danger of false pride polluting one's devotional mentality.

Mr. Mead wrote of "the astral or sidereal religion of antiquity." The words astral and sidereal refer to the patterns of stars and planets we see arrayed in the night sky. "This great machine, consisting of the stars and planets," states Srila Sukadeva Gosvami in Srimad- Bhagavatam 5.23.4, "resembles the form of a sisumara [dolphin] in the water. It is sometimes considered an incarnation of Krishna, Vasudeva. Great yogis meditate upon Vasudeva in this form because it is actually visible."

Mr. Mead used the term "subtle organon of great nature." This means that the subtle principles of the cosmos are comparable to the organs of a living body. As we see in Bg 13.3p, there are three principles fundamental to reality: bhoktya (the individual jiva-souls), bhogyam (matter) and prerita (the controller of both). On the cosmic scale of manifestation, bhoktya, bhogyam and prerita are the triune (tri-vidham) of 1) four-headed Brahma who leads all other jivas in creation, 2) the virat or the elemental universe, and 3) Lord Vishnu. In our own body, we find countless microscopic cells, which Srila Prabhupada confirmed are each animated by an individual jiva. Out of all these jivas, we ourselves are the one individual soul chosen by the Lord to execute the mission He has ordained for this body. The body is a conglomeration of material elements (earth, water, fire, air and so on). The localized Paramatma dwelling in the core of the heart is the antaryami (inner controller).

Mead stated that there is "an interior economy of the world-soul." Here the word economy is not to be understood in its ordinary usage as the management of national wealth; rather, its theological usage is intended. In this sense economy means God's management of His creation. Thus the universe functions as a vast organic system, as a single living entity of tremendous proportions.

Man's nature, according to Mr. Mead, is a germ or seed of the universal tree of life. In Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.8.15 and its purport we learn that the lotus flower upon which Brahma appeared is the virat or universal form of the Lord. The source of this virat is the subtle Hiranyagarbha (a feature of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu) who is glorified in the Vedic hymns as having thousands of heads, eyes and feet (see Cc. Madhya 20.292). He is the master of the universe; the tri-murti of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu who attend to the universe's three modes of nature are His secondary expansions (see TLC Chapter 8). Merged within Hiranyagarbha are countless individual souls who, like so many seeds, await germination (see Brahma-samhita 5.22). Within the lotus stem sprouted from His navel are fourteen planetary systems (see Cc. Adi 5.103). Brahma appears within the center of the blossoming petals of that lotus as the creative force of Hiryanagarbha; he brings forth the seedlike jivas from the body of the Lord, physically embodies them, and positions them within suitable planets according to their karma. Thus Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.14.36 states, "The entire universe, which is full of living entities, is like a tree whose root is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Acyuta [Krishna]. Therefore simply by worshiping Lord Krishna one can worship all living entities."

Mr. Mead concluded, "Man was the microcosm of the macrocosm." Hence the mind and senses of mankind (his "psychical and sensible apparatus") are tiny reproductions of the cosmic form of Prajapati. The perceptions, thoughts, desires and activities of an individual person are related to the entire universe in a most intimate and subtle manner. Srimad- Bhagavatam 11.28.16 informs us, jivo 'ntar-atma guna-karma-murtih sutram mahan ity urudheva gitah, that the individual living entity's qualities, activities and form are bonded to the original form of material nature by sutra-tattva, a fundamental tie. (For more insight into this tie, see SB 5.17.23-23 about the sutra-yantritah, and Bs 5.21 and 22.) The tie is actually personal. For example, the cogitations of intelligent human beings on questions of cosmology and the duality of mind and matter are, on a deep level, stimulated by the world-soul Brahma's thoughts on the same issues.

I hope, dear reader, the scientific and philosophical evidence presented in the preceding pages has not sidetracked you from the main path of this essay. I do not intend here to delve into the structure of the macrocosmic mind and its recapitulation in microcosmic human psychology. (That will be examined in the next essay.) For the present we are concerned with the mystery of relationship--particularly the relationship of the sense objects and the mind--and how attachment flows, honeylike, out of relationship to glue the attention of the soul to this material world.

The Reply of the Hamsa-avatara

Even Brahma, the first of Vedic sages, was stymied by his sons' inquiry into the nature of relationship and attachment. And so he fixed his mind upon the Lord, who then appeared as the Hamsa- avatara to separate Brahma's consciousness from the modes of nature, just as a hamsa (swan) drinks the milk alone from a blend of milk and water. Let us now take a close look at two verses spoken by the swan incarnation:

manasa vacasa drstya
grhyate 'nyair apindriyaih
aham eva na matto 'nyad
iti budhyadhvam anjasa

Within this world, whatever is perceived by the mind, speech, eyes or other senses is Me alone and nothing besides Me. All of you please understand this by a straightforward analysis of the facts.

gunesv avisate ceto
gunas cetasi ca prajah
jivasya deha ubhayam
gunas ceto mad-atmanah

My dear sons, the mind has a natural proclivity to enter into the material sense objects, and similarly the sense objects enter into the mind; but both this material mind and the sense objects are merely designations that cover the spirit soul, who is part and parcel of Me. [SB 11.13.24, 25]

These verses make clear that at any time, place, or circumstance, the only real relationship the jiva has is with the Lord. But--and here, dear reader, kindly excuse me for introducing an exotic word into this explanation--this relationship is multivalent. The word valence means "the capacity of something to unite, react or interact with something else." In short, valence is the potential for attachment as well as attachment's opposite, aversion. Now, a thing is called monovalent when it has only one site of attachment. For example, a room in which there is just a single electrical wall outlet could be said to have a "monovalent power point." If you live in that room and are in need of house current to run your laptop computer, you have only one site of attachment to insert the plug. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, however, is unlimitedly multivalent.

Everyone Relates to Krishna Only

In the course of His reply to the sages, the Hamsa -avatara indicated that the living entities relate with Him in multiple material and multiple transcendental ways. But to relate with the Lord materially yields a different result from relating spiritually with Him. In his purport to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 1.56, Srila Prabhupada brings out the difference with the sharpest clarity.

One should understand, through the transparent medium of the spiritual master, that the Supreme Lord exists everywhere in His transcendental spiritual nature and that the living entities' relationships with the Lord are directly and indirectly existing everywhere, even in this material world. In the spiritual world there are five kinds of relationships with the Supreme Lord-- santa, asya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya. The perverted reflections of these rasas are found in the material world. Land, home, furniture and other inert material objects are related in santa,or the neutral and silent sense, whereas servants work in the dasya relationship. The reciprocation between friends is called sakhya,the affection of a parent for a child is known as vatsalya, and the affairs of conjugal love constitute madhurya. These five relationships in the material world are distorted reflections of the original pure sentiments, which should be understood and perfected in relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. In the material world the perverted rasas bring frustration. If these rasas are reestablished with Lord Krsna, the result is eternal blissful life.

The material ways of relating to the Lord are hinted at in the two verses ( SB 11.13.24, 25) cited earlier. Even a nondevotee who is firmly absorbed in mundane consciousness has only Krishna to think about, to look at, and to discuss. Though agreeing with the Kumaras that the material mind pervades the material sense objects and the material sense objects pervade the material mind, the Hamsa- avatara pointed out that the covering of the spirit soul by designations of "I" (identification with mind) and "mine" (identification with sense objects) does not separate the living entity from Him. These designations are false. The fact is that in his true transcendental identity, the jivatma is always intimately related to Krishna as His part and parcel.

Earlier in this essay I remarked, "As we shall learn shortly from Srimad-Bhagavatam,this is precisely the case with the dualism of mind and sense objects: it is of a higher order of reality than we are able to grasp." So now we have learned from Lord Hamsa's own lotus mouth that "Within this world, whatever is perceived by the mind, speech, eyes or other senses is Me alone and nothing besides Me." The reality of what we think about, see, and discuss is found in the transcendental dimension of Krishna's own existence. It is outside the sphere of material consciousness.

Are the Mind and Sense Objects Real?

If everything we think about, see, and discuss is actually Krishna and His energy, we ought to have a care for comprehending rightly how the Lord's energy divides our consciousness from Him. It is careless logic to first concede that our conceptions of "I am the mind" and "the sense objects are mine" have no substance at all, and then proceed to the conclusion that the mind and sense objects are not real. (This is the logic of the fox and the grapes, by the way.) If it be so that the mind and the sense objects are actually void, then ridding oneself of material consciousness would be snap. But it is not so, as we see so clearly from these prayers of Sri Prahlada Maharaja.

tvam vayur agnir avanir viyad ambu matrah
pranendriyani hrdayam cid anugrahas ca
sarvam tvam eva saguno vigunas ca bhuman
nanyat tvad asty api mano-vacasa niruktam

O Supreme Lord, You are actually the air, the earth, fire, sky and water. You are the objects of sense perception, the life airs, the five senses, the mind, consciousness and false ego. Indeed, You are everything, subtle and gross. The material elements and anything expressed, either by the words or by the mind, are nothing but You. [ SB 7.9.48]

tvam va idam sadasad isa bhavams tato 'nyo
maya yad atma-para-buddhir iyam hy apartha
yad yasya janma nidhanam sthitir iksanam ca
tad vaitad eva vasukalavad asti-tarvoh

My dear Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, the entire cosmic creation is caused by You, and the cosmic manifestation is an effect of Your energy. Although the entire cosmos is but You alone, You keep Yourself aloof from it. The conception of "mine and yours," is certainly a type of illusion ( maya)because everything is an emanation from You and is therefore not different from You. Indeed, the cosmic manifestation is nondifferent from You, and the annihilation is also caused by You. This relationship between Your Lordship and the cosmos is illustrated by the example of the seed and the tree, or the subtle cause and the gross manifestation. [ SB 7.9.31]

The mind (the focal point of the false sense of "I") and the sense objects (the focal point of the false sense of "mine") are very real and, even more importantly, are very personal energies. Right now they are working against us. They work against us because we are plugged into a lower order of relationship--a sinful relationship--with their Lord, the Supreme Person. Therefore His energies punish us by enshrouding our consciousness with bewilderment. In our lower order of relationship with Krishna and His energy, we are helplessly sucked into dilemmas of "What am I and what is mine?" "What is mine and what is yours?" "What is mind and what is matter?" "What is true and what is false?" "What is good and what is evil?" "What is bondage and what is liberation?" This is dvandva-mohah, the illusion of duality (see Bg 7.27). Srila Prabhupada said, "This dvandva-mohah exists with the sinful man, but one who is freed from all sinful reactions, resultant actions, he can understand Krishna."

Lord Hamsa explained that as long as we do not understand the Lord's transcendental nature--which includes our own nature as His pure, nonmaterial parts and parcels--our relationship with Him will remain steeped in falsity. At present we believe ourselves to be the controllers and enjoyers of all we survey. But all we survey is really Krishna, Who is the real controller and enjoyer. This, our material perspective, forces upon our consciousness the material mind, senses, and sense objects, just as looking through red lenses forces us to see the world as red. But the world is not red. Similarly, Krishna and His energy are not ours to control and enjoy. Nor is consciousness a product or function of mind, senses, and sense objects. All that is merely the false perpective of material vision.

When materialism is renounced, the mind, senses and their objects are at last understood to be different from the true self. "A person who has thus achieved Me by understanding that he is not different from Me," said Lord Hamsa in Text 26, "realizes that the material mind is lodged within the sense objects because of constant sense gratification, and that the material objects are existing prominently within the material mind. Having understood My transcendental nature, he gives up both the material mind and its objects."

A Useless Question

Because our identification with the mind and sense objects is false, in Text 23 the Lord mildly chastised the four Kumaras with the phrase, iti vah prasno vacarambho hy anarthakah. This means that their inquiry about the self as something involved in the mutual relationship ( anyonya)of the mind and sense objects was a useless string of words. The self is never enmeshed in the interaction of the mind and sense objects; its relationship is with Sri Krishna alone. Thus all the talk since the beginning of history about our mental problems, about our struggles with our attachments, amounts to merely the persistence of human illusion.

The destruction of that illusion starts when we seek to revive our relationship with the Lord as per His instructions. In verses 39 and 40, the Hamsa- avatara approved Vedic methods of knowledge, action, austerity, culture and so on by which the living entity may begin to associate with Him and thus share His transcendental presence everywhere.

O best of the brahmanas,please know that I am the supreme shelter of the yoga system, analytic philosophy, virtuous action, truthful religious principles, power, beauty, fame and self-control.

All superior transcendental qualities, such as being beyond the modes of nature, detached, the well-wisher, the most dear, the Supersoul, equally situated everywhere, and free from material entanglement--all such qualities, free from the transformations of material qualities, find their shelter and worshipable object in Me.

The Instructions of the Hamsa- avatara Summarized

According to My instructions, one should fix the mind on Me alone. If, however, one continues to see many different values and goals in life rather than seeing everything within Me, then although apparently awake, one is actually dreaming due to incomplete knowledge, just as one may dream that one has wakened from a dream. [ SB 11.13.30]

You will recall that the Hamsa- avatara's transcendental instructions are narrated by Lord Krishna in reply to a question of Uddhava about the conflicted self: how can it be that a man of knowledge is still capable of acting like a dog, an ass, or a goat? This verse 30 above is a beacon into the heart of the problem raised by Uddhava. That person is simply dreaming who fails to see that his immediate field of activities and the world beyond are ever within Krishna. He may believe himself awake due to some theoretical knowledge or pious conviction. But in fact his spiritual nature is still asleep. Now, we all have ample experience of the craziness of the dream state. Yesterday a friend told me that he dreamed of playing golf with a prominent ISKCON guru who has thousands of disciples around the world. Such irrational mental imagery illustrates the power of our subconscious desires over our surface thought processes. In verse 30 the Hamsa- avatara warns us that a person who is not Krishna conscious lives twenty-four hours a day in such a dream-world. At any moment, despite the neat structures of reason he has installed in his head, his mind may be overcome by irrational desires. He will suddenly find himself acting like a dog, an ass, or a goat.

Human Mentality is a Passionate Dream

In a later chapter of this Eleventh Canto, Sri Krishna reveals that beneath our wakeful thoughts and perceptions is an undercurrent of mental energy known as svapna, the level of dreaming--which, as we shall soon see, Srila Prabhupada identifies as "the subconscious mind." This svapna is an effect of the mode of passion upon consciousness.

sattvaj jagaranam vidyad
rajasa svapnam adiset
prasvapam tamasa jantos
turiyam trisu santatam

One should know that wakefulness is born of the mode of goodness, dreams from the mode of passion, and deep dreamless sleep from the mode of ignorance. The fourth element, pure consciousness, is different from these three and pervades them. [SB 11.25.20]

A detailed understanding of the three modes of material nature is indispensible to Vedic psychology. But now I must limit the scope of this essay to the key points of relationship and attachment. These are features of the mode of passion.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.24.22, Lord Krishna tells Nanda Maharaja, rajasotpadyate visvam anyonyam vividham jagat. Here again we meet the word anyonya, by which the Lord refers to sexual relationships. He says that the mode of passion is the cause of 1) universal creation, 2) the sexual relationships of all creatures, and 3) all varieties within creation. In Bhagavad-gita 14.12 He tells Arjuna that as the mode of passion increases, great attachment is the result.

The material intelligence is described by Lord Kapiladeva in Srimad- Bhagavatam 3.26.29. He says its function is to distinguish between varieties of sense objects and to help the senses make choices among them. This type of buddhi, which plans our relationships with the objects of the senses, is a creation of the mode of passion. Explaining the effect of the mode of passion on intellectual activities, Srila Prabhupada states in a Gita purport that it gives rise "to many theories and doctrines by dint of mundane logic and mental speculation." [Bg 18.22p]

In another Gita purport, Prabhupada writes:

There are two classes of intelligent men. One is intelligent in material activities for sense gratification, and the other is introspective and awake to the cultivation of self-realization.

Activities of the introspective sage, or thoughtful man, are night for persons materially absorbed. Materialistic persons remain asleep in such a night due to their ignorance of self-realization. The introspective sage remains alert in the "night" of the materialistic men. The sage feels transcendental pleasure in the gradual advancement of spiritual culture, whereas the man in materialistic activities, being asleep to self-realization, dreams of varieties of sense pleasure, feeling sometimes happy and sometimes distressed in his sleeping condition. [Bg 2.69p]

This is life in the mode of passion. This is our life, o fellow human being! Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.6.28 informs us that the human species is rajah-svabhavena, of the nature of the rajo-guna. Psychologically speaking, what this means is that we have a strong proclivity for dreaming even while we are awake. Day and night we relate to varieties of sense objects that pervade the mind. Day and night we form emotional attachments to mere mental images! Remember, as was explained before, even the greatest intellects of earth and heaven are unable to separate the "mental" from the "image" and so reveal a factual anyah (other) with whom we could have a real exchange.

In dreams we create so many things out of various impressions in the subconscious mind, but all such creations are simply temporary and unreal. In the same way, although apparently we are awake in material life, because we have no information of the soul and the Supersoul, we create many friends and enemies simply out of imagination. [SB 4.9.33p]

We become attached to these imaginary friends and enemies, develop strong desires for them--especially sexual desires--and then, as happens in dreams, our lives spin out of control due to these same desires born of attachment. Attempting to make sense of all this, we resort to many theories and doctrines, including those of mundane psychology. These ideas too are simply products of the mode of passion.

Who is Behind Passionate Attraction?

avidyamano 'py avabhasate yo
vaikariko rajasa-sarga esah
brahma svayam jyotir ato vibhati

Although thus not existing in reality, this manifestation of transformations created from the mode of passion appears real because the self-manifested, self-luminous Absolute Truth exhibits Himself in the form of the material variety of the senses, the sense objects, the mind and the elements of physical nature. [SB 11.28.22]

Here the attractive features of creation are depicted as illusory exhibitions of the Lord's Brahman feature (brahma svayam jyotir); but another verse describes how the bodies, senses, minds, names and forms of the world are exhibitions of the transcendentally beautiful forms of the Personality of Godhead and His divine consort.

guna-vyaktir iyam devi
vyanjako guna-bhug bhavan
tvam hi sarva-sariry atma
srih sarirendriyasayah
nama-rupe bhagavati
pratyayas tvam apasrayah

Mother Laksmi, who is here, is the reservoir of all spiritual qualities, whereas You manifest and enjoy all these qualities. Indeed, You are actually the enjoyer of everything. You live as the Supersoul of all living entities, and the goddess of fortune is the form of their bodies, senses and minds. She also has a holy name and form, whereas You are the support of all such names and forms and the cause for their manifestation. [SB 6.19.13]

As Srila Prabhupada explains in a 1976 Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture, there is no contradiction between the One Absolute Truth presented in SB 11.28.22 and the Divine Couple depicted in SB 6.19.13. "She [Goddess Laksmi] is Narayana in a different energy only. Radha-krsna- pranaya-vikrtir ahladini saktih. She is the manifestation of the pleasure potency of the Lord. The Lord has got unlimited potencies, parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate. So one of the potency is Radharani or Laksmi or Sita. They are equal. There is no difference. Radha- krsna-pranaya-vikrtir ahladini-saktir asmat: these loving affairs between Radharani and Krsna or Narayana and Laksmi or Sita and Rama. They are both of Them the same. One is potency; another is potent. That is the difference, potent and potency."

In our human condition of the mode of passion, we mistake the pure, spiritual, intimate affairs of the supreme potent and His potency to be the macrocosmic and microcosmic exhibition of material relationships and material attachments. This is due to the bedazzling hold of the Lord's potency over the fallen souls: iyam hi prakrtih suksma-maya- saktir duratyaya--"Mother Laksmi is extremely difficult to understand because she is so powerful that the jurisdiction of her power is difficult to overcome. Mother Laksmi is represented in the material world as the external energy, but actually she is always the internal energy of the Lord." [SB 6.19.11]

Finding the Truth in Relationships

Fortunately for us, there is a program of rectification built into the passionate, perverted misconception of the relationship between the Lord and His consort.

tasya adhisvarah saksat
tvam eva purusah parah
tvam sarva-yajna ijyeyam
kriyeyam phala-bhug bhavan

My Lord, You are the master of energy, and therefore You are the Supreme Person. You are sacrifice (yajna) personified. Laksmi, the embodiment of spiritual activities, is the original form of worship offered unto You, whereas You are the enjoyer of all sacrifices. [SB 6.19.12]

It was explained before that the "subtle organon of great nature" means the organic relationship of bhoktya, bhogyam and prerita (soul, matter and Supreme Lord). Matter is actually Mother Laksmi, who is the original form of worship offered to the Supreme Lord. The Lord is the personification and enjoyer of yajna, sacrifice. The soul is nondifferent from the Lord as His subordinate part and parcel. Thus the soul is the Lord's assistant in yajna. The ideal organic interaction of bhoktya, bhogyam and prerita is therefore devotional sacrifice, in which the soul follows the Lord's instructions: tam eva yuyam bhajatatma-vrttibhir mano-vacah-kaya- gunaih sva-karmabhih, "Unto Him, the Supreme Controller, you, the spirit soul, are to render worshipful engagements of body, words, and mind according to the qualities of your work." [SB 4.21.33] In the purport Srila Prabhupada assure us, "If one engages himself seriously in devotional service, working with body, mind and intelligence, he is sure to be successful in going back home, back to Godhead."

Such is the "subtle organon of great nature," the healthy state of thought and action throughout the universe. Unfortunately, we who exist at the human level of consciousness are susceptible to the infection of the mode of passion. This perverts our part in the rasa (relationship) of the Lord and His consort; and as we have seen Srila Prabhupada explain before, the perversion of rasa brings frustration.

Frustration and Voidism

In frustration, under the influence of passionate mental speculation, we worry our brains about how to negate the natural relationship of the energies of the Lord and His consort. In Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.27.17, Devahuti asks her transcendental son Lord Kapila a question very similar to the the one the four Kumaras asked their father Brahma. She too employs the word anyonya:

purusam prakrtir brahman
na vimuncati karhicit
anyonyapasrayatvac ca
nityatvad anayoh prabho

Sri Devahuti inquired: My dear brahmana, does material nature ever give release to the spirit soul? Since one is attracted to the other eternally, how is their separation possible?

We saw before that Lord Hamsa regarded the inquiry of the four sages to be anarthakah, "useless." In his purport to Devahuti's question, Srila Prabhupada writes, "This question asked by Devahuti of Kapiladeva is more or less impelled by the philosophy of voidism. The voidists say that consciousness is a product of a combination of matter and that as soon as the consciousness is gone, the material combination dissolves, and therefore there is ultimately nothing but voidness. This absence of consciousness is called nirvana in Mayavada philosophy."

The Reply of Lord Kapiladeva

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: One can get liberation by seriously discharging devotional service unto Me and thereby hearing for a long time about Me or from Me. By thus executing one's prescribed duties, there will be no reaction, and one will be freed from the contamination of matter. [SB 3.27.21]

Srila Prabhupada comments, "...the liberated soul is not affected, although he is in the material nature. Even the Supreme Personality of Godhead is supposed to be in association with material nature when He descends, but He is not affected. One has to act in such a way that in spite of being in the material nature he is not affected by contamination. Although the lotus flower is in association with water, it does not mix with the water...Yajnarthat karmano 'nyatra: all activities should be performed simply for Yajna, or the satisfaction of Vishnu. Anything done otherwise, without the satisfaction of Vishnu, or Yajna, produces bondage, so here it is also prescribed by Kapila Muni that one can transcend material entanglement by acting in Krishna consciousness, which means seriously engaging in devotional service. This serious devotional service can develop by hearing for long periods of time. Chanting and hearing is the beginning of the process of devotional service."

Commenting upon a statement by Maharaja Pariksit in Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.1.4 (nivrtta-tarsair upagiyamanad bhavausadhac), Srila Prabhupada adds, "Actually, chanting can be perfectly done by persons who are already liberated. But those who are not liberated? Then he says, bhavausadhi. But it is the medicine of this material entanglement for becoming liberated. That is also, it is also medicine. When we are liberated, we'll chant and relish what is actually love of God. That is liberated. But even if we are not liberated, this will act as medicine to become liberated. So any stage, nivrtta-tarsair upagiyamanad bhavausadhac. Those who are chanting, they'll be liberated."

The Topmost Relationship, the Topmost Attachment

Thus the infection of the mode of passion is cured by chanting the holy names of the Lord. And when one is cured, the chanting is the pure expression of transcendental relationship. In Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.22.6 it is said of the anyonya or relationship that the gopis enjoyed amongst one another:

usasy utthaya gotraih svair
krsnam uccair jagur yantyah
kalindyam snatum anvaham

Each day they rose at dawn. Calling out to one another by name, they all held hands and loudly sang the glories of Krishna while going to the Kalindi to take their bath.

We have seen that in reference to the material world, the word anyonya indicates passionate sexual relationships. In reference to the spiritual world, it means the pure passion of conjugal rasa. The following verse, so stunning in its beauty, is a perfect illustration of that divine love:

tatrarabhata govindo
rasa-kridam anuvrataih
stri-ratnair anvitah pritair

There on the Yamuna's banks Lord Govinda then began the pastime of the rasa dance in the company of those jewels among women, the faithful gopis, who joyfully linked their arms together. [SB 10.33.2]

The Middle Ground

So far, much of this essay has compared and contrasted rajas and rasa: passionate material attachment and the attachment of transcendental love. As seen from the reply of Lord Kapiladeva, graduating from the lower attachment to the higher takes a long time (ciram) of serious devotional service (tivraya mayi bhaktya) and hearing about Krishna (sruta). During that long time, we must stand upon a middle ground between the attachment we have but don't want (rajas) and the attachment we want but don't have (rasa). What is that middle ground?

It is not my wish to overload the reader's mind with an excess of information. But as I cited from an Upanisad in the Introduction to this series of essays, only one who desires liberation can attain it; and the desire for liberation is evident in one's willingness to investigate the philosophy of liberation, Vedanta. So, in order to explain the middle ground between rajas and rasa I must introduce you to two important terms of Vedanta philosophy: vyavahara and paramartha. You will meet these words again as this series of essays develops. Let us now go through the small austerity of learning what they mean.

A simple definition of these two words is found in Cc Antya 4.159. Here vyavahara means "ordinary dealings" and paramartha means "affairs of spiritual advancement." In his purport to Bhagavat-gita 7.24, Srila Prabhupada cites a verse by Sri Yamunacarya (Strotra- ratna 12) that classifies the characteristics, form and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as paramartha (transcendental subject matter). This verse concludes, naivasura-prakrtayah prabhavanti boddhum, those of demonic nature (i.e. those whose minds are polluted by rajas and tamas) never understand paramartha. In the Manu-smrti, the Vedic lawbook of mankind, vyavahara means eighteen institutions of social, moral and justice administration that keep in check the demonic nature. Among these eighteen institutions are marriage, obeying orders, keeping promises, legal settlement of disputes, civil speech and civil behavior. In short, vyavahara is the relationship of human beings guided by Vedic regulation. Paramartha is the transcendental relationship of liberated souls and the Supreme Lord.

But it is a mistake to think that vyavahara affairs, being "of this world only," are unrelated to the Supreme Lord. In fact He has His own vyavahara pastimes:

virad hiranya-garbhas ca
karanam cety upadhayah
isasya yat tribhir hinam
turiyam tat pracaksate

In the material world the Lord is designated as virat, hiranyagarbha and karana. But beyond these three designations, the Lord is ultimately in the fourth dimension [i.e. the transcendental realm of paramartha].

yadyapi tinera maya la-iya vyavahara
tathapi tat-sparsa nahi, sabhe maya-para

Although these three features of the Lord deal directly with the material energy, none of them are touched by it. They are all beyond illusion. [Cc Adi 2.53, 54]

We have met with the words virat and hiranyagarbha already; the first is the universal form of the lotus flower upon which Brahma sits to do his work of creation, and the second is Garbhodakasayi Vishnu out of whose navel the lotus grows. The word karana refers to Maha- Vishnu. He is known as Karanabdhisayi Vishnu because He lies down on the karanabdhi, the Causal Ocean. Garbhodakasayi Vishnu or Hiranyagarbha has thousands of heads, eyes, arms and legs because He expands from Maha-Vishnu into thousands of universes. The universal form (virat) that expands from each and every Garbhodakasayi Vishnu is said to be a feature of Ksirodakasayi-Vishnu, who lies on the Milk Ocean and guides the wanderings of the living entities from within their hearts (see Cc Madhya 21.39p).

As we have seen above in Cc. Adi 2.54, the three Vishnus are said to be maya la-iya vyavahara, "taking up dealings with the material energy." But, tathapi tat-sparsa nahi, "they are not touched by maya." The verse that follows the two quoted above begins with the words etat isanam isasya, which means "This is the opulence of the Lord." The Lord displays the wonder of His material creation for the spiritual upliftment of souls in the lower modes of nature. Srila Prabhupada explains in Nectar of Devotion:

Even uncivilized men like the aborigines offer their respectful obeisances to something wonderful exhibited by nature's law, and they appreciate that behind some wonderful exhibition or action there is something supreme. So this consciousness, though lying dormant in those who are materially contaminated, is found in every living entity. And, when purified, this is called Krishna consciousness. [NOD Ch. 2]

Now, a sadhaka may ask, "What do the Lord's vyavaraha pastimes have to do with me?" Well, sadhana-bhakti is like a regimen of medical treatments aimed at curing the infection of the lower modes of nature. One of the treatments is learning about the cosmic opulence of the Lord. This knowledge curbs down our passionate propensity to imagine ourselves the lords of creation. In Narada-bhakti-sutra 23, Narada Muni harshly condemns those who attempt to penetrate the intimate paramartha pastimes without having been schooled in the greatness of the Lord's vyavahara pastimes of creating, maintaining and destroying the material manifestation.

tad-vihinam jaranam iva

Shows of devotion without knowledge of God's greatness, on the other hand, are no better than the affairs of illicit lovers.

As the Lord performs His own vyavahara duties ever untouched by maya, so should the Lord's devotees. Narada-bhakti-sutra 62:

na tad-siddhau loka-vyavaharo heyah kintu phala-tyagas

Even after devotional service has been achieved one should not abandon his responsibilities in this world, but rather should surrender the results of work. And while still trying to reach the stage of pure devotion one certainly must continue executing prescribed duties.

Lord Caitanya says, dharma-sthapana-hetu sadhura vyavahara: "A devotee's behavior establishes the true purpose of religious principles." [Cc. Madhya 17.185] In other words, sadhura vyavahara--the behavior of devotees within the material world--is the middle ground where dharma-sthapana-hetu, the difference between right and wrong, is made clear. Furthermore it is said, bhava-grahanera hetu kaila dharma-sthapana, "To accept ecstatic love is the main reason Lord Caitanya appeared and reestablished the religious system for this age." [Cc. Adi 4.53] Thus by following the practical example of Lord Caitanya and His pure representative Srila Prabhupada, we too can obtain ecstatic love, which is paramartha. The conclusion is that since paramartha is beyond our present comprehension, we must form our understanding of healthy psychology from the vyavahara pastimes of the Lord and His pure devotees.

Mental Torment

Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.28.28 describes the abnormal psychology of devotees who are somehow or other slow to the cure of vyavahara (relationships regulated by Vedic culture).

Just as an improperly treated disease recurs and gives repeated distress to the patient, the mind that is not completely purified of its perverted tendencies will remain attached to material things and repeatedly torment the imperfect yogi.

Therefore a well-known verse encourages us to enter strong relationships with devotees who are nicely situated in devotional service; thus in their association, our attachments will surely be purified.

prasangam ajaram pasam
atmanah kavayo viduh
sa eva sadhusu krto
moksa-dvaram apavrtam

Every learned man knows very well that attachment for the material is the greatest entanglement of the spirit soul. But that same attachment, when applied to the self-realized devotees, opens the door of liberation.

[SB 3.25.20]

But it is right here, in our relationships with devotees, that a working understanding of transcendental psychology becomes crucial. As I stated in the beginning of this essay, "relationship is the central issue of psychology." If we are not aware of the workings of our own mind, if we are not aware of the nature of its interaction with other minds, if we are not attentive to the vyavahara culture of relationships, then we won't be able to guard ourselves from envy. When envy creeps into the relationships of devotees, the purification of lusty desires that sastra says comes from sadhu-sangha is severely hampered.

In the following verse we once again meet the word anyonya, "relationship." But now it is coupled with vairah, "enviousness." Just see the terrible result!

lokah svayam sreyasi nasta-drstir
yo 'rthan samiheta nikama-kamah
anyonya-vairah sukha-lesa-hetor
ananta-duhkham ca na veda mudhah

Due to ignorance, the materialistic person does not know anything about his real self-interest, the auspicious path in life. He is simply bound to material enjoyment by lusty desires, and all his plans are made for this purpose. For temporary sense gratification, such a person creates a society of envy, and due to this mentality, he plunges into the ocean of suffering. Such a foolish person does not even know about this. [SB 5.5.16]


In Prakrta-rasa Sata-dusini, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura writes, siddhanta-alasa jana anartha to' chade na: "A person who is siddhanta-alasa, lazy in understanding philosophical truth, cannot cross over the obstacles of his material conditioning."

In Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.14.29 and 30 we find a link between a careless, misguided and lazy attitude toward the investigation of the Vaishnava Vedanta philosophy and the appearance of lust, envy and offensiveness in association with devotees.

The pseudo svamis, yogis and incarnations who do not believe in the Supreme Personality of Godhead are known as pasandis. They themselves are fallen and cheated because they do not know the real path of spiritual advancement, and whoever goes to them is certainly cheated in his turn.

(My dear reader, I am shortly interrupting this quotation to point out that most of us came to ISKCON after having been cheated by bogus spiritualists. These cheaters infected us with siddhanta-alasa, laziness to know the science of Godhead. Now let us continue the translation of SB 5.14.29, 30.)

When one is thus cheated, he sometimes takes shelter of the real followers of Vedic principles (brahmanas or those in Krsna consciousness), who teach everyone how to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the Vedic rituals. However, being unable to stick to these principles, these rascals again fall down and take shelter among sudras who are very expert in making arrangements for sex indulgence. Sex is very prominent among animals like monkeys, and such people who are enlivened by sex may be called descendants of monkeys.

In this way the descendants of the monkeys intermingle with each other, and they are generally known as sudras. Without hesitating, they live and move freely, not knowing the goal of life. They are captivated simply by seeing the faces of one another, which remind them of sense gratification. They are always engaged in material activities, known as gramya-karma, and they work hard for material benefit. Thus they forget completely that one day their small life spans will be finished and they will be degraded in the evolutionary cycle.

The Sanskrit of the above two verses is too lengthy to reproduce here in full, but a couple of phrases are of special relevance. One is ati-krpana-buddhih, "whose intelligence is dull because he does not properly utilize his assets;" and another is anyonya mukha-niriksana- adina, "by seeing the faces of one another (when a man sees the beautiful face of a woman and the woman sees the strong build of the man's body, they always desire one another)." No need to elaborate. There are enough graphic illustrations of this tragic process of falldown in the nearly forty years of ISKCON's history.

Humility or Argumentation?

With sincerest humility, Sri Prahlada Maharaja counts himself among the souls who have drifted down to the abominable state of helpless addiction to sense gratification. He is most embarrassed to observe how his senses drag him in many directions at once.

jihvaikato 'cyuta vikarsati mavitrpta
sisno 'nyatas tvag-udaram sravanam kutascit
ghrano 'nyatas capala-drk kva ca karma-saktir
bahvyah sapatnya iva geha-patim lunanti

My dear Lord, O infallible one, my position is like that of a person who has many wives, all trying to attract him in their own way. For example, the tongue is attracted to palatable dishes, the genitals to sex with an attractive woman, and the sense of touch to contact with soft things. The belly, although filled, still wants to eat more, and the ear, not attempting to hear about You, is generally attracted to cinema songs. The sense of smell is attracted to yet another side, the restless eyes are attracted to scenes of sense gratification, and the active senses are attracted elsewhere. In this way I am certainly embarrassed. [SB 7.9.40]

Therefore in the next verse Prahlada Maharaja prays most fervently to the Lord to deliver him from anonya janma-marana-asana-bhita-bhitam: birth and death, one after another, which come from asana, consuming vulgar sense objects on one side, and bhita-bhitam, being pursued by many fears on the other side.

Unlike the great soul Sri Prahlada, that person who has turned his back on devotion to the Lord due to enviousness and offensiveness does not humbly pray for deliverance from birth, death, sensual hunger, and gnawing fear. He resorts instead to passionate speculation and argumentation. Lord Krishna tells Uddhava:

The speculative argument of philosophers--"This world is real," "No, it is not real"--is based upon incomplete knowledge of the Supreme Soul and is simply aimed at understanding material dualities. Although such argument is useless, persons who have turned their attention away from Me, their own true Self, are unable to give it up. [SB 11.22.34]

Such endless speculative argumentation over various dualities--the sort of topics discussed at many a vegetarian pizza party in our present day--is a symptom of mental disturbance. That is the verdict of Krishna Himself in Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.28.36.

Whatever apparent duality is perceived in the self is simply the confusion of the mind. Indeed, such supposed duality has no basis to rest upon apart from one's own soul.

This means that as long as we are not self-realized, the problems we complain that we meet "out there" in the world around us are really met by us within our own selves. Repeatedly in this chapter 28 of Canto 11, Lord Krishna dismisses the spirit soul's troubled experience of the material world as being no better than a dream, which is just an illusory vision seen by the soul within the mental layers of his contaminated consciousness. (See 11.28.3, 13, 14, and 32; and elsewhere in Srimad-Bhagavatam, see 3.27.4; 4.29.35 and 73; and 11.22.56.)

In 11.28.37, Krishna sweeps away all attempts to argue otherwise.

The duality of the five material elements is perceived only in terms of names and forms. Those who say this duality is real are pseudoscholars vainly proposing fanciful theories without basis in fact.

Unfortunately, I have observed a tendency in more than a few members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to sweep away all such statements of Lord Krishna as being "just for the karmis." It is as if we have just to place a tilak mark upon the forehead of the dream of duality, just "ISKCONize" it, then it is real. But rather than sweep away pages and pages of Bhagavatam verses with a shrug, we should investigate their proper application.

Lord Krishna does not say that the disturbances of duality that affect the lives of devotees are to be ignored because they are just dreams. He does not say we ought to do nothing about them. What he does say is that speculating, gossiping, and arguing about them is no solution!

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: One should neither praise nor criticize the conditioned nature and activities of other persons. Rather, one should see this world as simply the combination of material nature and the enjoying souls, all based on the one Absolute Truth.

Whoever indulges in praising or criticizing the qualities and behavior of others will quickly become deviated from his own best interest by his entanglement in illusory dualities.

One who has properly understood the process of becoming firmly fixed in theoretical and realized knowledge, as described herein by Me, does not indulge in material criticism or praise. Like the sun, he wanders freely throughout this world. [SB 11.28.1, 2 and 8]

The Psychological Treatment Prescribed by Krishna Himself

"So what should we do about our problems?" comes the agonized wail. Well, the first step is to take the humble position. That means to accept that we are struggling with duality (which means only that our minds are giving us trouble) because we are weak in knowing ourselves to be pure spirit soul. Having accepted this, we can go on to accept Lord Krishna's personal prescription for curing our weak psychological condition. (Remember, psyche means "soul," so real psychology lifts us up to transcendental self-realization.)

As we have seen above, in Chapter 28 of Canto 11 Lord Krishna instructs Uddhava how to separate the soul from duality by transcendental knowledge. But Uddhava, like Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita 6.33, feared the mind is too powerful to be subdued by yogic knowledge alone. In the first verse of Chapter 29 he says:

My dear Lord Acyuta, I fear that the method of yoga described by You is very difficult for one who cannot control his mind. Therefore please explain to me in simple terms how someone can more easily execute it.

In the next verse he makes an important observation:

O lotus-eyed Lord, generally those yogis who try to steady the mind experience frustration because of their inability to perfect the state of trance. Thus they weary in their attempt to bring the mind under control.

The word frustration (visidanti--"becomes frustrated") is indicative of the mode of ignorance, which is where passionate endeavors end up. The human being, situated as he is in the mode of passion, works himself to frustration even in "spiritual" activities. Thus he grows weary of sadhana and may become victimized by voidistic ideas. Like the Kumaras and Mother Devahuti, he may speculate on how to separate the mind from the sense objects. He soon finds himself facing only two choices: to either negate his existence, or to surrender to "his nature" (meaning material nature). Nowadays the second choice is by far the more popular one. It is defended by arguing wrongly from the Gita, "What can repression accomplish?"

Sri Krishna answers Uddhava by speaking about the performance of devotional service in unbroken consciousness of Him. The Lord's reply in Chapter 29 of this Uddhava-gita covers many verses; I shall only cite a few here.

kuryat sarvani karmani
mad-artham sanakaih smaran
mayy arpita-manas-citto

Always remembering Me, one should perform all his duties for Me without becoming impetuous. With mind and intelligence offered to Me, one should fix his mind in attraction to My devotional service. [SB 11.29.9]

Kuryat sarvani karmani: a devotee should do all his duties. This may place him in the midst of conflict, just as Arjuna found himself at Kuruksetra. But that is no excuse for becoming impetuous (passionate). Here the word sanakaih means we should go forward "gradually" or "step by step." The same point is made by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita 6.25 (sanaih sanair uparamed). As a poet wrote, "The bird that flutters least is longest on the wing." A bird like the albatross soars along the wind currents above the ocean for hundreds of miles with hardly a beat of its wings; the wings of the small birds we see in our garden flap rapidly, but these birds travel short distances only. We should patiently work at becoming truly attached to the Lord in all our services, and through that attachment, always remember Him. Thus by His grace we may soar like the albatross over the great ocean of material existence, back home, Back to Godhead.

naresv abhiksnam mad-bhavam
pumso bhavayato 'cirat
sahankara viyanti hi

For him who constantly meditates upon My presence within all persons, the bad tendencies of rivalry, envy and abusiveness, along with false ego, are very quickly destroyed. [SB 11.29.15]

Here Lord Krishna explains how envy steals into our minds to poison our relationships. When we are with equals, it appears in the mind as rivalry. When we are with superiors, it appears as envy in the sense of resentment towards those in higher positions. And when we are with subordinates, it appears as abusiveness. The cure is in learning to see Krishna within the hearts of all our associates, whether they are above, below or equal to us.

A question might be, "What about when we are with people who are themselves bad? How do we relate to them?" In vyavahara culture there are codes of civilized conduct. Civilized persons, whether personally "good" or "bad", observe these codes out of respect for the social order. Someone who flouts such codes is barbaric and thus subject to punishment by law, if not the law of the state then certainly the law of karma. However, if we view a person, no matter how barbaric, as wicked to the core, then that is the beginning of wickedness in ourselves. Beyond the wickedness that our senses and mind perceive in passionate human nature is the all-good Sri Krishna. We must gradually come to the paramartha platform of seeing and hearing Him always.

Coming to the paramartha platform is likewise the answer to all our questions about personal low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is the condition of an individual who relates badly to his own self. He is discouraged, ashamed, despairing, and angry at his imperfections and falldowns. We should learn to see beyond the faults that cover our hearts to Krishna within the core of our hearts. Furthermore we should learn to see how Krishna sees us. Only looking at "ourselves" (our minds) through the modes of nature that pervert our minds is the problem of the conflicted mind described at the beginning of this essay. In the following verse, so wonderfully inspiring and strength- giving, the Lord assures Uddhava:


samahitaih kah karanair gunatmabhir
guno bhaven mat-suvivikta-dhamnah
viksipyamanair uta kim nu dusanam
ghanair upetair vigatai raveh kim

For one who has properly realized My personal identity as the Supreme Godhead, what credit is there if his senses--mere products of the material modes--are perfectly concentrated in meditation? And on the other hand, what blame is incurred if his senses happen to become agitated? Indeed, what does it mean to the sun if the clouds come and go? [SB 11.28.25]

The next verse from Chapter 29 of the Uddhava-gita is a hammer-blow to the mode of passion that infects our human minds and emotions.

yo yo mayi pare dharmah
kalpyate nisphalaya cet
tad-ayaso nirarthah syad
bhayader iva sattama

O Uddhava, greatest of saints, in a dangerous situation an ordinary person cries, becomes fearful and laments, although such useless emotions do not change the situation. But activities offered to Me without personal motivation, even if they are externally useless, amount to the actual process of religion. [SB 11.29.21]

We get so excited over our relationships and attachments. We burn up so much emotional energy in fear, anger and lamentation. But for what result? All human relationships must end, all human attachments must break. Yet it is difficult for us to find the energy to do a little service for Krishna, to chant his holy name and offer Him a flower, because in the mode of passion we fail to catch the eternal benefit of such acts of devotion.

This verse is also an interesting lesson about boldness and self- control in Krishna consciousness. One who thinks the greatest evil is danger to his body, his mental peace, or the security of his social position cannot be bold in serving Krishna, even though he may be self- controlled. One who thinks that the greatest good is the reward, respect and honor that follows his doing externally useful service cannot be self-controlled, even though he may be bold.

Now I shall cite three verses from Chapter 29 of this Uddhava-gita in which Lord Krishna echos 18.68-71 of His Bhagavad-gita.

One who liberally disseminates this knowledge among My devotees is the bestower of the Absolute Truth, and to him I give My very own self.

He who loudly recites this supreme knowledge, which is the most lucid and purifying, becomes purified day by day, for he reveals Me to others with the lamp of transcendental knowledge.

Anyone who regularly listens to this knowledge with faith and attention, all the while engaging in My pure devotional service, will never become bound by the reactions of material work. [SB 11.29.26-28]

To conclude this essay, let me remind the reader of a statement made by Kapiladeva concerning bhakti-yoga, the process Sri Krishna recommends to Uddhava and to Arjuna for overcoming the uncontrolled mind.

jarayaty asu ya kosam
nigirnam analo yatha

Bhakti, devotional service, dissolves the subtle body of the living entity without separate effort, just as fire in the stomach digests all that we eat. [SB 3.25.33]

Srila Prabhupada explains:

Bhakti is in a far higher position than mukti because a person's endeavor to get liberation from the material encagement is automatically served in devotional service. The example is given here that the fire in the stomach can digest whatever we eat. If the digestive power is sufficient, then whatever we can eat will be digested by the fire in the stomach. Similarly, a devotee does not have to try separately to attain liberation. That very service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the process of his liberation because to engage oneself in the service of the Lord is to liberate oneself from material entanglement. Sri Bilvamangala Thakura explained this position very nicely. He said, "If I have unflinching devotion unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, then mukti, or liberation, serves me as my maidservant. Mukti, the maidservant, is always ready to do whatever I ask."


Essay Two:

A Vedic Schema of the Mind and its Processes


The word schema has specific usages in modern psychology. In this essay, I accept the following usage: that a schema is a pattern imposed upon a complex reality in order to assist in explaining it.

The complex reality under discussion here is the mind. I use the word mind in the sense that Srila Prabhupada uses it in the following phrase from Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.33p: "...the living being misinterprets the gross body and subtle mind to be his own self." Mind, then, means the linga-sarira or subtle body. It follows that I do not take the processes of buddhi (intelligence) and ahamkara (false ego) as independent of the processes of the mind. This indeed makes for a complex subject matter, especially since I refer to Vedic sources for a description of the mind.

In Chapter 22 of Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 11, Sri Krsna tells Uddhava that Vedic sages have analyzed the tattvas (gross, subtle and spiritual categories of reality) in multifarious ways. The Lord personally teaches Uddhava twenty-eight tattvas; plus He validates eight enumerations of tattvas by other sages. Thus there are at least nine different Vedic accounts of creation that are met with approval in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In Bhagavad-gita Chapter 13, Sri Krsna teaches Arjuna yet another enumeration of tattvas. Logically, then, one might bring forth out of these ten accounts ten different descriptions of the mind and its processes.

That is why this essay presents you, the reader, a "schema" of the mind. The schema is drawn from Vedic sources; as I will take pains to show you, it is backed up by Srila Prabhupada's editions of Bhagavad- gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and other books. But being a schema, it a simplification of a more complex reality.

This schema comes to you in four parts:

1) An Overview of the Conditioned State of the Jivatma
2) Maha-samasti, Samasti and Vyasti: How Consciousness is Conditioned
3) Vedic Depth Psychology
4) An Overview of the Psychology of Bhakti-yoga

Part One:
An Overview of the Conditioned State of the Jivatma

There are two kinds of covering powers exhibited by maya. One is called praksepatmika, and the other is called avaranatmika. When one is determined to get out of material bondage, the praksepatmika-sakti, the spell of diversion, impels one to remain in conditioned life fully satisfied by sense gratification. Due to the other power (avaranatmika), a conditioned soul feels satisfied even if he is rotting in the body of a pig or a worm in stool. To release a conditioned soul from material bondage is very difficult because the spell of maya is so strong. [C.c. Madhya 20.6p]

Thus we begin with a general account of the conditioned state of the jivatma. What is meant by the word "conditioned"? The definition given by modern psychology is, "Exhibiting or trained to exhibit a conditioned response." A much-cited example is Pavlov's dogs; in 1904 the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for discovering the conditioned response when he instilled in dogs the behavior of salivation at the ring of a bell. Dogs were first trained to associate their feeding time with a bell's ringing. When the conditioning was complete, the mere sound of the bell--absent the appearance of food--was enough to make the dogs salivate. Thus, "to be conditioned" means to mentally associate the satisfaction of a desire with a stimulus that cannot satisfy that desire.

This is precisely what happens to the jivatma when it is covered by maya.

Therefore, in Srimad-Bhagavatam the conditioned soul is likened to the camel. The camel is very fond of eating thorny twigs that cut his tongue. While he is eating them, blood issues from his tongue and mixes with the thorny twigs. They become a little tasty, and he is thinking, "Oh, these twigs are very nice." That is called maya. Maya means "that which is not." Ma means "not," and ya means "this." So maya means "not this." That is the explanation of maya, or illusion. [Life Comes From Life, The Eleventh Morning Walk]

hoya maya-das kore nana abhilasa

"A servant of maya is always overwhelmed by many desires." [From a Bengali song cited by Srila Prabhupada in Hyderbad 1975, lecture tape 4, side B]

In the quotation about the two potencies of maya that opens this Part One of Essay Two, we saw that maya covers the jivatma by first diverting it from the real path of satisfaction, just as Pavlov's dogs were diverted to respond to the sound of a bell as if that was food. Next, maya trains the soul to passively accept the false satisfaction again and again, life after life, even when the soul is put into the body of a hog.

This process--by which the real object of desire is switched for a false one--is termed manoratha upagata in Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.14.17. The term is significant. Manoratha means "chariot of the mind." Upagata means "obtained." The indication here is that the mind is the seat or vehicle of the process by which the soul obtains something false and yet accepts it. Iti svapna-nirvrti-laksanam anubhavati, the verse concludes: "In this way the soul feels the happiness one sometimes feels in a dream, and the conditioned soul sometimes takes pleasure in such mental concoctions." The reader will recall from Essay One that the sastra repeatedly compares the human condition to a dream-experience.

Another suitable comparison is to intoxication and addiction.

We are already intoxicated. Being under the influence of maya, the material energy, we are already forgotten of ourself. Everybody. Nobody knows that he's not this body. This is another intoxication. He is not this body, this is a fact, but go to the outside of this temple, ask anybody, "What you are?" "Yes, I am this body." They are already intoxicated. [Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2 December 1973, Los Angeles]

Those who are addicted to fruitive activities and speculative knowledge cannot understand the value of the holy name of the Lord, Krsna, who is always completely pure, eternally liberated and full of spiritual bliss. [C.c. Adi 7.72p]

Let us consider addiction for a moment. It begins with intoxication; by those who enjoy it, intoxication is experienced as bliss and freedom. As addicition takes hold by way of repeated intoxication, it becomes apparent that this bliss and freedom is actually repressive.The addict is caught in a ever-closing spiral of habituation. At first the circle drawn by addiction is very broad. It allows within its diameter the affairs of a normal life: family, job, friends, respectable social position. But as the spiral descends and the circle tightens, such interests are squeezed out. Soon there is no room at all for a normal life. The addict's entire energy is dedicated to the gratification of his one, all-consuming "need."

But addiction is not a real need at all. It is a conditioning of consciousness whereby, like a dog who cannot help but drool at the sound of a bell, a living entity is forced by nature to be attached to something that incites uncontrollable desires but cannot deliver relief from those desires. To be addicted means to desire to consume a thing that consumes the addict with desire.

The logistics of addiction are provided by maya. What are logistics? These are the procurement, distribution, maintenance, and replacement of the materiel and personnel of addiction. In short, maya gives the facility. But the individual soul himself creates the "need." Thus he cannot blame maya for his addiction. He creates the need by his choice of what he deems to be bliss and freedom.

hetuh prakrtir ucyate
purusah sukha-duhkhanam
bhoktrtve hetur ucyate

Nature is said to be the cause of all material causes and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world. [B.g. 13.21]

Srila Prabhupada explains:

Everything is suffering according to the body, and the body is supplied by the nature. That is explained here. Karya-karana- kartrtve hetuh prakrtir ucyate. Kartrtve, my action, that is also directed by the material nature. Originally directed by Isvara, who is sitting within your heart, sarvasya caham hrdi sannivistho mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca, but it is being acted through the agency of material nature.

Karya-karana-kartrtve hetuh prakrtir ucyate. Prakrtir. Just like one criminal is punished by the magistrate, that "This man should undergo six months' imprisonment." So the judge or the magistrate superficially is the cause of his punishment, but actually he's not. He's giving him punishment according to law. I have created such a situation, I have made myself a criminal, and the magistrate, according to law, giving me punishment. So actually, directly, the magistrate is not the cause of my suffering. Why he should be cause? He's not your enemy. This is going on.

Karya-karana-kartrtve ketuh prakrtir ucyate purusah sukha-duhkhanam bhoktrtve hetur ucyate. So bhoktrtva, my enjoyment, because we have come to this material world for enjoyment. So everyone's enjoyment is not on the same standard. We can see that. Somebody is enjoying some way, another is enjoying... "One man's food, another man's poison." What is enjoyed by the hog is not enjoyed by other animal. This is going on.

Therefore when we get real consciousness by good association, if we can understand that "I am under the clutches of maya, prakrti, and I'm dictated according to my association with the quality of the nature and I am getting different types of bodies, different types of situation for my distress or happiness. This is my position, under, fully under the control of the prakrti." [Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 13.21, 15 October 1973, Bombay]

Srila Prabhupada's example of a magistrate sentencing a criminal to imprisonment is yet another suitable comparison. Addiction is a choice of criminal behavior and also a type of imprisonment. The judge is material nature. Behind material nature is the Supersoul. From Him we get the knowledge, rememberance and forgetfulness that constitute our particular notion of bliss and freedom. But the seed of that notion is what we want. Hence, our choice comes first. Supersoul helps us realize our choice, whatever it may be. Though we get assistance from Supersoul and His prakrti, our choice is our responsibility.

We have seen that the conditioning of consciousness is a two-fold covering of the soul by maya. We have gone through several analogies to help us grasp how pure consciousness gets covered: it is like Pavlov's experiment on dogs, it is like a dream, it is like intoxication, it is like addiction, it is like choosing to do a criminal act and getting imprisoned as a result. Let us now go from analogy to a summary overview given by a great Vaisnava acarya. In his Govinda Bhasya commentary to Vedanta-sutra 4.4.19, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana writes,

vikare prapance janmadi satake va na vartate
iti vikaravarti niravadyam brahma svarupam
tadgunabhutam taddhamadikam ca tattadvisayaya
vidyaya tattadavrtti pariksayan muktastadanubhavams
tisthatiti na kincidunam
hi yathah kathasrutirmuktasya tatha sthitim aha
puram ekadasadvaramajasyavakrtatejasah
anusthaya na socati vimuktasca vimucyate iti
svarupavarikaya vrttya mimukto vidvangunavarikaya
taya vimucyate ityathah

There are six kinds of transformations (vikara) that living entities undergo in material existence [birth, growth, sustenance, reproduction, dwindling and death]. Whatever is transcendental to vikara is called vikara-avarti. The Lord, His abode and all that share the divine qualities of the Lord are vikara-avarti. The liberated soul knows all the realms (vikara and vikara-avarti) and everything about the Lord, the source of these realms. The liberated soul and the bound soul dwell within the same realms, but the liberated soul is not covered. Katha Upanisad 2.2.1 explains, "There is a city of eleven gates [the human body] belonging to the unborn, pure-hearted Supreme. One who meditates on Him never laments within that place. Being free of that which covers the form of Lord, he is free of the covering of material nature." Thus the liberated soul is free of svarupa-avarika (ignorance that covers spiritual form) and guna-avarika (the covering of consciousness by the three modes). The first point here is transformation. The six kinds of transformation listed in the above quotation are indicitive of a transformation of consciousness. Those souls who are affected by the six vikaras are themselves transformed in consciousness from the liberated state of spiritual bliss to bondage and lamentation.

But can consciousness really be transformed? Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.11.11,

One should not think that all the interactions of the physical elements, gross and subtle, that cause the transformation of mind and consciousness are working independently. They are under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Bhagavad-gita (15.15), Krsna says that the Lord is situated in everyone's heart (sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca). As mentioned herein, Supersoul (ksetrajna) is directing everything. The living entity is also ksetrajna, but the supreme ksetrajna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the witness and order giver. Under His direction, everything takes place. The different inclinations of the living entity are created by his own nature or his expectations, and he is trained by the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the agency of material nature.

The Mayavadis hold to the doctrine that consciousness is nirvikara or untransformable. Thus to explain the conditioned state, they resort to illusionism: that our present perceptions and conceptions of material existence are utterly subjective and insubstantial. Such perceptions and conceptions, they argue, are in every sense disconnected from reality. This logic of utter disconnection obliges the Mayavadis to decry perceptual and conceptual qualities in the Absolute Truth. Names, forms, characteristics, personalities, activities and relationships are never more than hallucinations because without exception they have no existence in Reality.

The Vaisnavas hold that mundane names, forms, characteristics, personalities, activities and relationships are unreal because they are temporary; but still maya has real power to bewilder consciousness because it is a perverted reflection of the real and original transcendental names, forms, characteristics, personalities, activities and relationships eternally manifest in the spiritual world by Bhagavan Sri Krsna. The Mayavadis are quasi-atheists. They cannot accept Krsna as the Supreme Truth and the Supreme Controller, although He declares this of Himself in Bhagavad-gita 7.7 and 8.9. Their search for God ends only with consciousness of the self. Thus they cannot accept that consciousness can be transformed. But it can be--by Lord Krsna's will.

Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana states above that the realms of vikara (transformation) and vikara-avarti (transcendence) are both under the authority of the Lord. The transcendental realm is of the Lord's personal divine nature. The material realm--the "city of eleven gates," i.e. the human body--is of a different nature, but nonetheless it is the property of the Lord.

We are familiar with "the city of nine gates" (nava-dvara pura) from Bhagavad-gita 5.13, in which the two eyes, two ears, one genital, two nostrils, one mouth and one rectum are the gates. The city of eleven gates (puram ekadasadvaram) is just a different enumeration of the sensory openings that is taught in Katha Upanisad. These are: srotra (hearing), tvak (tactile sensation), caksus (eyes), jihva (tongue as taster), vak (voice), pani (hands), pada (feet), payu (anus), upastha (genital) and manas (mind).

The point is that both the spiritual and material realms are controlled and owned by the Lord, and the liberated soul--the Lord's pure devotee--knows both realms and indeed dwells within them. The conditioned soul likewise dwells within both realms. He is always an infinitesimal part and parcel of Lord Krsna's spiritual nature. But he has forgotten Krsna. Thus he is covered by ignorance of the Lord's form, and his own spiritual form too. In other words, he is diverted from the actual object of his desire, which is the transcendental satisfaction of loving exchange with the Lord. In his ignorance of spiritual form, the conditioned soul is further covered by the three modes of material nature...which means he takes on a material form. This is all effected by a transformation of consciousness. And so the conditioned soul experiences himself subject to birth, growth, sustenance, reproduction, dwindling and death.

These six transformations are experienced because the conditioned soul finds his identity within eight kinds of elements in the form of the gross and subtle bodies: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego. Through the agency of these gross and subtle energies he acquires thirteen kinds of senses:

All our ordinary actions and perceptions depend on various forms of energy supplied to us by nature in various combinations. Our senses of perception and of action, that is to say, our five perceptive senses of (1) hearing, (2) touch, (3) sight, (4) taste and (5) smell, as well as our five senses of action, namely (1) hands, (2) legs, (3) speech, (4) evacuation organs and (5) reproductive organs, and also our three subtle senses, namely (1) mind, (2) intelligence and (3) ego (thirteen senses in all), are supplied to us by various arrangements of gross or subtle forms of natural energy. [Bhag. 2.2.35p]

The conditioned soul is covered by seven kinds of gross bodily layers: skin, flesh, bone, muscles, marrow, fat and semen. [See Krsna, Chapter Two, "Prayers by the Demigods for Lord Krsna in the Womb"] He is covered by five kinds of subtle conceptions imposed by the controlling deity of the mind, the moon: annamaya (the conception that life is food), pranamaya (the conception that life is bodily movement), manomaya (the conception that the good life is the culture of the mind), vijnana-maya (the conception that the better life is the culture of discrimination), and anandamaya (the conception that the best life is full of the bliss of self- realization). [See Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.22.9, 10 and 6.15.12-15p].

In the subtle body are manifest the living symptoms, which are consciousness and convictions. [See Bhagavad-gita 13.6-7p] The interaction of the five elements of the gross body gives rise to desire, hatred, happiness and distress. [ibid.]

The conditioned soul is beaten by the six material whips: hunger, thirst, lamentation, illusion, old age and death. [See Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.1.35] He becomes addicted to the four acts of conditioned life: eating, sleeping, mating and defending. He is tempted by the four vices of conditioned life: illicit sex, gambling, intoxication and meat-eating. By committing these, the soul passes through the three gates to hell: lust, anger and greed. Or it may be said he falls into the clutches of six enemies [see Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.7.33], namely lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness, and jealousy. He can avoid hell and the six enemies by passing religiously through the four stages of regulated material life: dharma, artha, kama and moksa. In any case, he is subject to the fourfold material miseries: birth, death, old age and disease.

The six transformations and all the other permutations associated with them manifest within the field of material activity, consisting of twenty-four components. [See Bhagavad-gita 13.6-7] Most of these twenty-four have been mentioned already; here I shall simply summarize them. There are five gross elements called mahabhutas; three subtle elements; the unmanifested stage of the three modes of material nature, called avyakta; five knowledge-acquiring senses; five working senses; and five sense objects. Idam sariram kaunteya kestram iti abhidhiyate, "This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field." [B.g. 12.2] Thus the field of twenty-four components is the material body, the city of nine (or eleven) gates.

How consciousness is transformed, and how the field of activities manifests from the three modes of material nature, is the subject of Part Two of this essay, coming soon to In2-MeC.


Part Two:
Maha-samasti, Samasti and Vyasti:
How Consciousness is Conditioned

We begin this second part of the essay by laying down a foundation of six scriptural quotations. The schema that follows is built upon these sastric evidences.

Taittiriya Upanisad 2.7:

raso vai sah
rasam hy evayam labdhanandi bhavati
ko hy evanyat kah pranyat
yad esa akasa anando na syat
esa hy esanandayati

The Supreme Truth is Rasa. The jiva becomes blissful on attaining this rasa. Who would work with the body and prana (sensory powers) if this blissful form did not exist? He gives bliss to all.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.15:

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.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.32.19

nunam daivena vihata
ye cacyuta-katha-sudham
hitva srnvanty asad-gathah
purisam iva vid-bhujah

Such persons are condemned by the supreme order of the Lord. Because they are averse to the nectar of the activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are compared to stool-eating hogs. They give up hearing the transcendental activities of the Lord and indulge in hearing of the abominable activities of materialistic persons.

Rg-Veda 10.129.4:

kamas tad agre samavartatadhi manaso retah prathamam yadasit

In the beginning there was desire, which was the primal germ of the mind.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.43:

naivodvije para duratyaya-vaitaranyas
soce tato vimukha-cetasa indriyartha-
maya-sukhaya bharam udvahato vimudhan

O best of the great personalities, I am not at all afraid of material existence, for wherever I stay I am fully absorbed in thoughts of Your glories and activities. My concern is only for the fools and rascals who are making elaborate plans for material happiness and maintaining their families, societies and countries. I am simply concerned with love for them.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.1.4:

nivrtta-tarsair upagiyamanad
bhavausadhac chrotra-mano-'bhiramat
ka uttamasloka-gunanuvadat
puman virajyeta vina pasughnat

Glorification of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is performed in the parampara system; that is, it is conveyed from spiritual master to disciple. Such glorification is relished by those no longer interested in the false, temporary glorification of this cosmic manifestation. Descriptions of the Lord are the right medicine for the conditioned soul undergoing repeated birth and death. Therefore, who will cease hearing such glorification of the Lord except a butcher or one who is killing his own self?

The first quotation informs us that the Absolute Truth is rasa, the reservoir of pleasure for everyone, even jivas in the conditioned state who work with physical bodies. In the beginning of his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (Nectar of Devotion), Srila Rupa Gosvami testifies that Lord Krsna is the akhila-rasamrta-murti, the form of all kinds of nectarean rasa or taste. The word akhila is rendered by Srila Prabhupada as meaning "all kinds," "all sorts," "universal," "all that be," "complete," and so on. The second quotation, spoken by Lord Kapiladeva, tells us that the living entities are grouped into two categories--conditioned and liberated-- by the quality of their attraction, or in other words, by the quality of their taste. Liberated souls are attracted to Krsna, and they obtain akhila-rasa, the complete taste of nectar. Conditioned souls are attracted to the modes of nature, and they obtain khila (incomplete) or jada (dead, insentient) rasa. In a Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture given on 7 December 1974 in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada explained:

You are captivated by this material jada-rasa, material rasa. There is rasa; otherwise why a man is working so hard to maintain the family? Unless there is some ananda, why he is taking? Nobody is taking so much hard responsibility for others. But children, wife, family, they take. There is... Unless there is some ananda, how he can take? So the relationship has got ananda. But this ananda is flickering, illusion.

At this point it is opportune to introduce the words samasti and vyasti, which appear in the title of this second part of the essay. Sama means "same," vyasa means "divided," and asti means "it is so." The Lord is akhila ("universal", "all that is," etc.), thus His point of view is samasti, as we see in Gita 15.7: mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah, "The living entities in this conditional world are My eternal fragmental parts." But the point of view of the conditioned souls is that they are divided (vyasti) by matter from God and from one another. In fact, the very word jiva or jiva-bhuta carries with it the sense of this division. "ln the conditioned state, the living entity is known as jiva-bhuta, or 'the living force within matter.'" [C.c. Madhya 6.269p] (In the same purport Srila Prabhupada explains that the liberated soul is called brahma-bhuta.) Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.32 states, sa jivo yat punar-bhavah, "the jiva takes repeated births." Similarly, 4.29.74 tells us, jiva ity abhidhiyate, "thus the jiva is understood" as the cetana (conscious living entity) that is yuktah (combined) with sodasa-vistrtam (sixteen expansions), namely the five sense objects, the five sense active organs, the five knowledge-acquiring senses and the mind.

The third quotation, also spoken by Lord Kapila, explains that those divided from the Lord are most unfortunate. They are averse to akhila-rasa, which appears in this world as acyuta-katha, the topics of Lord Acyuta. Those who have no taste for Krsna consciousness are compared to stool-eating hogs; i.e. there is a rasa they are mad after, but unhappily it is the taste to hear, discuss and imitate the nasty affairs of animalistic people.

Thus the conditioned souls are daivena-vihata, condemned by divine order. They are separated from the complete nectar of Krsna's association. And so they are forced to slake their need for nectar in obnoxious ways. It is on this point that we may discern the precise manner their consciousness is transformed. The jiva-bhutas are no less spirit souls than the brahma-bhutas. They are even no less parts and parcels and eternal servants of Krsna. But they have no taste to serve Him.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.11.8 compares the mind to the flaming wick of a lamp. If the wick burns improperly, if the flame smokes and sputters, the lamp will be blackened and its light will be unsteady. If it burns nicely, the flame will illuminate brightly without blackening the lamp. This verse points out in no uncertain terms that there are two states of mind: tattva and vrtti. Tattva, which commonly means "truth," is translated here by Srila Prabhupada as "its original position." Vrtti is translated here as "various engagements." Like tattva, vrtti is a word that appears quite often in Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is a way of designating activities that are geared to material sustenance.

Thus the liberated mind, the pure mind, has no other engagement than Krsna consciousness. The impure mind is bound to vrttis. Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.11.9 lists eleven such engagements in three divisions. When the mind is absorbed in hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling, it is engaged in sense objects. When the mind is absorbed in grasping, walking, talking, urination/defecation and sexual intercourse, it is engaged in organic activities. When the mind is absorbed in mental concoction and self-importance, it is engaged in abhimana (false egoism).

The verse from the Rg-Veda--the fourth scriptural quotation that lays the foundational logic of this second part of the essay--informs us that the seed of the mind is desire. It also points to the mind as the starting point of material existence. If the living entity has no taste for full Krsna consciousness, he will have unsatisfied desires. Material desires are the root of the material mind and its processes (manaso-vrtti).

Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.1.42 states that the nature of the mind is vikaratmaka. The reader may recall the word vikara from the first part of this essay. It means "transformation." The specific vikaras of the mind are three: thinking (consciousness and contemplation), feeling (emotions) and willing (determination). There is even a pure, original form of these transformations of mind.

From the Srimad-Bhagavatam we understand that Krishna is the Original Consciousness and the center of all psychological movement, namely thinking, feeling and willing. We are all parts and parcels of the Supreme Thinking, Feeling and Willing, but our present thinking, feeling and willing being contaminated by the cloud of ignorance, we are thinking, feeling and willing in a perverted way. [Letter to Mrs, Cline, 69-02-22]

Thus the impure vyasti mind of the conditioned souls develops out of the original pure samasti mind of the Lord. Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.1.42 declares that the material body develops from the material mind.

The reader will recall Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana's comment in the first part of this essay to the effect that the liberated soul knows and dwells within both the realm of vikara (transformation) and vikara-avarti (transcendence). This is illustrated by the fifth quotation above, spoken by Sri Prahlada Maharaja. He prays that he lives without fear in the material world because he is always remembering the glories and activities of the Lord. His only purpose for being here is to deliver the fallen conditioned souls, whose minds are absorbed in carrying the heavy burden of false material happiness.

The sixth quotation instructs us that while pure glorification of the Lord is the satisfaction relished by liberated souls, it is also the medicine for curing the conditioned souls of their spiritual weakness, strong material desires, and dissatisfaction. Only very unfortunate persons infected with extreme self-loathing, who are perversely determined to annihilate their hopes for spiritual life, fail to be attracted.

We have looked carefully at the transformation of consciousness and seen that it is a transformation of rasa or taste. From out of this transformation, the field of activities appears. How does that take place? A basic understanding can be gleaned from the following quotations, both from purports to verses in Chapter 10 of Canto 2 of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

As such, before the creation or manifestation of the material cosmic world, the Lord exists as total energy (maha-samasti), and thus desiring Himself to be diffused to many, He expands Himself further into multitotal energy (samasti). From the multitotal energy He further expands Himself into individuals in three dimensions, namely adhyatmic, adhidaivic and adhibhautic, as explained before (vyasti). As such, the whole creation and the creative energies are nondifferent and different simultaneously. Because everything is an emanation from Him (the Maha-Visnu or Maha-samasti), nothing of the cosmic energies is different from Him; but all such expanded energies have specific functions and display as designed by the Lord, and therefore they are simultaneously different from the Lord. The living entities are also similar energy (marginal potency) of the Lord, and thus they are simultaneously one with and different from Him. [Bhag. 2.10.13p]

The heart of every living entity is the seat of the Supersoul, Paramatma, a plenary expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Without His presence the living entity cannot get into the working energy according to his past deeds. The living entities who are conditioned in the material world are manifested in the creation in terms of respective inclinations inherent in them, and the requisite material body is offered to each and every one of them by the material energy under the direction of the Supersoul. This is explained in the Bhagavad-gita (9.10). When, therefore, the Supersoul is situated in the heart of the conditioned soul, the requisite mind is manifested in the conditioned soul, and he becomes conscious of his occupation as one is conscious of his duty after waking up from slumber. [Bhag. 2.10.30p]

A question may be raised--as it was raised by Mahatma Vidura before Sage Maitreya in Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.7.6--that if creation is a lila of the Lord, and that all-blissful Lord is directly present in the heart of the living entity, why does His presence and His lila result in misfortune for the living entities? Maitreya replied that the misfortune of the living entities is atma-viparyaya or perverse identification. They have lost touch with their actual identity as part and parcel of the Lord and are trying to find their identity within the energies of creation. The Lord never loses His original transcendental sense of self even as He sports with His illusory potency.

This brings us back to the subject of this second part of the essay: samasti and vyasti. The Lord has His own divine purpose in performing His lila of creation, and that purpose includes (samasti) the ultimate welfare of every one of His parts and parcels. "The material creation by the Lord of creatures (Visnu) is a chance offered to the conditioned souls to come back home--back to Godhead." [B.g. 3.10p] But from their conditional vyasti point of view, the living entities see this creation differently, and thus they suffer. Therefore: "Krsna consciousness means constantly associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in such a mental state that the devotee can observe the cosmic manifestation exactly as the Supreme Personality of Godhead does." [Bhag. 4.29.69]

Let us consider in a more detailed manner how the lila of creation unfolds. Sastra describes it as having four stages. Each stage is a by-product of an expansion of the Lord.

The supreme living entity, Krsna, eternally manifests Himself as the catur-vyuha, or quadruple plenary expansion. The purport of this prayer is that one should give up his false ego and pray to this catur-vyuha by offering Them obeisances. Although the Absolute Truth is one without a second, the Absolute Truth displays His unlimited opulences and potencies by expanding Himself in innumerable plenary forms, of which the catur-vyuha is a principal expansion. The original being is Vasudeva, the Personality of Godhead. When the Godhead manifests His primeval energies and opulences, He is called Sankarsana. Pradyumna is the basis of the Visnu expansion who is the soul of the entire universe, and Aniruddha is the basis of the personal manifestation of Visnu as the Supersoul of every individual entity within the universe. Among the four plenary expansions mentioned here, the original expansion is Vasudeva, and the other three are considered to be particular manifestations of Him. When the living entity forgets that both he himself as well as the material nature are meant for the Lord's service, the quality of ignorance becomes prominent, and the conditioned entity desires to become himself the master. [Bhag. 11.5.29-30p]

The first purusa-avatara, Maha-Visnu in the Causal Ocean, who is the creator of the aggregate material energy, is an expansion of Sankarsana; the second purusa, Garbhodakasayi Visnu, is an expansion of Pradyumna; and the third purusa, Ksirodakasayi Visnu, is an expansion from Aniruddha. [C.c. Adi 2.56]

As Srila Prabhupada notes in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.14.8, understanding the catur-vyuha (Lord Krsna in His four-fold Visnu-tattva manifestation that begins with Vasudeva) poses "complex problems for the layman." We will start unraveling these complexities by mentioning that in these four forms, Krsna expands His pastimes beyond Goloka Vrndavana. For example, Lord Ramachandra is the original Vasudeva; He and His three transcendental brothers are the adi-caturvyuha. [Bhag. 3.1.34p] Sri Narayana, the Lord of Vaikuntha, is an expansion of Vasudeva. [Bhag. 1.16.26-30p] Besides being eternally present in the spiritual world, the four personalities of the catur-vyuha also appear in the mahat-tattva. [See C.c. Madhya 20.276p].

How these quadruple forms of Godhead give shape to the mahat-tattva by Their divine presence is a major topic of discussion among great sages of the Vedanta philosophy. What follows is a summary from the Upanisads. Please take note of the states of consciousness and their symptoms that are associated with each of the four. Also note that in the Upanisads, the catur-vyuha are named Brahman (for Vasudeva), Isvara (for Sankarsana), Hiranyagarbha (for Pradyumna) and Virat (for Aniruddha).

Aspect of Absolute

State of consciousness and symptoms

Creative manifestation (type of body)

Stage of creation


Turiya: pure consciousness (above three gunas)

Brahma-bhuta (beyond material embodiment)

Brahman (above three gunas)


Prajna (intelligence in avyakta): susupti (unconsciousness)

Karana-sarira (causal body)



Taijjasa (creative intelligence); svapna (dream-sleep)

Linga-sarira (subtle body)



Ahamkara (false ego): jagrata (wakefulness)

Sthula-sarira (gross body)


Now let us compare this to key statements from Srila Prabhupada's books. We begin with a quotation from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 20.276p.

The three types of egotism (ahankara) are technically known as vaikarika, taijasa and tamasa. The mahat-tattva is situated within the heart, or citta, and the predominating Deity of the mahat-tattva is Lord Vasudeva (SB. 3.26.21). The mahat- tattva is transformed into three divisions: (1) vaikarika, egotism in goodness (sattvika-ahankara), from which the eleventh sense organ, the mind, is manifest and whose predominating Deity is Aniruddha (SB. 3.26.27-28); (2) taijasa, or egotism in passion (rajasa-ahankara), from which the senses and intelligence are manifest and whose predominating Deity is Lord Pradyumna (SB. 3.26.29-31); (3) tamasa, or egotism in ignorance, from which sound vibration (sabda-tanmatra) expands. From the sound vibration, the sky (akasa) is manifest and, the senses, beginning with the ear, are also manifest (SB. 3.26.32). Of these three types of egotism, Lord Sankarsana is the predominating Deity.

The first point to understand is that Lord Vasudeva predominates over the mahat-tattva from an aloof, transcendent situation. Srila Prabhupada brings this nicely into focus in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.26.21. He writes that the Vasudeva state is also called clear consciousness or Krsna consciousness; in Bhagavad-gita it is called ksetra-jna, wherein the field of activities--manifest at the samasti level within the mahat-tattva and at the vyasti level within the individual body--is perfectly understood along with the Supersoul.

In the portion of the purport from Madhya-lila Chapter Twenty quoted before, Srila Prabhupada writes that Lord Sankarsana is the predominating Deity over the three kinds of egoism that manifest within the mahat-tattva. As we have already seen, the three personalities of the catur-vyuha beginning with Sankarsana are associated with the three purusa-avataras who generate the material creation. The first purusa, Maha-Visnu, expands from Sankarsana.

He is called Isvara in the Upanisads and is said to preside over the karana (causal) feature of embodiment. From Srila Prabhupada's books we know that Maha-Visnu lies upon the karana-jal (causal ocean) to breathe uncountable universes out from His pores. The Upanisads say that Isvara is the Lord of dreamless sleep (susupti). Srila Prabhupada writes in Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.32, puport:

The adi-purusa, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead--Krsna, Govinda--expands Himself as Maha-Visnu. After the annihilation of this cosmic manifestation, He keeps Himself in transcendental bliss. The word yoga-nidram is used in reference to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One should understand that this nidra, or sleep, is not like our nidra in the mode of ignorance. The Lord is always situated in transcendence. He is sac-cid-ananda--eternally in bliss--and thus He is not disturbed by sleep like ordinary human beings. It should be understood that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is in transcendental bliss in all stages. Srila Madhvacarya concisely states that the Lord is turya-sthitah, always situated in transcendence. In transcendence there is no such thing as jagarana-nidra-susupti--wakefulness, sleep and deep sleep.

This quotation is full of significance. We see here that while there is an apparent difference in Their influence upon the consciousness of the jivas, there is no difference in the transcendental positions of Lord Vasudeva and Lord Sankarsana (Maha-Visnu). You will recall from Essay One a quotation from Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.25.20 stating that wakeful consciousness is symptomatic of goodness, dream-consciousness is symptomatic of passion, and unconsciousness is symptomatic of ignorance. Thus while Lord Sankarsana's influence over the jivas is tamasic, He Himself is always turiya-sthitah, beyond the modes of nature. All Visnu-tattva forms are equally transcendental. "All the plenary expansions are one and the same visnu-tattva, and there is no difference in Their potency." [Bhag. 3.1.34p] "Anyone who knows these three Visnus can be liberated from material entanglement." [B.g. 7.4p]

We see once more the relationship of samasti to vyasti or akhila to khila. The deep sleep of the vyasti living entities is an incomplete imitation of the lila of complete transcendental bliss enjoyed by Maha-samasti, Lord Maha-Visnu. Vedanta-sutra 1.3.15 (gati-sabdabhyam tatha hi drstam lingam ca) indicates that the dahara, i.e. the Supersoul, intimately associates with the living entities in deep sleep, although they fail to realize it. Chandogya Upanisad 8.3.2 says that every day the living entities go to the spiritual world of Brahman without knowing it. Deep sleep (susupti) is an energy of Maha-Visnu. Every night He comes to associate with us (the Paramatma in our heart is no different in potency from Maha-Visnu), and we are wrapped in the blanket of His susupti potency. Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 4.2.18 compares the jiva soul to a fish in a river, in that the self moves from one state of conditioned consciousness to another like a fish swims from one bank to another. The river is the energy of the three Visnus: jagarana-svapna-susupti.

evam jagaranadini
jiva-sthanani catmanah
maya-matrani vijnaya
tad-drastaram param smaret

All the conditions of deep sleep, dreaming and wakefulness are but energies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One should always remember the original creator of these conditions, the Supreme Lord, who is unaffected by them. [Bhag. 6.16.54]

The Upanisads say that Isvara (Maha-Visnu) is the Lord of Prajna. In Canto One of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada translates prajna as "introspective knowledge." Gita 2.57 explains prajna to mean knowledge by which one is unaffected by any condition in the material world. Maharaja Yudisthira acheived such introspective knowledge by merging the five gross elements of the body into the three modes of material nature (which also refers to the three aspects of the subtle body: mind the product of goodness, intelligence the product of passion and false ego the product of ignorance). He then merged the modes into one nescience, which Srila Prabhupada terms avyakta mahat-tattva. [See Srimad Bhagavatam 1.15.42p] This one nescience Yudisthira finally absorbed into Brahman, the pure self.

The same progression is outlined in this quotation from Bhagavad-gita 13.6-7p.

The five great elements are a gross representation of the false ego, which in turn represents the primal stage of false ego technically called the materialistic conception, or tamasa-buddhi, intelligence in ignorance. This, further, represents the unmanifested stage of the three modes of material nature. The unmanifested modes of material nature are called pradhana.

The avyakta mahat-tattva is the root stage of the material creation (karana). The Upanisads call it Mahat. Beyond this Mahat is Brahman or vasudeva-sattva, pure consciousness. Lord Vasudeva presides over vasudeva-sattva, Lord Sankarsana presides over avyakta mahat-tattva, and Lord Pradyumna presides over vyakta (manifest) mahat-tattva. The Upanisads term this third stage of creation taijasa.

Again kindly recall the quotation from C.c. Madhya 20.276p. There it is said: "(2) taijasa, or egotism in passion (rajasa-ahankara), from which the senses and intelligence are manifest and whose predominating Deity is Lord Pradyumna (SB. 3.26.29-31)." Garbhodakasayi Visnu expands from Lord Pradyumna. Essay One referred you to a quotation from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 2.292 that stated Garbhodakasayi Visnu is the Hiranyagarbha or Supersoul of the whole universe. The Upanisads call Him Hiranyagarbha;
they say the linga-sarira (subtle body) emanates from Him. This is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.28.68-70:

The ocean entered His abdomen with hunger and thirst, but the Cosmic Being [Garbhodakasayi Visnu] refused to rise even then. The moon-god entered His heart with the mind, but the Cosmic Being would not be roused.

Brahma also entered His heart with intelligence, but even then the Cosmic Being could not be prevailed upon to get up. Lord Rudra also entered His heart with the ego, but even then the cosmic Being did not stir.

However, when the inner controller, the deity presiding over consciousness [Paramatma or Ksirodakasayi Visnu], entered the heart with reason, at that very moment the Cosmic Being arose from the causal waters.

The subtle active senses (prana-sarira) of the linga-sarira constitute the dream-body. "One can
experience the distinction between the subtle and gross bodies even daily; in a dream, one's gross body is lying on the bed while the subtle body carries the soul, the living entity, to another atmosphere." [Bhag. 4.12.18p] Thus Hiranyagarbha or Garbhodakasayi Visnu presides over the svapna state of consciousness, which is in the mode of passion.

Ksirodakasayi Visnu, the Paramatma, enters into the heart of the linga-sarira. Within the individual heart He is the localized feature of Lord Aniruddha, who presides over the vaikaraka phase of creation (false ego in the mode of goodness, sattvika-ahamkara). The Upanisads call Him Virat (a name of Ksirodakasayi Visnu; see C.c. Madhya 21.39p). He is said to preside over jagrata, the wakeful state of embodied consciousness.

But some measure of contradiction seems to surface here between the Upanisads and Srimad-Bhagavatam. This fourth phase of creation is termed Visva by the Upanisads; the indication is that it is the most gross stage of development, by which the sthula-sarira (body of five physical elements) appears. The Lord of Visva, named Virat, is said to hold the jivas in the thrall of ahamkara, false ego. The gross elements and false ego suggest the mode of ignorance, which is ruled by Sankarsana. What is the connection of that to Aniruddha, ruler of the mode of goodness?

A solution is found in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 5.41p and Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.17.16. We learn from the first reference that the source of the Visnu forms is Mula-Sankarsana (the "root Sankarsana"). From Him emanate Pradyumna and Aniruddha, Maha-Visnu, Garbhodakasayi Visnu and Ksirodakasayi Visnu, the jivas and the whole material manifestation. Turning to the Bhagavatam reference, we learn that Sankarsana is the final expansion of the catur-vyuha, and He is worshiped by Lord Siva as the cause of that great demigod's existence. How can Sankarsana be the root of the purusa-avataras and yet be the last expansion of the catur-vyuha? The answer becomes more clear in Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.25.1: apart from His form as Maha-Visnu, Sankarsana appears within this universe as Ananta, who is Godhead in the form of a thousand-headed snake of cosmic proportions.

Sri Sukadeva Gosvami said to Maharaja Pariksit: My dear King, approximately 240,000 miles beneath the planet Patala lives another incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the expansion of Lord Visnu known as Lord Ananta or Lord Sankarsana. He is always in the transcendental position, but because He is worshiped by Lord Siva, the deity of tamo-guna or darkness, He is sometimes called tamasi. Lord Ananta is the predominating Deity of the material mode of ignorance as well as the false ego of all conditioned souls. When a conditioned living being thinks, "I am the enjoyer, and this world is meant to be enjoyed by me," this conception of life is dictated to him by Sankarsana. Thus the mundane conditioned soul thinks himself the Supreme Lord.

Ksirodakasayi Visnu (Aniruddha) and Ananta (Sankarsana) both preside over the Visva phase of creation. The former takes charge of the inner direction of the living entities. The latter takes charge of their gross elemental bodies and the false ego. Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.24.36 proclaims Aniruddha, Ananta and Sankarsana to be the same Personality of Godhead. Therefore in some places in Srila Prabhupada's books, Lord Aniruddha is said to be the Deity of the total ego of the living entities. Another gloss on the revelation that there are two Sankarsanas is found in Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.24.36. There Lord Sankarsana is said to have a two-fold role in creation: integration and disintegration. Srila Prabhupada explains that the integrative force is seen as so-called gravitation, which holds the stuff of the world together. At the time of devastation, the same Sankarsana releases the disintegrative force in the form of annihilating fire from His mouths.

Perhaps some readers found this sojourn into the complexities of the catur-vyuhas and Their influence on consciousness and creation to be brain-taxing. But there is an important lesson in transcendental psychology to be learned from it.

In order to get release from the false ego, one has to worship Sankarsana. Sankarsana is also worshiped through Lord Siva; the snakes which cover the body of Lord Siva are representations of Sankarsana, and Lord Siva is always absorbed in meditation upon Sankarsana. One who is actually a worshiper of Lord Siva as a devotee of Sankarsana can be released from false, material ego. If one wants to get free from mental disturbances, one has to worship Aniruddha. For this purpose, worship of the moon planet is also recommended in the Vedic literature. Similarly, to be fixed in one's intelligence one has to worship Pradyumna, who is reached through the worship of Brahma. These matters are explained in Vedic literature. [Bhag. 3.26.21p]

The science of God analyzes the constitutional position of God and His diverse energies. Material nature is called prakrti, or the energy of the Lord in His different purusa incarnations (expansions) as described in the Satvata-tantra:

visnos tu trini rupani
purusakhyany atho viduh
ekam tu mahatah srastr
dvitiyam tv anda-samsthitam
trtiyam sarva-bhuta-stham
tani jnatva vimucyate

"For material creation, Lord Krsna's plenary expansion assumesthree Visnus. The first one, Maha-Visnu, creates the total material energy, known as the mahat-tattva. The second, Garbhodakasayi Visnu, enters into all the universes to create diversities in each of them. The third, Ksirodakasayi Visnu, is diffused as the all-pervading Supersoul in all the universes and is known as Paramatma. He is present even within the atoms. Anyone who knows these three Visnus can be liberated from material entanglement." [B.g. 7.4p]


Part Three:
Vedic Depth Psychology

Geeta Lal Sahai, in an article entitled “The Mysterious Unconscious” (which begins on page 108 of World Famous Strange Mysteries published by Pustak Mahal, Delhi, June 2001), gives this succinct introduction to Depth Psychology.

The exponents of Depth Psychology have compared our mind to the tip of an iceberg floating on the surface of water. A large part of the iceberg is under the water level and only a small portion of it is visible to the naked eye. The portion of the iceberg which is visible to us is just 1/8 of the entire body of ice. Hence 7/8 part thereof is submerged and cannot be seen.

Depth psychology was pioneered by C.G. Jung (1875-1961). Early in his career Jung was Sigmund Freud’s foremost disciple, but he broke with his teacher to establish his own school. In 1912 he published The Psychology of the Unconscious, still a groundwork for the depth psychologists of today. Jung was considerably influenced by the picture of the mind that the sage Patanjali gives in the Yoga-sutras. Patanjali, in turn, derived his schema from the Vedas.

The Western version of depth psychology is typically eclectic. It can be characterized as a New Age discipline—almost a contradiction in terms, since New Age ideas are not known for adhering to disciplined thinking. Today’s depth psychologists freely bring mythology, drug experiences, ESP, shamanism and sheer fantasy to their work of probing into the hidden inner region of mental structures and processes.

The germ of depth psychology is Vedic knowledge, and Vedic knowledge is not merely a working hypothesis. The image of an iceberg—one-eighth visible above the watery surface, seven-eighths hidden below—is a useful entry into our understanding of the Vedic description of the mind. What is hidden is not fluid and amorphous, something we can give shape to by our speculations. The hidden mind is formed of the very real and powerful energies of the Supreme Lord.

Since this essay is intended to present only a schema, and since the elements of Vedic depth psychology will be developed in later essays, I shall present here a simple outline of the structure of the mind as it is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam and traditional Vaisnava Vedanta. The outline is presented in two parts. The first is vyasti-oriented. It shows the structure of the subtle body as it applies to a single human being.  It shows “your” mind. The second part of the outline is samasti-oriented. It shows the mind’s relation to the universe.

My thanks go to HH Bhanu Maharaja for the first diagram, which he visualized after careful study of Srimad-Bhagavatam. The scriptural references in parentheses are my own addition to Maharaja’s expert work. The second diagram I drew up from the work of  Gitartha Vibhusana Siromani C.M. Padmabhachar, a Vaisnava and scholar of the Madhva Sampradaya. He nicely summarized Madhva’s Vedanta philosophy of the mind’s hidden relation to the universe in Life and Teachings of Sri Madhvachariar, published by the author in 1909 and republished by his grandson in 1983.

The Subtle Conditioned State of the Individual Soul:

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.10.16 makes clear that the individual soul is conditioned in exact accordance with the cosmic powers and dimensions of the universal form of the Lord. Thus, for example, there is a trans-dimensional hyperlink* between the human eye, the god of the sun who is the eye of the universal form, the power of sight, and visible form. [Bhag. 2.10.21]  Thus the Vedas term the human body ksudra-brahmanda, “small universe.” The chart below outlines in a general way the relationship of an individual’s subtle body to the universe as a whole.     

Seven Worlds

Predominant Element































The seven talas (planes) of the bila-svarga (underworld heaven of the demons) are within Bhur-loka; thus we possess in our psyche a hyperlink to the asura-loka as well as to the deva-loka (Bhuvar, Svar and Mahar) and the muni-loka (Jana, Tapa and Satya).  

Our ten senses are hyperlinked to ten demigods.  Our minds are hyperlinked to the moon.  We are subtly linked to the total Universal Form. We can activate these links by mystic yoga. “Even on earth there are some yogis who can take their bath early in the morning in four places at once — Jagannatha Puri, Ramesvara, Hardwar and Dvaraka,” explains Srila Prabhupada in Life Comes from Life. “One yogi friend used to visit my father in Calcutta. The yogi told him that when he (the yogi) would simply sit down and touch his guru, he would travel from Calcutta to Dvaraka in two minutes. That is yogic power.”  

Vedic depth psychology reveals that nobody is really alone. We are intimately connected to the Lord and to a host of powerful macrocosmic personalities. Their influence is at play in our microcosmic consciousness.  The Srimad-Bhagavatam  narratives of the conflict between the demigods and demons that ranges across vast regions of the universe also pertain to our individual inner conflicts.  It is not a question of symbolism and metaphor.  The forces that stand behind the phenomena of external nature are behind our internal nature as well.
* Hyperlink is computer language for an active address or an active string of text.  A hyperlink appears within normal text but stands out because 1) usually its typeface is differently colored, and 2) when you point your cursor at it, the cursor changes to the icon of a hand.  When you click on a hyperlink your computer follows it to a new location.  For example, you arrived at this page you are reading right now by clicking hyperlinks.


Part Four:

An Overview of the Psychology of Bhakti-yoga

In this concluding part of Essay Two, we shall consider a summary of the system of psychology that the great Vaishnava acarya Sri Ramanuja presents in the Visistadvaita Vedanta philosophy. All the elements of the spirit soul's conditioned consciousness as reviewed in the previous parts of this essay are nicely accounted for in Ramanujacarya's explanation of bhakti-yoga. Srila Prabhupada gives his appreciation of this in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.10.11.

Therefore Sri Ramanuja Svami, in his book Vedanta-tattva-sara, has described that this merging of the soul means that after separating himself from the material body made of eight elements--earth, water, fire, air, ether, false ego, mind and intelligence--the individual soul engages himself in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His eternal form... The material cause of the material elements absorbs the material body, and the spiritual soul assumes its original position.

While writing this last part of Essay Two, I referred to Chapter Nine, "Visistadvaita", of Indian Psychology by Raghunatha Safaya (Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1975). Mr. Safaya, whose book covers the doctrines of mind taught by eleven ancient Indian schools of philosophy, gathered his material from original Sanskrit sources. For the "Visistadvaita" chapter he studied the Sri Bhasya of Ramanujacarya, Atmasiddih by Yamunacarya, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Visnu Purana and six other great Vaisnava texts.  On page 248 he summarizes a number of theories about consciousness, including the Mayavada of Sankaracarya, Buddhism, and Western absolute idealism. Safaya's conclusion: "Ramanuja holds the most commonsense view.  He considers consciousness as an attribute of the Conscious, a reality and not an abstraction." On page 260 he writes, "While Advaita Vedanta twists the Upanisads' psychology in the direction of Mayavada (which is against the spirit of the Upanisads), Vaisnava Vedanta faithfully carries the Upanisad and Brahma Sutra philosophy and psychology further in the spirit of the Upanisads."  He concludes on page 261, "Ramanuja's Visistadvaita represents all three schools (visistadvaita, dvaita and bhedabheda) of Vaisnava Vedanta as far as psychological principles are concerned."

The foundation of the psychology of devotional service is bhakti, the mood of pure devotion. Bhakti-yoga is the cultivation of this mood. From a psychological point of view it is a cultivation of emotions. Emotions form the "glue" of the mind's attachment. We have seen in Part Two of this essay that liberation or bondage is decided by the quality of attachment. Bhakti-yoga cultivates the mind's attachment to Krsna.

In the language of psychology, emotional life is called the affective side of the mind (the word affective means a mental state of aroused emotions, like the state of affection of one person for another). Psychology
recognizes that the mind also has a cognitive (thinking) side and a conative (active) side.  Of these three vikaras (transformations) of the mind--thinking, feeling, and willing--Ramanujacarya determines the affective or feeling aspect to be paramount.  "Cognition and conation are subservient." (Safaya, pg. 259).

For Sankaracarya, all states of mind are psychotic because the subject (the thinker, feeler and willer) is hallucinating the objects of his thought, which are not real at all. Ramanuja rejects this Mayavadi standpoint.  Individual subject and object have their microcosmic realities within the Lord's macrocosmic form. The Lord is the great and original jnata (knower), bhokta (experiencer or enjoyer) and karta (doer). The jiva is a prakara (category) of Brahman (the spiritual substance); he too is jnata, bhokta and karta. Hence his thinking, feeling and willing are not without substance.

In its cognitive or thinking function, the mind observes (anubhava) and remembers (smrti). Observation is two-fold. The mind observes by pratyaksa, direct perception, and by anumana, inference. Inferential observation is done by tarka or logic. For example, if I hear a friend's voice through my closed door, I know logically that he is in the hallway outside my room. Thus I "see him in my mind's eye." Cognition has three bases: subject, object, and the subject-object relation. In other words, that which we call "thinking" is always involved with these three.

As already noted, pratyaksa and anumana are levels of cognition. There is yet a third and highest level, divya-pratyaksa or divine perception.  "The means of attaining divine perception are divine grace which is invoked by acts of daily worship and meditation bearing the character of devotion." (Safaya, pg. 261)

The mind's conative (willing) side, Ramanuja teaches, is based on free will. Free will is an attribute of the Supreme Lord that the jiva shares to a minute degree. Actions in accordance with the Lord's will are liberating; actions in defiance of the Lord's will are subject to judgement under the law of karma.

Above all is the affective side of the mind.  Ramanujacarya teaches that all the truly healthy emotions culminate in love. Bhakti-yoga redirects the jiva's love from material things to the Supreme Lord. Thus the jiva attains the highest happiness.  Because the affective side of the mind holds sway over the cognitive and conative sides, the purifying influence of bhakti upon the affective side is most important. But bhakti-yoga takes command of all mental functions. It is not "just" an affair of the emotions.

Bhakti-yoga instills in the affective side of the mind the longing for the Supreme Lord and nothing else. In pursuance of this, other ideal emotional states are brought forth: kalyana or a well-wishing attitude toward other living entities; daya, compassion; ahimsa, nonviolence; and anavasada, joyfulness.

To the cognitive side bhakti-yoga brings viveka (right discrimination) and arjavam (integrity). To the conative side it brings right action (kriya), spiritual practice (abhyasa), and welfare work (dana). To all sides of the mind's activities bhakti-yoga brings prapatti, complete surrender to the Lord.

That is the overview of the psychology of bhakti-yoga.  In addition we can shortly consider Ramanujacarya's insight into consciousness and its conditioning under the modes of material nature. Let us begin by understanding just what the word visistadvaita means. Advaita, of course, means "nondual."  Mayavadi philosophy claims the term advaita for itself. When advaita is combined with visesena (qualifying agent), we get visistadvaita, which means "qualified nondualism."

It is important to understand that the starting point of this philosophy is not a material visesana like the tri-guna prakrti. Visistadvaita does not merely say that the nondual Absolute has taken on the qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas; if that were the case, then there would hardly be a difference between the philosophy of Ramanuja and the philosophy of Sankaracarya. Ramanuja teaches that the original visesana is consciousness, which is not the immutable Absolute that Sankaracarya thinks it is. Consciousness is a quality of the Absolute Godhead, and also a quality of the individual soul. Another way to explain the distinction is to say that for Sankara, consciousness is the subject; for Ramanuja, it is the function of the subject. Hence consciousness is not static. It is dynamic.

Consciousness is aprthaksiddharma--it cannot be separated from its subject. In this way the subject and its consciousness are nondual (advaita). But because consciousness is also an active attribute of the subject, it qualifies the subject.  For example, a jiva can be exalted by his consciousness or he can be degraded by it. Degredation of consciousness brings the jiva under the control of the three modes of material nature.

During  jagrata or the waking state (i.e. the sattvic state), the consciousness of the jiva is granted by material nature room of movement on the physical plane.  Consciousness flows along the subtle channel of the mind through the senses to the sense objects.  In svapna or dream (i.e. the rajasic state), the mental link to the sense objects is shut down.  In this condition the mind is active, but it is engaged with the smrti or memory of sense objects. Memory throws up images without coherence or coordination. There is a reality to all dreams, in that the elements of any dream are real experiences held in storage by the memory; but dreaming distorts and confuses that reality.

About susupti (deep dreamless sleep, the tamasic state), Sankaracarya argues that the Self becomes the witness of primeval avidya. By this act of witnessing avidya the ahamkara dissolves. For Sankara, susupti is the threshold of pure consciousness, in that the Self is freed from material perceptions and conceptions. 

Ramanuja holds that it is incorrect to speak of the soul being the witness to anything in the susupti state.  There is literally nothing (no-thing) to be seen in susupti.

Suppose one dark night a crime is committed stealthily and silently on an unlit city street. The police investigate and learn that a man was waiting for a ride near the scene of the crime. When they interview him, the man informs them he saw and heard nothing. If this is the case, can we refer to this man as "the witness?" No. Yet he was present in the vicinity of the crime when it happened.

Similarly Ramanuja acknowledges the presence of the subject (the jivatma) in susupti, but he does not acknowledge that the attribute of the subject, consciousness, is active at this time. We ought not to say, "In susupti, consciousness is pure," like Sankaracarya says. After all, when we come out of deep sleep we return to the wakeful engagements of trying to satisfy our material desires.  Rather we may say, "Consciousness is disengaged while in susupti." It does not operate between subject, object and the relation of subject and object which are the three bases of cognition.

Now, we need to carefully consider what Ramanujacarya is describing here and not misunderstand him.  Consciousness is inactive during susupti, yet consciousness is never separate from the subject. Thus when the soul returns to the waking state he remembers that he was asleep. Moreover, he remembers that his deep sleep was a pleasant experience. Thus he says, "I slept well." On this point Ramanuja and Sankaracarya agree: the jiva experiences a kind of happiness in susupti.

The experience of pleasure in deep sleep demonstrates that the affective side of consciousness does not shut down even when the cognitive and conative sides are disengaged.  The plain conclusion is that the
affective side is superior. Jnana-yoga, which focuses on cognition, and karma-yoga, which focuses on conation, cannot keep pace with bhakti-yoga, which focuses on affective consciousness as well as fully engaging the cognitive and conative sides.

From the above information, we get insight into the karana-deha, the finest material embodiment of the spirit soul.  Those jivas who dwell in the muni-loka, whose only embodiment is the karana-deha, are disengaged from physical and mental activities. They exist in a state of trance.

But that does not mean that the karana-deha is pure like the siddha-deha, the transcendental body that is manifest in the spiritual world for loving service to the Lord. Material desires are spread like seeds throughout the karana-deha. For the seeds to sprout and grow, the linga- and sthula-sariras are needed. During creation, Lord Brahma brings forth the seeds of the jivas and their karmic desires from his own causal body and sows them within the regions of the universe where the linga- and sthula-sariras are active. In those regions the jivas are able to act out their desires subtlely and/or grossly. In the Janaloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka, contact with gross sense objects, whether by means of mind or by senses, does not take place. In our own individual embodiment as human beings, desires are released from the karana-deha to take subtle shape in the mind and to be acted upon in the gross body.

Because the residents of the three uppermost regions of the universe are sealed off from lower strata of consciousness by their karana-deha embodiment, they always experience the happiness called anandamaya. On this platform they may merge their bodies into primal nescience and then ascend to higher levels.

Ramanujacarya speaks of two levels of consciousness beyond the causal state of embodiment. These are yogi-pratyaksa and nirupadhika-jnana.  The first is the mystical perception of accomplished yogis. The second is the turiya state proper.

Regarding the second, upadhi means designation (i.e. the subtle and gross body). Nirupadhi is the negation of those designations. Jnana means knowledge. In the turiya state the soul attains transcendental knowledge unrestricted by the material coverings of consciousness. This is the state of clear ksetrajna explained in Part Two above by a quotation from Srila Prabhupada. As Safaya writes on page 253 of his book, "Through this the individual perceives the entire reality [of the Universal Form in the mahat-tattva], as Arjuna perceived when the divine eye was granted to him by Krsna."

In conclusion, Ramanuja uses the word manas (mind) to cover the whole subtle body. Manas reveals to the soul the inner condition of pleasure and pain and the outer realm of sense perception. As a whole, the function of manas is threefold: adyavasaya or decision, abhimana or self-love, and cinta or reflection.  The first is the specific function of the intelligence, the second of the false ego, and the last of the mind proper.

End of Essay 2--more essays on the way!

Want to know more about Visistadvaita?

Go to:

This hyperlink brings you to an article written by a Western, university-educated follower of Visistadvaita. He compares the conception of the self taught by Ramanuja to that taught in the Aristotelian philosophy of St.Thomas Aquinas. Modern Western notions of the self find their beginning in Thomist philosophy. This article is a scholarly piece of writing, not the easiest to digest. At this site you can find a number of other
interesting pieces about the doctrine of Sripad Ramanujacarya.


Essay Three :

Further Considerations of Material Personality

In Essay One of the Transcendental Psychology series, I wrote 

It is only to be expected that any process of clarification will be more difficult in the beginning. But step by step, as we become more familiar with the issues, the subject matter gets easier to grasp. This is especially true of Vedic psychology, which starts with principles (harder to grasp) and progresses to practical behavior (easier to grasp).

I begin the transition from principles to practical behavior in today's essay.  I must hasten to add that today you'll still be reading about principles. But in previous essays we considered principles that apply equally to everyone. Now we shall look at principles that vary from person to person. These are the ingredients of conditioned individuality.

Everyone has a mind; what could be more universal? Everyone's mind moves through the phases of thinking, feeling, and willing. But when  we examine the subjects that each of us thinks about, feels, and actuates, we arrive at individuality. I pointed out in the introductory essay that it's here, the point when the movements of an individual's mind are considered, that psychology becomes complex.

And why so complex? Why does the study of the mind's movements (the study we know by the word psychology) become so mysterious and convoluted? That is because the mind moves according to our desires. Hence, it is our desires--meaning, in our present state, our material attraction--that complicates our mental processes.

In part four of Essay Two I wrote:

Material desires are spread like seeds throughout the karana-deha. For the seeds to sprout and grow, the linga- and sthula-sariras are needed...In our own individual embodiment as human beings, desires are released from the karana-deha to take subtle shape in the mind and then to be acted upon in the gross body.


The appearance of material desire in the mind is called vasana, as we see from a remark Srila Prabhupada made in a Bhagavad-gita lecture on 29 July 1973 in London:

Similarly, if one desires that: "I shall become a devotee of Lord Krsna," that is natural desire. But when I desire to lord it over the material nature and forget my service to Krsna, that is called vasana. That is material desire, abhilasa. So we have to give up these material desires. Then it is bhakti.

We have a full account of vasana from a verse spoken by Jada Bharata (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.11.5):

sa vasanatma visayoparakto
guna-pravaho vikrtah sodasatma-
bibhrat prthan-namabhi rupa-bhedam

antar-bahistvam ca purais tanot

Because the mind is absorbed in desires [vasanas] for pious and impious activities, it is naturally subjected to the transformations of lust and anger. In this way, it becomes attracted to material sense enjoyment. In other words, the mind is conducted by the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. There are eleven senses and five material elements, and out of these sixteen items, the mind is the chief. Therefore the mind brings about birth in different types of bodies among demigods, human beings, animals and birds. When the mind is situated in a higher or lower position, it accepts a higher or lower material body.

This verse outlines a series of psychological phenomena that culminates in the soul taking another birth. Let us take a few moments now to analyze this series.

1.  The material mind is guna-pravaha, conducted by the three modes of material nature. Each individual's mind is subject to a unique combination of the three modes.

2.  The effect of the modes upon the mind is understood by the mind's constant agitation and restlessness. While consoling his mother as she grieved over the death of Hiranyaksa, Hiranyakasipu nicely summed up this effect in Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.2.24. He told her that the soul is always avikalah puman, changeless; but when the mind is agitated by the gunas, the soul is bewildered and sees itself undergoing material transformations. In the verse quoted above, Jada Bharata uses the word vikrtah to indicate the transformations of mind that are induced by guna-pravaha.

3.  Restlessness of mind is the fertile soil by which the seeds of desire embedded within the karana-deha develop into ideas of sense gratification that blossom in the linga-sarira. In the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary the word vasana is translated as "infusing" (this is one definition among several given). The word infuse means "to put into or introduce as if by pouring." Hence the vasanas are waves of desire that pour out of the subconsciousness into the restless conscious mind.

4.  The mind is the chief of the sixteen material coverings of consciousness (the others are the five gross elements, the five jnanendriyas, and the five karmendriyas). The desires of the mind are served by the fifteen other coverings.

5.  When the senses engage in satisfying the mind's desires, karma is generated, and the wheel of samsara is turned. Thus the soul takes on  body after body according to the mind's condition under the modes: good,  mediocre, or bad.

Another gloss on vasanas and their effects is found in the purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.15.24.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes as follows in his commentary: arthena vyaghra-sarpadina vinaiva drsyamanah svapnadi-bhange sati na drsyante tad evam daradayo 'vastava-vastu-bhutah svapnadayo 'vastu-bhutas ca sarve manobhavah mano-vasana janyatvan manobhavah. At night one dreams of tigers and snakes, and while dreaming he actually sees them, but as soon as the dream is broken they no longer exist. Similarly, the material world is a creation of our mental concoctions. We have come to this material world to enjoy material resources, and by mental concoction we discover many, many objects of enjoyment because our minds are absorbed in material things. This is why we receive various bodies. According to our mental concoctions we work in various ways, desiring various achievements, and by nature and the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (karmana-daiva-netrena) we get the advantages we desire. Thus we become more and more involved with material concoctions. This is the reason for our suffering in the material world. By one kind of activity we create another, and they are all products of our mental concoctions.

In a Srimad-Bhagavatam class (7.6.9) given in Vrndavana on 11 December 1975, Srila Prabhupada explained how a devotee deals with vasana.

Vasana. Therefore we have to become vasana-less. Without any vasana means without any material desires. Vasana cannot... it is therefore not actually to make it null and void, but to make it purified. That is the aim of human life. To purify our desires. That purification is possible by Krsna consciousness. Sarva padi vinirmuktan tat paratvena nirmalam. If you simply desire how to serve Krsna then that is really desirelessness.

In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu Srila Rupa Gosvami has given an in-depth explanation of how sinful desires arise in the mind, what reactions such desires foment, and how devotional service rids us of both the desires and their reactions. His Holiness Dhanurdhara Maharaja nicely summarized and clarified Rupa Gosvami's explanation in his groundbreaking book Waves of Devotion. I adapted his summary for this essay. The word vasana is not used, but the word bija (seed of sinful desires) means the same thing. Bija arises from avidya. Avidya is the primal ignorance that encases the soul as the karana-deha (causal body).

Diagram 1:  How Klesha Appears


Klesha refers to distress, and the causes of distress. 

Distress has three causes: (1) papam sins, (2) bija — material desires, and (3) avidya — ignorance, the root cause.

Srila Rüpa Gosvami explains that devotional service is the best means of obtaining relief from distress, because it is the only process that can counteract all three causes.


Diagram 2: Two Reactions to Papam (Sins)

Sinful actions (papam) produce two reactions: (1) prarabdha — manifest, and (2) aprarabdha — unmanifest. Srila Prabhupäda describes, “...for some of our sinful activities we are awaiting distress in the future, and for others, which are mature, we are suffering at the present moment (NOD pg 4).” 

Manifest Sinful Reactions (Prarabdha-Papam)

A disease caught early is curable, but is far more difficult to counteract if allowed to become chronic. Similarly, sinful reactions are more difficult to counteract once they become manifest. Devotional service, however, can remove even manifest sinful reactions and the suffering they bring.

Devahuti explains that by practicing devotional service even someone born in the lowest family of dog-eaters becomes qualified to perform the highest brähmiëical sacrifices.  The behavior of those born into degraded families disqualifies them from performing Vedic sacrifices. Devahuti points out that even  slight engagement in devotional service can counteract the disqualifications incurred by a low birth.

One's birth is a tangible result of karma — a manifest reaction (prarabdha-papam). Thus Devahüti's statement is sastric evidence that devotional service can counteract prarabdha-papam.

Unmanifest Sinful Reactions (Aprarabdha-Papam)

Devotional service is like a blazing fire, able to consume limitless amounts of unmanifest sinful reactions. Srila Prabhupada says, “ the blazing fire can burn any amount of fuel to ashes, so devotional service to the Lord in Krsna consciousness can burn up all the fuel of sinful activities (NOD pg 5).”

How Unmanifest Reactions Cause Suffering.

Previously, we said that sinful activity causes two types of reaction: manifest and unmanifest. We will further clarify this statement.

Diagram 3: Furtherance of the Two  Reactions to Papam (Sins)

A sinful action generates two types of unmanifest reactions. One type creates direct physical or emotional suffering. The other type creates indirect suffering by increasing one's sinful proclivities. 

For example, if one engages in illicit sex he receives two types of reactions. One type creates some direct physical or emotional suffering. The other type creates indirect suffering by exacerbating his proclivity for sex; thereby increasing sexual desires, impelling future illicit sex, and entangling him in a karmic cycle of suffering.

When sinful desires increase, sinful activities increase. When sinful activities increase, sinful desires increase — it is a self-perpetuating cycle. The more one tries to satisfy his desires, the stronger they become.

To break this cycle of bondage one must tolerate sinful desires and not endeavor to fulfil them. Not being reinforced by unmanifest reactions, they will gradually dissipate and leave the heart forever.1 

Evolution of Unmanifest Sin

The cycle of unmanifest reaction goes through four stages, as explained in Padma Purana:

1.  Aprarabdha (unmanifest reaction) — In this stage the reaction is completely unmanifest and has no perceptible effect.

2.  Kutam (sinful proclivity) — In this stage the reaction evolves into a psychological disposition towards sin.

3.  Bija (sinful desire) — In this stage the sinful proclivity evolves into a specific desire to commit a particular sinful action.

4.  Prarabdha (manifest sinful reaction) — In this stage the sinful desire causes one to commit a sinful action and suffer the concomitant reaction.

The following illustration may help clarify the subtle distinctions between these four stages:

Diagram 4: The Four Stages of Bondage

As a result of some sinful act, a man is destined to become a thief  and suffer punishment. However, this reaction is not immediately felt — it is stored for a future birth (this is the stage of aprarabdha). In his next life, the reaction begins to manifest as an almost unnoticed proclivity towards dishonesty and cheating (this is the stage of kuta). This proclivity gradually intensifies and eventually manifests an explicit desire to steal (this is the stage of bija). Finally, this desire causes the man to commit theft and undergo the consequential suffering (this is the stage of prarabdha).

Devotional service eradicates all four stages of sinful reaction in chronological order — first aprarabdha, next kuta, then bija, and finally prarabdha. (See NOD page 6.)



— Desire

Srila Rupa Gosvami described the first cause of suffering (papam) in all its subheadings. Now he describes the second cause of suffering: bija — sinful desire.

He quotes the Visnuduttas (SB 6.2.17), who explain that many processes can neutralize the reactions of sinful activities, but only devotional service can uproot sinful desire — which is the cause of sinful activity.

Srila Prabhupada elaborates by citing Ajamila. In spite of his strict performance of brahminical duties, sinful desires remained in Ajämila's heart and caused him to succumb to sinful life. Later, the simple devotional service of chanting "Narayana" uprooted all his calamities, although he was in the midst of sinful activities. (See NOD page 6.)

Vedic rituals like charity and austerity can neutralize sinful reactions, but they cannot neutralize sinful desire. Srila Prabhupäda gives two illustrations: (1)  a person may be cured of venereal disease by some painful medical treatment, but because sex desire remains in his heart he again implicates himself in suffering; (2) an elephant may carefully bathe in a lake, but upon returning to the land immediately covers himself again with dirt. (See NOD page 7.)

Devotional service can uproot even sinful desire, and is therefore the best method for attaining relief from suffering.

Diagram 5: The Appearance of Desire From Ignorance and Its Reactions

The root cause of suffering is avidya — ignorance of one's true identity as Krsna's eternal servant. In ignorance, one acts as an enjoyer and suffers the concomitant reactions.  Srila Prabhupäda says, “As long as one is ignorant about his identity, he is sure to act wrongly and thereby become entangled in material contamination (NOD pg 8).” 

Uprooting ignorance is the best way to uproot suffering. Only devotional service can uproot all ignorance. Srila Rüpa Gosvami authenticates this by quoting Padma Purana and Srimad-Bhagavatam (Fourth Canto).

Srila Prabhupada's summarizes the quotation from Padma Purana, “Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness is the highest enlightenment, and when such enlightenment is there, it is just like a blazing forest fire, killing all the inauspicious snakes of desire (NOD pg 8).” In this quotation, Srila Prabhupada expresses the Sanskrit word avidyam as "desire." One usually translates avidyam as ignorance. Accordingly, Srila Prabhupäda clarifies, “Similarly, the blazing fire of Krsna consciousness is so strong that the snakes of ignorance are immediately killed (NOD pg 8).”

Devotional service eradicates sinful reactions, nullifies sinful desires, counteracts material proclivities, and — most importantly — uproots ignorance. Therefore it is the only efficient and effective way to achieve permanent relief from all suffering.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.25.8 we find the phrase anadi-kala-karma-vasana-grathitam avidyamayam hrdaya-granthim. Anadi-kala means "from time immemorial," karma-vasana means "the desire for fruitive activities", and grathitam means "tied tightly." Avidyamayam means "consisting of the illusory energy." Hrdaya-granthim means "the knot within the heart." There are many verses in Srimad-Bhagavatam about the severing of the hard knot within the heart as the final stroke of liberation for the soul; among them 1.2.21 and 11.20.30 are oft-cited. In Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.25.8 it is made clear that this hard knot is the beginningless susceptibility of conditioned consciousness to the influx of vasana. This verse further makes clear that hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord, and constant remembrance of Him, is the only process by which consciousness can be purified so that vasana can no longer penetrate.

About this state of purified mind, Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.29.69:

In Brahma-samhita 5.54, it is said karmani nirdahati kintu ca bhakti bhajam. When a person is fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness, his stockpile of material desires is minimized. Indeed, the desires no longer fructify in the form of gross bodies. Instead, the stockpile of desires becomes visible on the mental platform by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

No living entity is free from the cycle of birth and death unless he takes to Krsna consciousness; therefore in this verse it is clearly stated (sattvaika-nisthe) that when one is fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness, in one stroke he is freed of past and future mental desires. Then, by the grace of the Supreme Lord, everything becomes simultaneously manifest within the mind. In this regard, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura cites the example of mother Yasoda's seeing the whole cosmic manifestation within the mouth of Lord Krsna. By the grace of Lord Krsna, Mother Yasoda saw all the universes and planets within the mouth of Krsna. Similarly, by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, a Krsna conscious person can see all his dormant desires at one time and finish all his future transmigrations. This facility is especially given to the devotee to make his path clear for returning home, back to Godhead.

In this purport Srila Prabhupada explains that a pure devotee is released from the reaction of stockpiled material desires through dreams.

Why we see things not experienced in this life is explained herein. That which we see is the future expression of a gross body or is already stocked in our mental stockpile. Because a Krsna conscious person does not have to accept a future gross body, his recorded desires are fulfilled in a dream. We therefore sometimes find things in a dream never experienced in our present life.

Kalisantarana Upanisad 7 declares:

iti sodasa kalasya jivasyavarana vinasam
tatha prakasate parabrahma megha paye
ravi rasmi mandali veti

In this way the Mahamantra of sixteen names is the destroyer of the covering of the jivatma which is composed of sixteen parts. It is then only that Parambrahma Lord Sri Krsna shines before the jiva like the rays of the sun after the cloudy covering of the sky is removed.

In the first part of the Hare Krsna Mahamantra, the holy names (Hare and Krsna) are uttered eight times. In the second part, the holy names(Hare and Rama) are uttered eight times. Thus there are sixteen names in the Mahamantra. The sixteen layers that cover the soul have already been explained; the vasana-infected mind is the chief of these sixteen. Chanting the sixteen holy names rids consciousness of all these coverings. When consciousness is pure, it is illuminated by the rays of Lord Krsna's personal form.

But even after chanting for a long time we may find ourselves still troubled by vasana. The reason is offenses (aparadha). The following verse from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Antya 8.26 shows that even after a devotee has accepted initiation from a bona fide spiritual master, indeed even after he has entered the sannyasa order, he again falls victim to vasana if he commits Vaisnava-aparadha.

ei ye sri-madhavendra sri-pada upeksa karila
sei aparadhe inhara vasana, janmila

Ramacandra Puri was thus denounced by Madhavendra Puri. Due to his offense, gradually material desire appeared within him.

Samskaras (Impressions)

It is very important in dealing with our individual psychology that we understand samskaras, which means "mental impressions." Almost every time this word appears in Srila Prabhupada's books, lectures, letters and conversations, "Vedic reformatory performance" is meant. For example, the Vedic marriage ceremony is called vivaha-samskara. Samskara in this usage also has its psychological sense, but it is reformatory. The ceremony impresses the minds of the couple getting married that the vow they are taking is one of the most important in their whole lives; they must preserve this solemn vow in years to come, in both good times and bad, etc. It is sometimes said that when the newly married couple circles the sacrificial fire seven times together, this creates an impression in their minds that will last for seven lifetimes.

Sinful events and associations also deeply impress our minds for years and even lifetimes together. Such sinful samskaras are closely associated with vasana (sinful desires) and kuta (sinful inclination). Srila Prabhupada indicated this sense of samskara in a conversation of 11 September, 1972, in Arlington, Texas.

Well, samskara you can change in a second. Samskara may be powerful. (indistinct) Krsna assures you, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami. He will give you protection. Samskara means you did some sinful activities and you are suffering. But He gives you protection. Sarva-papebhyo. Then what is the meaning of samskara? You can change your samskara immediately by surrendering to Krsna. Why you are so much concerned with samskara? He says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam..., aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksa... The samskara as effects of sinful activities, that is troublesome. So He gives you protection. Ma sucah, "Don't worry." Why don't you take this? You don't want to change your samskara, and who can help you? That is a different thing. You don't want to change. Otherwise Krsna is ready to give you all help. How their samskara is changed? From the very beginning of their life they are addicted to these principles: illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, gambling. How they have changed? They don't touch it. How it has become possible?

The guest Srila Prabhupada addressed here replied that he believed Prabhupada's disciples had been great yogis in their past lives. By saying this he was suggesting that they had powerful samskaras embedded in their minds that brought them to Srila Prabhupada's lotus feet; conversely, one who had no such samskaras would not be able to take shelter of the pure devotee. But Srila Prabhupada asked this guest why he was also not such a yogi. He replied that he didn't know. Srila Prabhupada said, "Because you don't surrender. That is the fact. If you surrender, you become also a great yogi."

Even after one takes to devotional service, he or she may be haunted by long-lasting impressions of sinful life-events and sinful associations. Many years ago a Godbrother confided to me his own difficulty with such samskaras. The some names of great personalities in the Srimad- Bhagavatam reminded him of dirty words that he used to hear and chant in his karmi life. He felt himself condemned. These names should remind him of Krsna's pure devotees; instead they reminded him of profanity.

This is a good example of what a samskara does to the mind. "While in the subtle body," Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.29.78, "we create many plans to enjoy sense gratification. These plans are recorded in the spool of one's mind as bija, the root of fruitive activities." Even everyday events are permanently recorded. When you were a small child, there was a day when you ate an orange for the first time. That experience impressed your mind, and that impression is always there beneath your conscious awareness. That experience--of the distinctive color, shape, smell, texture and taste of an orange--can at any time be replayed in your consciousness. A friend tells you he is going to the fruit shop and will bring you back an orange. The full experience of "orange-enjoyment" floods your mind. This is samskara.

The mind is laden with samskaras from all our previous births, whether as a demigod, a demon, an animal, bird, insect, plant or fish. But only certain samskaras that are appropriate to this life have conscious and subconscious influence upon us now. The more an original experience provoked emotions, the stronger the influence of the lingering samskara. Samskaras are under the control of Paramatma (mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca). Those samkaras that He allows to influence this life constitute our prarabdha-karma (the result of our past activities which is in force right now).

A Look at Basic Conditioned Personality Types


Srila Prabhupada had this to say about prarabdha-karma:

If you infect some disease, you have to suffer. You cannot escape. You infect today somehow or other. Not today, not tomorrow, but some day it will come out...Then you suffer, prarabdha. This is called prarabdha-karma, infection. You are under the complete subjugation of nature. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah. These gunaih. The prakrti is forcing you to work because you have infected a kind of guna. [Lecture in Calcutta, 27 September 1974]

This explanation brillantly brings in the notion of disease. We perform a sinful act (this means any deed that registers as karma, good or bad), but the reaction is not immediate. The doing of the sinful act is the entry point of a karmic infection contracted from the soul's association with the modes of nature. Like the physical symptoms of an infectious disease (fever, sore throat, etc.), the prarabdha reaction manifests after some time of incubation.

Ayurveda is the Vedic medical science. Being Vedic, it views the physical body itself as a disease of the soul. The body comes into being out of the tri-guna, the three modes of nature. In Ayurveda, the only healthy condition is the pure mode of goodness, which is the position of liberation. Thus Srila Prabhupada's comparing the body to an infection is most apt.

One of the studies within Ayurveda is body typology. Using it as our reference, we shall now look the basic "models" of the human body that are produced by the modes of material nature. Ayurvedic typology also accounts for basic psychological types.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.26.32 teaches that the panca-mahabhutas (five gross elements) come into being from sound, which vibrates when egoism in ignorance is agitated by the sex energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ayurveda teaches that against the background of primordial ignorance, the three modes of nature are stimulated by the sex energy vibrating between purusa and prakrti. The evoluton of the mahabhutas--from ether to air to fire to water to earth--is the effect of the progress of these modes from goodness to ignorance.

From sattva-guna, ether appears. As sattva transforms into rajo-guna, air appears. Fire appears from rajo-guna. As rajo- guna transforms into tamo-guna, water appears. Earth appears from tamo-guna.

In Ayurveda, the human constitution is defined by three dosas. Each is a combinations of two of the five elements. From ether and air come vata-dosa; fire and water combine to form pitta-dosa; water and earth together give rise to kapha-dosa.

is dry, cold, light, mobile, subtle, hard, rough, changeable  and clear. It is identified with prana, the bodily life-force. As  such, vata governs all movement and is the support of the other two  dosas. The subtle body functions in ether; since vata is partially  ethereal, mental functions are associated with it. In terms of Western physiology, the brain and nervous system exhibit a good deal of equivalence to vata.

is hot, light, fluid, subtle, unpleasant-smelling, soft and  clear. It generates heat, governs the body temperature, and directs chemical reactions. The Western concept of metabolism--the physical and  chemical processes in the body that generate energy and maintain life--resembles pitta.

is cold, wet, heavy, slow, dull, static, smooth, dense and  cloudy. It maintains substance, weight and coherence in the body. The Western equilavents are the skeletal structure and the tissues that contribute to the mass of the body. All three dosas are concentrated together in the most critical life-support systems of the body, especially the heart.

The usual translation of kapha, pitta and vata is "mucus, bile and air." That terminology is simply medical. My interest in the dosas is their affect on conditioned personality. Thus I am presenting the dosas as features of the three modes of material nature.

It is clear from the above that for there to be life in the body, all three dosas must be functional. But as they are usually not balanced, an individual will be typed according to the dosa that is more prominent. Since my essays are about psychology, I will not discuss the physical characteristics of the vata, pitta and kapha types, except to say that there is a remarkable correspondence to the three somatotypes conceived by the American psychologist William Shelton. The vata type like
Shelton's ectomorph (thin and nervous), the pitta type is like the mesomorph (average build, physically active), and the kapha type is like the endomorph (heavyset and phlegmatic).

Ayurveda derives seven physiologies from the basic three. The seven are the sum of two groups of three types, plus a unique type. There are human beings who unequivocally represent one dosa. That is one group of three--pure kapha type, pure pitta type, and pure vata type. Then there are human beings who exhibit the nature of two dosas. They form the second group of three: vata-pitta, vata-kapha and kapha-pitta. The unique type is the rare person whose dosas are perfectly balanced.

These are seven types of bodies. Since a person's behavior is influenced by his or her physical qualities, there must also be psychological overtones to the seven body types. Behavior reflects not only the nature of our physical activities but also the nature of our mentalities. The state of the dosas means the state of our health, and everyone knows the the mood of the mind is affected by health. Even what a person dreams about at night is linked to his or her dosas.

Going beyond body typology, Ayurveda takes into account different psychological types. There are three types of mentality, each representing a mode of nature. And each is subdivided. The subdivisions are personality types modeled on superior beings, i.e. demigods, demons and other superhuman species.

, the root Ayurvedic text, gives seven sattvic mentalities: the brahmana type, the rsi type, the Indra type, the Yama type, the Kuvera type, the Varuna type, and the Gandharva type. There are six rajasic types and three tamasic types. Thus in total there are seven body types and sixteen types of mind.

Another sophisticated system of Vedic personality typology is seen in jyotisa (astrology). In view of the principle of vyasti-samasti, it is logical that indications in the greater universe will inform us about our own minds. C.G. Jung wrote:

In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis I usually get a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. I must say that I have often found that the astrological data elucidates certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand. From such experiences I formed the opinion that astrology is of particular interest to the psychologist, since it contains a sort of psychological experience which we call "projected"--this means that we find the psychological facts as it were in the constellations. I admit that this is a very curious fact which throws a particular light on the structure of the human mind.

Both Vedic (sidereal) and Western (tropical) astrology arrive at an understanding of a person's nature by way of three basic factors: birth sign, house and planet. Birth sign and house are calculated from the twelve divisions of the Zodiac, which is the pathway along which the sun, moon and planets move through the heavens. The divisions are themselves the houses. In Vedic astrology, the position of the moon in the Zodiac at the time of birth determines the sign. Also at the moment of birth, the sun, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu are positioned in different houses. Various indications are calculated from the positions of the sun and the planets that take into consideration the powers of these heavenly bodies and the relationships between them.

Like in Ayurveda, the complexities of typology-calculation in astrology  come down to the interaction of the three modes of material nature. The  twelve houses are divided into four elemental categories: earth, water, fire  and air. Earth stands for tamo-guna, water stands for  tamo-rajo-guna, fire stands for rajo-guna and air stands for rajo-sattva-guna.  Taurus (Visabha), Virgo (Kanya) and Capricorn (Makara) are earth signs. Cancer (Karka), Scorpio (Vrscika), and Pisces (Matsya) are water signs. Aries (
Mesa), Leo (Simha) and Sagittarius (Dhanus) are fire signs. Aquarius (Kumbha), Gemini (Mithuna) and Libra (Tula) are air signs.

Each of the three signs that belong to one element appear to characterize a guna. For example, if the air signs Aquarius, Gemini and Libra are counted as rajo-sattva, Aquarius leans more to tamo- guna, Gemini to rajo-guna and Libra to sattva-guna.

The planets, too, are indicators of the gunas. Maharsi Parasara Muni, a great Vedic sage, composed the Brihad Parasara Hora Sastra. In Chapter 3, verse 22, he writes:

jiva suryndavah sattvam
budha sukrau rajastatha
surya putre dharaputrau
tamah prakrtikau dvija


O brahmana, the luminaries (the sun and the moon) and Jupiter are sattvic planets, Venus and Mercury are rajasic, while Mars and Saturn are tamasic.

Rahu and Ketu are not mentioned in this verse; but jyotisa assigns Rahu to rajo-guna and Ketu to tamo-guna.

ramo'vatarah suryasya candrasya yadunayakah
nrsimho bhumiputrasya buddha somasutasya ca
vamano vibhudhejyasya bhargavo bhargavasya ca
kurmo bhaskaraputrasya saimhike yasya sukrah
ketormihnavatarasca ye canye te 'pi khetajah
paratmamso'dhiko yesu te sarve khecarabhidhah

Lord Rama manifests as the sun, Lord Krishna as the moon. Lord Nrisimhadeva manifests as Mars. Buddha manifests as Mercury, Vamana as Jupiter, Parasurama as Venus, Kurma as Saturn, Varaha as Rahu and Mina (Matsya) as Ketu. Living entities possessed with a degree of paramatmamsa are called heavenly or divine beings.

The term paramatmamsa is clarified in 2.2:

The four avataras Rama, Krsna, Narasimha and Varaha are the Supreme Soul in His fullest manifestation.

Thus jivas who are invested with the qualities of these four forms  of the Lord appear in this world as devas, rsis and great sadhus.

In 2.3-4, Parasara Muni declares:

Janardana or Visnu has incarnated as the navagrahas (nine planets) to bestow on the living entities the results of their karmas or actions. He assumed the auspicious form of grahas to destroy the strength of the demons, to sustain the strength of the devas and to establish dharma.

The planets are persons. Each has his identifying characteristics. The sun (Surya) is royal, masculine, disciplined, authoritative, strong and original. The moon (Chandra) is royal, feminine, attractive, everchanging and delicate. Jupiter (Guru) is spiritual, counseling, friendly, self-centered and disciplined. Rahu is rebellious, impulsive, short-tempered and secretive. Mercury (Budha) is princely, entertaining, wily, intelligent and sensitive. Venus (Sukra) is romantic, slow, sensual, sweet-spoken, diplomatic and manipulative. Ketu is mystical, dreamlike, intuitive and inventive. Saturn (Sani) is wise, malefic, servile, laborious, struggling and suffering. Mars (Angaraka) is warlike, strong, rustic, perfectionist, doubting, fighting, alienating and discriminating.

There is also a connection between the planets and the dosas of Ayurveda. The sun is pitta-nature, the moon is kapha, Jupiter is kapha, Rahu is vata, Mercury is vata, Venus is kapha, Ketu is kapha, Saturn is vata and Mars is pitta.

Besides Ayurveda and jyotisa, there are a number of other Vedic typological systems: varnasrama-dharma, of course, but also natya-sastra (containing Bharata Muni's analysis of emotional types), kama-sastra (the Vedic science of sexuality), and others. All of these can be understood and explained through tri-guna- prakrti.

Surrender, marga and guna

The typologies mentioned above pertain to prarabdha-karma. In Srila Prabhupada's view, one may belong to any typology but that in itself is not an obstacle to spiritual life as long as one surrenders completely to Krsna. Surrender is an exercise of choice (free will), which is the individual prerogative of the jiva.

readily admits that even after having accepted the path of bhakti the jiva may not surrender completely in just one step. In fact he cannot surrender completely if he is not endowed with transcendental knowledge of Krsna's supreme position. In his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.4-5, Srila Prabhupada explains:

In Bhagavad-gita (10.8), the Lord says, aham sarvasya prabhavo: "I am the origin of everything." Mattah sarvam pravartate: "whatever exists in the creation emanates from Me." Iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-saman-vitah: "When one fully understands that I create everything by My omnipotence, one becomes firmly situated in devotional service and fully surrenders at My lotus feet." Unfortunately, the unintelligent cannot immediately understand Krsna's supremacy. Nonetheless, if they associate with devotees and read authorized books, they may gradually come to the proper understanding, although this may take many, many births.

There are four typologies within the category of neophyte devotees, or those who, while on the path of bhakti, have not fully surrendered. Srila Prabhupada nicely summarized the four in Nectar of Devotion  Chapter Three.

These four types of devotees have been described in the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, and they have all been accepted as pious. Without becoming pious, no one can come to devotional service. It is explained in Bhagavad-gita that only one who has continually executed pious activities and whose sinful reactions in life have completely stopped can take to Krsna consciousness. Others cannot. The neophyte devotees are classified into four groups--the distressed, those in need of money, the inquisitive and the wise--according to their gradations of pious activities.

A related way of knowing who a fully-surrendered devotee is is indicated by Srila Rupa Gosvami in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindu 1.1.11, where he writes jnana-karmady-anavrtam. Anavrtam, according to a definition given by Srila Prabhupada in a Gita class on 10 December 1972, means "not touched." Thus a pure devotee is not touched by the margas (Vedic paths) of jnana and karma. It follows that a neophyte devotee is still in touch with these paths. Jnana and karma are indeed paths of piety, and piety is required in order for one to take to devotional service. However, when one fully surrenders to Krsna, he leaves behind jnana and karma.

Speaking to a reporter on
24 July 1973 in London, Srila Prabhupada explained that a soul suffering from lingering addiction to fruitive work or to mental speculation will follow the paths of karma-misra- bhakti and jnana-misra-bhakti. In his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.10.20-22, Srila Prabhupada states about these paths:

By karma-misra-bhakti one is elevated to the celestial kingdom, by jnana-misra-bhakti one is able to merge in the Brahman effulgence, and by yoga-misra-bhakti one is able to realize the omnipotency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But pure bhakti does not depend on karma, jnana or yoga, for it simply consists of loving affairs.

The summary of all this is found in the purport to Bhagavad-gita 7.17:

On the whole, when the distressed, the inquisitive, the seekers of knowledge, and those who are in need of money are free from all material desires, and when they fully understand that material remuneration has nothing to do with spiritual improvement, they become pure devotees. As long as such a purified stage is not attained, devotees in transcendental service to the Lord are tainted with fruitive activities, the search for mundane knowledge, etc. So one has to transcend all this before one can come to the stage of pure devotional service.

Two classes of neophyte devotees (those who suffer from material distress and those who feel in need of money) are clearly in touch with karma. It can be further observed that those devotees who are work-oriented, who relate to others in a formalistic, perfunctory manner,  who seek solutions to problems through mechanistic adjustments, display  leanings to the karma-marga. Two classes of neophyte devotees (those who are inquisitive, and those who are dedicated to a philosophical grasp of  the Absolute Truth) are jnana-oriented. Furthermore, devotees who  prefer the cognitive mind over the conative and affective mind, who maintain  distance from others, and who seek solutions to problems from the remove of hands-off analysis, display leanings to jnana-marga.

, devotional service in touch with karma and  jnana, is conducted under the modes of material nature. Devotees under the modes exhibit typical behavior patterns that are described in  Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 3 Chapter Twenty-nine. Srila Prabhupada gives this summary in  his purport to verse 10 of that chapter.

Devotional service in the modes of ignorance, passion and goodness can be divided into eighty-one categories. There are different devotional activities, such as hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, offering prayer, rendering service and surrendering everything, and each of them can be divided into three qualitative categories. There is hearing in the mode of passion, in the mode of ignorance and in the mode of goodness. Similarly, there is chanting in the mode of ignorance, passion and goodness, etc. Three multiplied by nine equals twenty-seven, and when again multiplied by three it becomes eighty-one. One has to transcend all such mixed materialistic devotional service in order to reach the standard of pure devotional service, as explained in the next verses.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 3 Chapter Thirty-two, Lord Kapiladeva outlines a progressive path for such misra-bhaktas. The path is in terms of asrama-dharma. Srila Prabhupada summarizes this path in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.32.34-36.

There are four orders of the social system: brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. For the grhasthas, or householders, performance of sacrifices, distribution of charity, and action according to prescribed duties are especially recommended. Similarly, austerity, study of Vedic literature, and philosophical research are meant for the vanaprasthas, or retired persons. Study of the Vedic literature from the bona fide spiritual master is meant for the brahmacari, or student. Atmendriya jaya, control of the mind and taming of the senses, is meant for persons in the renounced order of life. All these different activities are prescribed for different persons so that they may be elevated to the platform of self-realization and from there to Krsna consciousness, devotional service.

It would be sheer concoction to attempt to match each of the four orders to each of the four classes of neophyte devotees. What should be understood is that as a devotee progresses through the four orders he engages in prescribed duties that gradually purify his consciousness of distress, need of money, inquisitive speculation and attachment to pondering philosophical problems. These duties constitute the vyavahara stage of Krsna consciousness that Narada Muni recommends in his bhakti-sutras:

na tad-siddhau loka-vyavaharo heyah kintu phala-tyagas

Even after devotional service has been achieved one should not abandon his responsibilities in this world, but rather should surrender the results of work. And while still trying to reach the stage of pure devotion one certainly must continue executing prescribed duties.

This essay closes with this summary purport from Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.32.37.

The process of bhakti-yoga, devotional service, is the main river flowing down towards the sea of the Absolute Truth, and all other processes mentioned are just like tributaries. Lord Kapila is summarizing the importance of the process of devotional service. Bhakti-yoga, as described before, is divided into four divisions, three in the material modes of nature and one in transcendence, which is untinged by the modes of material nature. Devotional service mixed with the modes of material nature is a means for material existence, whereas devotional service without desires for fruitive result and without attempts for empirical philosophical research is pure, transcendental devotional service.

1. Krsna explains this principle in the Bhagavad-Gita (7.28): 

yesham tv anta-gatam papam
jananam punya-karmanam
te dvandva-moha-nirmukta
bhajante mam drdha-vratah

To make significant advancement one must engage in Krsna consciousness with unwavering determination. This is difficult when one's stock of unmanifested reactions continuously generates sinful desires that distract one from bhakti. But by acting piously (controlling the senses) one avoids sinful activity, and thus does not increase his sinful proclivities. This gradually exhausts one's stock of sins, and one can engage in devotional service without distraction (drdha-vrata).




 Essay Four :


 The Modes of Modernity

These essays have focused on subjects that are traditionally illuminated by Vedantic knowledge. And in this essay too I intend to keep that brilliant searchlight of timeless wisdom ablaze; but now we must turn its beam away from classical formulas of explanation and shine it into the dark corners of the modern modes of thinking, feeling and willing. We're all to some extent or other conditioned by modernity. Most of us are very deeply conditioned by it. I will show in this essay that if we do not identify and eradicate this conditioning in our own psychology, it will have a deleterious effect on our spiritual lives.

I was greatly helped in my writing of this essay by an article published in the magazine Humanitas, vol. X no. 2, 1997 (copyright held by the National Humanities Institute, Washington D.C. USA). The author is Professor Claes G. Ryn of the Catholic University of America. The title is "Imaginative Origins of Modernity: Life as a Daydream and Nightmare".

Modernity is far removed from the context of traditional Indian culture. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 7.119p, Srila Prabhupada writes:

It is the statement of Carvaka Muni that one should beg, borrow or steal money to purchase ghee and enjoy life (rnam krtva ghrtam pibet). Thus even the greatest atheist of India recommends that one eat ghee, not meat. No one could conceive of human beings' eating meat like tigers and dogs, but men have become so degraded that they are just like animals and can no longer claim to have a human civilization.

Carvaka Muni was an atheist-materialist of ancient India. Although he was at odds with much of Vedic philosophy, his advice to people was that they should fully enjoy their senses within the context of Vedic culture. He did not concoct a "new" culture (which is what modernity is all about) out of his own mind, a culture of vicious bestiality.

Modernity as Manic-Depression

Aretaeus of Cappadocia, a physician of the second century A.D., described the condition that we now know as manic-depressive disorder. Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926), a German psychiatrist, gave a modern definition of manic- depression that is still valid today.

Basic to manic-depressive disorder are conflicting moods of high elation and low despondency. The patient may swing between the two moods, or he may be beset with both moods simultaneously. One mood may be more prominent than the other. When the moods are extreme, the condition is called bipolar disorder; when less extreme, it is called cyclothymia.

It is not difficult to predict how manic-depressive disorder would be analyzed from the Vedic perspective. Mania is defined in the dictionary as "an excessively intense enthusiasm, interest or desire." That is clearly rajo-guna. Depression is defined as "the condition of feeling sad or despondent; a reduction in activity or force; a reduction in physiological vigor or activity." That is clearly tamo-guna.

When the Scindia steamer Jaladuta docked in Boston Harbor on September 18, 1965, Srila Prabhupada wrote Boro Krpa Koile Krsna (Markine Bhagavata Dharma). In verse 3 of this poem is the line

rajas tamo gune era sabai acchanna

All of the people here are covered over by the modes of passion and ignorance.

Professor Ryn remarks about the modern type of personality:

On the one hand, modern man uses his imagination to an unparalleled extent to evade the hard and painful task of moral responsibility up close: He always dreams of happiness on entirely different, far easier terms, of a life that can satisfy all of his pent-up desires. As long as he indulges this imagination he is intoxicated, inspired. But just as often the dark side of life seems to him to be all there is, and he despairs of happiness. Bitterness and pessimism torture him.

The coming together of these two moods is not paradoxical or puzzling. On the contrary, they are inseparable. They are two sides of one and the same modern personality. That personality moves, for fully intelligible reasons, between elation and dark depression. The person is up, or he is down, rarely in- between, and the swings tend to get more violent.

Ryn observes that mankind today has on one side a grossly inflated idea of his position in the world. On the other side he is cast down into deep despair when the position he imagines for himself is not given due respect by the world. Modern man is therefore, Ryn concludes, manic-depressive.

The manic-depressive temperament under scrutiny is self-generated, which is not to deny that it sometimes blurs into what is commonly called mental illness. To see how this temperament is formed, it is helpful to ask: who is the cynic, that person who sneers at life and suspects all others of having the most foul of motives? Who is he but the disillusioned, repeatedly disappointed dreamer, a person who bears other human beings and life in general a deep grudge for defeating his cherished longings? The artificial exhilaration created by the romantic imagination must inevitably bring on grim resentment.

Depression: A World-Wide Mental Health Problem

Thirty years ago (8 January 1973) the news magazine Newsweek featured a cover story on depression. It was proclaimed America's number one mental illness and an epidemic that too often ends in suicide. Depression is now recognized as the number one mental illness in the world.

But there is a difference between depression and manic-depression, isn't there? The depressive is down in the dumps. The manic-depressive sometimes exhibits a side of himself that is wildly exhilarated. Manic-depression is considerably less a world health problem than depression. Is it really accurate for Professor Ryn to characterize modernity as a condition of manic-depression? Why not just say modernity is depression?

Ryn admits he uses the term manic-depressive "in protest against the kind of psychologism that tends to reduce the individual to a product of forces he cannot control"; as we shall see, excusing one's personal weaknesses as being really the strengths of outside forces that one can't possibly control is a key symptom of the modernity that Professor Ryn is, in a sense, ridiculing with the name manic-depression.

Even if, for the sake of statistical accuracy, we were to go with straight depression as the representative mental disorder for modern times, we would still benefit from Professor Ryn's analysis. It is said in some psychiatric circles that depression has two phases: overt and covert. Overt depression, of course, exhibits all the expected symptoms of melancholia. But covert depression is depression in disguise. It is how a person imagines himself, and what he does, to systematically hide his depressed condition even from himself. Often the mask he puts over his depression is a silent dutifulness, a compulsion to work hard, an emotional toughness, a disconnection from the world, and/or a dependency upon alcohol or other intoxicants. Depression may even be masked by a strong urge to succeed, to surpass others, to please an authority figure, or by a starry-eyed hope in a better future world, or by extreme idealism, or by religious enthusiasm--all of which have overtones of mania. Later in this essay I will have more to say about the ties that bind covert depression and manic-depression. For right now let us just agree that there is enough similarity to warrant Professor Ryn a listen. Covert depression, like mania, is symptomatic of the mode of passion.

A question may be raised at this point: are these urges--the urge to succeed and so on--always coverups for depression? The simple answer is no. The more complete answer is that there are many ways to become mired in addiction to a fantasy self ("the enjoyer") instead of moving forward to heal the real self ("the servant"). Therefore, dear reader, please note that later in this essay we will be discussing addiction as the one single thread that links together all the many ways that people blind themselves to their depressed state of consciousness. Religion--even "Krsna consciousness"--can be addictive in this sense if we use it to evade having to come to grips with our individual spiritual disease, which is our particular taste for sense gratification. Then again, Srila Prabhupada recommended that we become addicted to Krsna. Thus there is addiction to illusion and addiction to reality.

Modern Values and Low Self-Esteem

Most psychologists and psychiatrists tell us that depression (which, to repeat, appears as overt depression, covert depression and manic-depression) is a disorder of self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem is a kind of self-realization, for it presupposes that in back of one's gifts and limitations there is a core self of constant value, a value that is neither better nor worse than the core selves of other human beings. Self-esteem is said to be picked up in childhood from the "unconditional positive regard" of parents for their offspring. In other words, when parents show their children that the core of their love is constant even when the children perform poorly, the children internalize that parental regard. It becomes the seed of their own self- esteem. But when children perceive that the love of their parents hinges on whether, for example, they do well at school or not, they develop issues of low self-esteem at an early age. Even children who were valued by their parents may have problems with low self-esteem as they become exposed to the society beyond the family circle. Modern society does not at all reinforce a person's inherent self-worth. It gauges the value of the individual on a scale of external trappings: wealth, beauty, status, fame. A person who discards his sense of inner self-worth to pursue the standards of value set by modern society is a person afflicted by covert depression. He is depressed, but he does not see it because he is too busy chasing false goals. It is to be expected that at some point his depression will become overt. This is when all the life runs out of his strenuous endeavors to be something he is not.

The Premodern Personality

Before he goes into dissecting the personality of modern man, Professor Ryn tells us about the premodern type of personality. In this there are two subdivisions, Christian and classical (the second consists of persons who gravitate to the values of ancient Greece and Rome). The premodern type is still with us today, at least in part. In fact any individual will be a mixture of types, premodern and modern.

The old classical and Christian outlook is deeply rooted; it has not entirely disappeared even today. Neither can we point to particular individuals in the modern world whose personalities are entirely clear-cut embodiments of the new moral-imaginative momentum. All human beings contain both old and new. Much neurosis in contemporary society is intrinsic to the cultural dynamic under investigation, but additional anxiety and confusion are due to individuals' harboring not only that dynamic but other strains of personality with which it is incompatible.

In significant ways, the premodern European described by Professor Ryn resembles the Aryan, the member of classical Vedic culture. His world-view is religious. He is aware of mankind's fallen state. Premodern man believes he can be elevated by moral-intellectual effort, or by divine grace, but he accepts that some limitation will always remain. Mankind is not God. Premodern man therefore holds self-criticism to be a virtue. Suffering is not unexpected by him, nor does he resent it as undeserved. Well-being and happiness are not taken for granted but are reasons to give thanks to God. Premodern man is acutely aware of his own weaknesses because he measures himself by high moral standards that lead away from conception of the self as an enjoyer. The ethics of Aristotle and Cicero are ascetic; Christ's Sermon on the Mount is otherworldly. Premodern man accepts that his moral shortcomings are his own; he, and he alone, is responsible for improving his character. Problems in life are seen as the consequence of moral failure. To solve problems he should strain his utmost to better his character; and even if he makes some progress, plenty of imperfections will remain, requiring yet more effort. Christian society was knitted together by the perception that one's neighbors' problems are one's own.

Constrasting modern man with premodern man, Professor Ryn writes:

His demeanor is very different from that of premodern man. Far from discounting the opportunities of a worldly existence, this person entertains great expectations. Francis Bacon was only one of the first to believe in endless progress. He thought that, with the disappearance of old superstitions and a full application of the methods of experimental science, a vastly improved human existence would be possible. The Enlightenment extended these expectations. The hope for a new and better world was not necessarily based on faith in science and reason. The most fundamental longing, discernible behind scientism itself, was for a basic transformation of human existence, for a great liberation, expansion and deepening, making life infinitely more satisfying. Rousseau is but an early and prominent example of one who believed that classical and Christian civilization was based on a profound misconception and who also believed that the resulting oppression can be ended and that mankind can achieve a new, superior existence.

A key difference between premodern and modern attitudes is seen in the notion of the rights of man.

Modern man does not regard a good life as an undeserved gift. He is more likely to see it as an entitlement. Human beings, so it is asserted, have rights. The "natural rights of man" proclaimed by such theorists as Locke and Rousseau have been made more elaborate and specific in our own century by the United Nations. For taking the trouble to be born, human beings have rights to food, housing, health care, etc. There has been no announcement of corresponding duties.

From within the pillared halls of the grand temple of Natural Human Rights, a fierce white marble goddess holding a bronze sword on high beckons mankind to lay their chains at her feet, that she may chop them asunder. Her name is Social Issues.

Although demanding his rights, modern man places no particular demands on his own person. He is not inclined to see anything wrong with self. In the words of that reassuring slogan, "I'm OK, and you're OK," Rousseau proclaimed the goodness of man already in the eighteenth century, dismissing the doctrine of original sin as an affront to human nature. What is to blame for life's deep and numerous disappointments is not some flaw or perversity within man or nature but oppressive, distorting social institutions and conventions. The remedy, Rousseau argues, is for humanity to cast off the chains that harness its goodness.

The World is Not Enough

Unfortunately, life in the material world remains essential the same for the moderns as it was for the premoderns.

We come here to a great problem facing modern man. With all his rights and expectations, modern man must still live in the existing, historical world, and that world stubbornly remains the kind of place it has always tended to be: a mixture of ups and downs and full of imperfections. The difficulty for modern man, given his high hopes, is that he will experience the disappointments of a typical human life, suffer his share of unfairness, economic pressures and illness. People close to him will die. Society will display greed, intolerance, ruthlessness, and crime. There may be wars or other painful social disruptions. Much of life will be merely boring.

As he comes to understand that the material world around him does not care about his so-called importance as a child born of a New Age, modern man is greatly let down. Wrote the poet Stephen Crane (1871- 1900), "A man said to the universe: 'Sir, I exist!' 'However,' replied the universe, 'That fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.'"

Having been led to expect a satisfying life, happiness even, modern man looks in vain for the world to deliver on the promise. His daily life is often painted in rather drab colors or grays, sometimes in black. Since his actual existence falls far short of his hopes, he begins to feel mistreated, cheated of his due. He soon nurses a grudge against life. He starts to suspect, and is encouraged by ideologues to believe, that he is being deprived of his entitlement. Each new disappointment intensifies a feeling of betrayal. The time comes when society--indeed, all of human existence--appears to him unjust and oppressive, as if manipulated by sinister forces. Rousseau gives early and paradigmatic expression to the modern feeling of disappointment and defeat. Toward the end of his life he writes, "I was created to live, and I am dying without having lived." He bemoans having to give back to his maker a host of "frustrated good intentions."

Rousseau and the Dream of a World Remade

Swiss-French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was the founding father of Romanticism. Romanticism was a reaction to the so-called Enlightenment Project, which was a French school of rationalism in the 1600's and 1700's. Rationalism means any doctrine that teaches the supremacy of the human intellect over all other considerations. The French philosophes of the Enlightenment--Diderot, d'Alembert, La Mettrie, Condillac, Helvetius, d'Holbach, Turgot and Condorcet, among others--propagated "the rational society" as an ideal. But there was a limit to people's appetite for science, abstraction, and impersonal reason. Creeping dissatisfaction with sterile intellectualism burst out as a revolt: the Romantic movement. The Romantics rediscovered art, mystery, and irrationality. And they rediscovered emotions. In fact, they elevated emotion to a position it had never before held in the history of thought.

Rousseau paid much lip service to the emotion-soaked virtues of compassion, friendliness and loving kindness, but his own character was undisciplined and shockingly deficient in truthfulness, purity and honesty. Other philosophers of his time, who were sympathetic at first to his message, soon soured as they came to know the dark side of Rousseau's personality. Hume and Voltaire dismissed Rousseau as a monster. Diderot called him "deceitful, vain as Satan, ungrateful, cruel, hypocritical and full of malice." A woman with whom Rousseau was intimate summed him up as "an interesting madman."

About Rousseau, Paul Johnson writes in Intellectuals (1988), Chapter One: "He was the prototype of that characteristic figure of the modern age, the Angry Young Man." Plus, Rousseau was the first to combine all the salient characteristics of the modern Promethean: the assertion of his right to reject the existing order in its entirety; confidence in his capacity to refashion it from the bottom in accordance with principles of his own devising; belief that this could be achieved by the political process; and, not least, recognition of the huge part instinct, intuition and impulse play in human conduct. Rousseau's fascination with his own imagination is clear from the following excerpts of a letter he wrote at age fifty-five:

I love to dream, but freely allowing my mind to wander without enslaving myself to any subject...this idle and contemplative life...becomes to me daily more delicious; to wander alone endlessly and ceaselessly among the trees and rocks about my dwelling, to muse or rather to be as irresponsible as I please...finally to give myself up unconstrainedly to my fantasies...that, sir, is for me the supreme enjoyment...

"If we wish to understand the kind of outlook that began to replace classical and Christian civilization in the West," writes Professor Ryn, "we do well to study Rousseau."

He is convinced that he has seen more deeply into human nature than has any previous observer and that he has discovered the secret of happiness. But the world as it is is unfriendly to that truth and to him personally as the messenger. Especially in his later autobiographical writings, Rousseau expresses his deep hurt at being wronged by life in general and at having been "cast out" from society--this despite his being, by his own account, "the most sociable and loving of men." He has not been treated as he thinks befits a person of his deep insight and benevolence but feels himself the victim of cruel persecution. He takes to a paranoid extreme a dissatisfaction with life that was to become chronic in the modern world.

Rousseau became a prophet of unrequited daydreaming, of idle longings never to be fulfilled by appropriate work. He did not see a need to work, as he was convinced that what he longed for, he deserved.

Starting a powerful trend in Western culture, Rousseau attributes greater significance to life lived in the imagination than to the world of action. "I abstain from acting," Rousseau writes. He gets to taste real life in his pastoral reveries. Modern man's flight from the concrete practical responsibilities of the here and now, specifically, from the duty of making the best of self and caring for family and neighbor, assumes different forms depending on the personality of the dreamer. What is common and constant is the longing for glorious fulfillment, and the theme that some fundamental change is necessary for happiness to become possible: "Life would be so much better, if only. . . ." "If only I could get a fresh start, real life would finally begin."

Rousseau admitted no obligation to society, and demanded every obligation of society to him. Similarly, he admitted no obligation to history. To put it in the language of today, "History is just 'his story'." So-called facts of the past are less important than the possibilities of the future. The "truth" of such facts ties us to authorities, social systems and cultural traditions that we need to break free of in order to realize our dreams. We have every right to discard historical facts and truths as yesterday's baggage.

Rousseau's notion of a new society is based on an imagined human past when life was truly "natural." That past bears little resemblance to what is known of human history. Significantly, the author of the immensely influential Discourse on the Origins of Inequality tells his readers in one of the opening paragraphs that his "investigations" into the past "should not be taken for historical truths, but only for hypothetical and conditional reasonings." As if to concede that mankind's actual past does not support his assumptions about human nature, he writes, "Let us therefore begin by putting aside all the facts, for they have no bearing on the question." Rousseau's readers are invited to change their view of man and society in the light of his imaginative construction of the past, one that is unencumbered by demands for historical accuracy. Uncomfortable facts of human experience must not be allowed to interfere with beguiling possibilities.

He freely fashioned an account of the world around him from out of his own inner frustrations, and was convinced he had every right to impose his personal point of view everywhere.

Rousseau's deep alienation from existing society permeates all his writing. Already in the First Discourse he attacks the "vile and deceitful uniformity" that condemns man to "perpetual constraint." Everywhere society suppresses naturalness. "Without ceasing, politeness makes demands, propriety gives orders; without ceasing, common customs are followed, never one's own lights." Such comments are indistinguishable from Rousseau's ubiquitous autobiographical theme, in the words of The Reveries of the Solitary Walker: "I have never been truly fitted for social life, where there is nothing but irksome duty and obligation." Happiness is possible only if the individual can be free of restraint. He writes of a short period of happiness in his youth: "I was perfectly free, or better than free because I was subject only to my own affections and did only what I wanted to do." He remembers with joy "when I was myself, completely myself, unmixed and unimpeded, and when I can genuinely claim to have lived." Since being "unmixed" and free of all restraint is out of the question in the world of action known to man, Rousseau has constructed the sharpest possible contrast between happiness and what now exists.

Rousseau's ideal society is that of the Noble Savage, the pre-civilized man of his own imagination.

The new society about which Rousseau dreams will not receive its cohesion from difficult and protracted moral struggle and self-discipline on the part of citizens. That notion belongs to an ancient but wholly mistaken conception of human nature. The political order that Rousseau envisions will flow spontaneously from man's true nature once society has been cleansed of traditional structures and refounded on the basis of equality. Liberated, "unimpeded" nature will then shape society, as once it formed the happy but primitive state of nature. It will give the people a common purpose, a "general will." True popular rule is incompatible with constitutionalism. As the spontaneous force of nature, the general will can manifest itself only in uninhibited freedom.

Modernity as Daydream and Nightmare

"An interesting madman." After reading about Rousseau and his ideas, it is amazing that such a deranged personality could have the impact he did. But indeed the infantile dualism of fantasy and frustration he gave voice to nearly three centuries ago crops up again and again in our modern world. Ryn's portrayal of Soviet communism in the light of Rousseau's legacy is most instructive.

In our own century communism has inspired its followers with the dream of a classless and stateless society in which human beings will finally develop the full range of their potential in perfect freedom. The drudgery of boring, mechanical, routinized work will be overcome. But that wonderful future stands in sharp contrast to a darkly depressing present: ever worsening exploitation, greed, cruel competition, misery and alienation. So abominable is capitalist society that revolution is inevitable. In Marxism the conspirators against liberation are the owners of the means of production, the bourgeoisie. Needless to say, realizing the dream will necessitate suffering. Something so great cannot be born without birth pangs. The communists turn ruthlessly against opponents. "If you want to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs," says Lenin. The paranoia that forms an integral part of the manic- depressive dynamic leads to the discovery of enemies not just among the capitalists. Stalin comes to see enemies of the people everywhere, even within the Communist Party. Never-resting vigilance against counterrevolution sends millions to the Gulag. As is typical of the manic-depressive ideological movements, the inspiring vision is all benevolent concern for the downtrodden, but the actual practice is almost unbelievable inhumanity.

Arthur Koestler, writing in The God that Failed about his own engagement with communism during the 1930's, compares it to addiction.

The addiction to the Soviet myth is as tenacious and difficult to cure as any other addiction. After the Lost Weekend in Utopia the temptation is strong to have just one last drop, even if watered down and sold under a different label.

Koestler calls the different labels "Peace, Democracy, Progress or what you will." The vocabulary of persons who worship the avenging goddess of Social Issues is replete with words and phrases that hark back to the glory days of revolutionary communism: "empowerment" and "disempowerment", "chauvinism", "politically correct", and so on. (I've chosen those four terms deliberately; I have personally heard them used by ISKCON devotees, some of whom sit on the GBC.) A person who speaks in such terms is not necessarily a communist; he or she is probably just parroting what Professor Ryn calls "boosterish affirmations of human 'rights'". But this sort of talk does not come to grips with the real cause of suffering.

Western man has not learnt much from this large body of evidence, not even from the great man-made disasters of this century, including two world wars and the extermination of millions of human beings--disasters which can be shown to be substantially related to the moral-imaginative disposition under discussion. To head off such catastrophes in the future Western man resorts to boosterish affirmations of human "rights" and campaigns of "never again," while the deeper causes of the inhumanity and suffering are left largely unexplored and unattended. This failure to face uncomfortable facts bespeaks a stubborn willfulness and is striking proof of moral-imaginative escapism within the Western world. Our society remains strongly attracted to that temperament. Many continue to attribute moral superiority to people with ambitious and allegedly beautiful visions for remaking human existence.

What does Ryn mean by "moral-imaginitive"? The following sentences selected from his article bring out his intention.

What most deeply shapes typically modern man and guides even his more strictly philosophical efforts is a new way of imagining the world.

Examining the imaginative basis of theoretical formulations is always important to discerning their meaning.

Of special interest in the present context is that personal character gives human beings particular intuitive predilections. The transformation of the imagination that will be examined here is intimately connected with a transformation of the moral life, so that we may refer to the dynamic in question as moral-imaginative.


In other words, the modern moral-imaginitive tendency looks for moral values, or personal character, in the realm of imagination. You'll recall that premodern man understood that a moral process was going on at the back of his life: because there are moral failings in his past, at present he has problems. For example, one who honestly understands the law of karma will perceive the difficulties he is having at present as prarabdha, the full- blown result of his past sinful acts. "Man is the architect of his own destiny," Srila Prabhupada often said.

For European premodern man, human actions are measured by an objective moral standard taught in scripture and by wise men of old. Similarly, a follower of Vedic culture knows that sinful acts are deviations from the moral standard taught by sastra, sadhu and guru. The cure for the reactions of sinful acts (prarabdha-karma) is to strictly follow sastra, sadhu and guru. Sastra-caksusa, the eye of sastra, gives us the intellectual vision to analyze problems and find solutions. When the cognitive mind operates according to that vision the result is viveka, discrimination. Sripad Ramanujacarya states that viveka is one of the great blessings of bhakti-yoga upon the cognitive mind. But modern man is inclined to be guided by imagination.

So far in this series on psychology, imagination is a function of the mind we have only slightly touched upon. In Essay Two, part two, manaso-vrtti (the eleven material engagements of the mind) were explained. One of these is abhimana-vrtti, which is false identification (ahamkara) and misconception (Srila Prabhupada translates abhimana as "misconceptions" in Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.1.15). An example of misconception is Mayavadi philosophy, which Srila Prabhupada repeatedly argues is rooted in the false ego conception, not in the pure spiritual conception. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 6.134 states that to interpret sastra in the Mayavadi manner is gauna-vrtti. We may take this vrtti (mental function) to be a feature of abhimana-vrtti. Similarly, C.c. Madhya 6.134 uses the term gaunartha kalpana for the misconceptions of Mayavada. The word kalpana means "imagination." Kalpana is an acceptable method of knowledge for the Mayavadis, the philosophers of maya.

Sadakanam hitarthaya brahmano rupo-kalpanah. The Mayavadi philosophers, they say that kalpana, "You just imagine any form." [Lecture on Bhagavad- gita, Bombay, 9 April 1974]

As a function of abhimana-vrtti (the engagement of the mind in false ego) Mayavadis imagine themselves to be God and concoct imaginary meanings for the scriptures. At least traditional Indian Mayavada is restrained by sattvic discipline, but Western speculators, being extremely sinful, furiously expand nirvisesa and sunyavadi ideology in all manner of harmful ways.

Modern daydreamers inspired by Rousseau flee away from premodern man's humble admission that his problems are caused by his own moral failings. They flee toward a fantasy in which they themselves are new gods, pure and sinless. As gods, they have a moral right to remake the world as they like. But their daydream is threatened by a nightmarish conspiracy of anti-imaginitive traditionists who want to force upon the world the archaic superstition that morality is defined by the one Supreme Godhead, and not by so many gods newly hatched from the egg of speculation.

At its core, the modern moral-imaginative dynamic is a rebellion against whatever interferes with our favorite desires. It is an expression of a great self-indulgence. We do not want to rein in our desires, and the imagination helps us to justify living as we would like to live. The imagination assists us in disparaging and avoiding the nagging, onerous moral conscience that calls our desires into question.

The modern moral-imaginitive philosopy, like the Mayavada philosophy of India, aspires to 1) negate the realities of the human condition in the material world and to 2) propel any ordinary man to the position of God.

Besides moral conscience, the fundamental obstacle to realizing our fondest dreams is historically existing reality itself. The modern dynamic is a willful evasion of that obstacle. It tries to undo the real terms of human existence, including the need to accept our primary duties as human beings. A chief responsibility of the individual is not to inflict too much of his own conceit and arbitrariness on others. The longing for liberation here discussed is a desire for unlimited self-indulgence. Under the guise of pretty phrases about a better world, many are trying to throw off outer as well as inner checks. Some barely bother to deceive themselves regarding their innermost motives but advance their noble-sounding schemes in a blatant, cynical pursuit of power. At the extreme, the visionary wants the entire world to cater to his desires.

A Closer Look at Self-Esteem

We now return to our examination of the root cause of the different strains of depression (manic-depression, overt depression and covert depression). The phrase "low self-esteem" is in very wide use these days. Pick up any book about depression and you are almost certain to find low self-esteem cited as a main cause if not the main cause.

In this essay I want to touch on two components of real self-esteem. By component I mean simply, "If you want genuine self-esteem, you need these two ingredients in your life." They are not the only components, but they are essential. One is knowledge of the self as spirit soul. Now, this component is quite openly recognized in many of the present-day books on depression. A German Catholic monk named Anselm Gruen is the author of Building Self- Esteem (Crossroad, 2000); in Chapter One he writes that people need to get in touch with "the spiritual you," which he defines as "a self that can survive all external wounds and destruction because it comes from the hand of God."

In the Bhagavat Dharma Discourses given in New Vrndaban, September 1972, Srila Prabhupada said:

Bhagavata-dharma means that we have to transcend both the gross and subtle bcdy; come to the spiritual body. It is very scientific. And, as soon as we come to the spiritual body, mukta sanga, being freed from the gross and subtle body, we come to our real body, spiritual body, then actually we feel happiness and independence. So this process of Krsna consciousness is the highest benediction for the human society because it is trying to bring the human being to the platform of spiritual body. Transcending the gross and subtle material body.

The next component is likewise widely acknowledged--people need worthwhile life-goals, long-term and short-term. In How to Win Over Depression, Tim LaHaye writes:

Human beings are clearly goal-driven creatures; without goals we cease to struggle. That is the way our minds were created. But whenever we let a project become our primary goal, we inevitably experience a letdown after its attainment. For that reason we need to maintain long-range, as well as short- range, goals, frequently reassessing and modifying them. Extremely goal- conscious people are rarely depressed.

One self-pitying woman used to wail, "I have nothing to look forward to." Obviously she was spending too much time thinking about herself. A world so filled with moodly, problem-laden people documents the fact that too many individuals lack worthwhile goals.

In his discourses in New Vrndaban, Srila Prabhupada explained how bhagavat- dharma combines both components of self-esteem (realization of self as spirit soul, and occupational duties) for the satisfaction of Krsna.

The point is that if we want a successful life, peace of mind and satisfaction, we should concern ourselves with how to advance in devotional service to the Lord. This striving is actually the life of dharma. However, if one executes his duties but does not become Krsna conscious, then all his striving is in vain. "Duties (dharma) executed by men, regardless of occupation, are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Supreme Lord." [Bhag. 1.2.8]

In Laguna Beach on 26 July, 1975, Srila Prabhupada spoke thus about the mentality of the hippies.

In America the boys are rich man's son, and therefore so many boys are not working. They have got easy income, and they are not working. And because there is no proper work, they are becoming hippies. They are manufacturing independence. "Idle brain is a devil's workshop." This human psychology is the same everywhere.

Rousseau is often styled as an archetype of hippiedom. His father was a watchmaker who wooed and married a higher-class woman. The son imbibed from his father pretensions of aristocracy. As an adult, Rousseau often lived off of admiring femmes du monde who supported him in return for his sexual favors. Thus for much of his life he had "no proper work," and could devote himself to his favorite activity: dreaming. In spiritual matters, he professed a relationship with God in nature, and disdained the moral directives of both Christianity and civil law. Out of "the devil's workshop" of his idle imagination, Rousseau manufactured a philosophy of personal independence. His indolent self-absorption, his "arrogance of the self- taught," and his outrage at the unwillingness of others to fall in as much love with his ideas as he had, are flags of Rousseau's low self-esteem.

From Anselm Gruen's book we learn that some of the key indicators of low self- esteem are: an artificial grandiosity that is just a vain attempt to cover up inner feelings of inferiority; arrogance; and chronic dissatisfaction expressed as a drone of whining about the unfairness of life. The psychiatrist Terence Real, writing in I Don't Want to Talk About It (Fireside 1998), states that men often "medicate" themselves against depression by a raging illusion of inordinate power. "The grandiose entitlement to lash out at another human being rights their floundering sense of self-worth--and they strike." The imagination is obviously very much at work in these desperate compensations for low self-esteem. These compensations were very much evident in the life of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Loss of self-esteem means nothing other than the process of "conditioning" as explained in Essay Two. One is conditioned who forms a sense of identity that is less than pure spirit soul, and who devotes himself to life-values that are less than pure Krsna consciousness. He hopes this imaginary new self-image will yield greater fulfillment of self. But he is just cheating himself. He is letting himself down by lowering his sights from spirit to matter.

Imagination Addiction

As I mentioned earlier in this essay, there are so many addictions that one may accept in trying to fill a heart made empty by lack of Krsna consciousness. The "Rousseau type" of addiction to a political remaking of the world is just one. The many addictions that covert depressives resort to are classified by some psychiatrists under two headings: merging and elevating.

In Chapter Three of I Don't Want to Talk About It, Terence Real defines these two kinds of addiction thusly. In merging,

the usual boundaries around the self are relaxed or even dissolved, causing feelings of boundlessness and abundance. In psychoanalysis this experience is called "oceanic bliss." The relaxation of self-boundaries lies at the core of intoxication with drugs like alcohol, morphine, and heroin. Various forms of bingeing--eating, spending, sex--can provide this same sense of expansion. Such ecstacy can also be achieved in love addiction, where the love object is felt to be godlike and thus fusion with that person brings rapture.

In elevation,

the man's sense of power becomes inflated, so that he feels supremely gifted, special, even godlike.

You'll recall that I mentioned earlier a bond of similarity between the covert depressive and the manic-depressive. Real explains that similarity thus.

The purest form of this type of intoxication is mania. The elevating intoxication in covert depression differs from mania primarily in that mania requires no external object to trigger the grandiose defense against shame. While the covertly depressed man must consume something or do something to shift the state of his self-esteem, a man with manic-depressive illness flips back and forth between grandiosity in the manic phase and shame in the depressed phase at the seeming whim of the disease. Manic-depression is otherwise simply a more extreme version of elevation in covert depression, in that both rely on the rush of inflated self-esteem to ward off depression.

As examples of elevating addiction, Real lists gambling, sex addiction, child molestation, wife battering and political torture. Restated, the difference between merging and elevating is that the first entails a fusion, a oneness with the object of addiction, and the second entails addiction to lording over, controlling, and exploiting.

It is quite remarkable that these two overarching categories of addiction show such congruence with the mentalities of karmis and jnanis. Karmis want elevation, jnanis want to merge. Don't forget, though, that karma and jnana are Vedic paths of piety, whereas the modern addictions to elevation and merging are sinful.

Accepting Professor Ryn's argument that modernity is manic-depressive, we ought to look at the problem of addiction, which plays a big role in depressive behavior.

From the "Stanton Peele Addiction Web Site" on the Internet:

...we need no longer think of addiction exclusively in terms of drugs. We are concerned with the larger question of why some people seek to close off their experience through a comforting, but artificial and self-consuming relationship with something external to themselves. In itself, the choice of object is irrelevant to this universal process of becoming dependent. Anything that people use to release their consciousness can be addictively misused.

Our analysis of addiction starts with the addict's low opinion of himself and his lack of genuine involvement in life, and examines how this malaise progresses into the deepening spiral which is at the center of the psychology of addiction. The person who becomes an addict has not learned to accomplish things he can regard as worthwhile, or even simply to enjoy life. Feeling incapable of engaging himself in an activity that he finds meaningful, he naturally turns away from any opportunities to do so. His lack of self-respect causes this pessimism. A result, too, of the addict's low self-esteem is his belief that he cannot stand alone, that he must have outside support to survive. Thus his life assumes the shape of a series of dependencies, whether approved (such as family, school, or work) or disapproved (such as drugs, prisons, or mental institutions).

There is a paradoxical cost extracted, however, as fee for this relief from consciousness. In turning away from his world to the addictive object, which he values increasingly for its safe, predictable effects, the addict ceases to cope with that world. As he becomes more involved with the drug or other addictive experience, he becomes progressively less able to deal with the anxieties and uncertainties that drove him to it in the first place. He realizes this, and his having resorted to escape and intoxication only exacerbates his self-doubt. When a person does something in response to his anxiety that he doesn't respect (like getting drunk or overeating), his disgust with himself causes his anxiety to increase. As a result, and now also faced by a bleaker objective situation, he is even more needful of the reassurance the addictive experience offers him. This is the cycle of addiction. Eventually, the addict depends totally on the addiction for his gratifications in life, and nothing else can interest him. He has given up hope of managing his existence; forgetfulness is the one aim he is capable of pursuing wholeheartedly.

This explanation of addiction is very helpful. But I think it does not put its finger on the core problem. It argues that addiction is excessive dependence upon something in the external world. From all we have seen from Srila Prabhupada's books in this series of essays, we must conclude that addiction begins within the mind. In short, before the mind connects to anything outside, addiction is a spiritually unhealthy dependence upon the imagination, or mental speculation.

"These living entities," Krsna says, "They are My part and parcels. But foolish rascals, they're creating concoction, mental speculation, to become happy." Manah sasthanindriyani. And according to their mentality they are getting a different type of body, indriyani. ...So indriyani. Manah sasthanindriyani. First of all with subtle mind we create a different type of indriya. If we live like dogs and hogs, then that mentality will give me similar senses, the body of a dog and hog. And we change our taste according to dog and hog. Similarly, we can change our taste according to the body of demigods. But the subject matter of tasting or enjoyment is the same. Eating, sleeping, sex and defense. [Bhagavad-gita lecture, 20 June 1976 in Toronto]

We manufacture plans by our mental concoction. That should be given up. Yada prajahati kaman sarvan. All kinds of mental concoction, mental speculation, should be given up. That is the science. That is the beginning of our spiritual life, that "I shall not use my mind for my activities. I shall wait for the direction from the higher authority, supreme consciousness. Then I shall act." [Bhagavad-gita lecture, 27 April 1966 in New York]

In the early days in New York, Srila Prabhupada used to sometimes quote a line from Shakespeare:

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact.