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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Suhotra Dasa Tapovanachari > Spiritual Disaster of Material Attachment

The Spiritual Disaster of Material Attachment:

                                                                                    An Echo from Ancient Greece

by Suhotra Dasa Tapovanachari




"Look upon this Oedipus, he who knew the famous

riddle and was the most successful of men.  Who

among the citizens did not look upon him with envy.

Into what a great wave of disasters he has crashed.

So that, looking at that final day, count no mortal

happy until he has passed the limit of his life

suffering no pain."


                              --*Oedipus the King*

                                 by Sophocles




     The nature of man and his struggle with ignorance, and the

disastrous truth that ignorance obscures, is the theme of the tale of

King Oedipus related by the classical Greek playwright Sophocles.  Even

now, almost two and a half millenia after it was written, the dramatic

insight of *Oedipus Tyrannus* (Oedipus the King) cannot fail to

fascinate the reader.  Sigmund Freud wrote, "In the very text of

Sophocles' tragedy there is an unmistakable reference to the fact that

the Oedipus legend had its source in dream-material of immemorial

antiquity . . ." The reason *Oedipus Tyrannus* remains so gripping,

Freud believed, is that Sophocles translated it from the inchoate but

enduring language of the *psyche*, the "voice within us which is

prepared to acknowledge the compelling power" of this tragedy.


     Oedipus was found by a shepherd on the slopes of Mount Citharon as

an infant, with his ankles bound together (thus he was named Oedipus,

which means "swollen-foot").  King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth

adopted the foundling, raising him as a noble prince.  As Polybus told

him nothing of his real origins, he believed himself to be the king's

son and heir.  One day Oedipus heard a rumor that he was not the real

son of the Corinthian ruler.  The young man was so stubbornly devoted

to the truth that even after his father's assurances that he was indeed

his son, Oedipus went to the Oracle at Delphi to settle his doubts.

However, instead of shedding light on his past, the oracle predicted a

terrible future for Oedipus: he would kill his father and take his

mother as his wife.


     To avert the possibility of his committing such crimes, Oedipus

did not return to Corinth.  During his travels he met a party of men at

a crossroads.  One of them, a dignitary in a carriage, hit him as he

passed by.  A fight resulted.  Oedipus, taking the party to be a band

of robbers, slew the man in the carriage and all of his followers but

one.  He continued wandering until he came to Thebes (the modern

Thebai, not far from Athens).  Thebes was beset by the Sphinx, a

monster with the head and breast of a woman, the body of a lion and the

wings of a bird.  Crouched on a rock outside the city, she demanded

that travellers approaching the city answer her riddle, "What has four

feet in the morning, two at noon and three at night?"  All those who

could not answer she killed.  When Oedipus replied, "The answer is man,

who crawls on four limbs as a baby, walks upright on two as an adult,

and walks with the aid of a stick in old age," the Sphinx killed

herself.  The grateful Thebans made Prince Oedipus their king, since

the ruler of the city, Laius, had been murdered during a recent

journey.  Oedipus took Jocasta, the wife of the dead king, as his own

wife.  Jocasta bore him two sons and a daughter, Antigone.


     Thereafter a plague struck Thebes, blighting all the edible

plants and sickening the cows and the women.  To uncover the cause of

the plague, Oedipus sent his brother-in-law Creon to Delphi to consult

the oracle.  Creon returned with the disturbing news that the plague

struck Thebes because the city is giving shelter to the murderer of the

previous king, Laius.  Oedipus immediately launched an investigation,

threatening anyone who had aided the killer or might be concealing the

truth with severe punishment.  He cursed whomever the murderer might be

to suffer a miserable life.  At first he suspected that Creon killed

King Laius, because Creon would have inherited the Theban throne had

not Oedipus arrived to defeat the Sphinx.  But as he compiled the

testimony of various witnesses, Oedipus soon learned that King Laius

was killed at a crossroads by someone unknown.  Then he learned that

Queen Jocasta had given a son to Laius years before.  But because of a

prophecy that this child would kill his own father, the king abandoned

the baby on the slopes of Mount Citharon.


     A messenger arrived from Corinth to inform Oedipus that King

Polybus had died.  The messenger also revealed that Oedipus was not the

real son of Polybus, but was found on the slopes of Mount Citharon.

Hearing this, Jocasta begged Oedipus to stop his investigation, and

when he refused she took her own life, though the reason for her

suicide was not yet clear to Oedipus.  Finally, the single survivor of

Laius' travel party testified that it was Oedipus himself who had

killed Laius, and that the son of Laius abandoned on Mount Citharon had

been adopted by King Polybus.  The disasterous truth was at last

revealed: Oedipus was the murderer of his father and had committed

incest with his mother.  Utterly disgusted with himself, Oedipus put

out his own eyes and went into exile.




A spiritual analysis of the Oedipus tragedy


     Sophocles presented *Oedipus Tyrannus* as a drama of human

responsibility and divine omnipotence.  Sigmund Freud called this "an

uncomprehending secondary elaboration of the material." He analyzed the

story in his own materialistic way, known to every educated person as

Freud's theory of the Oedipus Complex. We propose that a Krsna

conscious analysis of Sophocles' play is more in keeping with

Sophocles' intent than Freud's.  The reader interested in evidence

of the many "parallels between Greek and Indian eschatology" that tend

to support our way of analysis is invited to consult *Early Greek

Philosophy and the Orient* by Oxford scholar M.L.  West.


     Our analysis comprises six points.


     1) Oedipus represents every soul covered by ignorance.  Although

        he was apparently wise and good, due to an illusion unbeknownst

        to him he was actually foolish and wretched.


     2) Oedipus was cast away by his father because he was fated to

        be his father's rival.  Similarly, the Supreme Father places

        the souls who intend to usurp His position within the material



     3) In ignorance, Oedipus killed his own father and took his mother

        as his wife.  Similarly, the souls in Maya kill God

        consciousness with atheistic, materialistic ideologies.  Having

        disposed of God, they then claim His *sakti* (feminine material

        energy) as their own to enjoy as they like.  Since the souls

        receive their bodies from the material energy, she is actually

        their mother.


     4) Jocasta begged Oedipus to stop his investigation.  Similarly,

        whenever an ignorant soul comes in contact with the truth, Maya

        attempts to drag him back into ignorance by appealing, "where

        ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise."  Jocasta's suicide

        represents the end that spiritual knowledge spells for illusory

        material happiness.


     5) The tragedy of Oedipus gets its psychological power from a

        hidden truth about every one of us: that in a profound

        philosophical sense, we are guilty of patricide and incest with

        our mother.


     6) Oedipus' blinding himself represents the penance of spiritual

        awakening.  In order to see spiritually, the material eyes (or

        the science of ignorance that hides rather than reveals the

        science of truth) must be renounced.



The psychopathology of lust


     "There must be a voice within us which is prepared to acknowledge

the compelling power of fate in the *Oedipus*,"  wrote Freud.  "His

fate moves us only because it might have been our own, because the

oracle laid upon us before our birth the very curse which rested upon

him."  The curse laid upon us before our birth is lust, which, as Krsna

explains in *Bhagavad-gita 3.39, is the eternal enemy of the soul.

Lust covers our innate spiritual knowledge and impells us to perform

the depraved acts even without our realizing it.  According to Vedic

injunction, *matrvat para-daresu*: every woman other than a man's

lawful wife is his mother, and every man other than a woman's lawful

husband is her son.  Most people in the world today, of course, do not

view one another in this way, which is a Vedic method of purifying

human relationships of illicit attractions.  Fated by the sinful

*karma* of previous lifetimes, born in a society ignorant of Vedic

principles, countless modern Oedipuses are driven by lust into the

sexual embrace of their mothers every day.


     Is there any wonder, then, that all is not right today in the

minds of mankind?  The *Bhagavad-gita* defines an unbalanced mind as

one that swings between the dualities of *sukha* (material pleasure)

and *dukha* (material distress).  As much as the mind lusts after

*sukha*, it must proportionately suffer *dukha*.  As we see

practically: the same world media that daily seduces us with the

genital character role model, likewise daily shocks us with real-life

sex-horror stories--a debauched, mentally unstable mother drowns her

two children; a psychopathic man murders a series of sex partners and

keeps their dead bodies in his closet for necrophilia; and so on.

These modern true-life tragedies, like the ancient Oedipus tale,

dramatize externally the private hell of our own uncontrolled minds.  A

voice within us acknowledges the compelling power of the fate of all

such victims of lust, for we share their fate to one degree or another.


     Krsna says to Uddhava, *durjayanam aham manah*: "Of things that

are difficult to conquer, I am the mind."  (*Bhag*. 11.16.11)  And

to Arjuna He says, "For one who has failed to conquer the mind, that

mind is his greatest enemy." (*B.g*. 6.6)  We are fated by lust to

make an enemy of our real father.  He, Manomaya, the Lord of the

Mind, therefore defeats us *by our own ignorance*.  What is that

ignorance?  It is, again, the subjective-idealist mistake of

thinking *I am the mind*.  To think "I am the mind" is to think "I

am Krsna, the controller of matter."  Yet by thinking "I am the

mind" we come under the control of matter.  And thus we suffer.


                         Shifting the burden


     The science of ignorance, psychology, has no solution for

suffering, because it is based upon the same misidentification with

the mind that causes the suffering in the first place.  The mind is

many-branched, constantly manufacturing newer and newer

speculations.  Following the ways of the mind, psychology is

likewise many-branched.  The school Freud founded, psychoanalysis,

is only one of at least seven schools of psychology, and even

the Freudian school itself is now many-branched.  Among the schools

and their subdivisions there is no overarching theory about human

suffering, its causes, or its treatment.  One school says suffering

is caused by biochemistry.  Another school says it is caused by

social factors.  Still another school says all suffering can be

traced to childhood.  But whatever the theory may be, the

prescription is *never* the renunciation of the idea that "I am the

mind," and *never* the renunciation of lust.  Psychology is the

science of ignorance precisely *because it attempts to shift the

burden of attachment from one material object to another*.  A

typical example from Freudian psychology would be of a woman who has

difficulties in her marriage because of an unconscious attachment to

her father; her analyst would try to help her shift her attachment

from her father to her husband.  But this is like shifting the

weight of a heavy load from one shoulder to another.  Initially

there may be relief.  But eventually the load will again become too

troublesome to bear.


     Still, renunciation seems too extreme for most people.  King

Oedipus' dreadful renunciation of his ignorant, wretched mode of

existence may appear to us to be a cure more drastic than the disease.

But renunciation is likely to be a drastic, forced affair so long as

one remains part of an ignorant society.  Wherever ignorance

predominates is called hell (cf *Bhag.* 11.19.43).  In the hellish

association of people who are addicted to bad habits, about the most a

sober-minded person can do to renounce bad habits is to forcibly

repress desire.  Such repression itself is hellish and ultimately



                        Join the society of love


     Krsna tells Uddhava, *sat-sangah sarva-sangapaho*, "by associating

with My pure devotees one can destroy one's attachment for all objects

of material sense gratification." (*Bhag.*11.12.2)  The society of

devotees cultivates the mode of goodness by the method Krsna calls

*mat-arthesv anga-cesta*, "the offering of ordinary bodily activities

to Me." (*Bhag.*11.19.22)  This is *varnasrama-dharma*, by which the

modes of passion and ignorance are overthrown, pacifying the physical

and mental instincts.


      But more than this, Krsna's devotees constantly hear and chant

about Him, worship Him, praise Him, serve Him, bow down before Him,

worship His devotees, see Him in all living beings, engage their words

in describing Him, offer their minds to Him, renounce all material

desires, wealth, sense pleasure and material happiness for Him, and

perform all kinds of pious works for Him.  By all these activities, the

fully surrendered devotees *automatically develop love for Krsna*.


     How can it be so easy to develop love for Krsna?  The answer is

very simple: the true object of every soul's pure attraction is Krsna,

who loves all His parts and parcels so strongly that He stays in their

hearts even if they forget Him.  Now, although Krsna loves both the

liberated and conditioned souls equally and for all time, it is up to

us who are conditioned to learn how to favorably reciprocate with His

love.  That is why we must associate with His pure devotees.  Krsna

tells Uddhava that repeatedly, age after age, demons, birds, beasts,

celestial demigods and fallen, low-grade human beings achieve His

eternal abode simply by associating with His devotees and learning from

them how to love the Lord in return for His love.  (*Bhag.* 11.12.3,4)

Even the Personified Vedas, who are liberated authorities of Vedanta

philosophy, aspire to love Krsna in the manner of the *gopis*, His

spiritual consorts headed by Srimati Radharani, who are embraced by His

mighty serpentine arms.  Krsna explains why as follows.


"My dear Uddhava, just as great sages in *yoga* trance merge

into self-realization, like rivers merging into the ocean,

and are thus not aware of material names and forms,

similarly, the *gopis* of Vrndavana were so completely

attached to Me within their minds that they could not think

of their own bodies, or of this world, or of their future

lives.  Their entire consciousness was simply bound up in Me.

All those hundreds of thousands of *gopis*, understanding Me

to be their most charming lover and ardently desiring Me in

this way, were unaware of My actual position.  Yet by

intimately associating with Me, the *gopis* attained Me, the

Supreme Absolute Truth." (*Bhag.* 11.12.8,9)


     The trance of *yoga* is called *samadhi*, a word formed from

*sama* (sameness) and *dhi* (intelligence).  Great sages like the

Personified Vedas find the Lord in the Heart through intelligence

purified by disciplined meditation and exhaustive study of the Vedas.

Like a river flowing into the sea, the consciousness of the *yogi*

follows the course of pure intellect to attain the same transcendental

nature as that of the Lord, beyond all material conceptions.  But Krsna

says that the *gopis* surpassed all material conceptions simply by

their pure love, even though they did not know, as do the Vedas,

Krsna's position as the Supreme Absolute Truth.  The Vedas consider the

*gopis* to be the superior transcendentalists because even without

scholarship, austerity and meditation, they are yet most dear to the

Lord.  In *Srimad-Bhagavatam* 11.14.20, Lord Krsna explains why.


"My dear Uddhava, the unalloyed devotional service rendered

to Me by My devotees brings Me under their control.  I cannot

be thus controlled by those engaged in mystic yoga, Sankhya

philosophy, pious work, Vedic study, austerity or



     Great sages who after many lifetimes of effort come to the end of

all knowledge (Vedanta), understanding that the Absolute Truth is the

supreme lovable object, then put knowledge aside to serve the lotus

feet of the Lord, following the example of the best of the

transcendentalists, who have pure love for Krsna.  In this way, Krsna

becomes theirs.


            The original sex psychology, and its perversion


     The original and pure sex psychology is called *adi-rasa*, the

emotional life of conjugal love exchanged between Krsna and the

*gopis* in the spiritual world.  Although the cultivation of the

intellect through Vedanta leads one to this conclusion, intellectualism

must be surpassed in order to actually enter into *adi-rasa*.  It is

the supreme state of spiritual joy.


     Atheistic intellectuals like Freud, on the other hand, lead people

in the opposite direction, to the conclusion that genital-love is the

original psychology.  Genital-love is the *adi-rasa* pervertedly

projected upon the cinema-screen of the false ego.  The conditioned

souls sit in the darkness of ignorance, like persons in a darkened

cinema house, and view the illusions of lust, the supreme state of

material joy.  Just as Vedantists abandon the cultivation of pure

intellect to enter into the *adi-rasa*, so do the materialists abandon

the intellectualism of atheistic thinkers to immerse themselves further

and further in illicit sex.


     For instance, in Freud's so-called classical theory of

psychoanalysis, homosexuality is regarded as a mental disease.  But the

consequence of Freud's philosophy, which focuses the mind on genital-

love as the all and everything of life, is that the mind of modern man

has become so increasingly overwhelmed by lust that the line dividing

normal and abnormal sexual behavior keeps moving in the direction of

the abnormal.  And because lust, as Krsna says, is all-devouring and

never satisfied (*B.g.* 3.37,39), there is no limit to extremes of

sexual behavior that may be someday included as normal behavior.  Now,

at the end of the twentieth century in the Western world, homosexuality

has become largely acceptable.  If we are so gauche as to declare in a

public forum that homosexuality is a mental disease, we can expect

vehement objections to be raised.  Pederasty is still forbidden.  But

there is a movement that argues for the its legalization.  Pederasty

was quite legal in ancient Greece and Rome, so from a historical

standpoint, its becoming socially acceptable in our time is not

inconceivable.  Lust steadily erodes all moral restraints; because

modern mundane intellectuals promote lust, society has become

increasingly immoral.  The atheistic thinkers equate immorality with

freedom.  But this freedom is a dangerous illusion.


     When lust is unbound in the human form of life, the soul becomes

bound to take births in lower forms, that just befit its lusty

proclivities.  Material nature provides bodies to suit every kind of

sexual taste.  Earthworms have both male and female sex organs and mate

bisexually.  Certain flowers produce an imitation form of a female

insect, which attracts the male of that species to sexually enjoy the

imitation female.  The flowers are thus pollinated by the insects

flying from flower to flower.  This is simultaneously sex between two

species, and sex with an artificial prop.  There is no end to the

variety of sex life in lower species.  This is where atheistic theories

of sex psychology inevitable lead.  This is the greatest disaster for

the soul.  To avoid falling victim to perverted sexual psychology and

thus suffering untold births in degraded bodies, we must renounce







His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, *Bhagavad-gita as

it is*


Freud, Sigmund: *The Interpretation of Dreams*, 1900


Roochnik, David: *The Tragedy of Reason*


West, M.L.: *Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient*, 1971