External reality and sense perception in Vedic philosophy

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    Rekha Shastry

    Hare Krishna Prabhu

    A couple of years ago, I was experimenting with a simple but powerful tantric technique from Vignan Bhairava Tantra. It involves recalling the entire events of the day with as much details as possible every day before falling asleep. For a twist you could also do it in reverse, i.e start with latest event and proceed through the day up to the moment you wake up from the bed. I did the reverse one continuously for 40 days. It was a time consuming exercise and sometimes I would take take 2 to 3 hours. This technique is used to find the center of one’s being. As I started doing everyday a few changes started happen in my perception. Appearances became more colorful. Memory also started to improve. Slowly the mind could recall and the senses could recreate everyday objects, people, sky, sun, water and many more things in much more detail. Even the dreams started becoming colorful and I could remember the dreams better. During these days, I was on a vacation as well and I was on top of a hill and crossing the bridge on a river and usually these places will be vast and extended to kilometers. Even on these days I continued with technique and as usual the senses would recreate the events of the day. Exposure to these places improved the sense of space, I no longer was just restricted to body but my being extended to whole of space. I did the recreation with the other senses too but sense of sight was more emphasized.

    It was during the same time that I understood the so called hard problem of consciousness in western science and how current scientific theories cannot explain qualia or sensations. For me one of the things that captivated the most since childhood was vision or how this vista of colorful experience was created and I could easily make out no explanation in biology or neuroscience could explain it. Eventually I came across your books Is the apple really red and Sankhya and Science wherein for the first time I found something useful and relatable and was ecstatic that there was material that discussed from sense perception and all the way to Godhead.

    Please forgive for my lack of brevity Prabhu but I felt it would be easier to explain my queries if I shared my prior experiences first.

    Now, I still have some gaps in understanding sense perception under the Vedic model. With my eyes closed  too (i.e. cut off from the external world) the senses can recreate the world but not detailed and with eyes open the same senses are creating but now with the external information. Now with eyes open it feels like a projection but something is coming in too, i.e. it is bidirectional. What is the nature of the information that is coming in? In one of the forum discussion you write,

     It is not an electromagnetic wave, traveling at some speed of light, causing an electron excitement, which triggers an electrical current, which modifies some molecules, etc. to ultimately become a color, shape, and size in our brain (which factually no one can explain today).

    Even I had rejected this explanation too but I couldn’t replace with an alternative. The alternative in the Vedic model is that the external world is objectification of sensual properties and in the case of sight, the vedic element Fire is the objectification of sense of sight. What I could make out of this is that instead of trying to explain qualities with scientific fictions that modern science uses we define matter based on our qualitative experience. Now the external reality exists objectively (because there are many observers other than me) but can’t be defined because it’s meaning depends on higher material realities like senses etc. Is my understanding correct or have I misconstrued?

    Please forgive me Prabhu but you are the only Acharya that I know and I humbly ask you to point out any misunderstandings I have and I will sincerely work on it. Thank you.

    Ashish Dalela

    Everything is already within you. Everything that you see right now, have seen in the past, or will see in the future is already in you. When you “see” something, it is produced from the senses. During dreaming it is produced without an external trigger. By various techniques, it can manifest in some order. During waking, it is triggered from the sense, due to the presence of an external object. But the external object can be a rope and the image triggered in the senses can be a snake.

    So, dreaming (seeing a world that you cannot see if you had your eyes open), hallucination (such as by pressing your eyelids), misperception (seeing a rope as a snake), and correct perception (seeing a rope as a rope) are all explained in the same way: Something is manifested from your senses. To be manifested, it has to be eternally present in the senses. This eternal presence of the effect in the cause is called Satkāryavāda. This is the technical name for “everything is already in you”. It means—sat (exists eternally), kārya (the effect), vāda (the doctrine of).

    The whole world, this entire universe, trillions of universes, and all the spiritual worlds are already in you. They are all compressed in your senses. And when you see something, one of the many things compressed in your senses is expanded and manifested from the senses. It can be expanded during dreams, waking, hallucinations, misperceptions, and so on. It is all pratyakśa or direct observation. Many things in you are so compressed, that you cannot see them. One such compressed thing is Krishna. He is also compressed inside you, but you cannot see.

    The process of purification of the senses is to compress everything else and uncompress Krishna. After that, whatever you see will be Krishna only. You may see a rope, and it will be seen as Krishna. It will be called misperception. You may press your eyes, and it will be seen as Krishna, and it will be called a hallucination. You may go to sleep and you will see Krishna, and it will be called dreaming. You may wake up and still see Krishna and it will be called correct perception.

    When everything is compressed and only Krishna is seen, then the distinction between correct perception, incorrect perception, hallucination, and dreaming disappears, because it is all true, and yet it may be a dream, hallucination, or misperception. But it is all correct perception because there is nothing else.

    Such a perfect soul is called Krishna Conscious because he is not conscious of anything else. Krishna Consciousness means always being conscious of Krishna alone. Prabhupada coined the term “Krishna Conscious” and in the initial days after forming ISKCON, he was asking his Gaudiya Math godbrothers in India what they thought of the term. Nobody said anything much. Then he stopped asking.

    The sum and substance of all philosophy are that God is in everything, and everything is in God. We are part of God, and God is part of us. So, we make the part the whole and sole, and then God makes us His whole and sole. When Krishna danced with the gopis, every gopi saw Him dancing with herself. So, Krishna became the whole and sole of each gopi. Sole means that she sees nothing else. And the whole means that she saw Krishna completely. Krishna was not divided into parts or conflicted about which gopi to be with. His full attention was on each gopi.

    Some gopis could not go dancing with Krishna because their family members restrained them. They left their body and danced with Krishna with the subtle body of senses. They did not die, but they fell unconscious. But they are not actually unconscious. They are just not conscious of their body and this world. They are conscious only of Krishna. Krishna is also the whole and sole for them. Sole means that they don’t want anything other than Krishna. And whole means that they want to know Krishna fully and not partially. They are not interested in money, power, fame, knowledge, and so on, which are partial aspects of Krishna. They want the whole, and they solely focus on the whole. Hence it is Krishna Consciousness.

    Krishna consciousness means the sole focus on the whole. And that whole and sole are there in every part, including your senses. Krishna is inside each soul, just like color is in each eye. When the soul is purified, then Krishna springs out of the soul like water from a fountain. This is called sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah. When you produce various sounds, all those sounds are hidden inside your tongue. Right now there is some effort required in manifesting that sound from the tongue. That is because the tongue has been wagging in so many other ways for so many reasons. But if Krishna is whole and sole, then the tongue will automatically produce the sound of His name. That automatic production is called svayam eva sphuraty which means “automatically springing out” like water spouting from a fountain. That is whole and sole. It means that the tongue doesn’t wag for anything other than Krishna. And it wags endlessly for Krishna. So, if the tongue only wags for Krishna and always for Him, then it is a Krishna Conscious tongue. In the same way, everything can be made Krishna Conscious slowly by a spiritual practice.

    Krishna inside you is not an illusory Krishna. It is the same Krishna as outside. So, when the whole reality is compressed inside every part of reality, then, in the same way, many parts are compressed in every part. It is just a question of which part is uncompressed and manifested. Even lies, deceit, malice, hypocrisy, etc. are compressed in every person. So, one has to compress and hide many things, and uncompress and manifest the other things. When we focus on Krishna, then everything else gets compressed and hidden away. Hence it is said: Krishna is like the sun and māyā is like darkness; where there is the sun of Krishna there cannot be māyā because the darkness is the negation of light. Māyā is still present in a hidden form within us, but it has been compressed and hidden, not to be seen. But the moment you forget Krishna, some type of māyā will grab you immediately.

    So, just chant Hare Krishna, and everything will become clear slowly. You may not know the name by which it is called, such as Satkāryavāda. You may not know that this thing is called out in some verses as svayam eva sphuraty. But you will know the meaning of all these words. That meaning is Krishna Conscious. It means Krishna is the whole and sole. He will be with you even when you sleep. He will not leave you alone. You cannot have “me-time” after that. But it is better than “me-time”.

    Even the self is not fully realized other than in relationship to Krishna because there are so many aspects of the self that are manifest only in relation to Krishna. The greatest capacity to love is only manifest in a relationship with Krishna. We cannot love ourselves as much as we can love Krishna. We don’t know that right now. We think that we cannot love anyone more than ourselves. That is false. We can love Krishna more than we can love ourselves. So we discover more about ourselves when we discover Krishna. Hence, Krishna Consciousness is a more complete self-realization. Every other type of self-realization is partial and incomplete.

    Rekha Shastry

    Thank you Prabhu. I took some time in contemplating on what you wrote and studied relevant posts on Satkaryavada.

    Everything is already within you. Everything that you see right now, have seen in the past, or will see in the future is already in you.

    The whole world, this entire universe, trillions of universes, and all the spiritual worlds are already in you. They are all compressed in your senses. And when you see something, one of the many things compressed in your senses is expanded and manifested from the senses.

    The process of purification of the senses is to compress everything else and uncompress Krishna. After that, whatever you see will be Krishna only

    These pointers was very much helpful. I will continue to improve my chanting.

    Hare Krishna

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