Modes and Methods of Meditation

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  • #13221
    Mayank Sehgal
    Participant

    Hi Ashish,

    I hope you will be able to shed some light on modes and methods of meditation

    As there are numerous ways adviced in spiritual /relegious practices to meditate both personal and impersonal, though the seeming purpose of all of them is to elevate the soul

    How do we know which one to commit to ?

    Will be  grateful if you share your thoughts

    Regards,

    Mayank

    #13222
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    In Vedic philosophy, the term “meditation” doesn’t exist. The term used often is “yoga”. Yoga comes from the root “yuj” which means to join. Joining requires two things, and by joining, two things do not “merge”. They are however united.

    The basic principle of unity is that between whole and part. When the part doesn’t work in concert with the whole, then it is “disunited” although the part is actually not separate from the whole. This “disunity” is just like an employee in a company who doesn’t do the work in the company’s best interest. He might do other things which should not be done or work against the company’s interest. He is still a part of the company, but still not “united” with the company. So, unity with the company simply means that the employee starts working in the company’s interest. Then, we can say that the part is united with the whole. That union is also called “yoga”.

    Now, working in the interest of the company can be divided into three parts. First, each person must have some role in the organization. Second, to fulfill that role, he must have some abilities. Third, to use those abilities, we must enjoy doing that work. If we don’t enjoy that work, then even if we have the ability, we will not do the work. Then, if we want to do it, but we don’t have the ability, again, we will try to do the work, but we will fail. Finally, if we don’t have a role, then our work is not well-defined, so we cannot use the ability, and we cannot enjoy. Therefore, there are three things–a role, an ability, and a desire. Yoga can pertain to each of these.

    In the perfectional state, we have a well-defined role, the ability to fulfill that role, and the desire to use the ability. In the imperfect state, either we don’t have a role, or the ability, or the desire. To transform the imperfect state into the perfect state, we have to begin with desire. If we get the desire, then we can acquire the ability, and then we can find the role. Without desire, nothing else works. Therefore, the ultimate aim of all yoga is to change our desire, or “purify” the desire. If that desire is purified, then a suitable role and the ability suited to the role is easily identified.

    The only additional idea required is the definition of whole and part. God is the whole, and the soul is the part. So, the perfect soul serves God just like a hand or leg works in the interest of the body. This is not a perfect analogy, but for present understanding, it suffices. A more perfect understanding requires many additional complexities, which I’m ignoring for now. The basic principle of yoga is that the soul’s desire must be purified to serve God. When that desire is purified, a suitable set of abilities and a role suited to that ability is also identified. Those things follow naturally after the desire is purified. The preliminary step is to purify the desire.

    Now, this desire can be purified in many ways. It can be purified by working for God in this world, which is called karma-yoga. It can be purified by studying books about God, which is called jnana-yoga. It can be purified by worshipping a deity or chanting God’s names, called bhakti-yoga. And it can be purified by concentrating the mind on the form of God present in our heart, which is called dhyana-yoga.

    There are many mechanisms to purify our desire, but they have a common and singular purpose. In the perfectional state, there is the perfect concentration of the mind on God. There is perfect knowledge of God. All one’s work is performed only as a service to God. And God is also served personally. So, in the perfectional state, all four kinds of yoga are naturally achieved. Hence, there is no contradiction between these yoga either in terms of their goal or in terms of the ultimate state.

    However, it is also true that different abilities are required to practice different kinds of yoga. For example, to practice jnana-yoga, one must study dozens of Vedic texts, and try to obtain an understanding by reconciling all their conclusions. Then, to practice dhyana-yoga, one must renounce this world, and sit either in a cave, or a forest, or the bank of a river, and completely renounce sex, and greatly limit eating and sleeping. Since these two are practically impossible for people of this age, therefore, they are not considered suitable for the present age and people.

    Only two methods are possible in this age. First, we can perform karma-yoga, by serving God by our ability in various ways. For example, a musician can sing for God, a painter can paint His pictures, an architect can build temples for God, and so on. This is an example of karma-yoga or doing the kind of work that comes naturally to a person but as a service to God. Second, we can perform bhakti-yoga, by reading about God’s pastimes, worshipping His deity, and singing His glories.

    There are also many practical difficulties even in doing karma-yoga and bhakti-yoga. For example, worshipping the deity of God requires a lot of cleanliness. Cooking for the deity is difficult. Most people cannot do that. Likewise, most people are not artists, musicians, or architects. They may not have the talents to serve God. Then, most people are not intelligent to understand philosophy, study many books, analyze different points of view, and understand philosophical nuances. Finally, our bodies and minds are weak and unsuited for austerities and sacrifices. By the incapacities of the mind and body, many methods that worked earlier, don’t work now.

    Therefore, it is stated that the most practical method for performing yoga effectively in this age is chanting the names of God. This method doesn’t require any special mental or bodily skill (only the capacity to speak), it can be done at any place and at any time, and it is not very hard. The strict requirements of other processes and difficulties in these systems are either relaxed or absent in this process.

    This process of chanting God’s names was elaborated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the form of Hare Krishna maha-mantra. This is called maha-mantra because it yields the results of all other mantras. There are thousands of mantras in the Vedic system, and they produce different results. But if there is one mantra that produces all the results of chanting all the mantras, then it is the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Hence, it is called the “maha-mantra”. How and why this mantra produces the results of all the mantras is a deeper topic that we can discuss another time. If we try to do that right now, it will become overwhelming due to a lot of information.

    Chanting the names of God is the yoga for this age, and chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is one of the ways of chanting the names of God, that delivers the highest results of chanting all mantras. Of course, one can truly understand the benefits of chanting the names of God only when one chants them.

    Now, we can address the prevalence of many methods of yoga around the world.

    First, there are some legitimate methods like karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, dhyana-yoga, and bhakti-yoga, which are discussed in Vedic scriptures, but due to various reasons, they are very hard to do in this age. Certain limited parts of these systems can still be practiced in this age, by few people who are qualified to do them. For example, deity worship is restricted to a very few people; elaborate yajna is forbidden. These systems are good, but our ability to perform them is very limited.

    Second, many people create unauthorized deviations in the prescribed systems by selecting what is easy and rejecting what is hard. There is certainly some leeway in selection and rejection, but the core parts can never be rejected. For example, we cannot say that I am producing alcohol or killing animals as a service to God. That kind of exception is not karma-yoga. Likewise, we cannot reject Bhagavad-Gita while understanding Vedic philosophy, because that will not be jnana-yoga. We cannot neglect celibacy and restrictions on eating and sleeping and call that dhyana-yoga, because these restrictions are absolutely foundational to the system of dhyana-yoga. So, in every yoga system, there are some inviolable things, which have to be done even if they are hard. The problem today is that people are violating even the core principles which make their practice useless. They create their concocted system without references to the Vedic injunctions and thereby cheat people.

    Third, the practices of yoga are divorced from the science and philosophy of how the yoga system works and why it works. The so-called gurus who cannot explain how the yoga system works don’t have a deep realization about their own practice. But they like to have many followers. Since most followers are also lazy and not serious, they don’t ask difficult questions, and the guru remains popular.

    If you want to escape this confusion, then you have to do three things: (a) validate that the method is authorized by Vedic texts, (b) validate that it can be practiced by someone of your ability, and (c) ask the hard questions about the science and philosophy underlying the method. If the science and philosophy of the method are known, then you can know what is core and essential and what is not. The core and essential principles can never be compromised, but peripheral things can be.

    I have done this test for myself, and I have found all the criteria satisfied by the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. There is a sound philosophy underlying it by which we can understand how this system works, it can be easily practiced, chanting the names of God is a Vedic authorized system, and none of the core principles of yoga or of Vedic philosophy as a whole are violated by its practice. So, you can carry out the same type of test if you like, or evaluate other methods if you want to do so.

    #13274
    Pradhana-Gopika DD
    Participant

    Hare Krsna Rsiraja Prabhu,

    I just started to read your articles and the discussions in this forum, and I’m very much impressed by the depth of your study and your presentation of vedic science and philosophy.

    Just recently I started some research about the science behind mantra meditation, and I’m especially interested in the science of chanting the maha-mantra. In this post you wrote “How and why this mantra produces the results of all the mantras is a deeper topic that we can discuss another time”. I’m very much interested to hear more about it. Would you be so kind to elaborate on this topic?

    You also mentioned that there is a sound philosophy by which we can understand how chanting of the maha-mantra works. I’m sorry that I’m not familiar (at least not yet) with all of your writings. That’s why I would like to ask you if you wrote already something about this sound philosophy? If so, may I ask you to tell me where I can find it?

    Thank you!

    Pradhana-gopika dd

    #13275
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    Hare Krishna!

    The philosophy of mantra chanting is called Mīmāṃsā. It is one of the six systems of philosophy, and it discusses the nature of rituals and mantras. I have been translating the six systems of philosophy texts one by one, and the Mīmāṃsā translation and commentary is still not done. However, there are some posts (The Mīmāṃsā Doctrine of Arthavāda and Dharma vs. Law) that summarize its ideas.

    Arthavāda in Mīmāṃsā is a complementary doctrine to Satkāryavāda from Sāñkhya. Arthavāda says that all reality is meaning, and Satkāryavāda says that the effect emerges out of the cause.

    For example, if you see a cow, then according to Arthavāda, it is not physical stuff; it is constructed out of elementary meanings such as taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound, which are then combined at the mental level into an object-concept called “cow”. What we truly mean by the “cow” is the mental-level object-concept. In simple terms, we can say that “cow” must be defined by the type of mentality, not bodily shape and size. So, even the gross body is a type of meaning, and the subtle body is also meaning. They are different kinds of meanings or concepts; some of these meanings are sense perceivable and some of them are only mentally grasped. But they are all meanings.

    Then, according to Satkāryavāda, the sensual meanings emanate out of the mental meaning. The sensual meaning is an effect and the mental meaning is the cause. The cause is always an abstract meaning, and the effect is always a contingent meaning. The process of this manifestation is described in Nyāya philosophy, and it involves more complex concepts such as “absence”. In very simple words, the abstract meaning is a premise, which then produces a question and a doubt (called “absence”), and that doubt or question then automatically produces an answer. This answer then becomes a new premise, which then leads to a new question, which then leads to a new answer.

    Thus, a simple premise leads to many questions, which then lead to many answers, and this is how a singular Absolute Truth (which is the original premise) expands into a world. This expanding Absolute Truth is like the root, and the expansions are like trunks, branches, and leaves. So, if we understand Sāñkhya, Nyāya, and Mīmāṃsā, then the conclusion is that all reality is just like an inverted tree, that has expanded from a root, by a logical process of meaning expansion.

    The significance of reality being meaning or Arthavāda is that the whole truth is both inside and outside the expansion from it. We can illustrate this by an example. A mammal is a more abstract idea, and a cow is a more contingent idea, and the cow has expanded from mammal. But after the expansion, the mammal is both outside the cow and inside the cow. This complex relationship between mammal and cow leads to all the doctrines of non-difference, non-separation, in Vedānta.

    This non-separation or non-difference can be illustrated by an example. We can say, that a “cow is a mammal” but a “mammal is not a cow”. The mammal exists inside the cow, and yet, mammal is outside the cow. Due to its internal existence, we can say that “cow is a mammal”, and due to being outside, we must say that “a mammal is not a cow”. This is also the basis on which non-difference is said to be “inconceivable” or Achintya because it involves two statements: A is B and B is not A. The book “Conceiving the Inconceivable” discusses how these conundrums are resolved if we treat all reality as meaning. The inconceivability arises due to physical conceptions of reality. In short, by using Sāñkhya, Nyāya, and Mīmāṃsā, we can make the inconceivable Vedānta conceivable. This conceivable Vedānta now becomes the basis of all scientific understanding of reality.

    Such a long and complicated philosophical journey is required to establish a simple idea, namely, that the name of Krishna is expanded from Krishna, and it has Krishna within it. Krishna is outside the name, so, if we don’t chant the name of Krishna, Krishna still exists. But Krishna is also inside the name, so if we chant the name of Krishna, then Krishna is within the name. We can also say that the name of Krishna is non-different from Krishna. In short, the name is Krishna, but Krishna is not the name. This is just like the cow is a mammal, but the mammal is not a cow.

    This principle applies to the deity of Krishna as well. The deity is Krishna, but Krishna is not the deity. So, if someone breaks the deity of Krishna, then Krishna is not destroyed. But if we worship the deity, then we are worshipping Krishna. Similarly, the deity of Krishna has expanded from Krishna, just like everything else has expanded from Krishna. However, unlike the other expanded things, the deity is the complete form of Krishna. Hence, Krishna is both outside and inside the deity. The deity is Krishna, but Krishna is not the deity. Just like the name of Krishna is Krishna, but Krishna is not the name, similarly, the deity and Krishna are non-different.

    These simple conclusions, that all devotees accept easily, require a complex philosophical journey involving Arthavāda, Satkāryavāda, and Nyāya philosophy. These conclusions are combined in Vedānta to produce the non-difference doctrine. This non-difference leads to what is called Bhedābheda or simultaneous difference and non-difference. And because these two are inconceivable in any physical conception of reality, therefore, the term Achintya or inconceivable is used to say that there is no physical analogy by which we can understand these things. However, if we treat reality as meaning, then we can understand all these seemingly illogical ideas.

    Thus, by all this philosophy, we arrive at the conclusion that mantras, deities, and rituals can embody a transcendent meaning, which is outside the mantra, deity, or ritual, and yet inside it. This is the basis on which the chanting of mantras, the worship of deities, or the performance of rituals becomes a spiritual practice because it leads to the vision of the transcendent reality.

    Now comes the second part of the question, namely, why the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is the supreme mantra. This is again a complex subject, but we can simplify it by realizing that there is no rational conception of truth that can be proven to be the supreme or absolute truth, based purely on rational considerations. All truth is relative to some axioms or assumptions. You can come up with arbitrary axioms or assumptions, and you can prove that given the truth of these axioms, some conclusions are consistent with the axioms. That consistency with the axioms makes the conclusions true, but by that method, you cannot establish if the axioms or assumptions are also true. We can try empirical confirmation, but it is not definitive because we may not get the experience.

    As a result, all theories of knowledge based on reason and experience have failed in Western epistemology. The answer to this problem is what I call the “Epistemology of Happiness“. In simple words, the higher truth is that which gives greater happiness. So, you can make any assumption, formulate a theory, but if that doesn’t make you happy, then the assumptions are either outright false or they are not completely true. That assumption, theory, or axiom that leads to greater happiness is more true. And that assumption that leads to the greatest happiness is the perfect, ideal, absolute, and ultimate truth. So, the superiority of the truth is not decided by a rational or empirical method; it is determined by the superiority of the happiness that its knowledge produces.

    This is a very critical transition in philosophy that most systems of philosophy do not make, but this transition is made in esoteric aspects of Vedic philosophy. By this transition, all discussion of “truth” and “reality” transforms into the discussion of great, greater, and greatest happiness. The superior truth is that which gives greater happiness, and supreme truth is that which yields the greatest happiness. Now, there are two methods to decide what is the ultimate truth: (a) that which yields the most complete knowledge of the expanded world, and (b) that which leads to the greatest happiness. These two produce identical results, but they are different as methods. The jñāna-yoga system relies on the former, and the bhakti-yoga system relies on the latter. By the jñāna-yoga system, we can determine if we have obtained the ultimate truth but we will have to study more and more of the expanded world. However, in the bhakti-yoga system, we can know if we have obtained the perfect truth if we have obtained the greatest happiness. Thereby, the discussion changes from the varieties of reality into the varieties of happiness. Just as reality has many levels, similarly, there are many levels of happiness. And the ultimate truth is that which produces the greatest happiness.

    Once we reach the conclusion of the ultimate truth, then to know this truth, we must have a relationship to this truth. Through a relationship, a different aspect of that truth is known. Thereby, we can talk about the knowledge of God through various relationships of brother, sister, father, mother, friend, lover, etc. The greater happiness in a relationship means that the truth known via that relationship is also superior, even though that truth is only one aspect of the truth. Thus, there is an aspect knowledge in which partial truth is known in this world, and there is an aspect knowledge by which one of the aspects of the Absolute Truth is considered supreme.

    Once we grasp the principle of knowing God through a relationship, then we have to recognize that there are serious philosophical issues in conceiving relationships to God. For instance, if God has a parent, then the parent must be the cause of God, and God cannot be the cause of all causes. If God has a brother or sister, then they are equally secondary to their parents. All these conclusions about relationships undermine the primordiality of God and lead to serious philosophical issues.

    Therefore, even as the loving happiness of relationship with God is greater happiness, these relationships lead to questions about God’s primordiality. These conundrums are resolved by positing that God doesn’t have a direct father, mother, brother, sister, friend, etc. Instead, God only has step-relationships. For instance, Krishna’s father is a step-father; His mother is a step-mother; His sister is a step-sister; His brother is a step-brother, and His consorts are extramarital affairs. And these step relationships are superior to direct relationships, as they produce greater happiness.

    Now you can see why it is necessary to make the transition from considerations of truth and reality to that of greater happiness. By the considerations of reality, Krishna’s father must truly be His father, and since God cannot have a father, therefore, the superior happiness of fatherhood cannot exist. To allow for this superior happiness, God’s father is a step-father. This step-fatherly relationship is also the “illusion” of fatherhood, and the spiritual reality is therefore also sometimes called māyā. But this “illusion” is considered a superior truth than the one we are led to by rational considerations. If the critical transition from rational truth to greater happiness is not made, then God having a father would be a false idea, and never a higher truth than God not having a father.

    Hence, there is a religious conception in which God is a father, and He has no father. And this can be established by rational reasoning. But the conception where God Himself has a father requires the critical transition from rational truth to the greater happiness producing greater truth.

    The devotees in relationships to God are also parts of God, not truly separate individuals. To understand this, we have to understand the meaning of “love thyself”. There is an aspect of God that loves Him just like a mother; for example, if you cook your favorite dish for yourself, then you are being a mother to yourself. There is another aspect of God that loves Him just like a father; for example, if you counsel yourself, then you are being a father to yourself. In this way, God’s devotees are parts of God because God loves Himself. To love Himself, God must be deeply attracted to Himself. This self-attraction and self-love is Krishna. In simple words, while God can cook for Himself, He likes His mother to cook for Him. Even though He can counsel Himself, He likes someone to counsel Him. So, His cook and counselor are not truly His parents, because they are not His cause. Yet, they play the role of being His parents, purely for sake of enjoyment. In this way, a step-relationship with God is created by God’s will, for God’s enjoyment with Himself.

    The Hare Krishna maha-mantra pertains to these step-relationships. Other mantras pertain to direct relationships. The Hare Krishna mantra is the mantra of love, but it is a type of love in which sacrifice dominates. This type of love is divided into three aspects: (a) attraction, (b) shyness, and (c) boldness. Krishna is attraction, Harā is shyness, and Rāma is boldness. In direct relationships, there is very limited shyness, and even as there is love, there is a very limited notion of sacrifice. Hence, a distinction is made between liberation in which the devotees are liberated from suffering and pure devotion where even liberation from suffering is not expected as a result of devotion. This type of devotion is considered superior to the devotion in which there is an expectation of happiness.

    In step-relationships, shyness is dominant over boldness. Thus, the gopis feel shy that they cannot demand anything from Krishna as Krishna is not truly their husband. Krishna’s parents feel shy that they cannot demand anything from Krishna because Krishna is not truly their son. Krishna’s friends feel shy that they cannot demand anything from Krishna because He is the son of a king, whereas they are ordinary villagers. Krishna’s brother and sister similarly feel shy because Krishna is not truly their brother. Because of this shyness, the devotees feel utterly unworthy and undemanding. They don’t even demand liberation or any personal facility; they are just boldly attracted to Krishna.

    This step-relationship with Krishna, driven by numerous inner contradictions between attraction, shyness, and boldness, is the pinnacle of love and it is very hard to understand except through experience. This is the bhakti-yoga system of determining the Absolute Truth. The jñāna-yoga system of philosophy can also come to the same conclusion if the abovesaid transition from the study of reality to the study of happiness is made. In short, if jñāna-yoga becomes the philosophical study of love and happiness, then its conclusion would also be identical to bhakti-yoga. But since that transition is generally not made, therefore, jñāna-yoga is supposed to be an inferior system.

    So, now, we have the two ingredients to say why the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is the supreme mantra. First, all mantras can embody a transcendent reality, which remains non-different from the mantra. Second, there is indeed the highest mantra because it represents the pinnacle of understanding of the truth based on the happiness it creates. In the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, we are not interested in reality, truth, supremacy, etc. We are just interested in love and happiness.

    As a general rule, all Vedic mantras use the sound “OM” as a preface. For instance, om namo bhagavate vāsudevāya, uses OM. This “OM” represents “I am”, and the mantra, therefore, means “I am worshipping Lord Vāsudeva”. But in the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, “OM” is not used. There is literally no conception of “I am” because there is only attraction to the object of love, shyness to approach that object, and yet boldness to love that object. The absence of “I am” in devotion to Krishna makes it superior even to liberation where such independence exists partially.

    At present, there are some esoteric descriptions of divine love, such as those found in Prīti-Sandarbha by Jīva Goswamī. The supremacy of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra depends on the supremacy of a certain kind of love. It requires a philosophy of love. In time, someone who understands divine love can explain Prīti-Sandarbha by Jīva Goswamī for our understanding.

    I know this has been long, but as I said, this is a difficult subject. I hope it was helpful.

    #13278
    Pradhana-Gopika DD
    Participant

    Thank you so much for your superfast and detailed answer. Unfortunately I discovered your answer just now (somehow I didn’t get an email as a notification for follow-up replies), so I’m sorry for the late reply.

    Concerning the philosophy of mantra chanting: I didn’t know that the Acintya Bhedabheda philosophy from Vedanta requires such a complicated philosophical journey. It’s fascinating, and I’m already looking forward to your translation and commentaries of Mimamsa.

    If mantras embody a transcendent meaning and the chanting of mantras becomes a spiritual practice, because it leads to the vision of the transcendent reality (I think those who have experience with mantra meditation, above all with chanting of the maha-mantra can confirm it), I’m curious about the science behind that process.

    As far as I know there are four different kinds of ethers according to Sankhya philosophy and consequently four different kinds of stages of sound (para, pasyanti, madhyama, vaikhari). According to the Vedanta-Sutras liberation is possible by sound (anavritti-shabdat), as bondage is caused by sound. Until now I don’t have a clear and deep understanding of how this liberation process works. I know that chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra can change our desires (means finally our karma). Are desires belonging to pasyanti-vak? Actually, how would you define pasyanti? And another question: How is possible that we can recite and perceive mantras as they are para-vak (that can’t be heard by the gross senses)?

    Sorry, these are a lot of questions, but somehow it’s difficult for me to grab the whole picture. Maybe you can help to bring the puzzle pieces together (it could be also a topic for a new discussion)?

    Concerning the Hare Krsna maha-mantra as the supreme mantra: I never thought about how to define the superiority of truth, but I really like the idea that the higher truth is what gives more happiness. (I guess to fully understand where this idea comes from, I have to read your essay “Epistemology of Happiness”.)

    I think in that sense it should be even possible to prove the supremacy of the maha-mantra empirically.  There is already a study (Wolf D.B. & Abell N., 2003) that looked at the effects of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra compared to a fake mantra on the balance of the three gunas. They also measured stress and depression. The data suggested that the maha-mantra resulted in a more sattvic state (sattva is connected to happiness) than the fake mantra. Depression and stress were also significantly reduced in the group that chanted the maha-mantra compared to those that chanted the alternate mantra. Similarly a study can be conducted that compares the effects of different kinds of (real existing) mantras.

    Thank you again for your coherent explanation of these complicated philosophical topics. It helps a lot.

    #13279
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    Concerning the philosophy of mantra chanting: I didn’t know that the Acintya Bhedabheda philosophy from Vedanta requires such a complicated philosophical journey. It’s fascinating, and I’m already looking forward to your translation and commentaries of Mimamsa.

    You can also read the book “Conceiving the Inconceivable“. The six systems of philosophy have to be understood collectively, as they are different aspects of the same truth (you can read the post Philosophizing in Six Perspectives for more on this topic). But since the time of Shankaracharya, who only commented on Vedānta and created schisms between the six systems, independent interpretations of Vedānta that do not accord with the other five systems have been created. This has led to many problems as diverging interpretations of Vedānta are created. I’m trying to fix that by bringing the understanding of the other five systems to understand Vedānta.

    God is inside everything and outside everything. Similarly, a book is in the author, and the author is in the book. Since the book is in the author, therefore, the author is able to produce the book. However, since the author is in the book, therefore, we can know the author through the book, and by understanding the author we understand what the book says. We cannot fully understand a book without knowing the author. Likewise, Krishna is outside His deity, and He is inside the deity.

    The inside-outside presence is inconceivable in classical logic and physical ways of thinking. Hence, a new way of thinking is required. This inside-outside philosophy is required to even explain how a book is produced, how we are able to read and understand it, and then how we get into the same mental state as the author. All this is called the “philosophy of language” but there is no correct philosophy of language in modern academia. But in Vedānta, the world is a book authored by the Lord, and the Lord is inside that book. So, by reading the book (a.k.a., studying the world) we can know the author, and then we can understand what the author is saying. Just as we cannot know the book perfectly without knowing the author, similarly, we cannot know the world perfectly unless we know the Lord who authored this book. So, the inside-outside philosophy is crucial to everything, including the basis on which science is conceived in Vedic philosophy. The rest is detailed philosophy and science about how this inside-outside existence comes about.

    As far as I know there are four different kinds of ethers according to Sankhya philosophy and consequently four different kinds of stages of sound (para, pasyanti, madhyama, vaikhari). According to the Vedanta-Sutras liberation is possible by sound (anavritti-shabdat), as bondage is caused by sound. Until now I don’t have a clear and deep understanding of how this liberation process works. I know that chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra can change our desires (means finally our karma). Are desires belonging to pasyanti-vak? Actually, how would you define pasyanti? And another question: How is possible that we can recite and perceive mantras as they are para-vak (that can’t be heard by the gross senses)?

    This requires a lot of detailed analysis, which is covered in several books. I would suggest reading them to fully grasp these things. In short, Vaikhari means gross body; Madhyamā means senses, mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense; and Paśyanti means three things–Chitta, Guna, and Karma. Vaikhari is also called “gross body”, Madhyamā is also called “gendered body”, and Paśyanti is called “subtle body”. Masculine and feminine, for example, are not just differences in the gross body, but also in the senses, mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense. Males and females, therefore, have a different set of moral values or ideas about greatness, a different way to create personal identity, a different set of beliefs, different kinds of thoughts, and even differences in their sensual activities. At present, people don’t understand that gender is not just the gross body; even the senses, mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense are gendered; this is explained in Sāñkhya Sūtra clearly.

    The Paśyanti comprises three things called Chitta, Guna, and Karma. The Chitta is abilities, the Guna is desires and habits, and Karma is the consequences of previous actions. For example, if you perform an action, then three results are produced. First, you get better at doing that thing; this is sometimes paraphrased as “practice makes a man perfect”. This is because by associating with a certain type of activity, we acquire the ability to do it better. These abilities constitute the Chitta. Then, as you do anything, you also create a habit. You start liking what you are doing, and it becomes more likely that you will do it again. For example, if you are not accustomed to listening to classical music, but you start listening to it, then over time you will develop an understanding along with attraction and desire for that music. The understanding is Chitta, which gives you the ability to comprehend classical music, and desire and attraction are Guna which makes you want to listen to it. Finally, Karma is the consequence of actions, which leads to interactions with other things.

    To summarize, if you do a good deed, you develop the ability to do it better, you develop a desire to do the deed again, and you get a good result. This is a self-reinforcing cycle of goodness, where the desire increases, the ability improves, and the results give you new opportunities to do it again. Conversely, if you do bad deeds, then the ability for crime improves, the desire for crime increases, but the opportunities for crime decrease. This is a self-negating cycle that causes oscillations.

    The purpose of chanting is to “purify” these three levels. At the level of Paśyanti, this means you develop a greater desire to chant. The abilities and consequences are not significant here, because the activity is very simple, and there are neither good nor bad consequences of a pure devotional activity (that is a separate topic, which we can discuss another time). The net result of chanting is the purification of desire, and it means freedom from the emotional states caused by sattva, rajas, and tamas. The changes to Paśyanti are occurring even while we are chanting during the waking stage or even as we are dreaming. But Paśyanti changes are unconscious; we don’t perceive the Paśyanti itself; we see the effects of Paśyanti on the waking and dreaming stages. The simple symptom of chanting correctly is that we develop an increasing desire for chanting more and more. If this greed is not increasing every day, week, or month, then we are not chanting properly. Similarly, the happiness in chanting must increase every day, week, or month, if we are chanting properly. So, this increasing greed is the symptom of changes to Paśyanti. If these symptoms are not visible, then the changes at Paśyanti are not occurring, even though we are chanting the sound in Vaikhari.

    The implication of the philosophy of Vaikhari, Madhyamā, and Paśyanti is that a deep inner change must occur in us, by which we become disinterested in other things, and become increasingly attached to chanting. Likewise, with increased attachment, comes greater happiness.

    When the chanting reaches the Parā stage, then another big change occurs, which is that the sound automatically springs out of the soul. Just like water springs out of a fountain, similarly, the name springs out of the soul. This is sometimes called sphura and sphota. The Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu states: sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ. The term “svayam eva” means spontaneously, and the term “sphuraty” means springing out. This is the ultimate stage of chanting. And this ultimate stage begins by chanting with the tongue (jihvādau). So, by chanting with the tongue, gradually the senses are purified, then the mind is purified, and this process keeps going deeper and deeper until all material desires are purified, and then the name springs out of the soul automatically. This automatically springing-out name creates spiritual happiness.

    I think in that sense it should be even possible to prove the supremacy of the maha-mantra empirically.  There is already a study (Wolf D.B. & Abell N., 2003) that looked at the effects of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra compared to a fake mantra on the balance of the three gunas. They also measured stress and depression. The data suggested that the maha-mantra resulted in a more sattvic state (sattva is connected to happiness) than the fake mantra. Depression and stress were also significantly reduced in the group that chanted the maha-mantra compared to those that chanted the alternate mantra. Similarly a study can be conducted that compares the effects of different kinds of (real existing) mantras.

    The deepest level of material reality is fear, insecurity, inferiority. This is called Mahā-Māyā. Everyone in this world is conditioned by fear. There are four philosophies for conquering this fear.

    The first philosophy says that we should become strong, confident, powerful, self-assured, etc. and by that, we will conquer the fear. The second philosophy says that fear arises due to the expectations of results, and if we give up those expectations then we will be free of fear. The third philosophy says that we are eternal and there is nothing to fear; so by knowledge of the self, we can conquer our fear. The fourth philosophy says that we must develop love, and that love conquers fear.

    Accordingly, there are mantras suited to these four philosophies. Some mantras help us develop confidence, some mantras help us develop detachment, some help us develop knowledge, and some mantras help us develop love. Thereby, freedom from fear is achievable in four ways.

    Depending on how perfectly one is chanting a mantra, the freedom from fear is proportional to that perfection. So, someone who perfectly chants the confidence-related mantra will attain more freedom from fear than one who imperfectly chants the mantra of love. Accordingly, empirical results will not be consistent if the people who are chanting mantras vary in perfection.

    Hence, we use philosophy to understand the difference. The goal is freedom from fear, but there are four ways: (a) get more confidence, (b) work without expectation of result because expectation creates fear, (c) know that you are eternal so there is nothing to fear, and (d) develop more love.

    Once a philosophical analysis is done, then we can say that the process of developing love gives the best results. For example, a number of people at the present time like to conquer fear by acquiring power, confidence, strength, and these are the main focuses of modern civilization. But this pursuit has actually not made people fearless, because they start fearing the more powerful, more confident, or the person who is stronger. Likewise, detachment addresses the problem of fear better, but it is a temporary solution because we are unable to completely give up our expectations; as a result, we are incapable of being free of fear. Similarly, the realization of the nature of the self is incomplete because the purpose of the existence of the self is unknown; unless this purpose is known, one seeks purpose and meaning of existence in things other than the self, and again becomes conditioned by fear. The method of developing love is the best method because by it the self is known along with the purpose for the existence of the self. This is the most complete realization, but it is also the hardest. Once pure love is developed, fear is completely destroyed. Love also yields a positive sense of happiness. And when there is spiritual love, it is also eternal, so fear is destroyed permanently.

    The conclusion is that love is the best antidote to fear. Even as everyone is trying to conquer fear by acquiring greater power, strength, confidence, etc. they are not actually conquering fear. And in the competitive process for acquiring greater power, strength, and confidence, love is rapidly dying. In short, the competitive process of overcoming fear actually increases fear within us. The net result will be that people will become more and more unhappy as they compete more and more.

    The yoga processes are organized in a hierarchy based on this principle. The lowest process is that which leads to greater confidence, strength, power. This is the path of acquiring bodily and mental strength, and by that strength, fear is greatly reduced. Most people are doing this kind of yoga. Then, there is a yoga of duties, in which duty is performed without expectation of results; by destroying expectations, fear is destroyed. Then there is the yoga of knowledge and the conclusion of that knowledge is that we are eternal; so there is factually nothing to fear. Finally, there is the yoga of devotion by which fear is destroyed because the Lord is always seen as our protector.

    So, by understanding that the root of material existence is fear, and then understanding that there are four different ways of conquering fear, and then seeing their progression, we can understand why the chanting of the names of the Lord is the best method for overcoming a miserable condition.

    Regarding the missing email, you have to check the below “Notify me of follow-up replies via email” option. If you do that, then you will receive the emails upon a reply automatically. It is optional because some people don’t like getting emails while others like to get notified through emails.

    #13538
    Pradhana-Gopika DD
    Participant

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all my questions in detail.

    Thank you for the summary of how the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra works. I think I understood. But I guess to fully understand all the coherencies, I really have to read your books. Just three more questions to make sure I got it right:

    In short, Vaikhari means gross body; Madhyamā means senses, mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense; and Paśyanti means three things–Chitta, Guna, and Karma. Vaikhari is also called “gross body”, Madhyamā is also called “gendered body”, and Paśyanti is called “subtle body”.

    In your essay “The Four Ethers of Sankhya Philisophy” you describe pasyanti as the karana-sarira, the causal body (that comprises three things called chitta, guna and karma, as you wrote also in your last post) and madhyama as sukshma-sarira with mind, intelligence, ego and morality. According to my understanding madhyama should be the subtle body, isn’t it? (It doesn’t mean that madhyama can’t be the gendered body as well.)

    As ether is space (at least according to what I understood), can it be said that the three different kinds of bodies are situated in the different kinds of ether? (I guess these things are difficult or even impossible to grab with mental imagery. Anyway, I would like to understand it more clearly.)

    But Paśyanti changes are unconscious; we don’t perceive the Paśyanti itself; we see the effects of Paśyanti on the waking and dreaming stages.

    “Waking stage” means vaikhari, and “dreaming stage” refers to madhyama?

    The yoga processes are organized in a hierarchy based on this principle. The lowest process is that which leads to greater confidence, strength, power. This is the path of acquiring bodily and mental strength, and by that strength, fear is greatly reduced. Most people are doing this kind of yoga. Then, there is a yoga of duties, in which duty is performed without expectation of results; by destroying expectations, fear is destroyed. Then there is the yoga of knowledge and the conclusion of that knowledge is that we are eternal; so there is factually nothing to fear. Finally, there is the yoga of devotion by which fear is destroyed because the Lord is always seen as our protector.

    I guess you refer to the four yoga processes that are also described in the Bhagavad-gita. But as far as I understand the yoga-ladder, dhyana-yoga is superior to karma-yoga. Here it looks like karma-yoga is superior to dhyana-yoga. Most probably it’s because the hierarchy you’re describing is based on the principle of conquering fear. Is it right?

    Regarding the missing email, you have to check the below “Notify me of follow-up replies via email” option. If you do that, then you will receive the emails upon a reply automatically. It is optional because some people don’t like getting emails while others like to get notified through emails.

    I did it, and I’ve got an email after sending my post. But I didn’t get a message after you published your post (not the first time, and not the second). Maybe it’s just a technical problem that I have. Anyway, it’s just a detail.

    #13539
    Pradhana-Gopika DD
    Participant

    Depending on how perfectly one is chanting a mantra, the freedom from fear is proportional to that perfection. So, someone who perfectly chants the confidence-related mantra will attain more freedom from fear than one who imperfectly chants the mantra of love. Accordingly, empirical results will not be consistent if the people who are chanting mantras vary in perfection.

    Yes, of course! You’re right, chanting has to be done with rapt attention and right intention. Thank you for pointing this out.

    #13541
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    According to my understanding madhyama should be the subtle body, isn’t it? (It doesn’t mean that madhyama can’t be the gendered body as well.)

    Yes, sometimes the terms gross, subtle, and causal are used. And sometimes, the terms gross, gendered, and subtle are used. The former terminology is used in some Purāṇa, while the latter is used in the Sāñkhya Sūtra. In my response above, I used the Sāñkhya Sūtra terminology.

    As ether is space (at least according to what I understood), can it be said that the three different kinds of bodies are situated in the different kinds of ether? (I guess these things are difficult or even impossible to grab with mental imagery. Anyway, I would like to understand it more clearly.)

    Ether is indeed space, but it is not like a box; it is like an inverted tree. So, the root of that tree is called “subtle”, the branches are called “gendered”, and the leaves are called “gross”. You can also think of a box inside a box inside a box. So, the gross body is like a box inside the gendered body. This gross “box” may remain open or closed; when it is opened, the gross body is manifest. If it is closed, then only the gendered body exists. Likewise, the gendered body is like a box inside the subtle body; it may be opened or closed. Whether we use the tree analogy or the box analogy, these analogies are all imperfect, because they involve physical thinking. So, when I talk about an inverted tree, you might be thinking of an ordinary tree. The same with ordinary boxes; these evoke physical thinking by the analogy. Therefore, we give these analogies only in the initial stages, but they are not perfect. The perfect understanding involves the notion that there are abstract and contingent meanings, and the contingent meaning is hidden inside the abstract meaning.

    So, for instance, “desire”, “ability” and “opportunity” are very subtle meanings, and they are like outer boxes, or the root of the tree, which hold in them branches and smaller boxes, but those smaller boxes or branches are contingent or detailed meanings. To illustrate by an example, the desire expands into senses, mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense, in order to fulfill itself, and then these expand into a body to fulfill the needs of the senses, mind, intellect, etc. So, the senses, mind, intellect, etc. are “servants” of desire, and the body is a “servant” of the senses, mind, intellect, etc. It takes some time to understand all these details, but if we understand that all reality is meaning, then all these analogies of the inverted tree, box in a box, rivulets flowing out of a reservoir, expressed and unexpressed, manifest and unmanifest, etc. become identical and are easily grasped.

    “Waking stage” means vaikhari, and “dreaming stage” refers to madhyama?

    Yes, in Sāñkhya system, the terms Vaikharī, Madhyamā, Paśyantī, and Parā are used. And in the Yoga system, the terms Waking (jāgrata), Dreaming (svapna), Deep Sleep (suśupti), and Transcendent (turīya) are used. Sāñkhya and Yoga are mutually aligned systems, but Sāñkhya is more theoretical and Yoga is more practical. But both terminologies mean the same thing.

    I guess you refer to the four yoga processes that are also described in the Bhagavad-gita. But as far as I understand the yoga-ladder, dhyana-yoga is superior to karma-yoga. Here it looks like karma-yoga is superior to dhyana-yoga. Most probably it’s because the hierarchy you’re describing is based on the principle of conquering fear. Is it right?

    There are many ways to describe the four systems, but in Bhagavad-Gita, the hierarchy is that Jñāna is the lowest, Dhyāna is higher, Karma is even higher, and Bhakti is the highest. This presentation discusses the Bhagavad-Gita verses along with the hierarchy, as it is presented by Lord Krishna. Again, if we understand the inverted tree-like structure, then we can see why these are not strictly like layers upon layers. Rather, each process leads to some progress in the other process.

    For example, when there is higher self-confidence, then the mind is quieter, and that improves the concentration of the mind. Similarly, when the mind is detached from the expectation of results, the concentration is improved. Then, if we have perfect knowledge, even if the mind deviates, we can easily bring it back. And further knowledge is gained only when the mind is controlled. So, in the inverted tree, everything is a cause, and everything is an effect of some other cause. The effect is inside the cause, so whatever the cause be, we can say it is “superior”. But in another place, the other thing is said to be superior. These are all dependent on the context of speaking.

    Therefore, the best thing is to understand the four processes, and then understand that bhakti-yoga practice requires all the processes. In the perfectional stage of bhakti-yoga, the other three are disregarded, because they are already byproducts of pure bhakti. But they are important during the practice stage. Hence, a misconception is created that because in the perfectional stage the other three are disregarded, therefore, they must not be important from the get-go. Thus, devotees neglect knowledge, detachment, mental and physical health, and they pay a big price for it ultimately in their devotional practice. We have to take care of all these things even as we practice devotion.

    For example, the practice of bhakti with knowledge, detachment, and confidence is simply summarized in the statement “Chant and Be Happy”. This “Be Happy” is the combination of knowledge, detachment, and confidence. The problem is that we can be chanting, but we are very unhappy due to some reason. Then, the chanting slowly loses effect, because bhakti has to be performed in a happy mood. Just like if we are asked to do some job, and we do it unhappily, then the result of the work is always shoddy. So, we have to be honest about the work (detachment from the expectation of results), we have to be knowledgeable about how to do the job, and we have to be confident of being able to do the job. And then we have to want to do the job (devotion or bhakti). In this way, we cannot separate these four things; hence, doing bhakti requires all four.

    We can also say that happiness is the highest principle, and knowledge, dutifulness, and strength are simply aspects produced from happiness. To get perfect happiness, we have to get knowledge, dutifulness, and strength, along with devotion. Which aspect is more important in a given situation depends on which aspect has been neglected in preference for the other aspects in a given situation. Then, we can say in this situation (or for a such-and-such type of person) this aspect is more important. When this contextual understanding is universalized (as most people do) a false idea of everything is created, and the soul has to cycle from one side to the other to understand that all the aspects are important, they have to be combined, balanced, and that perfect combination and balance leads to the perfect happiness. This is achieved only through gradual practice.

    I did it, and I’ve got an email after sending my post. But I didn’t get a message after you published your post (not the first time, and not the second). Maybe it’s just a technical problem that I have. Anyway, it’s just a detail.

    I checked again, and you were not subscribed. I have subscribed you now. Hopefully, you will get a notification now. If you don’t then there is some issue, which I will look into.

    #13564
    Pradhana-Gopika DD
    Participant

    Thank you for the vivid description of the three bodies and the different kinds of ether. I think gradually I will understand.

    Yes, sometimes the terms gross, subtle, and causal are used. And sometimes, the terms gross, gendered, and subtle are used. The former terminology is used in some Purāṇa, while the latter is used in the Sāñkhya Sūtra. In my response above, I used the Sāñkhya Sūtra terminology.

    I see.

    Yes, in Sāñkhya system, the terms Vaikharī, Madhyamā, Paśyantī, and Parā are used. And in the Yoga system, the terms Waking (jāgrata), Dreaming (svapna), Deep Sleep (suśupti), and Transcendent (turīya) are used. Sāñkhya and Yoga are mutually aligned systems, but Sāñkhya is more theoretical and Yoga is more practical. But both terminologies mean the same thing.

    Ok, I understand.

    There are many ways to describe the four systems, but in Bhagavad-Gita, the hierarchy is that Jñāna is the lowest, Dhyāna is higher, Karma is even higher, and Bhakti is the highest. This presentation discusses the Bhagavad-Gita verses along with the hierarchy, as it is presented by Lord Krishna. Again, if we understand the inverted tree-like structure, then we can see why these are not strictly like layers upon layers. Rather, each process leads to some progress in the other process.

    From your above mentioned presentation I understand that you define karma-yoga as work for Krishna. What I understood from Bhagavad-gita is that karma-yoga is the lowest stage in the yoga-ladder as it is defined as performing prescribed duties with detachment from the fruits of one’s work (nishkama-karma-yoga). What you call karma-yoga is karma-misra-bhakti, according to my understanding.

    Therefore, the best thing is to understand the four processes, and then understand that bhakti-yoga practice requires all the processes. In the perfectional stage of bhakti-yoga, the other three are disregarded, because they are already byproducts of pure bhakti. But they are important during the practice stage. Hence, a misconception is created that because in the perfectional stage the other three are disregarded, therefore, they must not be important from the get-go. Thus, devotees neglect knowledge, detachment, mental and physical health, and they pay a big price for it ultimately in their devotional practice. We have to take care of all these things even as we practice devotion.

    That’s a good point.

    For example, the practice of bhakti with knowledge, detachment, and confidence is simply summarized in the statement “Chant and Be Happy”. This “Be Happy” is the combination of knowledge, detachment, and confidence. The problem is that we can be chanting, but we are very unhappy due to some reason. Then, the chanting slowly loses effect, because bhakti has to be performed in a happy mood.

    I think we are unhappy, because we don’t chant properly. Nut, yes, the question is what it needs to chant properly.

    #13565
    Leonel Palacios
    Participant

    Regarding this same topic, what is your opinion about meditation methods in other religions. For example, the world-famous mindfulness meditation (a.k.a. meditation on your breathing) as taught by the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh? Is the chanting of the Maha Mantra more effective in comparison with these type of meditations?

    #13566
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    From your above mentioned presentation I understand that you define karma-yoga as work for Krishna. What I understood from Bhagavad-gita is that karma-yoga is the lowest stage in the yoga-ladder as it is defined as performing prescribed duties with detachment from the fruits of one’s work (nishkama-karma-yoga). What you call karma-yoga is karma-misra-bhakti, according to my understanding.

    Karma and karma-yoga are completely different. Karma means doing good deeds to enjoy a good life. And karma-yoga means performing your duties without expectation of results so that you can transcend the material world. Thus, we can distinguish between a karmi and a karma-yogi.

    For example, a person trying to teach the message of God, with the expectation of obtaining name, prestige, recognition, money, followers, power, etc. is almost a karmi. If he finds that name, fame, money, followers, and power are not growing, then he stops teaching the message of God, or moves to an area where such success can be obtained or compromises the principles in order to gain some success, thereby potentially disregarding the instructions of the Lord and His devotees. Such a person can be said to be involved in karma-misra-bhakti, because he is teaching the message of the Lord but also expecting worldly success in the process of doing it. It is not pure devotional service.

    Karma-yoga instead is sticking to the ideal principles even if there is no overt success, followers, recognition, etc. A good example of karma-yoga in the bhakti-yoga practice is teaching the message of God perfectly, purely, and uncompromisingly, even if produces no results, or even if it yields endless hardships. An example of karma-yoga in an ordinary worldly sense is performing your day-to-day duties toward family, society, employer, etc. even if they are not reciprocating toward you.

    The difference between karma-yoga and bhakti-yoga is very subtle. Karma-yoga is about detachment from this world, and bhakti-yoga is about attachment to Krishna. When attachment is perfected, then detachment is also perfected. But someone can be perfectly free from worldly attachments without attachment to Krishna. Such a person is a karma-yogi although he is not a bhakti-yogi.

    Most people practicing bhakti-yoga are also desirous of worldly success; it takes many forms, and its symptom is the avoidance of hardships, compromises to avoid difficulties, and seeking success over truth. Such activities are karma-misra-bhakti. Conversely, someone can be working in an office, wearing a suit-and-tie as a matter of necessity and duty, but without attachment for the position. He may also practice bhakti-yoga. Such a person is a perfect karma-yogi and a practicing bhakti-yogi.

    Naturally, the person who performs perfect karma-yoga, and practices bhakti-yoga, will make faster progress in bhakti-yoga, even though from a mundane vision, he seems like a karmi. Conversely, a person in a renunciate dress aspiring for worldly success will be stuck in his progress. Everything has to be measured by attachment and detachment and not by the activity, outward dress, etc.

    I think we are unhappy, because we don’t chant properly.

    Of course, if we could chant perfectly, then there would be no problem. The issue is: How do you arrive at perfect chanting? That requires knowledge, detachment, and confidence, along with the practice of bhakti-yoga. The perfection of one doesn’t negate the possibility of the other.

    The fact is that everyone comes to God and religion with some expectation, e.g., being respected, recognized, being able to lead a peaceful and happy life, good mental and physical health, and so on. Most people also think that taking God’s shelter means that their worldly problems will be automatically solved. This is not true. We surrender to Krishna not because He will solve all our problems, but unconditionally—i.e., even if those problems are not solved. That unconditional surrender is hard. When people face problems, then they become unhappy, because the spiritual realization is missing. Under that unhappiness, their practice can sometimes decline.

    Some people are luckier (based on their karma) than others. Some get decent material life, health, and wealth, while others don’t. Many devotees of the Lord are mistreated, up to the point of being crucified, abused, or humiliated in many horrible ways. A perfect devotee is not disturbed in such a situation. But how many Haridās Thakurs are there—who can be beaten publicly in the marketplace repeatedly and not compromise on their practice and perfect principles? Most people are not able to tolerate social ostracization or many kinds of humiliations and mistreatments. When life treats you badly, then a practitioner needs knowledge, detachment, and confidence, to sustain their practice. This can be appreciated by those who are undergoing a very difficult life but may not be as well appreciated by those who might have a relatively comfortable or materially stable life.

    As Marie Antionette said: “If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake”, a person in a good position can advocate the best solution (after all, the cake is better than bread), but we have to know that one day we may not have the bread, and then we will not think of the cake, but of the bread instead. Knowledge, detachment, and confidence are bread for those who don’t have the cake of pure bhakti.

    #13567
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    Regarding this same topic, what is your opinion about meditation methods in other religions. For example, the world-famous mindfulness meditation (a.k.a. meditation on your breathing) as taught by the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh? Is the chanting of the Maha Mantra more effective in comparison with these type of meditations?

    By concentrating on your mind on breathing, you can control it. By breath control, you can suppress the manifestations of the unconscious mind, but you cannot purify the mind leading to perfect knowledge, nor can you obtain mystical experiences, self-realization, or God-realization.

    The process of breath control is called Prāñāyāma in the aśtānga-yoga system. By the mind, you can control the prāṇa, and by the prāṇa, you can control the mind. The Sāñkhya system emphasizes the control of the mind to control the prāṇa and the Yoga system emphasizes the control of prāṇa to control the mind. Both are related, and hence Sāñkhya and Yoga are studied together.

    When Buddhism was born in India, the Buddhists took many things from the Vedic tradition and adapted them to fit the no-demigod, no-soul, no-reality, and no-God philosophy. Breath control is one of those things that they took. However, they rejected the other philosophical conclusions.

    Whatever Buddhists (or others) call the “universal mind” is an infinite space of ideas, actions, and desires. Each person is conditioned to inhabit a subset of this space, as their “individual mind”. This conditioning is called Chitta in Yoga philosophy and it is produced by previous impressions, habits of experience, and accumulated desires. By the limitation of Chitta, the movement of consciousness is restricted, and each person knows a few things, can do a few things, and desires a few things. These can-know, can-do, and can-desire are possibilities from which the actual knowledge, activity, and desire are produced, due to the movement of consciousness controlled by prāṇa.

    If this prāṇa is curtailed, then consciousness stops moving, and the manifestation of reality from the possibility (of knowledge, desire, and activity) is stopped. But the possibility still exists. Hence, the same types of thoughts, activities, and desires can return in the future if breath control is lost.

    In the aśtānga-yoga system, Prāñāyāma is a preliminary step to bring the mind into control, after which it must be focused on the form of Paramātma. The focusing is called Dhyāna, Dhāraṇā, and Samādhi. By these steps, we can realize how the soul is different from the body, how it exists eternally even as the body and mind (including thoughts, activities, and desires) are changing, and how this eternal soul has a purpose to be united with the purpose of the Supreme Soul, leading to eternal happiness. The “mindfulness” practitioners, however, claim Prāñāyāma to be the ultimate state and profess the absence of a soul, eternity, purpose, and God. These conclusions are false.

    When the manifestations of the unconscious potentiality are stopped, then the soul is merged into a so-called “causal” state. This state is prior to the manifestation of the universe and is called kārana in Sāñkhya. It is still a material state, but it is like deep sleep where you don’t experience anything. This deep sleep state is not eternal but those suffering from miseries can find peace in a temporary cessation of thoughts, desires, and activities. Mindfulness can put you in a deep sleep-like state even while waking and as the mind becomes calm, people call the cessation of mental noise “happiness”.

    Neuroscientists measure the deep sleep-like state via brain waves and extoll its virtues. However, because they are not measuring pure devotees, they don’t know of the happiness in self-realization and God-realization, and the immense happiness of the relationship between soul and God. A devotee is super-excited and yet super-calm. A devotee may cry, but he is supremely happy. But ordinary people cannot understand these things; they can just measure brain waves. And they claim that there is nothing beyond this deep sleep state of purposeless emptiness. That is false.

    Abrahamic religions give you a theology, with practically no philosophy, and no practical method to experience the truth stated in the theology. Buddhism, and other allied traditions, reject theology, greatly limit the philosophy of reality, and provide a practice by which a life can be led peacefully, without an ultimate purpose. The Vedic tradition gives you theology, philosophy of nature, the ultimate goal of life, and practice to realize this goal. Hence, the Vedic tradition is the mother of all religious systems and is also the most complete system. Other systems take some parts, reject other parts, and try to universalize their limited understanding, as the only possible truth.

    However, none of these systems can stand up to rigorous rational scrutiny. Hence, they greatly limit philosophical discussion so that too many questions are not asked. Either you have to accept everything on “faith”, or asking questions is said to be a waste of time. Abrahamic religions force you to accept things on faith, and Buddhism (and other allied traditions) advocate silence or talk to you through paradoxes which is a trick meant to shame you into silence. In Zen Buddhism, you cannot even ask why breath control leads to mind control. This is because they don’t have an understanding of how the consciousness moves due to prāṇa, and how the soul’s experience is created by this movement. Without the capacity to explain these things, they whimsically reject soul and God. But in Vedic philosophy, we can ask these questions, understand the body and that understanding then leads to the understanding of soul and God. Therefore, in the Vedic system, philosophy is the starting point for spiritual practice. Initially, you try to rationally understand everything, then you practice to realize the conclusions of philosophy, then you live an eternal life of this conclusion.

    The reality today is that people are suffering, and they do not find answers in Abrahamic religions. Therefore, they turn to practical mind control techniques to obtain a peaceful life. There is merit in such mind control, as it is better than materialistic life. But this is not the ultimate conclusion in Vedic philosophy. The conclusion is soul, God, and their relationship of love and devotion.

    #13568
    Leonel Palacios
    Participant

    A few posts above you mentioned:

    The issue is: How do you arrive at perfect chanting? That requires knowledge, detachment, and confidence, along with the practice of bhakti-yoga.

    Could you please elaborate on this? How are we supposed to chant the Maha Mantra?

    • This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Leonel Palacios. Reason: The post showed a lot of code (e.g. html) as part of the text when submitted
    #13570
    Ashish Dalela
    Keymaster

    Please don’t pick things out of context. A statement makes sense in the context of the question which arose in the context of the previous answer, which arose in the context of the previous question, and so on. This is called Nyaya philosophy; a premise leads to a question, then it leads to an answer, which then leads to a new premise, a new question, and a new answer. This creates an expanding tree, and if you want to know what a given statement means, then you have to traverse the path from that statement back to when the conversation started (i.e., the root of the conversation).

    In this case, the question “How do you arrive at perfect chanting?” is not about chanting for a beginner, but about a practioner who has been chanting for decades and may have been distracted from the process due to difficulties such as health, poverty, broken trust in those that were considered trustworthy previously, etc. That is when knowledge, detachment, and confidence become important–even for the bhakti-yogi. That is not a question for a beginner. For a beginner, the answer is “just chant”. Ideally, you chant a fixed number of rounds on beads.

    Just like if you go to school, then the teacher will tell you: this is an apple, that is an orange, and you learn about the world around you in kindergarten by practicing and doing things. When you have learnt enough things, then you can ask the deep philosophical question: How do I see? What is the process of perception? How does information from the world become a picture in my mind? These are advanced questions, that will be discussed in a masters program, not in kindergarten. Just because a person in a masters program asks “How do I see?” doesn’t mean the kindergarten child should also say “You are telling me that this is an apple, but tell me: How do I see?”

    Unless you have practiced, the next questions are meaningless, and the discussion that follows is also pointless. When you practice, then you will find new problems, and then you will ask new questions, and then there will be new answers. Your practice is the premise on which the next question is based, and the answer is based on that question–when it arises from the actual premise. Otherwise, theoretical questions, even if answered, will not make any sense to the listener.

    This might take a very long time to get used to, because on most Internet forums people have the habit of picking up a sentence out of context and saying “You said this”. But they don’t realize the context in which it was said, the place and time in which it was said, and the person to whom it was said. This is the broad sense in which the modern world (especially the Western world) is gripped by “impersonalism”. It started 2500 years ago in Greek beliefs that all truth is “universal”. This universality meant that it could not be dependent on you and me, so anything can be taken out of context, the time, place, or person to whom it was said. This is not the sense in which we speak about “quoting someone”. Quoting a scripture or a person means with the full context. That is, while you are quoting, you must know that time, place, situation, and person, if you want to understand.

    In many cases, contextuality means that contradictory things can be said, but they are not self-contradictory, because they are answers to different questions. Getting rid of this “impersonalism” which arises from “universalism” is a very long task because we are so used to it by practice.

    So, in one context I can say: “Just chant”, and in another context “The question is: How do I chant perfectly?”. If you take it out of context, then you will say: “This guy is asking me to chant, but he doesn’t know how to do it himself!” That would be the classic example of a false interpretation. If you take it in the context, then you can understand what these two statements actually mean. Unless we do that, we cannot understand anything, and this is one reason why newcomers to Vedic philosophy are constantly baffled because they are so used to the ideology of truth being universal.

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