The science of prasadam and kirtan

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    Rishabh Verma

    I’ve had this question for a long time and I feel like this is the best place to ask this question.

    We are often told that the consciousness of the person preparing prasadam is transferred through the prasadam to the person eating it. A similar concept is mentioned regarding kirtan as we are repeatedly asked not to hear kirtan by mayavadis.

    What is the scientific basis of ‘transfer of consciousness’?

    I apologise if you have already answered this question in one of your books. If so, please direct me to the relevant book and chapter.

    Thank you

    Ashish Dalela

    It is not the “transfer of consciousness” but the transfer of mood.

    You can understand this by an example. If a sentence is spoken, then, there are some words, that are combined into a sentence by grammar, and then there is the mood of uttering the sentence. These three combine to produce an utterance. The mood is perceived in a speech by the tone. For example, you can say the same sentence happily, surprisingly, sarcastically, questioningly, angrily, jokingly, soberly, etc. All these moods change the tone of the speech, so the mood is in the speech.

    When you hear someone speaking angrily then may become angry as well. Likewise, if you listen to someone happily, then you may become happy. So the mood of the speaker is transferred from the speaker to the listener through the speech because that mood is present in the speech as tone.

    In modern linguistics, it is believed that the “meaning” of the word is only in the mind, but we don’t accept that idea. The meaning is present in the body, or the speech as well. But it requires a different kind of measurement. Just like in an angry person, the blood pressure is high, or in a nervous person, the pulse rate is high. So, the mood of the person changes the bodily state. That pulse or blood pressure is not the mood, but an effect of the mood. From that effect, the mood can be created. So, there is bidirectional causality from the body to the mind and from the mind to the body.

    When an angry person cooks food, then that angry mood is transferred to the food, and by consuming that food the anger is transferred into the person who is eating it. Similarly, the mood of the chanter is present in the chanting, and by listening to that chanting the mood is transferred.

    Of course, it needs a developed mind to read the moods and emotions in the words. This is especially true when we are ourselves not familiar with the mood. If you have never felt anger, then you cannot understand the angry tone in speech. Likewise, if we haven’t felt the devotional mood, then we cannot understand the devotional mood, even though it is there. But if we repeatedly associate with that mood, then we can get a glimpse of how it “feels”, and then we can understand it as well.

    So, when we listen to an advanced devotee, there are three things–(a) words or cognitive meaning, (b) grammar or order of the words which create a unique meaning, and (c) the mood. Of these, the cognitive meaning of words is the easiest, the meaning created by the order is harder, and the meaning created by the mood is the hardest. All these three things are combined into the term artha which is sometimes translated as “meaning”, sometimes as “purpose”, and sometimes as “object”.

    In combination with sabda, sabda-artha means word-meaning or cognitive meaning. In combination with purusapurusa-artha means the purpose of life, which is happiness or emotive meaning. In combination with indriyaindriya-artha means objects of the senses or the object that the senses are referencing or pointing toward, and it is the relational meaning. So, all three uses of artha are possible, and in different places, one specific meaning of artha is employed.

    All my books discuss these three kinds of meanings. But the question of prasadam or not listening to someone is not discussed. So, I have described them here but you can read them in the books as well.

    Rishabh Verma

    Would it be fair to say that the product, namely kirtan or prasadam is a more contingent representation of a subtle or apriori emotion/state of consciousness and thus it is ultimately the consciousness that is transferred via a medium, provided we are trained to receive it?

    Ashish Dalela

    Information is transferred and consciousness is not transferred. Consciousness is tied to the soul. If consciousness was transferred then the soul would also be transferred. So, if someone buys a painting of a person, then they would have bought the person. Then if they burn the painting, then they would have burnt the person. All these would be the insane outcomes of your proposal.

    You can say that the product of consciousness is transferred but the consciousness is not transferred. By receiving that product, our consciousness is also transformed. So there is a source, a destination, and a medium. The medium carries information about the source, not the source to the destination.

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