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How are modes present in a person who has transcended, what does is mean practically, when will be liberated we will remain the same, just identify ourself as the soul but the mind is still full of modes?
This is the stage of mukti or liberation. It is “beyond” the three material qualities. But the spiritual qualities are not yet developed. During this stage, there are disturbances created by the mind. But the person or soul doesn’t come under their control. He dissociates from these disturbances. Upon further progress, even the mental disturbances are destroyed, so there is no need to dissociate.
How to follow the process and connect to Krishna in times of passion and illusion.
By strong willpower. You are asking the same question in numerous different ways. The answer is always the same. Detach and dissociate. It needs willpower. If you don’t have willpower, then it means you have led a comfortable life. You are not used to hardship, austerity, or endurance. In that case, you can either take voluntary hardships by picking up difficult projects for Krishna. Or, time and situation will force a lot of suffering on you, and by that suffering, you will develop endurance.
We have already discussed so many times that the soul has free will and free won’t. Free will is called the path of pravṛtti or doing what needs to be done. And free won’t is called the path of nivṛtti, or denying yourself pleasure, taking on austerity, developing endurance. The same thing is called yama and niyama. Yama means not doing something; denying yourself pleasure, and taking on hardship. Niyama means doing something regularly, that which needs to be done. By a combination of these two, you develop willpower. For example, by denying yourself pleasure, you develop free won’t. And by engaging in something regularly, you develop free will. There is no magic that will change things overnight. It is a long-drawn process because you have to realize that you have willpower. It can only come through practice.
If you take on difficult projects for Krishna, then both pravṛtti and nivṛtti are applied. The same thing happens in all types of yoga practice. There are some don’ts and do’s. We have to apply them repeatedly to develop willpower. That is how we develop free will and free won’t. It is unmanifest now. By practice, we manifest it.
Under tamo-guna, we don’t like to deny ourselves pleasure. Hence, we cannot follow yama. And under rajo-guna, there is a tendency to do that which doesn’t need to be done to obtain pleasure. Hence, we are unable to follow niyama because time is wasted on unnecessary things. So, the desire for material pleasure is the root cause of other problems. To get material enjoyment we don’t want to do the things required for yoga due to the influence of tamo-guna, and we want to do things other than yoga to obtain great pleasure due to the influence of rajo-guna.
But there is no magic wand to solve these problems. You have to follow the do’s and don’ts and it takes time. The lack of enthusiasm and determination is a symptom of tamo-guna. It produces questions such as “I have tried so hard, but it is not working, so why try more?” or “This is too complicated; can we not have an easier solution?” The basic principle is laziness, avoidance, escapism, miracle, and magic.
Real devotees do not ask these questions. They have only one question: How can I serve Krishna? Scheming, planning, strategizing, and executing plans for serving Krishna. But you are not asking such questions. Your question is: How can I get liberated? How can I transcend the modes? How can I go to the spiritual world?
This is a form of egotism or self-centeredness under which bhakti is a method for mukti. In that case, you have to struggle. You have to develop endurance via austerity, hardship, and discipline. And it is a long-drawn and slow process.
There is the other path in which we stop asking all these questions and simply ask: How can I please Krishna? Then the process is different. It achieves everything that liberation achieves and more. But it is not easy to give up desire for “enlightenment”, “nirvana”, “liberation”, “emancipation”, “going to heaven”, “being perfect”, and “transcending the modes of material nature”. A devotee transcends these questions because he only asks: What can I do for Krishna? It is a change in attitude. One who has changed this attitude is liberated, even if they superficially seem to be conditioned by material modes because they have no interest other than Krishna.
You can ponder the difference between mukti and bhakti. All these discussions about free will, material modes, and transcending the modes, are about mukti. The discussion of bhakti is the nature of the Lord, His pastimes, His desires, and His service. Just forget about yourself, your liberation, your emancipation, your purification, your transcendence. Not everyone can do that. But if someone can do it, then by bhakti they automatically get mukti. Those who cannot do that, have to struggle with do’s and don’ts, repeated practice, and long struggle. But if you forget about yourself and only think about Krishna, then you already got mukti.
We cannot understand the next stage until we come to the end of the previous stage. For example, in Śikṣāṣṭakam, the second of the eight verses states:
nāmnām akāri bahudhā nija-sarva-śaktis
tatrārpitā niyamitaḥ smaraṇe na kālaḥ
etādṛśī tava kṛpā bhagavan mamāpi
durdaivam īdṛśam ihājani nānurāgaḥ
In the first line, the name is called akāra, which means non-activity. This non-activity is the automatic springing of the holy name. It is also called “svayameva sphurati”. Lord Chaitanya calls it akāra or non-activity. This manifestation has many personal powers of the Lord (bahudhā nija-sarva-śaktis). But we may not have the realization that the name is manifest automatically or that it has numerous potencies of the Lord. This is because the name is not manifest automatically for most of us. We are struggling to chant. Then, we don’t realize that this sound itself has all the meanings including the speaker, their mood, intentions, concepts, reference, and powers to create an effect, by which everything can be recreated just by sound.
Even if we talk about such things, nobody is convinced. They question the basic idea of sound having meaning, the reference (the Lord in this case), along with the power in the sound to recreate the effect (that we can perceive the Lord just by chanting the sound). The reason is that we haven’t come to the point where we feel regret about our life (durdaivam īdṛśam ihājani nānurāgaḥ—I am so unfortunate that I have no attachment to chanting). Unless we get this regret, we cannot understand the philosophy of sound, namely, that it contains all the meanings.
So, what is the value of talking about the additional stages? The words in these verses are perfect, but those words cannot be understood unless one has the appropriate type of experience. Like you can talk about the taste of ginger to someone who has never tasted ginger. Their words are perfect but the listener cannot grasp the intended meaning unless they taste ginger themselves.
This is why we must confine ourselves to ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ. Just trying to purify the consciousness and end the forest fire. Forest fire means that we are running in various directions to escape the fire, but it has completely surrounded us. This is the situation for most people. Try a new job, try a new relationship, try a new hobby, try to get money, try to get a house, try to go to another place, try various foods, try new clothes, try new entertainment, try to spice up your life with a different kind of holiday. This is running here and there in order to escape the forest fire. But wherever we go, we cannot escape it.
When this stage ends, then we have stopped the forest fire within us. Then, the following sentence is applicable, namely, śreyaḥ-kairava-candrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam. This means that we have acquired the perfect theoretical knowledge and we can spread that knowledge like the moon spreads its rays. The forest fire is hot, and the rays of the moon are cooling. So, after the end of the forest fire, we become soothing like the moon, and we can spread the rays of knowledge.
This also means that one should not try to teach unless the inner forest fire is over. But if we say that, then people will get offended. But the fact is that unless the forest fire has finished, there is no knowledge. And yet, people keep trying to teach others. This is because their hearts are burning, which makes them run here and there to escape it. Their attempts at teaching others are not the effects of a soothing moon spreading its cooling rays. It is the heat of the forest fire that is pushing them here and there. They may even reject the actual moon. They want to fight fire with fire. This is because they haven’t realized the first sentence of Śikṣāṣṭakam.
If we say all these things, then people get demoralized. So it is better to keep quiet. But since you are asking about how one step goes to others, the response is that we cannot understand the whole thing although it has been presented. Just try to understand the first step. When we succeed in that, then we can understand the second step. Each step is qualitatively different from the previous step. Both ginger and turmeric are astringent. But ginger is not turmeric. So, one has to experience a stage and then the goals of the next stage will become clear automatically.
You cannot overcome the mind easily. But the mind has certain useful and useless proclivities. Use the useful proclivities for constructive activities. And refrain from useless proclivities and destructive activities. You have a choice. Use it. If you use it well, then the mind will be a friend. Otherwise, it will be an enemy. Don’t try to be a master of the mind. Try to be a friend with the mind and use its help.
Imagine you have a friend you helps you in your studies. And the same friend goes out for drinks. You can accompany the friend during the studies. And you need not accompany the friend for drinks. This is called choice. It is responsible for the association and withdrawal of consciousness. You associate with the friend when you like it. And you withdraw from the friend when you don’t like it.
This is also the process of detachment and attachment. We can progressively detach from our bad habits, harmful ways of thinking, and negative emotions. We can progressively attach with the good habits such as reading, chanting, worshipping, etc. By this process of attaching and detaching, the mind is slowly purified. It takes time. But it will be purified, and then there is no need for detachment.
We have to know that the mind is a part of material energy. Conquering the mind is as hard as conquering the material energy. She is very powerful. In BG 7.14, Lord Krishna calls this material energy mama māyā duratyayā. Duratyayā means unfathomable, inscrutable, unconquerable. So, don’t try to control it. But learn to attach and detach by your will. This is the method to change the mind.
It takes time. An example is a rope being used to pull water out of a well. The metallic wheel over which the rope is pulled is very hard. But as you pull the rope everyday, even that hard metal wheel will wear off. But it is not going to wear off in a day. It takes time. But rest assured that the rope is always wearing off that wheel. The problem is that sometimes the rope wears off faster than the metal wheel. We lose enthusiasm and hope. So, we have to persist and success is assured.
The subject of consciousness includes all other subjects. All modern subjects have been created by the assumption that either consciousness does not exist, or it has no role in the subject. So, if consciousness exists, and it has a role in the subject, then the study of that subject also changes. How it changes varies from subject to subject. Those changes are the symptoms of consciousness or of the soul.
Everything from logic to numbers to space and time to causality to matter to change and its laws is defined differently. Likewise, every subject from mathematics to physics to psychology to sociology to cosmology changes. If you are thinking that there is a specific subject called “consciousness”, then it is not true. It includes all subjects. Everything has to be studied as an organism rather than a thing.
This organism connects to other organisms, acquires knowledge of those organisms, and uses that knowledge to fulfill its purpose of existence. If that purpose is good, connection is right, and knowledge is true, then it progresses through an upward spiral. If not, then it regresses through a downward spiral, until it finds the good purpose, the right connection, and the true knowledge. Depending on the level of detail, it can be very simple and it can be very complicated.
So, you can start wherever it seems easier and postpone the harder subject to later. Take a look at the books and blogs, and you will find a lot of material to read. I don’t know enough about your background to guide you. You can search and decide.
The ātma or the self has three aspects called sat, chit, and ānanda. I call these relation, cognition, and emotion. Of these three, emotion and cognition constitute a soul. But relation is that which connects one soul to another. This relational power to connect one person to another is consciousness. It can be a connection between matter and soul because matter is yet another soul. Consciousness is sometimes called sambandha or relationship. It can be temporary or eternal. Krishna consciousness means eternal relationship to Krishna. Sri Krishna Chaitanya means one who is conscious of Krishna, or one perfectly Krishna conscious.
This relational capacity has many kinds of relations within it in a potential form. At one moment, one such relation is activated, and thereby the ātma connects to one thing at a time. For example, when you have a plate of food in front of you, the consciousness moves between taste, touch, smell, sight, etc. Taste is some atoms, touch is another set of atoms, smell is yet another set of atoms. And consciousness moves from one type of atom to another, which is why you sometimes focus on smell, then on taste, then on shape and color, etc. It moves very fast, which is why you may not notice the effects. But you can slow it down by practice.
During deep sleep, the the ātma stops connecting to other things. That is called the unconscious state. The ātma still exists, but it has no experience.
The movement of consciousness in the material world is forced by material energy so material experience is the byproduct of both material energy and ātma. But the goal of religious practice is to stop this forced movement and restart the self-willed movement. So, it is correct to say that “consciousness is material” mostly in the current conditioned state, because the material energy is dragging the ātma like an animal tied by a rope. However, the movement can be freed from material control, and therefore it is correct to say that “consciousness is not material”.
In simple words, consciousness means sambandha. There are temporary and eternal relationships. In this world, all relationships are temporary, which is why consciousness moves. In the spiritual world, the consciousness is always fixed on a form of the Lord, but there is movement on how to serve the Lord, focus on different qualities and activities of the Lord, etc. This is because the relational capacity has many potentials that are organized in a hierarchy. The root of this hierarchy is fixed on the Lord while the branches and leaves are activated one by one. Similarly, the root of this hierarchy is fixed on the ego in the material world while the branches and leaves are activated one by one. However, that ego is itself not fixed, hence all the relationships and experiences are temporary.
The movement of consciousness is divided into five parts as inward, outward, upward, downward, and around. You can imagine upward and downward spirals. As it moves upward, it also goes around and moves inward. That inward movement is detaching oneself from the world. Then when it moves downward, initially it goes outward, which means we see our well-being as a part of worldly well-being. But eventually, it starts going inward again when a person only seeks to fulfill his self-interest, which is equated to the fulfillment of the ego, a false image of the self.
Accordingly, there are three divisions of the ego. Under sattva, ego means doing my duties for my liberation. This is an inward-moving upward spiral, which means you do your duties but you are not concerned about results. Under rajas, ego means business transactions of giving and taking, ensuring the well-being of others to facilitate my well-being. This is an outward-moving downward spiral. Initially, this transactional ego expands to include the broader world. But over time, it narrows to constrain my well-being to the well-being of my nation, society, company, and family. Then it transitions to just the well-being of my body and mind. This is the ego under tamas. It entails exploitation, domination, and abuse of others to promote the well-being of my body and mind. This is further downward and inward compared to rajas, but the inwardness, in this case, is the fulfillment of the narrow ego, which means as long as I get what I want, everyone else can go to hell.
Consciousness means these five kinds of changes in relationships. The “soul” or the cognitive and emotive aspect is not moving, but the relational aspect is moving. Hence the soul is fixed but its consciousness moves. During dreaming, for example, the consciousness leaves the awareness of this body and goes to another realm to see other things. The “soul” or the cognitive and emotive aspect, however, doesn’t move. This is why scientists can measure the effects of dreaming on the body, and during a bad dream, the body will start sweating or shivering.
This is a complex subject and it is better to read some books. This is a high-level answer. In simple terms, we can say that there is a soul (cognition and emotion) and it has a consciousness (relation). This is what Prabhupada is referring to when he says that consciousness is the symptom of the soul. The symptom is the effect of the change of relations to other things, and its cause is emotion and cognition.
Heads or tails is not the only possibility.
1. A coin toss could lead to a coin standing sideways, which would be neither heads nor tails. Logic eliminates that possibility: A coin toss must be either head or tails.
2. A coin could be a small box, such that when you toss it, the box opens and the outer side of the bottom and top parts turn up. Logic eliminates that too: A coin toss cannot show both heads and tails (the outer sides of the box being seen).
3. A coin could be a small box, such that when you toss it, the box opens and the inner side of the bottom and top parts turn up. Logic eliminates that too: A coin toss cannot be neither heads nor tails (the inner sides of the box being seen).
4. After a toss, the claim that “I got a coin” is a logically invalid answer. The answer must be either “I got a head” or “I got a tail”. Hence, “both” is eliminated.
5. The coin cannot disappear into thin air upon being tossed. That is also a logically invalid answer. The answer cannot be “I got neither head nor tail”.
So what is logic? It is the elimination of conceivable scenarios. We restrict the universe of conceivability and we call it impossible, when it is possible.
So, heads OR tails depends on two things — (a) it is not both heads and tails, and (b) it is not neither heads nor tails. Yes it is true that this is commonly called mutual exclusion. But it combines two claims: (a) a law of non-contradiction, and (b) a law of excluded middle. Law of non-contradiction says: Both A and not-A are not true. The law of excluded middle says: Neither A nor not-A are not true.
I shortened the law of excluded middle into “mutual exclusion”, because it seems to me that most people haven’t heard of the “law of excluded middle” but they have heard of mutual exclusion. I always clarify that this means the law of excluded middle, by defining “mutual exclusion” as the “law of excluded middle”.
The easier formulation is — the categories “neither” and “both” are eliminated. This means many things. A coin cannot disappear into thin air if tossed. A coin cannot stand sideways if tossed. A coin cannot open up like a box such that both outer faces turn up. A coin cannot open up like a box such that both inner faces turn up. After the coin is tossed you cannot say “I got a coin” instead of “head” or “tail”.
Logic is a limitation on what you can say and how the world must be conceived.
The answer is already given in the post:
The soul’s choice lies in associating or dissociating itself from matter and thereby changing the chitta, guna, and karma. For instance, as we associate with the world, we form new habits, impressions, and consequences of the association. When we dissociate, the old habits, impressions, and consequences slowly disappear. Through selective association and dissociation, we change our chitta, guna, and karma. When these three change, the successive mixtures produced by time also change. This is how we change our life—associate and dissociate, alter the chitta, guna, and karma, and then alter our life. Hence, free will is about changing our life rather than changing the world.
The same thing was also mentioned earlier in this answer:
The soul’s free won’t or free will are eternal. If we associate with material tendencies, that is a choice. And if we reject the material tendencies, that is also a choice. The accept-reject capacity is never reduced. However, what we are accepting or rejecting may be constrained. When we accept, consciousness moves outward and associates with the Guna. When we reject, consciousness moves inward and dissociates from the Guna. This inward and outward movement of consciousness is never impaired. Hence free will and free won’t is never diminished.
The question you are asking above assumes that we don’t have the guna at all. That is not true.
So as we know we cannot control matter, so how does it happen with reference to the mechanism explained in the article. to choose the ‘Guna’ we associate with, which is not as per our Prakriti.
There is a famous saying: Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, the one I feed the most.
I have explained this earlier that change always happens due to contradictions. That is the fight between the dogs. Each side tries to dominate. But you can encourage one dog and discourage another one. The good dog may be a needle in the haystack. If so, then keep rejecting the haystack and by method of elimination you will find the needle. You can decide to starve the bad tendencies in a moment, and never feed it again. Or, you can slowly starve the bad tendencies. That is up to you.
Most of the time, most of the people, do it slowly. That means even as they are starving the bad tendencies, they are also feeding it sometimes. That elongates the process of purification. But if we ask them to starve their bad tendencies suddenly, then they will not be able to do anything. So, they can choose what they want. If someone doesn’t like the struggle, then what can we do?
The spiritual world is divided into many parts, depending on different kinds of devotion to God. That detail is not important right now. If we start discussing all the divisions, it will take a long time. Generally, it is called Vaikuntha. Kuntha means foolishness. And Vaikuntha means devoid of foolishness. So, this material world is considered foolishness and beyond this world is considered intelligence.
The higher lokas in the material world are also temporary. Even Brahma-loka is temporary. So, by the spiritual world, we mean an eternal place. That planet is eternal, all the bodies are eternal (no death or old age), all the relationships are eternal (no fighting and separation), and love is eternal (every day the love increases; every day it gets a little more exciting, and there is never a decrease). In that eternal place, with an eternal body, relationship, and love, there are varieties. They constitute many places of residence for the Lord and His devotees.
Whatever you are doing is perfect. Keep doing that. Krishna will guide you on how to do more and better. More means quantity and better means quality. So Krishna can guide you on how to improve the quality and increase the quantity. As the quality improves and the quantity increases, everything will slowly become Krishna consciousness. There is no separate method. We have to just increase the quantity and improve the quality. In general, quality is more important than quantity.
The primary creation happened in the Causal ocean called Tattva Srishti or Prakrutha Srishti. All Indriya abhimani devtas and Yajna abhimani devtas were created there and entered the brahmanda with Chaturmukha Brahma.
These are not devatas. They are different forms of Lord Shiva, sometimes referred to as Rudras. The causal ocean is called pradhāna, which means “I am the boss”. The soul perceives this pradhāna and identifies with it, kind of like you listen to false praise and you believe in that false praise. That belief in false praise is false ego. The person believes “I am the enjoyer”. The bossiness is for self-interest. The boss wants to be feared and worshipped, to create a false sense of self-importance.
Then the soul perceives other souls covered with the same false ego, who also want to be feared and worshipped. So, this false ego is limited by the fundamental idea of “rights”. They are false, but we consider them “fundamental”. This is one form of mahattatva (there is another form of mahattattva, which constitutes “duties”). From this sense of “rights” emerge five categories. These are designated as Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth coverings of the souls. For example, the first such “right” is the “right to speech”, “right to information”, “right to education”, etc. Then, the next set of rights is “freedom of movement”, “freedom of assembly”, “freedom of citizenship”, etc. There are literally unlimited such rights. And they are layered upon the previous rights. They are all part of the basic idea that “I am the enjoyer”. And these fictional ideas constitute the coverings of the universe. There are many universes in material creation, and they have different kinds of coverings. That means everyone in that universe is suffering from a different sense of entitlement and egotism.
Lord Shiva is the representation of this false egotism, beginning with pradhāna. So, there are successive forms of Rudra identified with the successive ideas of “rights” of enjoyment. Together with pradhāna, the 7 coverings of the universe are one set of 8 Rudras. There are many other sets. By context, we know the difference.
All the creation is within this 7-fold shell of the universe. This means that everyone is covered by lots of entitlements. Even if we stop enjoying the senses, we think we have the right to enjoyment. And as long we think like that, we are bound to the material universe. And these so-called rights keep manifesting through our body, mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense. This is primary creation. It is sometimes summarized as Prakriti, sometimes called guna, sometimes called false ego, etc.
The secondary creation/Padma Srishti started from Brahma. All Abhimani Devtas(Presiding Dieties) were created again.
This is because the 24 elements of Sāñkhya, beginning with mahattattva or “moral sense” are produced after the entire repository of “rights” is created. For example, one of the moral ideas is truthfulness. But the material sense of morality is such that we will tell the truth when it does not hurt us. Self-preservation (due to rights) is more important than truth. Otherwise, if we tell the truth, we must get a reward. As long as we get a reward, rather than punishment, we tell the truth.
Likewise, another moral principle is kindness. But the material sense of morality is such that we will show kindness as long as it doesn’t hurt us. Give charity, if we don’t have to starve after that. Or, even if there is some short-term loss, there must be a long-term gain. Thus, everything in morality is about doing those things that will help others, as long as it doesn’t hurt me. Even if they are hurting us in the short run, they must benefit us in the long run. For example, one must ascend to heavenly planets by charity, sacrifice, kindness, and truthfulness. This is material morality. It is not the pure ideas of truthfulness, kindness, or charity, in itself.
So, there are presiding deities of all these contaminated ideas of truth, kindness, austerity, etc. Even if we perform some sacrifice, it is only to get a bigger reward in return. Everything is for serving the false ego, increasing the sense of dominance, and proving that we are the enjoyer. This is why these presiding deities are not considered “God”. It is because they are all rooted in the false ego.
But later when it comes to Trilokas (i.e Bhu Bhuvar Swar) Brahma first created plants, animals, human beings and Devas. How these newly created Devas are related to the previous Devtas or are they different?
There are presiding deities of senses, mind, intellect, etc. Then there are presiding deities even of many species. For example, Manu is the presiding deity of humans. Manu gives laws, and by those laws he controls us. Likewise, there are presiding deities of forests, rivers, mountains, etc. Yakshas preside over forests.
I have read from other sources that the Presiding dieties created at the begininng by Brahma were Ayonijah (Means manasa putras). The Devas created in Lower Triloka are Yonijah (from Kashyapa, Aditi). And devas in higher lokas i.e beyond Swar Loka will remain there for the entire Kalpa and Swar Loka Devtas will change in every Manwantara.
This is correct in the broad outlines, although I don’t know enough about this subject to certify it. It doesn’t matter whether someone is born through the mind or a body. The fact is that in both cases they have a mind. Those minds, which are a large repository of many kinds of ideas, are different. But it may be correct that later demigods are born like ordinary children of parents. I can’t certify it.
Current Manvanthara has 33 main devtas in Swar Loka i.e 12 Adityas, 11 Rudras, 8 Vasus and 2 Ashwins. But a doubt comes because we are invoking these temporary Manvanthara Devtas in Vedas. Are the Vedic names of Rudras, Vasus same as current Manvanthara Devtas? If yes then why eternal Vedas speak about temporary Devta groups?
Devatas are roles, like the prime minister. They rule for some time and then they are replaced by the next person. When the person takes on a role, he is called by the role. For example, you address the person as Mr. Prime Minister, rather than by their actual name. It is not that they don’t have their own name. But for simplicity, they are addressed by their role. For instance, Surya is a position, but the current person in the position is Vivaswān. The same person was a Manu earlier, and that Manavantara was called Vaivaswata Manavantara. So, the person who was Manu in one Manavantara became Surya in the next Manavantara. This is a change of department of a bureaucrat. Demigods are just bureaucrats in the universal government. They can lose their job after some time. Or they can shift from one department to another. It all depends on how well they have done.
The study of these things is useful in one sense that we can understand there is some “higher power” controlling our body, life, planet, etc. But who controls what doesn’t matter when you die. So, this type of knowledge is given, and yet not equated to the superior knowledge of the soul. Finally, the supreme knowledge is that of the Supreme Person who manifested everything else.
Initiation is a formality.
Nārada Muni did not perform an initiation ceremony for Dhruva. He just gave Druva a mantra to chant, which he chanted sincerely, and that was enough. Nor was Prahalāda initiated with a ceremony. He just heard from Nārada Muni while in the womb of his mother. He was still a child when he went back to his father, and just 5 years old when Narasimhadeva appeared to protect him from his father. Likewise, Gajendra did not get initiation. He just offered a flower to Lord Viśnu while he was about to be killed. Nārada Muni just asked Vālmīkī to chant “marā”. Jada Bharata was never initiated. He pretended to be a fool so that society will reject him.
Arjuna was never initiated by Lord Kṛṣṇa. Arjuna just said: śiṣyas te ’haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam, or that I am your disciple and surrendered to you, so please instruct me. Note the word śiṣya or disciple. Just by saying that I’m a disciple surrendered to you, initiation is done. Similarly, Sukadeva Goswami never performed a ceremony of initiation for Parikshit. Parikshit just fell before him, and asked him how to save himself in the next seven days. Srila Mādhavāchārya was instructed by Vyāsadeva, 4000 years after the disappearance of Vyāsadeva. No initiation ceremony was performed by Vyāsadeva for instructing Mādhavāchārya. Brahma was instructed in the heart by inspiration, and he is ādi-kavi or “original poet”. Lord Visnu did not perform an initiation ceremony for Brahma.
Formerly, every person in the upper three classes underwent 16 purificatory ceremonies from the time before conception. There was a garbhādhāna samskāra or a pregnancy ceremony, where the married couple will announce that they were going to have sex to conceive a child. Everyone would be invited, a fire sacrifice would be performed, and Brahmanas were given charity so that they will bless the couple to have a good child. Similarly, there was an annaprāśana samksāra when the newborn child was given some grain for the first time, implying that the child is now weaning off the mother’s milk. At every new stage in life, such as going to study in a gurukula, getting graduated, getting married, and so on, there was some purificatory ceremony being performed. One of these ceremonies was when the child was to start chanting the Gayathri mantra. It was routine, or one of the 16 ceremonies purificatory during the course of one’s life. It was not a big thing.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati reduced all these to just 2 ceremonies, and Srila Prabhupada continued with that system. These are just purificatory samskāra. It was a kind of social custom earlier. Of course, these are not meaningless activities. But not more meaningful than chanting the Lord’s names. It was a system of formalization by calling people first-initiated, second-initiated, etc. These things are required for institutions. Some rules, regulations, formalities, and rituals.
Some people gave it too much importance like it was a graduation ceremony, and those initiated were somehow “superior” to those who were not. Those second-initiated were somehow “superior” to those first-initiated. People created a hierarchical system, quite like companies give their employees titles. Even today, those who were initiated by Srila Prabhupada consider themselves superior to those that followed. Then some people think they get extra bragging rights because they have been initiated by a more powerful guru. I don’t know if they ever read books or try to compare what is described in Srimad Bhāgavatam or other texts to their life. Most people are not reading. And those who read don’t pay attention to it.
Anyway, we should just remember two things. One, from a spiritual perspective, initiation is when you start following the instruction of the perfect person. Two, there is a social custom carried forward from purificatory ceremonies of the past. These two are not connected. But some people have not only connected them but also given them a high level of importance. This is the age of kali-yuga. Brahmana will be identified not by knowledge, but just by wearing a thread. Likewise, devotees will be identified not by devotion, but simply by performing a ceremony.
The soul is like a fountain. That fountain is covered by mud right now. If that mud is removed, then the fountain starts spouting water. That spouting water is three things: (1) spontaneous, irresistible, and unstoppable love for God, (2) perfect knowledge of the spiritual and material worlds automatically springing into our consciousness, and (3) the use of this knowledge in spontaneous service, namely, using perfect knowledge of material and spiritual worlds to serve God.
This spontaneous springing out of love, knowledge, and service is called self-illumination. Why? Because we know ourselves through our work. To work, we need to know what to do, how to do it, where to do it, and when to do it. Knowledge is the answer to four questions–where, when, how, and what. And love is the answer to the one question of why I should do something. When we have answered these five questions–what, why, when, where, and how–then we start serving God with love, and that service will also be perfect, because it is fully in knowledge and in love.
By that service, we know ourselves, and answer: Who am I? This is the sixth important question, and it cannot be answered without the other five. The answer is: I am the servant of God in this way. My love for Him is in this way. I can do these things, in these ways, at this time, in this place. But unless I combine my knowledge to serve with love, the sixth question cannot be answered, and the self is undefined. I know that I have to do this, in that way, at this time, and at that place, for this reason. But the self is undefined. It is defined only by our service. It is when we combine knowledge and love to serve, then we know ourselves by our work
So, before we talk about self-awareness, we have to define the self–Who am I? Self-awareness without the other five questions is not possible. The simple question is: What is self-awareness? It is nothing but knowing who I am. If I am a specific type of servant of God, then knowing that I serve God in that specific manner is self-awareness. It is my relation to God and my knowledge of the self. The self is perfectly realized when the soul establishes an irrevocable loving service to God.
In the West, there is a trend of individualism, namely, I define myself. I say who I am. And I am free to do so. And in Vedic philosophy, the self is always defined in relation to another. Right now, the self is defined in relation to the body, society, nation, job, family, etc. Those are temporary. The eternal definition is who I am in relation to God. I cannot freely define myself to be whatever I want to be. We reject this individualistic idea. In Vedic philosophy, the self is always defined in relation to some other. Who is that other? The answer is that the other is the Supreme Person.
The trend of individualism exists in Advaita. Just like democracy is of the people, for the people, and by the people, likewise, there is an individualistic philosophy that says: of, by, and for the self. The definition is of the self. It is given by the self. And it is for the self. This self-reflective consciousness has three parts–for (called ananda), of (called chit), and by (called sat). The fact is that you can define yourself to be anything if the only reference for that definition is you. However, that also means that you could be anything, everything, something, and yet you are nothing.
This self-reflective consciousness is a spiritual self-centeredness. It is quite pleasurable because all the worries are cut-off. The soul feels free of the constraints and that freedom from anxiety is called happiness. It is the state in which the soul feels that it could be anything, it could be everything, it could be something, and yet, it remains as nothing. This state of pure potentiality, without any reality, is called Brahman. That feeling of could be anything, everything, something, and yet being nothing, is a state of pure freedom but also nothing definite. This Brahman is experienced as self-luminescence. You can see yourself, but not as anything definite.
In the Brahman state, neither of the six questions–what, who, why, how, where, and when–are answered. But it is better than fleeting answers. Hence, Brahman is considered transcendent to the material world, and yet, not the answer to the perennial questions of life, namely, the above-noted six types of questions.
I don’t know what you are experiencing, and I cannot comment on its causes. But I can say that material nature is sometimes kind to remove Her influence over us, and by that, we can suddenly feel free. There are traditions of Shakta worship that try to evoke Shakti’s mercy on the soul to relieve it from Her influence. If freedom to be anything but nothing well-defined is what we desire, then by suitable practices Shakti can relieve the soul of Her influence, and the soul becomes Brahman.
I don’t think there is any loss by such an experience–if it is the experience of Brahman. However, the soul is never satisfied by pure potentiality. It always wants to be something rather than the potential to be anything, everything, and yet nothing. That being something is the answer to the question: Who am I? The possibility of being anything, everything, and yet nothing, is not an answer to the question: Who am I? That answer requires the previous process, namely, loving God, acquiring knowledge to serve Him, and serving God to define the self by its work.
It is the work by the self to get a definition of the self, but the work is for God. Of the self means that I define myself through my work. By the self means that the work that defines me is done by me, out of free will; it is not forced labor; rather, it is loving labor and hence it is free choice by the self. And for God means that the work that defines me, and which I perform out of my free will and love, is done for God. So, there is freedom because I can choose how I want to serve God. It is not bondage into some body and relationship as Advaita calls it. But it is also not radical freedom of being a pure potential but nothing real, as is the case in Advaita.
A thoughtless state is nothing but a state of pure potentiality. This is not a bad thing. But it is not the perfect thing either. The perfect thing is always thinking about what Krishna likes, thinking of various ways of pleasing Him, and feeling happy by the opportunity to do something for Krishna. This is a thoughtful state. But it is not foolish, ridiculous, or painful thoughts. Nor is it thoughtless.
I suppose I am trying so hard to listen that I am not hearing very well.
There is no such thing as trying too hard. Those who are trying hard say that I have wasted my life by not trying. And there is no question of not hearing well. It is not a sound someone is going to whisper in your ear that you cannot hear. It springs naturally in the heart, in a flash of insight. When it springs like that, there is no doubt about its authenticity and its source. We know that it is not a product of our minds, because we never knew anything that could lead to such an idea.
my own fears and misgivings are creating so much noise that I am unable to decipher His signal
All fears are immediately destroyed by remembering Krishna. The spiritual fear is different. Mother Yashoda is afraid that something bad is going to happen to her son. That He may not be eating properly, and if She doesn’t feed Him, He will die. That fear, which is in relation to Krishna and not in relation to us, is considered pure. Likewise, Krishna fears His mother when she shows Him a stick. He starts crying out of fear. The master of all the universes fears a stick in His mother’s hands.
You may be talking about material attachment and outcome driven desires. For example, in movies they show that some loved one is lying in a hospital and someone goes to “pray” in the Church or temple to cure him. And then a miracle happens. That is the most unadulterated nonsense. Basically, they have made God so cheap, that He has become everybody’s order supplier. You just enter a request in a website and click submit, and God at the “backend” will immediately supply it.
These kinds of prayers are responded to by demigods. But even then, there is a give and take. It is a business transaction. And there is an elaborate process for that.
Since Krishna is not interested in a business transaction, hence He never responds to such prayers. His statement is clear: Those who always remember Me, I give them the intelligence by which they can come to Me. If the question is how to serve Him better, then Krishna can respond. If the question is how to serve myself better through family, relatives, business, etc. then there is no response.
When I was 7 or 8 years old, I read a Hindi translation of “Chaitanya Charitāvali” by Prabhudutta Brahmachāri. It used to be in five volumes earlier, but it seems like they shrunk it to one volume. Anyway, in that book, there was a color picture of Lord Chaitanya throwing away His navya-nyāya commentary in Ganga just to please His friend Raghunātha who was hoping to become the greatest Nyāya philosopher, but upon seeing that Lord Chaitanya’s commentary was far superior to his, he started crying. Then Lord Chaitanya threw away His commentary in Ganga just to please his friend. That picture of Lord Chaitanya throwing away His Nyāya commentary in Ganga stuck in my mind, even as a child. It is equally fresh today.
I’m aware that Lord Chaitanya wrote a new Nyāya commentary in which He rejected navya-nyāya conclusions. But He threw it away and the remaining commentaries survived. This is why I don’t give much value to it. If Lord Chaitanya has rejected it, then it has no value for me. So, when you asked if I know the difference between Nyāya and Navya-Nyāya I told you honestly that I don’t know. It’s because I never studied Navya-Nyāya. But I know about Lord Chaitanya’s commentary.
In the mid 90s, I met a Navya-Nyāya scholar in Calcutta. I think it was in Jadavpur University, but I don’t remember clearly now. He was wearing white dhoti and kurta and proud of being a Brāhmana. He treated me like a servant, which I don’t blame him for, because I did not have good clothes and I was not well-dressed by ordinary standards. Nevertheless, I saw the pride in his demeanor and I thought to myself: This guy knows nothing. As the saying goes: vidyā dadāti vinayam, or knowledge makes a person humble. And he was apparently the greatest scholar of Navya-Nyāya at that time. That is yet another reason why I never went in that direction.
Long story short, I don’t know about Navya-Nyāya and I’m not curious about it. If for some reason a necessity arises, I will read. Until then, I focus on the job at hand.
Sorry. I don’t know.
In every situation, we must try to act just like Krishna will act in that situation. When we act like God, then we become godly. Of course, we might not have Krishna’s power and intellect, but Krishna will give us that power and intellect if we ask ourselves: How will Krishna act in this situation?
In Bhagavad-Gita 10.10, Krishna says: To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me. This is called buddhi-yoga. So, working in this world also becomes Krishna consciousness if we ask: What will Krishna do in this situation?
Dharma is not impersonal “laws”. Some basic principles like truthfulness, kindness, austerity, and cleanliness are prescribed to guide society. But these principles are often contradictory. For example, to punish a liar, we have to give up kindness. This is an example of giving higher preference to truth than kindness. Then sometimes we have to give up the truth to be kind. Hence, even though there are universal principles of moral action, they are not always prioritized in the same order.
Hence what we have to do in each situation is not decided by universal laws. But there is indeed an ideal choice for every situation. That ideal choice is how Krishna will act in that situation. God is the definition of ideal. Whatever He does is ideal. There is no other meaning to “ideal” than God. So, we can either take guidance from a guru who knows God intimately or we can try to understand what God will do in that situation. Even if we take guidance from a guru, he does the same: (a) He tries to understand your situation, (b) He determines what Krishna will do in that situation, and (c) filters it by what you are unable to do to find the best thing that you can do. You can do the same.
And if some guru gives guidance contrary to what Krishna will do in that situation, then he is a false guru. Just like when Lord Vāmana came to Bali Maharaja to “beg” for three steps of land, his “guru” Shukracharya tried to stop him. But Bali Maharaja ignored his “guru” and agreed to do what Lord Vāmana was asking him. Likewise, if some so-called guru tells you something different or contrary to what Krishna will tell you, then we have to reject that guru and ignore his guidance.
You might say: I don’t know how Krishna will act, so can I do what He will do? And the answer is to remember Krishna and seek His guidance. He will inspire you to do what needs to be done. But if we ignore or neglect that advice, then Krishna stops advising. He knows there is no use in telling this person what to do because he will do something different. Then God also goes silent.
Think of Krishna as Purushottama, the ideal man. In this way, you can constantly remember Krishna, always act like Him, and you will become godly, and also just like a puppet in His hands.