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March 1, 2019 at 2:30 am in reply to: Why is the Oneness so attractive for so many people? #6847
Regarding the comment by Srila Jiva Goswami, can you provide some references that I can read?
I realize that I may have used the term Advaita in a loose sense, as there are many schools within it and many of them accept Lord Shiva as the person who liberates the soul into Brahman.
The notion that everything is an illusion is problematic because it entails that even Brahma-Sutra is an illusion and so is the claim that everything is an illusion. This is a well-known critique of the illusion thesis. Also, the idea that Brahman alone is real is also problematic because it doesn’t explain how the soul falls from Brahman and comes under the influence of Maya. When Brahman, Shiva, and Shakti are recognized as three separate entities, these problems disappear so the thesis of impersonal monism (Brahman) requires Shiva and Shakti, and this is what I meant by the soul going to Brahman state by the grace of Lord Shiva. This is a more complete and consistent form of Advaita (Brahman), although different from Vaishnavism.
Regarding the sat-chit-ananda question, I now realize that I used the term ‘experience’ in a Western sense of ‘experiencing the world’ or something other than the self. Yes, there is an experience of the self in which the soul is both the knower and known, pleaser and the pleasured, the object and the subject. The reconciliation of these opposites is non-duality.February 27, 2019 at 12:43 am in reply to: Why is the Oneness so attractive for so many people? #6842
There is something deeper hidden in the idea of oneness, which we can try to appreciate. Oneness is represented by Brahman, so it is not a Western idea. Oneness originally came through the philosophy of Advaita as a means to denounce Buddhism. In Buddhism the ultimate reality is nothingness, and Advaita stated that this reality (Brahman) is oneness. Both philosophies did not adequately explain the origins of diversity except to agree that this diversity is an illusion.
The difference really is that nothingness corresponds to the ultimate material reality and oneness corresponds to Brahman. In nothingness, the self doesn’t exist, and in oneness, the self exists but it is not an individual self. Both these ideas have an Indian origin.
The recent twist in the story is that Mayavadis used the idea of oneness to claim that the many forms of demigods and the different incarnations of God are also material illusions. They were trying to make Hinduism more acceptable to the West and answer the challenges of Christian preachers who derided Hinduism as polytheistic pagan worshippers. The claim was that the West underwent a religious ‘reform’ that hasn’t yet occurred in India. Therefore, India was inferior relative to the West. Thus, rose the idea that Hinduism had to undergo some kind of reform. The ‘reformers’ of Hinduism however wanted to maintain a separate identity rather than blindly accepting the monotheism of Abrahamic religions. So, they came up with a new answer which was that Hinduism is neither monotheistic nor polytheistic; it is rather monistic. In other words, the Abrahamic distinction between soul and God itself does not exist.
This idea was rapidly lapped up by those who already had some problems with Abrahamic God where He is depicted as a judgmental personality who sends souls eternally to hell and heaven. If the distinction between soul and God is dissolved, then there are no judgments, nobody is superior or inferior and the concept of hell and heaven automatically disappears. This ‘solution’ to the problem of eternal hell and heaven became popular in the West as an alternative to Abrahamic religions, though it did not originate in the West. It is an atheistic but spiritual solution; there is no God, but we are a single spiritual being different from matter.
This kind of solution appeals both to atheists (because they don’t have to accept God) as well as spiritualists (because the self is different from matter). The surprising fact is that it is recognized as a reality in Vedic philosophy, which means that atheistic spiritualism is an alternative. But it is not the ultimate alternative where Brahman is described as the rays emanating from God’s body.
In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the knowledgeable folks don’t reject Brahman but deny that it is ultimate. We accept that Brahman is sat-chit-ananda but deny that there is any factual experience of eternity, cognition, and pleasure in this state.
There is a subtle but important distinction between being eternal and experiencing eternity. To experience eternity, one must have the experience of time as it passes moment to moment accompanied by the realization that even through these passing moments I haven’t changed. The experience of eternity involves time, but being eternal means there is no time.
Therefore, Brahman is a real state, but due to atheism (denial of God), there is no experience. The soul although individual fails to experience this individuality. This now becomes the basis on which many atheists want to construct ‘consciousness’ or experience from a state of no experience. They believe that if we added time to Brahman then we will get conscious experience. This is a very important idea, though not always understood. The idea is that I exist eternally but my experience (caused by time) is not eternal. So, apart from Brahman, there must also be time, which creates the illusory experience called the material world. Time now becomes the explanation for why the soul falls into the material world or can be liberated from it.
Since time is identified with Lord Shiva all over Vedic philosophy, to free oneself from the illusion, one has to pray to Lord Shiva who can take the soul out of time or the experience of the material world. Thus, in the true Advaita system, there is a personal God identified as Lord Shiva. He is different from Brahman and never falls into the illusion. It is not the completely atheistic idea of Mayavada where even Lord Shiva is an illusion just like the other demigods.
In summary, there is a philosophy of monism that came as a rejection of nothingness. This monism itself is atheistic although spiritual. It was adopted by Hindus who could not answer the challenges from Abrahamic religions, and it was embraced by those followers of Abrahamic religions who could not answer the challenges of sin and suffering, hell and heaven. This kind of monism recognizes Brahman as reality and the material world as illusion but isn’t able to explain why reality becomes the illusion. This incomplete monism is called Mayavada.
Quite aside from this Mayavada is Advaita in which there is Brahman but there is also Lord Shiva as time who has the power to liberate the worshipper from the material world. Most people don’t understand the difference between Mayavada and Advaita and bundle the two together. The fact is that the Mayavadi philosopher never gets liberated from the material world. But the Advaita philosopher can be liberated by the grace of Lord Shiva. Therefore, for liberation one has to worship some form of God; even for Brahman liberation, one worships Lord Shiva.
Then there are other forms of liberation that exist in Vaikuntha. In these forms of liberation, there is an experience in addition to existence (in Brahman liberation there is only existence).
Therefore, when arguing with a Mayavada philosopher, it is better to encourage them to worship Lord Shiva and move them from the incomplete idea of Mayavada to a more complete understanding of the difference between Brahman and Lord Shiva. If they make that first step, then they can also understand that Brahman is existence without experience.
I did not know about Cymatics, thanks for pointing it out.
From what I could gather from brief reading, they are measuring the physical effects of physical vibrations. These are called ‘standing waves’ in physics. They are like musical vibrations. The different shapes and patterns are certainly interesting, but I could find anything that says that a certain type of vibration represents a particular type of meaning. Am I missing something?
Our thoughts are also phenomena, just like sense perception. This means that just like we try to find an explanation of all that is real behind the sense phenomena, similarly, the thoughts are also phenomena underlying which there is a reality. Just like a scientific theory is incomplete if it doesn’t explain all the sense observations, similarly, the theory is incomplete if it doesn’t explain all the thoughts. It naturally follows that all kinds of thoughts — such as scientific theories, musical compositions, literary works, computer programs, and even architectural designs — are phenomena that have to be explained by an underlying reality. Also, just like there are the five senses of perception, similarly, there is the intellect which is a sense for perceiving thoughts.
Howard Gardener proposed a Theory of Multiple Intelligences in which he recognizes the different categories of intellectual perception such as musical, visual, logical, etc., and claimed that some people are good in one type of intelligence while others are good in other areas. This is pretty much like some people have a good eyesight but relatively poor hearing. However, there is an important difference here, namely, that, unlike the five senses which are indeed five different faculties, intelligence is a single faculty rather than many independent faculties. Therefore, it is much harder to measure the presence or absence of one type as opposed to others.
Returning to the question of language, the processing of language is also an intellectual function. But the language we hear and understand is a phenomenon rather than reality. That means it is a construction out of some even more fundamental language. In fact, all the different languages of the world (and even those which may have existed in the past) are simply modifications of a more fundamental language. When we treat language itself as a phenomenon and seek a language that creates other languages we enter into the realm of linguistic analysis in which there are attempts to draw a diversifying tree of languages and dialects.
In structuralism therefore a distinction between langue and parole is drawn, where parole is the phenomenal language whereas langue is the underlying system of rules governing that language. Noam Chomsky had a similar idea where he draws a distinction between ‘deep’ and ‘surface’ structure in grammar, arguing that the deep structure is universal. These structuralist ideas have been used to claim that since there is a latent underlying structure that crosses languages and cultures, it must have something to do with the idea of humanity or even consciousness. We can of course agree, and say that this original and universal reality is sabda-brahman.
However, there is still much to be done by way of describing what this original language is, and how it first creates myriad forms of domains, then a domain-specific language (e.g. the language of physics), and then different kinds of ideas in each domain. The final step of this expansion involves the tokens by which ideas are expressed. But the fundamental ideas in terms of which we think, and the language in which we think are also expressions of a deeper language. To know sabda-brahman is very difficult because you have to know the language that creates thought.
While our individual thoughts may be true or false, manifest or unmanifest, the language in which these thoughts are created is eternal, unchanging, and universal. And the elements of this language are not impersonal ideas but different eternal, universal, and unchanging forms. Jung recognized this quite well in treating the psyche as comprised of myths populated by personalities like the hero, the mother, the teacher, etc. So, ultimately, even the study of language must lead us to the understanding of these eternal, unchanging, and universal personalities.
- This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by Ashish Dalela.
Yes, the general advice is to give up ethical considerations (dharma) and surrender to Krishna. That means, don’t evaluate things from the standpoint of mundane morals but whether Krishna will be pleased or not. Since multiple morals are replaced by one person, knowing the person and His preferences becomes the resolution of real or apparent conflicts. For example, if Krishna says do X, then it doesn’t matter whether it is moral or immoral from a mundane standpoint.
The reason we arrive at such a conclusion, however, can be explained by the above types of ethical dilemmas. When we show that moral decisions are very tricky because there is a clash of values, you prove that even if you did what was morally right, it is still not perfect because you compromised on some moral value and that compromise in other contexts could be erroneously taken to imply encouraging immorality. So the following of dharma is tricky, and even if you do the right thing sometimes you end up giving the wrong impression in other contexts.
Once we understand that morality is a slippery slope you come up with the alternative that you have to be either immoral or surrender to God. That may be the value of this discussion.
To be frank, I don’t know the story completely. It is not clear from what Ciprian describes above whether the people given up by the sage were indeed criminals. However, the general drift of the story suggests that they were innocent. If that is the case, then giving them up is immoral.
Deontological ethics is good, however, there are multiple principles that can sometimes be mutually conflicting. In Vedic philosophy, we speak about four cardinal moral principles–truthfulness, kindness, austerity, and cleanliness–and the perfect action is that which satisfies each of the four principles. However, in many cases, some of these principles may be mutually conflicting. In the example you have quoted above, truthfulness and kindness are conflicting. We cannot show kindness to criminals even though kindness is a virtue because that will lead to corruption of society. Similarly, we cannot show truthfulness in cases where it will lead to the incrimination of an honest person, because that will constitute injustice.
When we take multiple principles into account, we automatically become consequentialist, as the examples above illustrate (e.g. corruption of society or the injustice against a person).
So, there isn’t a deep contradiction between deontological and consequentialist ethics. The issue, however, is that there are multiple ethical principles to be followed and they can be mutually conflicting. So, the conflict with consequentialist ethics can be resolved within deontological ethics by saying that there are multiple (sometimes conflicting) principles and we have to prioritize between these principles rather than look at the consequences.
However, there is also another approach in which we can meet all the principles without prioritizing between them. This requires finding that action which satisfies all. An example from Mahabharata can be quoted here. Ashwatthama, the son of Dronacharya, committed the heinous crime of killing the 5 sons of Pandavas while they were sleeping. To avenge the death of his children, Arjuna had vowed to kill Ashwatthama, but Lord Krishna advised Arjuna that according to ot the Vedic scriptures, a Brahmana should never be killed by a Kshatriya. Lord Krishna found a middle path–shaving off the shikha of a Brahmana is considered a humiliation equivalent to the Brahmana’s death, and that’s what Arjuna did after defeating Ashwatthama.
The main point is that when ethical principles seem conflicting through the normal course of action, there is a possibility of finding an activity that doesn’t violate any of the principles. However, this means that the action is not universal but depends on desh, kala, and patra, or place, time, and the role of the person involved in the action. In short, following the principles is not enough, as the application of the principles varies in different situations.
You can create new topics in the forums if you want. That way the discussion remains more topic-focused instead of mixing many topics inside the same topic. When you create new topics, they become openly searchable and indexed by search engines. It’s somewhat better SEO!
Durga and Shiva are masters of material energy. Durga is the origin of space and Shiva is the origin of time. These ‘origins’ are like the roots of trees, which emanate from Them.
Maha-Vishnu, Karanodaksayi Vishnu, and Narayana are often used interchangeably. He together with Maha-Lakshmi is the master of the soul. He injects the soul into matter.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, Prabhupada describes that there are five topics to consider. These are God, soul, time, matter, and karma. The ‘God’ here is Narayana, who is the master of the soul; the soul is the part of Narayana. Time is Shiva and Prakriti or matter is Parvati. So, this covers four out of the five topics — God, soul, matter, and time. The fifth topic is karma, which is why the soul is bound to matter, or the reason that Maha-Vishnu injects the soul into matter.
An important question here is whether the soul enters the body of Maha-Vishnu along with karma at the end of the universe, or does s/he rest in the body of Shiva? I’m not sure about this issue, but it is possible that Narayana injects ‘new’ souls into the material energy, who don’t have previous karma while the souls already bound by karma from previous creations rest in the body of Shiva. It may also be that the souls go from Narayana’s control to Shiva’s control in both cases, and then Shiva injects the soul into matter, which is described as Narayana injecting the soul.
Maybe it did not come out the way I wanted it to. What I meant is that the senses perceive only one type of sensation — e.g. color, form, and size by the eyes. Each of these forms a three-dimensional space. Typically when we speak of three-dimensional space in science we just mean in terms of ‘size’. We don’t think about color and form as a separate space. But there are separate spaces and in each space, we measure one property — e.g. color or size. But the mind combines all these spaces into a single space, so we can say that there is a single space but it is mental, not sensual. This mental space is like a tree with its root at the center and leaves at the periphery. The hyperbolic plane represents this idea. This plane is actually infinite in the sense that you can never reach the boundary; the ‘units’ of space and time become shorter as you move outward, which means you travel the same distance in the same time, so if you try to escape this space, you can get closer and closer to the boundary but never reach the boundary.
Now to our observation, it would seem that the universe is infinite or this space is infinite IF we think in terms of a linear geometry — i.e. that space and time uniform. But factually space is bound — i.e. it has a definite boundary. To understand this boundary we have to change the geometry to hyperbolic and say that the universe is finite or bounded, but you can never go outside the universe no matter how far you go in any direction. In this space, as you move out in some direction, you travel less and less but your clock moves faster and faster. So you age quickly and travel less and you think that you have gone a lot of distance but you haven’t moved much. You can say that as you move outward your vehicle is like a boat tied to the shore.
But if you want to think that your boat is not actually tied and you are moving as fast as before then space will be spherical. Light will actually take a longer time to come from the periphery so you will get the sense of a ‘perspective’ that some part is farther away from your eyes, which leads to the perception of roundness. It is not just a belief but also a sense experience. The only problem is that there will be a part of the earth that we can never reach no matter how hard we try. This part corresponds to — in the spherical model — the periphery or the ‘south pole’, assuming the center of the space is ‘north pole’. We don’t actually know what the actual north and south poles are from the hyperbolic geometry mapped to our present earth spherical model. If we know that properly then we can do geography and identify that point on earth where we can never reach, although we can get closer and closer to that point from all directions.
A bigger universe means that it is possible to create finer distinctions, or what we call the smallest ‘atom’ can get smaller. Accordingly, there is more variety or subtle distinctions. Just like in an Impressionist painting the picture is hazy and drawn with broader strokes, but in Classical art, the paintings get more realistic and detailed. Similarly, we can say that our universe has lesser detail relative to the larger universes. If in our universe four social orders are a natural principle, then in other universes it is possible that there are a greater number of social divisions.
I would like clarification on this, for we do (apparently) hear in Bhagavad-gita about choice or will which is not free but rather solely w/in the field of material energy (BG 3.27). And BG 7.14 indicates that choice can be free (& truly not a material component) only when the soul/atma is surrendered to the Paramatma/God.
This topic is discussed in a few books, but I will summarize again. The soul is the drsta and anumanta or the viewer and the approver but s/he doesn’t actually do the actions. Imagine a football game in which there is a referee under whose supervision the game is carried out. The referee doesn’t play the game but the game cannot be played without the referee. I sometimes call this existential cause of creation in the book Six Causes. This existential cause is different from the efficient cause, which is Prakriti. The Prakriti proposes and the soul disposes. So, by and large, the soul is under the control of nature because nature brings up proposals, which are called the ‘waves in the ocean of chitta‘. The soul looks at this proposal and says — OK, let’s do it like that. However, the soul has the free will to reject the proposal, although s/he cannot create new proposals. Owing to this the soul is under the ‘control’ of Prakriti.
This observation has been reflected in experiments in neuroscience carried out by Benjamin Libet where there is a physical observation in the brain and the observer reported choice comes a few milliseconds later. Owing to these experiments, Libet defined our free will as a free won’t. In other words, we don’t choose what to do, but we can reject the proposal.
If you observe the mind, thoughts automatically arise in the mind, and we just tag along and keep following the activity of the mind. This is why Krishna says that Prakriti is doing everything, but the soul thinks due to ahamkara that s/he is the doer. Even in the spiritual world, the proposals are automatic due to which the soul is under control of yoga-maya but acceptance of these proposals is with the soul. That’s why we are supposed to become humble. What we call free will is actually free won’t. It is the rejection of the proposal. In the material world, this rejection is liberation from matter, and in the spiritual world rejection is fall down.
I would like clarification between the terms “awareness” & “cognition.” Is the former referring to merely self-awareness & the latter to awareness of extrinsic things?
Awareness is sambandha and cognition is abhidheya. Awareness is being directed toward something. Then cognition is knowing what exactly it is. In this seeing, your consciousness is directed towards something, forming a relationship. Then you say it is a table.
So, awareness is the relation to things and cognition is a general concept. First, we establish a relationship to something and then we perform cognitive and conative functions by which we know the nature of the thing and perform actions in relation to that thing. So, awareness is pointing, and cognition is knowing nature in terms of pre-established concepts of knowledge and action.
But Buddhists (voidists) strive for a state (nirvana) wherein there is not even awareness of being; they wish to annihilate consciousness altogether! This, it seems, would be true Nothingness. Is there such a state?
There is a difference between consciousness and experience. Consciousness is the ability to form relationships with other things. If we remove all those things then there is ability but it is not utilized. In Brahman, there is the relationship to the self, a kind of self-love or self-absorption. But Buddhism is the negative realization that I am not the body. It is the emptiness of consciousness or the experience of emptiness because there is no content to experience. We can say that it is a state of deep sleep in which we forget our existence and there is no other experience such as the waking and dreaming states.
Buddhism is that state of deep sleep; it is a valid state of existence, but below the transcendent state. This state of deep sleep is identified with the Karana ocean which is material but the precognitive state and prerelational state.
This is a rather complicated topic, which is another way of saying that I don’t understand it fully. However, to the limited extent that I understand it, this is my understanding.
The fundamental idea underlying modern science is that nature is governed by logic, and the hallmark of logic is consistency. I believe that the fundamental idea in the Vedic theory of nature is that nature is inherently contradictory or self-contradictory and the soul tries to reconcile this contradiction at every step. Contradiction creates an imbalance in us and in nature, and this imbalance forces us into an action to attain consistency. Thus, a perpetual motion machine is created in which no matter what you do, you can never fully reconcile the contradiction. We keep trying to create a balance out of the contradiction, which is why we think it is consistent.
There is, however, a state of consistency in which everything is balanced or the contradiction doesn’t exist. This state results in a static world or inaction and lack of change. This state in the soul is called Brahman and in case of matter is called Pradhana. It is called the state in which the three modes of ‘balanced’ and hence cannot be distinguished. Basically, there is no contradiction. From this static balanced state emerges the self-contradictory state called Prakriti in which the three modes are distinguished and there is an inner contradiction between the modes. When these modes are separated, then the soul tries to reconcile this contradiction. So, under the presence of the soul the subsequent stages of matter are manifest, as an attempt to create consistency out of contradiction — i.e. an attempt to regain balance.
Now, a little digression is needed to understand the nature of contradiction. The conflict is between what I am, what I can do, and what I want. Just like if you are situated in a job, and you identify with that job, and say that you are an employee. But you cannot be situated in that job permanently because there is restlessness in you due to two reasons. First, there is unrealized potential inside you by which you can do things and know things, which are not included in the present state. Second, in every situation you want to be something other than what you are.
These things are reconciled by constructing a trajectory in which the initial state is your current state, the desire to be something else is the future state, and the potential to know and do is used to join the present state to the future state. So, from the consistent state emerges the contradictory state, and from the contradictory state we create a trajectory or path which results in action. So, the state of ‘being’ called Brahman or Pradhana is transformed into ‘becoming’, and this primordial state of becoming is called mahattattva. It represents the dharma or ideal activity. For example, if you are sitting in one place, and you desire a gulab jamun then an imbalance is created, and you reconcile this imbalance by an activity or trajectory.
Each contradiction is a problem and each trajectory is a solution to that problem. But before we can create solutions, we have to create problems, and these problems drive solutions. So, Prakriti is the total set of problems, and mahattattva is the ideal solutions to these problems. This ideal path is sometimes called Chitta and sometimes ‘contaminated consciousness’. The pure consciousness is self-awareness, not infected with a problem. The contamination is that the soul is now preoccupied with a problem which is basically an inner contradiction.
In Freudian psychology, the contradictory state is called the Id, or the desire. Then the ideal resolution of this problem is called the Super-Ego, which represents the moral do’s and don’ts. If we follow this ideal path then the next ingredient called the Ego or ahamkara is never created. Effectively, under this situation we can say that we are doing the morally right actions and there is no individuality because we have not deviated from this correct path. The Ego doesn’t exist in this case because I have subordinated my individuality to the moral rightness. However, if we don’t follow this perfect path and create our own path, then immediately Ego is created. So the Ego represents a path, or a solution to the contradiction, but it is my personal solution. It is not the ideal solution, and that deviation from the ideal constitutes my ‘personality’. Hence ahamkara is also called the ‘false’ ego in which we consider deviation from the ideal path as the symptom of having a personality. Conformity to rules is viewed as lacking an individuality and the soul has now acquired a rascal attitude due to this rebellion against the ideal.
Now from this rascality develop the future elements such as the mind, intellect, senses, etc. And everything has three parts — the present state, the future state or the goal, and the activity that joins the present to the future — and everything is imbued with the rascal attitude.
There are many important novelties in this description of nature. First, contradiction rather than consistency is the fundamental driver of change. Second, there is always goal-oriented-ness in nature because change originates from a contradiction which is a problem. The goal is to solve this problem, so nature is not automatically drifting by some deterministic laws but being pushed by the soul because it cannot bear the existence of the problem which troubles him. Third, there are many possible solutions to the problem, and we have to choose one of them, which means that nature cannot proceed without a choice because we have to solve a contradiction and the solution needs a choice. Fourth, nature automatically provides the ideal methods of solving problems which constitute morality, which means that nature is not just descriptive but also prescriptive about the solution to the problem. However, the soul wants to invent new methods of solving the same problem. This is called ‘creativity’ or ‘individuality’ and this creative individual who must deviate from the ideal path constitutes the false ego. Once he deviates from the ideal path, he creates consequences or karma. However, ahamkara is the deviated path but it is like a plan of action, which has to be converted into an actual activity. The rest of the creation from ahamkara is about how planning is converted into actual activity.
How is His “not knowing” not against His omniscience?
Omniscience means that when it happens God knows about it. He is not ignorant that something is happening so He is fully aware that something is happening. He is the Supreme observer and not the instigator of those choices. The question you are asking pertains to knowing the future, not the present or the past. If omniscience is defined as all that is happening or becoming an actual fact, then God is omniscient. If the question is — Can God predict what will happen in the future? — again God is omniscient. However, if the question is — Can God predict what I will do, there is limited omniscience; limited by the fact that I can change my decision.
What can’t we say He does know how we’ll use our free will in choosing our role in the drama but that He isn’t causing our choices or decisions? I fail to see how His knowing beforehand & our choosing are mutually exclusive or how His knowing demotes the system as determined.
Knowing amounts to a cause in the sense that if I can predict my actions in the future, and these predictions can never be wrong, then the future is predetermined, and hence there is no choice. Basically, my succession of choices forms a predetermined trajectory and I cannot deviate from that trajectory. If I cannot deviate because it is known beforehand, then I cannot choose.
Just like a parent can know beforehand how their child will choose when offered some role options in the school drama, but that doesn’t mean the parent interferred w/ or caused the child’s choice.
The parent’s ability to predict what the child will do is not perfect. The reason is that the child’s personality is changing. Today the child may like ice cream and dislike vegetables, but tomorrow his or her preferences may change. So, unpredictability comes from the fact that our personality can change. To the extent that the personality is fixed, we can predict that this personality will behave in this manner, and there is no choice because choices are decided by personality.
You can say that the choice is ruled by personality, but sometimes choice rules personality and chooses a new personality. You can think of it in the following way — I can choose to play the king right now, but after some time I will get bored of it and want to play the knight. We cannot say when a person will get bored and decide to switch; that switching is occasional, which means our free will or choice operates occasionally when we switch. In between these switches, there is a predictable path, which is why the parent can predict the child’s behavior most of the time.
However, even when the personality changes it changes slowly and you can then predict what is going to happen. For example, as a child is growing up, suddenly he or she may become more interested in studying as opposed to playing and that is a surprise for parents; they will say that I am pleasantly surprised by the change. So ignorance leads to surprise, and that surprise can be pleasant or unpleasant. The surprise is not a bad thing; it is unpleasant surprises that are bad.
For the most part, God is pleasantly surprised, especially in the spiritual world. There are changes and novelty but it is constantly improving and expanding the pleasure. Sometimes, however, He is also unpleasantly surprised, which occurs when the soul falls down. There may be impending signs of a fall down when the pleasant surprises have ceased, and you could predict that someone is going to fall down because he or she slowly becomes averse. But there will always be incremental and small surprises, and that element of surprise is essential to novelty.
In essence, knowledge is only one part of God — the chit. What about the other part — namely ananda or happiness which rests on being surprised? The contradiction is not between God’s omniscience and the soul’s free will, but between God’s knowledge and happiness. Emotionally, knowledge of the future creates peace, security, and stability. However, you would have noticed that when everything is peaceful, secure, and stable, then people seek thrill and novelty and jump from that stability into the abyss of the unknown. Why?
In the book Emotion, I have discussed this paradox, and the basic point is that the soul is not internally consistent. We are driven by inner contradictions. When this contradiction is reconciled, then Brahman is attained and we remain stable. But this contradiction has to be celebrated as it leads us to thrill, surprise, suspense, anticipation, and excitement. Knowledge is boring! It makes everything so clear. The thrill is in the unpredictable. So, the main point is that instead of seeing non-omniscience as a ‘limitation’ of God, we have to see it as a feature of God, the feature by which He is thrill-seeking, exciting, unpredictable, and surprising.
Does this explanation apply, then, to the illusion of motion? And can it also be used as an explanation of “changing” bodies over time (as opposed to the same body existing in different moments)?
Yes, it does. All the bodies are eternal as possibilities. This possibility is what we ordinarily call ‘matter’. It exists in an unmanifest form, where ‘manifest’ means manifest to our awareness. The eternity of matter is that it always exists as a possibility. However, it is sometimes realized as an experience, which is the empirical confirmation of that reality or ‘manifestation’ of reality.
The idea of motion is that the same thing is changing. That ‘same thing’ is the soul. It is being covered by different empirical experiences which are temporary. So, the phenomena are temporary, underlying that phenomena, the reality or matter is eternal, and the soul experiencing this unmanifest world as manifest phenomena is also eternal. Two eternal things combine temporarily to create the temporary experience.
Our bodies are also like that. They are temporary experiences, but they are created by the combination of the eternal soul and the eternal possibility of matter. Therefore, your body exists eternally as a possibility, and someone in the past or future can have the same body. We are just temporary tenants of this body — we are not the body, but as temporary tenants, we think this body is mine, which is true for the time being. All these bodies are like static pictures of a movie reel which are being connected together into the impression of motion of a movie. The light that shines on these pictures is the soul, the picture is the switched-off bulb, but when the soul shines the light on this picture the picture is illuminated as an experience. Therefore, matter is objective and eternal, but our experience of this matter is temporary and changing.
Every part of the body has a tendency to enjoy, due to the influence of ananda tendency. You can say that every part of a body has its own purpose. So the body is described in three ways as parts, functions, and purposes. Each part can perform different functions, and each function can fulfill different purposes. You can think of the body as a society of individuals in which each part has its own goal. The BG describes these senses as horses, which are individual entities and can run in different directions. They have to be controlled and made to work in a coherent fashion. This control is provided by the mind and the intellect, which are described as the reins and the charioteer. But because there is a purpose in each sense and part of the body they are pulling the mind and the chariot in different directions. Another analogy is that of a man with many wives who pull him in different directions. So the main point is that vega is a purpose in each part of the body. The purpose is not just in the mind, but every part. Prabhupada writes in one verse that lust resides in the senses. So we should not think of senses or body parts as ‘dead’ matter without purpose. Every part of the body has a purpose and it is pulling in a different direction. Prana is the mechanism by which this purpose is being converted into activity or function.