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In one of Indiana Jones movies there’s a famous scene where he steals some valuable artifact from a cave in South America. That artifact was protected by all kinds of booby traps. There were shooting arrows, falling floor tiles, rolling boulders etc. Indiana Jones avoided all those and, on the way, saw skeletons of those who were not so lucky.
Of course it’s a movie, but this system could be made in real life and it had some very important features – it could detect an intruder and separate him from a maintenance engineer, it had various measures to reject intruders and dispose of their bodies, and to absorb and distribute substances needed for its operation – things like oil and grease to keep moving parts ready to operate. All this functions are functions of prana, but we all generally agree that the system is not alive and those who built it long time ago are dead. And yet “vestiges of prana” are still there.
If you don’t like this word, how about “projection of one’s will” – because that’s what prana does. These days everything is becoming automated and so acts apparently independently, but according to the will of its creators, even though we all understand it’s dead matter.
Speaking of wills – when a person dies his will is effected in the world. His wealth gets redistributed for better preservation, some parts of it are given away/rejected, there are specific plans to be followed etc. Again, all of these are functions of prana and they are carried out even if the person himself is deceased.
We won’t convince anyone of anything if we don’t have a theory of how these automations, these extensions of one’s will, work, and, I’m afraid, you can’t exclude prana from this process.
Whose prana? That is a real question. Most of the time we are just instruments of projecting someone else’s will, often the will of personalities who are not even alive in a common sense – like that artifact in a cave was guarded by its deity and attending priests just carried out the deity’s plans, which were originally manifested through the ancient engineer. Likewise, when a potter dies the “deity” of pots still keeps his creations intact, but then the “deity” of clay might say “my prana is weakened, it’s time to disintegrate” and prana of the deity of pots won’t be able to keep it together because clay is not cooperating.
There’s obvious difference between these “vestiges of prana” present in dead matter and prana of the living beings, and this needs to be investigated. There should be a theory of it.
That fact that nothing ever moves but paths are assembled as a trajectory of possibilities converted to a reality doesn’t really matter here. It’s like every computer operating system has hardware abstraction layer, HAL, so that all programs in the computer treat printers, speakers, hard drives etc as pieces of software even though they are not – thanks to HAL which flawlessly converts analog electrical connections to their digital representations.
When I see a table I don’t care which leg was bolted on first and the table would behave the same way regardless of assembly order when I put something on top of it or pull it by one leg. It *is* a system and it is entangled, meaning there’s objective boundary and objective relationships between parts. It is also not easy to take it apart, peel the paint off, pull a leg out etc – it resists tampering, meaning there is something that “holds it together”.
The easiest and the most obvious answer is that it was designed that way, ie it was done by somebody’s prana and these design ideas are still there, which I called “vestiges of prana” here but maybe there’s a better word for it.
A table also has a lot of “meaning” encoded in it – by studying it we can determine it was meant to be used in the office or in the kitchen, how much weight it can take, how long it will last, whether it was crude and home made or a sophisticated factory production following latest design trends and meant to convey sense of modernity or, perhaps, antiquity, or wealth vs utility.
All these subtle things are there, it’s not simply a collection of five primary elements.
The person who made the table will simply say “I designed it this way” and he will make certain predictions about how it will behave in the future. He could say: “After xxx number of years if you pull it by the leg the leg will come off and the table will collapse because legs are held in place by a kind of glue that loses its properties after xxx amount of time”.
He certainly doesn’t know everything about his design and can make many mistakes in his predictions but, in any case, this model doesn’t require handing off future management of the thing to Lord Siva as if Siva was some third, unrelated party with his own ideas and his own schedule. Rather it’s the same trajectory and the same schedule that was present during creation of the thing, we are just not fully aware of it.
During creation of an object we talk about five forms of meaning and workings of five winds of prana and all kinds of other things, but as soon as it’s out of our hands all these considerations are dismissed and only “Siva” remains? Even as the object follows the same trajectory as was set during the creation?
It’s about theory of “dead matter”, the objective part of experience. Say there’s a wedding and someone brings a toaster as a gift. He thinks a toaster is useful but the receiving couple might think it’s useless and try to return to the store so that they could buy something else.
Subjectively, their experiences of the toaster are different but objectively it’s the same toaster. Same color, same weight, same specs, same packaging. It’s dead, but it is an “entangled set” because messing with parts of it (removing warranty sticker, for example) affects the whole set as well.
I think that “objective toaster” is a vestige of someone’s prana, or maybe some collective prana because many people contributed to making this toaster.
I can accept the argument that objectively this toaster exists only as a possibility and so there are millions possible states of that toaster eternally present, but all these possibilities are not equally likely and there must be a theory of how they are selected for each observation. Each time some objective information is provided to the senses to create a sense objects. What governs this information?
We can say it’s governed by Siva/Time but this doesn’t sound satisfying to me. It’s like if I, out of very uncharacteristic goodness of my heart, decide to make “Lord’s dearest devotee” mug for you. While it’s in my hands it’s my prana that adds colors, shapes of the letters etc, all according to directions of my mind, intelligence, ego and so on, but once it’s out of my hands Siva takes over? Doesn’t he have better things to do? Shouldn’t there be a better theory of dead objects other than “Siva does it”?
I guess you missed the sentence where I talked about “dead objects” as possibilities rather than actual things.
If you take a marble out of a classical set nothing happens to the rest of it, but if you pull a table by the leg the whole thing moves. In this way it IS entangled like a quantum set, ie has a real boundary which is also maintained, which means a “subtle body” of some sorts must be there, too.
Talking about possibilities selected by Siva to become reality, or experience, is not relevant here. This selection happens to both living and non-living things equally. None of it is living anyway – senses, prana, mind – those are all “dead” things.
So what holds “dead” objects together? Even if we say they exist only as possibility unless they are being observed – what maintains and controls this possibility?
On some platforms I can set for a message to be deleted after one day, for example. On other platforms I can estimate how long a message will be practically available before it gets pushed down and buried (possibility of being retrieved gets low). I can estimate how long a painting would last, or a graffiti. It’s not eternal, it’s not random, and it’s obviously controlled.
Any change to it means some prana is involved, right?
“Jada” or dull matter, is an often mentioned category in our literature but I don’t think we have a good theory of it. Tables and chairs are certainly not living but they maintain their boundary and maintain their integrity. Dull objects, like sculptures, also clearly encode ideas which can be decoded and copied and so live on for hundreds and thousands of years.
So we need a good explanation of what keeps dull objects together and what keeps the ideas encoded in them preserved even as the object itself might begin to crumble. Some objects lose their color under sunlight or get corroded in damp conditions, some resist external elements very well. Some, like amulets, have “magic powers”.
I still have no better explanation that vestiges of someone else’s prana. But whose? The immediate author might have already died. On the other hand, ideas don’t die with people, people are just carriers or tools of expressing them, so somebody else’s prana, somebody from a subtle level, might still be present in dull objects.
Tables and chairs have visible boundaries so they are not classical in that sense, but they don’t seem to be like entangled collections either – because they don’t react to modification to their parts. And they can also be completely destroyed, like if you go to an old neighborhood that had been “developed” and none of what you remember about it is there anymore. What to speak of chairs, entire streets with houses are gone without a trace as if they never existed.
The best I can make sense of these type of objects is that they are vestiges of someone’s prana. That person might be long “dead” but prana still keeps these things together, until it doesn’t. The person also does not maintain it, meaning it doesn’t interact with it anymore and whatever happens happens. And yet these objects encode ideas that an be perceived and take a new life on their own, like old paintings that inspire people create new art.
The exact science of it, however, is unclear to me so any insights and clarifications would be appreciated.
If we can have dead leftover objects like tables and chairs, why not dead planets or dead parts of the planet? We already have dead rivers, for example.
A quote from Cosmic Theogeny:
“However, God is not a kind parent in the sense that if you decide to play a particular type of game, you cannot then bend, change, disobey, or fault the rules themselves.”
It was in a bit different context but it still applies. There are rules of bhakti, jnana, astanga yoga etc. and God doesn’t bend them. In Abrahamic version he kinda does. Doesn’t He also display partiality in that Bible story?
Vedic God, otoh, has to manage both a house owner praying for safety and a thief praying that house owner left some door unlocked, and He can’t take sides. So He is not a “kind parent”.
At the same time He goes out of His way to personally manage lives of His devotees.
The OP was about God in Vedic philosophy, but I think we should keep in mind that “God” means many different things. Krishna is not God, strictly speaking – He does not relate to anyone as God, that’s Vishnu’s job, or even Siva’s. Even Paramatma isn’t God in the Abrahamic sense because He mainly bears witness and facilitates whatever it is the soul wants to do.
Sometimes we say that even when Paramatma plunges the soul into the depths of hell He does so out of compassion and with the ultimate goal in mind, but it’s not how God is viewed in Abrahamic religions either, considering that hell is eternal there.
When a mature devotee sees someone suffering severe karmic reactions he rejoices because he sees it as the soul getting himself qualified for approaching God again, because until suffering is completed there’d be no question of progress. Therefore vaishnavas do not care much for material suffering, as mother Danakeli explained above. Most people want to alleviate material suffering so that they can resume enjoyment and a devotee would never approve of that, it rather pains him when the souls make plans for happy living without service to God.
I guess what I wanted to say again is that there are forms of Absolute that behave like God in Abrahamic religions and there are forms that do not. Krishna doesn’t. Vishnu/Narayana does. Paramatma is kind of on the fence. But it can turn at any moment because:
ye yatha mam prapadyante
tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
manusyah partha sarvasah
As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects…
This understanding is missing among Abrahamics. For them God is a fixed entity who doesn’t change His behavior, philosophically speaking.
Instead of Paramatma one can get see the form of Syamasundara – if his eyes are tinged with the salve of love.
There’s also BG 16.19:
tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu
tān — those; aham — I; dviṣataḥ — envious; krūrān — mischievous; saṁsāreṣu — into the ocean of material existence; nara-adhamān — the lowest of mankind; kṣipāmi — I put; ajasram — forever; aśubhān — inauspicious; āsurīṣu — demoniac; eva — certainly; yoniṣu — into the wombs.
Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, I perpetually cast into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.
kṣipāmy ajasram – “I put forever”
And then there’s Maharaja Parikshit’s big question in SB 7.1.1 that kicked off a long list of examples stretching over two cantos:
King Parīkṣit inquired: My dear brāhmaṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, being everyone’s well-wisher, is equal and extremely dear to everyone. How, then, did He become partial like a common man for the sake of Indra and thus kill Indra’s enemies? How can a person equal to everyone be partial to some and inimical toward others?
And let’s not forget story of Gopa Kumar from Brihat Bhagavatamrita.
“Prodigal son” metaphor doesn’t contradict these versions, especially if “hidden help” means personalities like Siva or lower demigods.
At the same time, for many Hindus Siva is God and they don’t know any better, it’s their highest concept of the absolute. Krishna is personally indifferent to their endeavors and He delegates dealing with them to Siva, or even to Vishnu, while in Abrahamic religions God is one and he personally manages everything and everyone.
I think the arrangement is like a president who might be very cordial and warm person but getting his audience requires dealing with a million of aides and secretaries. President wants prosperity for everyone, but through the agency of the government, and experience will vary. Abrahamics have lost “government” from their model and so end up dreaming of Santa Claus personally visiting every child in the world or some other direct God-people relationship.
Vedic worship of Vishnu is like that (when it’s exclusive, not as part of pancapasana), and it’s very very rare, but Gaudiya vaishnavism takes it even further – to the dasadasanudasa relationship – servant of the servant of the servant, which culminates in “manjari bhava”.
This certainly helps to understand data transfer, and I was always wondering how a small .par file can fix errors anywhere in a much larger data file. Within limits, of course, but it’s still counterintuitive. It’s probably exponentially more wonderful in wireless data transfers like 4G.
One way to reconcile experience of time speeding up when it should be slowing down is to say that super productive individuals, as well as modern data transmission methods, are demoniac in nature, meaning they operate on a much higher frequency and then slow it down to our perceptible level. That’s how demons try to control our world, as opposed to demigods who make small, slow changes on a deeper level and wait until effects propagate to the level of empirical perceptions.
Demoniac here does not necessarily mean non-devotees and atheists, but levels of the universe which operate on a higher frequency and deal with much higher level of detail. The universe cannot operate without them, for various reasons.
On the other hand, accomplished yogis can produce any amount of detail from very abstract ideas very fast, too, ie manifest a flower out of thin air.
How about the story of Ambarisha Maharaja who did everything right when visited by Durvasa Muni. He had to break fast and he couldn’t eat before his guest, who was taking a bath, so he consulted the brahmanas and they told him he could take a sip of water, which would break fast but wouldn’t consider eating (before feeding guests). Still Durvasa Muni got angry and created a demon to kill Ambarisha.
Here’s the clinch – because Abarisha was deontologically correct to the absolute degree as a spotless devotee Durvasa Muni couldn’t harm him in the least even though it appeared to be easy. Durvasa Muni even went to see Lord Vishnu in the process, and still he couldn’t do anything to Ambarisha.
Perhaps consequentialist arguments present themselves only when one is deontologically deficient, which is like “always” in the experience of western philosophers. If they have stories of Christian saints who were saved by the Lord they probably don’t take them seriously. In Christianity they had many more martyrs who were tortured and killed without apparent protection.
Perhaps that Mahabharata story is apocryphal. Lots of these stories are told from the point of view of mundane morals – the sage was cast to hell and it’s a bad thing, “obviously”, but we don’t know what really happened or if it happened at all. Mahabharata has been hopelessly corrupted in this regard. Are there any legitimate examples from say, Srimad Bhagavatam, of deontologic vs conseuquentialist contradictions? It just doesn’t seem to happen in our literature.