Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.


February 27th, 2001 | No Comments

Q. What does “beginningless” karma mean?

A. Beginningless karma is just that. It has no beginning, and some souls (baddha-jiva) are under its influence from time without beginning. Such is the world, and it is all going on out of God’s joy, lokavat tu lila kaivalyam. Souls are in bondage and God liberates them. He is the savior, yet ultimately he is behind the bondage as well. It is all his will, his lila. We have nothing to say in the matter. Any objection is based on the illusion that we are independent of him.

Q. Re: “beginningless karma.” You said, “It has no beginning, and some souls (baddha-jiva) are under its influence from time without beginning. Such is the world, and it is all going on out of God’s joy, lokavat tu lila kaivalyam. Souls are in bondage and God liberates them. He is the savior, yet ultimately he is behind the bondage as well. It is all his will, his lila. We have nothing to say in the matter. Any objection is based on the illusion that we are independent of Him.”

So, is this concept similar to that of the ancient Greeks where the gods just play with us at their whim? “Oh, you will be in bondage till I am good and ready to let you get free. I will make it so hard that it is almost impossible to break free. Unless you love me on my terms, you’re lost, until I, your God, break your spirit and force you to love me you will suffer and suffer.” Sounds like a sick kind of love: that God gets joy out of keeping us in bondage. Explain please.

A. It is God who is perpetually asking us to stop suffering. It is his will that we can also will, and thus choose to remain here or embrace his generosity. Because he wills it we have will—life—and the ability to abuse it.

First, we must try to understand what it is that we are. Once we do that in theory, we can proceed with practices that will help us to realize that in reality. This, then, brings about the end of suffering. What are we? We are Krishna, as is everything else, vasudeva sarvam iti. Of course, in Gaudiya Vedanta we qualify this statement by explaining that we are Krishna in the sense that we are a particle of one of his saktis (jiva-sakti). But the fact remains that there is nothing other than Krishna, who is replete with innumerable saktis.

When we think otherwise we suffer. When we see sense objects as things to possess, objects of enjoyment, we do not see things for what they really are. We are not the enjoyers. We are to be enjoyed. This is in reality how life works. As I have said before, the bounty of life is a result of detatched action. “Getting” is a result of giving, and as much as we attach getting to our giving, we are not giving or getting.

We must understand advaya-jnana-tattva (nondual reality). This is the doorway to Krishna lila. This is the plane on which real bhajana is performed. We are as much one with God as we are different. What is the variety of Krishna lila? It is Krishna, joy himself, expressing himself through many, all of whom have no desire of their own. His will is behind everything and He takes joy in liberating souls from bondage.

Your present personality and apparent individuality is illusory. He alone is reality, his will. We must become one with that wonderful will that manifests in the diversity of charming divine play eternally, and this involves giving up all that is ugly, all suffering that results from remaining in our selfish conception of self, from taking rather than giving.

Q. Is there any better evidence that there is a fourth state of consciousness than, “I remember when I wake that I slept good”? This example is hopeless in my estimation.

A. I am not sure that you understand this evidence. It is the only example cited in all of the sacred literature of the Hindus as everyday evidence of a dimension of consciousness that exists beyond the waking and dream states. The simplicity of it is that one cannot remember that which he has no experience of. When we awaken from dreamless sleep, we remember that we existed at that time (having slept well) even when we were not aware in the physical and mental dimensions of consciousness. Thus we have three dimensions of consciousness, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. The third dimension of consciousness reveals a self that functions in the dreaming and waking states unaware of the fact that it, rather than the mind or body, is the perceiver.

The fourth dimension of consciousness is that in which the self, beyond mind and body as evidenced in deep sleep, is transcended, the perceiver is identified with the perceived, and the individual soul unites with God—God consciousness. In Gaudiya Vedanta, this union is one of love. The self itself is given up, and only then does it become whole, just as we experience that the self sacrifice in love makes one whole.

Other than the theoretical example above, the transcendent self is experienced in serious spiritual practice. Saints among us are the best evidence.

Q. Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet. What is the meaning and difference between the bhara-vahi and saragrahi vaisnavas?

A. Bhara-vahi Vaisnavas are those who identify more with the tradition’s outer symbols than they do with its inner experience. This sometimes brings them into conflict with those on a higher platform, who are not so concerned with the symbols and rituals, having realized their significance and relative value.

Saragrahi Vaisnavas are those who gravitate towards the essence (sara) of the tradition and can appreciate its expression even when slightly manifest of other traditions. They tend to overlook external differences.

As far as I know, both of these terms originate with Bhaktivinoda Thakura, although the concepts are universal.

Q. It is said in the Bhagavad-gita that lust is situated in the senses, the mind and the intelligence. From experience one can see that sometimes this lust is manifest and sometimes unmanifest. But it is always there ready to “strike” so to speak. Can you explain how lust attacks the senses. How it attacks the mind. And how it attacks the intelligence?

A. Lust attacks the intelligence in the form of planning for improving one’s sense gratification, the idea of which first appears in the mind, and is later carried out by the senses.

Q. If the material universe and all the living entities are here for the sole purpose of Krishna’s lila, what is the necessity of so many countless living entities suffering in the countless universes. It seems that only a very few in comparison to the countless jivas actually have any part of the lilas that take place here.

A. The souls in this world are here because they are part of the sristi lila, the “creation” of Mahavisnu, who is Krishna’s incarnation. It takes place so that sadhakas can have repeated opportunities for liberation. By the mercy of Krishna some leave this samsara and go with him attaining prema in his lila never to return.

Q. What is maya and how does one differentiate from reality and maya. Please give understandable illustrations on this point.

A. The answer to your question is addressed in depth in my edition of Tattva-sandarbha beginning on page 112. Otherwise, maya-sakti is the external (bahiranga) energy of God. This sakti brings about an effect when in connection with individual souls such that they become unaware of their spiritual reality. Thus under this influence, they consider themselves in terms of bodily identification and struggle to maintain what they think to be themselves, oblivious to the fact of their eternality. God is like the sun, maya the cloud that obscures the sun for those under its influence.

The products of maya, the entire illusory material world and its names and forms, do not endure. In contrast, we are an enduring unit of reality. The maya-sakti also endures, but the effect it creates does not. This effect is maya. In order to distinguish reality from illusion grace and spiritual practice are required. Knowledge is not sufficient. The spiritual practice that emphasizes God’s grace is the devotional yoga known as bhakti-yoga. Thus through the application of bhakti-yoga one can distinguish between maya and reality, anarthopasamam saksad bhakti-yogam adhoksaje.

Q. Please accept my praise for your writings. I appreciate the sensitivity you bring to your writing, and this serves to strengthen your message. I am wondering what exactly happened from the time Krishna descended on this Earth until he left, and whether Krishna of the Gita is different than the Krishna of the gopis? Furthermore was this Krishna of the Gopis the same Krishna who, as a child played with the cowherd boys and slayed the snake monster, and lifted Govardhana Hill?

A. The history of Krishna from his birth to his departure from the world is related in the Bhagavata Purana’s tenth canto. All of the stories in question involve the same Krishna, yet at the same time there is a distinction. The divine play of Krishna is divided into three sections, village life amongst the cowherds, which lasts until his tenth year, city life in Mathura, including his education and the slaying of the evil king Kamsa, and establishing the city of Dvaraka. It is the Krishna of Dvaraka who spoke the Gita, village Krishna who dances with the gopis. Gopi Krishna is the fountainhead of all incarnations.

It is he also who lifted Govardhana Hill and slayed various monsters (although technically it was Visnu within him who did the slaying). Krishna of Mathura and Bhagavad-gita Krishna of Dvaraka are expansions of Gopi Krishna. These expansions represent different transcendental moods of Krishna in which he reciprocates with his devotees. The love of his devotees in Mathura and Dvaraka is tinged with awe and reverence, whereas the devotees of Gopi Krishna serve him in greater intimacy. In my forthcoming Bhagavad-Gita edition (Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy) I intend to bring this out for the Western reader.

Q. Deep down inside, if he could take His mind off her for even a second, Lord Krishna would realize that indeed Sri Radha is just a part of Him, for he is both the cause of all causes, and all that is. It is inconceivable that he could be so enamored and captivated by the ever-increasing attractiveness of Srimati Radharani that he would actually be unable to awaken to this simple fact. Is this why it is said that he is inconceivably one with yet different from all that is?

A. The doctrine of inconceivable simultaneous identity and difference is explained in Tattva-sandarbha (read my edition with commentary for a comprehensive understanding). Otherwise, with regard to Radha, she is nondifferent from Krishna from the philosophical (abheda) angle of vision and different from him when viewed from the religious (bheda) angle. Radha is the primal energy of the primal energetic. Energy and energetic are one, yet different as well. Knowing a person requires knowing his or her energy, for it is through such that one accomplishes things in life and thus becomes known. Because of the energy (sakti) inherent in the Absolute, God has a life. In the context of that life, however, such considerations are not prevalent. Were they so, were life overruled by philosophy, it would lose its life.

At the same time, if it was not a fact that Radha and Krishna are one (energetic and energy, the latter having no existence independent of the former) Krishna would not be full in himself in his love for Radha. This would make the affair mundane, for mundane love is a condition arising out of a sense of incompleteness. In Radha Krishna’s divine play, Krishna’s love for Radha is the fullest expression of his completeness in celebration. He is dancing with his own energy, lost in it, and through it tasting himself.

Q. One can say that qualitatively we are the same as God, but quantitatively we are different. That seems quite logical at first glance, but what does ‘quantity’ mean on that plane? Is that not merely quality again?

A. Under scrutiny we are quantitatively and qualitatively different from God. However, because we are a particle of one of his saktis, we are simultaneously one with him. His saktis have their ground in him with no independent existence.

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