Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. I was terribly disappointed with your answer to the person who asked about how to spiritually resolve the issue of sexual abuse as a child, in which you said: “This is a material problem, so a trained psychologist would be the best person to consult. Otherwise, fear pervades material consciousness because material consciousness involves identification with that which will not endure. Thus spiritual pursuit in general is the solution to fear.”

I think it is most telling how you apply your spiritual teachings. The questions about theology get two to three paragraphs and the only question that was real gets dumped in a few lines. What good are teachings about divine love that don’t include human love? How are we to take you seriously as a teacher of divine love when there is little human love evident in your relationship with the world?

A. There are many areas in which I am not trained to advise people. Is it not appropriate for me to recommend that a person seek help from those who are best trained to deal with the specific problems they have? In this case, I briefly explained that all fear is a result of material attachment. But I did not feel that elaborating on this important principle would be the most human thing to do because often people are not able to put this insight into practice without first coming to a level of inner balance. They need interim material or human solutions to common human problems in order to proceed with spiritual practice. They should not artificially think that spiritual practice alone will remedy all of their immediate psychological problems any more than it will their physical problems. Such a belief is potentially harmful and shortsighted.

It is important to try to bring people into the larger circle of a spiritual worldview, but in doing so it may also be appropriate to acknowledge the strengths of the smaller circle of science. This involves acknowledging the fact that while in ultimate reality we are consciousness, in our practical reality we are very much human and need to deal with our humanity such that it will propel us in the direction of ultimate reality.

Q. What advice would you give a friend whose partner asked him to compromise his spiritual and socio-religious beliefs?

A. Although all self-sacrifice is beneficial in a general sense because it moves us away from selfishness, as we acquire knowledge we cannot sacrifice our knowledge for the sake of others’ senses and expect to make progress. However, it may be possible to accommodate one’s partner through compromise of one’s moral and spiritual principles if in the course of doing so one has the power to elevate one’s partner over time. This would be an exception to the rule.

Q. All the parenting books I’ve read say that to effectively punish a child, you have to do it as quickly as possible so that the child will remember what he did that was wrong and will be able to associate his misdeed with the punishment. So I don’t understand how karma from past lives can be effective in punishing us, if we can’t remember what we did to receive the bad karma.

A. The idea is that material nature is ruthlessly just. God is for the most part aloof from her. Karmic justice is rather impersonal. If we act within nature in a particular way, nature responds. When we attain human life, we have sufficient reasoning power to understand that there are consequences for action. We also have the chance to understand the truth about material nature, etc. from sadhus and scripture, and thus we can understand that the consequences of our previous actions are now appearing as our present circumstances. The karmic reactions from actions performed in previous lives are not so much our teachers as are the sadhus and scripture who help us to understand our present situation for what it is. The karmic “punishment” is more the result of acting in ignorance than it is our teacher.

Q. In Bhagavad-gita 12.4, Krishna says that impersonalists can attain perfection by doing good to others: sarva-bhuta-hite ratah. What does this reference about doing good to others mean?

A. Those who realize Brahman must have complete control of their senses and develop equanimity of mind. They are engaged in the welfare of all beings because the more one goes within oneself the more one helps others by way of abandoning the life of exploitation. One helps others by teaching fearlessness through one’s example. The welfare of others also becomes identified with one’s own welfare, as one’s sense of self emerges from duality.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda comments that those described in this verse as being engaged in philanthropic work (sarva-bhuta-hite) sometimes render service to great devotees. As a result of this, they too eventually become devotees and attain Krishna personally.

Q. Can you please let me know the difference between deva rishi, brahma rishi, maha rishi, and simply rishi?

A. The words deva, brahma, and maha when joined to modify the word rishi do not necessarily denote different levels of rishis or sages. Deva means divine, brahma means spiritual, and maha means great. A rishi is a sage.

Q. Is the sadhu accountable for doubt-making behavior? Who oversees the behavior of a sadhu anyway?

A. Sadhus are for the most part accountable to scriptural standards of behavior.

Q. I have heard that there are sixty-four dimensions within the material universe but cannot find it anywhere in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Is this valid, and if so where might I find it?

A. I have never heard this. Aside from your question about the material universe, it is worth noting that reality is multidimensional. Numbers are relative to material existence. Maya also means “to count.”

Q. How did we enter the karmic cycle of birth and death?

A. Our karmic implication is anadi, beginningless. There is no one particular act that started the ball rolling. It is best to concern ourselves with the fact that our material conditioning can come to an end and thus embrace the means to liberate ourselves from the bondage of karma.

Q. I am Hindu girl who is proud to be a Hindu. Recently a person became abusive and started saying things like Hindus worship animals and human body parts. In fact he told me that the Siva lingam which we worship is actually the penis of Lord Siva. Is it true? If this is true then what is the significance of worshipping this part of the body?

A. The linga of Siva metaphorically represents the impregnation of matter by consciousness. Siva represents consciousness and his consort Parvati represents matter. Such metaphors have their limitations, but before anyone criticizes Hindus for worshipping the genital of Siva, they must first consider who Siva is and what he represents. Siva represents the sum total of individual units of consciousness impregnating and thus animating material nature. This impregnation is an expression of God’s joy in divine play, lokavat tu lila kaivalyam. In the Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krishna invokes the metaphor of impregnating material nature as follows:

mama yonir mahad brahma tasmin garbham dadhamy aham/
sambhavah sarva-bhutanam tato bhavati bharata//

“O Bharata, the great nourisher, my material nature, is the womb that I impregnate, enabling all beings to come into existence.” (Bg. 14.3)

This impregnation mentioned by Krishna is described in other texts as his (Visnu’s) divine glance that is Siva (Sambhu). This form of Siva is described thus in Srimad-Bhagavatam: vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh, “Siva is the best devotee of Visnu.” By all means, great devotees of Visnu should be held in high regard.

Q. In religious practice material attachment and bodily enjoyment is discouraged. However, in the Kama-sutra the science of sexual pleasure is explained. How should we understand Kama-sutra and sexual pleasure in relation to other scriptures that teach pure devotion to God?

A. There are many Hindu books authored by sages that, while authentic in terms of their subject matter, are not directly concerned with spiritual life. Ayurveda, Natya-sastra, Kama-sutra, etc. serve as examples. For the most part Kama-sutra is not concerned with God consciousness. It delineates the art of sexual union. If you want to have sex, read Kama-sutra. If you want self-realization, read Bhagavad-gita.

Q. Why did God create demons and evil in the world?

A. This is a perennial religious question. “If God is all good, why is there evil in this world?” Gaudiya Vedanta acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana explains that God’s motive behind the manifestation of the world is only joy or sport: lokavat tu lila kaivalyam. It is not that God gains joy from manifesting the world, but rather the world is a manifestation of his joy.

However, because we see both godly and ungodly in the world we are pressed to ask if in manifesting the world God is partial. Is he kind to some and cruel to others? If so, how can he be all good? The Vedanta-sutras answer this question by stating that the evil in the world is not the arrangement of God. The evil in the world is a result of karma. God merely manifests the environment suitable to the karma of the living beings.

Here we are talking about the eternally conditioned souls (nitya baddha jivas), whose conditioning is beginningless (anandi), as is the world that manifests and becomes unmanifest in beginningless cycles. Karma governs this world, and for the most part God defers to its jurisdiction. When he shows his mercy, karma can be transcended and souls who have been conditioned from beginningless time can attain liberation from the jurisdiction of karma. Thus God did not create the evil in the world.

According to Gaudiya Vedanta, accepting this answer involves deferring to scripture as an authority on matters beyond our ability to conceive of. From the scriptural point of view we cannot ask why there is evil any more than we can ask why there is God. Both simply are, and scripture explains their nature.

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