Good evening. Hare Krishna. No response to “Good evening” but sure enough a unison cheer for Hare Krishna! Good we are preprogrammed on proper response.
We are starting a 4-day program including today’s. I was asked to speak on the subject of retaining an enthusiasm. The answer can be squeezed into a single sentence. If a person has faith in what he does, in the goal he is striving to achieve, he is sure to have an enthusiasm.
When one loses his faith in the final goal and the path leading to that goal, his enthusiasm vanishes.
Therefore, we can consider this topic covered but I would like to continue and talk about something else though on related subject.
Lately, this subject attracted my sincere interest. I keep thinking about it and read related literature to deepen my understanding. This subject is about building a healthy society, what it is and how to do it.
In our case, it is a fairly small micro-society. Which laws we must observe so the people who belong to this society were not only happy but also had confident feeling that they are moving towards their goal and purifying themselves? Which laws do we need to follow to successfully interact with each other? What can help us to become closer, so that alienation, so common to the modern epoch, would not settle down in our hearts and loneliness would not become our sad destiny.
The reason why we decided it’s worth talking about is simple. Because the society today is a sick one. Whether we want it or not, the diseases of this society spread onto us and we unwillingly imitate the principles by which the interaction of people in such society is built. As a result, we became unhappy. Healthy society is our secondary subject because whoever desires to obtain a spiritual experience are assembled here today. Not only they would like to know and believe that God exists in theory but they also would like to gain the experience of His true presence.
It seems that society has nothing to do with it as we have our own practice and meditation and our prayers, therefore question arises why would I care about others? Though a human being is a creature that has a strong dependance on others. We all know that interacting with others can either cool off our spiritual ardor or even deprive our faith. If our faith is not firm, when we do see how others are not following spiritual practices, our faith starts to shake as well. The same happens when we see someone quite dedicated to practice yet nothing in their life changes for the better.
Healthy society is necessary, first of all, to preserve our healthy intellect, i.e., its purity. In order not to pollute our intellect, we must be protecting it from burden of negative emotions, which we inevitably experience when contacting with others, contradictory to certain laws. The society at present epoch Kali Yuga is contaminated by frequent arguments, hypocrisy, gossips. People nowadays live in computerized social network (we all know what that means), when each one is becoming increasingly dependent on the opinion of others. People literally only live to receive as many “likes” as possible to their social posts. Such society further becomes a real obstacle to focus on our spiritual practice.
The meaning of the spiritual practice is to turn our consciousness inwards. Our outward consciousness is completely chained towards the matter. In order to gain a spiritual sense (experience) it has to turn around, inwards. For this to occur, our mind must possess certain qualities.
Our time is as such that we find it so difficult to meditate or simply focus onto inner self. In this way, the society we live in does play a certain role. It can either help or hinder us. Note that it can help or hinder quite significantly. We are in close ties with the society.
This is the subject I wanted to talk about with you, not as much just me talking but so we can think about it together. It is because the laws of a happy society in a sense represent sadhana or a spiritual practice. If we aware which laws we need to follow, while being in this micro-society, feel ourselves happy, experience spiritual joy, enthusiasm, preserve and strengthen our faith, we need to observe these laws.
Though our nature may not agree with this due to some odd reasons, but if we know exactly what we need to do and at least try to follow it, most likely we can build this happy society.
It goes without saying that I am not talking about another social experiment, next utopia, people are tired of those trials and errors. Nobody believes in them any longer. Sometimes we are overcome by quite expected boredom when we hear about these social disturbances. If we start to think about this topic, ultimate result can be quite good.
This was a little introduction into my main topic. I will chant Mangala Caran to start with.
(Do we need to insert all prayers???)
From the time immemorial people have been dreaming about living in an ideal community. These dreams have been named “Utopia”. Such was the title of the work describing ideal society, in European culture. This had set the fashion for all other discussions related to this topic, which received the same name. The name contains the element of ephemeral nature, so-to-say, it does not hurt to talk about, but realistically it is impossible to fulfill. At the same time, we know from the rumors of the past, that long time ago during the Vedic times, there was a healthy society which was generating physically, spiritually, and emotionally strong individuals. The humanity in general is not condemned to be eternally tied to this horrible condition full of quarrels, animosity, hot and cold wars, fueled hatred in the hearts, malice towards each other.
All of these are indicators that people violate the fundamentals of the universal laws (existential laws). By our true nature we are very good. Does anyone here think they are not good? No? I don’t even ask you to raise your hand. We are friendly and compassionate creatures, deep inside we understand that it is not good to cause pain to anyone. Sadly, for some peculiar reason, we continuously either are forced, or think we are forced or, due to our uncontrolled emotions, to behave contrary to our nature.
Let’s get back to those rumors or talks about some ancient society called Varnashrama. On our way here we were passing via Varna drive, the name of local street. If we add the word ashram to it, we will perpetuate the name of the street (SMILE).
There are rumors about such society where people lived in peace with each other without rivalry, well even if they did have rivalry, there was no malice to it. Various religious views and nationalities happily coexisted in this society. Some of it is still preserved up to today and by residual artifacts, at least to certain degree, we can restore its laws.
There are Law books left from that time, governing social life. Even by reading Mahabharata stories, we can see that this was a society of people supremely endowed with the self-esteem. People possessed honor, dignity and power; they never broke their word even at the expense of their own life. People lived long years, were patterns of health, developed extraordinary strength and abilities. in search of such people, Konstantin Roerich went with his expedition to the Himalayas. We can see here one of his paintings. He was searching for Shambala, mystic sacred realm.
This ancient human organization, unlike our modern day society, was founded by great sages or philosophers. In their practice of meditation, the knowledge of universal laws was revealed to them. These laws were laid as foundation of the society. As we know there are founding fathers of the United States who created in many ways outstanding society. They were in their own way fairly wise individuals; however, I think they were lagging way behind the Vedic seers.
Their portraits are featured on dollar bills of various denominations. It is still not quite the same what we can observe and sense from the books created by the greatest sages of the ancient times. This special type of society first of all shocked Karl Marx himself. While he was unveiling his theory of historical materialism, he encountered a paradox existed in Indian society. Karl Marx stated that all societies prior to his time were based on exploitation of one class by another. He announced that he will find the way to build a society free of exploitation simply by scratching his grey haired beard. He claims to discover a little simple secret that socialization of production leads to equalized society where everyone respects and likes each other yet all social disasters and crises will cease to exist.
As far as his encounter with ancient Vedic society, he admitted that his theory cannot prove vital for such society. He did not widely advertise his comment on the Vedic society but in his early works, while he was analyzing problems within modern industrial societies accompanied by growing sense of alienation, he mentioned that ancient society in India falls in an entirely different category. It was not obvious to Marx how and why it did not fit his framework.
Vedic society was amazing in a sense that the main goal of each individual was spiritual self-realization. This was the very basis or a corner stone of that society because a human being cannot experience true happiness until his spiritual nature is revealed. We are spiritual beings by default, however in this world, for one or another reason, our nature is buried under a bushel of all kinds of material layers, concepts and prejudices. As a result, a person cannot fully discover his superior spiritual nature.
By this superior nature we are eternal beings, full of knowledge and bliss, but in this world, we are destined to die, be covered by ignorance, get confused, and surely after that we have nothing left of a bliss.
How can we realize this nature, pull it out of us? All spiritual traditions address this subject, but in the Vedic society this was made into a mass production. Other types of societies set different goals, such as economic prosperity, etc. but the founders of Vedic society made the society itself the ultimate sense of the organization. The society must become and instrument that service the goal of spiritual realization of its people.
The society is only as good as it pursues this goal and keeps it in focus thus helping people to realize their highest ideals. And vice versa, the society is as bad as it misleads people.
Today we live in the society the goals of which are tangible assets, some material prosperity. This in turn raises myriad of problems and misconceptions. I think it will benefit us to see how the day of a person in Vedic society was arranged. I recently found this book and literally on the first pages I noticed a daily schedule for an average resident of the Vedic society. It is a real document.
People were waking up very early in the morning. I think you might have guessed that anyway. Their day started at 4:30am about 1.5 hours before the sunrise. Since India is located near equator, the sunrise there happens about at the same time throughout the year, close to 6am. During these 1.5 hours they took a bath, brushed their teeth, and did other hygienic rituals. Then they performed sandhyavandanam or meditation. This was their first meditation of the day. From 6:00-7:30am they worshiped to their home Deity doing puja. From 7:30-9:00am they studied sacred books – the Vedas. From 9:00-10:30am they went to work to support their family. From 10:30am to 12:00pm (everything was precisely laid out during the day) they took another bath and after that performed a second daily meditation. Then they did some physical exercises. After that arranged a little Yajna - sacrificial ceremony. After that they worshiped their Deities again. From 12:00pm to 1:30pm they performed 5 large Yajnas and only after that they had some food (lunch) around 1:30pm. From 1:30 -3:00pm and from 3:00-4:30pm they studied Puranas and Itihasas (Mahabharata). From 4:30-to around 6:00pm they visited their friends. Then they performed third evening meditation. From around 6:00-9:00pm they were wrapping up all daily activities trying to catch up something they missed during the day. After that all family members were having nice talks with each other and subsequently went to bed at around 9:00pm. The next morning, again, they were getting up at 4:30am and so daily routine continued. Note that they only worked an hour and a half each day. I see that for some Krishna devotees this is good news, however others hardly can understand how can such schedule be maintained.
I purposely wanted to give you this information to demonstrate how far we have gone from such deep understanding of human life. In the end, the meaning of our life or what’s most valuable for us is determined by where we invest most of our time. Sometimes we hear people saying they don’t have time to chant mantra, read spiritual literature, etc. This simply means all those things have no value for them. For something that has value for us, we will find the time to incorporate into our life. If we understand that certain things are important and can bring us some benefits, the time is going to be allocated for those.
The values of the Vedic society can be clearly seen from examples I gave you. What was valuable for person back then? The relationships with family members and friends. They found time for those. Inevitably, people took time for sharpening their intelligence, meditating three times a day. As well as studying the Vedic literature. As a bonus, couple hours could be spent for making living. Clearly, we cannot expect that in some mechanical way we can transfer the same lifestyle to today’s life. I did not intend to address this initiative. What I mostly plan to do during this conversation with you is to isolate some fundamental principles, observing which may help, in our particular circumstances, to enliven our micro-society.
Srila Prabhupada mentioned that half of his mission was left unfulfilled because Varnashrama society was not revived. Many of us think what does this mean? The first thing to do is create Varnas. How can we do it? As soon as we hear about it, the initiative stops right there. The attempts to reestablish Varnashrama begin and end with division into 4 classes, namely Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. The problem is that nobody wants to be Sudras, though majority in Kali Yuga are Sudras. Everyone waves their hand in desperation and offer to chant Hare Krishna instead. We must not forget that there are many other principles and even the fundamental one regarding affined activity (acting according to our nature) can be utilized today. Other principles just as well play important role in forming such society.
Intermission: Maharaj was asking about lecture planned time. I left it out of the translation. It’s logistical part.
It is not very clear if we simply theoretically imagine the Varnashrama society. Let’s try to understand our own society. There is so much to it, that it is nearly impossible to determine from which end to begin unravelling. Where are these principles? Let’s take Manu Samhita, the laws of the Vedic society. It’s a heavy magnum opus with enormous amount of statements and provisions. Most of them are obsolete and not usable for us. Where do we start? There are sincere people in our Vaishnava society trying to recreate something but they take those obsolete patterns as standard. I know there are some villages in India where people purposely avoid using electricity, ploughing fields using bulls. This is all good but my humble opinion is that ploughing using bulls is not a fundamental Varnashrama principle. This isn’t what we need to start with. Moreover, an attempt to isolate yourself in seclusion is obviously doomed to failure. We are urban residents, what can we do? Does this mean we have to drop everything we do here, escape somewhere, disconnect electrical power, and ride a bull to plough? Such perspective is doubtfully acceptable by many. There are few though that love this kind of style.
How can we select from large number of rules, principles, or laws the most important ones? I started to meditate on this topic and came to understanding what we need establish the most common law or give a most common definition of what is a healthy society. Healthy society is the one where each individual is not used as an instrument to fulfill the goals of others. Every person has his own value. In this society all individuals are valued and each human being is not used by society but rather society is created for each individual.
Sadly, any organization, especially in our times, has a tendency to be created for people in the beginning, but too quickly it finds its own self-interests and, without having time to look around, people find themselves being a tiny screw in a large mechanism. Nobody cares about people anymore, most importantly the mechanism continues to exist and run. We can see it everywhere. It happened with all spiritual or religious organizations. At certain moment, the fundamental principles are abandoned but the society is needed first and foremost for a spiritual progress of each individual. As long as a human becomes an instrument to achieve other people’s goals, he loses his independent value. A person must have value all by himself.
Before I came here today, I was reading a quote of one famous modern philosopher. You must have heard of him. He is Yuval Noah Harari from Israeli. He promotes a theory of trans- humanism. He is openly announcing himself an atheist, as he does not believe in anything.
Here is how he imagines the ideal future society, which he is actively trying to create with his followers.
“There is no need for so many humans. In the technological AI (artificial intelligence) era future humans will have no place and there will be no need for them”.
In other words, for the most part people are useless, they are not needed. Create artificial intelligence and everything will be stellar. Further he says “Humans have invented God. Humans have invented heaven and hell and free will. There is no free will. Freedom has no meaning.”
This is his motto. “Stability in the society is a sanctuary for stupid. In reality there are no gods, no nations or corporations. There are no money and no human rights or laws. Justice but lives in collective human imagination.
When someone proceeds from a false premise, such theories happen to take place. The initial premise is “God does not exist”. He is invented. Therefore, all laws by which human being have to live is the same fantasy or collective imagination. There is no justice. It’s a myth, yet each person has inner sense of justice, but he says “NO”, this is a fantasy or an error.
Why am I bringing this to you? If we want to understand what type of society will take care of the progress for each individual, we need to first be aware of who is a human being.
Who we are? What is our nature? Suppose we consider ourselves a body, naturally we will structure the society which will care of the bodily needs. This will obviously become a consumer society, which is the one we live in today.
What does one need in such society? Eat as much as you want. Therefore, before we start our discussion about making people happy, we need to understand who is that person who we want to make happy.
If we don’t understand fully who is a human being….. I still recall Marxism-Leninism theories we studied at school and university. As Engels defines it “Life is the mode of existence of protein bodies”. Here we have sitting protein bodies. Well, science advanced further and now life is defined as the “mode of existence of protein nucleotide bodies”.
What more do you need? Let’s make the protein bodies happy!!! The theory is the more protein one has the happier he is. That’s how all strange ideas come up as well as mental and social structures which prove to be non-viable.
The first thing we have to understand is that a human being (in the very first approximation) is a unity of spirit and matter. Do you agree? Krishna defines it in BG saying “all moving and non-moving beings are combination of two fundamentally different main principles. Matter and Spirit. Kshetra and Kshetra Jna”. According to materialistic philosophy, the spirit or consciousness is a product of developed matter. Why would this matter suddenly began to develop and became aware of itself? Nobody knows the answer. It cannot be otherwise according to the law stated by Chekhov “ it cannot be because it can never be”.
A much more reasonable position with which many people agree, including scientists who study the nature of consciousness, is the fact that the matter does not generate spirit. These are two independent starting points that are symbiotically connected. There is a close and inseparable union between the matter and the spirit.
We represent this union and this is our tragedy because the laws that govern matter and spirit are entirely different. The matter or the body tends to take and the spirit tends to give. The matter wants to exploit and spirit wants to serve. Two different laws ruling inside.
Apostle Paul said that there are two laws that coexist in his heart. The law of flesh and of the spirit. And he was a slave of the quarrel between them.
To continue further with our reasoning, we need to construct the most complete model of a human being. Again, from the fact that a human being is a unity of two starting points, the matter is quite complex and the spirit is rather simple. Spirit or consciousness is indeed very simple. Matter, as you can see by our anatomy, it’s unbelievably complex.
Matter in turn divides into gross and subtle. We have our gross or physical body and we have body of our mind, emotions, and intellect. This is Vedic concept as from the point of view of modern scientists even if they assume that consciousness has an entirely different origin than matter, they still consider our mind to be the consciousness. And Vedic concept considers mind as a mechanism, yet more subtle. Subtle body is a mechanism. Nobody argues to acknowledge the gross body being a mechanism. We already learned to disassemble our body into some spare parts. Some can be replaced such as heart. Soon our head will be replaced.
The mind is more complex, though it’s not unmanageable. Mind is some sort of a program and we know how easily programmable people are. You can input any program into human being, that’s how propaganda works. The fact of a human being programmable means that the mind is a mechanism functioning by its own algorithms and old algorithms can be easily replaced with the new ones.
As you can see, we addressed three elements so far in a human being. There is Spirit, source of consciousness; Subtle body, which is saturated with the energy of spirit and thus appears to be conscious, this is our mind or subtle, emotional body; and Physical body.
Subtle body itself consists of two components: emotional and intellectual. Different people have one or another component prevailing. Some say men are from Mars and women are from Venus. It’s not that simple, the distribution can be more complex. Those are two essential functions of our subtle body - emotions and intellect, which are not always harmonious.
In essence, a human being is a combination of these 4 elements. Gross or physical body, Emotional mind, Intellect, and Spirit providing energy to both gross and subtle body. If we or the society we are building intend to make a human being happy, or healthy, we need to take care of these 4 elements. If just one of these components is neglected by the society, there will be no happiness, as such human being will not feel himself complete.
Society must care about people’s physical health. Correct? This includes a set of laws to support healthy atmosphere, produce, or other food stuffs we eat, so our health is maintained, otherwise physical illnesses would prohibit spiritual development.
Society should also promote our emotional fulfillment. A society where people are emotionally stagnant, turns them into neurotics. In such environment people tend to accumulate negative emotions bringing them suffering.
The third thing is a society must take care of intellectual development of people. The intellect must become stronger to increase our ability to focus and meditate, practice self-control, work on our will power.
Physical, emotional (including art, such as songs, music, dancing, theater, fine arts) and intellectual stages are three necessary building blocks of the healthy society.
And, most importantly, our spiritual health must not be lagging behind. We must notice that our spiritual growth is becoming more and more tangible and all the qualities that are inherent in consciousness shall become part of our experience. This means having strong sense of immortality because the soul is eternal. We need real inner feeling of it, not just a theory. At some moment in life, we will have to abandon this body and look at it from above saying good bye to it.
One of my acquaintances, fairly heavy lady, was in the hospital and had out of body experience due to complex medical issue. As she was hovering over her body prostrated in the floor, she was observing a commotion of the medical staff around her. Suddenly, someone started talking about putting her at least to bed but a nurse mentioned her heavy weight and how impossible it is to lift her. Hearing this comment, the lady-patient instantly came back to her body being embarrassed of this situation. It hurt her feminine vanity.
Thus, we not only theoretically need to know that we are souls, but to experience it. People who had out of body experience, returning back to the body, completely changed their lives. Their life values shifted in the right direction. They understood that the goals they set before those events, seemed useless and after this experience they selected much higher goals to pursue.
In summary, there are 4 components or 4 necessities, and if we analyze the Vedic society, we can see that different laws or rules accepted there helped individuals to preserve their physical, emotional and intellectual health. We can't even come close to the geniuses generated by that environment. They recited tens of thousands scriptural verses by heart. And they did not chant them like parrots repeating the words but manipulated on the most complex abstract concepts. In their meditation they determined the nature of constellations, how each of them influenced our mind. We cannot even imagine what they were able to do. It’s beyond us.
Yoga is an achievement of intellect. It is semi-spiritual discipline that polishes one’s intellect. Naturally, number of saints, the individuals with elevated consciousness level who rose above the material nature, was unlimited.
The Vedic society will become our baseline model. Comparing to this model we can review the laws we must observe. Now I think it may not be the most successful model we need. Why not? It seems that everything is fine there. Let’s take it, break up into some fundamentals then evaluate and draw practical conclusions.
Let me offer you a slightly different model. It is irrelevant right now to talk about physical needs or spiritual needs. We are already engaged in a spiritual practice, we know it quite well, no reason to repeat it. What we need to talk about is the fact that modern society breeds neurotics, which is the main root of distress.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression has been classified as the health epidemic of the 21st century. It is growing at an incredible rate. In America nearly 50% of population take antidepressants. They are prescribed like candies. No special testing is even administered. Just come to the doctor, tell them you feel “blue” and ask for those types of drugs. Guaranteed prescription.
My sister used to take care of one old lady. She told me the lady often asked to give her a “happy pill”. Those “happy pills” are supported by large scale pharmaceutical industry.
Depression though is a psychiatric illness where our brain does not function correctly. It’s not a psychological disorder. The main problems of the modern society reside within our subtle body, in the form of our perceptions and views, which cause various diseases, including the ones of the physical body.
We are well aware that all diseases are psychosomatic in nature. Even physical illness is caused by mental activity. Since the mind is not healthy and the interaction of people does not contribute to the healing of the subtle body, accordingly, people get sick more and more.
Here I am coming to the main point. Little more to go. Let’s think about the following, taking a certain model as the basis.
In sankhya philosophy, the structure of the subtle body is analyzed in more detail. There it is said that our subtle body or antah karana is our inner sense organ. There are external sense organs such as eyes, ears, nose, tongue (as taste) skin, hands, legs, tongue (as speech organ), genitals, and anus. Our inner sense organ collects all the impulses coming from external preceptors and processes those signals. This antah karana is a mechanism of our subtle body. If this mechanism is well tuned, our interaction with the outside world is running smoothly. If it begins to falter, the person gets sick or losses his mind. Depression is the lighter stage of the mental loss which can easily transition into heavier stages of the disease.
I don’t mean to add salt to the wounds but in Canada during winter depression becomes very prominent. Now we can see sun it’s not as bad.
In my thoughts and analysis, in order to unravel this complex yarn, I decided it is more important to take our antah karana (explained in sankhya and in SB 3rd Canto) as a basis. It is stated there that our subtle body perform 4 main functions.
1. Manas. Emotional mind that selects between “like” and “dislike”. Binary code so to speak. We think if “like” prevails “dislike”, we can become happy. With each one of those poles there are associated emotions. Positive and negative, respectively and spectrum of the ones in between. Attraction and aversion, love and hatred, etc. Manas correlates to the limbic system of our brain. That’s where all emotions are sort of programmed.
2. Intellect. It defines the correct conclusions regarding like and dislike positions of the mind from the higher prospective. It defines good from evil and helps to guide an individual whether he is moving towards happiness or distress. Note that mind and intellect has entirely different position on good versus bad and they are in constant argument. Intellect prompts us to get up early, mind thinks sleeping in the morning is the best. Mind tempts us to eat another piece of cake, where intellect warns us to stop it, reminding of our already heavy weight. Intellect is more advanced mechanism that comprehends what is beneficial for us in a long run (not immediately). Mind worries about immediate reward. Intellect correlates to our cerebral cortex with many other functions such as willpower and emotional control.
3. The third one we all know- it is our Ego. This allows us to think “I am the best”. As Pushkin says:
“mirror, mirror tell the truth,
who is she, the fairest youth?
who is pleasant, nice and cozy,
face of whom is pale yet rosy”
We all have our mirror which we inquire from continuously. After certain age though it does not make sense to inquire anymore because whatever it says we don’t believe it. Ego, to be serious, is personal pride, our self-praise to be the most wonderful, smart, clever, and to know everything better all by ourselves.
When children start unveiling their Ego, a little person starts doing something to stand out. Others trying to help him get response “I can do it myself”.
This self-centrism, a conception of one's own separateness, one’s own self-interest, ability to achieve anything on one’s own (happiness and all), the sense of independence, segregation from others along with the instincts of self-preservation, basic survival, or ability to procreate-all these elements constitute our ahankara. Ahankara is a collective image of who am I, brought from the past life. The form of it is our reflection in the mirror. Mirror demonstrates what we think about this world and what we have to do here dominating others and enjoying ourselves. Ahankara can also be interpreted by our astrological natal chart. On this chart Ahankara is represented by the Sun. Depending on the position of the Sun on the chart (Sun defines human Ego), it behaves differently as there are 12 different forms of it. There are other influencing divisions there, but we will not address them here.
4. The most important element or instrument of our “I” is citta. Often it means the heart. It is the most subtle layer besides the soul. The soul is covered by citta, or conditioned consciousness, it is primordial intelligence of a human being, in other words subconsciousness, ability to hold memories about this world. Citta is the primary element from which this entire creation is manifested therefore it unites all living beings. How are yogis reading the thoughts of others or receive some information from the universal consciousness? Not only yogis can do that, often talented poets and composers can do that as well. Such individuals have access to the united field of information which we are surrounded by. In the 3rd Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam it is explained that the main citta’s function is to adequately reflect the surrounding world. Its reflective abilities can create correct image of this world and more over in the pure state of citta the image of God can be reflected.
The image of God, in the way we are ready to perceive Him, can be reflected in our pure heart. When the heart is not pure, which means it is contaminated by ahankara, manas, and buddhi, we have no idea what is going on in there. We cannot feel any elevated emotions. In the purified heart, which is a process commonly used by saints of all religious traditions, the most exalted spiritual experience is obtained. This is an essence of spiritual practice of any existing faith. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu starts his Siksastakam with the phrase “ceto darpana marjanam” - we need to cleanse the mirror of our heart. We have a mirror there which can reflect this world adequately or in a distorted way when it is not pure. Naturally, in the latter case we perceive distorted replica of reality and we are trying to live in this distorted environment. As a result, our interactions are perverted.
Here we have 4 elements or functions or you can call them organs of our subtle body. It’s quite complex to describe their status because they are invisible.
Manas - like and dislike
Buddhi - good or bad, our built-in value system
Ahankara - false ego trying to dominate above all other functions
Citta - or heart, a passive contemplating ability to correctly reflect the surrounding world and see the deeper slices of reality, including God.
If we take this layout as a basis and try to analyze the Vedic society from this point of view, we will notice that different laws or principles of Varnashrama society existed for the purpose of purification of our intellect, mind, ego, and citta (or subconsciousness). Any system will work as long as it is easily absorbed by our head. If I spread myself thin talking about various paths we can get easily confused. However even in Kali Yuga 4 things are fairly easy to remember. We have not yet degraded so drastically.
Now we need to remember 4 other sub-elements under each of those 4 basic elements. This will give somewhat holistic view about expected actions and what to consider in attaining the healthy status of the society. If we are going to observe these principles, naturally, our conditioned consciousness and the consciousness of those with whom we interact will be gradually purified and healed.
I will just list those subcategories, but tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow we will discuss in detail some mechanisms of their deployment. If you don’t mind of course. If you would rather listen to stories from Mahabharata, I can do that instead.
Let’s start from intellect as it is critically important element. This is our world outlook. These 4 elements or categories which we have just defined are needed simply to project some simple framework into our mind, helping us to understand how Vedic society was organized. Then, knowing how it was, we can define what we have to do to restore this order. We can gradually revive the goodness in our society that way. I know this Hall is a meeting place for “Goodness” club members whose leader Oleg Torsunov has published bestselling book “The Laws of the happy life”. On my end, I wanted to talk about the laws of a happy community or a micro-society.
Intellect is a function allowing one to see the bigger picture. Our intellect is as much healthy as it is capable of grasping the holistic view. Then further, out of this holistic perception, it determines a specific action.
The first principle of the Vedic society, which I am sure many of you already know, is God centric perception of the world. Not a human being is in the center, God is. When during the Age of Enlightenment, intellectuals such as Voltaire, Rousseau, etc. tried to shape the newest view of the world, they placed a human being in the center of attention. Therefore, what came out of it is what we are now having to deal with, i.e., sick society.
Human being is not meant for being a central focal point of any organization. God is the only one with such status. By placing human being in the center, we shifted all focal points leading to chaos. Thus, societies are formed with cultures deviated from the norm. God must be in the very center and inevitably attract everyone towards Himself. He is a natural center by default.
We do not need to go deeper in this topic because majority of you here understand this well.
The practical outcome of this is that each individual in a healthy society one way or another does something for God or performs some spiritual practice. This can be some sort of yajna, meditation , chanting of the holy names, or kirtan. God centric view usually involve sadhana. The entire society is engaged in some spiritual practice because it’s not enough to just have a theory, it needs to be transformed into our life as certain actions.
If we confirm however that God is in the center but do nothing to satisfy Him this is not good. Sadhana is the first principle of God centric society.
Some people think that just because they believe in God, nothing else needs to be done, they are good as is, they are saved, their name is engraved into a Book of Life, they wash their hands off, while accusing others to remain in the Book of Death.
Two other principles for the intellect, besides sadhana, are Varna and Ashram. This accentuate the necessity to act according to one’s nature.
Great Ukrainian philosopher Gregory Skovoroda called it affined or related activity. We shall thank God that He made it easy what we need to do and difficult what we do not need to do.
What we naturally inclined to do comes spontaneously for us and makes us happy. The emphasis is on finding our own nature because if we can’t find it, we can never feel any stability. Only when we put forth our nature, be it a man’s or woman’s nature, or the one formed under psychophysical qualities, happiness can be achieved. Doing the work according to one’s nature can be long lasting; a person rarely gets tired doing it and more over is surprised that he can get paid for it. Pleasure on all sides.
I am sure Leonardo Da Vinci while painting Mona Lisa was not contemplating his monetary reward. He was doing it according to his nature and was ultimately happy. This was the second principle.
The third one is that when a person is engaged following his nature, he feels inner stability. He knows he is in the right place, doing what needs to be done and don’t need to go elsewhere.
Ashram, though, means that one is working according to his nature for the duration of life. Ashram is for the most part social position. Therefore, one fulfills his roles in social life and simultaneously engage his nature. We all know how we have 4 Varnas and 4 Ashrams.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur defines only 3 Ashrams. First is being a disciple, second is a family life, and the third is gradually giving up all material activities, transferring experience to others, taking care of others.
Finally, let’s determine the 4th principle of the healthy society. We can clearly see how this one is severely violated on our society. Our society underline human rights. Now that we placed a human being in the center, everything is circling around him, human rights and all. Human rights by the way are constantly violated but nonetheless….
The Vedic society is based on an opposite concept. The human rights are natural sequence of everyone fulfilling their obligations. If we consider human rights to be the focal point, they will always be violated by all humans. If we instead enhance that everyone has to fulfill their responsibilities, we naturally realize the fact that all our rights will be automatically observed. We don’t demand rights but trying to understand what do we need to do in terms of our obligations.
If each individual knows what he needs to do, the society will form itself in a way that the rights of each individual will be observed as well. Everyone will get what they need, not taking or grabbing what one think he needs. If everyone gives what he can to the society, undoubtedly, he will receive what is necessary. Everything must begin with responsibilities. Rights will follow. Not vice versa. Rights are defined by responsibilities. The more we fulfill our obligations the more rights we earn to ourselves. There are plenty of people not fulfilling any obligations yet demanding themselves all kinds of rights.
All what I said above is concerning our intellect. Let’s stop here to avoid info overload. I am afraid we are talking little too much. I will describe all other elements later. We shall see how it will progress. I see that you are tired as we have been here for a long time.
Are there any questions? One or two.
Q1. Thank you, Guru a Maharaj, for coming here and shaking our depression. You mentioned right and responsibilities. I just recalled an old communism motto “everyone gives by abilities and receives by the needs”. You also described manas, buddhi, ahankara and citta. This citta
in Srimad Bhagavatam is translated as consciousness, the feature of the soul.
A. Not exactly, citta is material element, just very subtle. Therefore, it can be easily confused with actual consciousness which is not material. It is the first so-to-speak block of creation. It is an information field in a sense. Why is it often interpreted as consciousness is because it is conditioned consciousness. There is a soul which is a source of pure consciousness and it is covered with this subtle transparent sattvic layer of citta. Citta is where sattva prevails, therefore it is transparent. Imagine the Moon covered by the transparent cirrus cloud. When the cloud hovers over the Moon it will appear that the cloud radiates. In reality the cloud cannot radiate by itself, the light comes from the Moon. But as the cloud is covering the Moon it acquires certain radiant qualities. The same way citta covers pure consciousness and can mimic its qualities. That’s why you can call it consciousness or the heart which is the source of consciousness.
Q. What is then pure spiritual consciousness?
A. Pure consciousness is the one that is entirely turned to God, unlike consciousness filtered through citta is still extroverted consciousness directed to material world. Pure consciousness is directed inwards because God resides there. It also functions quite differently and it is explained in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu and other scriptures. Citta is material element meant to interact with material world.
Q. As I understood citta becomes material under the influence of ahankara or false ego, correct?
A. Citta is always material. Srimad Bhagavatam says that the first element of creation is mahat tattva. And it is nothing else but macro or gigantic version of citta. Mahat tattva at the micro-cosmic level is citta. How we aware of it is through our subconsciousness, which is polluted by ahankara, buddhi and manas. Ahankara, buddhi and manas come out of citta therefore they are contained in it thus polluting it.
Let’s describe the creation as it is stated in Srimad Bhagavatam. First it was equilibrium of three gunas of material nature. Then God glanced over material nature and brought them out of balance. First prevailed sattva guna and out of the state of matter with sattvic predominance came out citta. Then raja guna became predominant and out of matter came sutra tattva, then ahankara tattva. From ahankara tattva came out manas and buddhi. Ahankara, let’s say, is the state of material nature with predominating tamas. Sutra tattva or prana is the state with predominating rajas. Therefore, citta is the most subtle primordial covering of the soul. Since it has an abundance of sattva, it helps us to uniquely grasp knowledge regarding divine nature and God and even have chance to see His reflection. It is that mirror of consciousness which Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wanted us to cleanse in Shikshastaka. Mirror of citta helps to purify our chanting of the holy name.
Q. These 4 elements of subtle body you just described do they have the same nature or different? I understand that they are governed differently, as influenced by different mechanisms. For instance, what differs mind from intellect. Is intellect only different as it digs deeper than mind.
A. They all have different functions. Neurophysiologists who study the structure of the brain say that it has layered composition as if three shells each placed on top of the other. Similar to our nesting doll Matryoshka. There is a brainstem or reptilian brain. Of course, scientists affirm that those are results of some evolution, we can leave it up to them. It’s not as easy as they think but the model is pretty interesting. First comes brainstem, which actually does look like a reptile or lizard. In this part the very basic instincts are recorded. Right above it placed limbic system. And above limbic system placed cerebral cortex which is associated with high level intellectual processes such as language, reasoning, etc. You have seen this tri-level scheme of the brain.
For instance, buddhi is coded and manifested as a function of intellect. And intellect is ability to recognize this world and interact with it, find some algorithms of such interaction. All that is programmed into the cerebral cortex.
Emotional mind preset for duality as “like” and “dislike” or “love” and “hate”, raga and dvesha. All that is in the limbic system. Limbic system includes amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, etc.
All those brain components are mechanisms that our mind and buddhi use to assist its functions. The mind and buddhi mechanisms are subtle but they have gross correlatives. Also, there is an ahankara or “I” which is in reptilian brain.
From the mechanical layout point of view, they are arranged quite differently. Brain we can study, however subtle body we cannot. To study subtle body, we need yogi who in his trance can see and divide those elements and define their functions. What we read in Srimad Bhagavatam was written as a result of a yogic trance. But by studying the brain, we can see how the subtle body functions are realized at the level of a gross matter. That’s all. These are mechanisms of interaction with this material world. You know that gross body does not interact with this material world. Gross body simply collects some information through its sensors or detectors. Some info comes through our eyes, some though the brain, but then it gets processed in the subtle body. How? Suppose I said something that hurts your ego. Ego is extremely sensitive. Immediately, it will rebel and launch your emotional mechanism that will enforce me to run away from you. I am not going to do it, please try it on someone else.
By the way we do these things thousand times each day, inevitably. What is false ego? Ahankara is a system of my perceptions about my own self. It acts as a filter. It filters out everything we receive from the outside. If it suits my idea of how things should be, I let it in. Then this triggers some other related mechanisms. Manas and buddhi are, per say, servants of the false ego. Citta is the most important. From it comes a concept of who am I (false ego) which consists of our past life experiences. We came here with this baggage. Thus, false ego has two vital instruments manas and buddhi which serve it fulfilling important functions.
In a sense we must understand how these systems function.
For instance, for me it was surprising too confirm how false ego works on example of tragic events happening now in Ukraine. It is painful but vivid illustration of those subtle functions.
We see how people filter information that does not suit them. I noticed it in myself first of all. It is tempting to absorb the information that further strengthens my false ego. False ego says “I am good or I am right”. This is the main function of false ego - to praise yourself. Therefore, whatever confirms my righteousness I accept, the rest I reject as impossible to be. Why so? Because my false ego does not let it in. There are some cells through which information cannot pass, it gets blocked. Propaganda is based on this functionality. First, they agitate your false ego, then say something it likes and false ego will accept it with pleasure. It will swallow the bait and think that “yes”, we all have good reasons to support certain things. We were told all that we already knew, but now after manipulations with our ego we even more convinced in being right as we received it from some outer box which we trust entirely. Why do we trust it? Because we have our filtering tools that support our position. That’s how this vicious circle is engaged.
Q. What book did you use to give us examples.
A. “The daily practice of the Hindus”. There are some amusing things there. How Hindus meditated, which mantras they chanted for every occasion. It’s not very practical for us now, but interesting, nonetheless. Author is Srisa Chandra Vasu.
Q. Does an individual soul shines through the intellect, mind and false ego. Or all actions that that we observe is just a certain role we fulfill.
A. All of these elements are like layers of clothing over the soul. As Srila Prabhupada said why the jacket has a certain form. Because the body has that form. The jacket is patterned by the form of our body. In the same way, the soul has a specific form. It is individual and all subtle and gross bodies covering it are taking its form into account, repeating it. Imagine if someone has so many layers of clothing on him, it becomes hard to guess who is there under those layers. We just see the main outline of the body but the real form is hidden or buried under the clothing.
In the same way, our soul being dressed in those subtle and gross garments becomes hardly recognizable even by ourselves. Our consciousness is projected from soul into those outer garments. It does not act independently from them. All are connected. As we continue our spiritual practice, as we focus our consciousness on the soul, we start more and more clearly understand our nature. This is a mechanism, our consciousness now is projected entirely onto the outer gross layer of our soul i.e. physical body. We can feel our body and distinguish emotions. Advanced Yogi who can direct his consciousness inward, can undergo surgeries without anesthetics. Because when consciousness is spread through entire body, we feel it in every point of our body. When yogi withdraws it inwards, he disconnects his consciousness from the gross body. Moreover, during our sleep when we see dreams, we do not feel our gross body. Our consciousness is also withdrawn from gross body but it acts through the subtle body.
In the deep sleep, even intellect and subtle body gets disconnected from consciousness which is concentrated inside. This is happening to obtain a good rest. Once we awake, we again spread our consciousness through gross and subtle bodies. But the soul does indeed have a form. Great mystics can see your soul by looking into your eyes. I have an interesting case. I talked to one American lady who told me about her past life regression. She is not one of those making up stories. Pretty reliable individual. She saw herself as an eagle, not very honorable incarnation. Commonly people see themselves as Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. Then she also saw her past life with her current husband, where he was a military officer and she was his assistant. Both were men. I asked her how did she recognize him in the past life. She said, obviously by looking into his eyes. The soul does indeed projects itself through the eyes. That’s why people learning about others look into their eyes first. The gross body can be different but consciousness somehow shines through and is reflected onto the observer.
Q. When does our soul starts to loosen up from the false ego (not clearly heard the question).
A. Gradual release of our identification with false ego occurs from the beginning of our spiritual practice. However, it reaches if not a summit but rather significant degree of detachment at the level of Nishtha. We go through several stages first shraddha (faith), sadhu sanga, bhajana kriya, anartha nivritti. When anarthas go away, this means deep programs connecting us to this body also go away. This knot is loosening, as you said, at the level of Nishtha, it is not as tight anymore. Nishtha level is the level of continuous meditation when a person can concentrate his consciousness on the Supreme Lord. At such stage, the consciousness is not as much projected onto our material coverings.
Q. Loosening of the false ego again, is it a function of a spiritual practice or it is a function of time.
A. Not of time definitely. As time progresses false ego becomes only stronger. If only the time could get us rid of it…. A person even on the death bed is strongly holding to his false ego, to his material life. Therefore, Vedic culture encouraged to burn the dead body to help get rid of strong detachment. Loosening of false ego is a result of spiritual practice, consistent meditation, concentration onto the holy name, which has a strong action of purification.
Thank you so much.
Srila Prabhupada Ki Jaya!!!
Bhakti Vijnana Goswami Maharaj Ki Jaya!!!