Good evening. Hari Bol.
Yesterday we started a conversation about how the ancient Vedic society was organized. This social system is practically extinct today. The goal of our conversation is to understand the eternal principles that lay the foundation of such organization. Laws and principles shall stay the same but the circumstances may change, therefore laws can come across slightly different.
How can we apply these laws in our far from ideal conditions? Conditions that drastically deviated from pastoral and serene old times where everyone lived in peace, loved each other, and tended the cows. Yesterday I tried to provide theoretical basis for this giving a definition of what is a true human and progressive society. People today may consider their society the most advanced without questioning what is a real progress. Where this so called progress is leading us? The society can be considered truly progressive if it places interests of each person above the interests of the entire society.
The interests meant there (In Vedic society) were not selfish desires of people but their spiritual advancements. If the main purpose of the society is spiritual development of individuals, who by default are spiritual beings, it is a progressive society. In case the goals are anything besides the spiritual advancement, such society will inevitably turn into a fiasco and breed dissatisfied people. Everything else in such society shall be connected to the spiritual development of individuals in supporting it.
Modern economic structure relies on dissatisfied people. If they become happy, they will stop buying unnecessary stuff in large quantities. Thus, the society will burst like a balloon, therefore it purposely supports dissatisfaction in people.
I also spoke about a human being as a symbiosis of matter and spirit, two somewhat opposite principles. The matter further divides into gross and subtle. Subtle matter splits into emotional mind and rational intellect.
We as humans have 4 main necessities:
• Physical (bodily needs),
• Emotional (need to communicate and generate good feelings, friendship),
• Need for intellectual growth (clear understanding the purpose of Life), and
• Spiritual needs (evolution of consciousness).
In today’s society human consciousness is oversimplified and collapsed. We can see how during our life and, as comparison to historical periods, human degradation goes on. This affects specific human qualities. First happens their erosion, then break down, and, finally, total annihilation.
These 4 needs society must take into account. Not only physical needs, but everything. People cannot live on the Zoom app. Everyone is moving to Zoom or other virtual realities, thereby depriving people of real human potential.
We need to focus our attention on the subtle body, on the human mind, because happiness depends on how harmonious this element is. The subtle body is an interface, an intermediate link between the gross physical body and the soul. On one hand, this subtle body affects the gross body, hence psychophysical diseases may arise. On the other hand, it helps our spiritual progress. These two bodies are interconnected.
I also spoke about the quaternary model of the psyche which is an essence of yoga philosophy or sankhya philosophy to be precise. This means our subtle body (body of the mind) has 4 main functions. They are our Ego (ahankara) - our feeling of being separate from everything else, Emotional mind, Rational intellect, and Citta. Citta is the main element, it’s our subconsciousness, memory, and ability to correctly reflect reality.
If we deeply grasp this model, we can figure out what happens to us internally. We will be able to determine the nature of some mental disorders and many other things. This is a very interesting and important model that implies the functioning of our intellect in accordance with universal laws, quaternary manifestation of Primeval God.
Well, this becomes quite esoteric subject, let’s stay away from it.
Today we continue discussing the topic how in healthy society all there’s laws are accounted for. Also, we shall see how healthy society produces mentally stable individuals, as well as physically of course, but first of all, mentally. And vice versa, how unhealthy society, which we all belong to, produces neurotics with all kinds of ailments such as nervous breakdowns, insomnia, stress, depression, and so on.
Again, we will talk about how our society need to be organized. I do not mean any large-scale society, not even our micro-social community. Two people coming together may already represent, somewhat, a society. For instance, small family is a drop of the society. How two or even ten people are dealing with each other? It’s important because it can either promote or hinder our spiritual development.
The Varnasrama system, primary organization during Vedic times, reflected the laws of the spiritual world. In reality, it was a reflection of our inherent nature. Our soul has eternally inherent qualities. Different philosophical systems described these qualities in their own manner. Plato described four main qualities of the souls. In Christianity they talk about seven qualities. Bhaktivinoda Thakur lists six qualities. All of them are nearly identical. Let us read what Bhaktivinoda Thakur says in “Chaitanya Shikshamrita”.
The first quality of the soul is the ability to distinguish truth from lies, to be precise, to be able to identify righteousness. Internally, we all well aware of what is good and what is evil. It is another thing that over time these guidelines went astray, yet we still have this internal criterion. We know what is sin and what is piety. Being oriented towards the piety is a natural tendency of the soul. It is not something imposed on us or socially conditioned. It’s obvious what are good things versus bad things. Piety, or striving for good, is an original quality of the soul.
The second quality is truthfulness. We cannot deny the fact that if we do not speak the truth, we start feeling awkward. And not only we sense that, but others who hear our lies feel in the same way. Someone told me today when he hears people doing their propaganda, even though it is them who lies, he felt extremely uncomfortable. Such is the manifestation of this quality. We respond to lies by having an internal indicator of truth. We know that it is better to tell the truth, it is the best and most certain guarantee of inner peace.
The third quality is purity. The soul is originally pure and we surely all have tendency to strive for cleanliness. Impurities or dirt is something unnatural. When we find ourselves in some kind of messy environment, or we are allowing ourself to stay unclean forgetting our true nature, we feel disgusting.
The fourth quality is friendliness. I already mentioned yesterday that we are all friendly creatures, just at times looking angry. Fundamentally, we are friendly beings. And occasionally we can display this quality.
The fifth quality is simplicity or some form of honesty. It is different than truthfulness, which is an indicator of lies. Honesty is unwillingness to pretend. Again, these natural qualities are here and there obscured by dark qualities that we have acquired during our time in this world, trying to adapt to it. Unfortunately, this world is not built on positive principles.
Finally, the sixth quality is our propensity for love.
Next, Bhaktivinoda Thakur lists six fundamental sins or evils of a human being. They are counteracting those six pious qualities of the soul, which reflect its true nature. We will not concentrate on identifying those evil qualities, literally, you can just reverse the definitions of the pious ones. Essentially, a society that is encouraging people to exhibit these natural qualities of the soul is a virtuous society. On the contrary, a society that pushes people in the opposite direction, obstructing them in developing pious qualities, is a malignant society.
Such destructive society encourages us to forget our primordial nature. One of the faults of a modern individual is his inability to understand who he is and what is his nature. It is exceedingly difficult for him to detach his true self from some false identification, imposed onto him by his environment or caused by his own ideas and desires. Such person cannot clearly understand what does he want. People are moving further and further from their true identity. To the largest degree they do not have any idea what they feel and what they really need.
Varnashrama system with all its minute details as well as fundamental principles allows people to demonstrate their true qualities. Why so? Because this system moves people closer to God. The farther the soul is from God the more it forgets about its true nature. And vice versa, the closer the soul is to God the more it displays its natural qualities.
There is a famous verse in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (3.8.9) which says:
puruṣeṇa paraḥ pumān
viṣṇur ārādhyate panthā
(CC Madhya 8.58)
“All the Vedic ritualistic sacrifices are performed for the purpose of satisfying Lord Viṣṇu, the yajña-puruṣa.”
Varnashrama is the method of worshiping God. Imagine that Social system is the path of worshiping Lord Vishnu. It is also said there that there is no other path to worship the Lord except of perfecting our coexistence by inspiring each other getting closer to God, to become cleaner, kinder, better, displaying the most valuable inherent in us qualities. This in itself will allow us to be ultimately happy.
Interesting that Plato was talking about the same subject. Besides his famous treatise “the Republic” he published a dialogue “the Laws.” He talks about political theology there. He states how political organization in society helps people to restore their spiritual nature. He says if a person has a faith in God “he will not do an unholy deed or speak an unlawful word”.
Now let me say few words regarding degradation. The Varnashrama system was long lasting, for many thousand years it existed on the planet. We will soon proceed to the description of its functionality. At some moment in time, it began to degenerate, degrading under the influence of relentless time.
This system divided people into four large classes: intellectuals, warriors, tradesmen, (engaged in farming) and artisans (sort of artists, but not in a modern sense of this term; those were people making goods and providing services for others). Such were four categories of individuals, which are common to any society.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur has an interesting explanation for this. In the beginning, everyone was finding his place within this society according to his internal nature. Later, the time came when Kshatriyas went into disagreement with Brahmans. This happened when Parashurama appeared on this planet. He was of Brahmanical origin but possessed a temperament of a Kshatriya. He started fighting and killing, instigating terrible things. This led to the first split within this ideal society causing the rise of Buddhism. Buddhism, born in the depth of the Vedic religion, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur says, was a hostile response of Kshatriyas who lost their privilege to engage in spiritual practices as a result of hereditary attachment of such privileges to Brahmans. Kshatriyas simply rebelled against it. We know that Buddha came from royalty and the sharp edge of Buddhism was directed towards degraded Brahmans who seized the privilege for spiritual activity.
Everyone has the right by birth for spiritual practice but somehow or other clergymen has tendency to claim their monopoly on it, shoving everyone else off their spiritual feeder. This happened sadly in India. There may not be much sense to go deeper into historical debris, but this just was the first split of the Vedic society and rise of Buddhism.
The second split caused formation of Jainism when Vaishyas rebelled against stagnant degraded Varnashrama system. All these events eventually ended up in the development of democracy in India, not much different today from any other country of the world.
Nonetheless, interesting to note, per Bhaktivinoda Thakur, that this society was impeccably stable and made people well balanced. He also stated that the structure of society with scientific divisions of individuals into 4 categories, where strong emphasis was made towards engagement in one’s own activity and steering off somebody else’s business, helped people to gain internal equilibrium, satisfaction, and focus on their spiritual practice.
The society as a whole was satisfied. Varnashrama brought people prosperity, provided all necessities, as we know in Middle Ages India was the wealthiest country in the world. All conquerors rushed there to plunder its riches. But such wealth was a result of accumulated piety within righteously built society, the society with absent antagonism.
Now let us go to the definitions. How can we restore this foundation to some degree? The first principle of such society is to become God centric or Theo centric unlike anthropocentric society which was formed in Europe during Renaissance and solidified during Enlightenment period. This became a humanistic society with its ideals, placing human in the center and regenerating the philosophical ideas promoting ultimate sense gratification as the main goal of life.
Thus, this type of society knocked down the most meaningful pillars of the human life. Everything started with Aristotle. It is quite interesting topic yet I am not going to explain it in greater details. In essence, God being in the center of the Vedic society was extremely attractive. The One who expressed mercy and kindness and possessed vital qualities in full. This personal aspect of God in Vedic philosophy was manifested in many areas. Once Aristotle came to the scene, he started questioning who was God. He proclaimed God to be the Primordial Engine. Does anyone want to worship the engine? The concept itself is not enticing at all.
Degradation of human society started when God was deprived of His personal qualities. The more impersonal perception of God or His concept was, the less attractive He was becoming and the more self-attention people developed.
When all-attractive personality is placed in the center, such as God who is abound of Beaty, Wealth, Strength, Knowledge, Renunciation, and Fame (samasta kalyana guna purna), it makes one naturally reaching for Him and meditating on Him. If we suddenly equate God with primordial engine, can anyone in the right mind meditate onto the engine for a long time, whether it is a steam or a primordial engine? One cannot meditate onto anything mechanical. Aristotle also adds that God possess one main quality. He is primordial engine but He is immobile Himself.
That says it all!!! Hare Krishna!!! It is called “we have reached a dead end.” Krishna by the way is very mobile and elusive. He never stands still, always running. Aristotle totally missed the mark with his immobile God. Naturally when people generate such largely fabricated concepts, there cannot be any personal relationships. People are prone to invent whatever they want when they lose the true sense.
Further Aristotle continues with his disturbed logic. He says: “the highest form of life in this material world is a human. As in any other subject of this world we can see in human the union of matter and spirit (in this case it is human body) and a form which is his soul. The body being a matter is an opportunity for the soul but the soul must possess the highest and the lowest elements. The highest element of the soul is the mind. It is the last reality appearing from the lowest functions of the soul as from opportunities. Therefore, since God is the highest reality, He is the mind.”
That is how the greatest philosopher of all times, who was considered the guide of all people, especially in the West, defines God as the Mind. The rest has become a consequence of this false designation.
The humanists have placed a man at the center of society, but since people are innumerable, who was really at the very center? Obviously, everyone put himself there, not anyone else. If we assume that a person is the center, each of us believes that he is the one.
This in turn causes competition. If God is in the Center, the ideal Being, not having anyone equal to Him, unparalleled, the Only one by definition, no competition can exist, thus, people can cooperate.
Yet, if we place a man at the center, as singular point, you must agree that center cannot be plural, we place ourselves there and the rest of the mass that does not fit there, turn into competitors. And our newly appointed Human Center is trying to push everyone else from that center as much as his strength allows him to do so. If he is able to retain himself there, he considers it a success.
This is how our society came to what it is now. If we try to restore God’s original position in the Center, we can easily arrange for cooperation. There will be absolutely no reasons for competition or envy. God-centric society implies that we work for Him, offering Him the fruits of our labor. A humanistic society or an anthropocentric society assumes that the fruits of the labor of some are constantly appropriated by others. This is the primary cause of exploitation of one man by another.
I mentioned yesterday how Marx was stumped reading memories of Chinese and other travelers who, after visiting Vedic society, marveled at its wealth and peaceful existence.
The very first and the most important principle of God’s central position is the foundational basis for adequate functioning of the society.
Since we are used to or shall I say preprogrammed, by social norms (prejudices), carried over from current deteriorated society into our small Vaishnava community, we are similarly trying to move ourselves into the center here.
I remember very vividly one scene that was quite astounding for me. It happened during my visit of one family who had a 2 year old child. We were preparing for the feast arranging tablecloth on the floor and this little kid was constantly whining, walking from one corner to the other, being agitated. He tried by all means to attract our attention. Finally, he came between adults, elbowed them apart, walked into the center of our circle and began to proudly examine everyone. Right away he stopped whining and looked radiant. The theorem is proved.
The instinctive desire to stand out and attract attention of others is very strongly engraved in us. If we do not redirect the center back to God with comprehension that we cannot become happy by taking His place without authority, this instinct will always be our obstacle. Once God is in His honored place and all the others serve Him in their own capacity, happiness is guaranteed.
Yesterday I showed you the book which is remarkably interesting. Notably, it’s not very practical for us, busy people of the 21st century striving to watch all posted updates in YouTube and get to myriad of other “important” engagements.
What does it mean to place God in the center? It is not just a wishful desire or theoretic concept. How do we incorporate it into our daily practice? If we again refer to that book regarding the life of the people in Vedic society, we can see how they reminded themselves several times during the day the fact that they were not this body, but the soul connected to God. We think that once we heard this same statement or read about it in Bhagavad Gita or elsewhere, everything have become clear and we are ready to move onto something else.
When we eat, we solidify our identification with this body. Body needs food and other things to consume. When we subside to our instincts and fall asleep, etc., many things we do affirm bodily conception in our minds. To withstand this false identification, we have to consciously work on our minds.
It’s not such an easy and obvious activity. It will not manifest in us all by itself. We are indeed a soul but we need to, at least in the beginning, persistently remind ourselves about this truth. Meditation is one way of accomplishing it.
People in Vedic society, as I read you yesterday, meditated three times a day. Early in the morning, at noon during daytime junctions, and at sunset in the evening. The mind is most vulnerable during those times, twilight especially affects our condition.
The essence of this is that from the very first moment of waking up what do we need to think of or remind ourselves of? Obviously not the need of stretching this body indefinitely or continuing to sleep a little longer. Rather we must remind ourselves who we truly are, how shall we spend this day, how will we preserve our divine image, which is an image of God within us.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur gives us advice that in the evening, right before going to bed, we must review the day we spent, which will allow us to polish our intellect. We need to evaluate the day we lived. Did we live this day with dignity? What did we do right or wrong? Such self-assessment is a privilege of a human form of life, yet sadly we don’t utilize it as often as we should.
Animals cannot introspect. Such process will truly help us to establish God as a centerpiece of our life. Formally, we can admit God to the center and agree with His position. How to make it a reality is another matter. In Vedic society for that very purpose the system of complex rules with mantras chanted at every special occasion was established. These rules were simply mnemonic formulas, yet it was not some sort of autosuggestion. It was self-tuning. There is a vast difference between autosuggestion and self-tuning.
We tune ourselves all the time. Material world does that with us as we interact with people and their material ideology, read the news, etc. We receive all kinds of information to digest. If a person does understand the truth about his origins, he shall not be reluctant to continue tuning himself onto it.
Even for us, people of far advancing Kali Yuga, who are abstaining from such fine tuning, there is still a terrific way to harmonize ourselves by chanting Hare Krishna maha mantra. We don’t need to learn a bunch of other mantras; we would not be able to remember any of them.
I recall how I once visited an Ayurvedic doctor. I complained about my memory. He looked at me with a little disdain and asked if I remember Hare Krishna maha mantra. I answered that I did remember that. He said that’s all you have to remember, it’s plenty.
We do need reminder that there is God out there. He is the most attractive personality not some abstract figure. Further to enrich His image we need to read the Bhagavad Gita or Srimad Bhagavatam. This would still be considered as some mnemonic technique.
Interesting to say in this connection is that Vedanta Sutra describes two ways of chanting mantras. First one is a true meditation when we sit down and focus. In order for meditation to be successful few conditions must be observed. One has to sit with straight back, trying to isolate himself from external disturbances. Meditation is an inner concentration through the sound. One cannot meditate staring at computer screen. It is an especially important part of our spiritual practice.
Yet there is another form of chanting which is not in a true sense meditation. It is called smaranam or the process of reminding yourself about God (at least not forgetting about Him). This type of chanting can be done anywhere, anytime, at any circumstances. You don’t have to sit in any special posture. That’s how we are paving the path inside reminding ourselves about God.
All these activities signify God as a centerpiece of our lives. This means we have Sadhana or spiritual practice that places Him there. If this is not happening, inevitably either directly or indirectly, we will be competing with Him. Or worse yet we will turn ourselves into charismatic leaders trying to push the memory of God out of the hearts of the followers and take His place there. This phenomenon is quite frequent nowadays.
This is the first principle. I will add few words about three others I mentioned yesterday. This way we will come to some logical conclusion after talking for quite a long time.
I mentioned that the first four principles of a righteous society are related to our intellect, namely keeping it in order. For that we do need to engage in spiritual practice and mandatory meditation. Without meditation, chronic stress will destroy our ability to think rationally, reason, and make correct decisions. Thus, our goal of life will be obscured. The essential part of spiritual practice and sustenance of our intellectual health would be study of the scriptures.
That is interaction with the Supreme intellect. Unless our minute, elementary intellect interacts with Macro or Supreme intellect, through thinking and reflection of the Scriptures, taking into account spiritual laws, we cannot guarantee it will preserve its clarity and health. Without such interaction our intellect will undergo entropy, which affects all of us in the material world.
Those are some recommendations on meditation and study of the scriptures, chanting the holy names, conscious attempt to remember God’s principal place, and knowing our own diminutive position compared to Him. All of it is fundamental for the righteous society.
If people who comprise the society do follow those rules to a smaller or larger degree, everything else will align beautifully in the most natural way.
This needs to be constantly reminded!!!
One other important note, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur says, is necessity to read the books that emphasize the goals. They are surprisingly forgotten the most because of the hustle and bustle of daily life. We often self-impose some dinky goals that we think need to be urgently reached. Thus, we forget our supreme goal. This forgetfulness leads to erosion of pure knowledge. Such is the first principle, or the first foundation.
Three others are fairly simple. They are somewhat a continuation of the same. One must strive to act according to his nature. First, he has to discover his true nature very well and arrange his life based on it, being content with it without trying to imitate someone else. Even though some other nature may bring more profit. As they say in Israel “be yourself because nobody else will do it for you.”
One must try to find himself and act per his own nature. Modern people are often lost in determining this but there is an easy formula. There are only four types of nature. This makes it somewhat easier to perform a search. There are some techniques now to define the properties of each nature undergoing complex classifications. But if there are only four of them it does not need to be a rocket science to find it yourself.
Some people are natural teachers with propensities to generate ideas, think and analyze, this is one type. The second one is warriors, executives and administrators, those who find happiness in managing others and organizing. The third one is people striving to establish some business or trade.
Once I met a devotee and was surprised to find out he started making his own money at the age of 12 selling cigarette butts. True businessmen can make money even on such obscene goods. By the way, he made incredibly good money. Nature is nature, you can’t go against it. Some are born businessmen. For others, their nature is to help others. There are also some that do crafts. They are happy with what they do. Each one of those types is important. Not a single one is better than the other.
All nature types are valuable on their own and the personal dignity rises in those who perform work closest to their nature. We can talk endlessly about it but the essence is one must find his own trait.
We must accentuate the necessity of this if in the society the tendency of people is to take prestige (high paid) positions. In this case the entire society will suffer. If we respect people engaged in work per their abilities who are happy with it, we enhance the health of the society. If we value people because they are on top of prestigious hierarchy with some external achievements, but most likely envy them internally, we encourage unhealthy society.
Unhealthy society is the one where people look at each other judging who has achieved what and how much they earn. This is envy and sadly it penetrates into our society.
The second important principle is to respect one for his abilities to be himself without trying to pose as someone else.
And finally, the third principle.
As one poet said “blessed is he who was young from a young age.” It is beneficial that a person lives following a certain natural order, when stages of life transition from one phase to another (single disciple to family life, from family to partially renounced order, then complete renunciation).
There are two parameters, Varna and Ashram, or psychophysical nature (Varna) and stages of life (ashram) that define the range of individual responsibilities. It’s similar to a coordinate plane where the position of an individual is clearly defined between two axis of Varna and Ashram.
All that a person must do in life is defined by his position on this coordinate plane. He gradually moves along those axis as the life progresses therefore responsibilities gradually change as well. We need to deeply understand this layout. What means to be a man or a woman? We don’t have 5 genders which people invented for themselves nowadays, there are only two. Everyone has a unique nature he is born with and all this mind-twisting ideas about who people want to be are not going to make them happy. We need to understand our nature as it is and be honest in its realization.
Obviously today mental stress largely differs from our psychophysical conditions but nonetheless this shall not be an excuse for setting experiments on our given nature. These are the second and third principles.
The fourth principle, which I uncovered briefly yesterday, is that the responsibilities assigned to our status have to be well known and fulfilled by us. When every person in the society is well aware of his obligations, while fulfilling those, he also satisfies his rights.
Normally, somehow, we always know the responsibilities of everyone else. I had a chance to observe this when our seminars about responsibilities of wife and husband became popular. The seminars about responsibilities of a husband were attended mostly by women and vice versa men attended seminars about responsibilities of a wife. It should have been the opposite. People in our society are not interested in their own responsibilities but that’s what they should have expressed most interest in. This principle helps one to maintain his intellect in pristine condition. If we understand precisely how to organize our own life, we would not be focused on what others have to do out there, whether they fulfill their obligations or not.
If we built a solid foundation in our own life, because of the way this world is created, we will receive everything we need. People are afraid that if they don’t fight for their rights nobody will take care of them. This is not how it is. We must only worry about fulfilling our obligations to reasonably maintain this world and all that we need will surely come to us.
These are 4 principles directed to preserve the integrity and purity of our intellect.
As I mentioned before, pure intellect is particularly important and we understand it not in the terms of Kant’s philosophy but in terms given by sage Kapiladev.
Pure intellect means it is sturdy enough to guide one along the course of life and ultimately lead him towards reaching the established goal. The individual with strong intellect will understand which choices he must make on each segment of the path. He will have unmistakable flair of what to do and what to avoid, what’s right or wrong, all thanks to his pure intellect. On the contrary, weak intellect will be deceiving one constantly. It will be false, justifying our wrongdoing. It will give us hints for going astray because it will come out of our own desires. And in the end, it will not bring us to the auspicious state.
Those were four first fundamental laws of the healthy society, the chief of which is central position of God. This implies deliberate and conscious spiritual practice and understanding, not only theoretical, but practical as well, manifested in arranging one’s life around the law and will of God.
Now we can finish right here. Are there any questions?
Q1. As I understand each one of us, devotees, have to observe these laws and apply them in our lives to recreate Varnashrama. Is there also some responsibility from leaders of ISKCON to direct us in this?
A1. Of course, it is. Like master like servant. This is eternal formula. Depending on how the person to whom everyone is guided, behaves, people either will develop hypocrisy or will try to strictly follow the behavior. The most of responsibilities always come from leaders. They must show the example and that this process does work. Leaders cannot simply talk about it. Muslims have a different proverb “do as mullah says, but don’t do like mullah does”. This means mullah is not dependable as he does not walk his talk.
In Vedic culture it is said that sadhu’s words, thoughts, and actions all match. Hypocrites think one thing, talk about another, and act in some other third way. First of all, we need to make sure the initiative is coming well-structured from the top.
Q2. Does ISKCON leadership places any accent right now onto restoring Varnashrama?
A2. It is an overly complex endeavor to form a healthy society. As I mentioned, there are many various representations of it. We have ardent supporters of Varnashrama society but, as a rule, they start focusing on minor unnecessary details. Unfortunately, I am yet to see a good layout of details versus main principles. Though, there are few works and thoughts regarding these efforts but everyone gets entrapped in details. So far one side wants to concentrate on every little detail and create rather archaic society. The other side just waives hands in despair thinking it’s not needed at all and we most likely will never be able to recreate it.
Some are saying “Let’s do what we can.” However, in some areas we can see some healthy formations with leaders involvement, but not spontaneously. Often, they lack verbal definitions and heathy society is formed instinctively. Sivarama Maharaj is one of the pioneers putting the ideas on paper. He has some books about it. I decided also to make some small contributions to it.
Q3. Is it a duty of a Spiritual master to situate a disciple according to his nature?
A3. Spiritual master in our society does not have such duty, per se. If we take an ideal system of spiritual discipline of the past, a boy at the very young age would approach a Spiritual master and live with him in the same ashram. Spiritual master monitored his behavior, determined his nature, and advised him to act accordingly. Spiritual master today does not have an authority to situate disciple, as you stated, according to his nature. Spiritual master is not like a chess player lifting his disciples by the neck and moving them from one board square to another. If a disciple desires so and approaches Spiritual master for that reason (to discover his nature) then of course this can be done. Spiritual Master can discuss the principles and he must help to discover disciple’s nature, yet it mostly depends on disciple himself. Disciple must understand the necessity of it if he wants to be helped.
If all is good, this is within the role of a Spiritual Master to help a disciple, who accepted such Guru, finding himself and realizing his nature. I have a good example but I am not going to talk about it.
Q4. As I understood that the duty of a Spiritual master is to liberate the disciple from material world, provided disciple follows the instructions of his Guru.
A4. Yes, that’s true.
I still will tell you the story after all. One disciple from brahmachari ashram who practiced for quite a prolonged period of time came to his Spiritual master and asked to give him sannyasa. He said he was ready to renounce this world. Spiritual Master looked at him with gravity and asked the disciple to come the next day. So, he did. The next day, the Spiritual master invited one Mataji who had a baby from this disciple, to meet him. Spiritual master therefore told the student to give up his sannyasa and rather get married. Believe it or not, the disciple got married and was pretty happy about it. Guru discovered his so-called nature and understood what needed to be done.
We do not live in an ideal world, sadly. But ideally what you said is correct. In reality everything can turn any other way.
Q5. I have a question from Lecture 1. In Bhagavad Gita 3.43 it is said that “by deliberate spiritual intelligence [Kṛṣṇa consciousness] and thus – by spiritual strength – conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.” I would like to find out how citta influences this process? Does it start from intellect and goes into citta or vice versa?
A5. This verse says “saṁstabhyātmānam ātmanā“ where saṁstabhya means “by steadying or fixing” and ātmānam — the mind or intellect. In other words, it means fixing one’s intellect with the intellect. It’s not a very clear formula and Srila Prabhupada gives a good explanation of this phrase. We need to utilize the highest intellect to fix our unstable, jumping from one thing to another intellect, in endeavor to gain its strength, focus, orientation to goal etc. Practically this means that we must constantly be in touch with the source of this higher intellect by reading verses from Bhagavad Gita or associating with those individuals who could focus and make their intellect steady.
Also, this can be achieved by listening to the lectures of Srila Prabhupada and following his instructions, which can help to subdue our rushing about, uncertain, and undecided mind, which is not knowing what to achieve. We need to use someone else’s intellect as an instrument to fix our own.
As far as citta, when intellect develops and becomes goal oriented, which means it has an ability to concentrate, mediate, merge into inner self, the citta by default becomes significantly purified. In this process, citta is passive. Citta defines an ability of our consciousness and intellect to realistically reflect surrounding world. If intellect is stable, it does not disturb our citta. When citta is constantly bombarded by our disturbed intellect, it cannot clearly reflect reality. Just like the originally smooth surface of the lake is being disturbed by the wind creating ripples. For such rough surface, reflected light rays scatter in all directions. This is called diffuse reflection. In the same manner disturbed citta can only percept the fragments of reality. The perception of all fragments as a unity is disassociated, thus citta cannot make the (combined) whole image out of it. This confuses an individual. Citta itself is a passive element, rather it gets influenced by intellect.
Q6. Can we say that contaminated intellect is citta, which comes from our bhava acquired over many previous lives?
A6. Bhava or Svabhava is our true and eternal nature. It consists of all elements such as contaminated citta, twisted intellect, preferential mind, which has its own good and bad or like and dislike settings, and our false identification (ahankara or false ego). All these together make up our nature. When we say that someone is intelligent, calm, optimistic, etc. we are making an attempt to define their nature in just a few words. In real life the true nature is significantly more complex. It has many more comprising elements but there is always some prevailing mood by which we describe overall individuality.
Q7. You mentioned that if a human being is placed in the center of the society it results in competition. But if God is in the center, it seems that common men will not be able to directly approach God. This happens through some medium such as Spiritual master. There is some historical evidence that Spiritual masters often compete with each other. This turns out that the situation with God in the center is no better.
A7. I shall say that ideally this should not be happening. Srila Prabhupada called Spiritual master “a transparent medium.” If a Guru competes with other Gurus for disciples and followers, he should be no longer trusted. Some Gurus could indeed retain some undesirable qualities. In such cases our Muslim proverb I told you about will serve us a purpose. We must understand that Krishna can act through a Spiritual master or He can deliver us the Truth in His own words, through anyone else for that matter. One though has to have enough intelligence to reveal, may not be right away but ultimately, whether there is some nature that cannot be taken at face value from the Guru, but rather extract some of his instructions as washed off Gold, which needs to be taken and applied to our life. It’s not an easy thing to do. People have tendency either not to trust at all or trust entirely, with nothing in between.
We tend to go from one extreme to another. We can observe in reality God-inspired individual who is engaged in spiritual practice. He may have some residual negative imprints or flaws and it’s best to simply neglect those and extract the best of his spirituality for ourselves. I understand though that it's not so easy to filter out certain negative tendencies. It’s much easier to give advice similar to the one I just gave you.
Here is a story to demonstrate this. Once a disciple approached Srila Prabhupada’s and declared that he only trusts him, completely without reservation. Srila Prabhupada answered that he did not need to be trusted. Krishna should be the only One we trust. Srila Prabhupada admitted he could let the disciple down. This means that Spiritual master himself will never be chest thumping saying that one should trust only him. He rather shall refer to infallible sources, such as Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, Parampara - chain of discipline succession, and still a Spiritual master, whoever will be trying to give us some knowledge. In this case Spiritual master will never supersede the authority of God being in the center, he only directs a disciple towards God. The role of the Spiritual master is not in pushing everyone away and getting himself in the center. His role is to accept the disciple and bring him towards God, citing verses from Bhagavad Gita along the way and explaining proper actions to take. If Spiritual master elbows everyone to demonstrate his superiority and show others are being his obstacle, we must step aside and find another Spiritual master.
Q8. How can we practically discover our predisposition as we may waste so much time going in the wrong direction. Also is our nature narrow focused or we could have mix of different predispositions?
A8. This is our main problem. Now most of us have mixed nature, no doubt about it. But even if this is the case, there is always one dominating nature. If we continue to cultivate or polish off most prominent nature, sooner or later we will gain confidence in it.
In a society where the accent was originally put into clearly manifested nature, people did not need to search excessively hard for their calling. In our society, everything is aggravated because it is all mixed up. Nonetheless, one trait will be more prominent and astrologist can help defining this for you. There are special techniques with fairly precise calculations leading in the right direction. Obviously, you will not get 100% accuracy but in general they may define it well.
This would be quite clear from your horoscope. You need to find which planet rules your 10th house in Navamsa and by knowing character traits of that planet determine your own dharma or karma. Usually, people use the main birth chart but it’s important to do it in Navamsa chart. That’s how genius astrologer Varāhamihira defines person’s nature.
Q9. Will our nature be the same as it is applied in devotional service versus karmic activity?
A9. Yes, because an individual is meant to adapt to certain activity. When he is engaged in his natural activity, he does not track his time while working and his mind is focused. There was a famous Hungarian psychologist Csíkszentmihályi (passed away recently in 2021).
In his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi outlined his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—where their activity becomes a meditation. A person enters into altered state of consciousness in which he becomes so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.
We don’t see this happening frequently but it does happen. One without a doubt can find his nature and polish it off.
There is also a cute story about Roman emperor Diocletian. He was a formidable emperor who ended a period of turmoil for the Roman world. Yet he became the only Roman emperor to voluntarily retire. He moved into his palace and apparently spent the rest of his life gardening. Diocletian resuscitated Rome, and because of his efforts, the empire would carry on until the 5th century. So great was his rule that when trouble started brewing, people begged him to come out of retirement. He responded that he would rather live in peace tending his cabbages.
Q10. Do you think our nature can be in altered in certain direction? What you call citta or subconsciousness is perhaps based on some logical thinking, on what we know and what is in our intellect. We have a lot there and may be it is based on the highest intellect, residing somewhere deep inside our intellect. If you can describe different paths such as neuro-linguistic programming. On one side we have our nature but it can be consciously modified. There has to be methods; especially you as a scientist may know those. Also have you tried some of those yourself to acquire knowledge?
A10. It is very difficult to change your nature. There are various levels of our consciousness. There was such theory, which was used by communists as Makarenko and others. They said that a person is Tabula rasa or a “blank sheet.” Anything can be written on it. The matter is not that simple. There is a very deeply hidden nature which is hard to get to by the means of neuro linguistic programming. Some programs sure can be changed especially if we are moving in the right direction. The deeper layers of our nature are near impossible to change yet the cases of radical changes in human nature do exist. However, this requires an enormous effort.
It is best to accept our nature and focus on its improvement, working with the part of our consciousness which effortlessly subsides to such improvement. Instead of forcing fundamental changes, we better engage in the activity that grants us inner satisfaction.
Simultaneously you can work on the areas that you can alter. We definitely can change some facets of our nature, otherwise there wouldn’t be any sense in Scriptures. Scriptures call us to develop certain more elevated behaviors. We are discussing here exactly that. But when I explained our nature, I meant this deeply engraved layer of personality which she’ll be left as is.
No need to try changing it. It is ineffective process.
Q10a. Do you mean it’s kind of genetics?
A10a. You can say so or call it an Astro-genetics if you wish. This is something we have earned from a past life and this becomes our baggage for this life. Thus, we have to utilize it now. We need to learn our lessons, gain some knowledge, our nature is given to us for a very good reason. Undoubtedly, at the same time one can drastically change during this life. From the spiritual point of view, we can reach extraordinary heights. But our inert nature from the past still have to stay as is and be used as designed.
Q11. What did you mean by TBD (cannot understand the word) personality. We all exhibit specific patterns of behavior obtained as a result of our upbringing etc. and our true nature. What’s the difference between them? When can we change them? It probably is impossible after certain age.
A11. Sage Parashara wrote and compiled many Vedic scriptures, especially on Astrology. He stated that human life depends on three factors:
1. The stars, which is symbolic description of our past deeds, i. e. karma;
2. Our association. Influenced by that we are changing continuously. Any interaction between humans leads to changes on all sides, be it positive or negative (depending on the depth of personal exchanges). Association is not recorded in our stars. When I talk about the deeper layer of our personality, I mean our karmic load we brought with us from the past. So-to-speak a “skeleton” or an outline of our personality, our features. We need to be well aware of our features. Association influences us throughout the duration of our life.
3. Another factor is what you said about the childhood when we are forming our personalities. Association during that time has a particularly profound effect on us. We know that everything that happens to us before the age of 7 leaves a very deep mark on our personality.
These are three factors that mold a person. The 1st and the 3rd factors are pretty much given and cannot be changed easily, however it may be still possible. Especially the 3rd where our parents and their style of upbringing leave deep impressions in our consciousness. Both of these are the foundation we came to this world with.
The 2nd factor is where we can undergo continuous evolution by favorable association, reading literature, interacting with others, consciously making ourselves dependent on others thus changing under their influence.
Q12. I once had a chance to interact the with a child with Down syndrome. What could be deeply engraved nature in such kids?
A12. People with such illness usually don’t hold any predisposed nature. They simply are working off their past karma. There is a very little demand from them in such condition. They just have to live this through. Normally they can experience love from others and this is helpful and elevating to them.
Q13. How about 6 features of the soul in such kids?
A13. They are there, of course. They are simply hidden under the shell of the limited bodily functions. In the same way the animals have their features. It all depends on how restrictive is their conditioned state. The soul being covered by matter is influenced by external circumstances. The advantage of the sensible human being lies in the ability to understand and realize everything through introspection and higher functions of nervous system, using the gift of the developed intellect.
There are souls, though, that possess the same nature and have the same features yet from the point of view of their material encasement situated at the lower stage of development. It is very difficult for them to realize themselves completely. They have to passively march through their evolutional staircase until such time when they can consciously direct their development.
According to the Vedas, evolution always occurs, just not the one meant by Darwin. From his point of view, it’s an evolution of the material body, whereas Vedas address evolution of the consciousness. And such evolution progresses more or less automatically where the soul transmigrates from lower to higher species until it reaches human level. At the human level, the soul can make a deliberate choice to either degrade or progress even higher. This is the very purpose of human life. To make the right choice and not degrade.
Q14. What’s the difference between honesty and pretense?
A14. It is one thing when we lie and it is another when we pretend. They are somewhat similar qualities. Honesty means absence of pretense or hypocrisy. When a person has no desire to pose himself as someone else.
Q15. But we always want to appear better than we are.
A15. To be better is a good desire. But when we want to appear better than we are it is not good.
Q16. I recently heard one professor talking about the freedom of choice. He said there is no free choice as the choice is always defined by our nature and activities. Professor mentioned that he conducted experiments where he was able to pin down (predict) people’s choices simply knowing their nature. I was confused, considering we have Bhagavad Gita verse 7.16 talking about 4 types of people seeking shelter in Krishna consciousness. This means even spiritual choice is not free but predetermined.
A16. It’s not entirely true. From one point of view, our perception of freedom to choose is a way exaggerated. In reality our freedom is very limited. There are series of clever neuro physiological experiments, which demonstrated that what we think is freedom is not freedom at all. They measured some physiological changes registered by instruments which occurred before a person realized that the choice is already made. In reality, the physical changes happened way before we realized that with our mind. A person though blindly believed he made a choice.
These experiments are not very accurate though. Those who conduct the experiments think that our psychic activity is fully determined by physiology. They present those changes in physiological parameters to the research participants saying that they may have thought they made a choice yet it was all about changed parameters.
At the same time, there is plenty of data that shows the reverse effect of this. It proves that psychic or consciousness of an individual affects the physical body. This is how Placebo effect works. We cannot explain reasonably that physiology influences mental state. It’s rather vice versa, the mental state - a person believing in miracle drug, after eating a piece of chalk mixed with sugar - cured him. It is quite obvious that nobody objects Placebo effect since it has been very well scientifically documented. But it does prove the reverse effect I described.
We can also say that Placebo effect in a sense is a demonstration of our free will. If we understand that not only our physiology determine mentality, but the reverse influence is also there. If we go even further and account for the soul in this equation, which generates desires projected onto our subtle or mental body, we can see even more confirmation for having the freedom of will.
Our conditioned state means we are slaves of our material condition, including environment, we depend on our body with its hormonal functions, which influence us on all levels. Any change causes certain consequences whether we want them or not, affecting our thinking or perception. This does not mean we cannot come out of this state. As a person undergoes the process of self-realization, establishing his spiritual nature, he acquires more abilities to influence the circumstances, both mental and physical. Let’s say this is true for the majority of people. But it may not work all the time under all circumstances. There are people who indeed can demonstrate this free will. Beneficial association may invoke in individual a certain desire which in no case is defined by his physical body.
Q17. Placebo effect does not mean I have a choice to be cured. It happens by accident. Without my influence. Let’s say they gave me a pill and it worked.
A17. How do you think the pill worked? Remember Placebo effect is just one illustration how our thoughts can influence our physical body. A person first had a faith that the pill is miraculous and it will allow him to get rid of the cancer for example. This faith leads to changes on our physical plan. This means that consciousness influences the body. I only wanted to emphasize this statement. I did not say that Placebo demonstrates the fact that we do something by our will. First a person believed in something which signifies his mental state. This mentality then led to positive changes. Now if we have some very strong desire, the same changes can be generated in the physical body. This is not an exception. In case of Placebo the strong desire to cure (coming out of faith) leads to the outcome that piece of chalk causes miraculous healing. This means that our mental activity can influence our body. This in turn means we have free will. As they say “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
Q18. The scientists essentially are trying to prove the bodily concept of life. They minimize the role that soul plays saying it is dormant.
A18. In essence, when they accentuate the bodily concept, they either minimize or totally deny the existence of the soul.
Q19. At the end, the scientist stated that whoever considers they do have freedom of choice are full of imagination ?? (cannot hear the end of the question).
A19. I spoke about similar typical professor Yuval Noah Harari. He says there is no freedom of choice. It’s a myth. This is typical conclusion of an atheist. With all other consequences. The mendacity of this position lies in the fact that it can have catastrophic consequences for humankind. Sadly, the communities that promote such ideas are harmful and destructive.
It’s getting late. Thank you for your association.