How is the world a lila of the Pursha avatara? Is it a virtual reality manufactured by him with chosable scripts for us?
From Muralidhara Prabhu:
I wonder how the realisation of this material world being a lila of Purusha Avatar will fit into the illusion concept. Can we say that the world is a Virtual Reality (the dream world of MahaVishnu) with the characters having the capacity to write their own script?
Can we reconcile this to the inverted tree concept of Chapter 15?
Transcribed by: Argha Maji
Question: How is the world a lila of the Pursha avatara – Is it a virtual reality manufactured by him with chosable scripts for us?
Answer: Yes, the concept of exact nature of illusion is very difficult to comprehend with our finite brain. That’s why there are different metaphors given, there is a metaphor of dream, a metaphor of reflection, a metaphor of mirage which is more of a deceptive perception. So now each of these has their individual focus. For example the reflection metaphor, points, underscores that there is a reality somewhere else. The dream metaphor focuses primarily on the unreality of what one is perceiving or whatever one is experiencing right now. The mirage metaphor focuses on the errors of one’s perception. The things are not what they appear to be. Now all of them have something in common, that the reality is not the same as our perception. But each of them have specific subtleties.
Now coming to the point that the material nature is a Lila of the Purusha avatar. So we have to understand two different things. First is that, Sankhya is itself an elaborate school of thought. It is one of the six systems of philosophy. And that focuses primarily on existence as interplay of Purusha and Prakriti. And within Sankhya, there are three types of Sankhya, 24 Sankhya, 25 Sankhya and 26 Sankhya. In 24 Sankhya, there are 24 elements and the concept of Purusha is ultimately an illusion that has to be abandoned. 25 Sankhya is the impersonalist Sankhya. Here the idea is that the consciousness which is perceiving Prakriti is the Supreme Reality. That means we ourselves have become liberated. What the Srimad Bhagavatam gives us is the 26 Sankhya wherein there are two kinds of Purusha, there is Uttama Purusha and there is Anu Purusha. So we are anu purusha and Bhagavan is the uttama purusha.
The concept of material nature as Lila of Purusha Avatar, is a devotional realisation of the Sankhya vision of reality. It is like devotional redefinition of a particular vision of reality. Sankhya offers a particular vision of reality in terms of interplay of Purusha and Prakriti and then Bhakti offers a reinterpretation of the vision, in which we understand the reality better, more completely. Just as Viratrupa is talked about as a means to attain the ultimate reality, the chapters of the second canto of the Bhagavatam, are titled as the “The First Step in God Realization”, that means they enable one’s vision to rise higher. Similarly the concept of material nature as Lila of Purusha Avatar is meant to spiritualize our vision of material nature and help us raise our consciousness to higher reality. So our primary focus should be to get a transcendental vision of what is thought as mundane.
Now is the material world a lila of the Supreme Lord in the literal sense? Yes and no. Normally lila is something which is done for enjoyment. And does the Lord enjoy material existence with all its miseries? The Lord is transcendental, so he doesn’t suffer miseries. What the Lord enjoys is not the miseries, but the gradual elevation of the souls in their consciousness, understanding, realisation by which they can ultimately get liberated and attain the highest happiness in spiritual love for him. That is what the Lord relishes.
But Krishna also says,
na ca mat-sthāni bhūtāni
paśya me yogam aiśvaram ( BG 9.5)
I am not situated in this material nature. Because I have my self existence in the spiritual world. And Krishna does also say that ultimate goal is not to enjoy Purusha-Prakriti Lila in this world but to become liberated. And by hearing Krishna’s pastimes, by understanding Krishna’s pastimes, we can go back to him.
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktvā deham punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna ( BG 4.9)
janma karma ca me divyam, one who understands the nature of my pastimes, such a person comes to me, mām eti. Now, Krishna is transcendental and we attain his abode itself. So clearly, as also stated in Bhagavatam, the ultimate goal is to go beyond this world. So, while we are in this world and while we have to interact in this world, we can also devotionalise our vision of this world. And that is the basis of the conception that this world is a lila of Purusha avatar.
Now certainly, it is not our lila, as we are suffering in this world and undergoing the tri-tapa and birth, old age, disease and death.
So, can the material world be seen as dream or virtual reality envisioned by Mahavishnu?
Yes, definitely. In fact, one of Srila Prabhupada’s scholar disciples, Sadaputa Prabhu, Richard L Thompson who had a Doctorate in Mathematics from Cornell University, he has written a full book called Maya : The world as a virtual reality. In that, he talks about many concepts in quantum physics, and explains how they can be incorporated in Bhagavatam’s worldview of reality and how they can provide valuable insights for tackling many perplexing problems within current science. So we can consider the world to be like virtual reality and it is a dream dreamt by Mahavishnu. Now, Mahavishnu is not just dreamer, he is also participator in the dream in the sense that he is also present as Garbhodaśāyī Vishnu and Kshīrodaśāyī Vishnu.
And our activities are not entirely programmed but they are not entirely free also. So can we choose our script? To some extent we can and to some extent we can’t. Certain important events in our life are destined and to some extent, the body which we are going to get is finalised. So the character which we are going to play is finalised, we could say the character of the character is not finalised. Character of the character means, I get a particular body in a particular psycho-physical nature but that doesn’t mean I have to act in a particular way only. I can choose vice or virtue within the framework of whatever character I have been given. If I have a brahminical body, I have to act as a brahmana. As a brahmana, I can either act as a spiritually minded brahmana to study spiritual truth and share it with others. Or I can use my intellectual propensity which has come to me by my brahminical nature for studying materialism and propagating the illusion of materialism among people. So in that sense, the character of the character is not fixed although the character to a large extent is fixed. And to some extent some of the major events in our life is fixed and we do have freedom. By using our freedom, we can create a glorious destiny for ourselves. And regarding the upside down tree, that primarily conveys the idea that things are not as they should be. They are opposite. And this illusion should direct us toward some ultimate reality. So I would say, there is no specific correlation because its not in the dream we see things upside down necessarily. So there is no direct correlation between the upside down tree in the Bhagavad Gita and the world as a virtual reality. But there is a commonality that this world is an illusion and beyond there is a reality which we are meant to attain.
Thank you. Hare Krishna.