Bhikshu Gita 3 – The mind makes the unreal seem real and the real seem unreal (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.23.44)
Talk at ISKCON, Bahrain
Transcription of Lecture
CCP: We are discussing a series on the topic of the mind based on the section of the Uddhava-gita in the Srimad Bhagavatam. So, we discussed two main aspects till now. Yesterday evening I talked about how the mind magnifies our problems by creating resentment when we face unpalatable things, and today morning we discussed primarily about how changing the mind is not just a matter of intension. So, it’s like a floor has got a particular inclination, a process is required for reconstruction. So, similarly changing our habits, changing our behavioural patterns – It requires intention coupled with a proper process. So, I will continue with the third verse from the Bhikshu Gita,
anīha ātmā manasā samīhatā
hiraṇ-mayo mat-sakha udvicaṣṭe
manaḥ sva-liṅgaṁ parigṛhya kāmān
juṣan nibaddho guṇa-saṅgato ’sau
It is said over here that actually the mind gets caught, it gets bound by the things in this world, and anīha ātmā – Actually the supreme Lord is right next to us, but instead of turning towards the Lord we turn towards the world, and then we get caught in the world.
So, the mind has the capacity to make the real seem unreal, and the unreal seem real.
There is real story from the medical literature.
There is a particular disease called the Delusional Parasitosis . Basically some people feel that there is some parasite in their stomach. So, there was a woman. She felt that there is a frog in my belly, and she would go to a doctor, and she would say, ‘Doctor, I can feel the frog inside. Please do something. Remove it.’ The doctor said, ‘There is no frog there. A frog cannot live inside. If the frog lives you cannot live.’ She said, ‘No, I can feel the frog.’ After doing a sonography the doctor said that there was nothing there.
She went to many doctors. When she went the eight doctor, the doctor realized that the problem is not physical, it is mental. So, he decided to play along with her mind. He did some nominal testing and he told her, ‘Yea, actually you are right, we found that there is frog there, and we have to do surgery to remove it.’ The lady asked the doctor to the surgery right then. So, he gave her an anesthesia, and did a small nominal cut on her belly, and then he asked a nurse to go to a nearby pond and get a frog from there, and then when she came back to consciousness, they showed her the frog. The lady felt relieved and thanked them over and over again. She was so profusely grateful to the doctor, and then she went.
The doctor and the medical staff though that it was a very clever solution – She was also sastisfied – And things seemed to have settled down, but after a few days she came back frantic, ‘Doctor, Doctor, the frog had babies. The babies are still inside. You have to operate and remove them.’ So, the mind is such a thing that once it latches on to some idea, then it just doesn’t let go. So, the mind has the capacity to make the unreal seem real, and in contrast the mind also has the capacity to make the real seem unreal.
Real seem unreal means that if we consider the existence of God – Now a wise person can actually
observe the world and from there he can infer the existence of God. So, sometimes some people feel that there is a conflict between science and religion. If you are scientific you cannot believe in God. If you are religious, if you are spiritual then you are not being scientific. However, this is a very superficial understanding.
Just last month I was in Cambridge. So, I gave a talk on Science and Religion in the Cambridge University and there I also went to the same tree under which Newton had supposed to have stood and the apple fell on him. Now when the apple fell on him, he asked the question, ‘What made this fall?’ and based on that – It was his brilliance that he came up with the theory of gravity, and from that point onwards modern science gained tremendous momentum, and today’s science has transformed the world around this. Now it was Newton’s brilliance that he on asking the question, ‘what made this apple fall?’ – Based on that question he came up with the theory of gravity. That is his brilliance. We should take one step backwards at the same time, and ask, ‘What made Newton ask this question? What made this apple fall?’ Now this question itself assumes that there is some rational explanation for things in the nature. Things don’t just happen by chance.
Why did this apple fall down? What made this apple fall down? You can find the answer to that question, but before that – To ask the question itself needs that there is some understanding that there is some order in the nature. Suppose say, I am giving a class and some of the community leader’s send a message on the paper. When I look at it, I can’t make any sense of it. Now I know that if I am giving a class and they are sending a message, it must be something important. Now if I can’t understand it, then – ‘OK, what does it mean?’ maybe it is written in a language that I am not aware. So, if I am asking, ‘What does it mean?’ if it is some senseless scribble by some child – But I will ask the question, ‘What does it mean?’ only when there is some background understanding that there must be something meaningful over here – There must be something meaningful which I cannot figure out. So, I will enquire.
So, like that Newton’s asking the question itself, ‘What made this apple fall?’ that means that there is an assumption that things don’t happen by chance. There is some order by which things happen. Now what is the reason for this assumption? If everything just came by explosion – If we take the atheistic version of the narrative of the universe, then what is that narrative basically? Nothing existed because of nothing, nothing exploded because of nothing and from nothing exploding because of nothing everything came. Nothing makes sense over here.
Even if we assume that, ‘Ok, somehow everything exploded and everything came around… the whole world came, all of us came.’ – But still the world is a product of chance. It’s an explosion, and our own brains are a product of chance. So, why should there be a correlation between the way how our brain analyses things, and how things work there out in nature. So, for example Einstein discovered, E= mc (square), or going back to Newton, he discovered, F= Gm1m2 (upon r square). Now this maths is basically a conception in the mind. Mathematical equations are simply a conception in the mind. Why should something which is basically a conception of my mind correlate with something out there. Newton or Einstein did not make the equality in nature. They discovered it. So, why should – If my brain is a product of random chance, if the world out there is a product of random chance, even if somebody says the world came about, but why should the two correlate, and correlate to a degree of phenomenal mathematical precision.
So, Srinivas Ramanujacharya who is India’s most famous Mathematician – He said that, ‘An equation for me has no meaning unless it represents a thought of God.’ An equation is E = mc (square), how did that equality come about. Why should a equality be there at all? So, the same God who has made our brain has also made the world around us, and He has designed the world in a particular way and He has given our brain the capacity to intuit, to pursuit that order. So, science offers explanations for how things work in the world, but God offers the explanation for the explain-ability of world. Science offers explanations, ‘Ok this is equal to this. This works according to this equation.’ So, God is the explanation for explain-ability. Why is the world explainable at all? That reason is God. It is not that some people say, ‘Oh, because science can’t explain this, therefore God exists.’ No, it is not like this. Science in the future is maybe going to explain something’s. So, God and science are not competitors. Actually God is not an explanatory alternative to science, God is the explanatory foundation for science. It is not because science can’t explain that we need God – It is because science can explain – That’s why we need God, otherwise what is the reason? What is the reason why anything should be explainable at all?
Anyway this is not a talk on science. So, I will not go much into detail. If you don’t understand it don’t bother about it. (laughter) The important point I am making is that for a thoughtful person to perceive the existence of God from this world is not difficult, but the mind can distort our perceptions so much that it can make the real seem unreal.
So, for example, if there is an amazing mechanism by which we can all get rains. What is that mechanism. That on the land the river is there, but there are only a few areas. So, then there is the sun that evaporates water, forms clouds and then it gives rains. Once we consider what a cloud is – ‘A cloud is actually mobile airborn water tank that is made up of aircraft proof technology.’ Even the twin tower designers could not make aircraft proof technology. So, the whole aircraft can go through a cloud and there is no leakage. So, this is such an amazing mechanism by which we get rains. So, this mechanism actually points to a benevolent God who made all these possible. Now what happens the mind – When it is sceptical, when it is atheistic – So, atheists will ask the question, ‘If God made clouds to give us rains, then why do rains fall on the oceans? There is already so much water there, why does rains fall on the ocean?’ Yes, rains falls on the ocean so that atheists can ask this question. See – He reciprocates with our desires, and if somebody wants to be atheistic Krishna will give them reason to be atheistic.
Just like if you go to a big mansion where there are maybe 50 rooms and 49 rooms are very clean and tidy and one room is disorderly. Now somebody can say that, ‘This room is disorderly. Therefore it proofs that there is no caretaker for this room or we can says, ‘There are 49 rooms which are orderly, and this room is disorderly. That means that there is some other factor involved. It definitely has to be a caretaker by which this 49 rooms are clean, but maybe something else is involved and that’s why this 50th room is not clean. So, I gave this example in Canada. After that one lady came and said, ‘Yes, the 50th room is unclean because there is a teenage child in that house.’ (laughter)
So, the point I am making is either I can look at the 49 rooms that are clean and I can infer that there has to be caretaker, or I can look at that one room and say that there is no caretaker. So, it is logical to infer that there is so much evidence – There is orderliness in this room, there must be a caretaker, there must be something else which is going on because of which this room is not orderly. Like that if you look at nature we see that there is so much order. So, as I said the whole system by which rains come – That’s an amazingly precise system. So, if there is something which seems to be off in that, rather than saying that there is no order you have to look what else is going on, what else is going on which is being done by this order. So, we can either look at the order and infer the existence of the God, or we can look at the tiny patches of disorder and say that God doesn’t exist. So, again it depends on the mind.
So, the mind can make the unreal seem real, as I said when a person started saying that there is frog in my belly, or the mind can make the real seem unreal. God’s existence is not just reality, God’s existence is the foundation of reality. So, He is the existence who makes all existence possible. So, if God did not exist –
na tad asti vinā yat syān
mayā bhūtaṁ carācaram
yac cāpi sarva-bhūtānāṁ
bījaṁ tad aham arjuna (B.G 10.39)
Krishna says that nothing can exist without me. Krishna says that in Gita (10.39) So, the point is that God is the existence that is the foundation of all existence. If God did not exist nothing could have existed, because He is the foundation.
So, now this is philosophical. Now in practical terms what does it means when we say that the mind can make the unreal seem real, and the real seem unreal. This means that when we are functioning in the world, at that time based on the mind’s perceptions we can start believing things which have little or no basis in reality, and one of the most powerful examples of this today is the advertising industry.
Actually now the advertisements are so common that it will be difficult for us to conceive that just 300 years ago there were no advertisements at all. The only advertisement was if some vendor was selling something, he or she would call out, and that was advertisement, that’s all.
It was when industrialisation started there was mass production of goods, and those goods needed to be marketed, and that’s how the need for promotion or advertisement came up. Now till the start of the 20th century, the advertisements focussed primarily on talking about the merits of the product, ‘Oh, this car looks so convenient…’ So, basically the talk was how good the product was.
Now at the turn of the 20th century, one of the most influential psychologist was Sigmund Freud, and he analysed the human mind and he came up with the analysis that actually our human mind is like a turbulent ocean of emotions with a tiny raft of rationality about it – There is a turbulent ocean of emotions. On the top of that there is a small structure of logs which is rationality. So, people try to act rationally, but the emotions are activated when the waves come in the ocean of emotions. Then the rational intelligence that is overthrown – and people act irrationally. Now this analysis is very similar in broad terms to the Vedic understanding of the modes. A small canoe is like the mode of goodness, and the ocean of emotion, that is like the ocean of passion and ignorance… rajo guna and tamo guna.
When Srila Prabhupada came to America at that time the first thing he talked about America people is,
rajas tamo gune era sabai acchanna
vasudeb-katha ruci nahe se prasanna
So, all these people are covered by rajo guna and tamo guna. So, what happened is, this analysis is because they have this turbulent ocean of emotion within them. That’s why this ocean gets activated. Then if it gets stormy, then people will act irrationally.
So, his idea was by this analysis to explain why people act irrationally and then to try to get people to act rationally. Now his ideas were taken by various people in various fields and one of the most prominent of those ideas was taken up by the advertising industries.
So, in the 1920’s – At that time, smoking and its harmful effects were not yet come into the public media. There were studies which were describing their harmful effects, but they were suppressed to a large extent. So – But by around 1925-26, the cigarette manufacturing companies they found that their market had reached saturation. All the young men who had the financial power to smoke, they were already smoking, and some people who are not smoking they are not going to smoke. They thought, ‘How do we expand the market?’, and that time they came with a brainwave. They said, ‘We have not tapped 50% of the market… women don’t smoke.’ So, then they had a whole publicity drive to get woman to smoke, and in the American independence day parade on the broadway they had some of the most prominent female icons from America, either Hollywood stars or other prominent cultural icons… they were all walking along, and the photographers were there shooting photos, and the most visible photogenic point during their parade, they were all paid to very stylishly take out small sleek cigarettes specially designed especially for woman, light it and start smoking, and they all started smoking and hundreds of photographs were clicked and when they were asked, ‘What are you doing?’ They were paid to reply, ‘We are lighting the torches of freedom.’ Now this was the time when the woman Suffrogate Movement was getting momentum. There was an idea that woman had been suppressed for so many generations, and now woman are getting educated. Now we are going to be become liberated from the control of a male dominated society, and the idea of freedom was so appealing that literally thousands of woman started smoking, they thought, ‘We are lighting the torches of freedom.’
Now in the emotional upheaval, in the emotional appeal of the idea of freedom nobody asked the question, ‘How does lighting lead to freedom?’ It is a simple rational question but nobody asked that. Why? Because the emotions were triggered. Once the emotions are triggered, the rationality gets overthrown, and this is not just for woman, this is for everyone.
Few months ago I was going to Australia. At the airport I saw one advertisement. So, this was of a Bollywood star. There was a young man walking along the street. He was walking along, and some young girls were walking on the other side. No girl was looking at him also, and then suddenly the Bollywood star comes over there and all the girls start squealing and calling out his name and rushing to him, hugging him and kissing him, and this boy was feeling sorry for himself that nobody was looking at him, and then the Bollywood star comes to him, puts an arm around his shoulders, ‘You want to know my secret?’
‘Yes, what is it?’
‘It is a shampoo.’ And then he tells about the shampoo, and this boy goes and applies the shampoo on he comes back and he is walking in the street, and the girls see him, and they rush to him and they start hugging him, kissing him, and he is delighted – That is th1e advertisement. Therefore buy this shampoo —
Now such an advertisement is actually is an insult to both male and female intelligence. Why? Actually that a woman will fall for a man just because he has applies some shampoo — (laughter), This is an insult to female intelligence, and that men will believe such fairytales, that is an insult to male intelligence… but what happens is that when emotions are triggered rationality goes for a ride. So, everybody wants to feel attractive, everyone wants to feel that, ‘I am attractive’ and if something promises to make me feel good, then I just get captivated. That’s how the human psychology works.
So, the advertising industry, what it does – I am not here to demonize the advertising industry. There is a lot of creativity involved in the way people make advertisements but it is a highly commercialized industry, and it has certain agenda in it. So, the agenda is what? That they want us to buy those products. Sometimes those products may be useful, and if we need then we can buy them, but when we are made—With our emotions are activated, emotions are triggered and then we are emotionally manipulated to buy things—‘If you don’t buy this you are old fashioned.’
Oscar Wilde said that, ‘Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that you have to change it every six months.’ Fashion is a form of beauty, but why is it a form of ugliness? Because now something is very trendy – See how rationality goes for a ride. Something which is trendy for that people use exactly words, ‘It’s so cool – It’s so hot -’ for trendy both words are used. So, what is happening people are just not thinking, and when they get captivated, ‘Ah, this is fashionable, I have to get this.’ And they get it, and the same fashion after five-six months it goes out of fashion, and people look around and say, ‘Really man, it is so old-fashioned. No, I want to buy something new.’ So, what happens we are forced to give up the old thing and buy something new. So, what is supposed to be a beauty, it becomes a form of ugliness – An intolerable ugliness, I have to get something new.
So, here there is a unholy marriage between the mind and the media. The way the mind works the media taps and exploits that, and in that way there is the complete manipulation of people. So, people are made to feel insecure if they don’t buy the latest gadgets, and if they buy the gadget and they feel something good, after sometime another new version comes up, and again we feel insecure and in that way people get caught.
So, the mind can make the unreal seem real. A cigarette has got nothing to do with freedom, but that’s how the mind works. So, if we have to protect ourselves from being misled by the mind, then it is important that we have a source that reminds us of reality and that source is scriptures. The Bhagavad-gita, it roots us in reality. So, when we study the Bhagavad-gita, when we understand its philosophy – That reminds us of what is what. It roots us in reality, and once we are rooted in the reality, ‘Who am I? What is that will make me happy in life?’
There is nothing wrong in getting wealth, there is nothing wrong in getting material things. What is wrong is to think that these things will make me happy. Happiness comes not by making money, but by making something worthwhile with money. What I use my money for that will determine whether I am going to be happy or not. See there is the means of living and there is purpose for living. The means of living is the tool. So, money is important means for living. For living in this world we need money, for living respectably in this world we need a substantial amount of money. That’s fine, but money is a means for living, but when money becomes the purpose for living…. So, the purpose of my life is to get money and to get the things that money can buy, that is a misconception, that will never make us happy ..
cintām aparimeyāṁ ca
etāvad iti niścitāḥ
So, it is said in Gita (16. 11 & 16.12) – Krishna says that cintām – anxiety, worry – How much? aparimeyāṁ, unlimited anxiety till the moment of death. Just immeasurable anxiety happens for who? kāmopabhoga-paramā – those who think that material enjoyment is the way to happiness. For such people the result is anxiety.
Psychologists are talking nowadays about the anxiety epidemic. Like there was a Aid’s epidemic or there was a Swine Flue epidemic. Now they are talking about anxiety epidemic and why are people so anxious? And one curious thing about the anxiety epidemic is that, normally uncertainty causes anxiety. Say if I have to catch a flight and I don’t know if I will reach on time or not, then that uncertainty causes anxiety. Relatively speaking, as compared to the first world – As compared to the third world – In the third world countries India is moving from the third world now upwards, but there is a lot of uncertainty. So, we may turn on a tap and there is no certainty water will come of not, but in America there is no uncertainty like that. Turn on a tap water will surely come.
So, although relatively speaking material certainty is much more in the first world than in the third world, still the anxiety is more in the first world than the third world, and not only that – Further sociologists have found that when from third world – India and China – Both of them are growing now but still from these countries if people immigrate to America – Although materially they become more comfortable, but still their anxiety level is often more. They go up, they don’t come down.
So, what is going on here? Normally uncertainty causes anxiety. People are moving from a situation of uncertainty towards more certainty, but still there is anxiety. This anxiety is caused not by external uncertainty. It is caused by inner instability. Then we don’t understand ourselves as spiritual. When we think of ourselves as material creatures, then our sense of self-identity and self-worth – It all starts depending on externals. So, I start thinking that, my self-worth is my net worth. So, anybody who earns more than me, that person is bigger than me. If anybody earns less than me, I am great, or my self-worth depends on – If I come into a room, so many heads turn and look, or my self-worth depends on how many Facebook likes I get or how many people appreciate whatever I say. So, when we have this materialistic conception we become very dependent on the externals, and there was a new kind of fear that gripped people who are very much into social media. That is can Phomo. Phomo means fear of missing out. They think that, ‘If I don’t check my facebook something might happen. Something might happen and I will miss out on it. So, people are compulsively looking at their devices. So, there is fear of what you are going to miss out. Ok, if you come to know about it half an hour later the world is not going to come shattering down. So, what happens is the anxiety gets added. Again I am not criticizing social media which has its utility. Again thinking that this things will make me happy – So, when that happens, when we think that my happiness will come from external things, then because the external things are not in my control then whenever those external things start becoming – There is fear that I may lose them – It causes tremendous anxiety.
So, cinta apareyam – immeasurable anxiety, and Krishna says, āśā-pāśa-śatair baddhāḥ – people become bound by desires.’
So, Krishna is saying over here, we are bound by our desires. Now what does it mean ‘Bound by our desires.’ You can consider people who are addicted. Say if there is hostel, and there is a school or a college and there is a student, and say along the way there is a liquor bar. Now there is one student who has never drank liquor and he has got good upbringing, and he says, ‘I am not going to get into this whole thing.’ So, he just passes by that liquor without even thinking about it. There is another student who is drunk few times and every time he passes by that bar, he thinks that, ‘May be I can go and take a drink.’ And if he keeps indulging in it, then what happens even long before he comes into the bar his mind is already inside the bar. He may be sitting in his class and then the desire to drink comes, and then he will be pulled out of the class and then he will have to go and drink. So, here what has happened? By that indulgence, by that repeated indulgence – That desire is like a rope which has been created between the bottle of alcohol and this persons mind, and that pulls…. and that’s how we become bound.
So, all of us can look at our attachments. Our attachments essentially means – We feel, ‘I cannot live without this.’ Some people say, ‘If there is no T.V in my house I cannot live without it.’ Or if I don’t have my phone with me we feel that without the phone my life is over, what will we do?
So, now there is nothing wrong with these things per see, with the phone or the television. It’s how we are using them. If we think that these are the things which will make me happy, these are the things which determines my self-worth, then we become bound by those things. āśā-pāśa-śatair baddhāḥ – hundreds of desires binds us, and kāma-krodha-parāyaṇāḥ- we become bound, and desire and anger – īhante kāma-bhogārtham, anyāyenārtha-sañcayān – and then we start going after wealth by hook or by crook. People are crazy for money. Why? Because they think that this is the way to happiness, and then the Bhagavad-gita goes on and talks about further and further how people become degraded.
So, bhakti is the process by which we learn the art of finding inner happiness. Bhakti is not just chanting, it is not just coming to a temple. All these are important, but all these are meant to help us learn the art of finding the inner happiness.
In the Bhagavad-gita (4.38), Krishna says that,
na hi jñānena sadṛśaṁ
pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayaṁ yoga-saṁsiddhaḥ
When one becomes perfected by the practice of yoga, then one starts delighting within. So, once we develop bhakti for Krishna we can be anywhere, we can chant Krishna’s name, we can sing Krishna’s names, we can remember Krishna’s pastimes, anywhere we may be we will be joyful. Wherever we may go we will be joyful. That is what bhakti provides us, and with this inner joy that we get, then we can act externally in a mature way.
It’s not that we have to give up the external things, but rather we have prevent those external things from controlling our life, and when we connect with Krishna, when we get satisfaction from our inner connection with Krishna, then we learn to move from outer happiness to inner happiness, and once we come to the level of inner happiness, then actually wherever we are, whatever situation we are in, we can be joyful. We can be satisfied, and with that satisfaction we can function responsibly, competently, without feeling insecure, without feeling unworthy, without getting into an unnecessary competition with others in the world. We can do our contribution.
Bhakti doesn’t mean that we just renounce the world. It means that we renounce the idea that this world will make me happy, but we understand that this world belongs to Krishna. Whatever gifts I have they belong to Krishna. So, I am meant to serve Krishna in this world. So, the bhakti vision of life is that, what I am is God’s gift to me, what I become is my gift to God.
So, when we look at ourselves we have certain talents, we have certain interests, we have certain abilities. We use them constructively but when we are using them constructively we are not dependent on the world for our happiness. We are connected with Krishna and that connection with Krishna gives us satisfaction, and then we can make a positive contribution in whatever we do in our life. So, bhakti in this way helps us to be rooted in reality. So, the more we connect with Krishna, the more we become rooted in the reality, the more we can counter the mind’s attacks which make the unreal seem real and the real seem unreal – And by being situated in Krishna we can actually experience real satisfaction in this life, what to speak of the next?
So, I will summarize:
So, I stated by speaking about how the mind makes the unreal seem real, like a woman who thinks that, I have a frog in my belly. Even if that is addressed, she thinks that the frog has babies in the belly, and it makes the real seem unreal that God doesn’t exist. However God existence. He is the basisof all existence.
Now science offers explanations for things. God offers the expalanability for the explaining potency of science. If there is no God who has ordered things, then why should the world which is product of chance and our own brains which are product of chance – Why should the two correlate with equations of mathematical precision? So, God is the supreme reality, the foundational reality and to see patches of disorder and say, ‘God doesn’t exist’, that is like looking at a house in which 49 rooms are clean, and looking at one room which is unclean and saying, ‘There is no caretaker of this room.’ If that is what we want to believe, Krishna will let us believe and the mind will mislead us, but if you are open minded you can understand that God does exist, and practically speaking – When spoke about how the mind makes unreal seem real, I talked about the advertising industry today.
So, this capacity to distinguish what is real and what is unreal that comes from our rationality. Our emotionality confuses us. So, our emotionality is like a ocean and our rationality is like a canoe on that ocean. If the ocean is made turbulent, then the raft will be overthrown. So, what the advertising industry does is, it triggers emotion within us and by that our rationality just gets lost.
So, woman were made to spoke by portraying cigarettes as torches of freedom, or men are made to feel insecure and they are made to buy a shampoo by thinking that, ‘You are not likeable now, you will become likeable afterwards.’ So, here people are basically emotionally manipulated by making them feel that if they don’t have somethings they are no good. So, this makes us mad for money, and when we depend on things outside us whether it is money or things which money can buy, then we become subjected to anxiety – Endless anxiety. Anxiety epidemic which is afflicting people even when there is not much anxiety in their lives externally – But there is so many insecurities internally, because they are equated as self-worth with their net worth. All their self-worth with their social media likes or the external things.
So, we need material things but we need money to get those material things, but money is the means for living, it is not the purpose for living, and if we actually want happiness in our life then we need to shift from external to internal. If we just keep indulging in externals, then those indulgences – They become like ropes, and they bind us. Just like a boy who indulges in alcohol once or twice or thrice, he soon becomes addicted by it. Then the desires pull. The object and the mind has a mind has a desire that pulls. A person thinks, ‘I cannot live without it.’ So, unreal becomes real for him. On the other hand if we turn towards Krishna – bhakti is the process by which we learn the art of finding inner happiness, and once we are connected with Krishna entirely through the practice of bhakti wherever we be, we can be satisfied, and we can be secure internally, and with that security we can make contributions externally. What we are is Krishna’s gift to us, what we become is our gift to Krishna.
Questions and Answers:
Question 1: There are certain impressions which are there within us, and even if we try practicing bhakti, if we encounter the object, the desire may come and we may relapse. So, how can we get rid of the impression itself?
CCP: It’s an important question.
There are broadly two aspects to the removal of inner impressions. One is that at the very least we stop getting new impressions. So, for example, if I have a house which is dirty, and there is a widow which is open from which dirt is coming again and again – So, if I ever clean the house the first thing is that I have to close the windows so that further dirt doesn’t come. So, we try to minimize our exposure to those particular stimuli as much as possible so that the impression doesn’t get reinforced.
It is not possible to go around the world with closed eyes. So, we cannot just avoid seeing things, but we can avoid contemplating on things. When we see – That is not the problem; When we contemplate – Then there is problem. Basically when we see and then we start imagining based on what we see, that is when the problem begins.
So, we can minimize the external further reinforcement of those impressions. Second thing is that the mind is filled with impressions, but the mind is also impressionable. That means say sometimes some people they draw graffiti on the walls. Now it may look very dirty. Now there are two ways to remove graffiti. One is to scratch out the graffiti, the other is to overpaint. Now if the graffiti is small, then you might just scratch it out, but if there are a lot of graffiti the solution is that – Just overpaint it.
So, now with respect to the mind the impressions that are there – We can’t scratch out the impressions. What is there is there inside but we can overpaint. Overpaint means that we create new impressions, new positive impressions. So, especially if we start practicing bhakti it is not just about doing particular activities. Those activities are important, but along with that, while doing those activities we create positive spiritual impressions within us, especially when we have some intense devotional experiences. Maybe go for some holy place and we are there participating in a very sweet kirtan, or there is a very beautiful darshan of the deities or some very heart-warming interaction with some senior saintly devotees. All these can create positive impressions, and as our consciousness becomes permeated in these positive impressions. Then the lower impressions get overpainted, and in the meanwhile if somehow the desire comes up then it is good if the impressions are strong, then to create some kind of obstacle between us and the indulgence in that activity —
So, for example if somebody is alcoholic. The first thing that they are told is, ‘Don’t ever go to a bar. If you got there tell that you have no plan to drink.’… ‘Well you have no plan to drink but there are others who have plans for you to drink.’ (laughter)
So, we have to create obstacles between us and that object. Now of course we can remove the obstacles. If our intelligence gets perverted, we may break through the obstacles also. But those obstacles – They can keep us in check temporarily. So, it can be small practical things. For example, some people they have a tendency to spend a lot of time on the internet surfing this, surfing that, and then especially if we find that we are going to – If somebody is wasting time on the internet going to inappropriate sites, then it is good to very simply have a internet filter. So, now anybody – If they want they can remove the filter also, but what happens is that if we are trying to live a principle centred life, then when the desires come, the desires comes and grab us for some time and if you can just tolerate during that time, then our intelligence comes back.
So, when there is an obstacle between us and indulging in that object then overcoming that obstacle requires some time, and during that time – ‘What am I doing? I don’t want to do this. What is this?’ Just our intelligence comes back and we don’t indulge in that. So, if the object is kept very easily available, then it becomes almost impossible to resist it. So, if say somebody is very obese and they want to lose weight, then if they keep fatty food all around the house – They won’t even realize that we are eating without their being realizing it. Now we may feel hungry and we need to eat, but then don’t keep fatty food nearby.
So, we have to look at practically – Now if I want I can always go somewhere and buy fatty food and eat it but all this takes time, it requires some effort and during that time the impulse, the urge that has come, it subsides. So, we have to learn to tolerate the urge when it comes, and we need some external help in that. So, by creating some obstacle between ourselves and the indulgence of that, we can create some support for tolerance, and parallel to that it is important that we also find some very positive spiritual stimuli for ourselves.
That means that if we find that a particular tune of the mahamantra or a kirtan dhun – We like very much, or some picture of the deity we like very much, or some devotee’s classes we like very much, or a particular book we like to read very much. We have to find out what it is that easily and quickly and effectively connect us with Krishna, and that will be different for all of us, because all of us are different individuals, and when you find that we keep that readily available for ourselves, and then whenever this urge comes – On one side there is the obstacle which stops us from indulging in it, but then with whatever intelligence we have just turn ourselves towards some positive, spiritual stimuli, and by that we get some satisfaction, we get some calmness – ‘I don’t want to do this.’ – We recover.
So, basically I talked about four things. First is, minimize further impressions coming on that of whatever bad impressions are there from the past. Second is overpaint – Expose oneself to a lot of intense devotional stimuli to create a positive spiritual impression; Third is, create an obstacle between us and the object so that when the urge comes we can’t immediately indulge and during that time in getting over the obstacle our intelligence comes back, and the fourth is, try to create a positive spiritual stimuli. Try to find out what is this positive spiritual stimuli by which I can connect with Krishna, and keep that as readily accessible as possible. That way we can tolerate the impressions – The urges that come’s from the impressions and gradually as we get purified, as there is overpainting, these impressions will also go away.
Question 2 – If a devotee or a spiritual minded person is a teacher in a school, they know how creation happened from scriptures but in the school they have to teach something different according to the school’s syllabus. Is that cheating?
CCP: See, cheating is too harsh a word to describe this. The first thing is that we should never position science and scripture as competitors. By positioning science and scripture as competitors we devalue scripture. Scripture does gives us some information about creation, but the primary purpose of scripture is to give us spiritual knowledge – knowledge about how to love Krishna, knowledge about how to attain Krishna.
The scripture may give us some information about this world also. At the same time this world is extremely complex and there can be different ways in which this world can be perceived. What I mean by that is – like even if you consider medicine simply. There is Allopathy and the is Ayurvedha. Now both of them treat the body, both of these work. There a people who get cured by Ayurvedha, there are people who get cured using Alopathy. They are two different models of the same body. So, which is right and which is wrong? It is not a matter of right or wrong. They are different perspective of analysing it.
So, in Ayurveda there is a concept of heat in the body – Jatharagni. If you go the Alopathy there is no concept of fire in the body like that. So, they are two different ways of looking at it. What to speak of approaching within the body. Even in science itself there are two different ways of approaching the world – one is Quantum Physics and the other is Relativity, but these two are violently contradictory. Now Quantum Physics says that everything is just waves and Relativity says that everything is particles, and the two are just not reconcilable. So, what do scientists do? The scientists find that both the theories work. In different domains different theories work. So, what they do is – They are simply pragmatic. Pragmatic means practical. Whichever theory works, they use the theory.
There was a famous anecdote in the history of science – In the history of Quantum Physics – One student asked a famous Quantum Physicist, ‘Sir, you said that this whole world is made of waves. I can see this objects before me. How can it all be waves?’ So, this Quantum Physicist answered him, ‘Stop thinking, start calculating.’ That means, ‘Try to think – Quantum Physics doesn’t make any sense, but the mathematical equations work.’ So, what scientists do is – even they don’t know what is reality_ what science actually offers us is models of reality. It is not telling us what is reality, it is just giving us models of reality.
Now what is a model? A model is like a map. Now say, I can have a map of Bahrain which is a political map. I can have another map of Bahrain which is a topographical map. There are some similarities, but there are substantial differences. So, basically within science itself, Quantum Physics offers us one and relatively offers us another one, and whichever works we use that. So, same way science offers us one model of reality and scripture offers us another model of reality. The world is very complex, the two can be analysed in different ways. They do not have to be seen necessarily as contradictory. Now definitely there are contradictions, but they are not inherently contradictory.
If there is a honest scientist they will tell us that science cannot answer ultimate questions. Now the existence of God, the origin of the world, this science cannot answer because how the world came about – Nobody can do an experiment in the laboratory and replicate the creation of the world. So, there are theories and this theories are highly speculative. So, what you have to understand is there can be specific theories within science which maybe wrong, but the methodology of science is just one way of looking at the world, and scriptures offers us another way of looking at the world.
So, we treat science only as operational knowledge. Operational knowledge means that it offers us some mode for working in the world and we use it, and as far as ultimate knowledge is concerned we get it scriptures.
So, in principle we see that these are different ways of looking at the world, and they are not necessarily and inherently contradictory. There may be some contradictory features which maybe individually addressed, but in principle we understand that science offers us the operational mode of reality and we use it for operating this world, and for ultimately understanding of the reality we need scriptures.
So, if for functioning in this world if we have to teach science we can teach science. There is nothing wrong. We studied science, and right now we are using science. We are using mike, we are using mobiles. So, it is operational. The problem comes when the operational is assumed to be the ultimate. So, if we don’t do that, there is no need to see that this as contradictory.
There was a conversation of Srila Prabhupada where he says that, ‘We are not against scientists spirit of knowing. We are against their atheism.’ So, atheism is not inherent to science. Science is simply a tool for acquiring knowledge, and by that tool we can understand how things work in terms of operating here, but science itself doesn’t tell how things came about. The theories which are claimed to be scientific for explaining the origin of the world, they are actually non-scientific extrapolations of scientific data. There is some scientific data, but from that there is non-scientific extrapolation’s that is done, and an honest scientist will admit that, the ultimate questions science can’t answer.
So, for operational knowledge in this world we may use science, but for ultimate knowledge we study scriptures, and then we…1.02.50… scriptures and we share scripture also. So, basically there is no need to think this as cheating or double dealing. It’s just that we have understand the difference between the operational and the ultimate, and just as for this world there can be different models of body in medicine, of the world in physics, similarly science and scriptures gives us different models.
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