What is the mechanism of memory recollection? What is the Supersoul’s role in it?

by Chaitanya CharanFebruary 21, 2014

Transcribed by: Jyoti Shirasangi Mataji


How does the mechanism of memory work? When Krishna says in Bhagvatgeeta that, I am the giver of memory, remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness, how exactly does this work? (8.23 min)


Here there are two different conceptions of memory that have been talked about. One is memory as an impression that is recorded and stored somewhere. And 2nd is, memory as the recollection of that impression.

So, for example, we may have a lots of data stored in our Computer hard disk. But we may forget where it is stored. So, it is there, but we don’t know where it is. Then we may use a search engine, and we may not even get the right search parameters, so we may not be able to decide where it is actually, and we may not be able to locate it.

Now, there are two different things. One is the place where in the hard disk somewhere the memory is stored, and 2nd is, my retracing that item or element of information, through a proper search parameter, or by going through a proper path. So we need to understand the difference between the two. First is, where is the memory stored, and how is the memory recalled.

Now, when Krishna is talking in BG 15.15 “SHLOKA”, he is talking about the recalling of the memories. The impressions are there in our wherever the memory is stored (that I have answered in a separate question), so the memories can be stored at three levels: in certain parts of the brain, deeper memories are stored as impressions in the mind, and ultimately there are the spiritual memories in the soul of the life with Krishna.

But, when we talk about what is Krishna’s role in all this, When we are talking of memories as units of information that are stored, then, Krishna is the creator of of the whole system. Its like, when I am using a Computer, there is a person who has designed the whole Computer. Krishna is that designer. And off course, the Computer designer does not have any control over the user. He is not the creator of the user. But, in case of this material world, Krishna is the Lord of both matter and spirit. So, He is the controller of both, the computer like mind which we are using, as well as the user the soul. Ultimately He is the controller of the both, so that’s the difference. Krishna has setup the whole system, by which memories are stored at various levels. That’s one level of the role of Krishna.

Now, when we are talking about the other concept of memory that is recollection of memory, what is the role of Krishna in that? The role of Krishna is that, he gives us a sort of pathway, to that impression.

Normally speaking, there are certain mechanical ways also, by which those pathways become well rooted. That means, if we recollect something repeatedly. Experts who have tried to study the brain, especially in terms of, how memories can be improved, they find that, there are various ways.

One is repeat or revision. So, if we go to our friend’s repeatedly, then the path becomes very clear, and we won’t forget the path, we won’t get lossed along the way. So, like that if we revise a particular item of information repeatedly, then the path in the memory gets well worn, and we can find the location easily.

Another way we can recollect is, through connection. That means, I may not remember a particular friend’s house, but if I remember another friend’s house, and then I remember, Ok, other friend’s house is close to this friend’s house. Then I go to the other friend’s house, and from there I find my way to the first friend’s house to whose place I want to go. So, like that, when we remember some information, we connect it with the other pieces of information. E.g. if I come to know that, Prabhupada started the first Rathayatra in 1968. Now I may say, how can I remember that was it 67, 68 or 69. Then I may remember, Ok. Prabhupada was sick at the time of first Rathayatra, and he could not participate in Rathayatra. He was sick, and he has to go to India, and he came, and all that happened about 1 and half year after ISKCON started. That happened in 1968, so the Rathayatra happened in 1968. So, if I can link things like this, then the probability of recollection increases more.

Like that, there are various techniques which, those who are expert in memory talk about, like revision, connection, and things like that, by which we can recollect. So, when we are talking about recollection of memory, it’s not specifically about the creation of the memory or the storage of the memory, it’s about the pathway to memory, and ultimately it is Krishna who controls that pathway, and it is Krishna who allows us at certain times (depending on our Karma), to remember certain things, and at other times, He lets us forget certain things depending again on our Karmas. So, BG 15.15, I give remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness, this refers to, how Krishna reciprocates with our desires.

If I have a desire to remember Him, then I will be given connections to the philosophical points, to the pastimes, to the Shlokas, to the images of the beautiful deities, to the impressions about the wonderful Kirtans that I have had, and I will feel inspired to remember, and I will get absorbed in remembering Him. If I have the desire to remember Him, Krishna will show the pathway to the devotional memories. But, if I have the desire to enjoy sense gratification, then Krishna will show the pathway to the sense gratificatory memories that we have had from before, and the pathway towards the spiritual memories will become lossed, and even if you go along, you won’t find anything. I try to chant, I try to remember, nothing seems to be attractive, and nothing seems to strike. So, what happens is, this is how we get caught in illusion.

So, foundationally, Krishna is reciprocal, He is not partial. It is not that, He let some devotees remember Him and causes some devotees to forget. Yes, that happens. Some devotees (Seekers) remember and some devotees (Seekers) forget, but that difference is not Krishna’s partiality. It is resiprocity. those who desires to remember Him seriously, then Krishna gives the facility, and then they are able to remember Him. And those who have the desire to enjoy sense gratification, Krishna gives them memories accordingly, and then they remember things accordingly.

So, the important thing is that, we try to cultivate pure desires, and to the extent that we cultivate pure desires, to that extent Krishna will guide us, and He will give us recollections.

So, that means that there is a material mechanism for trying to improve our memory, which also we can use, for example, for memorizing Shlokas, and for memorizing other things which are philosophical concepts which may be useful for us to preach. But foundationally, for remembering the philosophical basics, it is not just the philosophy; it is not just that I have to hammer as, like, sense gratification leads to miseries, sense gratifications leads to miseries, No. I know that philosophy from the point of view of facts. I have heard, “SHLOKA”. But still, at the time of sense gratification, that memory may not come to me. So, for that, we have to show Krishna our desire, that, “Krishna I do want to remember You”. When we show Krishna our Desire, then He will give us the right recollections, and then our spiritual memories will get stabilized, and then we will be able to march straight towards Krishna.

Thank You.

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Chaitanya Charan

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