So far we’ve discussed a little bit of Ontology, Philosophy of Nature. What is the Kingdom of God and what is this phenomenal world? In Chapter Two we compared the Scientfic way of knowing with the Vedic way of knowing, “Gotta Get A Guru”. O.K. In this chapter lets put it all together.
As you can see the Vedic way of knowing suggests that knowledge is an intrinsic feature of the soul. You can’t be without some knowledge. But the real room for progress is what you do with that knowledge. And the real guide for that is a guru. We’ll go round and around these topics again and again.
“Llife moves in a spiral, going higher and higher each time passing the same point, the same men and women, the same challenges again and again but each time with more knowledge, more wisdom. Life is a great road. Where does the road go? I don’t know, but I know that it goes some place good.” Walt Whitman
Well, we gotta guru, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, and by his mercy we know a little bit where the road goes. It goes to Krishna. But what is the road? That’s a good question. What is the practical process of yoga, religion, self-accualization at this time?
In some ways its the same today, yesterday and tommorrow: Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul. Specifically Srila Prabhupada explains that if you chant 16 rosaries of this Maha-mantra under his authority with love and attention and strictly follow the four regulative principles:
No illicit sex
No eating meat, fish or eggs
then step by step you will be elevated to the highest perfection and go back home, back to Godhead.
Is it all that simple? Ho! Ho! Ho! Read the fine print, Baby: With love and attention, and who in the West can give up “recreational sex” even for a year. Whoa! People here think that sex, drugs and rock-roll are the meaning of life.
So, he gives some steps. Chant, make a set of japa, rosary, beads, by stringing 108 nice beads on a cord and then make a loop by putting both ends through a special bead (the Krishna bead) and tying a knot. Also put a knot between each counting bead.
Then you roll each bead between the thumb and second finger of your right hand and chant:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
One rosary is 108 beads. This is meditation. Its big stimulation for your neuro-physiological apparatus.
Then get the book “Nectar of Instruction” from the BBT at 3764 Watseka Ave., Los Angeles, Ca 90034. Therein you will find so many instructions and explanations from Prabhupada about how to chant and fix your mind. How to get up in the morning, how to fight with your mind, how to stop smoking, abusing your spouse, etc.
This is just the beginning but basically this is the road: kirtaniya
sada harih, Always call upon the Name of God and keep a moral life. Everything else is details. Everything else is fine tunning. Also, get the short biography of Srila Prabhupada, “Your Ever Well Wisher”. Even brave men cry at some of the pains he took to make this system of knowledge available to us idiots.
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Tell ’em Hanuman Swami sent ya.
Put this book down now. Chant “Hare Krishna” even if you haven’t got the beads. Chant, Chant, Chant! Read the “Nectar of Instruction”, “Your Ever Well Wisher” and stop eating meat. Eat as much butter, cheese, ice-cream as you like. Pray to God that you can use everything for His missionary work before you eat it. See you one week from now.
The Medical Miracle of Mangala-arati
How was your week? How did the chanting go?
Certain times are better for performing spiritual activities. Daily its best to rise early and be sitting down chanting by an hour and a half before sunrise. Ninety-six minutes before sunrise until 48 minutes before sunrise is the Brahma-muhurta. One Vedic time unit is the muhurta — about 48 minutes. During this time your japa and also adoration of your icon of Krishna, Christ, Guru is more effective.
Experiment One: Chant Hare Krishna and offer your food to Krishna — No meat, fish or eggs.
Experiment Two: Get up and chant Hare Krishna out loud and on beads at four in the mornig in front of your Icon and offer incense, flowers, oil lamps and some natural fragrant oils if you can.
Practically speaking (which is the theme if this chapter) what is ISKCON. In the news now they are saying ISKCON teachers abused their students horribly. ISKCON is the current incarnation of the mercy of God.
What is ISKCON practically?
Well, maybe I can give my opinion as a practical guide.
“Democracy is a terrible form of government, but all the others are so much worse.” –Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln said that. He died for Democracy. Well thats my opinion of ISKCON as an institution. As soon as you have an institution you will have troubles. A. Lincoln also said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.
The same time I heard Prabhupada say that he would live forever in his books I also heard him respond to the question, “Swamiji, are there problems in your temples?” Prabhupada answered, “This is the material world. There are problems everywhere.”
Even when Krishna was personally present in Vrindavana there were demons coming and causing disturbance even to the point of miscarriages to the girls. Any institution will have problems and administration is a pragmatic job. So you work with ISKCON, its GBC management authority, but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept that everything that they say is correct. You can object. You can use your common sense, but managerially you should follow the administrative authorities in practical matters UNLESS they just get too crazy and then it is no longer ISKCON.
On another level, Nectar of Instruction Text Six, Paragraph Five, Prabhupada identifies another ISKCON, “This Krishna consciousness movement is a transcendental science and there is no room for jealousy. This movement is meant for the ‘paramahamsas’ … As soon as anyone becomes envious, he falls from the platform of ‘paramahamsa'”.
Last time I checked, to live in ISKCON you had to be at least 50% sane.
But on the outside people are more or less 80 – 90% mad. So, in which institution do you want to live: Where people may be 50% nuts or 85% nuts?
Become a “member” of ISKCON, the institutional ISKCON, follow the authorities with common sense. Criticize and fight properly to correct what is wrong. A practical institution for preaching God consciousness like ISKCON is a really rare thing.
But also join the brahminical ISKCON. Irregardless of someone’s position in the institution associate with them (Nectar of Instruction 4 and 5) according to their level of spiritual advancement. Some of the people in ISKCON are at least 70% sane. I can’t see much higher than that because currently that’s the limit of my sanity.
This is basically the Hare Krishna yoga: With sincerity chant Hare Krishna early in the morning, read Srila Prabhupada’s “Nectar of Instruction” (NOI) and his biography by Satsvarupa Goswami, “You Ever Well Wisher”, and everything else will follow.
What else can I offer you in this book that’s not in his books? Maybe we should stop here? No, there is some benefit in our association. We should read and apply his books in the association of other students.
The Links in the Chain
Also I can tell you what I personally heard from the lips of His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada when he was in Berkeley in 1975. There was a press-conference with reporters from several big papers. One of them asked, “Swamiji, what will happen to your movement when you die?”. Srila Prabhupada responded firmly, “I will never die. I will live forever in my books”.
I heard this directly from the lips of my spiritual master and now your are hearing it directly from the keys of this word processor, but if you like we can meet and I will also directly repeat this to your ears. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is not dead. In this sense there is no “Final Order” from His Divine Grace. This is the title of a controversial guru-book at this time. He is living in his books and you can have a personal relationship with him through his books.
Finished, closed, smile and a handshake. In some respects that’s the end of my guru business. I’ve taken you to Srla Prabhupada by asking you to read his book: “Nectar of Instruction” and “KRISHNA: The Supreme Personality of Godhead”. But in those books, and later “Bhagavad-gita”, “Nectar of Devotion”, “Srimad Bhagavatam” and “Caitanya-caritamrita” you will find thousands of pages of details and more advanced knowledge.
If I can cite relevent passages from that literature to help you advance spiritually then I am doing the service of a “siksa-guru”. Things can be explained in an appreciable fashion in the relevant times, places and circumstances but we should not try to screw out some extraneous meaning for personal aggrandizement and fame, and we should always cite from relevant statements of the acharya.
How to Chant Good (Well)
If you are chanting and reading in the early morning and you are like me then you will be experiencing that it is difficilt to stay awake, focus on chanting etc. But it is not all that difficult! Understand from me, and we are certainly roughly similar, that this is the most profitable thing that you can do. If you can chant 16 nice rounds of 108 beads each daily in the mood of the “Nectar of Instrucion” then your wealth, health, prestige, preaching, family relations, everything will improve at the maximum rate in the best possible way. You have to have that determination, intelligence: Best time, best place, best effort — and — best association for chanting.
NOI Text Four, Third Paragraph from the end: “sangat sanjayate kamah”, One’s desires and ambitions develop from the company he keeps. If you get some company in this japa/rosary austerity then you will have the desire to continue.
For this reason the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON, was started by Srila Prabhupada. There are ISKCON Centers where you can get assocation in chanting. Also be convinced that you and I and others can associate just by letters or e-mail or phone calls. I have one friend, student, Tulasi Das, who lives about 20 minutes from the temple in San Jose where I stay a lot. In the mornings I give him a call every three or four days and that helps a lot. We talk a little about the japa, study and different preaching and teaching projects. That’s a lot of help.
Descent of the Soul
Well, that about does it for this first book. Hope to do a few more, one more, of poetry and then maybe retire from human life and become an earthworm as I more practically deserve. But have one more chapter for this one, maybe, maybe two more:
1) The Descent of the Soul: This is going to be a “dump” of the correlation of all the facts I know from Western empirical science and the Vedic Philosophy of Nature (PN). Not going to get too hung-up on organization and perfect expression because just want to get them out. They are liked by people in many lectures and they actually are a lot of the basis of how I have determined conviction and qualification in this yoga.
2) Varna-ashrama-dharma (VAD): This is the basic Vedic Social Philosophy (SP). Also a popular lecture topic with pragmatists and theorists alike. We’ve been focusing on PN, because PN is the basis of SP in both the East and the West at this introductory level. We cannot begin to discuss the SP without this background of PN. But it is a different topic to some degree and maybe beyond the scope of this first book. Realistically unless there is intelligent motivation I cannot go on writing like this. That’s why I only plan to do this book and then a book of poetry and retire to hoe weeds and go back to my contitutional position of a small piece of dirt in Goloka (I hope! I hope! I hope!)
This Chapter is called “Descent of the Soul” rather than “My Hard Science Dump” because we are going to use the steps of the falldown of the soul into material life as the outline, background, for organizing these science facts as we go down. I always remember that I read a poem one time, I think, by William Blake entitled, “When Falling Souls Take to Burning Light”. I’d like to find it again. I like the concept. Its Vedic.
O.K. I’ve used the same accursed example to illustrate this process 55,217,333 times so here it goes one more time. I shall not give this lecture again:
You are at a party arranged for the fabulous wealthy Lord Sri Krishna by His beloved Sweetheart Srimati Radharani and all of Her girl friends. It is a wonderful day, wonderful party, with swimming pools and dozens of friends, ping-pong, soft-drinks, vegetarian buffets.
…BUT… somehow or other you did not like to serve Sri Krishna and so you became a little envious of His opulence: His personal beauty, His smile, His dress and of course the looks of emotional, rapture and love in the eyes of His beloved, Sri Radhika.
When we turn away from God, we turn away from everything. So you don’t like to see anything. But Krishna is so kind that in one little corner of the room there is a Black-and-White Television playing soap operas and other horrible stuff which apparently has no relationship with Krishna. So you are naturally, inadvertently drawn to this TV set in one corner of the room.
We all know the power of televison. One second we are doing something practical and the next second we are absorbed in some TV program across the room and suddenly half-an-hour is gone. This is the “Ahankara” again. It has two potencies. It throws us into the material nature and then it covers our knowledge of our spiritual nature. Again it is the glue that makes us think that we are a part of this material world.
We have forgotten all but the TV and then the “param-atma” begins to offer us different view experiences. The material nature, when it is agitated by the param-atma, time factor, mode of goodness offers material consciousness. I become aware that there is some content to the television program. It is a football, soccer, game. I am aware but I have no material desires.
The Head and Heart
Many writers on yoga, mysticism describe this non-striving state of consciousness as the highest level of experience, but from this Vedic model we can see that it is high, but realistically it is not even spiritual.
I Am My Head
Next the Paramatma offers us the material nature agitated by the mode of passion. In the mode of goodness I’m aware of the football game but without desire. When the mode of passion comes in I accept it then I begin to have material desires. I see that it is Brazil against Argentina: “My wife’s sister is married to a Bazilero. We are Argentinian. She bet her sister $500 of my money on this match. We have to win!”
At this point the identification, body image, shifts from the heart to the head.
Carl Jung used to relish visiting different cultures and interviewing then to understand their world-views. In the Tavistock Lectures he mentions that one time he was talking with the Hopi Indians in the Southwest USA and he mentioned something about “thoughts in his head”. When he said this the Hopi kind-of looked at each other and moved away from him. Being Carl Jung he was sensitive to these subtle things and asked, “Oh! Forgive me. Did I say something wrong?” The Hopi looked at each other and then one of them said, “You said that you have thoughts in your head, but only a mad-man has thoughts in his head. A sane man has thoughts in his heart”.
One black poetess in South Africa commented, “A women thinks with her belly. A man thinks with his heart. And a white devil, he thinks with his head”.
We even say this: Learn it by heart.
The physical, material element, mind is subtle. We’re are still on the mental level. We haven’t even got to space or touch yet. This is a very subtle point to comprehend and probably you will have to hear it over and over again to get the sense of it. We are like the moon. He is way up in the sky, but one full-moon day while looking around he notices his reflection on the earth. A little vanity creeps in and for a better view he looks to see his reflection on the white sands of the deserts of Rajasthan. Now he is really getting fired-up so he looks at his reflection on the beautiful marble palaces of the Taj Mahal. Finally he just can’t contain himself so he looks at his reflecion in a little lilly pond in the Taj gardens and now he is in ecstacy swooning at his beauty. But, unfortunately it the street-dog, Rajasthani Red’s, night for his annual bath and like it or not he jumps into the pond where the moon is “situated” and causes a huge disturbance in the water. The moon (250,000 mile away) begins to scream and carry on, “I’m dying, I’m dying”.
This is how we, the soul, identify with grosser and grosser levels of material bodies, mirrors. And when the bodies change we think we are changing.
Prabhupada commented that the brain is like the office and the mind is like the business. If there’s a fire in the office is the business destroyed? Usually not. You reconstruct the office. There are many examples of people with brain damage who have used the remaing brain tissues in new ways to control the motor functions etc.
I am my head. Identifying with material nature in the mode of passion we identify with the cerebral lump. Your cake is bigger than my cake. How can I get your cake. We Argentinians have to win.
Oomph! Pumph! Humph! Gluptzch!
Now the paramatma agitates the material nature with the mode of ignorance. He offers you a gross body with which to physically join the game. If you take it then your gross bodily existence begins.
What is the subtlest element that you need for a gross body?
Space! Every-body occupies space.
Space and Perception
There are a lot of nice studies on space perception. Its a nice area to connect the mental platform to the sensual platform. When I go to libraries I often look-up BF469, the Library of Congress classification for spatial perception.
E. T. Hall and Herbert Marshall McLuhan were the people that I read the most on cross-cultural studies on space. Also, my mentor for the PhD., John Campbell, Donald Campbell, also had some brilliant studies on space perception. The conclusion: Space is created by the mind.
At this point, in a lecture situation, I ask the audience, “How many people are now touching someone else?” Out of even four-hundred people maybe only two or three in a crowded hall are touching someone else. This points out our identification of space in modern Occidental culture. In a conversation in a traditional Arabic culture you must be close enough to feel the person’s breath on your face to be polite. In Greece a little further but still a lot of tactile contact. Indian friends report that they are repeatedly chastised by American colleagues when they first come to the USA that they stand uncomfortably close while conversing.
For a North American the minimum distance is about 18 inches. If you come any closer than that it means one of two things, either romance or violence.
Not only distance but also the “shape” of space. USA dudes think in rectalinear space. We build our citys on X-Y grids, but Japanese guys think in polar geometry. They build their cities based upon points with radials coming out. Plazas with roads leading out.
But it is not just mental. Different cultures actually see, live, in different spaces. As mentioned, Upstate New York tribal guys are high-iron workers. They are regularly six,seven stories above “the deck”. How about you? Ever climb up two stories on a ladder? I get tense even one story off the ground. If I was up seven stories on a 18 inch I-Beam I would not even crawl. I would close my eyes and embrace that beam until my skin began to bleed. But these guys walk around. Toss tools to each other. Sit on the beams and have lunch joking and back slapping without concern. If you ask them, “Aren’t you afraid when you look down?” They look at you with their eyes riveted on your face and reply, “I never look down.”
There are so many more examples, but I’m getting tired of writing this essay. O.K. One more good one. You’ve got to do this yourself. You’ve got to understand this material nature. Western science is honestly a fifth class perspective on nature:
About the turn of the century there was an experiment on spatial perception that was later repeated by Leon Festinger. Two people were fitted with prismatic lenses that inverted the vision of the world, turned it upside down. One group, guy, did nothing for one month. The other guy tried to shave, drink water etc. etc. After one month the guy who did nothing still saw the world upside down and when the glasses were removed he was much relieved. The guy who tried to do active work gradually began to the world as right side up and was even able to ride a bicycle etc. When the lenses came off him what did he see? The world was upside down. He had to recondition the software over again. As far as I know you don’t have enough neurological growth in one month to account for this change on a physical basis. Even upside down is the product of the subtle mind.
Similarly, in the 1930’s the first surgery became available to remove cataracts. People who had cataracts from birth had functioning eyes because some light was going in but they were blind from birth. What did they see when the bandages came off?
They were fully functioning adults who knew cars and cans, beans and pans, but when the gauze came off what they saw was a “booming, buzzing confusion”. They had to learn to educate there brains, minds to “see” the things that they knew from before by touch. Lastly: Prof. Campbell, my mentor, was arguing this way in the early ’70s: The software will override the hardware. The physical world so loved as substantial by Western science is mostly a product of the mental world. He made up a very simple elegant experiment.
Seven experimental subjects sat in chairs and looked at three lines: A, B, C. B was easly perceived as the shortest. The subjects were just asked to say which was the shortest. The first six to respond were all actors who convincingly responded that A was the shortest. When it came to Mr. Seven he also respnded, “Sir, A is the shortest”.
“Aha!”, you say. It’s just peer pressure. He doesn’t want to sound like a fool so he is saying that but he that B is the shortest.
“No”, I say. After the experiment Dr. Campbell would then take the seventh fellow aside and then explain that 1-6 were actors who might be lying and then ask him which line was the shortet. Mr. Seven would say A. He actually had to be shown with a ruler that B was the shortest. People were disturbed, shocked by this experience.
What does this say about the validity of physical knowledge? The simplest physical observation: Comparison of two linear scalars in a social situation is changed to a different experience. The sensual world is created by the mind.
Ghosts are just fellows who have subtle bodies of manas (mind) and buddhi (intelligence) but relatively no gross bodies. It works like that. Each different species of body is a different mix of the three subtle and five gross ingredients. Of course, cats have a lot of tactile energy (prana) in their bodies. They can jump like mad. Ghosts are usually somnabulistic dudes. They died in great fear or great distress so they are wandering around the dream world “looking for their gold”.
In the USA we are very much in the mode of passion – nothing too high, nothing too low, “Just the facts, Mam”. In South America and India experiences of subtler beings are much more common.
Off the top of my head I can remember three ghost stories from reputable sources but I’ll just include one. Maybe we can put something more in later books if anybody is intereted. These are included just to convince us about the existence of the subtler physical planes. Then it is easier to understand the position of the spiritual plane.
My friend Bhakta Saranga Swami was living in New Mexico (The Land of Enchantment) before he joined ISKCON. His girl-friend was a native American. She purported to see peoples “auras”, thoughts. One time he was sitting in her living-room with her and her two cats watching a booring TV show. Then she said, “There’s a ghost moving across the room and boy is this one strange looking”.
My friend said, “Cut it out. Stop it”.
She said, “You don’t believe me do you?”.
He said, “No. Stop it.”.
She said (he told me), “Then just look at the cats.”
He looked at the cats who were on the floor side by side at the foot of the couch and almost jumped out of his skin. They were sitting there crouched on the floor but they were both looking at something move across the room. Their heads were moving completely in synch from left to right looking at something he couldn’t see.
Rarely some of the ghosts aren’t somnambulists. Some are quite aware and intelligent and can cause big problems. The Vedas list many different “species” of these subtle beings.
My friend Rohini kumar was in Mexico in a village about 1972 when they were visited at times in night by duendes, dwarves. He and four other people once saw them run across their courtyard jump to the top of an eight foot wall and disappear. They were about two or three feet tall with little jackets with little buttons. The next day they asked the local people about this and they laughed and said, “Yes, we know them. They are duendes. They live in the forest and keep to themselves. Usually only rarely does anybody see them. But because you are new and foreigners they are curious. They are like children they usually don’t cause any problems for anybody”.
Citreshvara is an ISKCON “Ghost Buster”. He comes from a tantric family in Orissa that traditionally busts ghosts. He was asked to exorcise one new member of the temple in Australia who was obviously possessd. “Who is his closest authority?”, He asked, “Because when the ghost leaves it will try to go to him”. “The New Devotee Program Director,” they answered but he’s a long distance away driving a vehicle here”. “Physical distance doesn’t matter. These fellows operate on mental, emotional distance. Is he strong minded?”, asked Citeshvara. I know him, Janananda. He personally told me this event. He is a very literal, down-to-earth guy. But while driving the car the ghost attacked him. He didn’t know at all what was going on and only later confirmed the event and the timings. Ghosts – Beings with only psychological coverings.
Karate, Kung Fu and Prana
There’s a “Wind God” in Berkeley near our ISKCON Temple. Peter Ralston’s his name – one of the top Karate guys in the world. I asked one of his students, “What’s your philosophy of nature? What is the world made up of?”. He responded, “Earth, water, fire …”. I began to get excited. This is the same as the Bhagavad-gita. May be we can have a great conversation here. He continued, “Earth, water, fire … wood and paper”. “Wood and paper?!”, I exclaimed, trying to control my disappointment, “What about air?”. He said, “Oh! Air in Chinese philosophy is considered all pervasive, almost like God”. Humph! I considered. What can you expect. Karate guys will always look at “air”, prana, chi as God.
Peter could do so many miraculous things. So could the ranking Black belts in my school: Uechi Ryu. Sometimes they were Island champions in Okinawa – walking on styrofoam cups without crushing them, punching their fingers through 3/4 in. plywood.
This is all manipulation of “prana”. Whatever you can feel is prana. In the body it is circulating in seven major currents, cakras, but there are 10,000 major and minor “nadis” or tactile channels. You cannot see pure prana. It is the source of “fire”, visual element. A portion of the prana slows down to become visual. Just to come up from visually biased perception of the world to tactile is a big jump. Even if you close your eyes and try to “feel” a candle in your intelligence you will still be hangng on to a visualization to orient yourself. This is why all the activities of karate guys appear like magic to Western science. But really (in theory) its quite easy. Yogi guys focus more on sound and so the prana follows. When you chant Hare Krsna are you trying to get “good feelings” out of it? Probably. Try to go beyond that to meditating on the sound. Then comes meaning. Many of the things that you’ll read in the Krishna book and the Bhagavatam can be understood now. For example, Narada Muni travels on the airways. The planets are held together by wind-ropes. The universe , obviously, is composed of tactile forces. Some you can see, some you can’t. You can feel the moving tactile force in a river and see it also. But you can’t see the wind. You can’t see “gravity”. What would a visual representation of the tactile force created by the “gravity” of the Moon, Sun and Earth look like. Would the two primary “Le Grange” points correspond to the invisible Vedic planets Rahu and Ketu? During an eclipse would the tactile field of these points “eat” the tactile field of the earth as the Vedas describe Rahu tries to eat the earth. There is a book “Vedic Cosmography” by Richard Thompson. He gives wonderful description of many of these things.
Always chant Hare Krsna and then you’ll dance.
Don’t be so influenced by what you see.
By this potency you’ll draw His glance
And then what’s the use of colour TV.
Are we finished yet? Can we play?
O.K. Maybe. Maybe I should cite one more science thing and quit. You have to walk that lonesome valley. You gotta walk it by yourself. Nobody else can walk it for you. You gotta go through this mystical world by yourself if you want to reach God.
Max Ernst and Sequential Events and Theater
There is a book I cite a lot: “Mind Works” by Max Ernst. He has some interesting studies related to heiracrchy of the sense modalities. The first one is Sequential Event Discrimination. You are confronted with two flashes of a strobe light, two tickles from an electrode or two clicks of sound. Of course, at a certain minimal separation the two events will cease to sound like two different events and seem like one. In cinema this is Critical Flicker Frequency.