Yesterday I missed an important point when discussing proper reaction to TV show Cosmos. First of all, before we think about anything else, we should remember that there’s no TV show Cosmos, there’s no Neil DeGrasse Tyson presenting arguments for us to consider, there’s no Carl Sagan to pay tributes to – none of those things actually exist.
Let me clarify – we should not see those arguments as having separate, independent existence. While there surely is a separate living entity in the body of NDT and previously there was a soul in the body of Carl Sagan, their external appearances are illusory.
Illusion is real, of course, so both NDT and CS exist and can very well smack us on the head with a shoe, but their existence is not independent.
While in a conditioned stage we identify ourselves with a particular body and we allow the same identification to everyone else. This makes us perceive ourselves as separate, independent doers and thinkers, and then we afford the same right to others, too, but that’s just an illusion.
We see a line between forces of nature and our own lives. We know that we can control certain things but we don’t control the rest of the world. We think that we are in charge of our bodies, other people are in charge of their bodies, and God is in charge of the universe (or natural laws are in charge, according to NDT).
There are two steps to escape this illusion.
First step is when we see that other people are not as independent as they seem or as they imagine themselves to be. This means that they can be influence, this means their behavior is predictable, this means that God is in control of their lives just as He is in control of the dead matter.
Some would become manipulative once they realize that but as devotees we should see other people bringing us results of our own karma.
At this stage we should already see that there are no NDT’s arguments – there are only impressions on ourselves that we have fully deserved before. We might feel offended, we might feel validated, we might feel agitated, we might feel inspired – all those reactions are ours, they do not depend on arguments themselves nor do they depend on Cosmos presenter.
How we feel about the show has nothing to do with the show itself but only with what we deserve to feel due to our karma.
This means we should react to ourselves, not to the show and not to NDT. Whatever the show makes us feel, there’s a Kṛṣṇa conscious response to it as well. If we feel confused – there are books to read or questions to ask. If we feel like the show is misleading the general public – there are people to preach to, and so on.
This is just the first step, however. The second step is to realize that not only the show is following the directions of the karma and thus have no independent existence but that we ourselves do not have independent existence, too.
We can be perfectly content with everyone else being an agent of the illusion but that is false complacency, we should also accept that our own existence is an agent of the same illusion, too. The same force that controls the universe, that controls how other beings affect us, also controls our own existence as we imagine ourselves here.
The reactions in our mind and intelligence in response to the show are not our own, they are fully under control of the same karma and the same material nature that produces it. When we think we can choose how to respond – it’s an illusion.
We will respond according to our previous experience and knowledge and according to the situation. Our intelligence will reach into its bank of memories and our mind will express predictable desires – retaliate, defend, praise, compromise, agree, disagree.
The only difference we can make is to behave as devotees of the Lord. If we have that attitude of service then it doesn’t matter how our mind and body responds, it will all be beautiful and purifying.
So, before thinking HOW to respond to this show we should surrender ourselves to the Lord and let Lord’s agent, the material nature, take over and do whatever it thinks is necessary. Our job is to be Kṛṣṇa’s servants and do not try to control the world around us, nor try to control our own bodies.
That’s a very important point that needs further elucidation but I’m not ready for it yet.
Second misapprehension I wanted to discuss today is completely unrelated, it’s about that dreaded Female Guru issue.
One big (and some say the only) driving force behind this issue is women’s desire for equality. I will talk about it from this angle, discarding all other considerations for the moment.
Modern civilization has gone a very long way towards “liberating” women from their traditional position of being their husbands’ servants. We might not like but this is the reality we can’t change even in our own society.
Some of our female devotees might aspire for traditional Vedic roles but clearly not all of them do, to say the least. They argue, quite rightfully, that men fail at their duties, cannot offer protection, cannot even offer proper maintenance, so there’s no other way for women but to take charge of their own lives themselves.
Women need to have jobs and their own income even if they contribute it all to the family pool, these days everyone has to work. With jobs come interests and careers. We cannot deny this to women, too. Many of them are very skillful and powerful and we can’t demand that they stay at home and do the dishes, it’s just not happening.
It’s completely natural and we should not try to stop it but rather engage these propensities in the correct way. So, why do I object to women being gurus then? By gurus I mean traveling preachers who lead many disciples and control many projects, I’m not talking about initiations just yet.
The answer is surprisingly simple – women might have become powerful and capable but it doesn’t mean these capabilities are conducive to spiritual realization.
We can say – look at this woman, she can do a very big and important job, just let her.
This proposal, however, sneakily imposes a value on power and capacity that is just not there. For Kṛṣṇa it doesn’t matter – big or small. It only matters to someone in the material consciousness where bigger is better. As devotees we should be indifferent.
Will being a boss of a large corporation be of any value to the Lord? No. It will impress us, sure, but from the point of view of devotion it has no use whatsoever.
So, when women argue for getting more rights because they can do bigger things it sounds like a reasonable demand only to those caught in the material illusion. As devotees we should not allow ourselves to undermine our principles so easily. If people want to do bigger things it means they want to be in bigger illusion, they want to be bigger controllers. Why should we encourage them? Why should we support such aspirations? They are fundamentally undevotional.
Now, if women devotees have other, legitimate reasons that’s fine, today I only wanted to talk about this little incorrect assumption – that doing bigger things is unquestionably better.
Not only we should see through this ourselves but we should also help women be aware of this false assumption. We all know they want to do things, big things, important things, and I doubt we can ever stop them but it does not automatically mean that it will make them into better devotees.
There’s a lot more that can be discussed after realizing this point but let’s take it one step at a time.