Yesterday I argued that my personal history, and anybody else’s who had come to ISCKON, for that matter, is a naturally occurring phenomena rather than product of our assumed devotion.
Generally, we think that devotion comes first, external manifestation follows, and therefore one is the cause of another. Then we go on and chant “Oh Lord, Or Lord’s energy, please engage me in Your service”, and that’s what happens later. Nope, I say, whatever engagement happens to us is pre-ordained by the stars, lines on palms of our hands, and history of the universe itself.
We still see it as progressing from past to the future and so we hope that by changing the present, by our prayers, we change the course of universal history. Nope, it doesn’t really work like that. And it doesn’t meant that the above translation of the mahā-mantra, given by Śrīla Prabhupāda, is wrong.
First, the time – it doesn’t flow from past to future, from left to right, or in any other direction. We see that way because we are under Lord’s illusion. Freedom from this illusion means freedom from time, among other things. Time is one of the Lord’s mightiest weapons and no one in this material world is above it, except viṣṇu-tattva and liberated souls. They see the world as it is, “objectively”, if that means anything in their world. I guess it does, as they are free from any bias, but even in the spiritual world they are still under control of the Lord so He is the only one who can be truly objective.
Anyway, outside of influence of time they do not see it as linear. I guess it’s like playing around with controls of your preferred media player on the computer – you can skip backwards and forwards, freeze the frame, rewind, play it at double speed, slow it down, and even play it in reverse. Musical notes and video images, and their digital representation, follow in sequence but this sequence can be viewed in any direction. One note is always tied to another, there are unavoidable intermediate notes in between, and nothing can ever be out of place.
Or consider bittorrent technology – it allows you to download a song or a movie in a series of blocks, each 256kB in size, and each block downloaded individually. They can come down completely out of order but the torrent program can reassemble them back into a song because they all are numbered. It’s like a collection of singular mementos, a card deck that can be shuffled, each card or each memento has it’s own meaning, value, and information attached to it, but you can always arrange it back to order if you want.
That’s what happens with time and everything that happens to us here. There are mementos, there are memories, and right now they are being served one by one, and we dutifully count them, but outside of the illusion they can also look like a shuffled card deck or a jumbled jigsaw. Liberated persons are not playing, they don’t have to follow the sequence, they only know that the order exists and that’s enough for them.
Our perception that we can somehow assemble the puzzle in any other way is based on ignorance, at best it’s cute but mostly it’s just naive. Each episode from our lives and from the life of the entire universe can fit only in one place and it must connect with its neighbors. We can’t change that, they can’t change that, the Lord probably can but He is not interested, as far as we heard of His engagement with the universe.
The perception that our actions somehow matter is the false ego talking. Usually we think false ego is our temporary identity as a given material body but no, it literally means “I am the doer” in Sanskrit. Ahaṇ is “I”, aham, and kāra is a verb form for action. So, false ego is not just “I am a man” or “I am a woman” or “I am a dog”, but also “I am the doer”. Primarily “I am the doer”, I would say, but don’t quote me on that.
This understanding might explain why false ego sometimes referred to as one element for the whole universe as opposed to ten senses given to each living entity. We ALL think exactly the same, universal thought – “I am the doer”, in each and every form of life.
So, under the influence of this thought we assume that we can change things and our efforts matter. They don’t. All our actions are carried out by the material nature. All our actions are caused by desires that appear in our minds as minds observe the activities of the material nature. Our minds don’t get to choose what they like and what they hate. They don’t get to choose whether to feel cold or hot, pleasure or pain.
Hold on, we CAN influence how to react to various events and feelings, we CAN control our mind, we have intelligence for that, don’t we? Nope, intelligence is just another material element that has access to memories, which came from observing the actions of material nature. When intelligence processes these memories it can chart a different course of action from the one suggested by the mind, but the way intelligence works is also mechanical. It simply makes sacrifices of less important interests for the sake of the more important ones, that’s all. Who sets the values? Who determines the priority? Not the intelligence itself – these things come from other people, our parents, teachers, gurus, friends etc.
As devotees we don’t get to choose whether celibacy is important or not. We don’t get to choose whether chanting is important. All these things come from our authorities. Our intelligence simply reflects the strength these authorities hold over our lives. Those raised as atheists don’t give a dime for God or the scriptures or the prophets or the gurus. Those raised in a different way value the same things differently – we don’t really get to choose our upbringing.
Prolonged exposure eventually solidifies our commitment and strengthens our intelligence, but we don’t get to arrange how long our bodies are going to be exposed to the teachings of our ācāryas. Some only get one mantra and are sent off to a forest to practice it for the rest of their life. Some spend their lives in a temple, some see their guru only once in the life, some are personally trained for years. We don’t get to choose.
So, nothing we think we do here really matters. We are not the doers. The Lord and His material nature carry out all the activities, we just claim ownership over something that is not ours.
And if somebody raises the argument that this attitude leads to inaction and irresponsibility – hogwash. EVERYONE will be forced to work and act according to his nature. We can’t stop it just as Arjuna couldn’t stop the battle of Kurukṣetra. The hesitation and irresponsibility are caused by the mode of ignorance, not by me typing away this post.
We are not the doers also means that we can’t stop things from happening, and they will happen in their predestined way whether we like it or not. Just let the world be, it’s Kṛṣṇa’s world, not ours, He is the controller and enjoyer, not us, stop trying to usurp His position and His powers.
Ha, didn’t I just said “stop”? How can we stop? I just argued against it, didn’t I?
Well, this is the only choice we can make as spirit souls – whether to accept Kṛṣṇa as our Lord and master or whether to defy Him and try being little gods ourselves. Depending on this choice we will see the rest of the world accordingly. The world will go on, but we will perceive it differently. We can choose to see it as paramahaṁsas or we can choose to see it as hogs and dogs, that’s all.