We know that seeing Kṛṣṇa in everything is the goal of our practice. Maybe not the only goal but that’s what it means to be free from māyā – a devotee starts seeing Kṛṣṇa in absolutely everything. It’s the highest state of realization so we naturally think it’s not for us, certainly not at the present moment. It is true – we can’t attain this stage by our own efforts, it comes as a result of Kṛṣṇa bestowing His mercy so you either have it or not and we don’t. Still it doesn’t mean we don’t need to try.
“How can we artificially put Kṛṣṇa into everything?”, one might ask. “Not artificially”, is the answer. Kṛṣṇa IS in everything, the connection is always there and this connection is real – we just have to find it. By His grace this connection will be realized to the highest degree just as we know “Kṛṣṇa” is God but full realization of this fact is yet to dawn on most of us.
This is what Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī said on the subject of what it means to observe things in this world:
- We must find the link between whatever objects we come across in our day-to-day life and Kṛṣṇa, because every object is an integral part of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, to discover the factor that unites them is actual observation of an object.
We “must”! Actual observation of an object is to discover the link of this object to Kṛṣṇa. How’s that?
Science is very proud of its power of observation but here we see that they completely miss the point of “observation” is. Observation means to see connection to Kṛṣṇa. Well, okay, but how?
This is where Sāṅkhya comes in and we have no excuse not to study it because we are given all the facilities, specifically Lord Kapila’s teachings in the Third Canto. One might say “I’m not a philosopher, I can’t understand these things.” Okay, but it’s only a matter of effort – I’m pretty sure people who object this way do not consider themselves as scientists either and yet they know quite a lot about how the world works according to modern science. They know how cars work, for example – that there are engines where gas is burned, that there is a transmission, there are axles, wheels, breaks, power steering etc. They know how computers work, they know how refrigerators work and so on. Obviously not in great detail but the point is that they put in the effort to learn these things and they only need to put in the effort to learn Sāṅkhya, too. We don’t need to know it in great detail either – all we seek is a link to Kṛṣṇa, remember, not how to create flying mansions like Kardama Muni.
One way or another I put some effort while reading “Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”, a book which I covered extensively here, and I feel like I got the principle of how it works.
First of all – objects of this world do not have connection to Kṛṣṇa per se because Kṛṣṇa never steps a foot outside of Vraja, but they are connected to Viṣṇu who, in turn, is connected to Kṛṣṇa. As far as this world is concerned tracing its objects to Viṣṇu is going to be enough, certainly for the moment. That is also where Sāṅkhya starts – from Mahā Viṣṇu. I’ll try to delineate the essential steps, skipping what isn’t important for the task.
Mahā Viṣṇu casts a glance at pradhana and what is produced is mahat-tattva. Mahat-tattva is, therefore, like a reflection of the Lord, or a impression of the Lord left in the material nature. It looks exactly like Him but it’s not. It’s as attractive as the Lord Himself but it is also separate and so we can relate to it in a different way – as enjoyers, not as servants.
When we say “look” we mean only visual appearance but mahat-tattva is a collection of ALL God’s qualities – beauty, strength, fame, renunciation etc. We can’t visualize most of these but we can certainly perceive them with our minds. I’m saying this to decouple of our idea of “what is” from “what we can see”. Tattva means that which is, not that which we see.
Anyway, second Puruṣa avatāra selects a few qualities and from this set creates what we now call “the universe”. Our universe started with the selection of austerity, cleanliness, generosity, and truthfulness. We should keep in mind that what is meant here is the very essence of these concepts because the words we use come loaded with baggage of history. No one likes austerity, for example – the word bears negative connotation, but the essence of it still is a self-evident virtue, an undisputed moral value – the ability to discard something. It feels good to get rid of unwanted things and it feels good because it’s originally a quality of God. Purity is self-evidently good, too, and so are mercy and truthfulness.
Three guṇas get to work on these selections, mix and match them and in this way the complexity of the universe multiplies. In our case we take four qualities, color each in one of the three guṇas and we immediately get twelve different things. Then they can be combined in certain proportions, too, and in this way the universe expands.
What we now call the universe is a world of visible things. Somehow “tattva” for us is that which we can see. If, for example, we hear sound we accept that it’s real and not imaginary only if it has a source which we can perceive visually. Ākāśa sound, the “voice from the sky”, is impossible in modern science. When we can’t see things we use microscopes or we create visual models, like that of an atom, which turns out to be a very incorrect representation according to quantum theory but everybody still draws atoms with nucleus and rotating electrons.
In Sāṅkhya, empirically perceptive objects are the last stage of the creation and everything before them is actually “more real”. Empirical objects are like mp3 files, which encode songs into mp3 format. In the same way empirical objects encode desired sensations which exist prior, just like a song exists before being encoded into mp3. The difference is that in science we accept that songs are real but moral values are not. It would be interesting to investigate at what point science considers the song as “real” but let’s leave it for now.
There was a little switcheroo in the above paragraph – empirical objects encode sensations but what we actually want to encode, what we actually want to produce, are moral values as originally found in mahat-tattva.
When I look at the bedside lamp I see that it was designed to be beautiful – that is a quality straight from Kṛṣṇa. They followed a different standard of beauty but the goal itself is the same. The lamp is supposed to provide light in the darkness – to provide knowledge and dispel ignorance – another quality straight from Kṛṣṇa. Depending on how closely I examine the lamp I will find more and more ways the designers and manufacturers wanted to embody and present certain virtues or moral values.
This is how everything that is created works – first, there’s the desire to represent a moral value, one or more of Kṛṣṇa/Viṣṇu’s qualities, then there’s the effort, and then there’s the result. It’s sattva, rajas, and tamas. Three modes are involved in absolutely every act of creation, every act of production of every material object. One of the modes might be predominant but all three are always there.
Sattva manifests as a desire to see a form of the Lord. Not the complete form but one of its features. Once you see sattva in every object you see the Lord already. Not complete vision but something definitely from Him. Mission accomplished.
Rajas and tamas are also connected to the Lord but indirectly so we don’t need to bother about that if we see Viṣṇu already. It’s not difficult to spot His qualities but sometimes they are not obvious, too. Murder is universally condemned but the initial desire is for the Lord’s power to subdue enemies and do not say it’s not attractive. We all enjoy dominating others from time to time, murderers just take it a bit further. Same raw power of domination is expressed through rape as well, it’s not difficult to see it but most of the time it’s not what we focus our attention on.
The problem with murderers and rapists is that Lord qualities are not meant for our enjoyment so even if He has the power we should not appropriate it for ourselves. Second problem is that of ignorance – domination is only ONE aspect of the action, the unbearable suffering of the victim is another. If we ignore it then we’ll be surprised by what karma brings in – karma doesn’t care what part you particularly like, it serves the entire fruit whether you remember ordering it or not. Let’s not get sidetracked here, though.
The main point is to see how absolutely everybody in absolutely every action wants to express some aspect of Kṛṣṇa and how that aspect will be forever a part, and actually the root part, of every created object, like the dharma of the lamp is to give light, which means knowledge.
Another point is to remind that it will be an aspect of Viṣṇu, not Kṛṣṇa, which means we can relate to all objects only in śānta and dāsya, which means awe, reverence, and servitude. This is encapsulated in amāninā-manādena line from Śikṣāṣṭaka – we can only give respect to everyone and everything in this world, all attempts to relate in some other way will be misguided and are signs of ignorance of our actual relationships with objects of this world.
That video I’ve been watching for the past two months demonstrates this point as well. Just watch/listen/read it for a few minutes, the subject will come up again and again: