Vanity thought #1602. Problem with proof

It’s all nice to talk about how superior our path is but we also need to show something for it, at least to ourselves. Knowing that we are doing the right thing would go a long way in convincing innocent people but I suspect our critics still won’t be impressed. Why?

Those who criticize us the most are also the ones who know us best. They know our philosophy, they know our culture, they know our way of thinking, they know our conditioning, they know how we react to this or that, they know what arguments we use and so on. They achieve this level of familiarity usually by being in ISKCON for quite some time. In come countries our opponents also studied us professionally, like deprogrammers in the West or Russian Christians. Most of the time it’s ex-ISKCON, however, so let’s focus on this group of devotees.

Yes, they are devotees even if they rejected either ISKCON, GBC or even Śrīla Prabhupāda. Some reject the devotional path altogether and go into sister schools in Hinduism. Even if that happens they are still devotees, just currently unable to accept that Kṛṣṇa is our eternal master and we can’t hide from Him so we might just as well start serving Him right now even if with clenched teeth. Sometimes the desire to enjoy is just too strong, not everybody is born into equally favorable conditions.

Some want gross material sense gratification that goes against our regulative principles so they have no choice but to leave our association. They might have done it in shame but over the time they probably grown to accept their condition and rather blamed us for being unreasonably strict. They can then find supporting arguments in either śāstra or history. India has seen everything so they can always find meat eaters or some schools where sex is not seen as a sinful activity. Some look for old drawings of Indians where their women were walking around bare chested and they cite those as proof that we are excessively puritan.

There are traces of this mentality in ISKCON, too. Devotees might cite example of objective analysis of various kinds of meat in aurveda, for example, or countless examples of fishermen and hunters in our books, or eating habits of various Vedic personalities like Bhīma. I don’t know exactly why they keep these things in mind, I suspect as a fallback option for when they can’t follow the regs and can cite historical precedents in their defense. Of course it won’t work on our authorities but they hope it would clear their own consciousness. Ex-ISKCON devotees use the same reasoning, I suppose, they just have actually implemented it in real life.

I don’t know why I am even talking about this, I was meaning to talk about their estimates of our progress or rather the lack of it. Somehow they think we are not making any and remain eternal neophytes. They can give reasons why it is so – some are connected with our personal conduct, some with our relationships with their newly found gurus from GM or Vṛndāvana, some, sad to admit, with Śrīla Prabhupāda himself. “Why” is not so important, the first question should be why they can’t see our progress in the first place, subsequent justifications are easy.

There are two ways why they fail to notice our spiritual advancement, or maybe even three. First is that we have a clear description of symptoms of higher stages of bhakti in our literature and none of us manifest them. Our voices don’t tremble, we don’t have goosebumps when chanting and so on. At least we should have tears but we don’t display even that. Well, the answer to this is that it’s impossible to expect these emotions manifesting in every ISKCON devotee in every non-devotional situation. They are not going to manifest when talking to serial offenders at all, that’s simply impossible, but if you look carefully at the devotees around you during deity greetings you will surely notice that some of them are experiencing very deep emotions. Maybe not everyday and certainly not in everyone but you’d see enough to dispel all your doubts that our process works.

Secondly, our critics often use wrong criteria of progress. Yesterday I talked about gross misunderstanding of what spiritual knowledge is and the same blindness is displayed when judging levels of devotion, too. Forget tears and goosebumps, if someone gets up at four in the morning to stand in front of the deties and sing about their spiritual master with deeply felt conviction everyday for years and years then it’s devotion pure and simple. If someone consistently submits himself to the orders of his guru even when they go against his basic self interests it’s devotion, too. If someone keeps chanting the mantra despite ever achieving anything substantial in his devotional life it’s still bhakti. Why would these people do these things if they do not feel any spiritual feedback? If they were truly in illusion they would have slept in, went to work, and watched TV instead. Of course one could say that this is what most of our non-temple devotees do all the time and that would be a fair objection.

The third reason our critics miss the point is that they expect high standards from common rank and file devotees. To check whether the method works they should look at the best examples – devotees who stay in the temples, devotees who do not abuse their gṛhastha status, devotees who’d rather stay poor but in ISKCON then get a job outside, devotees who do wake up for maṅgala-ārati every day for decades, devotees who have been known to display transcendental emotions and so on. I won’t give any names now but they do exist, some are very well known, too. So what if it doesn’t work for me or for most devotees I know, it works for our role models, it works for those who matter to us.

That’s the thing about every method – to achieve success you have to follow it to the “t” and you can’t judge its effectiveness by easily explained failures among general population. Truth is, no other tradition elevates people to following ISKCON level of sādhana bhakti, not even GM. If someone says that sādhana is inferior the answer is that you can’t follow it for a long period of time if you don’t have underlying rāgānugā. It doesn’t matter if you can’t see it right away – consistent following of sādhana is proof that rāgānugā is there.

All of the above is about externally observable symptoms, btw, we have to remember that our critics, due to their assumed position, are unable to see the spiritual side of things at all. It’s not like we can perceive it all the time either but when we get that lava-mātra moment in the company of advanced devotees we know advaya-jñāna is real, it’s presence become undeniable and this impression lasts forever. Therefore we can’t take accusations that our process does not work seriously, both for external and for internally felt reasons. And I also want to say something else about symptoms of devotion but I’ll leave it for another day.

Vanity thought #1600. We got spunk

For a couple of days I’ve been writing not so flattering things about other religious traditions and if any of that was said in a public forum we’d immediately be challenged to provide proof of our superiority. If we look into our our hearts we might find that we want to see this proof as well, that all the accusations that Hare Kṛṣṇas got annoyingly loud mouths and that’s all there’s to us might be true. Today I want to address these doubts.

First of all, we should remove all doubts from our own consciousness. If we are not sure about what we say then others will pick up on this hesitation, too. They might sense it directly or they might pick up on braver than usual arguments – it’s a known psychological phenomenon to conceal one’s doubts by speaking louder. We can object that Śrīla Prabhupāda was even heavier but people know the difference between speaking from conviction and speaking from self-doubt, they do it all the time. You know how they say that it takes a thief to know the thief – they all have dabbled and they all have first hand knowledge of what BS smells like. Someone somewhere will notice and we will be finished, end of conversation.

There’s another reason why we should defeat our own doubts first – Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a personal experience, it deals with transcendental reality that is inaccessible to people’s senses. We can’t “prove” it because it’s beyond the purview of eyes, ears, or even logic. It can be demonstrated only by opening people’s hearts to Kṛṣṇa and that happens only in association with devotees. Who are these devotees? We are! There’s usually no one else around, we have to do it ourselves. If we fail then we’d be considered as boastful empty-talkers, end of conversation again. There’s still a chance that people get their Kṛṣṇa consciousness elsewhere, like the books, but if they dismiss us they might not even read them or take them seriously enough.

We also should not expect to remain neophytes forever. Our personal perception of our progress is one thing, it should become lower and lower, but it’s not an excuse to preclude Kṛṣṇa from using us as His preaching tool. We can’t say that because we are neophytes Kṛṣṇa cannot do something. We are not special and denying Kṛṣṇa’s mercy would be a misuse of our humility. Our progress is not up to us, Kṛṣṇa is the most hardworking one in our relationships, and so we can’t say that He failed to make us into devotees just because we are so fallen and so “humble”. However fallen, no one is below Lord Caitanya’s mercy, we are not going to limit it by our “special” condition.

The fact of the matter is that Kṛṣṇa is real and advaya-jñāna is real and we are not in a position to restrain its flow. If we surrender ourselves and chant the holy name it WILL work, it WILL become our direct experience, and it can’t be resisted. We’d read books, we’d seek association, we’d become inspired, we’d try to preach, one thing would lead to another and advaya-jñana would reveal itself without a fail. It probably won’t become a permanent fixture in our lives but it will become undeniable and it would disappear only to make us strive for it with higher intensity.

It might take some time but one of the first qualities we develop with practice is patience, and patience also comes with age, so waiting is not a problem. One of the signs to progress is not worrying about time, as soon as the mode of passion subsides time ceases to be an issue. It happens naturally and automatically as part of anartha nivṛtti, we don’t have to worry about it, just be sincere in our efforts, which in itself is a function of chanting.

There are millions of ways to screw our progress towards advaya-jñāna and we should avoid them as best as we can but they are also the same ways that prevent others accessing it, too, and so knowing our own faults makes it easier to explain theirs to them. If we make continuous, conscious efforts to avoid offenses then Kṛṣṇa will cooperate and provide us with necessary intelligence as He promised in Bhagavad Gītā, and then it snowballs from there. Less offenses lead more direct perception of the advaya-jñāna, which lead to less material attachments, which lead to more nectar, which lead to stronger convictions and more determination to avoid further offenses – it becomes unstoppable and feeds on itself. It’s a still long way to go to experience Kṛṣṇa directly but should quickly become more than enough to stand our ground in conversations with ordinary people.

The thing about modern society is that no one even tries anymore, their “new normal” absolutely precludes them from making any spiritual progress and it makes them lose all faith in transcendental reality. Sex, for example, is an absolute must for them and it immediately blinds one to his spiritual nature, it ties them to their material bodies and they can’t perceive neither themselves nor the others as anything else but sex objects. They might listen to us talking about the soul but when they look around all they see is bodies so they don’t believe us and they don’t believe we might see the same world differently.

Meat eating is another insurmountable problem, and alcohol, too. I would also add the internet as a modern form of gambling. They might not place any bets on it but it’s just as addictive. I don’t want to discuss the similarities and differences between gambling and drinking addictions at this time, suffice it to say that it blinds people to reality and fills them with illusion, and I would insist that internet is just as dangerous.

Our process is very simple – stay clean, chant, and it WILL work, but people don’t believe us, they can’t imagine someone staying away from sex or bacon. For some reason those of them who are vegan are not so receptive to our message either. I think I can try to explain it but not today. Otherwise, the direct experience of one’s spiritual nature is open to all.

Sometimes we ourselves lose it and we seek some complicated explanations. We might make the path of our progress unusually long and troublesome, we might talk up our obstacles, move the goalposts, do whatever it takes to justify our lack of realization but the answer is usually very simple – maintaining our attachments. I assume we’ve learned to avoid offenses already, otherwise it would be the first item on a checklist.

Ex-ISKCON devotees often don’t get the offenses part, and also the part where they reject their gurus or even Śrīla Prabhupāda. They take the position where advaya-jñāna becomes impossible and when then don’t see it in their own lives they conclude that it couldn’t exist in ISKCON either, because they are so much better than us, it unimaginable that we would make progress when they don’t.

For ISKCON devtoees it’s the attachment part that wrecks our spiritual lives. It might not wreck our lives in general or even our lives within ISKCON itself but we can’t attain advaya-jñāna while keeping our attachments. Those of us who left temples for sex with husbands or wives are doomed to lose the perception of the Absolute even if we manage to stay nominally within ISKCON. There are great many of us to form our own club and it’s easier to sin in company but it won’t take us closer to Kṛṣṇa, it just won’t.

Also, there are legitimate ways for advaya-jñāna to be perceived and there are manufactured ones, but it’s a topic for another day, I’m done for now.

Vanity thought #1587. What it is

Let’s attempt to describe advaya-jñana in positive terms. It might not bring forward the advaya-jñana itself but at least it would improve our theoretical understanding of what it is. I mean theoretically we already know the definition but it can always be expanded.

In Śrīla Prabhupāda’s explanation advaya-jñāna means absolute, non-dual nature of Kṛṣṇa. Words we use in the material world are relative and separate from entities they denote. Good has no meaning without contrast with bad, father has no meaning without son, and when we say “father” he does not appear in person. On the advaya-jñāna platform, however, there’s no difference between Kṛṣṇa’s name, form, qualities, pastimes etc. Advaya-jñana dictates that when we say “Kṛṣṇa” all the spiritual world is present but it’s not how we hear it in real life. This is the area we can expand upon – relationships between words and their meanings, forms and essence.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī explained it as follows. He talked about the difference between morphology and ontology. Morphology is a term used in linguistics and biology but Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta talked about the meaning taken from the original Greek – it’s a study or science of form. Ontology, in contrast, is the study of the essence. Technically, “onto” means “being” and ontology is the study of “being”, of things that actually exist and categories of existence. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta took it to mean essence of existence.

Applying to Gauḍiya Maṭha, morphology is its forms – buildings, temples, preaching projects, exhibitions, which were very big in his days, rituals, even sannyāsa. All these forms were meant to attract people to ontological necessity of service to Kṛṣṇa, which is the essence of everyone’s life. These morphological aspects of Gauḍiya Maṭha are external, temporary, and can be adjusted to suit ontological needs. They need to appeal to the public whereas ontological essence of Gauḍiya Maṭha is directed to Kṛṣṇa.

Nowadays we see the duality between Gauḍiya Maṭha and ISKCON but ontologically it’s one and the same mission, only external manifestation is different, and it’s wrong to think that Gayḍiya Maṭha started with Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. It might be so as a registered institution but its spiritual essence and service is eternal and we all members just as we are members of our sampradāya. At the same time we should also acknowledge that both Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and our Śrīla Prabhupāda were founder-ācāryas of their respective institutions. For us in our fallen state it’s important to see the difference and behave according to our conditioning as members of ISKCON but back in the spiritual world our ācāryas are certainly not that possessive.

Anyway, where was I? Morphology is meant only to lead to ontology, on its own it has no intrinsic value. It becomes valuable only when it is engaged in service to ontology, just like a purse is useless without money in it, and therefore morphology has to be approached in the spirit of yukta-vairāgya.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta was very alert to his disciples’ neophyte tendency to turn Gauḍiya Maṭha into a “tinsel” religious institution, glittery but ultimately worthless decoration of a spiritually dead body. As history showed, they couldn’t follow this order but, as I explained a week or so ago, no one should be blamed for this, no more than we could blame Yadus for killing each other in a drunken rage. It was all Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta applied this morphology and ontology to his personal behavior, too – they didn’t call him a “lion guru” for nothing, his tongue and pen were like an ax of Paraśurāma, in contrast to the inner sweetness and simplicity of his Vraja-bhakti. Being strong and uncompromising was a useful thing at the time but only as far as it straightened people up and put them on the path of unalloyed bhakti.

Morphology and ontology were also applied to everyone’s personal service. External ritual of vaidhī-bhakti were seen as morphology and quite separate from one’s internal spiritual development. Doing one perfectly does not mean that the other is perfect, too. One could follow all the rules and still have no bhakti in his heart and one can be a real devotee but appear sloppy in his outward service. This is basics.

At this point we might tend to conclude that morphology is inferior and ontology is the real advaya-jnāna but that would be wrong – because advaya means non-dual, on that level there’s no difference between external and internal because they are all seen as fully spiritual. We might not get it yet and see our sloppy performance of sādhana as substandard and a sign that we are in māyā but spiritually speaking it isn’t so. It’s only us who see it that way, not Kṛṣṇa and not our ācāryas.

Externally they might tell us to clean up our act, blame us for forgetting this or that, drilling us for our endless mistakes, but it is all a manifestation of Lord’s mercy. It appears uncomfortable only to those still rooted in duality. In our history there are many examples of devotees taking blame and punishment as mercy, even more so than being praised by the Lord. Even Advaita Ācarya did that and he was viṣṇu tattva himself.

So, after understanding the relationship between ontology and morphology we should know that the difference exists only in our minds and once we achieve advaya-jñana it would disappear. Consequently, hearing criticism of this or that would be met with “What are you talking about? It’s absolutely perfect. Don’t you see it?”

On the advaya-jñāna platform the tendency to criticize others as well as all traces of envy would disappear, it would seem incredulous to indulge ourselves in that. For now they just tell not to criticize and not to speak ill of anybody and we theoretically understand why but the tendency is still present and it manifests itself here and there. On the advaya-jñāna platform it wold be gone.

I’m not sure how we would deal with offences committed by others, I suppose that unless one is irrevocably fixed in his spiritual position one would still be affected and one would still need to avoid such association but in full advaya-jñana it won’t even register as one would not see material duality at all. After all, all our offences, all the “good” and “bad” things exists only in our minds. Spiritually speaking, there’s only more or less service to the Absolute but it’s all service anyway and therefore appreciated greatly.

Vanity thought #1586. Still unseen

I was hoping the ekādaśī would fix me but I didn’t really cross my fingers yesterday and so it backfired. Not that I’m superstitious that way but I do believe there’s a connection between thoughts and their future results. In my case thoughts usually destroy the future and so I can never make a correct prediction. Crossing fingers won’t help.

It’s frustrating – having all my plans being ruined without fail, but there’s a benefit in learning this lesson, too. For one thing, it clips my ego. I KNOW I can’t control the world, can’t shape it according to my wishes, so I know that any kind of daydreaming is a waste of time. At this stage it doesn’t really matter whether dreams come true or not, I’ve seen it fail enough times to disassociate my wishes from reality altogether. The other thing is that sometimes I DO know how things are going to turn out, I just dare not to think about it and go for more pleasant versions instead. There was a big part of me yesterday that told me my ekādaśī chanting would not be great, I guess that’s why I needed to mention “crossed fingers” in the first place. However, I didn’t want to sound that sad premonition outloud.

It’s a typical mind trick – try to will the future the best way possible despite having serious doubts that it would ever come true. I fall for it every time but I also realize that escaping it requires escaping the mind itself. If you know something then be quiet about it, don’t let the mind come in and ruin everything. Somehow or other the mind never gets it right so the best thing is to ignore it and keep your intuition to yourself. I know it’s very difficult but maybe that’s why they call it intuition – it’s not something you can just think up, it’s there on its own, so better leave it alone. Trying to flesh it out by conjuring the correct scenario in the mind is going to fail, at least in my experience. Just wait until it happens on its own and accept whatever comes.

This is where the mind fails us once again – by contemplating the future it positions us relative to results so that we are bound to react with either likes or dislikes according to mind’s plan, not according to Kṛṣṇa’s. If we didn’t listen to the mind we would accept whatever Kṛṣṇa’s has given us but by making plans we are tricked into making judgments. Even if things turn out favorable we’d be thinking they are not good enough or not perfect enough and we would always be looking the gifted horse in the mouth. Of course if Kṛṣṇa’s shows up Himself even through a small spark of His glory we’d be immediately won over but I’m talking about our regular karma here. Mind forces us to like or dislike our regular karma while Kṛṣṇa tells us to accept everything with gratitude and as means of serving Him.

Tricked by the mind we place various demands on how we would serve the Lord. We need prasādam to be just right, we need a certain model of a mobile phone, we need a certain kind of wife or husband, we need to feel safe and secure, we need to be healthy, we need sufficient funds, we need a peaceful mind, we need our enemies kept at bay, we need our seniors to be first class devotees, we need our juniors to be respectful, we need we need we need – there’s no end to our conditions. These conditions are born out of the mind’s preoccupation with likes and dislikes and nothing else, because everything in service to the Lord is absolutely perfect, spiritually speaking, but the mind is not a spiritual thing and so it comes with its judgments and dictates everything.

And it’s not only our mind that does that – the entire material world works that way. Well, maybe not the world itself but everyone placed in it. It’s not OUR mind only, it’s everybody’s mind, and if we manage to avoid making judgments ourselves there’s no shortage of people who would gladly do it for us and tell us how to live our lives. It’s not only our mind’s company that we should avoid but the rest of the world, too.

There’s really no difference between our mind and the mind of our fellow beings. The likes and dislikes might be slightly different but only as far as our senses are unique, which they aren’t. We have tons of social upādhis where we share our goals and where our senses react in unison. Patriotism is one such thing, everyone cheers for the national team just the same, but there are many many more, more than we are usually aware of. The fact is that our entire being, our sense of ourselves, is formed by social interactions and it has been going on since the moment of our birth. We’ve changed a lot since then, haven’t we? It’s all been due to the influence of others so they, the others, do get a lot of say in how our senses work in this world, meaning our minds are alike, too, meaning they always have tons of advice on how we should live our lives. Just ask your wife, she knows how to make you perfect better than you do yourself.

The point is that we should avoid listening not only to our minds but to the minds of everyone around us, too. Family members, friends, co-workers, people on the streets, shop assistants, voices on TV, strangers on the internet – they all channel the universal mind and they all force us to like or dislike everything we see. It doesn’t even matter if they agree or disagree with our own mind, they force us to take a position, any position, and that’s already bad for our spiritual advancement.

The whole lot has to go, all of them.

Another argument is that some of them are serious offenders and even if we avoid making offenses ourselves our association with them is just as bad. Well, maybe if we talk to meat eaters it’s not as bad as slaughtering a cow ourselves but even that is not guaranteed because this subtle influence is harder to resist and it might show up when it’s already too late. This is especially true about sex and that’s why we are specifically ordered to avoid association of not only the opposite sex but of members of our own gender who are attached to sex life. Anything related to [illicit] sex life has to be purged from our consciousness. Same is true regarding offenses against devotees – we cannot allow ourselves to listen to them. If we can’t stop the offender we must leave the place immediately.

This seems obvious but my point was that sharing in these parts of the universal mind is just as bad as harboring these thoughts in ourselves. Sometimes The Mind is just bad, doesn’t matter if it manifests in our head or in the heads of our associates, that’s why we are told to avoid certain places even though we ourselves might not share in temptations. There’s no real, actual border between subtle elements like the mind and intelligence. We imagine it being there only due to false ego but these elements are shared. Hmm, maybe I’m onto something big here, it’s the topic I was keeping in mind for a long time and there are many aspects to it I’m not ready to tackle yet.

Oh, and the advaya-jñāna still remains unseen and imperceptible. This is by definition, of course, but the definition applies only to those devoid of spiritual consciousness, so to say that is’s unseen means that I’m still not ready to perceive it, assuming Kṛṣṇa is not withholding it on purpose. Sad, there was time only a few days ago when it seemed so close.

Vanity thought #1585. What it isn’t

I was hoping that after New Year I would catch up on missed posts, I’m currently two days behind, but instead I got positively swamped. Maybe later this week.

It’s been a near perfect storm, a combination of work things and family things and health things and senility things and it just won’t let go. Nevermind, the ekādaśī is coming and I trust the universe to let me breath and chant more rounds in peace. So far the universe has been cooperative on ekāsaśīs, let me keep my fingers crossed on this one.

In this state of mind, which I would describe in one word – frantic, I’m obviously not ready to talk about advaya-jñāna, which I was hoping to accomplish today. When mind is disturbed by external happenings samādhau na vidhīyate, as Kṛṣṇa said in BG 2.44 – the resolute determination for devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place. OTOH, it’s not all bad, there might be a bigger lesson to learn from being busy – it’s not what advaya-jñana is, and even when the mind eventually settles down the same signs of business would still be detectable in however small amounts, and it won’t be advaya-jñāna either. It simply does not dwell in this world, not when it’s agitated and not when it appears to be peaceful.

Being busy also gives us the opportunity to see beyond our minds. Normally we would blame the circumstances for pushing and pulling our minds but we could also let the circumstances take over completely and just step aside and concentrate on what is really important, but we have to find what it is first – which is advaya-jñāna.

One way to describe it is to talk about five levels of perception as taught by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura – pratyakṣa, parokṣa, aparokṣa, adhokṣaja, and aprākṛta. Of these we are familiar with the first two – pratyakṣa, the knowledge obtained through our senses, and parokṣa, the body of knowledge taught by others, who got it though their own senses. The next one, aparokṣa, is tricky because various schools define it differently and the meaning, therefore, is not universal. In Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism aparokṣa is not a big deal but others see it as something transcendental.

In our school it’s just intuition or realization based on parokṣa and aparokṣa. In contemporary terms it’s knowledge of the “force”. You don’t really know how it works but you know what should be done and how. Lots of people achieve glimpses of this kind of realization by honing their professional skills. It’s the point where they see their vocation as art, as too complex to explain in mechanical terms.

Technically, aparokṣa means non-perceptible or invisible but this is Kali yuga and so we can settle on “not obvious”. In India, but also in other cultures, it’s the knowledge given by devatās. It just comes to you because one way or another you deserved it. The typical case would be Keśava Kāśmīri who composed a hundred verses glorifying the Ganges on the spot. He didn’t think them up himself, he relied on the mercy of the Goddess Sarsvatī. When he was defeated by Lord Caitanya he also didn’t take it personally but understood that much higher powers were at play.

Full mastery of aparokṣa leads to the realization of the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth, when one goes beyond “I figured how to do this” to “I won’t even bother doing it”. The world just fades away and fails to excite anymore, everything appears to be trivial and unimportant. It’s easy to understand how on this level one would be inclined to withdraw and dedicate himself to meditation. God would still not reveal Himself, though. Śrīla Madhvācārya, however, classified aparokṣa as higher than dhyāna, which he said was contemplating of the mental form. Aparokṣa then would be meditating on otherwise imperceptible form of the Lord.

The next level, adjokṣaja, is, in our school, fully transcendental and takes one as far as Vaikuṇṭha realization. Full knowledge of the Absolute, including Kṛṣṇa’s Vraja-līlā, is available on the level of aprākṛta.

Going back to advaya-jñāna, it must be at least on the level of adjokṣaja where one is fortunate enough to directly perceive transcendental form of the Lord. We, obviously, don’t have it, but we can have a shot at aparokṣa and hope for the best.

Being busy allows us to distance ourselves from the workings of the world and observe them from a distance. Nothing will happen, the world will go on, the mind will continue reacting, the intelligence will continue seeking solutions, and body, the nature, and the demigods will continue giving us trouble, but we can find an inner place totally removed from all that jazz.

Ordinarily, we would try to memorize everything that happens to us so that later on we can tell the world our story, find a friend willing to listen, or at least tweet about it, but if we had simply waited until it was over we would come out of busy period with nothing to remember at all. Right now, if someone asked me to describe my holidays, I would probably refuse. It’s too much trouble for me to recover all those memories, there’s nothing special about them either. If one does that, however, he is bound to develop either attachment or detachment and position himself relative to those external happenings – “I liked that” or “I didn’t like that, never again”. It doesn’t matter what, we always end up liking or disliking things, and who needs that?

We all know how to deal with busy times, we try to manage our load, find time to deal with it and time to take a break, postpone, procrastinate, delegate, roll up our sleeves, sleep less, get tougher, run away, ignore, pray – whatever works. Ultimately, however, all this management is a waste of time – the material nature can do it for us, we don’t need to invest our own consciousness in it. The universe will arrange everything for us to make decisions and act in certain way, it will pull memories from our intelligence, it will provide advice from others, it will provide energy or arrange for escapes. It always does all of that, we just want to extend our control over parts of it as “my brain”, “my memory”, or “my time”. It’s not ours, we are not our subtle bodies, let it roll all by itself. If we do not allow ourselves to become attached or detached we won’t care how exactly it all plays out.

So, advaya-jñāna is elusive but now I get a better idea of what it is not. We should avoid taking shelter in duality of likes and dislikes, and we should stop trying to control the world, not just around us but “within” us, too – it’s not “our” mind, “our” intelligence, etc.

Vanity thought #1584. Advaya jnana

I’ve mentioned this term once when talking about Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s last public address but I didn’t do it full justice and want to come back to this topic again.

HH Bhakti Vikāsa Svāmī gives the following definition in the glossary to his Srī Bhaktisiddhānta Vaibhava biography:

  • Advaya-jñāna—(1) knowledge that there is no difference between Kṛṣṇa and His names, forms, qualities, weapons, and so on, and that anything pertaining to Him is of the same spiritual nature; (2) the object of that knowledge, who is nondifferent from it, namely Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This meaning is often conveyed by the term advaya-jñāna-tattva (see SB 1.2.11).

The Bhāgavatam verse referred to in this definition is the famous:

vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti
bhagavān iti śabdyate

vadanti — they say; tat — that; tattva-vidaḥ — the learned souls; tattvam — the Absolute Truth; yat — which; jñānam — knowledge; advayam — nondual; brahma iti — known as Brahman; paramātmā iti — known as Paramātmā; bhagavān iti — known as Bhagavān; śabdyate — it so sounded.

Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramātmā or Bhagavān.

Advaya jñāna is not the part we usually discuss there, though, and it’s not mentioned once in the purport, so it’s new. OTOH, there’s nothing conceptually new about it either – it’s the “nondual substance” in our translation, we just normally gloss over the term. If we look into word-for-word translation there’s no “substance” there, there’s only jñāna, knowledge, which could be a source of confusion.

In our default understanding knowledge and the object of knowledge are different so we can easily understand what “know the substance” means but when we talk about “nondual” then the difference between the act [or state] of knowing and the object of knowledge disappears. We can’t “know the Brahman” in the normal sense. On the platform of advaya-jñāna the difference between “know” and “Brahman” disappears, and I would argue that the “I” that supposedly “knows the Brahman” disappears, too.

This might sound impersonalist but it isn’t – our “I” is a product of a false ego, it doesn’t exist in the Absolute Realm and it ceases to exists when we attain advaya-jñāna. Impersonalists are our fellow transcendentalists and they speak the truth in this regard, the only part they miss is that even despite dissolution of our material identity we can revive our original spiritual one and thus get a new “I”, which, unlike the present one, will be “nondual” – qualitatively non-different form the Lord/Brahman. It won’t have material duality but it will be spiritually differentiated from the Lord.

Out of all schools of dvaita we with our bhedābheda are actually the closest to advaitins but at the same time we are their most outspoken opponents. Go figure. The difference is relatively small and unnoticeable on the material platform but it makes or breaks out future spiritual lives – denying existence of the transcendental form of the Lord, which we can’t even see, is our doom as devotees. As future devotees, I might add, for now we are only candidates with limited training.

Somehow the decision we make here now affects our future spiritual karma and we are warned with all seriousness and heft of our guru and predecessor ācāryas to make the right one. They must know and see something we don’t. Perhaps our human form of life IS very special and we should not trifle with our choices. They might appear innocent but they will have far reaching consequences.

Our reaction to hearing these warnings is to increase the level of hostility towards māyāvādīs and convince ourselves that we are nothing like them. It helps to stay the course but whether it’s factually true or not is a matter of dispute. The more we learn about impersonalism the more we notice it in ourselves. We notice impersonalism in our relationships with others, we notice our attraction to impersonalism we observe in the materialistic society, we notice impersonalism in our whimsical interpretations of śāstra or Prabhupāda’s instructions, it can be found everywhere, we just have to look hard enough.

Technically, every time we do not see something as manifestation of Kṛṣṇa’s energy is a sign of impersonalism. Anything we see as NOT Kṛṣṇa’s property is due to our impersonalism, too. Any place where we do not see Kṛṣṇa’s personal presence is impersonalism. There’s a lot of it to find in our lives. Most of the time we don’t even bother to look, which is another symptom of impersonalism – as if Kṛṣṇa wasn’t there.

Here how we can connect this Bhāgavatam definition with the one given in the glossary, which, I presume, was taken from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s usage. Advaya-jñāna is “knowledge that there is no difference between Kṛṣṇa and His names, forms..” When we say the word “Kṛṣṇa” and we do not see His personal presence and His direct control over everything else present in our view we are being impersonal and we do not possess advaya-jñāna. Once again – advaya-jñāna and advaita are actually opposite. On the advaya-jñāna platform we must see the Lord, on advaita we can’t.

All this talk about definitions and I didn’t even get to the heart of the matter, to why this concept of advaya-jñāna was so important to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta – it was one of his go to terms when talking about goals of devotional service. My excuse is that I’ve lost the sense of urgency myself in the time between conceiving this post and sitting down to actually type it. Perhaps I shouldn’t try to invoke it artificially and just go with what I have now.

Let’s take how the term was used in Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s last speech:

    All should remain united in following the āśraya-vigraha, for the sake of serving the advaya-jñāna.

Āśraya-vigraha here can be understood as either the guru (Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī himself) or Śrī Rādhā, doesn’t really matter, but look at “for the sake of serving the advaya-jñāna“. Here the term is non-different from Kṛṣṇa Himself. We should follow our ācāryas, all the way up to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, for the sake of serving Kṛṣṇa. See how the meaning of advaya-jñāna is different here from our default interpretation as “knowledge of non-dual substance”. We still see “Kṛṣṇa” and “knowledge” as different and we certainly use these two words differently in our everyday lives, even in conversations on spiritual topics, but this difference is illusory.

The point is that we should strive to achieve the real advaya-jñāna platform where this duality disappears. Unfortunately, we can’t take our opponents with us, we must leave our battles with them behind, they are not real, they are a product of illusion and we shouldn’t be attached. Arguing with atheists, with people from other Vedic schools, with fellow devotees – it’s all illusory, a product of a dual vision. It doesn’t matter, we need to know Kṛṣṇa first, then we can continue our arguments from a proper platform and illuminate these souls with proper advaya-jñāna.