There’s one aspect of the material energy, maya, prakriti, that I haven’t considered before oneness.
There’s only one maya, as far as we are concerned. It can surely manifest a great variety of things and appear to everyone as something different but it is truly one and only energy. It is said so in Bhagavat Gita 13.31 – nice verse number, mirroring the chapter, don’t you think?
Anyway, the verse says that we see a great variety of different and separate things and identities but they are all created by one and the same illusion.
Actually, I’m not sure I can safely use words like “illusion”, “prakriti” and “maya” interchangeably, there must be differences depending on context and the POV. Liberated souls can see the prakriti but they don’t fall in illusion over it, for example. Generally speaking, however, I assume no liberated soul would ever waste time on reading this blog so there’s no harm.
So, one illusion creates the perception of great variety of living and non-living forms. We perceive them as objectively different but they are not. Yes, there are spirit souls inside some material forms and there aren’t inside others but forms are still material.
We tend to give more value to life, as we see it, and we tend to give more value to human life and less value to insects or plants. This is an illusion – they are all the same, all created by the same prakriti and have nothing to do with the souls within.
Making such distinctions is practical for aspiring spiritualists as we have to navigate the ocean of material existence but once we have safely crossed it we will see all other forms of life as equally precious. Forget the Gita for a second – a devotee sees all living entities as equally dear to Krishna regardless of their material forms and he is eager to serve each and every one of them, too. Why do you think that happens? Because all the material differences we see in the “real” world are illusory.
So there is a place of a bit of mayavada in Krishna consciousness!
Oneness – never thought I would advocate it but it seems it is a necessary step on the path of self-realization.
There are several practical applications. First is bhava as mentioned twice in Siksashtaka – <bhava maha davagni and vishame bhava ambudhau, blazing fire of material existence and ocean of nescience respectively. When I recite the first verse I always assume that I’m talking about MY blazing fire of MY existence. This is wrong.
I assume that my “bhava”, my material existence is objectively mine, objectively different from anything else I perceive, as a subject. Well, not according to the Gita verse – I should develop the vision to see that ALL material manifestations of EVERYBODY’s existence is one and the same thing, being made of and situated in the same prakriti.
It is an illusion to see them as different and separate.
Maybe it’s easy to make this mistake when thinking about the first Siksashtaka verse, and equally easy to make the mistake when thinking about the fifth, but not if you carefully look at word for word translation – bhava ambudhau – the ocean of nescience. Ambudhau is ocean, bhava is nescience – you can’t possibly think of it as MY nescience. It’s just an ocean everybody has fallen in, one ocean for everyone, and it’s called bhava.
Now I have to make the shift in my (!?!) consciousness when reciting the prayers and trying to absorb their mood – it should no longer be about me. It’s not like chanting can extinguish my blazing fire but leave everybody else’s blazing on. I can’t wrap my(!?!) mind around it yet. This is exactly what I think is going to happen, isn’t it?
Well, objectively speaking, from the POV of myriads of bodies all objectively existing on their own, this is what will happen – one tiny soul, me, will cease to be under the illusion. This objective POV doesn’t exist, though. This transformation in my heart, if it ever happens, will be observed differently by my family members, for example. Some would say I’d gone nuts, others would be mildly understanding, but they all don’t exist as separate entities – it’s the same energy.
It’s one and the same illusion creating appearance of objectively different opinions that I am supposed to react to differently. So, it’s basically for my entertainment only – some opinions might enrage me and some might soothe my mind, and it’s maya’s choice which opinions to present. It might choose to hide what my uncle thinks and my mother might have an opinion but express something else in public.
Ultimately, the only judgment that matters is whether I agree to go along with this illusion of things that matter or stick to Krishna consciousness instead and let the maya play it out to her satisfaction and remain unperturbed. I’m perplexed how I would express my unperturbedness if the only means to do so are the ones provided by the same illusion – my mind, emotions, and intelligence. Probably I’ll have to figure out the way not to take it personally – stop looking at life from “what’s in it for me” angle.
Bottom line – there aren’t any people giving me any opinions – all of it is just maya’s play. Objectively they don’t exist.
There’s another practical implication and I think it’s a very useful one. You know how people often put you in hypothetical situations to try and prove that our adherence to vegetarianism is not absolute. Typically it goes like this – imagine you are one of the survivors of an airplane crash, ala that movie “Alive”, when people had to eat the flesh of the deceased crash victims to survive.
The question posed to us is – “What would you do if you life depended on it?” “Would you eat fish if you were on the deserted island?” is another variation.
To be honest, I never knew a good answer. All I could do is to hope that I will never be put in such a situation. Today, however, brings a whole new take on this. There’s no such thing as a combination of a miraculous survival, non-existent means of subsistence, and an odd Hare Krishna vegetarian. None of these things/conditions actually exists as separate entities free to combine or fall apart. People pose questions like this only from the POV of someone overcome by the illusion that the world we perceive has variety and freedoms. Those with better vision see it as manifestations of one and only material energy. There’s the soul, here’s bhava, and there’s the Lord, that’s all there is to it.
Maya serves the Lord and does only what He allows her to do. God is not expected to interfere in the dozen survivors, one fish, one frozen corpse scenario – none of those things exists. For Him there’s just the soul and the energy that can convince the soul to believe in this or that, or in eating fish or even cannibalism.
Of course, cannibalism is not conducive to self-realization and neither is fish eating and the question is better be posed this way – What would you mind and intelligence make your body to do if maya had manifested a situation like this? The correct answer would be – I don’t really care, it has nothing to do with me. Maya can do whatever she wants, I’m not in control of my mind and intelligence, she is.
Of course a conditioned soul can’t give this answer on its own, without engaging the same mind and intelligence that is not under the soul’s control, but, reversely, a conditioned soul won’t pose a question like this either – it can’t, it’s the same old maya playing the same old tricks on us. There’s no one to ask us questions, if we don’t imagine them ourselves, maya creates and illusion for us that they are real but they are not.
That’s why there will be no judgement day when I will have to answer questions under oath and my answers will seal my fate. This trial of a lifetime is also an illusion.
And the same goes for this blog, too.
Urghh, it’s so hard to find Krishna in this mess…