Vanity thought #1768. I cannot compute

Before continuing with Vedic Cosmology I want to say a few words about a nice metaphor I found in author’s article on Dandavats in November last year. I missed it then, sadly.

The article discusses devotees’ approach to science and it’s hard to summarize it in one post so I’ll just pick one apt comparison that illustrates the problem. We know world to be illusory. There are disagreements on the exact nature of this illusion in various schools on Hinduism and sometimes we ourselves are hard pressed to define our exact understanding of it. Regardless – illusion is involved in one way or another.

The consequence of this fact is that material nature produces falsities. Once again, we can argue if things are false or only our understanding of them is, but, in general, it means māyā convinces us that there’s no God. This particular aspect is compared in the article to a computer that prints out statements like “I cannot compute”. How can we interpret them?

Scientists can take the statement at face value – there’s no evidence of God’s existence in our empirical experience so there must be no God. This will lead to incomplete knowledge of reality – God is there but we don’t know it. The article shows that this kind of knowledge would be a falsity, avidyā, comparing to studying Vedic scriptures which make up inferior knowledge – aparā-vidyā.

The difference is quite important but I don’t want to talk about it today. Scientific knowledge is based on false representation of reality, on māyā, and so it does’t produce any truth. This seems like an overstretch at first but, methodologically, all moderns scientific theories are false and are waiting to be replaced by something better, which will also be eventually found false and replaced again.

Another food for thought in that article is that when we think that avidyā or apara-vidya relate to this world while parā-vidyā relates to spiritual world where we all want to go then this thinking is aparā-vidyā in itself because it implies seeking liberation from this world rather than correct understanding of it. Parā-vidyā is not somewhere out there but how we should see THIS world correctly, too. Parā-vidyā is a vision of paramahaṁsas and they are not seeking liberation and transfers to anywhere else – they see Kṛṣṇa in everything already.

Back to confusing “cannot compute” prints. If we accept God’s existence it would be contradictory to what māyā prints out for us. In practice it would lead to endless questions that start with “If your God was real, then why..?” Once again, our experiences are created by māyā and her work is to deny God every step of the way, so there will always be contradictions between “beliefs” and “real life”.

The author applies “cannot compute” contradiction differently and I don’t fully get it. I think it goes like this – regardless of whether a devotee or a scientist, a person would accept some things as literal truth and will try to interpret what appears to be false. That is, if we accept the fact that railway tracks run parallel as literal truth than the vision of them converging on the horizon appears as falsity and, therefore, needs an interpretation (solved as visual illusion) – it is not taken literally for what it is. Devotees take the opposite approach – we declare deities, gurus, and scriptures as truth and interpret the rest of the world because it appears to us as false.

Unlike the devotees, scientists take the lie (“I cannot compute”) as truth but this lie contains a contradiction (a computer that computes that it cannot compute) and so everything that starts from here will have more and more contradictions piling up. This is why science always have new theories because old ones can’t explain contradictions, and it resigns to the fact that new theories will have contradictions of their own, too.

What is not clear to me is why both incompleteness and contradiction rise from the same literal interpretation of the statement. In fact, two statements seem to be considered here, or rather two different readings of the same one. The reading that leads to incompleteness denies existence of either God or a computer, and the reading leading to contradictions implies acceptance of God – the “I” in “I cannot compute”. Scientists do not accept God so the second case should not apply to them but rather to religionists.

Contradictions, however, are an important feature of modern science and it’s the one all of them should always be aware of, though it might not be taught at schools. I think the author argues that scientific theories are either incomplete or inconsistent because he discussed Gödel’s theorems elsewhere. I thought I understood these theorems but now I realize that my brain is not what it used to be and, presented formally, they become undecipherable. In short – we can create theories with axioms and solid logic but in the end our theories will be incomplete, and if we make them complete they will become inconsistent. This is a law that we can’t avoid and it has been widely accepted with only a few holdouts that argue the theorems has not been proven.

It would be nice to demonstrate how our different approaches to “I cannot compute” statement resulted in logical systems described by Gödel, that the results would be either incomplete, or, if complete, it would be inconsistent. Perhaps Ashish Dalela covered it somewhere else but this is what we have in this article and Gödel is not even mentioned.

I don’t disagree with the author when he says that modern academia runs in problems with consistency if they accept “I cannot compute” statement as true, I just feel that this approach fits more with religionists than with scientists.

In any case, the important point for us here is that all of this arises from science not recognizing the world as illusory but going along with the illusion instead. Even Christians and Muslims don’t include illusion in their theology so they are constantly dogged by questions about the source of evil and others in the same vein. Knowledge of māyā is indispensable to having a correct knowledge of reality.

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Vanity thought #1605. Random fit

There are some Christians who love to open their Bible and pick random verses to find answers to their pertinent problems. There are also those who don’t think it works. When it does, however, they tell everyone about this “miracle”. It’s hard to take these claims seriously, mostly because the connections look very stretched and, with enough imagination, you can probably connect each and every verse with anything you want.

Anyway, I had a few spare minutes today and I decided to read a random verse from our books, too. I had a mobile phone with me and I thought it would be a perfect randomizer. Phones screens are still relatively small so if you want to pick a link that you want you really have to read and watch where you are clicking, but phones are perfect for flipping the page to let it scroll however far it feels like going and then poking in the middle of the screen on whatever happens to be there. So I opened vedabase.com/en/sb/ and picked a random Bhāgavatam verse. TBH, it wasn’t really random – the selected Canto must be somewhere in the middle, then the selected chapter would be somewhere in the middle, too, and then the selected verse. There was a very little chance I’d pick SB 1.1.3 or something like that. I ended up with SB 7.7.8:

    Prahlāda Mahārāja said: My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahmā, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Random or not, but this is a relatively famous śloka we all remember. Maybe not Sanskrit but the verse is certainly known to every devotee, we can’t tell the story of Prahlāda Mhārāja without mentioning it. I don’t want to sound superstitious but this could be considered a very good pick on any random day and it also fits perfectly with the theme of my recent half a dozen posts.

But first – the superstitious part. There’s no such thing as a superstition, it’s an atheist invention and there’s nothing more to it than that. I don’t mean that all superstitions are real and atheists are totally wrong about it, I mean that people who “believe” in them are atheists, too – because they do not see the Lord and His connection to every material or spiritual phenomenon. When they find what they think is such a connection, a proof of supernatural supervision, they still do not see all-pervasive nature of these “interventions”.

I mean how can they talk about “interventions” when the Lord controls movements of every single blade of grass? They still see the world as separate from the Lord and the Lord only occasionally interfering, and not even being subtle about it – because these “seers” of omens can predict His every move. Well, not every seer attributes superstitions to God’s hand but that makes them only slightly more atheistic than those who do. The Lord controls everything, in and out, in the past and the future, and He knows everything and He arranged everything to happen exactly like He wanted long long time ago. He might delegate running the universe but it doesn’t take away His complete cognizance. It’s also not a matter of how much He can be bothered to remember like it is with us, He remembers absolutely everything in full, including the future, so the verb “remember” doesn’t apply either, it’s as anthropomorphic as us assuming He’s got the same memory as us but better.

To be fair, I didn’t mean these people to be atheists in a sense of openly rejecting God’s existence, I meant they do not perceive Him and so act as if He isn’t there or as if His powers are very limited.

The more important part is the meaning of the verse itself – the Lord is the source of everyone’s power. The way we usually tell it we stop at that and continue onto how the Lord was the source of Prahlāda’s power, a five year old boy who defied the mightiest person in the universe, but let’s pause a little and contemplate other implications of this śloka, namely how the Lord was the source of Hiraṇyakaśipu’s power as well.

Normally, we’d acknowledge it in the sense that Hiraṇyakaśipu was misusing power he ultimately derived from the Lord and then we cheer justice being restored but let’s rewind it a little – “the demon’s power came from the Lord”, and let it sink in. Do we normally see the power of our opponents as coming from Kṛṣṇa? And why do we cheer defeat of such power? Why, if we know that everyone draws his power from Kṛṣṇa, we want to defeat and destroy them?

I think that’s the difference between us and Prahlāda Mahārāja, who is one of the principal mahājanas. He had absolutely no beef with his father and absolutely no desire to see His father defeated and deflated. We, in his place, would be all “let’s kill the demon, let’s show him who is the boss, someone must finally stop him.” It’s not a very mature approach – what we call a “demon” is nothing else but a display of Lord’s prowess.

Of course there’s also a matter of the soul occupying this particular corner of the universe being inimical towards God but we should know better than accept his deluded claims of ownership as real. When we do and demand that this soul was stripped off its demoniac powers we display the same delusional mentality as he does. It’s not his powers, it’s Lord’s powers. They never slipped out of Lord’s control and they never belonged to anybody else.

When we see a display of Lord’s might we should rather offer it respect and appreciation, how else would a devotee react? All learning, all remembrance, all ability to argue, all ability to fight – it all comes from the Lord, even if it’s used in so-called opposition to Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism. No one can oppose Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism just as no one can oppose Viṣṇu Himself, it is simply not possible.

What we see as opposition is only a display of our unfortunate ignorance – when we go along with other people’s foolish claims and accept them as substantial. They are clearly in illusion, what’s our excuse?

All the claims about other spiritual paths and methods being equal to and even superior to ours exist only on the material platform, they have no spiritual substance whatsoever, and so we shouldn’t lower ourselves to that level and entertain them for real. It’s like someone rolling his boogers, sticking them into his mouth, claiming that they are very tasty and nutritious, and offering you to try some, too. It’s insane, especially if coming from a grown up man, and you are not going to win that argument no matter what you try. Why would you want to step into this delusional world at all?

And at the same time all the arguments they bring, all the quotes, all the logic, all the support, are a display of Kṛṣṇa’s powers and as such deserves our worship. It’s not meant to harm us just as Prahlāda Mahārāja didn’t see his father as a threat to himself – it’s Lord’s energy and the only “harm” it could do is to our false ego.

A devotee literally doesn’t have enemies because “enemies” is a product of the illusion, for a devotee there’s only the Lord and His energies, and then other spirit souls relating to the Lord in their own manner. None of that is even remotely threatening, rather the opposite.

Fear is a product of māyā, as simple as that.

Vanity thought #1377. Creating reality

Yesterday I talked about how choosing events from our past determines our future. Stated like this it doesn’t sound controversial at all but I also propose snapping out of our illusion that future is important. Then focusing solely on the past starts to look differently.

The argument against the value of the future is that it’s unknown and immutable at the same time. There’s nothing we can do to actually change it and so thinking about it is useless, it will happen anyway and on its own terms, not ours.

I can add that thinking about the future keeps us anchored in karma-kanda mentality – we do something and expect certain results. Karma kanda is not bhakti, at best it can be a karma-miśra bhakti, but neither karma nor miśra part of that term are of any interest to the Lord, they are anarthas we should eventually give up, not foster. Giving up karma mentality means giving up thinking about the future.

We can also think of Kṛṣṇa’s promise to protect His devotees, ma śucaḥ, He says, don’t worry. It means that once we surrender to the Lord we should stop caring about what happens to us, meaning that we should stop worrying about the future.

Sannyāsī, for example, should not worry about where his food is coming from. If a person makes preparations for tomorrow – keeps salt in a jar, for example, or makes ghee, or gets a cow, or buys a refrigerator – he is not a renunciate and should return to the status of gṛhastha, a householder.

Renunciation means giving up thinking about tomorrow’s food, tomorrow’s shelter, tomorrow’s source of income – giving up thinking about future.

It is true that renunciation is not for everyone and in this day and age it is not encouraged, considering that only very few people are capable of living such a life, but it doesn’t mean renunciation is not valuable. It is, and partly because it frees one from slavery to his future.

It is also true that many of the followers of Lord Caitanya were householders, and so was Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, but they weren’t householders like us, they weren’t attached to their material positions, meaning they didn’t worry about the future, they simply acted according to their nature without any claims to things they “deserved”.

The argument can be made that in devotional service we must ensure that the outcomes are pleasing to the Lord, we must take responsibility, and so we must worry about the future. Not for ourselves but for Kṛṣṇa. Okay, but Kṛṣṇa is not pleased by the outcomes, He is pleased by attitudes in our hearts. If we think that outcomes matter – collected donations, sold books etc then we are slipping back into the karma-miśra-bhakti mode.

The argument can also be made that while Kṛṣṇa might be indifferent to our external achievements our guru clearly isn’t. Śrīla Prabhupāda clearly loved the results. True, but not if they were achieved without proper devotion. He loved the outcomes because they were results of his disciples’ devotion. We can’t try to cheat our guru or the Lord here – claim that because we have results we must also have bhakti. No, the guru sees devotion in his disciples and waits until this devotion fructifies. Buying these fruits elsewhere does not please him. If they are not results of bhakti they are worthless.

But enough of that.

If we realize that future doesn’t matter and concerns about it fade away from our consciousness, what is left? Only our past. It’s hard to explain how it feels, and it’s hard to maintain this attitude, but once the burden of worrying about the future falls off our shoulders one will never forget the feeling. We are so used to being under this stress we can’t imagine life without it. It exists, however, and it’s very very pleasant even without bhakti – it’s life in the mode of goodness, free of passion to achieve things in the future.

Life in goodness supposed to exist in the present, however, not the past. Past is for the mode of ignorance. That’s not how I mean to treat our past, however. I proposed to choose only what is related to Kṛṣṇa and forget everything else. A person under the mode of ignorance would dwell on the opposite set of memories.

On the spiritual plane a devotee feels the Lord’s presence all the time, it comes to him naturally. We, however, must force ourselves to remember about Kṛṣṇa. We don’t get to see His pastimes in real time, we have to refer to what we have read in Kṛṣṇa book or what we have heard from other devotees, and all these things come from our past.

I have a feeling that once we get actual spiritual realizations and actual appreciation for the Lord we’ll stop “remembering” stories, stop putting them in organized fashion, but rather focus on certain aspects of Lord’s nature, like Kṛṣṇa’s playfulness or His care about His devotees. I mean we won’t have to explain to ourselves all the events preceding the situation and so won’t need to remember how the story was told, we’ll only care about that particular moment.

We are not there yet, however, and so, instead of dreaming about the future, I propose to concentrate on our past while waiting for the past to fade away, too.

The central point of yesterday’s argument was that things we select from our past determine our reality. It will be subjective, but so what?

It was exactly a year ago that I wrote a few good words about Donald Rumsfeld. However unusual his conclusions were, his arguments made a lot of sense, too. Today it’s the turn of another Bush era strategist – Karl Rove, who is believed to be the aide in this quote (NY Times):

    The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.

The quote continues but it’s these words that interest me here. The common reaction is that Rove is a right wing neo-con lunatic and dismiss it out of hand but actually this position makes a lot of sense. When we act we create our own reality.

The problem with accepting this view is that people expect the same results as from their “objective” reality. Perhaps Rove expected the same results, too. Perhaps he thought that they could do whatever they want, create their own reality, and still come on top. It’s not how it works, however – their administration created their own reality alright but the results were unexpected.

We, however, know what the results of thinking about Kṛṣṇa are, and we are totally fine with them. Outsiders might measure them by their own yardstick and talk about us ruining our lives but we shouldn’t care. Let them have their “objective” reality and study and dissect it all they want, however judiciously. We WILL create our own reality, develop devotion to the Lord, and then skeptics can study that, too.

We should remember that solutions in Kṛṣṇa consciousness do not come from studying and weighing choices but from acting. Life is short, we can’t spent all of it on arguing why saṇkīrtana is theoretically better, that’s not very intelligent – we should take a chance, see that it works, and dedicate the rest of our lives to practicing.

Bottom line – we should create our own reality regardless of what the world thinks, and we can do it by meditating on Kṛṣṇa related memories.

Vanity thought #1376. Making of the past

As I argued yesterday, it’s the past that is all important. We think we create our future but that’s only an illusion, what we actually do is dwell in our past, all the time.

It doesn’t mean that our actions do not create future karma, they most certainly do, but my point was that future karma is unimportant. Karma doesn’t work according to our desires and we have no control over it. We are forced to act according to our nature and according to the influence of material guṇas and there’s nothing we can do about it. As spirit souls we are not the party to the process, the world will keep rolling on its own with or without our willing participation.

We can try to predict the future but we can’t change it. Astrologers always tell us about remedies and counteractions to alleviate our bad karma and increase our good fortune but it’s a fool’s errand. Whichever way you look at it, it makes no sense. If we have the possibility and means to change our astrological destiny, it should be reflected in our horoscope, too. If it’s not there then no matter how much we try it won’t happen. And if changing our future was as simple as wearing a ring with allegedly precious stone then other things might influence it as well, and that makes mockery of the entire prediction business. What if the astrologer looks and my chart and sees something that has been remedied decades ago? The chart is still the same, but “destiny” isn’t.

That is not to say that precious stones don’t work. They do, but they don’t change the future, which is cast in another kind of stone, immutable and impossible to break, metaphorical but still powerful.

There’s also an argument I made a couple of days ago that the future and the past are so closely linked together that separating them doesn’t make a lot of sense, it’s like solving a chicken and egg problem. The past and the future are inseparable and the distinction is observed only by those under the illusion of time. Outside of time the difference doesn’t exist, it’s all kind of the same, with our relationships with the Lord being the only thing that matters.

Does our relationship with the Lord change with time? Possibly, we can see signs of spiritual progress, signs of awakening from the illusion, but even this process can be explained outside of the frame imposed by passage of time. Sometimes it is said that the only thing that matters is coming into contact with the mercy of the devotees. Once it happens, the soul is as good as liberated. Surrender could happen tomorrow or next year or even in the next life but it’s inevitable, and sooner or later, maybe a hundred lives later, the soul would return to Kṛṣṇa.

We think that these hundred lives matter and we’d rather complete the process in a few days but our perception of time is relative. Once we develop required patience time will fly without even noticing. Hundred human lives is less than a thousand years, nothing compared to the reign of just one Manu, and there are fourteen of them in the day of Lord Brahmā, and one day of Brahmā includes only one Kṛṣna’s appearance. I once heard that sages who became gopīs in Kṛṣṇa līlā had to try FIVE times to be with the Lord before they were allowed into the rasa dance. Five days of Brahmā and our desire to see Kṛṣṇa today are incomparable.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that devotees had to wait five days of Brahmā, they could be transferred to suitable universes right away, but even five lifetimes WITH Kṛṣṇa but without obtaining full mercy is a lot comparing to our present impatience.

Anyway, the future is unknown but unchangeable and unavoidable, and so focusing on the future is a waste of time. The future is created by our past, and so if we want to change our destiny we should change our past.

Is it possible? Not really, but as conscious beings it’s the only area of action available to us – observing the world around us, which is always observation of our past. Both in a sense that the star light shows us what happened there billions of years ago and in a sense that we can’t actually catch the present moment, everything we deal with is always in the past, however close or distant.

So, can we change the past? Quantum mechanics suggests we can, as I described yesterday. Our observation determines what happened.

It flies in the face of the idea of objective reality and truth and facts. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts, as they say. There’s only one true version of events and it must be uncovered, our subjectivity is the enemy of knowledge, and so on, one argument after another.

It’s all very well, but the only objective person in the world is Kṛṣṇa, and we are not Him. The fact is that all our lives we live and act subjectively. When our versions of reality align with versions of other observers it’s just that – temporary sync of two subjectivities, possibly leading to a shared karma.

These days it’s very easy to find examples of people stubbornly clinging to their opinions regardless of all kinds of facts and arguments. Current wisdom is that debates only strengthen people’s respective positions. It might not have been designed that way initially but this is where we are now – the more people argue the better they convince themselves. Their own subjectivity always, always takes precedence.

And once their opinions are cast, so is their destiny. They are free to hold all kinds of views but they are not free from the reactions.

So, my point is that we, as devotees, can take full advantage of this situation and create a selective view of the past that would bring us closer to Kṛṣṇa.

Once again, by past here I mean everything we see and remember, all our memories and experiences, all our ideas and opinions and choices. We can choose to see only those of them that are related to the Lord and ignore all others. It would make us subjective but so what? It’s exactly the kind of subjectivity we want.

Others might say things like “remember this one time when you…” or “didn’t you tell me you wanted that…” and they might conclude that we are hypocrites lying even to ourselves but so what? Selecting memories of Kṛṣṇa over our moments of weakness is totally worth it. Even Kṛṣṇa picks and chooses only our service form our lives.

Dwelling on negatives, on the memories when the Lord wasn’t there, OTOH, would only lead to further enslavement by the material nature. Who needs that?

By picking only certain moments from our history we forge our new identity, once the karma from past deeds runs out this new identity will start bringing its dividends and will become obvious to all, that’s how karma works. Habits and characters don’t change overnight, patience is still required.

The real question is – do we have freedom to choose what to remember and focus our consciousness on? I would say no, not really, but in as much as we feel we have this freedom we should use it. People telling us to do this are not changing our destination, they are fulfilling it. Kṛṣṇa said He would bring us back to Him and He does so through the help of the guru and the devotees. Every class, every advice, every casually dropped instruction affects our mode of thinking and slowly but steadily captures our minds. If we are free to resist this pressure it would be the most foolish thing to do, but that’s where our real independence lies, so we better not to abuse it.

Bottom line, if we take responsibility for developing our devotion then we should focus on how we view our past instead of dreaming about future.

Vanity thought #1372. Latest weirdness

Just as I was arguing against our common perception of the world science came up with a perfect illustration. Well, maybe not so perfect because it doesn’t seem to convince anyone but me so far, and it’s my interpretation that is perfect for my point, not anybody else’s.

You know how quantum mechanics turned the world upside down in the last century. So did Einstein’s relativity, but Einstein dealt with speeds of light and massive galaxies while quantum mechanics studies things we can fairly easily test down here on Earth and it’s down here on Earth that QM comes up with mind blowing and counterintuitive stuff.

Maybe these days they teach differently but I still imagine atoms as nuclei surrounded by orbiting electrons and I imagine electric current as electrons bumping into each other and passing charges. In QM, however, electron is not a thing flying around, it’s not a point in space and it’s not a particle. It is BOTH particle and a wave.

I’ll start with basics. Imagine electrons shooting out of an electron gun and hitting a target on the other side of the room. Now imagine we put a screen in the middle with two windows. As a particle an electron would have to pass through either of those windows to hit the target, it can’t pass through two windows simultaneously, no one does that. Now imagine this room being half filled with water. You start a wave on your side and register its arrival on the other end. The wave will pass through both windows in the screen, and the windows will also create an interference as the wave exits from them.

So, electrons behave like that – sometimes like waves and sometimes like particles. Okay we all have learned to live with that.

This time, however, people who already spend their lives walking upside down in Australia went a step further. They’ve created an experiment where they isolated a single atom, not an electron, and they shot it through two screens made of lasers. How they achieved that doesn’t really matter. The second screen could adjust the interference created by the wave passing through the first screen or they could turn it off completely.

Basically, they looked at the atom after the second screen, which they manipulated in various ways, and they could tell whether the atom traveled like a wave or a particle when it passed through the first screen. So the atom starts traveling, goes past the first screen, goes past the second screen, and then they take the measurements.

The weird part is that Australians reversed the flow of time here. By manipulating the second screen they could manipulate how atom behaved when it passed through the first screen moments before. In everyday situations the second screen should have no effect on what happened before the atom reached it but in this experiment it did. They thought they changed second screen settings randomly but found that the atom always behaved according to how it was going to be measured, or observation created “reality”. And not just at the moment of looking, but the past reality, too.

The wave vs particle duality is explained in various ways. One easy model is to think of an electron like if it was a cylinder. If you look at the cylinder from the top it looks like a circle but if you look at it from the side it looks like a rectangle. Similarly, the way we measure the electron reveals a different side of its actual nature, either wave or particle.

In this experiment, however, the atom changed its behavior backwards in time, which is what makes it truly weird.

So far there aren’t any easy explanations for this. The math checks out, but scientists still can’t wrap their heads around what it actually means.

There are several theories for this kind of phenomena. Some are more popular, some are more radical, some are better researched, but nothing has been definitely ruled out yet.

One version says that there are multiple universes co-existing in each moment of time and they can overlap or diverge at will. Thus the same atom can behave as a particle in one universe and as a wave in another, but in each universe its behavior is consistent. So, if five minutes later we see it as a particle it could have been only a particle in our universe, and if we see it as a wave it was a wave all along, too. In some other universe the same atom could have behaved in the opposite way.

Another version says that time actually flows backwards and what we see are not results but causes of our past. This is what I suggested just the other day. It’s not that what happens now determines the future, but now determines the past. The history that we think is cast in stone really depends on how we look at it.

It would also mean that we can all look at history differently and it would make total sense to us even while contradicting to other observers – their history depends on how THEY look at it now.

Of course, no scientist is prepared to take this theory that far but it would be a nice side effect, wouldn’t it?

Actually, it would go somewhat against our insistence that there’s only one truth – Kṛṣṇa, and we don’t get to make up our own reality, but an easy explanation is that the reality is indeed one but what we get to make our own are our illusions.

This means there’s no history of the universe as such and our views are extremely subjective. Our perception of history would depend on our attitude towards it today. This conclusion might be controversial but it complies with our observations, it accounts nicely for the diversity of views and for bone-headed stubbornness of the opposing sides. Whatever they say makes sense to them and the same principle applies to all of us, too. We all have our own, personal version of history that is often at odds with how other people saw it.

Quantum mechanics sort of explains how it could have happen.

Now, if we insist that truth is only one and it would set you free, and that might very well be the case, it doesn’t break this theory because people have different illusions, not different truths, and those illusions are not going to liberate them but rather attach a busload of karma. Isn’t it what happens when people twist what we think as the reality and then suffer for it?

I should end with a disclaimer that I have no qualifications to judge the results of that experiment and my interpolations from QM into philosophy might be totally unjustified, but as long as they loosen the grip the illusion has on us it should not be a complete waste of time.

Vanity thought #1371. Why care?

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.

Vanity thought #1357. Illusion substitution

I’m away from my digital library and I don’t want to search and download all the books I need to continue the story of Haridāsa Ṭhākura, so let’s talk about something else.

The world around us is a pretty grim place, completely devoid of devotion to the Lord. There are many religions around and plenty of people identifying themselves as religious but they are usually not a company we would rather keep. Sometimes even fellow devotees behave in not so inspiring ways, sadly. Of course we always have books and lectures and kīrtana recordings but they are not a part of this world, it’s stuff imported from Vaikuṇṭha.

Some people manage to live on imported stuff just fine, usually when they are long term guests or recent immigrants to a country. On the first visit the new culture is attractive but after a while people start to long for familiar tastes of home and that’s when they scout local stores for imported products to satisfy their cravings. It never works in the long term, however.

Imported stuff is expensive, it takes too much time and energy to keep supplies refilled on time, and it just doesn’t match up with the rest of your life, locals don’t appreciate it and think you are weird, you have no one to share your little joys with, and so sooner or later you are forced to go native.

Perhaps that’s what happens to us in the material world, too, and now we are at the stage of rediscovering our lost identity. This presents us with the need to go on an imported diet once again and it’s hard, for all the same reasons it was impossible to maintain it when we just arrived. No one appreciates it, supplies are scarce and expensive, and in many ways we already got used to the substitutes.

Our temples are like embassies from Vaikuṇṭha in this sense, they’ve got all the stuff we need culturally and nutritionally, but for most people they are still only a once in a week experience. In between we are forced to live off the land, looking for sparks of spiritual life in otherwise dull environment. Sometimes we find stuff, sometimes stuff finds us. Well, if it happens to me it must have happened to other people, too.

For a paramahaṁsa everything is a reminder of Kṛṣṇa, everything he sees is Kṛṣṇa’s energy, he never sees anything as illusory, but for us it’s different. When something reminds us of Kṛṣṇa we know that we are looking at the material energy, which is inferior and is a cause of our bondage, so we can never trust it. We can say that matter itself is neutral and the cause of our bondage lies somewhere else but for us it’s only a theoretical understanding. When we see an attractive female form, for example, we think that it’s this form that is illusion and it’s this form that provokes our lust. So, when the same form reminds us of Kṛṣṇa we are very skeptical. “Yeah, right,” we think to ourselves, “it’s just māyā’s trick, this feeling is not really spiritual, I’ll get contaminated if we let my consciousness dwell on it.”

And yet today I want to talk in defense of such experiences, sometimes they are mind blowing and therefore cannot be ignored. Stuff that shakes our souls needs to be dealt with one way or another. We need to understand what and why and how and whether we need to reject it or cleverly engage it in Kṛṣṇa’s service.

Four years ago (has it been this long?) I wrote a post about a monologue from a TV show. Re-reading it today made me queasy and it looks like I was more daring back then, that I was really taking it to the edge just for the dramatic effect, to demonstrate the gems we sometimes find in the world around us. In that monologue I substituted the object of affection, and ordinary woman, with Kṛṣṇa. I guess one can do it with any love poem but that one struck a chord with me back then.

We do not normally say such things about the Lord, it’s not for us to use this language and express these feelings, and that’s why reading this feels uncomfortable but the analysis in the rest of the post was spot on, I’m actually quite proud of myself for that.

Now, the question is whether taking that monologue seriously and transferring it to Kṛṣṇa was justified. First of all, that’s not what I did there. I wasn’t searching and then creating something. I just heard it unexpectedly and as I was processing the words I saw parallels with Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It was the case of “stuff finds me”.

It’s rude to look in the mouth of a gifted horse. If something I heard unexpectedly reminded me of Kṛṣṇa and provoked strong reaction it would be similarly rude to reject it outright.

Was the reaction based on spiritual or material attachments? TBTH, I haven’t thought about a woman as the subject of that expression of love even for a second. I did not substitute woman with Kṛṣṇa when I was listening, I did that later when I adapted it for the blog. Unless I am lying to myself, I did not transfer material emotions on the Lord, I did not make the Lord the object of material attachment, as sahajiyā would have done.

Moreover, I did not even think of the Lord Himself but of similar prayers by devotees like Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura. I didn’t think of emotions of the gopīs but of the emotions of those glorifying them.

Material objects reminding one of Kṛṣṇa was a persistent phenomenon in later life of Lord Caitanya. He’d see a hill and think of Govardhana, for example. He’d see the ocean and think of Yamunā. My experience wasn’t anything like that. I don’t have any attachment to neither Govardhana nor Yamunā, nor to the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, nor to the beauty of His face etc. Nothing can remind me of Kṛṣṇa because there’s nothing for me to remember. What I can remember is other people praying to Him and that’s what that monologue reminded me of.

This is the best protection against sahajiyā tendencies I can think of – do not make the Lord the object of one’s attraction, but Lord’s devotees and THEIR glorification of Kṛṣṇa. Let things remind us how OTHER people serve the Lord, it’s just as nectarian and it’s much much safer.

There’s another such illusory thing that substitutes for spiritual experience when there’s nothing better around and I think I’ll write about it tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1353. Teachings of Haridasa Thakura 11

Let’s talk about snakes. There are two episodes with snakes among the stories about Haridāsa Ṭhākura, both described in Caitanya Bhāgavata but not in Caitanya Caritāmṛta.

It’s not clear if these two events happened in sequence or if they were separated by many years. Śrīla Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura simply said “listen to another wonderful incidence involving king of snakes”. It could have happened at any time, therefore, even before marketplace beatings. The first one, however, was just after Haridāsa was released by Muslims and found himself a cave on the bank of Ganges.

Now, I can’t imagine how he could find such a place. Nothing in the present day topography of Phuliyā suggests presence of the caves. There aren’t any mountains of even hills in that area, it’s all flat and probably flooded from time to time. How could there be a cave there “on the bank of Ganges”. Look at this Panoramio photo that shows how Phuliyā looks from the Ganges itself:

Perhaps they means something else, not a cave in a traditional sense, perhaps it’s just a washed away hollow in an otherwise sandy bank. Perhaps the land around it is supported by root systems of big trees rather than by rocks. Must ask devotees who actually live there, they might have a better explanation.

Anyway, Haridāsa Ṭhākura moved into such a cave but it already had an occupant – a giant poisonous snake. No one had seen it, however. The snake exuded overwhelming, choking, eye-irritating gas that everyone complained about. People just couldn’t stay there, it was a local physician who, listening to the symptoms, suggested that the presence of the snake somewhere deep in the cave.

It was all water of the duck’s back for Śrīla Haridāsa, didn’t bother him at all. Yet, seeing people complaining about it and realizing that no one would come to visit and hear him chanting if he didn’t do something about it, he agreed to move. Chanting in a cave is a practice of nirjana-bhajana and the way it’s ordinary understood it’s not meant to be disturbed by ordinary people. There was a devotee in Prabhupāda’s time who chanted half of Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s daily limit. He got himself a hut in Māyāpura and he complained to Prabhupāda of being disturbed by others all the time. Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura was not that kind of bhajanānandi, he was not an ordinary bhajanānandi at all, he enjoyed preaching, not personal bhajana.

Therefore, he proclaimed that it the snake doesn’t leave by next morning he would leave himself. I’m just trying to picture how it looked. Haridāsa said that he had no idea there was a snake inside and while everyone’s eyes, throats, and noses burned he didn’t feel anything. At this point, however, was he talking to the yet unseen snake? It looks this way, he probably meant the snake to hear his promise/threat.

Or maybe he was talking to the Lord, not to the snake. He saw some people complaining and threatening never to come to hear the holy name and engage in spiritual discussions and he appealed to the Lord, or to the holy name, seeing them as non-different. If the obstacle, the “snake”, or whatever it was that prevented his visitors from engaging in saṅkīrtana, doesn’t clear out by tomorrow, then Haridāsa would have to search for a new place for their gatherings. He didn’t see it as “his” place, he saw it as a place for preaching.

For me, I would talk to the invisible snake, I see it as a separate object I can try to establish relationship with and, with the magic of the Holy Name, find a way to have influence over. Haridāsa Ṭhākura, however, most likely didn’t see the “snake” as a separate phenomenon, just a fluke in the force, something in the illusion that wasn’t conducive to devotional service, so he talked directly to the Lord.

If this is true then it’s an important lesson. We should not treat external phenomena as having any life on their own, in the vision of a parahaṁsa there are only three entities – living entity, the Lord, and the external energy acting under Lord’s direction. Every relationship he has is a relationship with the Lord and never with external phenomena.

Does he have relationships with other living entities? I don’t think so, only in as much as they both can relate to the Lord at the same time. We don’t talk to sleeping people, we understand that they don’t hear us, and for the parahaṁsa everybody “living” under illusion appears as sleeping, too. We can see people dreaming and being very absorbed in their imagination but we don’t try to reason with them about what they see, perhaps wake them up and tell that it was just a dream, nothing to worry about. Similarly, a paramahaṁsa might shake us up a little and tell us that all our troubles are just an illusion while we want help with the villains chasing us in our nightmares.

We can adjust a sleeping man’s pillow or cover him with a blanket, we can turn off the lights, open or close windows etc. We can do all kinds of things that will hardly be even noticed but we know they are for that man’s ultimate benefit and he’d be thankful for that in the morning. Similarly, a paramahaṁsa is only concerned with the ultimate benefit of the conditioned souls who might not even notice his help in their illusion.

Hmm, it makes sense now that Haridāsa Ṭhākura wasn’t addressing the snake, the way charlatans pretending to be mediums and seers do, or even the way we might address a kid who is hiding somewhere around. He talked to the Lord directly, asking Him to do whatever is necessary for the benefit of the conditioned souls who came to complain to him about their nightmares about some snake.

As soon as he said this, the snake appeared from insides of the cave and slithered out in everybody’s view. Śrīla Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura specifically mentioned that it was early evening and everybody saw that snake, it wasn’t imaginary. It was large, fearsome, but also wonderful and beautiful – in Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura’s words. It was colored yellow, blue, and white and had a brilliant jewel adorning its head, which somehow reminded everybody about Kṛṣṇa.

Everybody felt relieved and developed great faith in Haridāsa Ṭhākura but the book says that for Haridāsa himself the episode was nothing special.

As for the identity of that snake – we will never know, but the second snake episode tells us to have some respect for the best of their species, I’ll discuss that next time.

Vanity thought #1344. Dreamy reality 2

So I had a dream, big whoop, and yet I think that somehow dreams matter, matter much more than we usually care. Some people don’t remember their dreams at all as if they don’t have any and on most nights I belong in the same category but, I believe, dreams still have impact on our consciousness, or rather subconsciousness in the modern speak.

My main point, thought, is that dreams are just as real as an “objective reality”.

In a normal discussion one cannot bring up whatever he saw in his dream as an argument. Dreams are a fiction of one’s mind, even Śrīla Prabhupāda classified them this way, so they shouldn’t be taken seriously. This doesn’t tell the whole picture, though.

It’s true only in our conditioned frame of reference where we see workings of our minds as fundamentally different from external, observable, and therefore objective reality we all share. There’s a universe outside us and we are all a part of it. Things that happen within the universe are a common experience for us all. Whatever happens within our minds cannot be observed by outsiders and is not replicable, and therefore is not objective and inadmissible as evidence.

The actual reality is different, very different. We all are just a collection of souls outside of time and space. There’s no distance between us or between us and the Lord. The universe can be as big or as small as we can possibly imagine because our perception of it depends on our particular illusioning.

The actual reality is our relationship with Kṛṣṇa that is perverted by the illusion. At this point He serves us a virtual reality where we can pretend He doesn’t exist and imagine ourselves as doers and free willers and enjoyers. The purpose of the illusion is to satisfy this desire and it doesn’t really matter how, just that the objective is met.

When we look at the world this way the difference between external and internal disappears, those are conventions based on the false ego. Ultimately, both dreams and “real” events are based on the same material energy. We can’t observe anything beyond this world and we can’t dream of anything not rooted in our physical experiences either.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether pleasing thoughts and feelings come to us in real or in a dream world, experience is the same. We can say that in real world it lasts longer but perception of time in the dream is different. REM sleep might last only a few minutes but what we think happens to us in our dream always lasts much longer.

Dreams manifest what goes on in our subconscious, they reveal thoughts and desires we don’t have time for during waking hours. They always feel very familiar even if they are about things that never actually happened in real life, like Prabhupāda’s example of a golden mountain. I bet when one sees a golden mountain in his dream it feels very familiar and serves one’s cherished desires. We might not be aware of our subconscious but it’s ours and psychologists say that it hides our innermost hopes or fears. Dreams reveal them.

The power of our subconscious over our behavior should never be underestimated. Politicians and advertisers know it better than most and always seek to penetrate our subconscious mind. The easiest way is, perhaps, through manipulating our emotions. Deeper than that is manipulating our fears, as common in political advertising. They can also get to us through nationalism or through our care about the planet or through our identification with the whole humanity. Whatever desires we reveal in our actual lives, they seek to latch on them and sneak in their own agenda.

Once desire is planted as deep within the soul rationality goes out of the window. Or rather everything that serves to fulfill this desire automatically becomes rational. In a way it actually is because material nature has to follow the laws when accommodating our wants, it doesn’t behave in an irrational way.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the illusion is how it manages to accommodate everyone’s desires at the same time, no matter how incompatible they appear. Fruits might not be served at the same time but processes that lead to fructification are at work simultaneously.

How does it do that? Perhaps it’s a wrong question to ask.

It does not “accommodate our desires”, we do not give it extra work and force it to adjust its plans – it does only what it was programmed to do and all “our” desires exist there already, we only appropriate them under the influence of the false ego.

These desires do not come from nowhere, they are part of an endless chain of action and reaction and it’s impossible to detach desires from conditions that caused them.

Neither it is possible to detach dreams from “reality”, they are part of the same illusion.

We can say that dreams are an illusion within the illusion but it’s still part of the same spiritual reality, without quotation marks around it – Kṛṣṇa serving our need to live a life without Him.

So, when it comes to satisfying our souls it doesn’t really matter whether it happens in dreams or in a real world. Dreams cross into reality and reality causes dreams, and it all feels about the same with only relative differences. For most of us horrors in our dreams rarely match any fears we have in real life, for example.

The dream I described yesterday affected my attitude towards evolution of ISKCON and by thinking about it I can see how it rationally follows my real life observations. The effect would have been there regardless but now I’m more aware of it, which is always a good thing.

It’s always good to disassociate ourselves from whatever goes on in our minds and find external reasons instead. Desires are our own, of course, but their manifestation isn’t. In fact, we have only one underlying desire, our rebellion against Kṛṣṇa, but it can be expressed in an infinite variety of ways, just as expressions of bhakti have no limits, too.

This underlying desire is most regrettable but I don’t see how we can effectively deal with it if we are unaware of its existence, if we throw ourselves at everything we see and misidentify ourselves with everything under the sun. This forces us to deal with symptoms, not cure the underlying material disease.

Chanting of the Holy Names goes straight to the heart of the matter even if we don’t understand how it works. The Name speaks directly to the soul even when our consciousness is directed elsewhere. It won’t be as effective, of course, but it will still work, chipping away at our coverings syllable by syllable. Little strokes fell great oaks, as they say.

That’s why patience and perseverance is of utmost importance in chanting.

Vanity thought #1337. Teachings of Haridasa Thakura 4

Yesterday I stopped on, perhaps, the most important lesson taught by Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura – everyone IS a servant of the Supreme Lord and therefore no one has the right to interrupt other people’s service. Everyone’s service, not just service of those who we see as ISKCON devotees.

The tricky part, of course, is to recognize what is service and what is not. It is possible that everything a living entity does IS a service to the Lord but I do not see it like that yet so I seek differentiation. I can sort of accept it theoretically but then I could also refute it or propose other explanations. For example, paramahaṁsas see the Lord everywhere but they might see the Lord providing everything for the living entities, not being worshiped by them with their every selfish breath. Perhaps they see living entities’ selfishness as a legitimate relationship with the Lord, even if in perverted rasas, but it’s not service as we mean it here. It’s not bhakti.

Well, if I put it this way it becomes kinda obvious that paramahaṁsa vision or not, souls in the material world do not possess bhakti. Except we can also say that bhakti is in every soul’s nature and so inseparable from it, just covered or displayed in minute qualities. This apparent controversy was my point – unless we see it for ourselves we can only speculate. Each version makes sense and yesterday’s explanation I got from reading Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s purport was as good as any other, probably better because it was direct words of our ācārya.

“Lord Janārdana … is served by everyone according to their respective moods.” Seems clear enough – we all serve Him. “Janārdana” is translated in various ways by Śrīla Prabhupāda, from “killer of the enemies” to “maintainer of all living entities”. It’s probably this last meaning that is more applicable here – he accepts service and reciprocates with everyone. Not potentially everyone but literally everyone. Also, when we say that the Lord is the only enjoyer it might literally mean that He is the ONLY enjoyer. Whatever we do, He enjoys it, and He is also the only one who does so.

We think we enjoy this world but it’s an illusion, not a real thing. What we actually do is serve Lord’s eternal energy. Who enjoys this service? The Lord, not us. Somehow or other, He arranges for every interaction we have with the world and takes pleasure from it.

This is controversial – does he enjoy rape or clubbing baby seals? I can understand that there’s pleasure, however, sick, in perpetrating these actions, otherwise people would never even thought about it, but in these cases there are also victims – does the Lord enjoy suffering of others?

Umm, the obvious answer is no, of course, but how can He be an enjoyer in these cases? What if it’s tsunami, an act of nature – there are no agents who’d enjoy it, no perpetrators, only suffering. How could the Lord derive pleasure from it?

More importantly, in general, if there is suffering in the world – who feels it? If we can understand this question it might give us a clue how the Lord could be an enjoyer in absolutely all circumstances, all interactions in the material world.

First of all, what we see as suffering is an illusion. There’s no real connection between us and our suffering bodies. Bodies are dead, the can’t feel anything. There is a medical condition that make people insensitive to pain and children afflicted by it can easily burn off their fingers and not feel anything at all. Pain exists only in our minds, medically speaking. There’s only PERCEPTION of suffering and it afflicts only us. The Lord does NOT feel it because suffering does not objectively exists and He is not under the same illusion as we are.

From His pov there is only us and the material nature that fulfills our desires. She doesn’t do anything else. The Lord creates it for His own reasons and He enjoys her because He is the puruṣa and she is the prakṛti, there’s no other relationship between them, no other feelings. Well, there’s probably a whole range of feelings but they are all spiritual and pleasing to the Lord.

What about us, then? We are also there, we should also be a part to the equation. We are, we are part of the Lord’s reason to create the world – He interacts with us through it. We want it and the Lord provides, it’s integral part of our relationship and He is happy that we have it.

Why are we not equally happy with our experiences? That’s the tricky part, or rather a trick question. We ARE happy with our experiences with material nature, we just don’t realize what they are. We think it’s the feelings of pain or pleasure but what the māyā actually provides is illusion, misidentification with our material bodies. This service never fails, never disappoints, we just take it for granted, don’t notice it and don’t appreciate it.

We want to be in illusion and by Lord’s mercy we always are – how’s that unfair on the part of the Lord? So, when we feel pain we ask – how could the Lord allow it and how He could possibly enjoy it but what the Lord actually likes about the situation is that we still think that we are material bodies. “Wow”, He might think to Himself, “this illusion works so well, it’s perfect”. He knows that as spirit souls we are never in any actual danger, there’s no possibility of us ever being hurt at all, so that does not concern Him. He is only impressed with the ability to keep us thinking that we are little gods ourselves. It’s the service He provides, we appreciate it and treasure it at all times, and that’s what brings Him perpetual enjoyment, too.

When time comes and we feel that this “I’m the enjoyer” thing is not worth the trouble and seek freedom from the illusion the Lord immediately provides necessary knowledge, too. He is not keeping us here against our will, never. If we turn to serving Him with love and devotion He arranges that, too.

These are three kinds of our relationships with the Lord in this world – we want to be in illusion, we don’t want to be in illusion and become liberated, and we want to serve Him. He provides for all three, He reciprocates with all three, and He enjoys all three.

Our preoccupation with pain and pleasure is part of the first one, part of the illusion that we so desperately want. And, once again, pain and pleasure exist only in the mind, the soul is not affected by them. The soul is affected only by illusion.

The Lord has zero interest in what happens within the illusion. He reacts only to “I don’t wanna see you” tantrum of the spirit soul. THAT he provides, personally, and feels good about having the job done.

Anyway, I just wanted to understand how the Lord could be the only enjoyer even when we feel nothing but pain. I think I get it even if can’t express it in a perfect manner.

Another part of it is that we are always, always in service to the illusion. She sets the rules and we try to follow them, and I don’t mean the rules from scriptures, I mean the laws of nature we use for our own enjoyment. We never give up our quest for eating, sleeping, mating and defending – this is service and we offer it voluntarily. This is how we interact with the Lord – via medium of māyā, and this is how He accepts our service and appreciates our mood. He sets out rules (via māyā) and we try to follow them. We don’t even need a human form of life for this level of service, even a one-cell organism can provide it to the Lord. Even if the only thing it does is swim towards the light it’s already service.

As humans we can perform infinitely more and that’s why Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura said “The Supreme Lord accepts devotion of everyone”, as they were speaking about religious duties at that point. If we object to other’s devotion, however imperfect by our standards, we interrupt relationship between the Lord and the spirit soul and we shouldn’t do that.

Hmm, that’s exactly where I left yesterday, so no progress today. Except, perhaps, a deeper understanding of the same point.