Vanity thought #1764. VC – traveling as gain and loss

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

Next chapter is called ¨Atoms and Macroscopic Objects” and after reading it the full impact of what it was supposed to convey might not be immediately felt. I don’t think I can cover it in one day and by tomorrow it might become clearer. The explanation of transfer of information that begins this chapter deserves a separate book on its own.

Usually, we assume that we have a perception such as sight or color because light travels from distant objects and we happen to be in its path when it hits our eyes. This is an illusion and it’s not what happens according to Sāṅkhya. The version presented in this book isn’t Sāṅkhya as it appears in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam but adaptation of Śāṅkhya to modern ear so it uses words like information loss and gain first, before tying it to familiar concepts of time and karma.

Instead of light travel there’s a gain of information in the observer and this gain is correlated to the loss of information in another object. This experience of gain and loss is due to karma and so we are talking about correlation of loss and gain in space-time, not about actual transport of information by some material vehicle, like light or a flash drive.

In Sāṅkhya the appearance (gain) and disappearance (loss) of information is not due to information transfer but due to information becoming manifest or unmanifest. Information becomes manifested or unmanifested by karma, which is actualized by time. This is why we have different stages of karma and talk about “manifest karma” elsewhere in our literature.

The rest of that paragraph has an important footnote to it and, taken together, it relays more or less this – the universe as a whole is being created at each instance in time because individual states are determined by the state of the universe and not the other way around as in modern science where “big” things are defined as a collection of “small” things. The unmanifested possibilities of the universe lie in the ocean of Garbhodaka and time brings them out. Everything within the universe, every event is then made to fit its overall state. In this sense events are chosen BEFORE the observers who can only decide whether to participate in them or not – more in line with our usual understanding of free will then with how it was presented in previous chapters. Willing participation in these events makes us responsible for them even though we are not the ones choosing them – universe does. There was a paragraph somewhere earlier that I skipped then and it talked about effects of changing the state of the universe on its constituents as coordinate shift for each one of them. It makes sense now – when the universe changes everything on the universal tree shifts a little, too.

The paragraph continues to state that appearance and disappearance of information depends on the change in the state of the universe and not on information transfer between objects, which is an illusion but an understandable one. Scientists link this gain and loss together and treat as one being the cause of another and talk about it as information exchange. Sāṅkhya, on the other hand, teaches us to see gain and loss as connected to the universe, which is connected to God, and not as relationships between ourselves which are God-less. So, we don’t talk to other people, we rather talk to God and He then talks to them. Everyone is related to each other through God only and there are no direct connections between us. Nice, huh? Now we have a scientific explanation for a vision of a paramahaṁsa.

Back to the book – there’s no information transfer but the next state of the universe has more information in one place and less information in the other, that’s all. Not to forget the mechanics of it – next state of the universe determines guṇa and karma and by guṇa and karma actual experiences are created (via prāṇa and senses, I suppose).

The next part is not obvious as it states that while locations of gain and loss are fixed by the universe the participant objects aren’t. Gain and loss are two separate events while the objects involved are trajectories that connect these events. This looks like yet another two-dimensional way to describe Vedic space-time where we have events and trajectories to describe what happens. I sense that it is become too abstract for me to follow. Trajectories will come back big time in the later chapters. Why trajectories are needed here is not clear but, perhaps, the clue lies in the last sentence which implies that trajectories are formed by observers – we know what will happen but we don’t know who will take part in it and who will fill the roles and therefore we need selection of observers – trajectories. This brings us back to free will – do we really get to choose or can we only say “no”?

Science, under the illusion of information exchange, attributes it to existence of “particles” which travel from one object to another. Particles is in quotes here because most of the time they are waves creating fields rather than small physical objects. One object thus emits light in the form of a photon, the photon travels in space, and then another object absorbs it. Because this model is based on illusion science can’t predict when and why a photon would be emitted, where it would go, and what will it hit in the end. They talk about probabilities to solve this but actually it only hides the incompleteness of quantum theory.

In Sāṅkhya this incompleteness is avoided because there are two agencies responsible for these decisions – karma and time. Time has an active role in Sāṅkhya because it picks which karma to manifest but in science time is passive, it just flows. Unmanifested karma can’t be perceived by senses so it doesn’t exist from the scientific point of view. Too bad for them, but that’s what happens when you purposefully restrict reality to that which can be perceived by senses. Your theories then become incomplete.

I’ll continue with this chapter tomorrow – I haven’t gotten anywhere near the significance of difference between atoms and macroscopic objects today.

Vanity thought #1759. VC – processes and systems

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

The rest of the chapter on time and karma compares Sāṅkhya and modern science in yet another way. Following the framework presented in the chapter it talks about processes, descriptions, and uniting them into systems. Yesterday I got stuck on one of the sentences there but let’s move on and try to make sense of the rest of it. I’ll try to give the background in my own words first.

We have object description, process description, choice description and time description. In this order they are subordinate to the next. Time manifests possibilities of karma, mind makes choices, choices put prāṇa in motion, and prāṇa manifests physical reality where objects interact with each other. Time isn’t the same for individual observers and the universe itself. We cannot affect the universal time and our personal time leads us through our personal choices. On this I would suggests that universal time isn’t “objective” either but reflects choices of the universal observer, which is the Lord. He is present within each universe and in His other form He observes all the universes at once. If He desires to hold His breath, for example, the material manifestation will last longer and the time inside each universe needs to be stretched or more cycles added. I suppose that decision is left to in-universe observer form of the Lord.

The book then switches to materialistic view which reverses the order from the start – physical objects are primary, they are moved around by forces, and this interaction gives rise to mind and consciousness. The author gnotes three oversimplifications present in this view. The role of the universal time is ignored and so it appears that universal fate is decided by OUR choices, not by what is manifested to us by the universe which follows its own trajectory independently of our decisions. Secondly, our choices are reduced to forces, which makes us look as we are machines walking around without consciousness and therefore are not responsible for our actions. Finally, the forces are reduced to properties of objects, which makes objects appear as the only reality and everything else – aggregation of objects into systems, processes running in these systems, choices made by the systems, and, ultimately, the fate of the universe become the “epiphenomena” of objects.

Each of these oversimplifications ignores some aspects of reality and therefore produce various forms of indeterminism and incompleteness in scientific predictions. Vedic system is more generic here and modern science is a specific application of it with imposed constraints described in the previous paragraph. Vedic theory, therefore, is a superset of modern materialism when all the constraints are removed. It doesn’t mean that this specific case is untrue but it reveals truth only partially, which is enough to keep scientists excited. It works within their constraints and it explains enough phenomena they accept for consideration in their theories, and they always work on unifying these theories, which gives them hope but is impossible in principle due to the initial oversimplifications.

The author also talks about Sāṅkhya here as Vedic materialism. Maybe it’s because our interactions within this framework do not require God and deal only with gross and subtle matter – prāṇa, mind, karma, and time are attributes of the material world. Most of non-Bhāgavatam Sāṅkhya is atheistic, too, and doesn’t require God. I wonder how they explain the origin of puruṣa who kicked off the creation but after that it’s matter all the way indeed. The author says that even this Vedic materialism is superior to modern science and it’s also compatible with existence of God and souls.

For one thing, material objects are inert. It might appear ridiculous to anyone who looks outside the window but this is what they are on the quantum level – quantum particles do not change their state unless hit by photons or something. How and why quantum objects emit energy cannot be explained – it just happens and science talks about probabilities of outcomes instead, which is one form of indeterminism mentioned earlier. This is why “process description” must be superior to “object description”, like in Sāṅkhya, because processes puts objects in motion (and create objects, too) leaving no space to indeterminism.

“Mental description” is superior to “process description” because our choices put processes in motion. Karma description is superior to our choices because it controls the possibilities and keeps record of previous choices, and time description is superior to karma because it makes possibilities manifest according to evolution of the universe. Looking at it another way, each of these stages is incomplete and requires information provided by the superior stage. Can’t move unless there’s process, can’t start a process unless there’s a choice, can’t make a choice unless there are possibilities and karma, can’t show karma unless time turns around and manifests it.

Last paragraph in this chapter talks about “bodies”. In Sāṅkhya the object description and process description are merged into a “body”, but this body, unlike science, includes not only objects we can see, taste, smell etc but also senses by which we can perceive these objects, the qualities experienced in perception, and the force that moves the body. Altogether it’s more complex and subtle than the body in science.

In Vedic cosmology this merging of object and process description creates a horizontal, two dimensional domain which is referred to as loka in our literature. It is not like a two dimensional plane in space because dimensions are different, they are not physical X and Y but “what is” and “how it works”. Mapping this concept of loka into our three dimensional space is done in a later chapter, but don’t raise your hopes up yet – it’s not easy to comprehend and I have doubts about this mapping myself.

Another thing that bothers me in this chapter is the relationship between individual possibilities presented to us and how they relate to the evolution of the universe. Some of these possibilities are selected by us but somehow it doesn’t affect the flow of the universe at all. The author doesn’t acknowledge this and we are left to speculate how it can be resolved on our own. There are later chapters where he deals with the subject of universal and individual times but they come nearly at the end of the book and don’t provide clear answers either, as far as I remember.

Perhaps, there are enough potential observers, jīvas, to select all manifested possibilities and so the choice is which role we decide to play and if we don’t like this one in particular it would be selected by someone else. This explanation doesn’t remove indeterminism, however – what if there’s really no one to play the role of the villain? We can also speculate that choices are driven by guṇa and karma but that would remove the agency of free will. The author will not concede free will, that much is clear. There could be some other explanation where it doesn’t matter for the universe whether all possibilities play out or not but that would be counterintuitive and require a radically different explanation of how the world works that I haven’t grasped yet. Maybe it still remains hidden from me and I understood all this material through my own goggles, not noticing the forest for the trees.

Possible explanation for this is that selecting certain possibilities make them real for us – make them into our individual experiences, but from the POV of the universe they are equally real whether we participate in them or not. In what sense they are real for the universe, however?

It would all be much easier if we ditched free will in material world altogether and confined it to a simple choice – to serve Kṛṣṇa or not. Whatever happens here, whatever choices are made between wearing a blue or green t-shirt, are not ours. We can only choose to depend on Kṛṣṇa or to remain “observers” and “doers” and “seers” of the material field. This position makes more sense to me and is in line with our general understanding of free will but, as I said, the author is not going to concede it. Free might still be required for our personal selections to make the universe work. The subject will come up again so we shall see if free will is really a necessity in Sāṅkhya.

Vanity thought #1758. VC – time and karma

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

Next chapter in the book is called “Prāṇa and Time” and it introduces two additional concepts to the discussion on Sāṅkhya – time and karma. The book is really packed with information and sometimes I feel like I got it, that I organized it in my head and can present it from the abstract to details, like Sāṅkhya itself would have wanted, but when I re-read some of the chapters I get thrown back as I come across concepts I’ve completely forgotten. This is one of those chpaters.

The reason for this, I think, is that there are many valid ways to describe reality, some will be more complete than others. When we talked about prāṇa, for example, we didn’t change the way the world looks but offered an alternative explanation of why it works this way.

I should pause here and admit that at this point what I read in the book is still accepted as an alternative to science but it should be the other way around – with science providing an alternative to Vedas. I suppose this change from what is considered a primary theory to what is considered an alternative will take some time and effort. We need to internalize the knowledge given in the scriptures and learn to see the world through their eyes. Then science will become an alternative, and a poor one at that.

On the plus side, when I think about Vedic cosmos I don’t care what science thinks anymore, which might lead to problems when talking to those unfamiliar with Vedic universe. Materialists want to see a Vedic explanation of THEIR cosmos but in Vedic view it’s not the topic of interest at all. They build their theories on their sensual perceptions and perceptions are created to satisfy their desires. There’s no objectively existing material universe which would create perceptions. Perceptions are created from the mind according to guṇa and karma and that’s what should draw our interest, not irrelevant arguments over the shape of black holes or something. Plus their theories are created according to their desires, guṇa, and karma as well. We should look into the source of it instead and hope that one day we’ll actually see the Lord behind everything.

By the way, on the subject of prāṇa as it was discussed yesterday – there’s a story of Pracetās in the Fourth Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam who once burned all the trees (SB 4.30). In modern terms we would describe it as a destruction of an ecosystem and it turned out there WAS someone who felt responsible for it – there was a mind and a jīva behind it who wanted to preserve it. That someone is not mentioned in Bhāgavatam explicitly but he apparently appealed to Lord Brahmā who pacified the Pracetās and negotiated a deal where they get the daughter of the forest in return for stopping burning the trees (SB 4.30.47).

Anyway, in this chapter the author proposes another short description of how the universe works and I admit it makes as much sense as any other, though with less detail. First, the author discusses karma and he introduces it as possibilities of experience presented by time. The consequences, for which we know karma for, are the result of incomplete knowledge of reality when we make choices among these possibilities. Karma then comes back to correct our misunderstandings. All the stimuli from the world are produced by karma and by responding to them and making choices we produce more karma, and that’s why the author talks about karma as possibility of experiences.

These possibilities exist individually for us and ours are a subset of all the possibilities in the universe, and I mean all of them for all times. These possibilities constitute the realm of Garbhodaka and are manifested from it by time. That’s when possibilities become real for us and for everybody else and before that they lie unmanifested. Cosmic possibilities are manifested by cosmic time and our possibilities are manifested by our individual times. This relation between different times is discussed later in the book and I’m not clear on this yet.

Individual events in our lives depend on our responses and constitute our individual karma, which manifest our individual experiences, which are still subsets of all the possibilities in the universe. There are times when nothing in the world is manifested and the scriptures talk about these times as when the world is submerged into Garbhodaka, which makes total sense now – the possibilities become unmanifested and so there’s no “reality” for us to observe and act upon.

This is where the author presents another theory of life. The description of processes in the body is subordinated to description of karma, which is subordinated to time. Going the other way – time selects the possibilities which create particular karma which then creates a particular process which then gets converted into physical objects by prāṇa. This time-karma-prāṇa sequence describes our entire lives but not in great detail, as I mentioned earlier.

To add more details – the pre-eminent role of time means that the universe creates events independently of the observers who participate in these events, which means we can’t change the destiny of the universe. When presented with choices we can, however, create our own sequence of observable events and this means we are responsible for our choices.

I can’t make sense of the next sentence. Give it a try yourself:

    The role of prāna entails that choices can be abstracted from a process description and a material system can appear to work automatically due to ‘forces’ and without conscious intervention,..

The sentence continues but it switches to the view of the materialists and doesn’t clarify the quoted part. I don’t get “abstracted from a process description” at all. When we talk about abstracts we are supposed to move UP the semantic tree but here “abstracted” means creating contingent phenomena further DOWN. Perhaps in a sense that once the phenomena is manifested it becomes an abstract, a symbol for the next step. How that leads to perception of independent “forces” is unclear, but we do see forces acting out without our participation all the time.

Maybe the author means that we do not see the “abstraction” process of converting karma and choices associated with it into reality, which is done by prāṇa, which is the actual reason for the appearance of “forces”. It would sort of make sense – what we see as a “force” is actually someone’s desire to maintain his system or to project his desires into the world. We can’t perceive neither praṇa nor karma and to us “forces” simply exist and we need another explanation for them.

The rest of the chapter deals with the differences between Sāṅkhya and materialism in this area and I will try to make more sense of it tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1428. Swing vote

A few days ago I argued that whatever little things happen to us between our birth and death are caused by guṇas and by time and as such cannot affect our relationship with the Lord, which is timeless. Maybe this is not a right way to frame this argument because it contradicts other aspects of our philosophy.

We operate with two concepts of time, one material and one spiritual, even though we don’t acknowledge it. Material time is easy – Kṛṣṇa enters into the universe in this form of kāla and makes everything move. This time doesn’t affect the soul itself as it pertains to what we consider as illusion. Even scientists figured out that it’s a part of the universe and is mathematically related to the concepts of space and speed. They also got a problem of “before Big Bang” when time didn’t flow and space wasn’t there. In our speak it was before kāla made his appearance.

This is where we come to the yet undetermined spiritual time. It manifests itself in sequencing events outside the material creation. If there’s before and after and things happen in a particular order there must be some sort of time involved. Also, our material time cannot be a thing unique only to the material world, it must have a spiritual equivalent, too.

Some examples are obvious – Mahā Viṣṇu goes to sleep, He inhales and exhales, during the exhale universes comes out of the pores in His skin, during the inhale they are drawn back in. All these processes must happen in time, one after another, with some duration assigned to them. We can even measure them relative to our material time – one exhale is a bit longer than the life of Lord Brahmā who gets born, creates everything inside the universe, and eventually dies when comes the time for Mahā Viṣṇu’s inhale. Lord Brahmā lives a hundred years, each year consists of a twelve months, each month consists of thirty days, each day and each night lasts for a thousand mahā-yugas, each mahā-yuga lasts over four billion solar years, which makes Brahmā’s life last over 300 trillion years in total, which means that Mahā-Viṣṇu’s exhale is a bit longer than that. Exact calculations can be found on wiki.

The time as is appears within the universe does not exist outside and does not affect Mahā-Viṣṇu yet here anyone can dovetail Mahā-Viṣṇu’s apparent time scale to ours.

Our own journey through the universe can be used as an indication of the existence of the spiritual time, too. We say we’ve been trapped here since time immemorial, we can’t calculate how long ago we fell down in our material units of time. Quite possibly we’ve been around for a few of Mahā-Viṣṇu’s inhales-exhales already. It’s understandable why in our material time frame we appear as nitya-baddha, eternally conditioned. It started before Big Bang so there’s no sense to talk about it in our units of time, and yet we still follow a sequence of spiritual events – we were with Kṛṣṇa first, then we broke up with Him, then we got thrown down here, given a time to cool off, or maybe literally sleep off our anger. Then we meet Kṛṣṇa’s devotees, they awaken us from our illusion, gradually, life after life, we correct our rebellious attitude and find taste in devotional service and then we return back to Godhead.

If we skip the happenings inside the universe we get angry, go to sleep, wake up, and come back – clearly a sequence of events that must follow one another and so be governed by time, and clearly not by material time. Btw, while Mahā-Viṣṇu lies down in His yoga nidra, our time in illusion here is also called nidra, sleep, by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. We are both sleeping here, so to speak.

The appearance and disappearance of the universes is a mechanical process and Kṛṣṇa knows at what time Lord Caitanya would appear there and how many souls would come in touch with Him and His mission, how quickly they’ll get liberated and so on. He knows how much time it would take between the start and the end of our journey through devotional service in the material world. He knows how quickly or how slowly our anarthas would disappear, He knows when they will force us to fail and how many times it would happen before we finally give them up. He knows how many rounds we’d have to chant, where and when, and whether they’ll be spread over multiple lifetimes. This is all rather mechanical, as I said. Even though the effect of a devotee on people who come in contact with him is spiritual, it’s still predictable and unavoidable – they’ll get infected with bhakti, so mechanical.

What about our free will then? In this model there would be no place for it whatsoever. Well, this isn’t true. Devotional service imply relationship, and each such relationship is unique, and each such relationship is spiritual, so freedom is still there, but we also can speak of relationships in general terms. It’s like saying that one woman in America gives birth to 1.88 children. It’s physically impossible to give birth to 1.88 babies and no woman ever does that but it’s the average, we can talk about it even if it doesn’t describe any particular woman there. Similarly, we can talk about Kṛṣṇa knowing the duration of our spiritual journey even if in reality our free will might affect it and change His calculations. He can say that a soul born five hundred years after Lord Caitanya in a particular place on Earth and in contact with ISKCON, on average returns to Him in 1.6 lifetime, 1.1 if they came in contact with Prabhupāda himself. This replays every day of Brahmā for a hundred years and then during the next universal creation again, so there’s enough data to calculate averages here, and Kṛṣṇa still has personal space to accelerate or slow down our return depending on how we ourselves feel about it.

This means that our input is important. Theoretically, we might get liberated right this second, or we might commit an unforgivable offense and get stuck until next kalpa. These versions would be outliers but are possible. In general, however, we’d probably be somewhere very close to the average. We can’t change the fate of our material bodies but spiritually we are free to surrender to the Lord, in as much as we can be free while under the illusion. Kṛṣṇa then can take us back as soon as possible and He can even refill our remaining body with some other soul if necessary, in as much as He is free to do anything in this world.

So we do have a swing vote that can decide our fate, but I have no time to talk about how to use it under what the conditions. Perhaps tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1136. Spiritually backwards

Yesterday I discussed weird and isolated tribes that have completely different perceptions of time from ours. We always put past behind us and we are always looking forward to the future while they place past and future in all possible directions – left, right, front, east, west, towards the door etc.

The most interesting one, for me, was Aymara people of South America who put the past in front of them, in front of their eyes. If makes sense, if you think of it – past is known, it’s in your view, it has been in your view, it played out in front of your eyes, so why shouldn’t it be visualized there, too?

Our Western “looking forward” is also easy to understand – when we are going somewhere we are moving towards our future and spatially it means moving forward. Future is uncertain, sometimes it looks dangerous, and when confronting danger we turn our face to it. Then we might flee, but first we have to have a good look at what is facing us.

Putting past behind also makes a lot of sense – we have no control over it any more, it’s done, cannot be changed, cannot be reversed. So we do not cry over spilled milk and forget whatever happened in the past, we do not let it drag us down in our future endeavors. We put it where we can’t see it and where it’s unlikely to bother us anymore – behind our backs.

I didn’t mention those reasons yesterday, I just went for the one favorable to my point – as westerners we live under the mode of passion and so our happiness is always in the future, we live for the sake of our future, not the past. We constantly make plans, dream, imagine things, imagine our future sense enjoyment. These thoughts about future occupy our minds “front and center” and that naturally leads to visualizing our future in front of us, not behind.

That is all our material conditioning, though – it entirely depends on where we were born and how we were raised. Where do Indians place past and future? I have no idea, I’ve never heard it was any different so I assume it’s the same as westerners. Does it make it spiritually legitimate, though? Yes and no.

Yes, because if Śrīla Prabhupāda saw the past behind him and future ahead of us then it’s legitimate. No, because it doesn’t really matter. Our spiritual practice and our spiritual progress do not depend on where we imagine our past and future are located in relation to our material bodies.

Having said that, our practice does depend on these things – we are supposed to strip it from all material contamination and that means purging all cultural and societal norms from our hearts. We are not walking into Vaikuṇṭha speaking English. We are not eating off banana leaves there with fork and spoon, and we won’t endear ourselves to anyone there by constantly saying “achcha!” That might impress earthly vrajavāsīs but needs to be abandoned as yet another upādha.

With that goal in mind we should isolate unfavorable influences of our cultural conditioning and that includes dreaming about our future.

I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago already, I just want to expand on this topic a little bit more.

There’s no dreaming about the future among the nine methods of devotional service, but smaraṇam, remembrance, is there. It’s so important that it’s even made into two other foremost rules – always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget.

All our mental work in devotional service is related to the past, that’s why it’s called remembrance, after all. Every time something happens to us we must remember the words of our guru and apply them to the present situation. Alternatively we can remember how other devotees acted in the similar situation and follow their footsteps.

That’s another big one – we always follow somebody’s footsteps, always follow what somebody has done in the past. Our guru, our ācāryas, other devotees, even Kṛṣṇa or Lord Caitanya Themselves.

Our real spiritual life might lie ahead of us but all our present perceptions of spirituality come from the past, ours as well as historical. We read books about events of five thousand years ago and earlier. We read books about Lord Caitanya, too. We read biographies of our ācāryas and they also describe the past. All spiritual events for us happened in the past – the Lord descended, had some pastimes, His devotees wrote them down, preached them to other people, saw spiritual visions in meditation, converted entire countries and continents and so on.

These events of the past are solid and indisputable while whatever happens to us in the present is doubtful and should be accepted with a great deal of skepticism. We won’t accept claims that Kṛṣṇa had appeared in front of people’s eyes. We might accept reports of Deities talking or appearing in dreams but those are exceptions. We tend to talk about spiritual ecstasy but we don’t take it as real thing yet, certainly not on the level of ecstasy experienced by Lord Caitanya or Six Gosvāmīs.

So, when we talk about engaging our minds in Kṛṣṇa’s service we mean directing our minds towards the past, not future. That is not an absolute rule, though – we have to plan things in our service, too – from cooking food for Kṛṣṇa to preaching engagements. This is probably why it would be crazy to ask devotees think like people of Aymara tribe. We don’t need to visually place past in front of our faces.

Rejecting mundane dreams and plans, however, is legitimate. Our mind always seeks material enjoyment and for the mind it’s always in the future. Our intelligence devises various ways to achieve that enjoyment and that’s why we are always busy making plans. What if this, what if that, what if I do that other thing first, wouldn’t it be better in the long run? That has to be rejected.

It’s the kind of thing that we better put behind us, as materialists say about their past. As soon as these plans occupy our consciousness “front and center” we need to stop and push them away. Our minds should always look backwards – towards our past, not the future.

It’s not an easy thing to do but that’s besides the point – we have to do it anyway, there’s no choice here.

So, a spiritually minded person should dwell in the past and always look towards the past, and if somebody asks about his plans he would stare at that person with a blank expression: “I really haven’t thought about that.”

In this way we should all become “spiritually backwards”.

Vanity thought #1135. Back to the future

Looking back, looking forward, we see the world around us not only as it is now but as it was before and as it will be in the future. We live not just in space but in a space-time and that time component affects our lives probably more than anything else.

Buddhists would discuss the differences between past, present, and future and conclude that nothing really exists and if we could only catch the present we would achieve enlightenment.

I can’t speak for them but my understanding is that past does not exists because it’s, well, past. Even if existed at some point it doesn’t exist now. Future also doesn’t exist because it’s always in the “not yet” territory, and present is impossible to catch because as soon as you start contemplating it you start dealing with snapshots of the moments that just entered into the past.

So people are caught between reminiscing about something that doesn’t exist anymore and fantasizing about something that has not yet happened, and that causes stress and eventually makes them unhappy. Once you detach yourself from these illusions and “live in the moment” you become free and peaceful.

Can it work? I’m not sure. Generally, we can’t free our minds from the influence of time, if we could we would probably achieve the stage of liberation but it requires an enormous amount of work and sliding back into “reality” can happen at any moment. Bhutanese monks apparently have enough discipline but I’m not sure how successful they really are in their endeavors.

Apart from that, people’s ordinary orientation in space-time can vary greatly, too. There are tribes all over the world that see time differently from us. There’s a tribe in Papua New Guinea that sees past downhill and future uphill, at the source of their river. When making references to past they would gesture towards the river’s mouth regardless of the way they are facing themselves, and when talking about future they would gesture towards the mountains where their river starts. The river isn’t straight, too, so past is not directly opposite the future. This quirk is believed to be related to how they view their tribe’s history – as gradual ascend from the seashore up into the mountains.

Interestingly, when inside the house, their past is towards the door and their future is away from it.

There’s a tribe in Australia that sees time as traveling east to west, I don’t know why. There are tribes that see time flowing left to right, too, and one South American tribe, Aymara, that see past as being in front of them and future behind – directly opposite to our common perception. This is what interests me most here.

Scientists are fascinated by geographical orientation of time more than by relation to one’s own body but I think that we should pay attention to ego-related issues because it’s not the geography that is holding us here, it’s our attachment to our bodies, to our false ego, to our past, present, and future as embodied beings. If we can beat that then we can look at the time “objectively”, whichever way it really flows.

For Aymara people, past is in front of them because they have seen it. It’s where it appeared before their eyes. If they didn’t see something but only heard of it they do not place it in front of them, or so I gather. I don’t like this explanation very much. I’d much prefer to consider past in front of me because it is known, it is something already experienced, something I can study and dissect and explain away.

Future, OTOH, is unknown, so it shouldn’t be where I can see it, it shouldn’t be in my field of vision and activities, and so behind me is a better place. Not that it is how I actually relate to past and present personally but I think there’s some merit in this angle of vision, too.

In English there are time related quirks, too, but nothing as radical as Aymara’s. If one says that Wednesday meeting was moved forward two days half the people would think new meeting is on Monday and half would think it’s on Friday. Some see “forward” as relative to Wednesday and some see “forward” as and extension of their view, which is from present to past, and so extended by two days it moves from Wednesday to Monday. Personally, I would think new meeting is on Friday but science says there are folks who think it’s Monday and who am I to argue against science.

Anyway, the Aymara vision is truly radical – they would simply refuse to talk about future because of all the uncertainty about it. It hasn’t happened yet, it’s not in front of our eyes, it can turn this way or that, it’s a waste of time guessing it.

When Spanish conquistadors first came across this tribe they couldn’t explain to them the concept of “moving forward” and “thinking ahead”, Aymara people would not engage themselves in such speculations, not to mention it was impossible to translate. They just did not have the concept of progress which is essential to western attitude towards the world and our lives.

Driven by the mode of passion, we must move forward all the time, we must make progress, we must think about the future and all the wonderful things it should bring us. We all live for tomorrow or next year, things are always better in the future and we should always have hope.

Aymara people were probably more under the spell of ignorance and goodness and so they couldn’t understand what was all the fuss about.

We are not Aymara and we are supposed to be slightly more advanced than them but falling into passion driven attitude towards our lives is not much of a progress either. It would serve us well not to speculate about the future and not anticipate marvelous sense gratification that awaits us there. It leads only to further bondage.

How can we think about it in any other way? Every time we contemplate our future our mind reacts to our fantasies with either like or dislike, we can’t stop it from doing that. Every time our mind likes or dislikes something it sends us a signal and depending on the mind’s intensity it could be impossible to ignore.

This mind’s perception will naturally affect our every move towards that imaginary future. We will be either drawn to it or repelled, and then we’d have to exert a lot of energy to either stop us or force us. If it’s a sexual attraction we would have to try and stop ourselves, if it’s a cold shower at 3 in the morning we’d have to force ourselves out of warm beds.

The more we think about the future the more problems we create for ourselves, the more attached we become. Who needs that?

Dealing with our past and learning from it sounds so much better. Sure, we can develop attachments to past sense gratification.too, but memories do not last forever, the further away they are from the present the less powerful they are.

Maybe it’s just me but my memories do not move me anymore. I can’t feel them like I used to, I need a conscious effort and even then it doesn’t always work. That’s why I think it’s easier to be dispassionate about our past than about our future. We also have the benefit of hindsight and so our judgment is a lot better. What’s not to like about it?

I would recommend it to everyone else, too.

Vanity thought #928. Time and time again

Another area where we could use scientific expertise is understanding time. We know that time is manifestation of the Supreme Lord that makes material elements “move” and thus enables the spirit souls to “experience” illusion but that doesn’t mean much to us in our present conditioned state. It IS true description of time, as it comes from śāstra, but it’s still very hard to comprehend so any help should be appreciated.

We know that there’s no time in the spiritual world but we can’t possibly imagine life without time. Do things happen simultaneously there? Is there any sense of cause-effect connection? Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes here comply with our ordinary flow of time – He gets born, grows up, moves out, has a lot of fun, and then leaves this world but we can’t imagine how they would appear in a timeless world.

We can accept that Kṛṣṇa exists in all stages of His life simultaneously but how can we understand things like killing demons? They don’t make sense without putting events in a sequence. If there’s no time then there’s no sequencing. Even if we talk about life in the spiritual world being about experiencing various bhāvas rather than events, still, even bhāvas follow some sort of the progress – first there’s fear, then there’s hope, then there’s jubilation of Kṛṣṇa’s triumph.

We say that spiritual world is all about relationships but relationships means interactions and interactions means sequencing – you say something, I say something in response – we can’t just talk at the same time and call it a relationship.

I would say that among all the material elements time is the most mysterious one. We understand the gross elements – ether, air etc. We understand the senses and sense objects. We understand mind, intelligence and even false ego. We can easily imagine ourselves to be different from all those and sometime we might even perceive ourselves as different from material elements but we can’t ever imagine ourselves to be independent from time. Our material consciousness is all we can experience and we can experience it only under the influence of time, so without time we got nothing.

I mean without time material things are just there, like pieces of a robot laid down on a table. Time assembles them together and makes them move. So we identify ourselves with some of those elements and then these elements start interacting with other elements and life as we know it begins.

There’s one interesting feature about time – we can’t feel it. It’s not a sense object and we don’t have a sense organ that can sense time. It’s there but it’s imperceptible. This makes time into an abstract concept that can be understood in various ways and that’s where empirical science can help us, too. Hmm, it’s not really empirical if we can’t sense it or observe it but somehow science got very good with abstractions.

There’s a natural limit to all their speculations but it’s pretty high – jñāna leads to realization of the impersonal aspect of the Absolute which is a lot more than we can realize now, and that realization is a necessary step on the path towards attaining devotion – we can’t become real devotees without being liberated first. Liberated from the clutches of time, btw.

Anyway, our most common misconception about time is that there’s some sort of a time line. That some things happened in the past, some are happening now, and some will happen in the future. We arrange them in sequence and we plot the history along the x-axis, which represents time. In reality, however, time is not linear. There’s no such thing as timeline and so there cannot be such thing as time travel – getting ourselves to different points on this imaginary timeline.

Instead of timeline we have an observable rate of change. It describes the same things but from a different perspective. Let’s say a train leaves station A and after 1 hour arrives at station B. What we usually do is imagine a timeline, put the starting point at, say 9 AM and the end point at 10 AM. Another way to look at it is to say that between departure and arrival the clock counted 60 minutes.

Sounds the same until we take into account theory of relativity that states that depending on where you are your clock might have counted 59 or 61 minutes. You and any other observer see the same train leaving station A and then see same train approaching station B but your clocks don’t show the same time. Practically never.

So, there’s no such thing as “train arrives one hour later” – every observer would insist that according to him it wasn’t an hour. We see same places and same objects but our time is never the same. Instead of a straight timeline connecting two points we have an unlimited number of all kinds of curves, all different in length.

This is just a prelude. For a person traveling at the speed of light time does not exist at all. Here we have to keep in mind that “speed of light” is very different from our common perception of speed, which is always relative. When we talk speed we mean that it can be faster or slower than some other speed. Speed of light, however, is fastest possible, it’s the absolute speed, speed of God, so to speak. It’s like infinity – there’s no number greater than infinity but infinity isn’t a number, it’s unattainable.

So, for a person traveling at the absolute speed time would not exist and neither would distances. He would reach destination at exactly the same moment he leaves his departing point. There would be no traveling at all, no experience of it even though departure and arrival would be two distinct points in space. There’d be no such thing as timeline either – the entire x-axis would be just one point, the ever present and unchanging NOW which includes all places and all events in history of the entire universe compressed to a single …, erm, not even a second, just an abstract point that doesn’t even have size. Points we draw on paper all have sizes, this one doesn’t have size at all, just a point.

Now, we can say that this speed of light is just an abstraction, we can never travel and experience such speed. Not entirely true – think of the Sun emitting its rays into space, some come to us, some go into the opposite direction and relative to those rays we ARE moving at the speed of light already.

When we say we can’t travel at the speed of light we mean we can’t travel relative to our perceptible surroundings.

See where this is all going?

We, as conditioned souls, experience time according to our particular illusion, it flows differently for each and every one of us. When we are free from the illusion time stops, it ceases to exist in a sense it doesn’t affect us anymore. Past, present, and future all compress into a one single point and there aren’t any others, there’d be no timelines. Timelines exist only for conditioned entities – demigods, ants, people etc. and time flows differently for each one of them.

To achieve the state of liberation we have to reach the absolute speed but we can’t do that if we bog ourselves down into identifying with and relating to our immediate surroundings. Once you see yourself as a man living in a house you can’t run away from that house at the speed of light. It is only possible if we identify ourselves with the Absolute rather than with material elements and temporary material phenomena. Then everything becomes possible and the world folds away into a single point of insignificance.

This “Absolute” is not Kṛṣṇa yet, just Brahman, that’s the limit to our speculations, but it’s a cool limit nevertheless – seeing our spiritual nature.

Compressing the entire universe to a point might also help understand how millions and billions of the universes come out of the body of Mahāviṣṇu. No magic, it’s just that without time there are no distances and sizes and we can fit as many universes into as little space as we want.

Well, I think this is a nice kind of speculation, the one that helps us understand the nature of the Supreme and the nature of the illusion. Unfortunately, my brains aren’t big enough to comprehend its true significance but there have been moments when I was blown away by simply thinking about it and it felt nice, I won’t deny it. The feeling is long gone but I had to say something about it anyway. Hope it helps.

Vanity thought #901. Productivity pressure

A couple of days ago I read an article about modern obsession with productivity. Turns out it’s not so modern at all, people have been squeezed for profits since the beginning of industrial revolution and it’s been getting worse and worse.

There were proposals to collect orphans in England and put them into sweatshops since the age of four and make them work twelve hours a day so that they grow up to produce entire generations trained to constant labor. “Lazy” adults were not spared either, they were supposed to be imprisoned to their workhouses and hunger, thirst, and terror were offered as best motivators against their idleness.

Now we outsourced sweatshops to third world countries but productivity still rules the day. Its value is unquestionable and no one needs to explain why increasing productivity needs to be justified at all. There are training workshops and expensive consultants who exists solely for increasing business productivity. Women magazines might offer solutions to dating and dieting but business publications are all about productivity expressed in various forms.

Productivity is the main reason everyone is expected to get MBA and the sole criteria of success of scientific management. Japanese really perfected it as they have people who don’t even need to leave their offices and have all their necessities provided right there, including places to sleep and ample supply of instant food and fresh underwear. Every minute of their lives is documented, accounted for, and managed for better productivity. Huge Chinese factories are probably better at it now, like the infamous Foxcon where they make Apple stuff along with everything else.

The battle for productivity pays off, in the past forty years workers’ productivity has increased by eighty percent while the wages, on the other hand, increased by slightly over ten. Not sure about the source of these numbers but it’s a well noted trend.

Push for productivity takes over the entire life. Breakfast of champions, for example, would be called that if champions weren’t believed to be the most productive people. Power nap wouldn’t be called power nap if it didn’t increase productivity. Likewise exercise and healthy eating – it’s no so much about quality of life but about increased productivity, even if in achieving only personal goals. Even Nike has a t-shirt saying “I am doing work” to justify jogging.

Think of how they describe sick leaves, too – as lost productivity, no eyebrow is raised up when we read about what sickness costs to the economy, it’s as if by becoming sick you actually steal money. Think of how they describe drug or alcohol addiction – as lost years, meaning people weren’t productive.

The concept of lost time is another angle to the same productivity issue. We have time saving measures and we have time management techniques even though time is the least pliable substance known to men – you can’t save it, you can’t manage it, it flows entirely on its own.

This continues when we come in contact with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, too. We talk about years and lifetimes that were lost in pursuit of material goals. Our goals then change but we still talk about time lost and time used for Kṛṣṇa’s service. There’s still no justification for idleness.

Clearly, this preoccupation with time is the symptom of the mode of passion but why do we allow it in Kṛṣṇa consciousness that is supposed to be free from lower guṇas?

Gopīs famously complained about design of eyelids that requires them to be shut every couple of seconds which was considered a waste of time because they’d rather spend it on looking at Kṛṣna. Sādhana-bhakti is all about time management, too, it’s a tool t fight idleness, and idle hands are the devil’s workshop, as we know, but is it really true?

If we are not in love with Kṛṣṇa then we don’t know the value of lost time and we embrace sādhana-bhakti only because we’ve been told to practice it by our guru. Time, we should not forget, has no place in spiritual relationships, it has no power over bhakti, it has no power over liberated souls, it’s an enemy of mortal beings only.

Spiritual practices have always been about beating time but not in terms of productivity but in terms of ability to ignore it. Yogīs main goal was to freeze flow of time, catch the moment of total equilibrium and then extend it for thousands and thousands of years. You can’t imagine less productive people ever. Similarly, brāhmaṇas and sādhus were placed at the top of the pyramid while English considered them the leaching classes and communists couldn’t tolerate their existence in principle.

Yet I distinctly remember time when I really worried about my own time management to the point of making to-do lists for each day, and that was beside following temple program, chanting and reading. If there was nothing of note to put on that list I considered a day wasted and felt guilty about it. It was the time when I read the entire Śrila Prabhupāda’s library and I still wasn’t satisfied. I don’t remember anything from that bout of reading because quality didn’t matter to me at the time, only the volume and productivity – number of pages and number of hours.

I still live with this pressure to perform, I can’t allow myself to be idle, I need to justify everything I do. Ostensibly it’s for Kṛṣṇa’s service but at the same time I’m aware that Kṛṣṇa can’t care less how I spend my time in this world. Guru does, but not to the point of micromanaging it anyway.

This attitude makes us believe that spiritual progress depends on our efforts, just as worker bees believe that they have control over results of their karma. Kṛṣṇa is not obliged, of course, being the supremely independent being, so why can’t we pause our lives for a moment and catch a moment of idleness, which we should then call a moment of clarity because it should free us from the influence of rajaḥ-guṇa.

We ARE supposed to come to the platform of goodness on the way to becoming devotees, so why beat up ourselves for not being busy?

We can, of course, cite Śrila Prabhupāda telling us to always be engaged in service and to always be engaged in the preaching mission but that was supposed to be at the expense of the modes of ignorance and passion, not goodness. We shouldn’t cheat ourselves by taking shelter of passion if real devotion doesn’t motivate our hearts.

With this in mind, I’m thinking about reconsidering writing these articles. I shouldn’t be doing it just for the sake of being busy. Kṛṣṇa is not interested in reading them, only if they come from the heart which hardly ever happens, but I pressure myself into thinking something up each and every day. Sometimes I swear I’d rather chant extra rounds than try to engage my mind in this kind of service.

I’m far from making a decision but the concern is there. Let it mature and see where it goes. The whole idea of progress is dependent on time, for example, and therefore it enslaves us here. It’s a paradox that needs its own sweet time to get resolved, no need to rush.

Vanity thought #697. Where’s Krishna? – Authoritative Answer

Turns out that Lord Chaitanya Himself explained Krishna’s appearance through material universes in His teaching to Sanatama Goswami, starting with CC.Madhya.20.381 onwards.

Lord Chaitanya also resorted to the example of Sun’s movement through the universe to explain the model. Sun travels along its path, around Mount Meru, I suppose, but also over seven islands and across the separating oceans. Mount Meru is wider at the top than at the bottom, all planets rotate around it, and it all happens inside a stem of a lotus flower growing from Lord Vishnu’s navel.

Very easy to visualize… NOT!

As soon as Lord Chaitanya mentioned the example of a zodiac I knew it would be a waste on a person like me. Actually, I don’t know anyone who can visualize Vedic model of a universe that is also totally in line with our sense perceptions. Mount Meru in the center of the universe? Seven islands? I hope when they display this model in the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium it will become clearer but I don’t hold my breath.

We see the universe with our eyes, not with our ears. Nasa sent people to the Moon but they didn’t find any life there and that has left us doubting the words of shastra and Srila Prabhupada.

On that subject – what if we are completely off mark in identifying Vedic Moon planet with the the Moon we see in the sky? What if Vedic definition is all about Chandra and his associates drinking soma rasa all day long? If you didn’t see them then you weren’t on the Moon regardless of you location in space? What if being on the Moon is a state of karma rather than the position of your body? This opens up a whole new discussion I’m not prepared to go into.

Anyway, just like I imagined yesterday – Lord Chaitanya also used the example of a wheel of fire (what is that, btw?) and said that Krishna’s pastimes constantly manifest through a succession of the universes. Each universe can see only one moment from these pastimes at a time but it also gets to see all the pastimes in succession, one after another.

In reality, however, Krishna is always sucking the life out of Putana somewhere and He simultaneously dances on the heads of Kaliya, it’s just in the material world there’s no single place from where you can see these pastimes at the same time. To see Krishna doing that non-stop you’d have to travel through the universes along with Him.

This begs a question – if Krishna can manifest Himself in all the innumerable universes at the same time, what about His entourage? Do we also have innumerable quantity of Nanda Maharajas and Mother Yashodas?

Or am I getting caught in egocentric view once again? Maybe Krishna doesn’t travel through universes, maybe He stays in one place and it’s the universes that go past Him and His associates?

When Lord Chaitanya used and example of the Sun He talked about Sun going places, not being stationary. I knew that zodiac thing would be confusing.

Or maybe the word “manifested” is misunderstood here. It implies action on behalf of Krishna, but if we use the word “visible” than Krishna doesn’t have to do anything or go anywhere. He is visible to us and this visibility depends on our situation, not His.

So, the correct answer is that He never leaves Goloka Vrindavana, which we knew all along, but I also hope I’ve got better understanding of His appearance in our world. He doesn’t come, per se, He just becomes visible for the span of 125 years.

Time appears to be the main culprit in this confusion – it doesn’t exist in the spiritual world and so Krishna’s pastimes do not have to be sequenced and wait for their turn. In the material world, however, this is not possible, we always have to move to the future and we always have to see things becoming past. That’s why we observe Krishna for some time and then move on to observe something else.

This is actually a very mature way to look at our overall lives, too. Normally we assume that the world stays in place and we age through it but the reality is that we stay and time rotate things around us, showing us one event after another, sometimes it shows pleasant things and sometimes unpleasant, and sometimes it gives us a glimpse of Krishna.

From this point of view, disassociating ourselves from time would be a great sign of progress towards liberation. Then we can open our spiritual eyes and see Krishna as He is, not as shown to us by time as a picture on the cover of our books, and that vision will never ever go away like everything else in this world.

Vanity thought #670. Dreamweaver

There’s this famous song which, according to wikipedia, was inspired by the “Authobiography of a Yogi” by Swami Yogananda given to the song writer by George Harrison himself, so there’s a spiritual connection there. I don’t care enough to find Yogananda’s place in our yogi-mayavadi-devotee hierarchy, he was probably one of those new age types trying to merge Christianity with everything else he learned in Hinduism.

I had a very elaborated dream today that reminded me of it when I woke up. It was apocalyptic. It happens in the future but features characters I knew from primary school and it happens at an intersection I knew from the days when it barely had a traffic light. In this dream it had multilayered flyovers they build there now plus two converging underground train lines that aren’t even in city plans.

There’s an earthquake and all the flyovers come tumbling down. It’s an important junction leading out of the city and I was placed under my childhood friend command to control the flow of evacuees arriving from South and West. Some had to be directed North, some East. It was all going well until I developed some kind of conflict with another childhood friend who, in retaliation, went up the road and turned the evacuees back. My intersection immediately overflowed, of course, and extra weigh of all these crowds coupled with aftershocks caused the subway to collapse. Now we had overhead bridges falling down on buried underground trains and people pushing each other into this abyss. Pretty gruesome.

To give you an idea – we all walked on several layers of debris that contained an unknown number of people and their remains, blood, limbs, and survivors crying to help were everywhere but no one cared anymore, we had too many living and healthy people coming through to spare even a second for the dying.

Eventually I made my way North, too, cause that’s where I live now. The whole scene continued – collapsed buildings left and right, trapped cars and people, some totally new overhead train lines that crashed into the ground and so on.

Then something woke me up, I turned over, but the dream wasn’t lost. I got inserted into it again but in a different place and at a different time, and I knew before hand in which order things around me would collapse because I’ve seen them do so already, albeit from a different perspective.

I went into a department store and found some trapped tourist trying to get out, terrified to be inside a violently shaking building. I told her that we should go in the back where there’s a canal and no major buildings on the other side so we’d be relatively safe. When we found our way out she spotted an overhead train station nearby and wanted to take the train out of the city but I told her that it would crash in ten-twenty minutes and everyone would die.

She looked at arriving and departing trains and questioned my judgment. I, on the other hand, wasn’t sure how soon exactly the next tremor would bring it down. I saw it happen in the earlier version of the dream but my watch wasn’t synchronized. I guess that’s how astrologers and palm readers deal with impatient people – you know something is bound to happen but every passing moment or year undermines your credibility.

Anyway, the train station eventually collapsed, as did the department store we escaped from. It looked spectacular. I lost my tourist friend and jumped on the roof of one of those Chinese boathouses, which turned out to be a great idea – there’s no earthquake in the water, it was no more than a wave left by a passing boat and I was relatively safe. I drifted alone, observing destruction on both sides and pretty soon my dream ended.

So, how does any of that relates to Krishna consciousness? I don’t see an immediate connection, Krishna hasn’t come up even once during the dream. In a roundabout way, however, going in and out of the same dream and observing the same events from different angles and follow different paths while maintaining the sense of the self is an awesome lesson on the nature of illusion.

Normally you go into a dream and forget who you are but this time I saw myself living two different lives through the same story while being aware that I’m not this dream given body even though I was pretty attached to its safety. If it’s possible to observe this effect with dreams it should be possible to observe this with different lives, too.

We have been living in this illusion since time immemorial while the world goes through endless cycles. Same earthquakes, same floods, same destruction at the end of the kalpa, same avatars of the Lord, same Ravanas and Hiranyakashipus – everything repeats itself. Krishna comes everyday of Brahma and He is always followed by Lord Chaitanya, Details might change in every cycle but overall story and our feelings are all the same – fear, greed, lust, anger, happiness – nothing really changes. Chewing the chewed, as Prahlada Maharaj wisely said.

There’s one big, practical difference – this life lasts a lot longer than my dream so it requires a lot more patience to wait it through. This is where chanting should help enormously, however – listening to Krishna’s names takes us out of clutches of time, the more you chant, the faster time flies.

Imagine you were chanting three hundred thousand names every day like Haridas Thakur – the material lives last twenty four hours for us but for him it was only two or three, and you should also deduct the time he spent in the company of Lord Chaitanya or honoring prasadam because that stops material clock, too.

Chanting is the best way to distract ourselves from our conditioned lives, everyone knows that. Next time we have a sense of deja vu it might be a flashback from one of the previous lives. Quite possibly our incarnations don’t have to follow the time progression and we can be inserted in more or less the same settings over and over again repeatedly.

I guess in Vedic times it didn’t matter because nothing really changed for thousands and thousands of years but for us material world changes very very fast and twenty years might render it completely unrecognizable. Vedic sages telling stories of reincarnation didn’t have to adjust the details for signs of progress. They didn’t have to explain that the first incarnation happened before the invention of an arrow and everybody was fighting using only clubs and spears, for example.

If you take two successive incarnations in the modern world, however, existence of the Internet can make it or break it. If the next incarnation could actually be an insertion in the past or in the next yuga cycle then you can relive your old life again and again until you get it right, just like they do in science fiction or the movie “Groundhog Day”, or just like I did in today’s dream.