The Hammer - 23
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The Hammer For Smashing Illusion

Shankaracharya's famous "Bhaja Govinda"

By Hansadutta das
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Text 23

Who are you? Who am I? Where have I come from? Who is my mother? Who is my father? One should contemplate in this way, having renounced the entire world as being as insubstantial as the deliberations of a dream.

Good Dreams Are Useless, Bad Dreams Have No Importance

Herein Shripad Shankaracharya is posing very elementary questions which everyone should ask himself: "Who am I? Where have I come from? Who is my mother? Who is my father?" Instead of wasting our time pursuing temporary sense enjoyment in relation to the temporary material body, we should go beyond the immediate demands of this body and try to understand our real identity. The material world is considered to be an illusion. It is certainly real and exists, but it is only temporarily real, just as a drama on a stage is a kind of illusory presentation just for the time being. The drama is not a permanent reality; it is just adapted from reality. The player's real identity is not the one which is being exhibited on stage. The players have another identity, which they exhibit when the play is over. Only temporarily they assume some role. Similarly, the living entity is just assuming a role on the stage of material life, but his real identity is something else completely.

Our real identity is that we are all eternal servants of Krishna, but on the temporary stage of life we are all acting as masters and enjoyers of material nature. This is false. This is not true. It is just a temporary position, which is compared to when a man is sleeping and assumes an identity in his dream. But when he wakes up, then he assumes his real position. The whole material atmosphere is just a passing phase. It has no permanent existence. Therefore in Vedanta-sutra, the first aphorism is athato brahma-jijñasa: "Now that we have come to the human platform of human life, we should inquire about Brahman, the Absolute Truth."

We are Living in a Shadow World

This material world is related to the Absolute, but the material world itself is not the Absolute Truth. It is just a reflection, or a projection of the original world, which is beyond this phenomenal world. Just as in a cinema what we see on the screen is just a projection of something substantial. Because it is a reflection of the real thing, it attracts our attention, but it doesn't satisfy our heart, because it is not the real thing. In a dream we may forget that we are sleeping and think that we are actually awake, and in that way, the dream captivates us because it is so true to reality. Similarly, the material world is so true to reality that we forget our real identity as eternal spirit soul, part and parcel of Krishna, the Supreme Spirit Whole, and we become involved in, as Srimad-Bhagavatam describes it, the false world of names.

Names and Atoms--All There Is

The material world is nothing but an interaction of the three modes of material nature, or the interaction of chemicals or atoms. It has no real substance. We give various names to different objects, according to their use. But in fact the objects are all a product of the same atomic combinations. Therefore it is called the world of names. We have to get out of the bewildering maze of this world of names and come to the spiritual life and knowledge.

What is the Standard of Sanity?

In the past, we have met different doctors in the field of mental health who are sometimes trying to bring extremely bewildered patients back to sanity. But what is the standard of sanity? What is the perfection of mental health? That is Krishna consciousness. The mind and the body are just coverings on the soul. Mental disturbances or physical disturbances are the result of being removed from that spiritual identity. The more we identify with matter, whether gross or subtle, the more we experience disturbance in the form of frustration and disappointment. The further we are removed, the more intense or acute the frustration becomes; thus the more painful is our condition. So we have to bring the person back to his real spiritual identity and his eternal relationship with God. Then he becomes satisfied. He becomes sane. He becomes happy and joyful. We have to enlighten the patient, because only through knowledge can he enjoy. The more he knows, the more he can deal with the world.

Finally I See My Real Identity

Ultimately, one must know himself. When we know ourselves, then we are actually happy. In fact, we are endeavoring to know ourselves at every moment. Through relationships with friends, relatives and countrymen we establish our identity. But as long as we relate to things on the bodily or mental platform, we cannot establish our real identity. We must relate to Krishna. We must establish our eternal relationship with God. Then our identity is revealed, and we actually become happy and peaceful. Krishna consciousness is the science of how to re-establish our eternal relationship with God and ultimately get out of the bewildering situation of material existence and go home, back to Godhead. We cannot really become sane within the material atmosphere. We have to get out of it altogether. Then we can be healthy in spiritual life. As long as we are in contact with the material energy, we will always experience bewilderment. We have to get out of it altogether. That is the real solution--not to simply adjust to the ever-changing, bewildering, material atmosphere. We must come to the spiritual platform where everything is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, then everything will be solved. Hare Krishna.

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Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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