Para-Dharma: the Supreme Occupation
Part I of a 2-day Seminar on Vedic Knowledge and Krishna Consciousness
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas Academy, Ukiah, California
June 8 and 9, 2005
Make your mind your best friend
These three words: Hare, Krishna and Rama are arranged in a sixteen-word mantra. Mantra is a two-part Sanskrit word: Man means “mind”, and Tra means “to deliver”.
Chanting is actually an age-old, simple process, and every religious community has some form of chanting. The idea is that it’s a form of meditation by sound. The mind is the center of all sensual activities. The mind is one’s best friend, and it is one’s greatest enemy as well. From the Bhagavad-gita [6.6] it is said, “For one who has learned to control his mind, it is the best of friends; for one who has failed to do so, his very mind is his worst enemy.” Especially in this age, our minds are always flooded with endless concerns, hopes, fears and anxieties. So in order to purify the mind, calm the mind, and eventually bring the mind under your control, this chanting is recommended. The idea is that it’s your mind. The whole yoga process or any spiritual process really pivots on the ability of a person to control his mind, because if his mind is not under control, then his senses will not be under control, and a person who cannot control his mind and senses is a mad man, a crazy person. For instance, some people cannot stop eating. They are perpetual eaters, continuously gorging themselves with food. Some people can’t stop working. They’re workaholics. Some people can’t stop talking, some can’t stop stealing, some can’t stop gambling, some can’t stop taking intoxicants. Why? Because they do not have their minds under control. They actually identify with the mind, and they think, “I am my mind”, so when the mind dictates, “Have a smoke”, they can’t stop themselves. The point is that spiritual life pivots or rests on one’s ability to control the mind. “The mind is one’s best friend or the worst enemy. For one who has learned to control the mind, it is the best of friends, and for one who has failed to do so, his very mind is the worst enemy.”
So this chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is a simple process of sound meditation. You simply chant and hear. There’s nothing to think about. You simply try to hear the sound—that’s all, and very easily, automatically you can control your mind, and it becomes your best friend.
DHARMASTER HENG SHUN: So Jai means victory, and Haribol?
HANSADUTTA: Hari means Krishna, and bol means to speak or sing, so it means, “Say the name of Krishna.”
So, again thank you, Dharmaster Shun, for inviting us to your teaching environment. You have very nice students. They have gravity. In fact, the Sanskrit word guru means “heavy”. Not heavy in the sense of weight or pounds, but heavy in gravity and knowledge, heavy in that he cannot be moved frivolously. Most people have no gravity, so they are very easily moved. They are very enchanted by the external material energy. They like to see things, touch things, smell things, and become involved in the flow of this material energy, or indulging in sense gratification.
Five topics of the Bhagavad-gita
I’m going to give a very simple glimpse into the Bhagavad-gita, which is, practically speaking, the essence of Vedic knowledge. Veda means “knowledge”, and Vedic knowledge refers to wisdom and the vast body of literature. In fact, the Christian Community has the Vatican in Rome, and the term Vatican comes from the word Vedican. The Vatican was the seat of Vedic culture in the Western World. The Vedic literatures are very vast; there are the four Vedas, 108 Upanishads, 18 Puranas, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Vedanta Sutras, and then there are the epics like Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Vedic knowledge is considered to be like a big tree. The idea is that the important part of the tree is the fruit that the tree produces. So from the tree of Vedic knowledge, this Bhagavad-gita is the essence.
In this book Bhagavad-gita, five main subjects are discussed: para-prakriti, apara-prakriti, Krishna (the controller of both), karma (activities) and kala (time).
The word para means superior, like in paramedic, paramilitary, paratrooper, etc. The word prakriti means nature. There are two natures. One is called para (superior), and the other is apara, or inferior. Apara-prakriti is the material nature, which is made up of eight elements: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego. Krishna says, “These eight elements comprise my separate, inferior material nature.” That means this material body. Whether we are Chinese, American, or German, or man, woman, cat, dog, tree or bird, every body is made up of a combination of these eight elements. In these eight elements, five are gross. We can see them, we can touch them, and smell them. The subtle elements we cannot see: mind, intellect and ego. Although you can’t see my mind, and I can’t see your mind, we know that the mind is there, because we can see the actions of the mind in a person’s behavior. For example, if a person gets angry, we see it on his face. The expression or the movement of one’s mind is exhibited in his gross, material body, in the countenance on his face. If he is happy, we can see it in his bodily gestures and his facial expression. If he is deeply absorbed in study or meditation, we can see that also. So mind cannot be seen directly, but by the various symptoms we can tell a person’s state of mind. So, earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and false ego—that is the apara-prakriti, the material nature.
The para-prakriti, or superior energy, is the living force which animates this body. That’s the jiva atma. Wherever we see birth, growth, existing for some time, producing offspring, dwindling and then vanishing, behind these six phenomena of material existence is the para-prakriti, or living force. This living force is not a product of the material energy, or material nature. Generally modern science bases all research and technical, biological and chemical sciences on the premise that matter, at some earlier or primordial state, interacted, and life or consciousness was generated from matter. But the Vedic literature does not support this. The Vedic literature says no, living force is perpetually existing. There is no point of its creation, and no point of its dissolution, and in fact it is the presence of living force that generates matter. For example, the discovery of electricity by Benjamin Franklin has given rise to the invention of so many electrical appliances. Before his time, there were no electric heaters, fans, lamps, computers or anything of the sort. The electric appliances have been created around the discovery of the electric energy. The electric energy is not created by the various appliances; it is already existing, and by its presence, an engineer will build an electrical appliance. The touch of the electric force brings the appliance to life. Like this oscillating fan here… if there is no electricity, it will not move, but if I electrify it, then the blades begin to turn. Similarly, this body composed of earth, water, fire, air, ether, intellect and ego is resting on the presence of this living force. It is called jiva atma; atma means self, and jiva means very minute. The jiva atma is the superior energy, or superior nature which is pervading this material body.
And there is another atma called Paramatama. That is Krishna. Para [or param] means superior. So He is the Supreme Living Force, and we are the minute, or sample living force. For example, in this electric fan here, the electric energy needed to move this fan is very, very minute in comparison to the amount of electric power in the powerhouse. In addition, we know that the electric spark which moves this fan is not working independently. It is connected via an electric power grid to the powerhouse, which may be located several hundred miles away. But ultimately, the electric powerhouse is under the personal control of the chief electrical engineer. So, similarly, the Bhagavad-gita explains that this apara-prakriti is being energized by the para-prakriti, the superior energy, and this superior energy is actually resting on Krishna, the Personality of Godhead. He is known as Purusha, or the Supreme Person.
Now generally, people will think that that is impossible. People generally do not believe that there is any personal touch or personal control or involvement behind this vast Universal Cosmic manifestation. But we know, for example, that in all of our everyday practical dealings, in every field there is a superior person. In a city it is the mayor, in a state it is the governor, in a country it is the president, prime minister or king. In this school, it is the principal. In your class, it is Dharmaster Shun. In your family, it is your father.
So, these are the first three items that we have discussed: para-prakriti, the superior energy, which means the living force; apara-prakriti, or the material energy, which is inert at all times and cannot take shape unless living force or para-prakriti touches it; and Krishna.
My harmonium cannot sound a tune unless I, the living person play on it. A car will not move down the road unless a driver turns the key or pushes the button. An airliner jumbo jet, although massive and capable of holding hundreds of passengers, is being controlled by one small pilot who pushes the buttons. The point is: living force is superior, and it is what gives rise to material creation. And the Supreme Living Force, Krishna, is behind the body of the universe. The universe is like a gigantic body, and all of the parts are working symmetrically—the sun, the moon, the tides, the seasons. Everything is working precisely and symmetrically. The sun is in such a precise orbit that we can say in one hundred years on Tuesday, November 2, the sun will rise exactly at such and such a time. This is the evidence for understanding that behind this great cosmos, there is conscious regulation, conscious design and conscious purpose. Material nature is not unconscious. Although modern science takes it that matter is working automatically, we have no experience of anything working automatically. Everything is the result of some personal, conscious, deliberate, purposeful design.
Next we have karma. We have all heard this word karma. Karma means work or activities. Every living entity is busy working from morning until night. The birds and the bees are busy gathering up food, making nests, producing offspring, etc. Human beings are busy building skyscraper buildings, jumbo jet airplanes, making war, making peace, making love, making money. They are busy, everyone working. So these activities are called karma, and there are three kinds of karma. There is karma, vikarma and akarma, or activities that are either allowed, forbidden or transcendental.
The final item is called kala, or time. Now in the material world, we have the experience of past, present and future, but actually time is eternal. It does not begin, and it does not end. But that experience is not realized by us, because we measure time in terms of the movement and the size of material objects. For example, the effort required to move from one place to another is conceived of in terms of time. The sun moves in its orbit, and we have measured that in terms of days, hours, minutes, seconds, etc. But transcendentally speaking, there is no such thing as past, present and future. Everything is ever-existing and ever-present. It is eternal. But that is not experienced by us here in the material world in our conditional state of existence.
So that covers the five subject matters of this book, Bhagavad-gita.
Bhagavan means God, Bhagavat means spoken by, and gita means song. So Bhagavad-gita literally means the “Song of God”. It is the recording of a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna on a battlefield five thousand years ago in a place called Kuruksetra. It is a historical and geographical place. You can go and visit it today in India, just north of New Delhi.
Five thousand years ago, the Kurus (the ruling family) ruled an entire world Vedic civilization which existed all over the earth, and there was one emperor. There was a dispute over who should rule the planet, and it resulted in the Mahabharata war. Maha means great, and bharata means this planet Earth. In the Vedic time, the entire Earth was under one political rule, one cultural rule, one economic rule. To this day, the vestiges of Vedic culture can still be found in every place, even China. In places like the Philippines, you can observe that their language consists of 25 percent Sanskrit words. It is known that the priest of the Pandavas came from China. All of these countries were interlinked by commerce, culture, religion and language.
So again, those are the five subject matters of the Bhagavad-gita.
Intrinsic characteristic of the living entity
Now we will move on to the word dharma. When translated into English, dharma is almost always interpreted as religion. But religion means a kind of belief or faith, whereas the actual Sanskrit meaning of the word dharma is not to believe something, as in to be a Hindu, to be a Buddhist, to be a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, etc. That is a religious belief, and it may be correct or it may be incorrect, but this is not the real meaning of dharma. Dharma really means characteristic, the characteristic of the living being.
What is the essential characteristic of the spirit soul when everything else is stripped away? What remains? The example is given with sugar: the essential characteristic or nature of sugar is sweet. Sweetness is the dharma of sugar. Water is by nature liquid—that is its dharma. Fire is by nature hot—that is its dharma. Dharma is a characteristic that cannot be removed from a substance. If I taste something and I’m told that it is sugar, yet it’s not sweet, then I know that it’s not sugar. So, what is the dharma of all living beings? That is the question. The dharma of all living beings is service. Every living thing exists by serving. You cannot live without service.
So in that sense of service, we come to the point where we again encounter these two words: para and apara. There are two kinds of dharma: one is permanent, and one is temporary. One is spiritual, and one is material. My material dharma is that I have to satisfy father, I have to satisfy my government by paying my taxes, I have to satisfy my teachers or professors in the school by doing my homework, I have to obey all of the laws of my state; otherwise a policeman will give me a ticket. So, there two kinds of dharma, and this apara-dharma is in relationship to my material existence, or my material environment. But there is a higher dharma which pertains not to this temporary material body, but to the living force, the spirit soul. That is called para-dharma, and this is the point I wanted to make today and which is very important, that there is really only one dharma for everyone in varying degrees of development, or spiritual evolution.
One religion — higher and lower levels
People often ask, “Why are there so many religions?” And the answer to that question is that there are not many religions. There is in fact only one dharma, and that is service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the dharma for everyone. No matter what race they may be, or in what economic, social or political position they find themselves in, the dharma is the same: it is to serve the Supreme Being, the Supreme Living Force, of which I am only a small particle, or an infinitesimal sample. We can understand with this analogy of my body. In my body there are many parts—there is the head, there are hands, fingers, legs, ears, eyes, nose, etc. But every part of my body has one thing to do, and that is to serve the whole body. If there is an itch, my hand scratches it. If there is danger, immediately my hands come up to protect me. If there is hunger, my hand brings some food. Now, how does the hand see the food? The hand can’t see the food, but the eyes see the food, and in cooperation with the hand, there is guidance from my brain, interaction and a co-operative effort. The legs carry my whole body, but the legs also cannot see which way to go—left or right, stop, go, jump. It is again a cooperative endeavor on the part of the eyes, the ears and the legs to work in harmony. So in the same exact way, the living entity, the spirit soul, or the life force is part of the Supreme Living Force. Sanatan dharma, or eternal dharma means my perpetual, eternal duty is to serve and cooperate with the Supreme, and this is the one religion which is common to everyone. It doesn’t matter if someone follows Lord Buddha, or if he follows Lord Krishna, or if he follows Lord Jesus, or Mohammed. When we examine their teachings, and strip away all of the things that have over time been artificially added or deleted, or have been adulterated, we will find that what is left is this sanatan dharma. My business is to first of all find out and connect with the Supreme, and then my duty or my activities are to satisfy Him. That is the meaning of real religion.
Still people will say, Then why are some people Buddhists? Some people Christians? Why some people are following Krishna, and some people are following Mohammed?” The answer is: the educational system is one thing, although there are many schools. There are schools in China, there are schools in America, there are schools in India, there are schools in Alaska, there are schools in Africa. But the subject matter is the same, even though the language and the technique for teaching may be different. Two plus two equals four is the same conclusion in every school of the world. It’s not that there are two kinds of education; there is really only one education, materially speaking. So similarly, there is only one dharma, sanatana dharma, or one eternal religion: to serve the Supreme Person.
Now, there may be higher or lower levels of spiritual life; thus we have Buddhism, “Christianism”, Mohammedanism, Hinduism, etc. But the purpose of all the isms is to find out the Supreme Person, God, and love Him by devotional service, just as education has one purpose; to make a gentleman out of a crude man. There are levels of education, beginning with preschool and kindergarten, up through elementary school, grammar school, junior high school, high school, college, university and post-graduate school. So what we see in the world as different religions may be seen as higher or lower levels of spiritual evolution or spiritual realization, but that is not different religions; that is one religion being practiced on higher or lower levels, just as education has higher and lower levels. Elementary school and the university are not on the same level, but both of them, and all the levels in between, are part of the same system of education, even though taught in all countries and languages of the world in slightly different ways. The conclusions are always the same, regardless of language or culture. Therefore, there is only one religion, sanatana dharma, but it is practiced and realized on different levels of evolution, the highest platform being unmotivated and unalloyed pure love of God, loving devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna. The language in which a professor or teacher may present, or the technique in which he delivers the lesson may be different. Yet education is one thing. No one says, “Why are there so many different kinds of education?” No, we don’t say that. Why? Because we know that two plus two is equal to four, and ABCs are the same everywhere. But there are different levels of education. Some students are sitting in the class making mud pies, and the teacher is saying, “This is very good, you have done it very nicely.” But if you were to come here and make mud pies, Dharmaster Heng Shun might get very upset, because you are on a different level of educational evolution or material progress. You have come to the high school grade. But there is a grade where the students are pleasing the teacher by making mud pies, or by stacking up blocks of wood, or by cutting out things and pasting them to paper. Now, the students in the kindergarten class cannot understand what the students at the junior high or high school level are doing. Even those who have come to the grammar school level, when they see their brothers or sisters doing algebra, they’re bewildered. It is incomprehensible. Yet, we know that in the process of learning mathematics there is a stage that is way beyond two plus two equals four. There are things that appear contradictory to the elementary student.
So in exactly in the same way as education is a progressive system, where the students start out in preschool, then on to kindergarten, where they learn to tie their shoes, and how to get along with one another, and to stack blocks and cut things out, and sing songs, and then go on to grammar school, where they learn the alphabet and adding and subtracting, then on to junior high, high school, then college, then post graduate work, and even after a person gets a degree, there are still more advanced levels of instruction and training with periodic evaluations, reviews, upgrades and certifications. In the same way as our material education is staged and develops in a progressive way, similarly, religious or “dharmic” education, the subject matter or the science of dharma, or the spiritual science progresses. I don’t like to use the word “religion”, because it is very misleading. Another word for dharma is yoga—yoga means linking, as when I link up the plug of this fan into the wall socket, then the fan does its dharma, and it starts to spin.
Education means snapping out of ignorance
So there are two fields of education. One is primarily concerned with how to maintain this material body and the things connected with it, like family, or love, friendship and society. There are these three things, love, friendship and society. Why are we going to school? To get a degree. Why? So we can get a job. Why? So we can make some money. Why? So we can pay the rent, we can buy food, pay insurance, and have all the things that are necessary to have a comfortable, bodily, material existence. But over and above that, there is the education of the soul, or the living force which is within this body. Unfortunately today in most places of the world, this side of education has been completely ignored. They simply disregard it. Here in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, fortunately there is a great stress placed on having a balance or a synthesis of both needs. I need to learn how earn a living and take care of myself and my family, but I also need to learn what I am.
The whole story of Lord Buddha is instructive because it illustrates the absolute necessity of becoming awakened to our actual positions as eternal spirit soul. No matter how highly placed a person may be in society, Lord Buddha’s life illustrates how important it is to be educated spiritually, to have a para-dharma education. You all know this story, but I will just repeat it briefly. The Buddha leaves the palace one day and sees an old man, and he asked his servant, “What is this?”, and the servant replies, “This is an old man, everyone one becomes old.” Buddha asks, “I also will become old?” Very puzzled. The next day he sees a diseased person, and the same inquiry, “What is this?” “Disease, everyone becomes diseased.” In this way he is confronted with the four evils of material existence: birth, old age, disease and ultimately death. Now, you are all students of Lord Buddha, so what does he do? Yes, he is so bewildered at not having been told of these four problems that he feels he cannot continue to live his life in a conventional way until he uncovers the mystery of material existence and its miseries and human suffering. He decides that he must solve this problem, so he retires to a life of contemplation, seeking enlightenment.
Again today, unfortunately, our political, educational, financial, military and entertainment leaders—none of them are propagating this information. None of them are thinking, “I also will become old, diseased and die? What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? How did I get here? Where am I going after death?” They don’t ask these questions; they simply disregard the entire matter. That is called ignorance. We hear again and again this word ignorance. Ignorance does not mean that one does not know these problems exist; it means we know, but we ignore them. Just as a driver in a car sees a red light, and he knows he should stop, but if he looks to see if anyone is watching, and he doesn’t see anyone, he’ll go through the red light. That is ignorance, doing something that he knows is wrong or illegal, but he does it anyway, thinking “No one is watching.” Ignoring what I know to be right is ignorance. So people in general, but especially our leaders, who are supposed to teach us, simply ignore these four problems, and they are encouraging us, “Oh no, you simply work hard and earn your degree, so you can get a good job, attract a nice wife, have children and enjoy life. Never mind about these things, because when life is over, you’ll simply evaporate and become zero.” Or the Christians believe, “Just accept Jesus into your heart and you’ll go to heaven.” No. This is called ignorance.
From the Vedic perspective, this type of behavior is considered to be animal life, because the animals are also simply eating, sleeping, mating and defending. If human beings only pursue the activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending—however advanced and sophisticated—it is simply animal life. And if a person does not come to the point of having to resolve these problems of birth, old age, disease and death, then no matter what he achieves in life is useless, it will all be taken away at death, and he will have made no progress is his spiritual evolution. That is like saying, “Here is a beautiful young damsel, and you may enjoy with her, but as soon as you are finished, we are going to shoot you.” That wouldn’t be very attractive would it? But actually that’s our position. We are all condemned to die, either today, tomorrow or after a hundred years.
No one can surpass these four problems: janma, mrtyu, jara, vyadi, these terms are described in the Bhagavad-gita. Janma means birth, mrtyu means death, jara means old age, and vyadi means disease. You cannot solve these four problems by science, by politics, by earning money, by becoming famous, etc. The solution for these problems is found in para-dharma. That is why para-dharma is important, that is why religion is important. And when I say religion, I mean to say that it is not enough to wave a flag or some incense, or light a candle and say “I’m a Christian, I’m a Muslim, I’m a Jew”, etc. That is useless. There must be actual scientific understanding of what I am, what is the difference between this body and my self.
The first day when I came, I had Aldar come up, and I asked him “What is this?” and he said “My hand, my nose, my leg, my ear”, etc. Then I asked him, “Where are you?” And the answer is “We don’t know.” Someone dies and we say, “He’s gone”, but everything is there on the hospital bed— the head, the arms, the legs, everything. All the ingredients are there. The scientists will say, “Oh, some chemical is missing.” So we say bring the chemical, inject it and bring him back.
So this is really the difference between an animal and a human being. If we bring some cats and dogs into the room, they cannot sit attentively and hear this subject matter. They cannot think about it and pose a question. They are cats and dogs, simply following their noses. You have seen a dog, just sniffing around, simply following his nose. The human being is distinguished from the animals only when he asks these questions: “What am I? Where do I come from? Why do I have to die? Why do I have to become old?” We have a girl who has lived with us for many years, and she is studying to become a nurse, so I always joke with her, “Nurse, nurse, I think I’m getting old, do you have a pill to stop aging? I don’t want to be old.” She replies, “Oh no, there is no medicine for that.” And I ask, “Then why didn’t someone tell me? Do you mean that I spent so much time, working away, and there’s no medicine for getting old and diseased? And I may die—I’ve heard also. Why wasn’t I informed of this situation?” So this really is our situation. For the most part, everything in our society is designed in such a way that a student will never ask, “What is the use of this? I’m going to get old, become diseased and then I’ll die. Why am I being pushed into an environment or into a situation where I’m just working like cats and dogs?” But THIS IS THE QUESTION that has to be asked. Not only asked, but we need to have a real answer, and we need to have a life style that will help us get free from these four perpetual problems: birth, old age, disease and death.
Inquiry, Submission and Service
The Bhagavad-gita is that simple book in the Vedic culture which gives us a very specific format for how to lead our life, or how to practice living so that when this life is finished, we will not again be forced into the painful cycle of birth and death. That is the meaning and the purpose of yoga. Yoga is not for improving my sex life, or my complexion, or my digestion, or the sheen of my hair, or to get the pimples off my face. No! Yoga is for getting out of the cycle of birth and death. There are actually many kinds of yoga: there’s karma-yoga, astanga-yoga, hatha-yoga, raja-yoga, sankhya-yoga, buddhi-yoga, and bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga is also called buddhi-yoga, the yoga of intelligence. We must be intelligent—not that we simply wave a flag; that is useless. We must actually have a systematic, scientific understanding, and we must have an effective lifestyle that carries us progressively. Just as the student is being trained systematically to come along in his education all the way from preschool and kindergarten all the way up to post-graduate study, to where he may become an Einstein if he so chooses, but he must submit and do the work. It is not enough to say, “Yes, I believe in college, college is very nice.” No, you have to submit your application, then enroll, and serve the professor, and in this way, gradually your intelligence, your understanding, your expertise expands. It is exactly the same as if you want to be an expert basketball player. You have to play every day, day and night. That’s all they do.
In every field, the system is the same, it begins with accepting a master of whatever you’re trying to perfect—in this case a master sportsman, or a master businessman, a master filmmaker, etc. In our case, we are talking about a Dharmaster, a person who has mastered the dharma, and who is situated in transcendence. In the Bhagavad-gita (4.34) it is said, tad viddhi, pranipatena, pariprasnena sevaya upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah. This is a very important verse, and it denotes the beginning of spiritual life. When you translate into English from the Sanskrit it says, “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” So the three things are inquiry, submission and service, and the spiritual master’s qualifications are tattvah darsinah, he has seen the truth. Therefore he can impart knowledge unto you, just as a doctor gives you an injection of penicillin.
DHARMASTER HENG SHUN: We should have some time for questions.
HANSADUTTA: Yes, we’re almost over! Inquiry, submission and service. A student or a disciple—every person must be inquisitive. He must want to know what is the truth. He must be very submissive, not challenging. And he must be prepared to do the service that the master offers him. And the master must be qualified, he must actually have seen the truth. Exactly like Donald Trump can give you a million dollars if he likes! Why? Because he has a million dollars. But a poor man cannot. Similarly, the spiritual master must actually have seen the truth, and by serving him and satisfying him by inquiry, submission and service, he can impart that knowledge unto you, because he has it.
So this is the beginning of Vedic knowledge, and the same principle is there in material life. It is not that this is particularly applicable only to spiritual matters, but if you want a job with a high-powered company, you have to go there very submissively, and turn over your resume, and you have to give the impression that you are ready to do anything and everything that they expect of you. When you satisfy them, you go up, you get promoted. But if you work belligerently and begrudgingly—”Ah, they’re asking me to stay overtime, those bums”—then no, you’ll never get promoted. Spiritual life is really the apex. It is on principle the archetype setup that applies to everything. If you want to be part of a great sports team, then you have to prove and show that you are ready to do anything and everything, and practice day and night, and not be a showoff or a hotshot or be a quarrelsome person.
So to conclude, allow me to go over it again very quickly. We have covered the five subject matters of the Bhagavad-gita: para-prakriti (the superior, spiritual nature), apara-prakriti (the inferior, material nature), para-ishvara (Krishna, the controller of both), karma (activities) and kala (time).
Then we have made the point that there are two kinds of dharma. One is material—which is that you need to learn how to take care of your material body—and the other one is superior. When this body is worn out and I’m finished—(we say dead, but we’re never finished; we are eternal. “The living force, once having been, never ceases to be.”) Para-dharma means that when I am finished with my term of material encagement, I can be released, and not have to repeat this.
Escaping the cycle
Would you want to repeat all of this schooling? Grade school, junior high, high school, again? Yes, that’s what it means to take birth again in the material world. It means you start again as a little lump of matter coming out of your mother’s womb, and you’re struggling to get something to eat, and to crawl around on the floor, and to learn to walk, and then you have to learn to talk, and they take you to school, A, B, C, D, E, F, G all over again, on and on and on. No! We do not want to do this. I can still remember when I first started going to school in Germany. It was really laborious. I just didn’t want to go. But everyone has to go. So we were learning A, B, C and I thought, “Well, I can do this”, and I thought that once we did the ABCs, that was IT, and we were going to be finished. But then after the ABCs, there was another thing we had to figure out: we had to put the letters together to form words. So I thought, “OK, we can do that.” But then there was something still more: we had to make sentences—”The cow jumped over the moon.” I was starting to get a little worried. [Laughter] Then, there was even MORE. There were paragraphs to be done, and stories to be written, and at one point I finally realized that there is no end to this. I became very rebellious, so by the time I came to America (I was about 10 years old), I just decided “I’m not going to do this anymore.” Then I became a very mischievous child.
Fortunately, years later I met Prabhupada and I got the para-dharma, and in this way was rescued. We were talking the other day with my children Hansa Kumar and Govinda, and Govinda was saying [about Hansa Kumar], “Yes, he’s going to skip a class”, and I said, “I skipped all the classes!” [Laughter] So, I’m not encouraging you to do that, [still more laughter] but the important thing is the para-dharma. That is the really important thing, because even if we are not up to snuff materially speaking, ultimately the important thing is we must address these four problems: birth, old age, disease and death, and we must lead a life in such a way that when we are finished here, for better or for worse, we won’t have to come and repeat again.
So, now we’ll have some questions, because I’ll just go on and on.
STUDENT: Which—out of the two, para-prakriti and apara-prakriti—which one are we?
HANSADUTTA: We are both. Material life is a combination of both. The material body is made up of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and ego, and behind this or within this combination there is a spark of para-prakriti. So we are a combination of matter and spirit, or living force and inert matter, and therein lies our dilemma. We are being hampered by this material body, because it is actually unnatural, it is foreign to the soul. It would be like… you have seen the pictures of those deep-sea divers? They put on those big helmets and… right? So it is a very awkward setup. It is unnatural. He is covered with something that is very restrictive. Similarly, the soul is by nature free, without birth, without old age, without disease, without death. But we have been covered in this deep-sea diver’s suit, so to speak. For example, what can we see? We can only see through these little holes. I can’t see anything through my ears, or through my anus, or through my feet, or through my hands. I’m only seeing through these little eyes. And the only thing I can hear is through these two little ears. In this way, we are covered. The material body is a type of restriction. Like in the prison they put an inmate into a straightjacket so that he can’t damage others. So we have been restricted. Material life is a restriction, and we want freedom from that.
STUDENT: Then how did the soul become entrapped in this material body?
HANSADUTTA: All citizens are born free. So how does a free citizen get trapped in the jail, prison, or penitentiary? Because he rebels against the authority of the government or the king. This rebelliousness is the cause of our entrapment. We are being restricted by higher authority.
STUDENT: So what is this higher authority?
HANSADUTTA: This authority is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Now someone will say, “I don’t believe in Krishna, I don’t believe in God.” That’s all right, but we will find that no one, even up to President Bush, is free from having to submit to a higher authority. Once Prabhupada was in Moscow talking with a big professor, so he said to him, “What is the difference between your philosophy and our philosophy? You say there is no God, but you have to submit to Lenin or Marx, and we have accepted Krishna. Now, it is simply a question of who is actually superior. But, everyone is under control; no one is at any point independent.” Although, this IS the material conception of life, that “I am independent, and I can do whatever I like”, actually no one is independent, and no one can do what he or she likes. Everyone is at all times under one or more authorities.
Now, the question is, Who is the supreme authority? An intelligent person will research this point, and find out who is actually the supreme, ultimate authority, who has no equal or better. That is the actual meaning of God. Again, someone will say, “I don’t believe there’s a supreme God”, and that’s OK. But you are nevertheless subjected to birth, old age, disease and death. So for you, death is God, or the government is God, or your wife is God, or your father is God, or the policeman who checks you and gives you a ticket is God. But you are not independent. No one is. Even Napoleon… he was so powerful, conquering all of Europe from all sides, but when he was finally arrested, they made him drink horse urine. Despite being so powerful, at one point he was simply humiliated by his superior captors or foes.
So the intelligent person—and this again is the example of Lord Buddha’s life—he decided, “I have to find out who is imposing this on me. I don’t want old age, disease or death.” No one wants it. Even a small mosquito or cockroach, if he feels danger, he will struggle to live. Everyone is struggling in this material existence to avoid four things: birth, old age, disease and death. It’s undeniable. Now, modern science says we will solve everything by science. But that is absurd, because these four things cannot be overcome by any material adjustment. Not by science, not by economics, not by military force. Otherwise, Einstein would have done it, or some big powerful military man would have done it. Why have they not done it? Because the soul, the living force is actually a categorically separate entity, distinct from matter. There is no example in history or in science where a dead man has been brought back to life. There is no example. Why? This is the important question. This is what meditation is: to think on this subject. Religion is not to just blindly accept something because I have said it. No, it is to become thoughtful, introspective, to ponder, “Why did I come here? Where did I come from? Why do I have to die? What am I supposed to be doing while I’m here? What is my responsibility? What is my duty, what is my dharma? What is my real nature? After everything is stripped away, what am I? Am I this body? Am I the mind? Am I the intellect? What am I? Until I know what I am… then what do I know? Just like when the policeman stops you and asks for your license, and you say “I don’t have one”, then “Who are you? Let’s see some I.D.” You have to show your I.D. The first thing that happens when you encounter any authority—you want to go traveling, you want to enter Hong Kong: “Let’s see some I.D. We’ve all seen these movies where the man gets amnesia, and he can’t remember, he doesn’t know who he is. It’s a big problem. So that is a material example, but spiritually speaking, we do not know what we are.
STUDENT: How do you actually end birth and death?
HANSADUTTA: Yes. How do you end it? When you become conscious, and understand your nature as spirit soul, distinct from matter. Just as you are different from that shirt you’re wearing, right? You’re wearing the shirt, and the shirt is moving. Why? Because you are within the shirt. Similarly, you are the living force within the body. That living force is what you are, and when this body is dissolved, disintegrated or destroyed, that living force continues. In the Bhagavad-gita [8.6] there is a verse:
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits this body, that nature one attains without fail. The living entity carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.
Karma and rebirth
STUDENT: So karma really doesn’t play a role in rebirth?
HANSADUTTA: Yes, it does. It is exactly the karma that determines what situation you will have to appear in next.
HENG SHUN: If a person leads a life of crime, and at the end of his life turns his faith towards Krishna or God, and he has all of this karma from his crimes?
HANSADUTTA: A person whose life is full of sinful activity cannot, at the last moment become a pious, qualified person. That’s not possible. Even in ordinary law, the man is a criminal, and one day he decides that he has been doing the wrong thing, and he wants to repent, so he walks into the police station and surrenders. That’s fine, [but] they arrest him, sentence him and put him in jail. It’s not that since he finally repented that he is released from all of his reactions. Just like your students here in the class… say one doesn’t do any homework, he never comes to class, doesn’t participate, etc, and at the end of the term he comes in and says, “Oh, Dharmaster Shun, I’m really sorry, I really like you, and I like school, and I know I did the wrong thing.” Now, are you going to give him a good grade? No, you’re not.
HENG SHUN: OK, let’s take a less extreme example. Let’s say a person lived half of his life good, and half of it bad, so he has a lot of good karma and a lot of bad karma, and let’s say that at the end of his life his thoughts are good. In your beliefs, does a person still have to in a future life make reparations and pay for the bad karma that he has induced, or is it mitigated because he tried?
HANSADUTTA: It’s a good question, because people have this idea that in the last few moments they’ll just think good thoughts and everything will be fine. But it is not possible for a person who is habituated to a life of crime and sinful activities to have such a thought. It’s not possible.
HENG SHUN: What if they had both, my question is—
HANSADUTTA: You will get the result of both. For example, you are using a calculator for a math equation, okay? So half of the inputs are subtraction, and half are addition. What answer are you going to get? You are going to get the result. You are going to get the synthesis of that calculation. That’s what a computer does. You’re not going to get everything positive, and the negative has simply been erased—no. The beauty of having this kind of attitude—if one can have it—is that “Oh, this is a sinful life, I shouldn’t be doing this.” Yes, that gives one a great impetus to embrace a “dharmic” lifestyle, and therefore become purified. But it is not a mechanical thing where someone simply gestures. As I said, in the law court, if a criminal is apprehended and he comes before the judge and he’s being tried, and he has an epiphany, and really apologizes, that doesn’t mean that he is not going to be held accountable for all of his crimes, and be sentenced in terms of his behavior, but it does mean that there may be some leniency towards him, as opposed to someone who has no such remorse. Any more questions? Aldar, no questions? Yes.
No disagreement on fundamental conclusions
JAPANESE TEACHER: When the shaka-muni Buddha was thinking about these things, he might have that he must come from this Vedas philosophy, what would the Buddha say about these ideas from which he was brought up?
HANSADUTTA: Yes, actually Lord Buddha was a prince. That means he was in a ruling family, kshatriya family, and they were traditionally taught Vedic philosophy, because they were responsible administrators ruling over the people. So certainly Lord Buddha knew Vedic literature, especially Bhagavad-gita because it is especially meant for the ruling class. I am not an expert in Buddhist philosophy or teachings, but I do know from the little that I have read and talked with Dharmaster Heng Shun that more or less Buddhist philosophy is just like Bhagavad-gita. There’s no difference, really. The one striking difference that is obvious is that Lord Buddha did not teach about a Supreme Being or the existence of the jiva atma, the spirit soul. I don’t know if he ever taught against it, but as I have been told, he simply didn’t teach it.
HENG SHUN: He taught un-atman, which means in all of existence, in samsara, there isn’t any atman, there is no atman. You can’t find any atman in samsara, and that is a fundamental teaching, a very fundamental teaching. It’s supposed to be that only when the Buddha appears in the world does that teaching exist, according to Buddhist scriptures.
HANSADUTTA: I wanted to mention this, that in the Bhagavat Purana, or the Srimad Bhagavatam, the appearance of Lord Buddha was foretold, that he would appear in Kali Yuga, and it also gave his purpose for coming. Of course there will be some contention over these things, but as I said in my original class here, instead of examining “dharmic” teaching from a differential point of view, if we study their symmetry, or where they are in agreement, we will see that birth, old age disease and death, they agree. To end samsara, they agree. To lead a “dharmic” lifestyle of truthfulness, cleanliness, austerity, right thought, right action, right association, right livelihood, they agree. Practically everything is in agreement. Now, and I put it like this last time: we are all here in the material world now, but everyone, even those who are atheistic, and do not adhere to any religious teachings, they have to agree that everyone is going to leave this place. Now, it is simply a question of where are we going after we leave here. It’s not a question of “Will we leave?” Yes, we ALL will! So, either we will go to that place where the Buddha instructed, or where Krishna, or Jesus, meaning you’ll go to heaven, or you’ll go to hell, or you’ll go back to samsara, and repeat. But everyone is leaving—that’s for sure. No one can say, “I’m not leaving, and so I don’t have to follow anyone, because I’m going to stay here for all time. No. So on the basic most fundamental siddhantas, conclusions, there can’t be any disagreement.
In a court of law they call it summary adjudication. Where there is a big case, then one side will say, “Let’s just present, or let’s ask the judge to make a ruling on the points on which no one can contend, on those points that our side can’t contend, and their side also, because they have already admitted it, and therefore, our case is made. That’s called summary adjudication.
HENG SHUN: Excuse me, but we’re going to have to go. It’s already past four o’clock!
HANSADUTTA: Right, so the summary adjudication is that we must all go!
HENG SHUN: So, tomorrow we’ll continue, and maybe we’ll make more time for questions!