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One Religion, Like One Sun

Posted By Hansadutta das On July 8, 2011 @ 8:59 pm In Aim of Life - Dharma,Karma - Action & Reaction - Destiny,Knowledge - Enlightenment,KRSNA Consciousness,Religion,The Holy Name,Vedas,Wonderful KRSNA | No Comments

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] [1] 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.

Related article:

Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is [2]
From Bhagavad-gita we must learn what God is, what the living entities are, what prakriti is, what the cosmic manifestation is and how it is controlled by time, and what the activities of the living entities are. more [2]

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.

Summary

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 [3]] 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!

Derivatives of the original Vedic culture

Part II of a 2-day Seminar on Vedic Knowledge and Krishna Consciousness
City of Ten Thousand Buddhas Academy
June 9, 2005, Ukiah, California

Lord Chaitanya with His associates
Lord Chaitanya and associates, painting by Hansadutta das, 1969

Hare Krishna mantra recommended for this age

HANSADUTTA: This is a picture of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared about 500 years ago in India. He introduced this process of chanting Hare Krishna. What he did, in essence, was to introduce a shortcut method of spiritual realization for the people in general in this age, which is known as Kali Yuga. Do you have similar terms for ages in your Buddha teachings?

DHARMASTER HENG SHUN: We don’t have yugas, but we have the Age of the Proper Dharma, which is a thousand years for the time of the Buddha, the first thousand years, then a thousand years of the Image Age, then about ten thousand years that we’re in now, and it’s called the Dharma Ending Age, or the End of the Dharma Age, or the Age of the Dharma’s Decline.

HANSADUTTA: All right, so you also have ages. The Vedic cosmology has a very precise time frame, and we are now in the last age in a cycle of four, which is called Kali Yuga. This age is characterized by irreligion, quarrel, hypocrisy and dissension.

DHARMASTER SHUN: In Buddhism it’s called the Age of Fighting.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, over small trifling matters people will fight and kill one another, and we actually see that happening. Plus in this age the duration of life is reduced, memory is reduced, piety is reduced, people are very sinful and so on.

Anyway, because this age is so degraded, and because people will simply not be able to practice the different yogas and austerities that attend spiritual life, this simple process of chanting the Holy Name of Krishna has been introduced. Lord Chaitanya predicted that in every town and village of the world, this chanting will be known—”My Name will be known,” He said. This is Lord Chaitanya here, and these are His associates. I painted this picture back in 1969, when we opened the Berkeley temple.

Krishna nondifferent from His name

DHARMASTER SHUN: I have a question about this, because I’ve been to Krishna temples, like the one in Boston, which is a big temple, like the Ritz Hotel. Very nice building. Isn’t dancing very important? Because usually in the temple when they’re chanting, they’re also dancing. So is it like Sufi dancing?

HANSADUTTA: No, the idea is that the chanting is actually a direct means of associating with Krishna. In other words, chanting Hare Krishna is identical with Krishna. The sound vibration Krishna is Krishna. It is something like when you receive a call from your friend on your cell phone. It’s as good as if he were there. Of course, that’s a material technology, but spiritually this principle is even more applicable. Just by sound, you can have direct contact. The sound and the person are identical. That’s the meaning of absolute. There is no difference between the sound and the person, or the sound and the item. In the material world, for example, relative means if Dharmaster Shun is not in the room, and I say “Dharmaster Shun”, it is useless. Or if I want water and I say “water”, it is not identical with the substance. So absolute platform or the spiritual platform means there is no difference between the name, or the sound in this case, and the person Himself. That is the understanding, and that’s why the chanting is so important. It puts you in touch with Krishna. And by being in touch with Krishna, your heart, mind and senses are purified, just as when we stand in the sunlight, we are in touch with the sun. Although the sun is 93 million miles away, we are actually in touch with the sun in a way that will not harm us. If we come too close to the sun, we will be burnt to ashes. So our present material condition, it is considered to be unnatural, or a diseased condition of life. As we said yesterday, it is because we are subjected to these four miseries: birth, old age, disease and death. So, the process is to come in touch with Krishna and be purified.

DHARMASTER SHUN: That idea that the name of Krishna is identical with Krishna, was that first introduced in the world by Chaitanya?

HANSADUTTA: No, it is not unique to Him. It is there in the shastras. But it has been stressed for this age. Everything is there in the shastras, but for certain ages, certain things are—how do you say? There is a focus. The word shastra means instruction. It comes from the word astra; astra means weapons.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Because in Buddhism, our scriptures are divided up into sutras. The word comes from Buddha. The precepts are the rules followed by the monks, and then shastras are commentaries by later people, not the Buddha. The divine word is shastra.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, anything to do with the divine realm is “shastric”. Shastra means instructions. They are injunctions meant for human beings, and astras are weapons, so the word is a derivative. Animals cannot take instructions; therefore we need a stick to control them. Like a ring in the nose for a bull, and a bit in the mouth for a horse, etc. But a human being is advanced in intelligence so he can be guided by good instructions. Therefore, the shastras say if a human being does not follow “shastric” injunctions, then he is an animal.

Religion as the science of life

Okay, I just wanted to make a short summary of what we discussed yesterday. We talked about the Bhagavad-gita and the five subject matters: the material energy, the spiritual energy, the controller of both, time and activities, or karma. Then we discussed that there are two kinds of dharma. There is the dharma, or duties and responsibilities that pertain to a person’s material body and his relationships with his family, friends and society. That is called apara-dharma, or inferior—it is not permanent, it is temporary. Now you are in this body—you were born in a Chinese family, I was born in a German family, he was born in an American family, and so we have duties in regards to these temporary relationships. But above that there is para-dharma, which are the duties or the responsibilities of the soul proper. They are eternal, they are permanent, and they apply to everyone.

We are in a class here where we are comparing religious communities and religious studies; it is a comparative religion class. But the more correct understanding is that there is only one religion. Just as there is only one education, but it has different levels, starting with the most elemental, basic kindergarten, then grammar school, then junior high, high school, college, university, post-graduate, and even after graduating, a person will continue his education in different ways. So similarly, spiritual studies or spiritual understanding is not a static thing where you simply wave a flag and say, “I’m a Christian, I’m a Jew, I’m a Muslim, I’m a Buddhist, I’m a Hindu”, and that’s it, finished. A common man understands religion in that way, but it is actually a progressive teaching, or a science of the living force.

Now, there are people who say, “I don’t believe there is a soul, and I don’t believe there is a God”, but still you can’t get around the fact that there is a difference between a dead body and a living body. There is a difference. Spiritual life, or spiritual studies, religion really concerns itself with that difference. What is that difference? A doctor will say, “The heart stopped”. Well, why? Make it go! Someone will say, “There is some chemical change.” So introduce the right chemical and bring the body back to life. We know, for example, that this body maintains a constant temperature of 98.6° F. We know that—who can deny it? When death takes place, the body temperature falls, the body becomes cold and stiff. It stops growing and in fact, starts to disintegrate. Religion has come to be seen in a very suspicious way, because it has been misused in so many ways and in so many places, and therefore there are communist countries where they just dismiss it out of hand—”Religion is the opiate of the masses.” But actually, real spiritual education is scientific, just as to become a medical doctor, and deal with this body and its ailments is a great science. Above that, to deal with the actual living force that activates this body is the subject of study, because the doctor’s medicines and injections are useless if the body is dead. Why? Because the moving, active principle has gone. Now, how it comes, how it goes—this is the science of spiritual life or yoga. It doesn’t matter by which name you call it; the concern is What am I? How did I come here? What is my responsibility? What am I to do here? And when this body is worn out and I have to leave it, then what happens?

As I said before, some people will say, “I don’t believe in the soul, I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in anything! I just want to enjoy.” That’s okay, but that does not mean that you will not become old, you will not get diseased, and that inevitably, you will not die. You will. Everyone will. And so the intelligent person will inquire into these things. The example I gave yesterday was Lord Buddha. He became so concerned and obsessed that he was to become old, diseased and ultimately face death, that he could not continue to carry out his normal material duties as a prince, as the son of a royal family, as a husband and as a father to his child. He became so overwhelmed by these four problems that he decided to abandon everything and sit down until he was enlightened, until it was clear what the meaning of this was, and what should be done. We find similar examples in the lives of St. Francis of Assisi, or Lord Jesus, and it goes on and on.

But the real point is that there is a science of life. At the present moment, especially in the Western countries, it is completely disregarded and ignored, and the result is that people are unhappy, because they are acting in terms of this body. They are thinking, “I am Chinese, I’m a Palestinian, I’m a Jew, I’m an Iraqi, I’m an American”, and they’re killing one another. Why? Because they are obsessed with this bodily identification, or this false designation. But as soon as we understand that “I’m not this body”, we have to ask “Why should I go out and subject myself to a conflict that is simply concerned with my outer appearance, with something I’m not: my body, which is not going to be here when I leave it?”

That is when human life actually begins. That is the whole subject matter of the Bhagavad-gita, and that was the entire Vedic culture and civilization. The society was organized in such a way that every person in the society, whether highly intelligent or just a lowly working class person, and even the animals could live and act in such a way that gradually they were making spiritual progress, which meant ultimately to get out of the cycle of birth, old age, disease and death. That is the meaning of Vedic civilization, as opposed to Western civilization, in which America has reached the apex. They simply say, “We’re here just one time, so let’s have a good time and make money, and when death finally comes, what can we do? We’ll just have to grin and bear it.”

Rubberstamping is not religion

So I’ve tried to present this in a nutshell, instead of in detail why we wear a sikha, why we wear a robe, or why do we do this and that. I’ve tried to present in a general way the importance of religion, and the fact that the many religions are actually one thing. It is simply that people have been very lazy and casual about understanding what spiritual life or religion actually is. It is enough for them to go to church once a week, or simply say, “Yeah, my dad is a Christian, my mom is a Christian, and so I’m a Christian too.” But they have no idea what it is. The fact is that spiritual understanding is even more important than being materially capable, like becoming a computer engineer or a doctor or a lawyer. That’s all very nice, but if I don’t know the most elementary and basic thing—what I am—if I can’t get out of the bodily concept of life, then I can’t be happy, even if I do become economically very successful. We see this all of the time, especially in America, in the lives of big movie stars, sports players and politicians. Their lives are a mess, because they have no point of reference beyond this body. They’re simply concerned with this body.

So, now we will have questions.

DHARMASTER SHUN: I have a question. Yesterday… I want to make sure that my understanding is correct. You said that there are the five subjects. There is para-prakriti. It is the superior nature, and that refers to the jiva atma, the spiritual self. And then the apara-prakriti, which is the inferior nature—that is, those eight elements: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and ego. And those are inert, they have no life, so they are what we call insentient. Okay, then… so the superior nature is what activates. It is sentient, a sentient being. Okay, and Krishna controls both of those. Does he just control? Or create them? Or what’s the relationship?

HANSADUTTA: He is the source of both energies, and being the source, He is also the controller, but being the controller doesn’t mean that He is personally controlling. Just as in this school there is a dean, someone who controls the school, but I don’t see him. He oversees through his agents. Even if we refer to the original founder, he is the remote controller. So yes, Krishna is both the origin and the controller of both energies.

STUDENT: What you talked to us about just now was mainly why religion is important, but it wasn’t, from what I heard, Hindu or Vedic specific.

HANSADUTTA: No, not specifically. Some people are drawn to the teachings of Lord Buddha, some are drawn to the teachings of Lord Jesus, and the reason is because they actually represent a certain stage of evolution in the spiritual life of that person. Therefore they have a natural affinity to be drawn to that. Life is ongoing. It is not a one-time thing where this is the first time we have been here. We see that people bring certain inclinations with them. One person is artistic, another person is musical, others are inclined to sports, some are very scholarly and studious. They exhibit this from birth. And why? Because it is from their previous lives. They have practiced, and therefore when they come, they have a natural affinity for certain things. So similarly in spiritual life, we have also had some connection, or practice, or association with spiritual teachers, either in the Christian community or the Buddha community or the Muslim community or the Vedic community. A person finds himself naturally drawn to one or more of these. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter which community one is drawn to. What does matter is that people actually follow the teachings of that person, and not simply become blind followers.

Importance of the spiritual master

STUDENT: Why were you drawn to the Vedic Religion?

HANSADUTTA: Yes, that’s a good question. I was born in Germany in 1941, at the height of the war. It was a common practice that all the children went to church early in the morning before school. So that was embedded in me to imbibe in the Christian teachings. Then I came to America, to New York City, and the kids here didn’t go to church. Some didn’t even go to school! They were all juvenile delinquents. After coming to this country, and being subjected to the New York juvenile delinquent lifestyle, I became more and more degraded, smoking cigarettes, drinking, and so on. My whole life was coming unraveled, without any direction. Then I fell into the LSD thing, and at some point I was just totally bewildered and confused, without any direction, and I didn’t know what to do. Then a friend came to my house with a small book by Srila Prabhupada. At first, I didn’t even read it. I just threw it into my car. Then my life became so depressed that one day I had this impulse that “I have got to read that little book”. To make a long story short, I read that small book—it was called Easy Journey to Other Planets.

DHARMASTER SHUN: What year was that?

HANSADUTTA: That was 1967.

DHARMASTER SHUN: So Prabhupada had just come from India in 1966?

HANSADUTTA: Yes. So as I read page after page, it just struck me and overwhelmed me that “Yes! This is what I have been looking for all along.” So I finished reading the book, went straight to the temple and said, “Hey, I want to be a devotee. What do I have to do?” That’s basically how I joined this movement. When I came, there were maybe only 15 boys altogether. This picture here, in black and white: that’s Prabhupada on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in Tompkins Square Park, preaching.

STUDENT: What was your first impression of Prabhupada when you first met him?

HANSADUTTA: Well, I first met the devotees, his disciples, and I could see that they were just completely absorbed and self-satisfied. They weren’t concerned with me, or putting on a show, and it really struck me. When I first met Prabhupada, I came into the room and he said—as if I were an old friend—”Oh, you have come.” I made obeisances, paid my respects to him, and sat down. I was [seated at a distance from Srila Prabhupada] maybe from here to where you are, in a small apartment in New York. And then it seemed to me that Prabhupada was glowing, that there was light streaming from him, and I thought, “It’s because I’m nervous.” So I started twitching my eyes and moving my head, but no, I actually saw that he was effulgent—which subsequently, later on, I would see also whenever he would speak, or whenever I was in his presence and I concentrated very carefully. Yes, I would see the same thing. Prabhupada had this effect on people, especially the first time they met him, that they would just burst out and start weeping. Completely. When I first walked into the room, all of my muscles just gave way. It was like I lost control of my cheeks and my legs, like I melted.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Do you think this is from past lives?

HANSADUTTA: Yes, I think so. Now in hindsight, when I look back, I feel that those disciples who came very early on and had such an immediate and complete dedication had to have been in his orbit before, and now they were meeting him again. And I’m convinced that when we leave this body, wherever Prabhupada is, we will go and join him, because that is the principle. “Wherever and whatever the mind is fixed upon when quitting this body, that nature one attains without fail.” (Bhagavad-gita)

DHARMASTER SHUN: So would you say that rather than your being born in a realm beyond birth and death with Krishna, actually you’re more focused on being with Prabhupada in the future?

HANSADUTTA: Yes. Actually, the Vaishnava teachings, in their higher realms… the devotees don’t really care if they’re liberated. They’re not striving to be liberated. They only want to be engaged in Krishna’s service, and more directly, they want to be engaged as the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna, a hundred times removed. And I’m sure that the Buddhist teachings are very similar.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Yes. There are different schools, but yes, in one of the main texts that we study, there is a focus on the importance of the teacher. But do you know what it is in Sanskrit? In Chinese they can’t translate it. It doesn’t even sound anything like the Sanskrit, but in Sanskrit it is kalyana mitra, which means good friend. It means a teacher, a guru.

HANSADUTTA: Did I answer your question? Good.

STUDENT: Where do you think you would have ended up if you hadn’t met Prabhupada?

HANSADUTTA: I probably would have ended up in jail or just dead. I’m not unusual, in that practically all of the devotees, and especially the early students grew up in the sixties, right? Which is probably now a subject matter for study in the schools. They study the 60’s, with the Beatles and Allen Ginsberg. At that time, a lot of the social norms were being challenged and broken.

DHARMASTER SHUN: You have to admit that a lot of events in the sixties… one of them was the Kennedy assassination… that kind of set the stage for a lot of the sixties. Didn’t that shake the foundation of your sense of security?

HANSADUTTA: No. We were kids. I was only 22 years old, so “Who cares about Kennedy?” [laughter] For adults, I’m sure it really shook them up, but we were New York kids, street kids. We didn’t care. What really shook us up was when Elvis first came on the scene! I remember the first time he was on TV. A friend of mine called me up and said, “You gotta turn on Ed Sullivan. There’s this guy on there”, and so I flipped the channel and there was Elvis doing his thing. We had never seen anything like it before—it was unbelievable. And the whole rock and roll thing… it was like aliens had landed. It was so completely contrary to anything that had ever been done musically. And it was illegal. The people who would play it on the air would get arrested, and then they would have shows, and the police would shut them down. Nowadays, when you go into K-mart, Little Richard and Bob Dylan are playing. So what happened was… I call it a milestone in the degradation of this age. People come who are actually gurus in a way, but they are introducing a step down in the degradation of the human society. Like Alan Ginsberg, for example. He introduced being gay as cool, and they became popular. But this is degradation. Then Timothy Leary introduced LSD, and was telling people that you can see God, and that you are God, so people were taking LSD and going mad. These persons are also leaders, but they are misleaders. They are taking the society one step down.

DHARMASTER SHUN: It’s interesting, though, how the spiritual movement of the sixties came at the same time.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, to counteract it. Because that is the nature of the world. We say opposites attract. But it’s not that opposites attract; they counterbalance, so that things don’t go too far off the edge.

DHARMASTER SHUN: So… like our master came in 1962, but he didn’t start lecturing to Americans until ’68, almost the same time as Prabhupada.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, so they come to counteract this degrading influence of the age.

Hare Krishna movement then and now

[To a student] You were going to ask another question?

STUDENT: How active is the Hare Krishna Movement today compared to before?

HANSADUTTA: In some parts of the world it is very active. In places like Russia and China they are very active, but it’s also very dangerous.

DHARMASTER SHUN: It’s illegal in Russia isn’t it?

HANSADUTTA: No, now it has become legal. But after Prabhupada, I was the first devotee to go to Russia and preach. But that’s another whole story in itself.

DHARMASTER SHUN: It was illegal for a while. Buddhism is one of the four legal religions in Russia, even through the Communist times. For some reason, there was a Buddhist influence going way way back several hundred years ago, so they recognized it. But Krishna must have been perceived as a threat.

HANSADUTTA: They probably figured that the Buddhists are very peaceful, so they couldn’t do any harm.

Tompkins Square, New York
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Tompkins Square, New York City, 1967

JIM: You were saying that it’s very active in some parts of the world, but in other parts—

HANSADUTTA: Yes. For example, Prabhupada came to America in 1965, and by ’66-67 it became a phenomenon. You would see the devotees everywhere—in the airports, in the streets.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Well, it was interesting. I was just listening to the tape of Prabhupada, and he was saying that he wanted to convert Americans, people in the West. Part of the purpose of that was to inspire people back in India, because he felt that they had become so degraded, that in the West he could show an example of Westerners that could influence people back in India.

HANSADUTTA: Yes. Prabhupada was actually thinking very strategically. His idea was that whatever Americans do, the whole world will imitate. So, New York was the center of the whole world. It used to be London, but the British lost their empire after World War II. So he thought that if he went to America and got them to take up Krishna Consciousness, then everyone would take to it, and that’s what he did. He spent a few years in New York, and on the west coast, and when he had a handful of disciples in 1970, he decided to take them to India. When we came to India, it was just like the Beatles coming to America. It was such a sensation for Indians to see white people with shaved heads and wearing Indian dhotis, and following vegetarian diets.

DHARMASTER SHUN: What year was that?

HANSADUTTA: The first time we went to India was 1970, and I was in that party. That was very exciting. It was really exciting. It was awesome, and it worked. Yes, so Indians also, they thought, “Whoa, what is this? Americans are taking this up? This is our thing, and you are taking it up?” But, now in America, things have slowed down to a great degree.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Also, it’s been absorbed. The culture has become so… it has taken aspects of the spirituality of the 60’s, and it’s become a common part of the culture. And you could say it’s kind of made it grassroots, more meaningful, with its original meaning being applied more practically in daily life.

HANSADUTTA: I think what we will see is instead of a movement that is headed by one person—which was extremely energetic, dynamic and aggressive in terms of recruiting people—it will now spread more one to one, grassroots. I think that is the future. Just like Jim. Jim is a high school teacher from Cloverdale, and maybe ten years ago or so—

JIM: ’98.

HANSADUTTA: ’98, yes. I was home schooling my kids Radharani and Govinda. The home schooling program required that I take them to see the teacher once a week for an hour.

JIM: Independent Study.

HANSADUTTA: So that turned out to be Jim. So when he saw my children and heard their names, he became really curious—”What is this?” [laughter] I remember Lakshmi kept saying, “The teacher wants to see you. He’s a football coach, and he’s really interested”, and I said, “Yeah, right. A football coach.” Finally he came over, and I cooked some prasadam, and that’s how our relationship started. Since then, Jim has completely absorbed himself in Prabhupada’s teachings, and in fact more or less gave up teaching, because it became such a headache, because it seemed like such a futile endeavor to teach in the public schools. There is no way you can control the kids. You can’t discipline them, and so forth and so on. And you definitely can’t talk about Krishna. So, what he does now is substitute teaching, which really suits him better. And then his mom… she took it up. At first, she was terrified— “What happened to my boy? He’s chanting Hare Krishna.” Then she became more and more absorbed, and now she’s chanting and reading the books and telling her friends. Jim has many other friends, and in this way it’s spreading, like a disease. [laughter] We call it the “K Virus”.

And the beautiful thing about Krishna consciousness is it’s not necessary to shave your head and leave your family and do all of that. If one has that enthusiasm, that’s nice. But people actually need to understand Krishna Consciousness in terms of the environment in which they work, why the problems exist that we have. Like why do we have such a big drug problem in America? The reason is that people are in the bodily concept of life, and they are trying to be happy by putting something in this body… or squeezing another body. Everything is bodily oriented.

DHARMASTER SHUN: And the culture totally supports it. Remember just five years ago you couldn’t even have advertisements for drugs on TV. It wasn’t a law, but it was just a tradition. You never had that. Now everything… it’s terrible.

HANSADUTTA: They have no idea of anything beyond this body, and of course we can’t get any pleasure out of this body. It’s just a lump of matter. It’s like trying to get pleasure out of my car; my car is just a machine. In fact, in Sanskrit, the body in known as a yantra. Yantra means machine. The body is a machine, and like any machine, if some part breaks—if you have liver failure, kidney failure, even heart failure—you can replace it. But you cannot replace the soul. Once the life is gone, that’s it, finished. The life is not part of this body, just as the driver is not part of the car; the driver pushes the button, and then the car moves.

STUDENT: Have you ever had any spiritual or supernatural experiences?

HANSADUTTA: Yes, I have. Well, astral traveling. In fact, probably all of you astral travel. Some know it, and some don’t know it. What happens is: your subtle body, which is made up of mind, intellect and ego… when you sleep, the subtle body disengages from the gross body, and that’s why you get rejuvenated. So even if you take a little ten or twenty minute nap in the afternoon—which is what I do—then when the subtle body disengages from the gross body, you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. And sometimes, I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but you will wake up with a jolt. Have you ever had that?

STUDENT: Yes, when the teacher smacks the desk with a ruler! [laughter] No. But what were some hardships that the devotees went through following Srila Prabhupada?

HANSADUTTA: I’ve preached in all parts of the world. I’ve preached in Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia. And one of the most trying times I’ve ever experienced… we used to preach in the Rappaban (the Rappaban is the German red light district, where people go drinking and carousing). We were chanting in front of a furniture store that had big plate glass windows, and there were maybe six or eight of us chanting, when these two really drunken guys came, and started harassing us. I was afraid that they were going to push us through the windows. So I thought, “What do we do now? I have to just depend on Krishna.” So I just decided that we had to chant Hare Krishna more. And all of a sudden— and I don’t know why—the crowd around us just grabbed these guys and started fighting with them. When I saw that, I thought “That’s our cue! We’ve got to get out of here”, and we ran off. We used to go also to Russia and East Germany secretly, because in those days it was still closed. They still had the wall.

DHARMASTER SHUN: How did you get across to East Germany?

HANSADUTTA: You could drive, because Berlin was cut in half. You could drive through the eastern part to get to Berlin, but you weren’t supposed to stop or anything like that, so we used to smuggle books in like that. I had a very funny experience. We used to go to East Germany and have secret programs, and young people would come, and we would be preaching about giving up meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling—which are our four major precepts. After our class one evening, a person raised his hand and said, “You’re talking about giving these things up, and we haven’t even had them yet!”

DHARMASTER SHUN: [laughing] Because they were so poor and impoverished!

HANSADUTTA: Yes. And one person became a very serious devotee, so we were trying to figure out how to get him out of East Germany, and we hit on this plan where we would get him an American soldier’s uniform, because American soldiers could come and go. So it was working just fine, until we got to the very last guard, who caught on that something wasn’t right. They got him and put him in jail for about 8 months, then they threw him out of the country.

DHARMASTER SHUN: So your early New York experiences came in handy!

HANSADUTTA: We did a lot of funny things. In 1995, a business friend from Singapore took me to China. I was there for 10 days in Beijing and Shanghai, and I could see that if we were to chant there on the street, it would really take off.

STUDENT: Are there a lot of devotees in China?

HANSADUTTA: Yes, there are, but it is all undercover. They do come to India. Apparently the Chinese Government does let them out to go to places like India.

DHARMASTER SHUN: I was just reading in this month’s Hinduism Today that yoga has become very popular in China.

HANSADUTTA: When I went there in ’95… The Chinese businessman from Singapore had some property in Shanghai, and he was doing some business selling shoes—his name was Mr. Chew, so he had an email address of “chewshoe”—it was very funny. Anyway, he introduced me to one of the top financial advisors to Jiang Zemin. His wife was the top folksinger in the country. They were a young couple, very nice. They didn’t speak English, but they were very interested in Krishna, and asked many questions. They came every day for three days. So, actually everywhere, people want to know about Krishna, because it’s natural. It’s not unusual.

Nirvana according to the Vedic view

In fact, I was going to say to you, Dharmaster Shun, on the way over I thought that everything is a vestige or a remnant from the original Vedic culture. Buddha’s teachings are nothing but Vedic teachings. Without him being rooted in that culture, there would be no Buddhist teachings; it would be something else. So everything is a morphing or a derivative of the original Vedic culture, whether it’s Christianity or the Mohammedan teachings, or the Parsi teachings, the fire worshipers, or Egyptian worshipers, etc.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Well, Parsi is Zoroastrianism.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, but it’s also rooted in the Vedic culture—it’s fire worship.

STUDENT: Do you disagree with Buddha’s teachings?

HANSADUTTA: No, we don’t disagree, because as I said, Buddha’s teachings are a derivative of the original Vedic culture. He was a Vedic Prince.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Well, one thing you would say is that Buddha’s goal and conception of nirvana tends to coincide more with the impersonalists. So it doesn’t alter from your point of view?

HANSADUTTA: Yes, but it’s not a disagreement. We agree that there is a state [of nirvana], but that there is more to it.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Why don’t you explain that? Because that was one thing that I was mentioning to them. I said you are going to have to explain these states, because, I said, reading the Upanishads, you’ve got the atman being identical with the Brahman, and I gave the example of a drop of water falling into the ocean, and it totally loses all of its identity, but now you’ve got those four rasas, and I said maybe you could explain it, because I don’t understand.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, so I’m going to give a little illustration. [Draws diagram of a lens on the chalk board, and labels one side “the material world”, and the other “the spiritual world”, and the point at which matter and spirit meet being the point of inversion for a beam of light passing through the lens.] Okay. I’m going to try to explain a little bit about what the difference is, or how Krishna consciousness and the teachings of Lord Buddha are related. Now, take this as a lens. You’re all familiar with a lens? Like a camera lens? This is a camera lens, and on this side is the material world, and on that side is the spiritual world. Now, we know that when an image on this side of the lens… say we have a man here… we know that image comes into the lens like this, and at this point it inverts. It turns upside down. There is a point where the image inverts, and it is again projected out, generally onto film, but we’re just using this as an example of the material and spiritual worlds.

Whatever is in this world [pointing to the material world] is temporary, but we are entangled with this temporary world in terms of this body, and friends and family and so many things.

So the example at this point… those who are practicing various types of meditation are trying to come to the spiritual world. They’re trying to get free from the material world, and come to the spiritual world. In the process of meditation, as you go forward you come to a point where you are not in either world; you are at the junction where matter and spirit meet, and that is called nirvana.

When you go a little further, when you project further into the spiritual world, it is called Brahman, Brahma-nirvana. In fact, that word is used in the Bhagavad-gita. It is an impersonal state of existence. There is no form, and there is no activity. It is like the sunshine that is all-pervading in the universe.

So when you go further still from this Brahma-nirvana, you come to what is called Paramatma. Atma—remember? Meaning self. But param means superior, so Paramatma means the supreme self. That is Krishna.

And when you go still further, you come to Bhagavan. Bhagavan means one who possesses all six opulences in full: bhaga means opulences like beauty, wealth, strength, intelligence, fame and renunciation. This means the Personality of Godhead. Ultimately, the supreme truth is the supreme person, or the greatest person. And everything in this spiritual sky is eternal; it is never created and never destroyed.

But everything in this world [pointing to the material world] is created and destroyed. Everything in the material world goes through six phases: it is born, it grows, it produces offspring, it remains for a while, it dwindles, and then it vanishes. Or the other way to say it is: birth, old age, disease and death. There is no exception to this law.

Another description given in the Vedic literature is that this material world is a reflection of the spiritual world. That everything we see here exists in its original, spiritual archetype. When you go to the shopping mall, you see mannequins in the store window wearing clothing. It attracts us, but we know that the mannequin is plaster. Why does it attract us? Because the mannequin is an imitation of a real body. When you see a photograph, you see everything in the photo in detail, but the person is not there; it is only a reflection. Or if you go to a movie, what you see in the movie is only flickering lights, but because it’s a reflection of reality somewhere else, it attracts and mesmerizes us. So similarly, this material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. And until we actually come to the point of understanding the reality, we will forever be helplessly drawn to the imitation, just as moths are drawn to the fire. They are just helplessly drawn to it, and the nearer they come, they are burned up in the flames of the fire.

So to sum it up, there are two worlds, or atmospheres: one material, one spiritual. On the journey, you come to the point of inversion, and that is actually nirvana.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Your conception of nirvana. Buddhism would say there is only nirvana, this is the only true reality, but because of ignorance, which has no cause, is unconditioned, and there is no reason for it, this nirvana is distorted, and it becomes samsara, the cycle of birth and death. We believe that samsara (what you would call the material world) is a distortion created in nirvana due to avidya, due to ignorance.

HANSADUTTA: Yes, we also explain it that way, because it can be explained in a number of ways. We are always speaking of analogies, because we can’t conceive of these things in our present state of material consciousness.

DHARMASTER SHUN: When you have nirvana, there isn’t any material world, there isn’t any spiritual world.

HANSADUTTA: Well, we also say that. As I mentioned, there are many ways to explain the two things. But because we are in this distorted consciousness, therefore we are forever using analogies, and the analogies can only give a hint or a glimpse.

DHARMASTER SHUN: That is true, but I think analogies indicate the differences in the way the world is perceived. But in terms of the agreement that the material world is something we shouldn’t be attached to, that we want to… liberation is something different from the material world, something beyond birth and death.

HANSADUTTA: The Vedic view also explains that when a man is sleeping, a man who is awake knows that he’s sleeping, but the sleeping man doesn’t know that he’s sleeping and that what he is experiencing—like a tiger is eating him [in his dream] is not real, but I know that there is no tiger. He is in a state of ignorance. So that’s another way they explain it. If someone who is awake calls him, and he comes to his senses, he then realizes that he was asleep. There are different ways to approach this phenomenon of being bewildered, or being in illusion, or being in a state of forgetfulness of one’s true nature.

DHARMASTER SHUN: I would say that based on the analogies which can represent the actual experience, there seems to be a different way that the realm beyond birth and death, what we call nirvana and which you were saying is Brahman… I would say that there is a difference in the way it is conceived, from what I can see, because nirvana is explained in the Buddhist sutras as being without any qualities at all, definitely an impersonalist kind of conception where you can’t say it’s this world or the world beyond. There is no sun, no moon—it’s usually just spoken of—

HANSADUTTA: Yes, the Bhagavatam also says that there are three distinct states of awakening as you emerge into the transcendence. The first one is impersonal, and mostly people are attached to that, because they have suffered and been frustrated so much in this life of varieties, that they feel that this is the end-all and be-all, but Bhagavatam says no, there is more, that when you go further you see that there is a Supreme Being, and He is with you, and He is noble, and if you go further, it is just like I am seeing you, you are seeing me. But it is very, very difficult for the conditioned souls to come to that point, because they feel that “No, the opposite of what this is must be the truth.” That’s how they come to that.

DHARMASTER SHUN: The reason Buddhism will not accept that there is anything beyond is for one real big, main reason, which is that the realization of nirvana is perceived as only realizable when one has no attachment whatsoever. So the idea that one can be attached to nirvana is not a possibility, because the only way nirvana can be realized from the Buddhist perspective is—

JIM: Non-attachment to everything, complete.

DHARMASTER SHUN: Not even complete. That means you can’t even have the attachment of your being in nirvana, because that’s an attachment.

HANSADUTTA: It’s your intrinsic nature. Anyway, how about some halavah? I think the troops here are getting restless. Anyone interested?

[And the day concludes with the students enthusiastically taking prasadam in the form of delicious, freshly prepared, hot halavah!]


Article printed from KRSNA World: http://hansadutta.com/krsnaworld

URL to article: http://hansadutta.com/krsnaworld/2011/07/08/one-religion-like-one-sun/

URLs in this post:

[1] Bhagavad-gita [6.6]: http://prabhupadabooks.com/?g=2111

[2] Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is: http://hansadutta.com/krsnaworld/2011/07/06/introduction-to-bhagavad-gita-as-it-is/

[3] 8.6: http://prabhupadabooks.com/?g=2787

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