The Eternally Limitless and Me
From Back to Godhead
By Abhijit Tolley
Since my early childhood, I have wondered about the limits of the universe I live in. At night, as the stars twinkled enigmatically overhead with the moon majestically presiding over the celestial assembly, I used to ponder on what lies beyond this universe. Suppose I ventured out into the enchanting night sky and at some fine hour reached its limit, what would I find beyond it? If I ever found the boundary, would I be able to distinguish between the two sides of it inside the boundary, and beyond it? Certainly, the inside part belongs to this universe, but if I can perceive the beyond, then certainly the inside is not all that exists; there is existence beyond too. So, with the spirit of adventure and with the anticipation of new discoveries, I would continue my journey. But then, I could surely come across another boundary, and another, and another. At every boundary there will certainly be something beyond it, because a boundary implies the existence of the beyond. Either I’ll keep finding such boundaries or after a certain number of boundaries, I’ll never find the next bounding limit. In either case, I concluded, I would never find a boundary beyond which existence ceased. Existence is unlimited, incomprehensible, but undeniable!
The vedic paradigm
We read from the Vedic scriptures that existence is indeed unlimited. This universe we live in has a boundary. It is shaped like a sphere covered by layers of material elements like earth, water, fire, air, etc. The sky we see at night is inside this universe and can be called the material sky. But beyond this limited universe, there exists the spiritual sky which has no limits. The material universe in which we exist is one among unlimited material universes that make up a dark corner in that spiritual sky. Apart from that, in the unlimited spiritual sky there also exist unlimited spiritual planets on which the Supreme Lord Himself resides in His unlimited all-powerful forms along with His innumerable loving devotees, enjoying ever increasing and ever fresh happiness in loving pastimes.
Another question I have pondered over is about the origin of life. Everything has a source, but what is the source of everything? And when did everything start coming into being? So, I started my thought experiments. My meditaion led me to deduce the following: For there to be a time instant at which existence came into being, there has to be a time instant at which existence was absent. That is, at time t, there was non-existence nothing existed; then, out of nowhere, literally, at time t+dt, voila, there was existence! Therefore, existence came out of non-existence. This, I was convinced beyond doubt, is not possible. So, what’s the alternative explanation? The only alternative is that there is existence eternally, for all time instants t. Since we are certain that there is existence, and that existence cannot crop out of non-existence, existence is eternal.
Combined with my earlier conclusion, that existence is unlimited, this means that existence is not only unlimited, but also eternal. Eternally limitless existence. Again, incomprehen-sible, but undeniable.
Moreover, the Vedic scriptures confirm this as well. The Supreme Lord Sri Krsna and His energies exist eternally and simultaneously. Just like the sun and sunlight exist simultaneously, the sun being the source, the Lord and His energies exist simultaneously, the Lord being their source. One of the Lord’s energies is the material energy, of which the material universes are made of. This energy is also eternal, but its different manifestations are temporary. Therefore, everything inside this universe and the universe itself is temporary, being manifestations (temporary) of the eternal material energy of the Lord. (The time scales, however, might vary astronomically; some manifestations within the universe exist for a few minutes, while the universe itself, exists for millions of years. But in any case, all are temporary, and in fact hopelessly insignificant compared to the eternally unlimited nature of existence, in terms of both time and size.
The next question, which quite logically followed the above conclusions, is about my own existence in this whole eternally unlimited scheme of things. If my existence is limited to perhaps a hundred years of the existence of my body, then nothing of this world is of any significance to me. What is a hundred years compared to eternity? All human endeavors, philosophy, morality, social welfare activity, achievement, emotions, aspirations, everything, is just plain insignificant. Discussions on any topic whatsoever is insignificant; right and wrong, justice and injustice, independence and slavery, this philosophy or that, sports, politics, showbiz, likes and dislikes, virtue and sin, nothing is any more significant than an invisible harmless speck of dust compared to the vast desert. And therefore, I could resign myself to doing whatever I like for the hopelessly limited expanse of my existence.
But what about the other possibility? What if my existence is not limited to just this one lifetime of hundred years? What if it extends to many lifetimes at least? And what it if my existence is actually unlimited? Then how I lead my life becomes important because I don’t want to be uncomfortable for any significant length of time. How should I act so that my existence is comfortable and happy? This question opened up more meditations.
The principles of eternal life
The Vedic scriptures assert, and are in fact based on, the fundamental premise that life is eternal. All living beings called souls (atman) have existed eternally and will continue to exist eternally. Their original home is one of the spiritual planets, and they have an eternal relationship of love with the Lord. The souls are thus meant for an eternal life of happiness and enjoyment experienced through their spiritual senses by lovingly serving the Lord in the spiritual planets. Those souls who desired to experience an existence independent of the Lord were kindly provided by the Lord with this material world and a material body to interact with the material world. Thus, typically, the souls in the material universes are forgetful of their original position as eternal loving associates of the Supreme Lord. However, because the souls have experienced sublime love and happiness in the spiritual world, they seek the same experience in this material world. They develop the notion that happiness can be derived by gratifying their own mind and senses. Thus, in the quest for unlimited happiness, through the temporary and limited material senses, they are either subject to frustration (tolerating it quietly or venting it out), or exploiting others for their own selfish desires. In any case, that which can be experienced only through spiritual senses by loving service to the Lord can never be experienced by the temporary and limited material senses merely by interaction with the objects of this material world. This situation is, in a nutshell, the cause of all the ills of this material world.
Thus, the root cause of all misery is that we are, of our own volition, looking for happiness in the wrong place. Unless the mind and senses are engaged in the loving service of the Lord, that which we are seeking unlimited happiness will never be ours. No amount of material ingredients can give us that. If it were so, all rich people would be happy and all poor ones sad. But by observing things around us we can clearly see that happiness levels have nothing to do with material affluence.
What is that X-factor then that is the source of all lasting happiness? The foundation of happiness is satisfaction, being satisfied with what one has. An unsatisfied soul can never be happy, and a satisfied soul doesn’t require much to be happy. And where does satisfaction begin? In selfless service.
Quite a few of us have the experience that helping others brings a sense of satisfaction to our lives. Many people dedicate their lives keeping the ideal of service as their guide. Why does selfless service bring about satisfaction? The Vedic scriptures explain that the very nature of the soul is selfless service to The Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. Thus, even a semblance of it, i.e. service to someone other than Krsna, lets us taste a drop of that ocean of satisfaction and happiness that is in store for us when we start lovingly serving Krsna. When we start serving Krsna directly, we start experiencing a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness. And naturally, we want to share our good fortune of discovering real happiness with others.
Often a question crops up instead of serving God, who doesn’t really need our help, why not serve the needy and unfortunate of this world? The answer, which the reader would have figured out by now, is that it is the need of every soul to serve God. Only by serving God can a soul really be as happy as he really wants to be. Therefore, we should serve God for our own benefit. Moreover, having understood this fundamental truth, one would naturally want to help others by encouraging them also to serve God and thus find true happiness in their lives. This is the only real service one can render to others; all else will just be a mere semblance of service with no lasting positive impact, because nothing else can fix the root cause of all maladies. Thus, let all social workers carry on their good work, but add the most important factor of spreading God consciousness to their list of activities. With that, their endeavors will be truly successful and without which they are all but utter failures.
Are we serving god selfishly?
At this point another question raises its hood, especially in the minds of the cynical. “So, after all,” they say, “all you want is your own happiness. You are not really as selfless as you want us to believe. You are serving God because it gives you happiness; that’s not really selfless.” We acknowledge the astute intelligence behind this question. And the answer to this question is what actually touches the heart of all sincere devotees of God. We inform those who are seeking happiness away from God that unlimited happiness is found only in serving God. By rendering some service to God, even selfishly, the dormant love for God begins to revive. Soon the person starts serving God with selfless love. It is the nature of the soul to love and serve God, and once reinstated in that original consciousness, the soul just wants to serve God out of love. For a pure devotee of God, there is no consideration of whether he himself is happy or not, all he is concerned about is how he can serve His Lord and please Him. The Lord, who is all loving, is moved by the love of such a devotee and reciprocates in such a way that the devotee’s happiness knows no bounds., The pure devotee, however, does not act motivated by Krsna’s reciprocation, but out of love only. The pure devotee never seeks happiness, he is always seeking service indeed, this is the very definition of pure love for Krsna and is the essence of the existence of the soul.
Thus, the journey that started on the terrace of my house, gazing into the lovely night sky, led me beyond the boundaries of the material world into the limitless expanse of the spiritual sky. It further led me into the eternally limitless existence of the Lord and His energies. Discovering such incomprehensible vastness made me wonder about the significance of my own existence. Further excursions led me to the discovery of the eternity of my own existence and of my natural eternal state of being a loving servant of God. Thus, at this point in my life, my focus is on reviving my natural spiritual consciousness and helping others do the same.
The incomprehensible but undeniable eternal limitlessness of existence out there, has led me to discover myself in here!