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The Brain As Holodeck

Monday, 25 November 2019 / Published in Articles, Tamoharadasa / 9,153 views

The spiritual or eternal self is not the sensations which the soul experiences within and from the body. “yantra rudrani mayaya”. What we directly experience is not actually the external hard physical material world, but a REPRESENTATION built by the mind, within the networks of the body’s brain, nervous and glandular systems, life air, etc., but primarily the brain, of the occupied body, exactly like a person experiencing the holo-deck from Star Trek fame. Subject, also, to defects.

By Tamohara dasa (ACBSP)

“.. the soul … sits as if on a machine built of material energy.” Lord Sri Krsna, Bhagavad Gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada Thakura.

We are, indeed ghosts within the machine. But, as aspirants for spiritual emancipation, we are actively working to fix that.

When we meditate, if we are inclined to remember, we may wish to occasionally remember that we are the ability to sense, not exactly the sensations themselves, which are but the mere elements of the representative holodeck of the human brain.

There is some variety, which adds to the difficulty and bewilderment of the soul in the human holodeck. as Srila Prabhupada said in Rome, “We are desiring of some (material) varieties”, as conditioned souls. Sometimes there are some sounds, (hopefully the maha-mantra!), sometimes the sensation of the tongue moving, sometimes some sense of breathing, etc. I am not this, but the experiencer, the seer of this. Supersoul is there also. Only Lord Visnu is omniscient, and we acquire our knowledge from Him. He is the doer and the activity of sensation, the seer, the experience and the object of sensation. We float within His Being.

We are not the doers, we are the desirers; the Lord actually carries out the activity, and even our foolishness is allowed, if we insist. Love means, among other things, not forced. If we go the route of seperatism and inevitable shrinkage of the self, we gradually become puppets trapped in identification with the non-pure Krsna consciousness, and instead of extending our love out to Godhead, we extend our consciousness outwards the sensory apparatus of the temporary forms allowed to us by Godhead to fulfill our every relatively wretched desire.

The self, in another life placed in another body, naturally extends its consciousness to the external limits of the current sensation-capsule and experience-delivering system, or the body / form. Like a well-fitted glove, the fit is nice. It is always nice. The adopted forms which our consciousness extends into determines the wavelengths and spectrums of energies which we shall experience, just like a TV provides pictures, and radios provide sound, so each body has its ranges and specialties.

Neither are we the controllers of the ‘field of activities’ which creates the diverse sensations, delivered up to us like platters, as we sit within the human body. The external world is controlled and enjoyed by the Lord. those cars rumbling by have nothing to do with us, so no need to extend out the senses to inquire whether some sense gratifacatory opportunities are there, whether we may need to try to control the situation. Our presence is not actually even required! We can let go our attachments and anxieties of loss and acquisition. We own none of it. It is all temporary, for us. Just surrender unto Him, and do not fear. Relax the false ego and the four needs; feed fear fight and procreate.

As devotees, ‘We have a right to perform devotional service’, so sayeth Sri Krsna, the Supreme Lord. So, let us choose to exercise that right, and when we remember the Lord, it should be with an intent to serve !, not an intent to enjoy the pastimes only, but to serve the pastimes. Same with chanting japa. The Holy Names are for service; for example, to be spread to the many innocents, to be listened to and said clearly, with full respect for the Divine Personshood of the Names, with respectful and loving surrendered concentration, aware that this is our eternal shelter. Ultimately, with attachment and growing wonder and joy and thankfulness.

In this way, by analyzing and understanding sastric knowledge, our eternal nature as soul and servant, we prepare to become endowed, by His mercy and will, ( the merciful will of Lord Balarama-Sri Gurudeva and Sri Radhe ), with direct sensations of spiritual nature, delivered by yogamaya within a delightful form of rasa and bliss, without having any material ego-bound filtering or mere holodeck representations, but actual reality, as enjoyed and envisioned by the Supreme Personality of Godhead !

He is unimaginably attractive. As infinite Godhead, He has no limits to His qualities and abilities, and can totally captivate the mind and heart of the tiny jiva if He wishes. And thank goodness for all of us, He is so magnanimous, that He does indeed wish.

The Gita Condensed
Photos from Hammersmith Apollo Krishna Spectacular

32 Responses to “The Brain As Holodeck”

  1. Part 1

    I agree with most of what you wrote, but I feel there was a mistake in the beginning where you wrote:

    What we directly experience is not actually the external hard physical material world, but a REPRESENTATION built by the mind, within the networks of the body’s brain, nervous and glandular systems, life air, etc., but primarily the brain, of the occupied body, exactly like a person experiencing the holo-deck from Star Trek fame. Subject, also, to defects.

    The current trend in explaining the mind-brain relationship in the various scientific fields associated with that is in agreement with the above. But they are wrong, as is the above. They see the mind as a product of the brain. They cannot explain how the mind works nor how the brain-mind connection works, but because they start from a platform of metaphysical naturalism, they can only speculate within the confines of those intellectual borders. Therefore to their way of looking at the mind they can only explain how the mind works in reference to the material goings on within the brain e.g. chemicals in the brain are responsible for the existence of the mind, and the mind works on a chemical or material basis.

    The reality is that the mind is not the product of, nor dependent on, nor functions, based upon the brain. Some people have almost no brain at all yet have highly developed minds ( )

  2. part 2

    In the Bhagavatam Kapiladev states

    yad vidur hy aniruddhakhyam
    hrsikanam adhisvaram
    samradhyam yogibhih sanaih

    The mind of the living entity is known by the name of Lord Aniruddha, the supreme ruler of the senses. He possesses a bluish-black form resembling a lotus flower growing in the autumn. He is found slowly by the yogīs.

    The reality is that the mind is God. The Lord is all pervading, the mind of every jiva is a manifestation of the Lord’s mind. In the conditioned state the jiva identifies with the mind, seeing the mind as either himself or under his control. But in reality the mind is the Lord. We do not experience reality through the brain. A material body needs some brain substance in order for the jiva to function properly in the body, but the world is not being experienced by the brain, nor is what we experience of the world a “REPRESENTATION built by the mind”. The materialists have to believe that what we experience is a “representation built by the mind” because the basis of the function of the mind to them is the chemical interactions going on in the brain. Therefore they think the world we experience has to be something created by the brain because they think our mind is created by the brain and that we experience the world through our mind. In truth we experience the world through our consciousness, which is different from the mind. The materialists either deny that consciousness exists, or they consider it as a function of the mind.

    The mind is not the product of chemical interactions in the brain, but is rather transcendent to the brain and existing in it’s own dimension, it is a “ghost in the machine”. It functions in a way which has nothing to do with “building a representation” of reality, except when you are asleep and experience dreams. When you look at these words your brain is not creating these words in your mind, you are actually seeing these words through your consciousness, you understand what you see through the mind. We do experience the world through the mind in the sense of the understanding of what we experience through our cosnciousness, is dependent on the mind informing our consciousness. Without a mind we wouldn’t understand what we perceive, we would be like some lower life form.

  3. part 3

    The mind is not a machine which is dependent on the chemical interactions of the brain. The mind works under God’s direction because there is really only one mind, God’s mind, which is all pervading and which we are all dependent on for our intellectual ability to understand anything.

    sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto
    mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca

    I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.

    In the conditioned state the jiva is affected by ahankara, and by that, the true reality of the mind is obscured, and the conditioned mind, which is illusory, is what arises. Kapila tells us

    vaikārikād vikurvāṇān
    manas-tattvam ajāyata
    vartate kāma-sambhavah

    From the false ego of goodness, another transformation takes place. From this evolves the mind, whose thoughts and reflections give rise to desire.

    Here Kapila is talking about the material mind, or the illusory mind, which is created when the jiva identifies the mind as himself or under his control. Kapila goes on to say

    sahasra-śirasaḿ sākṣād
    yam anantaḿ pracakṣate
    sańkarṣaṇākhyaḿ puruṣam

    The threefold ahańkāra, the source of the gross elements, the senses and the mind, is identical with them because it is their cause. It is known by the name of Sańkarṣaṇa, who is directly Lord Ananta with a thousand heads.

    Here we are told that ahankara is essentially creating our material existence. When one is under the influence of ahankara one misidentifies reality, thus creating the material world, material senses, and material mind. But in reality it is all directly the Lord. Therefore the material existence we experience is really only tentative for the jiva, it is contingent upon our perception. The mind is seen in one way when you are conditioned, but in a different way when you are liberated. Therefore Kapila says

    yad vidur hy aniruddhakhyam
    hrsikanam adhisvaram
    samradhyam yogibhih sanaih

    The mind of the living entity is known by the name of Lord Aniruddha, the supreme ruler of the senses. He possesses a bluish-black form resembling a lotus flower growing in the autumn. He is found slowly by the yogīs.

  4. part 4

    When the jiva is free from ahankara then he finds the Lord existing at the heart of the mind.

    santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
    yaḿ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpam
    govindam ādi-puruṣaḿ tam ahaḿ bhajāmi

    I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Śyāmasundara, Kṛṣṇa Himself with inconceivable innumerable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love

    Therefore Kapila says

    muktāśrayaḿ yarhi nirviṣayaḿ viraktam
    nirvāṇam ṛcchati manaḥ sahasā yathārcih
    ātmānam atra puruṣo ‘vyavadhānam ekam
    anvīkṣate pratinivṛtta-guṇa-pravāhah

    When the mind is thus completely freed from all material contamination and detached from material objectives, it is just like the flame of a lamp. At that time the mind is actually dovetailed with that of the Supreme Lord and is experienced as one with Him because it is freed from the interactive flow of the material qualities

    so ‘py etayā caramayā manaso nivṛttyā
    tasmin mahimny avasitaḥ sukha-duḥkha-bāhye
    hetutvam apy asati kartari duḥkhayor yat
    svātman vidhatta upalabdha-parātma-kāṣṭhah

    Thus situated in the highest transcendental stage, the mind ceases from all material reaction and becomes situated in its own glory, transcendental to all material conceptions of happiness and distress. At that time the yogī realizes the truth of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He discovers that pleasure and pain as well as their interactions, which he attributed to his own self, are actually due to the false ego, which is a product of ignorance.

  5. Non-Vedic thinkers seem to have a hard time conceiving of mind, inteligence and ego as unconscious elements. I know I do. But it is clear that that is what they are.

    I have a hard time conceiving of mind, inteligence and ego as existing independent from a jiva, because I conceive of them in connection with consciousness, but my understanding is that, like the other material elements, they are created for the *purpose* of providing part of the field of activities for jivas, but they are not created by the jivas as such, or even out of the consciousness of the jivas. They are created out of the threefold false ego, i.e. out of material nature, bhinna prakrti, which covers jivas.

    I have an even harder time understanding how the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance are the fundamental stuff of material nature. They *seem* to be qualities of consciousness, but that is, I think, a backwards way of looking at it. The conscious jiva, situated in material nature, enjoys or suffers in different ways due to association with different modes, but the modes themselves are qualities of matter rather than qualities of consciousness.

    I have to admit that I am deeply brainwashed by the materialistic philosophy of the past 400 or 500 years. The philosophical insight that criticised the Aristotilian statement “opium has a dormative virtue” seemed to be providing a more advanced way of thinking of matter, divorcing our explanation of the world from the effects its elements have on human senses and seeking an explanation based on other qualities, “things in themselves” (having qualities like mass, wavelength, velocity, electrical charge), which happen to interact with our senses to produce specific impressions or representations.

    I can see how a brahman may act in the mode of goodness and a ksatriya in the mode of passion, but when Krishna says all activities are carried out by the three modes I am puzzled. What about “natural” (adidaivic) activities like the movement of tides, rivers, seismic motions, planetary motions, chemical reactions? What modes control them? How about the actions of different animals? Are different elements like mercury or sulphur composed of different mixtures of modes? Are there Vedic alchemists who know the complete science of these elements, their controling planets, demigods and humors, like the “occultists” who were apparently defeated by scientists in 17th century Europe?

  6. Tamoharadasa says :

    Tamoharadasa Says:
    January 2nd, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you for your thought-provoking insights into the essential experienced reality, mind / body issues. Yes, as pointed out, my article does have a reductionist approach in part,in particular in dealing with this “representation of reality”notion. That is purposive, and due to to my scientific background interests in the field. My main point is to help the newer reader seperate the concept of the elements of the body from the actual eternal self, thus obtaining liberation, and then suggesting establishing a serving relation ship with Godhead, as the next step.

    Atthe same time, philosophical concepts from the Gita etc. that I accepted off-hand when younger, I now find I like to re-evaluate for a deeper understanding. In particular, Shiva Ji’s descriptions from Sri Kapiladeva are especially interesting. I have understood the mind as like a software program that runs, as programmed. It is not the self, but pretty close to! The self has spontaneous knowledge and direct perception, and in the influence of yoga maya ji, is harmonic and in-step with the tune of the devotees’ and Radha Krsna’s rasas. A modern man, I am trapped in modern analogies!

    Anyway, the notion of material “mind” versus the spiritual mind explains some of the incongruency between the “reality” which is temporary and that which is eternal, but both of which are experienced as real to the jiva at the time. The mind category remains, while the state of it varies. The self is above mind, as experiencer, desirer.

    One thing certain, at the core of the seperatist psychology is a failure to identify one’s core being with that of the Godhead’s Being.

    Haribol, Dickie S. (Ak. dasa) !

  7. Bhakta Rod says :

    The material mind and bodily and their senses are the imagination of the jiva-soul as Prabhupada explains to us, such vessels and everything associated with them is an illusion explained as follows.
    The mahat tattva or material creation, that also includes all the ethereal and biological bodily vessels, is an illusionary ‘holodeck’ within Krishna’s creation. It is a place where souls can go, if they choose, to live out their ‘visions of independent grander’ and experience the imagination of their own ‘thoughts’ that do not include Krishna. However, Maha-Vishnu’s holodeck (mahat tattva), unlike the Hollywood holodeck made up by the writers of Star Track, is a real but perishable manifestation. In other words, all of us are already ‘living in an imaginary world’ within Maha-Vishnu’s Holodeck

    Prabhupada – “This is also very important. The sky is one. Just like we can experience the sky, and suppose the sky on San Francisco is overcast with cloud. We say that then we are covered in cloud. Practically this San Francisco sky is only a fragmental portion of the whole sky. Similarly, the real sky is that spiritual sky, paravyoma. When that paravyoma partially is clouded with mahat-tattva, that is called material world. This is the position of material world. Material world is also existing in the spiritual world, but it is covered and in a fragmental segment”. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.1-3 — San Francisco, March 28, 1968

  8. When Lord Kapiladeva talks about the mind, intelligence and gross elements (along with their respective senses and sense objects) being created out of the threefold false ego, isn’t He talking about the creation of the various elements *before* He inserts the jivas into them?

    (“tasam brahma mahad yonir aham bija pradah pita”)

    I get a sense from some of the posts that people are saying the jivas create the mahat tattva. Isn’t it really that Krishna (via His expansions) creates the mahat tattva and all the material elements such as false ego, intelligence, mind, ear, tongue, water, fire, etc., as a field for conditioned jivas to carry out their illusory effort to enjoy material nature?

    I guess we could understand that these elements like false ego, etc. are created for the purpose of covering the conditioned jivas, and there would be no use for them if there were no conditioned jivas. We could say it is due to the individual jiva’s misuse of independence that he has to be covered in the first place. (We create a shadow by turning our back on God. It is not that God is responsible for the evil of the world.)

    But it is not really correct to say that the jiva actually creates the elements that cover him, is it? Jivas do not create the world. Vishnu does.

    Sure, we get the bodies we deserve due to our karma, but this is done under higher arrangement. In that sense we “create” our bodies, but we are not free or in control. We’re under nature’s control.

    When Kapiladeva talks about the various elements being generated out of false ego, it is tempting to think our own senses of hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell have been generated out of our own false egos. (There seems to be an intention for us to compare our own senses and bodies and the elements thereof to those of the cosmic creation). But He is at least literally talking about the original creation of the elements of matter by which we individuals are later covered, isn’t He?

    Another way to think about it is He is talking about the body and senses of the Univeral Form or Jagat Purusa who later becomes animated when the deity presiding over consciousness (i.e., the Supersoul) enters his heart (S.B. 3.26.70-72)

    There is definitely an analogy being drawn between the Universal Form, with its senses and body parts, and our own. Yet, the literal description is the creation of all the elements of matter *before* the jivas are inserted into their individual bodies. Isn’t it?

  9. I do not know enough about Star Trek to fully comprehend the Holodeck example. Another example often used is The Matrix. These kinds of examples all have their value but also their limits.

    I think Holodeck usually has only one real person (like Captain Picard) in it, right, and everyone else is a simulation? That could lead to a solipsistic error if the analogy were carried too far.

    The Matrix has the advantage of being more interactive, with millions of humans actually plugged into the virtual reality “world as video game”, but the conception of the reality outside the Matrix and the purpose for the Matrix (for malevolent computers to generate energy from the body heat and neuroelectrical activity of the “sleeping” humans) leaves a lot to be desired. There is still a material conception of ultimate reality (with some obscure kind of human-computer cooperation and integration as the holy grail or ultimate goal of life)

  10. Tamoharadasa says :

    Yes, as you suggest, Akruranatha Prabhu, the Matrix seems a better analogy.
    I am also sure that each element has its corresponding symbols and astrological connections. Any astrologers out there following? I agree that it is clearly Lord Visnu who creates the elements and the idea of them, even. We but enjoy, or attempt to!

    Further to the discussion;
    Light, for example, enters the nervous system, is then transformed by the body itself into other energy types, such as mechanical or chemical/electric, for transmission to ghiher levels of the nervous system. On the way, these are subjected to internal controls and homeostatic mechanisms, and are thus somewhat buffered and enhanced, for example by reflex systems and nerve-rate controlling hormones, such as epinephrine or dopamine, already in place and acting upon the information carried by the nerves etc. themselves before they even become conscious sensations. The sensory signals are already “subjectivised” before they even reach the stage of perception by the embodied soul!

    Once received and interpreted by the physical cognitive functions, the soul somehow then perceives a range of sensory impressions that exist in the brain, not at the same time even, as the originating source, say, a candle, outside the brain etc. ! Time has passed, split microseconds, and the original object has moved, and our impressions internally perceived based upon this subjectively interpreted data are of the past, but then try to catch up in time, but are never simultaneous! This is the all-devouring influence of material linear time.

    Thus, what we perceive is not the object directly, but an impression interpreted and organized by a conditioned brain and body functions. We build an impression, not the reality. This is called influence of Maya. This is the physical but representative holodeck of which I originally suggested.

    The further analogy from Bhakta Rod prabhu is that the whole universe is a holodeck or matrix-like device entirely at the control of Sri Visnu. This is very nice. Matrix-like.

  11. part 1

    Akruranath prabhu, what Kapiladev is refering to is a very deep understanding concerning the nature of perception. Srila Prabhupada wrote the following in a purport to the Bhagavatam (verse 4.9.7 ) which may illuminate what Kapiladev is trying to convey:

    Dhruva Maharaja realized that the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, acts through His different energies, not that He becomes void or impersonal and thus becomes all-pervading. The Mayavadi philosopher thinks that the Absolute Truth, being spread throughout the cosmic manifestation, has no personal form. But here Dhruva Maharaja, upon realization of the Vedic conclusion, says, “You are spread all over the cosmic manifestation by Your energy.” This energy is basically spiritual, but because it acts in the material world temporarily, it is called maya, or illusory energy. In other words, for everyone but the devotees the Lord’s energy acts as external energy. Dhruva Maharaja could understand this fact very nicely, and he could understand also that the energy and the energetic are one and the same. The energy cannot be separated from the energetic

    The basic idea which Kapiladev is trying to impart is that the “material” world exists for those whose consciousness is affected by ahankara. What he is saying is what Srila Prabhupada mentions in the above i.e. that the “material world” exists as a condition of the conditioned soul. For the person who is free from illusion, or the enlightened devotee, for them, the external energy of the Lord, or the “material” world, no longer exists. They exist in the spiritual world no matter where they are. An example would be the concept of prasadam. If we take an item which may seem to be comprised of material energy, like an apple, then offer that apple to the Lord, it becomes spiritual energy. The apple does not change it’s actual composition, it is still comprised of the same substance, what changes is the consciousness of the those who see the apple as transcendental after it is offered to the Lord. So what Kapila is saying is that the material world is “caused” by ahankara, or the world exists as such by the perception of those under the influence of ahanakra. Those who are free from ahankara understand that because everything is the energy of the Lord, and that the energy and the energetic are one, that they are “one and the same”, therefore the “material energy” no longer exists for them.

  12. part 2

    If your life is not lived as an offering to the Lord then you exist in the “material world”, like food not offered to the Lord remains “material”, but when offered becomes “spiritual”.

    C.C. 189

    manuṣyāṇāḿ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye
    yatatām api siddhānāḿ kaścin māḿ vetti tattvatah

    “Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.”

    The word siddhaye indicates liberation. Only after being liberated from material conditioning can one understand Kṛṣṇa. When one can understand Kṛṣṇa as He is (tattvataḥ), one actually lives in the spiritual world, although apparently living within the material body. This technical science can be understood when one is actually spiritually advanced.

    In his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.187), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says:

    īhā yasya harer dāsye karmaṇā manasā girā
    nikhilāsv apy avasthāsu jīvan-muktaḥ sa ucyate

    When a person in this material world desires only to serve Kṛṣṇa with love and devotion, he is liberated, even though functioning within this material world. As the Bhagavad-gītā (14.26) confirms:

    māḿ ca yo ‘vyabhicāreṇa bhakti-yogena sevate
    sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate

    “One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.”

    Simply by engaging in the loving service of the Lord one can attain liberation. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.54), brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāńkṣati. A person who is highly advanced in spiritual knowledge and who has attained the brahma-bhūta stage neither laments nor hankers for anything material. That is the stage of spiritual realization.

    Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura considers the brahma-bhūta stage in two divisions — svarūpa-gata and vastu-gata. One who has understood Kṛṣṇa in truth but is still maintaining some material connection is known to be situated in his svarūpa, his original consciousness. When that original consciousness is completely spiritual, it is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One who lives in such consciousness is actually living in Vṛndāvana. He may live anywhere; material location doesn’t mat ter. When by the grace of Kṛṣṇa one thus advances, he becomes completely uncontaminated by the material body and mind and at that time factually lives in Vṛndāvana.

  13. The modern field of “cognitive studies” incorporates knowledge from various empirical scientific disciplines (biology, psychology, and others) and philosophy to try to understand the workings of consciousness.

    Most of them are atheists, like the Churchlands or Dennett, but it is very interesting to see the kind of experiments and empiric data they have come up with to describe the phoenomena of sense perception and reason.

    Tamohara alludes to some of them. For example, if you flash a red dot on a screen and then another red dot within a short time some distance away, people will report seeing the dot move across the screen.

    (This is the principle that makes moving pictures seem like smooth, continuous motion at about 32 frames per second. Of course the mind processes moving pictures as active even at much lower speeds).

    If you flash a red dot and then a green dot, people report seeing the red dot moving across the screen and then changing to green about half way to its destination! Has the intelligence taken in all the raw data and then interpreted it later? Or does it get preprocessed in the senses before it reaches the intellegence/mind? Cognitive scientists try to answer such questions.

    Professional athletes react, for example to fast baseball pitches, at speeds higher than people can report become aware of stimuli. These kinds of data raise interesting questions.

    Of course this is all empirical, “ascending process” stuff, but if we can perfectly realize what we hear from authorities like Lord Kapiladeva and others, perhaps we can help the imperical scientists and speculators answer some of their questions. There may be a lot of opportunity for Bhaktivedanta Institute-type devotees in this field of cognitive studies and philosophy of mind.

  14. When Prabhupada translates “jnanam” as “phenomenal knowledge” and “vijnanam” as noumenal knowledge in B.G. 7.2, I have the impression he is using these terms in a Hegelian sense.

    Emmanuel Kant, especially in his “Critique of Pure Reason”, had coined these terms to account for the phenomenological insight that things and events as they appear in our experience are different from how they really are.

    Early scientists like Galileo and Descartes saw the philosopher’s (scientist’s) job as understanding underlying properties of things (like particles or rays) and their relations and hidden laws that caused them to present themselves to our senses in the way we perceive them and thus explain the world of our experience. Descartes in particular systematized this way of thinking and proposed that matter’s true underlying qualities were “extension” (occupying three-dimensional space) and “motion” (traversing space over time), and that it could be understood in terms of mathematical relationships of time and space. The sensible “qualities” of things were less important than an underlying order.

    By Newton’s and Maxwell’s and time down to today, the fundamental properties of nature have expanded to include gravitational mass and electromagnetic fields (the idea of action at a distance inherent in Newtonian gravitation theory appeared like “occultism” to Cartesians, who believed that space was completely full and that all motion had to be explained in terms of direct contact with other matter), but the basic idea of discovering mathematical relationships or laws between real properties in a way that would explain the perceived world or “preserve appearances” is still the basic paradigm of scientific knowledge.

    Berkeley took things a step further, saying that these “underlying” qualities like Cartesian extension and motion were themselves products of our own way of perceiving and understanding things. Hume, J. S. Mill and others very thoughtfully discussed this “Phenomenalistic” view and the problems it raised (the old “tree falls in the forest” questions).

    Kant clearly expressed that humans have a categorical imperative that constrains us to understand the world through the limits of our own minds and senses, the illusory “phenomena” we perceive. How the “things in themselves,” which he called “noumena,” really exist, can never be truly known to us. (To be continued…)

  15. Kant was a hugely influential philosopher who inspired many generations throughout the 19th century.

    Many rejected the idea that we could never know the “noumena”, but probably the most prominent criticism was in Hegel’s “Phenomenology of the Spirit”, published in 1807, in which he traced the development of Spirit through various stages until it finally would come to know itself as it really is, no longer as mere phenomenon, but as noumenon.

    As I said, it seems that Srila Prabhupada’s use of the terms “phenomenon” and “noumenon”, (probably derived from writings of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and/or Srila Bhaktivinode), is in this Hegelian sense. The “phenomenal” world is the world we perceive in our relative or conditioned state, and the “noumenal” world is the understanding through realization of the true spiritual essence of things.

    In that sense these terms are different from the Kantian idea of “things in themselves” which can never be truly known to us (because all our perceptions are filtered through our pyscho-sensual nature), but which have real characteristics and relationships which are the underlying reality that scientists discover to explain the phenomenal world.

    The Sankhya elements explained by Lord Kapiladeva are not attempts to “do science” the way Descartes or Newton or Plank or Einstein do it. The gross elements are not merely a “primative attempt at creating a periodic table”, as foolish modern historians of science might suppose. Nor is it exactly true that “earth” refers to solid state, “water” to liquid, “air” to gas and “fire” to energy (“ether” does resemble Newtonian “space as container,” but a container for actions of living beings).

    Each gross element has a causal relationship with a particular sense and sense object, and they all expand, from most subtle (hearing, sound, ether) to most gross (smell, fragrance, earth), with each increasingly gross element containing all qualities of the preceeding subtle elements.

    Thus the gross elements are all specifically *related to the senses*, which are also existing elements, and the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego (which fell on the other side of the Cartesian split as qualities of “spirit” and today are considered by most scientists not to have any independent existence) are also inert, unconscious existences.

    It is all mixed by time, an impersonal feature of God by which He separates the ignorant from true, noumenal experience.

  16. The work of properly comparing and contrasting Vedic Sankhya philosophy and particularly the real Kapiladeva’s theistic Sankhya philosophy with modern science and history and philosophy of science may prove highly fruitful, for those who can truly appreciate and explain Srimad Bhagavatam in today’s world.

    [I often wish I had continued in Philosophy and History instead of having to earn a living as a hired gun in mundane litigation]

    The Rennaisance “occult” had all this warmed over Neoplatonism that had been (probably mistakenly) attributed to very ancient Egyptians (Cosimo Medici in 1460 requested Ficino to translate 14 books attributed to Hermes Trismagistus, the so-called Parminder, before turning to important works of Plato which had recently come to Florence via Constantinople, demonstrating the esteem in which these Hermetic, gnostic texts were regarded at the time).

    [Modern historians (e.g., Frances Yates) place these Hermetic writings as coming from 2nd and 3rd century CE, masquerading as ancient, pristine, pre-Pythagorean or even pre-Mosaic, as their Rennaisance admirers believed them to be. But then, modern historians of their ilk use the same techniques to question the traditional historicity of the Bhagavatam and likewise attribute it to similar sources.]

    [On the other hand, devotees like Prabhupada and our predecessor acaryas trace and demonstrate within our own tradition how the Bhagavatam truly expresses the essence of the ancient Vedic sruti. Of course, nowadays being ancient does not carry the same cachet as it once did, either.]

    The 17th century scientists largely defeated the “occult” approach in Europe (and by now throughout the whole world), but this occult they were defeating only resembled Vedic Sankhya (and related astrology and alchemy) on the surface, through its Hellenistic counterparts, dimly understood.

    I hope I am not being too grandiose to conceive that students of Prabhupada’s books, who obtain realized knowledge through devotional practice, could now lead another “renaissance” by explaining the true essence of the old “occult” traditions in language that makes sense to modern philosophers, and explains consciousness, matter, time, soul, the three modes, liberation and pure spiritual experience in a practical way that can be applied and directly perceived by modern people.

  17. Tamoharadasa says :

    Akrunranatha Prabhu, Pandita Shivji, Bhakta Rod, et al; I have used insights gained from empiric studies in physiologicc psychology etc., yes, but mostly through practice of japa and reading Bhagavatam, to better present uniquely and attracively Prabhupada’s preaching into the difference between the self and the temporary and limited body; thus to focus on the reality of an eternal spiritual self, and free the bound entity. Kindly note also that I returned to university after becoming Prabhupada’s brahmana, so there was no need of relying on limited speculatgive or empiric schools. I follow the footsteps of Kapila through Mahaprabhu.

    The process of self realization by critical analysis of the elements of the world and the self, such as touched upon by me recentlyin this and other articles, is a purely Vedic process; is, in fact, our process! Witness how many times our Srila Prabhupda liked to use the analogy of the story of; pointing to parts of the body , etc.., then point to the self!

    This process is not bottom-side-up empirical, but rather is revealed by Godhead and the great teachers. It naturally occurs in the course of bhakti also, though of course our aim is to acheive pure faith and pure bhakti, uncontaminated with jnana. The process of ; “I am this, I am not this..” only appears to be materially imperial, like the teachings of the atheist philosopher of samkya yoga, Kapila, as opposed to the great theist philosopher and incarnation of Visnu, our Kapila Deva. The idea is to understand that I am not this body by deep critical analysis and introspection, thus to realize that the self is spirit soul and eternal. The theists under Kapila deva also recognize the Godhead and the jivas, and ultimately, loving devotional service through the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as revelaed by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.

    PS; I don’t think anyone is arguing that pure devotional service is not the goal and the best course. The theistic samkya mind/body connection is an direction of thought of interest to academic, devotonal, and yogic or philosophically-minded persons. HKHR

  18. Tamoharadasa says :

    Just read your recent contribution. Very nice and scholarly synopsis of the development of western thought, Akruranatha Prabhu, especially nice the drawing out of comparisons of language usage re; nuomenal, phenomenal etc. for better understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s presentation.

    Thank you for your encouragement of modern scholarly, and “pop-scholarly”, Krsna-conscious presentations of Vedic ideas. I take this as following Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps with such publishings as, “Easy Journey to Other Planets”, etc. The academic community may find good directions, for further analysis, papers, etc. and possibly help spark further interest among associated spiritual aspirants, in the universities, etc. if they come in contact with similarly-communicating devotee / scholars.

    Such contemporary currents of thought have real effects in the world. For example, the popularity of the word ‘karma” nowadays in the West. Even if our presentations are scientifically simple, the main points do get across, or are picked up by those more capable of rigourous scientific processes.

  19. It seems that knowledge is of two types. Practical knowledge of how to manipulate matter is necessary. Even in “simple living” there is some simple technology necessary.

    Bhagavad Gita primarily concerns itself with the knowledge that liberates us from bondage by the modes of nature. In the 13th Chapter Krishna explains the field, the knower of the field, the process of knowledge and the knowable. One who knows Krishna as Purusottamma knows everything and engages in full devotional service. (15.19)

    In the Seventh Chapter Krishna delineates the various material elements and also the “para prakrti” spirit souls, and explains how true knowledge consists of understanding how all these manifestations arise from Him although He remains aloof from them. Everything rests on Him as the highest truth. All manifestations should be understood as Him. “Vasudeva sarvam iti”. That is real jnana, which leads to complete surrender in devotional service.

    Those whose jnana is twisted by material desire worship demigods for limited fruits. They don’t know that Krishna is true the source of the fruits and even the source of the faith that enables them to carry out their worship. Those of imperfect intelligence who do not know Krishna’s higher nature think that He is a manifestation of the unmanifested. Practically all persons are bewildered by desire and hate and thus do not know Krishna, but pious persons whose sins are eradicated can engage themselves in devotional service and can come to know Krishna as the adhibhuta (governing principle of matter), adhidaiva and adhiyajna. That is the Seventh Chapter in a nutshell.

    Material scientists are looking for more detailed knowledge of the workings of matter and energy, in an effort to master and overcome them. Thus all their knowledge is “stolen by illusion” and they do not surrender to Krishna (which is the only way to truly overcome them).

    Of course, devotees of Krishna can also become expert in material science and become doctors, chemists, physicists, astronomers, but they do not lose sight of the fact that real knowledge is knowledge of the distinction between matter and spirit and the activity of spirit (“adhyatma karma”), i.e. devotional service to Lord Krishna. Their knowledge of material science and philosophy can help them persuade other materials scientists and philosophers about Krishna consciousness, which is sorely needed and was a very dear project of Srila Prabhupada.

  20. But Vedic knowledge also seems to include knowledge of the type the scientists pride themselves in, knowledge about how different types of matter are to be understood and how they can be manipulated to produce desired material results.

    Much of that knowledge seems to be lost today (no one lights fires or hurls brahmastras through properly incanted mantras anymore). The Kali yuga scientists can gloat that their iron age technology is proof that their way of understanding matter and energy is superior–it produces results which at least appear desireable and useful.

    I wonder to what extent devotees today will be able to establish the supremacy of the full-blown exposition of Vedic knowledge including the Sankhya analysis of material nature and the resulting understanding of, in Descartes’ phrase, “medicine, mechanics and morals”. Maybe in Kali yuga we cannot revive the subtle Vedic technologies (or maybe in the Golden Age of Lord Caitanya we can)?

    A long time ago I read Malinowski’s essay “Magic, Science and Religion”, but then I lost my copy and have been yearning to read it again. Malinowski was a great anthropologist of the 19th century, hailed as the “Father of Ethnography”. He did most of his work among the Polynesians of the Trobriand islands.

    In his famous essay he explodes the myth propogated by whiggish historians of science, that “pre-scientific” people turned to magic and religion, to propitiating gods and spirits and creating mythology, because they were helpless and unable to explain the forces of nature in any other way. According to this over-simplified view, the explanations of materialistic science do away with the need for religious sacrifices, for an account of the soul or life after death, for any mythology born from religious impulse.

    Malinowski pointed out that on the contrary, even in primitive societies, there were parallel traditions of technological knowledge and religious knowledge. People need to know how to build shelters, catch fish, transport water, or whatever, and it has to be done right, but people also need to know their place in the cosmos, the purpose of life, what happens when we die, what do we owe the gods and the ancestors.

    The parallel traditions can be expected to overlap and influence one another, but they serve two different purposes and will go on simultaneously. It is not that religion arises from ignorance of science or that knowledge of science should do away with religion.

  21. “From the sixteenth century on, mind has been progressively expunged from the phenomenal world. At least in theory, the reference points for all scientific explanation are matter and motion – what historians of science refer to as the ‘mechanical philosophy.’ Developments that have thrown this world view into question – quantum mechanics, for example, or certain types of contemporary ecological research have not made any significant dent in the dominant mode of thinking. That mode can best be described as disenchantment, nonparticipation, for it insists on a rigid distinction between observer and observed.” –William Morris, “The Reenchantment of the World”

    I hope I am not too far afield of Tamohara’s original article, but I promise to eventually wander back.

    I am no expert on Western occultism. I would love to take a little time (if I could find it) to delve into alchemy, both Western and Vedic. C.J. Jung made a great study of alchemy, and in Morris’ book (quoted above) about how we banished mind from the natural world, he called it “the last great coherent expression of participating consciousness in the West.”

    One thing that strikes me is that Western occultism (as far as I know) hardly if ever refers the three gunas. This is a tremendous oversight, inasmuch as everything in temporal existence has a creation, maintenance and dissolution.

    Vedic knowledge places great emphasis on how material nature is made of these three strands. In the 14th Chapter of the Gita, Krishna declares that the knowledge He is about to explain (of what the gunas are, how they act, bind and give liberation) is superior to the knowledge given so far in other chapters. Suta Goswami also emphasizes the gunas in the Second Chapter of the First Canto.

    As a victim of the modern, “disenchanted” view, I have trouble understanding the gunas, of how everything material is made up of them and that there is nothing beyond these gunas in all material activities.

    Krishna describes the gunas in terms of (contaminated) consciousness: goodness binds to happiness and knowledge, passion to fruitive work, and ignorance to madness, indolence and sleep. It is hard for a modern man to conceive how such seemingly “mental” qualities can be the basis of inanimate as well as animate objects, of matter as well as what we think of as the conscious. How can a rock or cloud have happiness, goals or laziness? But somehow, they do.

  22. I know if I ever come to properly understand these things it will be through chanting and not through mere ratiocination. Nevertheless, because I have this tendency to speculate and philosophize, I should at least apply it to trying to understand Prabhupada’s books.

    In the 17th and 18th Chapters of Gita we see that faith, food, sacrifice, austerity, charity, knowledge, action, performers, understanding, determination, happiness, and work all are of different types according to the three modes.

    I recently heard a lecture in which Srila Prabhupada, speaking in Sweden on B.G. 18.41-44, confirmed that everything, animate and inanimate, contains some specific mixture of the modes. He described trees that produce no flowers or fruits as “ignorant”, whereas cows, which produce useful milk, are in “goodness”.

    In trying to understand how inanimate things can be composed of mixtures of such seemingly animate qualities, I think it may somehow help me to approach the problem from the other end, by remembering that things like material mind, intelligence and false ego are also material elements. Like the gross elements, they have no consciousness of their own, and they are not “activated” unless they are touched by spiritual energy. Yet they can have qualities like illumination, attachment and delusion.

    At the 2007 L.A. Ratha Yatra, I asked H.H. Romapada Swami about how we could understand the mind to be material, about how “not this mind.” He pointed out that the material mind is also not eternal. Even though the subtle body carries us into another gross body, it is changing, and is dissolved upon liberation from samsara.

    I am so brainwashed into thinking that matter is composed of electrons, protons, nuetrons, of atoms, molecules, compounds and mixtures, and that the qualities of these things are most properly understood in terms (ultimately) of impersonal mass and charge.

    Could we “reanimate” our scientific thinking by considering that inertial mass is ignorant (it is dull in resisting change), whereas gravitational mass and electromagnetic forces are passionate, with their attractions and repulsions? Are stable systems in the mode of goodness? Would that be true of stable social systems and stable governments, as well as stable chemical reactions?

    [Now I *am* getting way too speculative, but I know it is just an exercise to help me consider how the modes are really existing and acting throughout all animate and inanimate things.]

  23. If we can imagine that holodecks have controls like the “tint” controls on color TV sets, that let you adjust the red, blue and yellow hues (some have “tint”, “hue”, “brightness” and “contrast”), we might get an idea of the three gunas (which are often compared to preimary colors).

    If we increase the “goodness” in our holodeck, we are placed into heavenly situations, increasing passion will change the situation to the human world of longing and striving, and increasing ignorance will plunge us into animalistic, hellish situations of fearing, madness and delusion (like those bad dreams in which nothing seems to make sense and you cannot get a clear understanding of what’s going on).

    In the transcendental position of pure goodness, one no longer tries to enjoy the holodeck scenario, and thus does not long for illumination, attachment or delusion when they disappear, or hate them when they are present. One has some better occupation and whatever is going on in the holodeck is not really that important.

    Still, it has been a paradox for me, because being in pure goodness seems to imply turning the holodeck’s passion and ignorance knobs down to zero (passion is too distracting and ignorance is completely horrible), whereas the transcendental position seems to be one of detachment from whatever is going on in the holodeck. (See, B.G. 14.22-25)

    That is, if goodness illuminates, and pure goodness corresponds with complete illumination, then what does Krishna mean by saying that one in the transcendental position does not long for illumination when it disappears, or hate attachment and delusion when they are present?

    Why would illumination disappear for someone in the transcendental state of pure goodness?

    And why does Arjuna, in complete surrender to Krishna in the fully transcendental, brahma bhuta position as a pure bhakta, engage in the passionate work of a Ksatriya?

    [Well, of course it is because Krishna wants him to, and Krishna has already explained in the 3rd Chapter that the learned may act just as the ignorant do, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.]

    [Krishna may put His transcendental devotees into holodeck situations of various mixtures of modes to glorify them, as he did with Queen Kunti, who prayed that the calamities that brought Krishna to her blessed sons and her would return again and again, for seeing Krishna they would never again see material existence.]

  24. Errata: “The Reenchantment of the World” is actually by Morris Berman (Cornell Univ. Press 1981).

    I don’t know where I got “William Morris” from. I guess it is a talent and literary agency. At lest I didn’t say Phillip Morris. :-)

    Also, I can’t believe I misspelled Immanuel Kant. The mode of ignorance was working overtime.

  25. So, we are stuck in this temporary holodeck scenario, but it is incumbent on us to do our duty within the holodeck. We should do our duty without attachment and set a good example for others.

    Sometimes our holodecks will have the goodness control knob turned up, but it is important that we remain detached and not distracted from our duties by the happiness, self-satisfaction and illumination that results.

    Sometimes the passion and ignorance knobs will be turned up. We are in kali yuga and there is a prominence of passion and ignorance everywhere. There is going to be some suffering and confusion for us in this holodeck adventure, but we can’t let that distract us or knock us away from our duty.

    We have to tolerate. Arjuna was advised to tolerate the siutuation in which he had to actually fight to the death with his beloved teacher and kinsmen on a real battlefield. Hopefully most of us will not be tested so severely as that.

    This interactive holodeck we are in is no game or “entertainment”. We can not simply try to whimsically switch it off and go do something else. (False vairagya will not help us).

    It is very serious. Sometimes it will make us very morose. But if we learn to act correctly and tolerate the disturbances, playing our role properly and all the while offering our prayers and obeisances to the merciful Lord from within the core of our hearts, gradually we will become fully enlightened and transcendentally situated.

    “In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of the greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.” (B.G. 6.21-23)

  26. I am curious about the atomism expressed in the Vedic literature, for example in the 11th Chapter of the 3rd Canto, when Maitreya describes the “calculation of time” in connection with atoms. The connection of time and space is being described. In fact, in the Purport to 3.11.1, Srila Prabhupada states: “The atom is the minute subtle form of eternal time.”

    I often wonder about how the atomic theory of Srimad Bhagavatam relates to the Sankhya system described by Lord Kapiladeva. Are earth, water, fire, air and ether made of atoms? How about mind, intelligence and ego?

    What are the atoms made of? Are they fragments of earth, or some other gross element? Apparently not, because they are the subtle form of eternal time.

    Pre-socratic Greek philosophers such as Democritus had expounded an atomic theory, but most of their writings were lost in antiquity.

    Parmenides was earlier than these atomists. He had conceived of “that which is” as an indivisible, nondual kind of brahman-like substance, perfectly round, and conceived of the temporary, changing material world as a combination of “that which is” and “that which is not”.

    Later Greek atomists apparently conceived of atoms as little round manifestations of “that which is”, interacting with one another in a void of “that which is not”. Being mixed in this way with what is not existent, the sensible world is lacking in full reality.

    Aristotelians did not like atomic theory, and criticized it. We know more about these philosophers from their critics than from the extant fragments of their writings.

    I am curious if there is any worthwhile connection that could be drawn between Vedic atomic theory and ancient Greek atomic theory. (These ancient Greeks were writing more than 100 years before Alexander invaded Persia and India, but lots of trade and contact had been going on).

    But more important I suppose, I am curious to understand Vedic atomic theory on its own terms. What are the atoms composed of? How can they be subtle forms of atomic time?

    We know Krishna is in every atom. Is each individual atom a jiva? Are there spaces between atoms, and if so, what is such space made of? (Is it “ether”? Or is ether made of atoms? Is it “void”? Hasn’t Prabhupada said there is no void?)

    Much later, Leibnitz had a theory of irreducible particles he called “monads”. The “monads” each had will. Modern science has impersonal atoms. Are Vedic atoms personal, like Monads?

  27. Tamoharadasa says :

    Wow! Try asking simpler questions!

    A little off the topic but relevant; When the Vedas speak, for example, of ours being one quarter of the spiritual sky, the number “one quarter” is roughly representative, analogical, as opposed to scientific. Again, the three categories, ie the ahiranga, tatastha, and bahiranga shaktis, actually there are many sub-categories in between. Same with the size quantity of one thousandth the tip of a hair, etc.

    Lord Krsna is everywhere, this we know. So how can there be any space that is empty? Still, relatively speaking for us observing from this platform, sometimes He appears to be absent. The standpoint from which the question is asked decides the relevant and meaningful answer. So, we may have space between the atoms, but it is filled with Vishnu.

  28. ccd says :

    Modern science has impersonal atoms. Are Vedic atoms personal, like Monads?

    Nyaya and Visesika do not attribute personality to elements:

    Doctrine of nyaya philosophy that there is a God (nimitta karana) who is the operative cause of the universe and who organizes and regulates the atoms.

    Vaisesika engages the method of nyaya or logic in a deeper analysis of the predicament of material existence by showing that the visible material forms to which we are all so attached ultimately break down into invisible atoms.

    We are not following Nyaya and Visesika :—)

    There are items in Vaisnava siddhanta (SB) that do not attribute personality, such as karma and time elements as in this case paramanu or anu.

    However there is an alegorical personification of time in Bhagavatam. In the allegorical story of King Purañjana, Old Age, the daughter of Time, also curses Nārada:

    sthātum arhasi naikatra mad-yācñā-vimukho mune

    “Because you refused my request [to marry me], you will not be able to stay in one place for a long time.” (Bhāgavatam 4.27.22)

    Which is the basis of sannyasa travelling a lot as we know… BTW the key is that we should be careful not to follow vaisesika and nyaya methods when trying to find out the truth on the nature of nature…

    Your servant

    Caitanya candroadaya dasa

  29. Thank you. These are very good answers re atomism.

    I kind of expected that Vedic atomism would be mostly addressed in other “darshans” besides Vedanta darshan. I had an inkling or vague recollection that Nyaya and another darshan covered this topic. (I read Suhotra’s book on Six Darshans but I am ashamed to say I retained little).

    Yes, it makes sense that Maitreya Muni in SB is explaining atoms to Uddhava in an impersonal way. Sometimes I have also heard in SB purports that time is an “impersonal form of Krishna” by which He creates the illusion of separating Himself from the conditioned souls.

    It is interesting that great devotees like Uddhava can understand impersonal explanations of the world and see such explanations in proper perspective in relation to the ultimate conclusions of Bhaktivedanta, of Grantha Raj Srimad Bhagavatam. These great Vaisnava philosophers are not in ignorance about other philosophical systems. Somewhere I remember reading (in a Bhagavatam purport) that one should not sit on the Vyasasana unless one has properly understood all six darshans.

    In the 11th Chapter of the Gita, in His manifestation as Universal Form, Krishna tells Arjuna, “kalo ‘smi”, “I am Time”, and says His purpose is to destroy the world, but He also discloses that the Pandavas will emerge victorious in the battle.

    I would like to make “time” for myself to get a better education in Krishna consciousness. I really appreciate Caitanya Candrodaya’s knowledge of these topics, such as the different Vedic darshans. Also, I appreciate being reminded of the allegorical story of Jara cursing Narada Muni.

    Time waits for no man. We are all being carried along by this impersonal regulator of the destiny of the whole universe. The atoms in our body and in our world are all moving under superior arrangement. No one can refrain from doing something, even for a moment. Somehow I became a fat, middle aged householder. :-(

    The philosophical impulse is to stop time, to examine the world as if we were not part of it, to suspend judgment and hold off action for a while to examine the deeper meaning of things.

    Nevertheless, with every rising and setting of the sun, our life is decreased by another day, EXCEPT for those who glorify Uttama Sloka, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (ayur harati vai pumsam. . . )

    Regulated action in karma yoga is better than philosophical analysis, but they are two sides of one coin that leads to bhakti.

  30. Parmenides (the monist) held that reality was “all one”, and that material plurality and motion were illusory. To refute critics of Parmenides, his disciple Zeno wrote a book containing “paradoxes” which supposedly proved that common notions of plurality and motion were unintelligible, and would lead to absurd conclusions. None of Zeno’s writings are extant, and we know of his paradoxes only in the writings of his critics, like Aristotle, who sought to refute them.

    In one of Zeno’s paradoxes he challenges that if objects were divisible, then an object, say a brick, could be divided into an unlimited number of smaller and smaller pieces. Between any two fragments would have to be another fragment. (?) The unlimited fragments have to either have some dimension or no dimension. If they have no dimension, then no matter how many of them you put together it would still have no dimension. If they have some dimension, then because there are an unlimited number of them the brick would have to be unlimitedly great in size.

    This argument seems weak. We can well imagine that as the number of fragments approaches infinity, the size of the fragments become correspondingly small (approaching infinitesimal) at a constant rate, so that the brick retains its exact size.

    We might be tempted to just say that ancient Greeks were not familiar with the mathematics of infinity, but modern Philosophers who have worked deeply on these issues caution they are not so simply understood or refuted. [See A. Grunbaum, “Modern Science and Zeno’s Paradoxes” (1967, Wesleyan University Press); N. Huggett (Ed.), “Space From Zeno to Einstein: Classic Readings With A Contemporary Commentary” (1999, MIT Press).]

    A more famous of Zeno’s paradoxes involves motion. Swift Achilles runs a footrace against a slow tortoise, and gives the tortoise a head start. By the time Achilles reaches the place where the tortoise started, the tortoise has advanced some distance. By the time Achilles traverses that distance, the tortoise has gone another small distance ahead. If time and space are infinitely divisible, we can carry out this process indefinitely. How can Achilles ever catch up to the tortoise?

    (to be continued. . . )

  31. The Bhagavatam (Third Canto, Chapter 11) seems to say that time and space are not infinitely divisible. They have discrete units. The smallest particle is the atom, and the smallest moment, or unit of time, is the time it takes a ray of sunlight to traverse the width of an atom.

    At some point Achilles will cross the last atom between him and the tortoise before the tortoise can move ahead by an atom’s distance. Thereafter Achilles will increase his lead.

    The analytical mind may be troubled, though, by the calculations Maitreya gives. It takes 1/1,687.5 seconds to “integrate” three hexatoms. (3.11.6, Verse and Purport) If we take the modern calculation of light’s velocity at 186,000 miles per second, and it takes light 1/1,687.5 seconds to traverse the width of three hexatoms, then three hexatoms should be over 110 miles wide. (?) How do we answer someone who raises this question?

    Perhaps Maitreya’s description of the time to “integrate” (“bhunkte”) three hexatoms does not refer to time for light to traverse the spacial width of the three hexatoms. Space itself is a gross material element (ether), whereas an atom is a subtle form of time. Is Maitreya really speaking of atoms as the smallest particles of space, or as something else?

    What do the Nyaya and Vaisesika philosophers say?

    When I was a child I was terrified by the unintelligibility of infinite space. I remember one night (I must have been about 10) arguing with my mother and actually crying in frustration because she could not understand my dilemma. I told her I could conceive of space expanding unlimitedly over time, but I kept asking “What is outside of that?” “What is beyond the expanding frontier of advancing space?” She kept saying, “It is just more empty space”, but I was not satisfied. Then her boyfriend, an engineer, came over and tried to pacify me with Einstein’s ideas of space curving in on itself, but that didn’t help me, either, although it humbled me a bit.

    I had this notion of space as a container that had to have an inside and an outside. It could not be unlimited because there would be no outside. But what could be outside, if not more space? I never became satisfied until I heard from Prabhupada that inconceivable nondual, conscious spirit lies beyond the universal covering, and that space itself is just one of the material elements, arising from false ego in tama guna, and associated with sound and the sense of hearing.

  32. In his Bhaktivedanta Purport to text 3.11.15, Srila Prabhupada states:

    “The subject matters of physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, time and space dealt with in the above verses of Srimad Bhagavatam are certainly very interesting to students of the particular subject, but as far as we are concerned, we cannot explain them very thoroughly in terms of technical knowledge. The subject is summarized by the statement that above all the different branches of knowledge is the supreme control of kala, the plenary representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Nothing exists without Him, and therefore everything, however wonderful it may appear to our meager knowledge, is but the work of the magical wand of the Supreme Lord. . . ”

    Is Prabhupada saying that “we” devotees should not concern ourselves with thorough technical knowledge of of physics, chemistry, etc.?

    Or is he saying that “we” (meaning himself) cannot explain very thoroughly in terms of technical knowledge, but that some of his disciples or grand disciples in the future (such as the Bhaktivedanta Institute scientists and philosophers like Sadaputa, Rasaraja, Hrdayananda Maharaja, Drutakarma Prabhu, or those like Danavir Maharaja or our ISKCON astrologers who approach these same topics in perhaps a different way) may someday give more thorough explanations in terms of technical knowledge?

    At any rate we can see that such speculative philosophy seems very dry compared to the nectar of discussions of the qualities and pastimes of Krishna. We can appreciate Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya’s statement that absorbing himself in the Mayavadi commentaries was lite eating dry oil cakes compared to the nectar of Lord Caitanya’s explanations.

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