A look at some of the holes in
the philosophy of impersonalism.
In Shri Pushpanjali, Patita Pavana Dasa argues against the philosophy of impersonalism by drawing on an extensive collection of analogies used by Srila Prabhupada. The setting of the book is a discussion between Krishna Dasa and Nirvishesh, former high school friends who are meeting again after several years. Krishna Dasa has become a devotee of Lord Krsna, and Nirvishesh has been studying under a swami of the impersonalistic, or Mayavada, school. Here we present an excerpt from Chapter 2 of the book. (Following the book's style, we've omitted the diacritical marks for Sanskrit words.)
Nirvishesh said: Everyone sits in the boat of liberation because, as Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, "Everyone follows My path in all respects." Therefore, everyone is assured liberation, never mind his activities. Tat tvam asi.
Krishna das replied: Of course that verse is there; it is number eleven of the fourth chapter. But you've added a novel twist to its import. Consider carefully the other words of that verse: "All of them as they surrender unto Me I reward accordingly." Everyone is looking for Krishna, but very few people realize Him, because they uselessly seek a loving exchange with lifeless material energy, i.e., the body. So they don't realize the all-spiritual Lord, and they flounder birth after birth in the innumerable species of life. Just see how Arjuna, bewildered, asked Krishna, "By what is one impelled to sinful acts?" Krishna answered in the next verse, the thirty-seventh of the third chapter, that the cause of bondage is "lust, the alldevouring sinful enemy of this world."
Later, in the twenty-first verse of the sixteenth chapter, Krishna described that there are three gates to hell: lust, anger, and greed, or kama, krodha and lobha. So it's clear that although all desires are fulfilled by Lord Krishna, still not everyone achieves Him personally, because they have not expressed a desire to serve Him. Because they reject Krishna consciousness, they remain in the hell of material life, birth after birth, serving the Lord's inferior energy.
Nirvishesh said: But how can Bhagavad Gita, the great scripture of peace and love, discuss topics like "sinful enemies" or "three gates to hell"?
Krishna das replied: Who says that the Bhagavad Gita is a text of peace and love? In the thirty-eighth verse of the second chapter Krishna specifically commanded Arjuna to fight. In fact, the Lord said, in the thirty-third verse of the eleventh chapter, that the enemies of Arjuna had already been put to death by the Lord's arrangement. Just as violence is needed to remove a cancerous tumor that is, a doctor must use a scalpel to perform the operation so the Lord commanded the great warrior Arjuna to slay his avaricious relatives who had become a cancer upon the face of the earth.
The Gita deals with such things because Krishna has nothing to do with the pabulum of impersonal compromise. The Lord is not a weathervane which points in any direction the wind blows. As the supreme spiritual master, the Lord spoke to Arjuna the absolute truth, regardless of whether or not it was palatable. Just as the wind causes destruction through stirring up a fire, so Krishna stirred up the fire of Arjuna's anger so that the miscreant Kauravas could be annihilated. Fighting on religious principles is far superior to the ahimsa movement of so- called non-violence.
Incidentally, I am glad to see that you are taking an interest in love and peace, but will you also refrain from eating flesh and thereby allow the innocent creatures you fill your belly with to also share in the peace you covet, as God intended?
In any case, these dangerous misconceptions of yours should be corrected through a careful study of a bona fide translation of the Gita. Never read the speculations of puffed-up non-devotees who pen their own whimsical interpretations of Krishna's words to suit either political ambitions or greed for fame and wealth.
Just as an elephant, while bathing, pulls up many lotuses, so Krishna uprooted the hosts of demons while He was on this planet. Yet all who died in the Lord's presence attained salvation by His mercy, including also the Kauravas.
Nirvishesh said: Despite your reasoning, I'm still not convinced.
Once a saintly man of true spiritual vision was cooking chapattis when a dog ran off with one of them. That enlightened fellow called out, "Hey dog! Stop! Bring that chapatti back and I'll put some ghee on it for you." This realized saint saw that because everything is God, one can serve God in any of His forms. How then can you disagree with my explanation that one can do whatever he likes and still serve God?
Krishna das replied: One may choose to be attracted to either the pastimes of God or the opposite, the pastimes of dog. But please consider for a moment the plight of a man attached to the pastimes of a dog. While the dog does his morning business in the street, the master is forced to hold the leash. So who, I ask, is the master of whom? The dog licks the "master's" nose, and the bewildered fellow reckons, "Oh how my dog loves to kiss me!" The so-called master is ignorant that the protruding fleshy nose is the part of the body the dog would eat first if the man were to die.
The unthinking "master" rubs his little "pet" this way and that in fatherly love. Consequently, he develops doglike consciousness and dooms himself to perdition. The dog longs for mating with a bitch in the street, while the master, a polished version of the former, needs sex in a swank brass bed. What's the difference? They're both after the same base pleasures. But human life is not meant for living, loving, eating, and dying like a dog. The valuable gift of a human birth is meant for getting out of the deep dark well of material ignorance and returning to our natural liberated position of Krishna consciousness.
You say that the dog is God, but how? Certainly the dog is part of God, but due to his past impiety, the jiva embodied in the body of a dog has been put into a sinful condition of life. So we must distinguish between service to God and service to dog.
Nirvishesh said: Perhaps it is true that we can distinguish; man, dog and all creatures have separate duties, but all are meant for the pleasure of God ultimately. For example, once a saint meditated peacefully while a scorpion stung him. An astonished well-wisher declared, "My dear sage, don't you realize there's a scorpion stinging you?" The sage answered, "Don't worry, good man, it's the nature of the scorpion to sting, and it's my nature to get stung." Stinger or stung whatever it's all one.
Krishna das replied: This example makes perfect sense to anyone who has been stung by the poison of impersonalism! You claim to believe that all is one, but will you live with a family of scorpions?
Nirvishesh said: I can see that all of your answers possess some value, but I think I have detected a certain flaw. Now, certain masters say, "Those who know do not speak, and those who speak do not know." For example, if one knocks on the side of an empty water pot, then a loud sound can be heard. But knock on the side of a full water pot, and you'll hear nothing. This proves that words are the device of the ignorant. Those who are full in knowledge have no use for words. So what is the value of all of your arguments?
Krishna das replied: A proper analogy is supposed to compare many simi-larities between two otherwise unrelated items. The more similarities one can find between them, the better the analogy. I ask you, Nirvishesh, am I a water pot?
This empty water pot example of yours is also too full of holes to hold water from a philosophical point of view. You have stated that utter silence alone can represent the Absolute Truth. So you have employed speaking in order to tell me that truth is found in silence alone. Therefore your logic defeats itself. Your statement would crumble at a child's touch like poorly fired clay.
Of course great saintly persons may observe the vow of maunam, or silence, for long periods of time, but after their meditation they distribute their amassed wealth of clear knowledge by preaching to the receptive. They are just like great waterfalls of fresh clear water which sometimes come tumbling from the hills and sometimes cease to flow.
Nirvishesh said: These arguments sound very convincing, but I can understand why I have been unable to get past them. Although I am God and therefore all-knowing, it is because I have forgotten I am God that this failure on my part has arisen. When I succeed in my meditation and realize my supreme divinity, I'll come back and argue with you some more. But first I must borrow enough money to pay my guru for a secret mantra adapted exclusively to my vibrations.
Krishna das replied: Can you still claim to be God? I see that you have now become an unrealized God. According to the dictionary, the word "God" means "supreme controller." How is it that the supreme controller has become confounded by His own illusory energies? What kind of a god falls prey to the deluding potency that he creates to confound mortals such as our bewildered selves? If the Lord actually becomes a victim of maya, then maya or Satan is greater than God.
Nor can you purchase your way to immortality by bribing a cheater in the local "guru bargain basement." If this mantra is, however, such a great thing that it can make you into the Supreme Lord, then what is the use of keeping it a secret?
Those who pretend to profess the truth while actually floundering in ignorance mislead others and destroy themselves like serpents crawling over a hill of red ants.
A chain with a weak link will save no one from a deep well. Similarly, if even one flaw is found in a philosophy, the entire doctrine must be discarded as useless, because it will deliver no one from the dark well of birth and death.
A traveler stranded in the desert and thirsting for water saw a mirage. Although the mirage was unable to satisfy his thirst, still it proved a very important point. That is, the traveler would not have become mad after water upon seeing the mirage if real water did not exist somewhere else. Similarly, you have successfully proven yourself to be a "mirage god," but by the same token you have succeeded in proving the existence of a true God beyond yourself. For this service "Guru Mirage" and the innumerable other bogus incarnations presently stalking the earth for fame and wealth are to be commended!
It is clear what is actually at the root of the Mayavadi's philosophy: envy of God. Does a king appreciate an insignificant subject who appoints himself to sit upon the throne?
One who is puffed-up with borrowed plumes is as blind as the eyes that adorn the feathers of a peacock.
Nirvishesh, understand the lesson that nature has presented by showing us the tree burdened with ripe fruit, or the cloud filled with fresh water. As both of these hang low, so is a truly knowledgeable man humble. Only an arrogant upstart can pose as the all-knowing Supreme Lord.
Krishna said to Arjuna on the battlefield, "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." (Bg. 4.34) Bear in mind that a pretentious and challenging bluff can never win the ripe fruit of transcendental knowledge.
Once, a warrior approached a holy man to find the way to knowledge.
"Hey monk, teach me the difference between the path to hellish ignorance and the path to spiritual illumination," the proud soldier demanded.
The monk, noting the warrior's over-abundance of self-esteem remarked, "You call yourself a soldier? Why, you're nothing but a poor excuse for a water boy!"
The soldier's eyes flared like burning embers as he unsheathed and raised high his sword to behead the talkative monk.
"Now you're on the path to hellish ignorance," the monk said gently.
The soldier realized his vanity and threw down his sword. He bowed low at the feet of the holy sage.
"Now you're on the path to knowledge," the monk said.
Nirvishesh, I wish to make one request of you and one request only, because you are such a learned gentleman: Please give up your nonsense and surrender heart and soul to Shri Krishna!
Patita Pavana Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1968. He has written three books on Krsna conscious astrology (available from Sagar Publications in India) and a guidebook to Vrndavana (available, as is Shri Pushpanjali, from The Hare Krsna Bazaar http://www.krishna.com)