Suhotra Swami's article "Channeling: Extrasensory Deception?" (BTG, Sept./Oct. 1998) is an excellent correction of many common notions about channeling, although by pointing out only the errors of those who channel lower spirits posing as elevated souls, it is clearly one-sided. He asks, "But is it logical to suspect all channeled entities because of the mischief of a few? Can't we hope that there are some genuine guides out in the ether somewhere?" but answers his excellent question only by further describing lower spirits and quoting one author's inability "to distinguish truth from falsehood in communications from the next world." However, from both scriptural and modern experience, we know that God and other higher spiritual beings also communicate to us in various ways, and when it is necessary or most efficient they may utilize a human medium or channel.
There are spiritual principles that such a medium must follow, however, to learn how to distinguish genuine spiritual communications from those of the many "hungry ghosts," described by Suhotra Swami, who are always so eager to influence anyone open to the subtle realm. Among the most important of these principles are to regularly worship God, chant His holy names, hear scripture, and follow laws of personal purity especially to remain free from sexual desire and sexual activity, which is so prominent in the cases of "extrasensory deception" in Suhotra Swami's article.
When, as Suhotra Swami concludes, "we recover our eternal link to the Supreme Person and His pure devotees," we will gradually learn to remain in pure and ecstatic communion with God and His associates, uninfluenced by lower subtle beings, and then we will be able to act as perfect via media from the higher spiritual realm to the world of confused, conditioned souls. This, indeed, is the meaning of guru, a transcendental position Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to achieve.
Berkeley, California, USA
SUHOTRA SWAMI REPLIES: It is said there is irrationality at the heart of all rational arguments. Irrationality occurs when people argue from assumptions that cannot be proved. We tend to forget in the heat of debate that our assumptions are not self-evident.
It is irrational to suggest that God and other higher spiritual beings transmit messages by way of the pipeline of the trance state, through the mouth of a human channeler. No, I do not mean "irrational" in the sense of "crazy." But it is by no means self-evident that spiritual beings will receive and answer questions through a channeler. Srila Prabhupada taught that the only evidence that proves itself is sabda-pramana: Vedic evidence. And the disciple can be certain only about Vedic evidence he or she hears from the spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada did not teach his disciples to get answers by way of the trance-pipeline.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 6.137) confirms that sabda-pramana is self-evident. Self-evident scriptural testimony does not require the additional evidence of sensory experimentation (pratyaksa) or speculative interpretation (anumana). Nor does it require the evidence of a psychic channel.
The Vedic method of knowledge is the method of darsana revealed by scriptural sound. Darsana means to directly perceive that what is named, for example, by the scriptural sound Krsna is Krsna Himself. Darsana is self-evident in consciousness that is clear of attachment, fear, and anger, and strengthened by knowledge and austerity. The process of clearing consciousness is objective and scientific and taught by guru, scripture, and self-realized souls. Being self-evident, darsana is exoteric, meaning that when the medium of consciousness is unclouded, no more mysterious an effort is required to see a deep truth than to see an ordinary surface truth like the sun in the sky, for instance. This is no irrational assumption, since the process hearing and chanting transcendental sound is participatory. As many devotees who with purified hearts take part in glorifying Him, to that many Krsna reveals Himself simultaneously as the name and the named.
On the other hand, channeling is not participatory. It is demonstrative. The channeler demonstrates his assumed abilities for others, and it is never obvious to the others from where these abilities come or how others can develop them. Channeling is esoteric: deep truths are assumedly fished out of the murk by a psychic "idiot-savant." By idiot-savant I mean that the channeler's qualifications why he or she of all people fishes truths out of the murk, and others not can't be rationally explained. The channeler's qualifications are not the result of an objective, scientific methodology.
Why did Jane Roberts hear messages from an entity claiming to be Seth? Why did Aviva hear messages from an entity claiming to be Filipa? Why would a channeler today hear messages from an entity claiming to be, for example, Srila Prabhupada? In each case, the answer can only be assumed.
Which Forms to Worship?
I have a copy of Bhagavad-gita by Swami Prabhupada. I must say that I did not know the depths of the soul, mukti, God, nature, and material existence. It says in the Bhagvad-gita that we must ask somebody for interpretations who is the master of theGita. I do not consider myself a master; I am just seeking guidance from Lord Krsna.
When Arjuna asks "What form should I meditate upon to please You?" the Lord replies, "I am the serpent Vasuki, I am the tree, I am Indra, Siva, Visnu," and many other forms. However, in the beginning of Gita it says we must not worship any other demigods, only the supreme reality of Godhead (Krsna). Indra, Siva, Vasuki, and Agni are thought to be demigods. Visnu and Rama, I know, are incarnations of the supreme reality of Godhead. But how is it possible to worship demigods when the Gitaforbids us in the beginning and allows it in a later chapter.
via the Internet
OUR REPLY: Although Lord Krsna says that various forms in this world represent Him, He clearly says that love and surrender are meant for Him alone. These other forms display some aspect of Krsna's opulence, but ultimately He is much more that any of His creations. He decries demigod worship in a few places in the Gita, and in the end He asks for surrender to Him alone mam ekam. Although in one sense Krsna and His energies are identical, He is at the same time different from them, being the supreme independent source of everything. We are eternally related with Him as servants, and by realizing that we attain perfection.
I have recently been searching for the answer to the question "Where does the soul go when we die?" I cannot find a suitable reply to my quest. Someone says we end up in a grain and then go into sperm, to be then transferred to the womb. A devotee told me once that the soul is immediately reincarnated, but how does it happen? What happens when an infant dies or when many people die at once?
OUR REPLY: Since every soul is unique, there is no single answer to your question. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna explains that one's mentality at the time of death determines the next birth. One soul may go upward to a heavenly birth among higher beings, another soul may stay in human society, and yet another may descend to a birth as an animal. In each case, the soul's subtle coverings of mind, senses, and intelligence undergo conditioning appropriate to make the transition to the next life.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains that the Lord directs the soul into its next body according to the karma the soul has accumulated. Even if an infant dies, the soul is still subject to past karma and gains a suitable new body. If a group of people die at once, the Lord is not overworked; He has established the incontrovertible laws of nature to handle unlimited numbers of individual souls coming or going in this world.
Krsna advises that rather than trying to untangle the intricacies of karma, we should understand how to escape the cycle of birth and death.
A Ray of Hope
You are doing a wonderful job with BTG. For students like me who are always in the lap of maya, BTG offers a ray of hope we can cling to. I have been going through the past issues, and they are really wonderful to read every time. You may not be aware, but BTG helps sustain our Krsna consciousness through difficult times. Thank you.
Preetesh S. Nair
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Please write us at: BTG, P.O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. Fax: (904) 462-7893. Or BTG, 33 Janki Kutir, Next to State Bank of Hyderabad, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049, India. Phone: (022) 618-1718. Fax: (022) 618-4827. E-mail: email@example.com