Are Sankarites Impersonalists?
The great Sankaracharya, who was an incarnation of Lord Siva, was an impersonalist. Are his followers impersonalists too?
Our reply: It is revealed by other acaryas (authorities) that the great Sankaracharya preached impersonalism at a certain period in time on an emergency basis. Lord Buddha’s philosophy of voidism had become prevalent throughout what was then called bharata-varsa (modern-day India and neighboring countries). One consequence of this was that the Vedas were losing prominence since Lord Buddha had rejected them. Sankaracharya appeared at such a critical time to re-establish the authority of the Vedas. To do this effectively Sankaracharya compromised on the principle of the Absolute Truth being a personality and instead propagated the philosophy of monism, comparing the Buddhist void to the Vedic Brahman. Yet, his own acceptance of Lord Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead is revealed in his prayers bhaja govindam. In his commentary on Bhagavad-gita, he writes narayanahparo ‘vyaktat: that Lord Narayana is beyond even the unmanifest material creation—that He is the origin of everything. But his followers continue to remain impersonalists even today and stick to their opinion that the Absolute Truth is ultimately impersonal. They refuse to accept the supreme position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna.
Choosing an Ashrama
I am 28. I was working with my father. But he is non supportive to Krishna consciousness. Even my mother does not support. Some devotees have suggested to me to become a full-time devotee while some are requesting me to continue my studies and get a degree. I am confused. Whenever I have started to learn something, I cannot maintain continuity. If I decide not to become full-time, I have no option except to become a graduate and earn my own living because I will be unable to work with my father. Please guide.
Our reply: Many find it difficult to decide about their future, especially at the juncture in life at which you are. There are many options available to us. However, the deciding factor should be not what people suggest/ advise to you but what appears to be very natural for you to do.
Joining a temple full-time is an excellent opportunity to offer service to Lord Krishna without any hindrance in the association of favorable, like-minded devotees. Ample freedom (to choose a suitable service), support (to stay inspired in spite of all odds) and facilities (to aid oneself in rendering the service without distractions and/ or concerns of bodily maintenance) are available. The joys of family life however are absent. There is access to a much larger family but the loved ones that you have grown up with will definitely be distanced.
When one decides to become a responsible grihastha (Krishna-conscious householder), he accepts responsibility of his dependents for their bodily, mental and spiritual needs and guides them towards Krishna. To do this, one has to shoulder the responsibility of staying committed oneself to spiritual life and serving Guru inspite of all odds. Inspiration from seniors and support from family members is available but the environment in which one operates can broadly be called “non-spiritual.” The advantage is that spiritual upliftment is more possible in a more gradual and organic fashion.
You have mentioned that given your father’s resistance, you will have to earn your own livelihood in case you decide to become a grihastha and that will necessitate completing your graduation (which is difficult for you as per your letter). Considering the other option of full-time service, will you not be required to learn some new skills/ techniques etc. which might be necessary for your temple services? Will learning how to distribute books/ speak in front of an audience be easy for you? Learning anything is difficult but it works out over a period of time. You may remember that both the grihastha and the brahmacari stages of life are called ashramas indicating that there is ample hard work waiting in both situations for the candidate although the nature of work in both ashramas may differ. One has to make a decision on what will be better suited for one and what will offer more opportunities for service in the long run.
If you have had prolonged personal contact with some senior Krishna conscious devotee then he will be in a better position to guide you. Such decisions which impact your life in a large way require much maturity. Since you have mentioned that your age is 28, I would advise you to decide on either ashrama soon. Many vital, subsequent decisions in your life are dependent on this one single choice. Thus, to become stable in devotional service, please take this decision at the earliest. To get the blessings of the Lord, you may also pray to your worshippable Deities.
How is Silk Produced?
I wanted to know how silk is produced. Is it a sin to wear silk saris or use leather items? Do we kill silkworms to produce silk? It is said that silk is pure and is liked by Lord Krishna. How is it possible? Could you please explain with logic and with reference to scriptures?
Our reply: Silk has always been a symbol of wealth in traditional India. In modern times, silk is comparatively costly yet many can afford it. This is possible because, today to meet growing demand worldwide, silk producers have increased silk production at the cost of values. Essentially, silk worms weave a cocoon around themselves with a substance (which we call silk) they produce from within their bodies. To get a single long thread of silk, modern day silk producers boil the cocoons with the worms still alive inside, in boiling water. This results in untold violence. Disturbed by this kind of selfish aggression, some sensitive people in modern times have invented “ahimsa” silk. This silk is produced from cocoons left behind by the worms when they naturally transform into moths and fly off. The disadvantage is that for the purpose of coming out of the cocoon, the moth makes a hole in the cocoon and this results in the single long thread getting discontinued at several places. These individual strings of the raw silk then have to be joined so that they can be used for making a continuous thread. Thus, the ahimsa silk costs more than the usual silk because of the extra labor involved.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam describes how the Lord wears bright yellow silk robes. One may wonder, how does the Lord support such unnecessary violence? The perfection of any living entity is to be utilized in the service of the Supreme Lord. It is not only the act that matters but also the consciousness in which a particular act is performed. Even considering that the silk offered to the Lord has been produced by extreme violence should not disturb us. It is the best thing possible for that living entity. Also, the devotee who is offering such valuable material in the service of the Lord gains spiritual upliftment.
Replies to the letters were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.
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