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You tell of the soul as being pure consciousness and that we have an original role in the kingdom of God that lies dormant while we experience matter. Some gurus,such as the one whose page I'm sending you, teach that we are not the soul, that the soul is only a reflection of the Self, and that in the final realization we understand this. We are absorbed into the effulgence of God when we lose our ego completely. The extinguishing of the individual identity carries with it all karma. To become God in the end answers all questions. God is the silent mystery man.

There are many different conceptions of afterlife. But I know that there can't be any separation in our view. There has to be Oneness. Are we all divine beings just playing roles in matter? Why do we want to enter matter?

We are not the mind or the body. We are the spirit soul. Is this statement correct? Is matter only a playground for the soul? And can we experience intensity only in matter?

Walter Seaman, Jr. 
Oxford, Maine


OUR REPLY: You sent a page from a teacher who stated: "You are the Self. The Self never undergoes any change. … It doesn't need religion. Does the Self need to realize itself? When did God forget Himself?"

This is the Mayavada philosophy the loose logic that because I am spirit and God is spirit, therefore I am God, you are God, and we don't need religion. According to this philosophy, everything is maya, or illusion: religion is illusion, suffering is illusion, individual identity is illusion, and a personal God is illusion.

The same teacher says. "I've given you some points. Please know that I am not just quoting books or producing some prerecorded ideas. I tell you what I feel." He implies that God-given scripture is untrue or useless, but that his teachings or feelings are useful.

So, either he is God or he is not God. If he is God, why does he reject his own previous religious teachings? And how can an all-powerful God be under the control of material laws? If we are all one God, why has he realized it when I have not? It seems, then, that he is not God. So of what value are his errant ideas? If everything is illusion, his teachings are also illusion. We should definitely look for a more reliable source of knowledge.

The Absolute is beyond our sense perception and intelligence. We can know God, however, because He has communicated with men, and there are records of such communications. Perennial religion teaches that God reveals Himself to qualified devotees and saints. Revelations are contained in many scriptures, the most cogent and complete of which are the Vedic scriptures.

These scriptures explain that just as the emanations of heat and light are different but inseparable from (and therefore one with) the sun, similarly, the Supreme Personality of Godhead's multifarious potencies are simultaneously different and nondifferent from Him. These energies are broadly categorized as three: spiritual, marginal, and material.

The spiritual energy sustains an imperishable transcendental realm. The material energy, or maya, conducts the material realm. And we living entities are called "marginal" because we can enter into either realm.

The living entities, or jivatmas, are individual spiritual parts of the supreme whole. Krsna, and like Him are eternal, cognizant, and blissful. We are tiny unique individuals with free will. Thus we are one with yet different from God one in quality but different in quantity.

As a part of the body serves the whole body, the jivatma naturally serves and loves Krsna. But because love cannot be forced, we have free will and independence to turn from Krsna at any time.

The material world offers a tempting alternative. an illusory opportunity to become master rather than servant. Maya misinforms us that we can be the controllers of nature.

Still, it is very difficult to understand how we fell into this material world. Srila Prabhupada recommends that if you fall into the ocean, your first priority is to get out; never mind how you fell in. In our illusioned, conditioned state, it is a waste of time to wonder how we got here. Yet if we simply apply ourselves to the process of getting free of illusion and death, everything will automatically become clear.

Our environment and our bodies sicken, age, and die, despite our best efforts to maintain the status quo. But maya is so strong that despite repeated defeat we still imagine that we are, or soon will be, God. Krsna controls maya, but when we try to imitate Krsna, maya controls us.

It is not possible to get out of maya's control by our own strength. But when we turn to Krsna, our perfect friend. He helps us. We may forget Him, but He never forgets us. He remains with us as Supersoul and acts to enlighten us and bring us back to Godhead.

Krsna says, "When you surrender to Me, you can easily cross over illusion and material miseries." If we turn to Him. He causes the illusory energy to subside and enriches us with knowledge. But first we must give up our false ego of denying Him or competing with Him. Our real ego and unity with God are in service and love.

We cannot conquer the Absolute by forceful assault. But if we approach Him with love and service, then He may be pleased to reveal Himself to us. This process of approach is called bhakti-yoga and must be performed under the guidance of a spiritual master who is a pure devotee of the Lord.

You ask if we can experience intensity only in matter. The answer is that experience is possible only for conscious entities. As we become purified of the dulling effects of matter, our consciousness clears and our experience intensifies. In the spiritual realm, pleasure and realization increase without end.