Tag Archives: Philosophy

Philosophy in the City

Kṛṣṇa is leaving Hastinapura amidst an extremely emotional outpouring of affection. The narrator, Sūta, chooses to ignore the benedictive hymns of scholastic priests and focuses our attention instead upon the chatter and gossip going on between the women of the city as Kṛṣṇa’s chariot moves onto the road.

1.10.21

This man is most certainly the Complete Original Male,
Who singularly existed in the beginning as the self without differentiation.
All variations spring from him, the master and soul of the universe.
All energies return into him in slumber.

I did not expect that the chatter and gossip of city women to be so philosophical, but that is exactly the point Sūta infers by focusing our attention on them and not the priests. True knowledge requires affection. We can never know something as deeply and thoroughly as when we are completely dedicated and devoted to it. Thus people who are deeply in love with the All-Attractive wind up with  philosophical understandings far deeper than philosophers who are mainly in love with the philosophical process itself, or priests who are mainly in love with the accoutrements of religion, ritual and ecclesiastical governances.

But their philosophy is strongly marked by romantic perfume.

They point to Kṛṣṇa with graceful hands and love-laden glances, saying, “That man is unlike all other men! He is the Complete Original Male!”

“What do you mean by that?” One lady asks excitedly.

“It means,” another answers, glancing over her shoulder again at Kṛṣṇa, “that he and he alone existed in the very beginning of things.”

“Tell me more!” Cries another.

Eyes fixed upon Kṛṣṇa sitting on his chariot amidst all the flowers they had showered from the rooftops, one of the women explained to the others. “In the beginning was only him, existing as an undifferentiated, non-relativistic quantum of self.”

In a breathy tone, one lady protests, “Oh but how could an ‘undifferentiated entity,’ as you say, be as handsome and attractive as Kṛṣṇa???”

Inspired by love, the central woman continues to explain. “This singular, absolute self,” she says, gesturing as if in a dance towards Kṛṣṇa, “expands into all the differentiations, individualities and relativities that we see all around us, and more.”

“But why?” asks a lady barely able to think in her swoon as Kṛṣṇa’s driver takes up the reigns.

“I will explain it in words, but everyone already knows it well from practical experience:

  • To exist is to experience
  • The height of experience is in pleasure
  • The height of pleasure is in love
  • Love is realized through relationships involving varieties of situations

“That is why the original singular existence, full of experiential potency, manifests all varieties of people, things and relationships via his unlimited energies.”

Satisfied, all the ladies fell silent for some moments, gazing upon the beauty and charms of the All-Attractive. All the energies of their being flowed like rivers from their hearts through their eyes, and merged lovingly into the ocean of sweetness, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The lady who started the topic spoke again to bring it full circle. “Since all things come from him, all things yearn to return to him. All energy must complete its circuit. So, my friends, all us of only exist for him. When we give all our energy and being to him, the circuit is complete and we feel peace and satisfaction, similar to the deepest sleep.”

“Do you mean,” asks another lady, “that we must merge back into the source from which we have come? Is that why we are so hopelessly and completely attracted to Kṛṣṇa?”

“Yes,” the main woman answers with a very suggestive flicker of her eyebrows, “we must merge ourselves into him, my dear!”

Another woman now speaks up, “Just look at those bald-headed priests! They are sitting so calmly chanting mantras and hymns. What is that all about!? To them, the idea of ‘merging back into the original self’ means complete annihilation of their miserable existence! In so doing they do not please the Original Husband at all. They merely erase themselves from displeasing him – which I suppose is better… than… nothing… If you get my pun.”

Amidst laughter, the women continued, “Yes, The Original One made us individuals because he wanted individuals – so he could share the bliss of love. How odd that those called doctors and scholars can’t understand such simple things! Fools who know nothing of the ways and powers of love seek to lose their differentiation by ending their individuality. Ha! We ladies are no such fools, are we!? I think we alone have the right idea about how to ‘merge’ with that man in ‘sleep’! We will lose our differentiation from him in the heights of that love.”


The Futility of Morality and Philosophy

[1.5.12]

Without heartfelt affection for the Infallible there is no beauty even in knowledge that liberates one from all karma. What to speak of laborious duties, be they selfishly intended or not, if they are not done in offering to The Master.

Nārada continues to explain Vyāsa’s failure, revealing why he felt depressed and incomplete even after creating the entire culture of Vedic knowledge. The bulk of Vyāsa’s work focused on duties (karma). A higher but smaller portion focused on philosophy (jñāna). He relatively ignored the most essential subject: heartfelt devotion to the Infallible Master (“acyuta-bhāva”).

[13]

Therefore – O greatly blessed man of perfect vision, famous for your purity, truthfulness and dedication – to liberate the people from bondage you must first enter a trance of constant contemplation upon the deeds of the Supernatural Doer.

Since deeds and knowledge are not satisfying unless connected to heartfelt devotion for the All-Attractive, to remedy his depression and accomplish his goal Vyāsa must make humanity more clearly aware of the beautiful deeds of the All-Attractive. To accomplish this he must first have perfect vision of those deeds, and so must enter a meditative trance upon them.

[14]

Do not discuss anything without connecting it to this. The myriad names and forms of such things will make the heart unsteady like a boat troubled by a storm.

Nārada will explain this concept in a more practical manner:

[15]

The instructions you gave about moral duties are condemnable because they will be completely misappropriated by humanity’s powerful natural attachments. “We are following religion,” they will say – as they completely ignore your prohibitions.

This is a practical explanation of how a storm of problems arises from discussion of anything – even morality and philosophy – without direct connection to heartfelt devotion for the All-Attractive. Vyāsa gave so much guidance on how to be moral and dutiful, how to be “religious.” But the powerful natural inclination of a human being is to exploit whatever we can for our own purposes. Unless this natural inclination is replaced with a natural inclination of divine love, humanity will take any morality and philosophy and twist it to serve our own agendas. While slaughtering men, women and children, and destroying centuries of accumulated study and knowledge we will hold aloft religious symbols and claim that our despicable deeds – great and small – are religious and just, completely ignoring all the parts of our morality and religion that state to the contrary.

Thus promotion of religion is a mistake, and Vyāsa himself made that mistake. To benefit humanity, direct heartfelt devotion for the All-Attractive that must be promoted first and foremost. Morality and philosophy must attend this devotion as loving servants. To reverse this ratio and put morality and philosophy before divine devotion is a catastrophic error – and Vyāsa made this error in his efforts prior to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.