30 Mai 2022
Realizing that God is everywhere and unique requires a deep and esoteric knowledge of Vaishnava philosophy. The Srimad-Bhagavatam was composed in such a way as to guide us of this essential and universal truth: God is a Person.
Devotees like to say Krishna does this or does that, or Krishna gives his blessings and whispers in the heart his instructions and confidential matters.
This general way of expressing oneself leads to confusion. In the heart resides Kṣīrodakaśāyī-Viṣṇu, it is not Krishna as such. Krishna does not deal with the creation and organization of the worlds, he delegates these activities to Avatars. Devotees are aware of it, normally. “When we say ‘Krishna’, Srila Prabhupada remarked, we are not referring to Krishna alone, but to all of his energies and pastimes.” It is necessary, of course, to know how to manage the complexity of the divine forms and their characteristics, the pure devotee knows how to make the difference with great care. When Lakshmidevi massages the lotus-like feet of Vishnu lying on Anantasesha, this is not the same person as Radharani, seated at Krishna’s feet. The rasabhasa results from this confusion, and it is a bad sign for our spiritual journey, warn the well-accomplished vaishnavas.
On this error, the rasabhasa, Srila Prabhupada explains that Mahāprabhu, being God, “one should not misunderstand his activities and place him in exactly the same position as Kṛṣṇa”.
Elsewhere in the CC he writes: “If someone does it from a poor fund of knowledge, his mood with the Lord becomes tinged with faults and this is called rasābhāsa, an overlapping of spiritual moods. The advanced devotee who has actually realized the transcendental features of the Lord will not commit the mistake of creating a rasābhāsa situation by using one name for another. Because of the influence of Kali-yuga, there is much rasābhāsa in the name of extravagance and liberal-mindedness.” For example, Krishna of Vrindavan is not the Krishna of Mathura or Dwarka. Also, we do not confuse Narayana, Vishnu and Krishna, even if in everyday language this does not matter, since the Vaishnavas deliberately make a generalization of his power and his activities. The kanistha adhikari sees God on the altar only, there he adores Krishna and his girlfriend Radha. It is thus throughout the entire world by the goodwill of Srila Prabhupada. But more mature devotees bear in mind that Radharani is not leaving Vrindavan under any circumstances. The madhyam adhikari knows the sentimental and matrimonial distinction that exists between a queen of Krishna and Radharani.
The difficulties stated above are difficult to disentangle for ordinary mortals. In fact, the Srimad-Bhagavatam was not composed for them. These are discussions of the highest level of bhakti. These misunderstandings, however, generate a more general problem. It is even felt with more acuteness and impertinence when we reproduce the pattern of these “technical errors called rasabhasa” in the definitions and the language common to social organization. At this level, consequences are more serious and blur the data we would definitely like to be clear.
I had the opportunity recently to listen to a talk by a swami with many disciples around the world. He said in India journalists came to see him for his opinion about Muslims. He had answered them that from his perspective there is neither Muslim nor Christian, because we are souls, and therefore all equal. To discriminate is wrong. Journalists were satisfied with his response, he said.
The congregation present with me to his talk did not seem challenged by the swami’s explanation; no clarification was requested. In true, Srila Prabhupada constantly reminds us in his books that we are not this body, we are not Indians or Americans, men or women, but spiritual souls and that we must behave as such; paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ.
Ideologically, this is understandable, but applied to everyday life in society, this abnegation of the self, of the false ego, leads to an immense problem of adaptation and judgment. Fortunately, it doesn’t work this way. We have to identify a minimum with what we are, because the souls being equal, the bodies force us to classify individuals according to their behavior for more science and efficiency.
As I listen to the swami, I mentally refute his arguments. I imagine myself taking the train for a long journey and I have the choice of the compartment. In the first one, a Muslim couple is installed. When I arrive, a server takes the order for the meal. Although there are other places available, I decide to settle in the next compartment with Sikhs. I know Muslims will eat meat and I hate the smell. I never sit at a table where meat is eaten. It’s been that way since I was young. I never go to a market where meat hangs from the stalls or the nauseating smell of mechoui is in the air. I must say here that my family is Muslim, and that I am on very good terms with them. I visit them every year. They will never insult me by imposing an unpleasant situation on me or my wife. I can stay with them for several weeks, there will be no meat and no smells during my visit. Our common culture calls for this mutual respect. Ethics require objective rules.
I do the same with smokers; I avoid their company and the places they frequent. With time and targeted education, smokers understand the discomfort they cause. In public places, relations between smokers and non-smokers are becoming more and more civic (especially in Canada), because individuals have fought for decades to make smokers aware of the unpleasant and sometimes dangerous situations they cause, even towards their own children. It is civilization's progress; cigarette smoke should not disturb others and smokers should stay away from nonsmokers.
I raised my hand and asked the sadhu: “How is it possible to organize society without discriminating between women and men, Muslims and Hindus? We make this distinction well when we meet a sannyasi, we must recognize his status as a renunciate by greeting him three times a day, otherwise we commit a fault.” (He himself had insisted on this rule.) I didn't understand his answer, so I do not comment. It is rather odd to hear from a sannyasi that one should not distinguish between people, races or religions. Isn’t he supposed to be the first to turn away from the presence of a woman, more than any other individual in the Vedic system?
As we were discussing the swami’s lecture a few days later with my wife, she read to me this relevant passage narrated by Banamali Das in a biography of Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, 'When Good Fortune Arises': "We journeyed from France to Belgium in 2nd class AC berths. There were four beds in the compartment, I took the upper left bunk and Maharaja took the one under me. Two young ladies entered the compartment. They had the other two bunks. They sat and chatted for a little while and then prepared to take rest. They disrobed and laid down. It was quite a shock for Maharaja, such behavior was unheard of in the conservative India. Maharaja didn't say anything, but I saw that he did not lay down that evening. He just sat on his bed and chanted japa the entire night, not sleeping. Later he told me -Traveling by train in Europe is very bad."
In my first letter on varnashrama-dharma*, I mention the vegans and their philosophy, not seeing the human species as superior to others. According to this modern doctrine promulgated by Peter Singer, “the error is technically called specism”. It leads to racism and sexism because we wrongly classified animals according to moral and behavioral criteria. It is an arbitrary discrimination, since ants and dogs are not inferior to human beings. The antispecism represented by the vegans consists of putting all species on the same level of equality. From the vaishnava’s point of view, this vision of living beings is erroneous because vegans only take into account the material forms; they don’t understand that they have a soul, spiritual and eternal.
I wrote it is a "modern" doctrine (Peter Singer being born in 1946) because this view -equality of species- is already stated in the Bhagavad-gita, and it would be surprising if Singer did not read it.
vidya-vinaya-sampanne / brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca / panditah sama-darsinah (5.18)
"The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste]." (5.18)
What does the humble sage see as equal? Certainly not the bodies. An elephant and a dog are obviously not equal. So, take the place of the humble sage and describe what you see, disregarding the bodies. Do you see souls? You see nothing, because no one has ever seen a soul. So you have to imagine it. What does a soul look like? The scriptures give a description of it and the practicing pandit applies the instruction: panditah sama-darsinah.
I ask again: what exactly do you see? What does a soul look like, according to the scriptures? Personally, I don't know. I only know what I read, that Krishna is in the hearts of devotees and the soul stands there.
But still, to be more precise, who is in this place, Krishna or Vishnu? A soul has two arms or four? So we imagine seeing Paramatma (not Krishna...) standing in the heart of every living being. To do so, we don’t speculate, we reproduce, thanks to intelligence, the description of the Puranas. This vision is called darshana. I ask you again, what do you see, or more exactly, what should you see? What does an individual soul look like? Is it similar to Vishnu?