27 September 2003
Yesterday, Friday 26, I gave a talk on "the Vedic theory of knowlege" at a prestigious college in Oulu, one from which 3 presidents of Finland graduated. The topic of my presentation was according to the study plan being followed by the philosophy class: they are now dealing with what they call in their jargon, "TOK" (theories of knowledge). This is an English-medium school so I could speak without a translator. Actually, that's a nice thing about Finland: a number of the colleges that are considered "better" conduct all the classes in the English language.
To my surprise this lecture was to a video camera, with the students (again, all girls) appearing on a monitor. I knew I had a videoconferencing lecture on Wednesday next week but I didn't know there was one already on Friday this week. There's advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that because the students are looking at a TV monitor instead of at a real Hare Krsna devotee, they are less shy to ask questions. You have to understand this about Finland: probably even more than the other Nordic countries where people tend to be quiet, Finns are really quiet and soft-spoken people. . . at least in formal situations like the classroom. So being separate from the students via videoconferencing helps break down their shyness, because they are after all addressing their questions to machinery, not a real person. The disadvantage is that I drew a diagram on the whiteboard behind me but it totally could not be seen on the TV monitor. Anyway, the diagram helped me in my presentation, so it was OK.
I started my explanation with atma and Paramatma. Atma is the pure identity, the individual soul, which has no beginning or end. It is a particle of God's own spiritual nature. Paramatma is the Lord who accompanies the soul in all of his births. Paramatma grants the soul his field of knowledge and activities; He is the inner ruler, He is the overseer, He is the permitter, and He is the ultimate source of all knowledge.
Then I told them about the subtle body and its three aspects: ahamkara, buddhi and manas. Ahamkara is worldly identity and worldly attachment. Buddhi covers instinct, categorical knowledge (i. e. the power to distinguish between things that may look similar to the senses, e. g. to know that a pen and a small snake belong to two different categories), abstract knowledge (language, comprehension of symbols), memory, and determination. Manas covers desire, emotions, common sense, acceptance or attachment and rejection or aversion.
From there I went on to the three phases of mind: cognition, affection and conation (i. e. thinking, feeling and willing). Because the theme was "TOK", I focused on cognition or knowing. I said we know in three ways: by observation (which includes contemplation of a thing by the mind), by remembrance, and by intuition. Observation is broken down into two departments: perception and inference (logic), or in Sanskrit pratyaksa and anumana. I told them that dreams are the interaction of consciousness with memory but without sense perception; sometimes intuition enters dreams and they become precognitive, or future-seeing. Then I explained that intuition is the beginning or seed of divya-pratyaksa or divine perception, which should be perfected through spiritual practice and Divine Grace. By divine perception one can know spiritual truths directly.
I then told them that knowledge is of two basic categories: aroha or exploratory and avaroha or revelatory. I said that all of us use both in our lives but for spiritual realization, or the perfection of divya-pratyaksa, we must resort to pure avaroha knowledge which is revealed by guru from without and Paramatma from within.
There were nice questions at the end. Several were about reincarnation. One was a very good one about the role of emotions in knowledge; it seems in their "TOK" studies that there is a category called "emotional knowledge", so the girl wanted to know what we have to say about that. I explained that the affective phase of the mind holds power over the cognitive and conative phases, thus all knowing or cognition is emotional. The class liked this idea (girls!).
Today, Saturday, there are no school classes. I am giving the Bhagavatam lecture to the brahmacaris in our wooden cabin in the forest. Tomorrow we will have a feast which a few guests will attend; I'll give the talk. Monday and thereafter the school programs continue.