29 September 2003
This morning we departed from our cabin in the woods to an apartment in the town of Rovaniemi, about 200 kilometers from Oulu. Rovaniemi, with a population of about 35 000 people, is capital of Finland's Lappi province (Lapland). Oulu (our previous base) is close to Lapland, but does not belong to it... furthermore the people of Oulu don't appreciate being associated with the Laps, which they consider primitive. Our present location is on the Arctic circle. This means that here, in the summer, the sun never disappears from the sky, and in the winter the sun never appears in the sky. Six months day, six months night: the time scale of the heavenly world. In a 1973 Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture, Srila Prabhupada said:
Udicim pravivesa. So one who goes to the northern side, it is to be understood he never comes back. Northern side means the Arctic zone, covered with snow. So this was known in Bhagavat days. Not only in Bhagavat days, some, about a thousand years ago also, there is
Kalidasa's book Kumara-sambhava. Kumara-sambhava, "The Birth of Karttikeya." So in the book the beginning is asty uttarasyam disi himalayo nama nagadhirajah. Uttarasyam disi, in the northern side, there is mountain which is covered with snow, Himalaya. Him means ice, hima. Asty uttarasyam disi himalayo nama nagadhirajah: "In the northern side, there is a hill or a mountain which is always covered by snow." Although at the present moment, Himalaya, there is one mountain that is also called Himalaya, Mount Everest, but I think this Artic zone was referred. Because it is said that "touching both sides, water." Asty uttarasyam disi himalayo nama nagadhirajah toya-nidhi avagahya. Toya-nidhi. Toya-nidhi means oceans, both sides ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Avagahya, touching. So the Arctic zone was referred in many books, Vedic literature.
The context is Maharaja Yudhisthira's ascension to the heavenly world, or Vaikuntha, in the same body by taking pilgrimage to the northern side. As Srila Prabhupada mentioned, some take that to mean a pilgrimage into the Himalaya mountains. But Srila Prabhupada takes it to mean a journey into the Arctic zone. His argument is that two oceans are said to meet in this region of ice and snow. Another argument would be that the time scale in the Arctic tangibly changes from earthly to heavenly. And by the way, snow has not fallen yet here in Rovaniemi...but I suppose when it does, there will be a lot of it! It has been getting colder and colder up here in northen Finland with each passing day.
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In a book I wrote, Dimensions of Good and Evil, I stated as follows:
Padma Purana (as cited by Madhvacarya in his Brahma-sutra Bhasya 3.1.23) states:
nityam eva tathabhutan vimisrams ca ganan bahun
nirastasesa-duhkhams ca nityanandaikabhaginah
apasyat trividhan brahma saksad eva catur-mukhah
His eyes alight with knowledge by the grace of the Supreme Lord, the four-faced Brahma saw three groups of living entities: 1) those eternally situated in utter suffering, completely deprived of happiness; 2) those who partake in eternal bliss, entirely without suffering; and 3) many classes in between.
In the political vocabulary of recent years, backward countries were said to belong to the Third World, a figurative realm lower in status than the First World of capitalist nations and Second World of socialist nations. Thousands of years ago, the term "third world" (tritiyam sthanam) was applied by Vedic sages to the backward class of sinful living entities fallen into the realm of adharma (irreligion), where spiritual knowledge and pious deeds are lacking. The group of living entities Brahma saw to be atyanta-duhkha, or completely miserable, belongs to this third world. That group is described by Baladeva Vidyabhusana as follows.
tatasca ye vidyaya devayane pathi nadhikrta napi
karmana pitryane tesameva ksudrajantunam damsa
masakadi asakrdavrttinam trtiyah panthah tenasau
loka na sampuryata iti
Because they lack spiritual knowledge they cannot take the path of liberation (deva-yana). Because their karma is impious they cannot take the path of sacrificial elevation (pitr-yana). They become tiny creatures like mosquitoes and insects, and so inhabit the third world. Thus the other worlds never become full to overflowing. (from Govinda Bhasya 3.1.19)
The Vedic culture is designed to elevate the soul from the third world of abject suffering upward through the stages of mixed happiness and distress to the perfection of nityananda (eternal bliss) at last. The process begins with the regulation of the senses--particularly with respect to sexuality.
In the above quotation by Baladeva, two Vedic paths of elevation are mentioned: pitr-yana and devayana. The pitr-yana is the karma-marga, the path of fruitive activities. Here the karmi begins the regulation of his or her senses by yajna or sacrifice. The deva-yana is the jnana-marga, the path of knowledge. Here the jnani cultivates an understanding of the self as non-material by deep study of the Upanisads (the Vedanta scriptures).
Together the pitr-yana and deva-yana make up gauna-dharma or the secondary Vedic religion, the aim of which is to raise the soul to the mode of goodness. The Kausitaki Brahmana Upanisad 1.2-3 depicts the pitr and deva paths as being joined at the moon, which is the gateway to the pleasures of heaven. Thus the pitr-yana carries souls from the third world of suffering up to the lunar heaven, from where the deva-yana carries them further to Agniloka, Vayuloka, Adityaloka, Indraloka, Prajapatiloka and finally Brahmaloka, the highest position in the material cosmos.
Brahma saw along the entire length of these two paths the middle group of living entities. Though they are above unrelenting suffering, they have not achieved eternal bliss. This middle group of souls are divided into many classes. Mahabharata 7.315.30 describes the deva-yana and pitr-yana paths as extending from the realm of Visnu (goodness) down to the lowest realm (ignorance).
It was noted that of the three groups seen by Brahma, the adharmis--the irreligious living entities who cheat themselves of happiness by unrestricted sexual indulgence--dwell in a condemned third world. The gauna-dharmis who restrict their senses dwell along a path that stretches from the earth to the moon and from the moon to Brahmaloka. Where do the eternally blissful mukhya-dharmis dwell? Bhaktivinoda Thakura answers in Sri Namastaka 1.4 (Gitavali):
caudda bhuvana maha deva-nara-danava
bhaga jakir balavan
nama-rasa-piyusa pibo-i anukhana
Within the fourteen worlds, those demigods, men and demons whose fortune is very great, perpetually drink the nectar of the sweet mellows of the holy name of Sri Krsna, casting aside the paths of karma and jnana.
Thus the eternally blissful pure devotees of the Lord can be found in any situation--high class or low, married or renounced, good (born among devas) or evil (born among asuras). But in reality they are apart from all situations in this material creation. Wherever the devotees may seem to be from the point of view of conditioned sense perception, they actually dwell in sva-dhama, in the abode of the Supreme Lord.
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It is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.29.76=77:
The caterpillar transports itself from one leaf to another by capturing one leaf before giving up the other. Similarly, according to his previous work, the living entity must capture another body before giving up the one he has. This is because the mind is the reservoir of all kinds of desires.
Srila Prabhupada used this example of the caterpillar to explain that we are creating our next body at present, while within this body. A caterpillar, while passing from one leaf to the next, is for a while on both leaves. Similarly, even while still in the present human body we are subtly connected to the next body by the karma we are doing. Karma is work that creates our next body; we are doing that work right now, it this body. That work is impelled by our desires. The mind is the reservoir of desire. The mind means the subtle body, which Srila Prabhupada compared to underclothing, the gross body being our overclothes. So the nature of the future gross body begins to manifest in the subtle body during the present lifetime.
The "third world" living entities are human beings whose karma is insectoid. Either a human being is on the path of dharma (karma, jnana or bhakti) or he is not. If he is not, he belongs to the "third world." Subtly he is already an insect, though physically he still looks human. He is humanoid/insectoid.
The Beat author William Burroughs (Junkie, Naked Lunch) often
depicted in his writings the humanoid/insectoid personality of people addicted
to drugs. He seemed to actually perceive the future forms of drug addicts while
they were still in their present human bodies. In the 1950s, newspapers and
such used to talk about flying saucers and BEMs or "Bug Eyed Monsters."
The type of alien the UFO folklore calls "grays" has big, bulging
all-black eyes and a small mouth incapable of much movement, which suggest something
of an insect-like nature. The grays are of course the alien that has been most
reported by those claiming to have seen UFOs and the space creatures that pilot
them. The grand-daddy aliens of them all, the little ones that supposedly crashed
at Roswell, were classical grays. Some people claim to have seen aliens that
are simply big insects that walk erect, like men. The mantid type of insect
is very popular with the UFO crowd. Movies, surprisingly, haven't portrayed
aliens as humanoid/insectoid very much--apart from the grays, whose appearance
only hints at a crossing of human and insect natures. The recent film Mimic
had mutant insects that could pass for humans on the street in the dark; this
film was based on a fascinating short story from the 1940s. (Yes, fascinating
for devotees too, because the theme of the story intersects with points of our
philosophy.) Men in Black had many kinds of buggy aliens, but of course,
that's just for laughs. Starship Troopers featured big bugs from outer
space, but they had no humanoid aspects. And what about the slang from the '50s
and '60s, "Don't bug me?" ("Don't bother me??") Do people
still talk like that?
Anyway, my point is that bugs are on peoples' minds these days, and no wonder. The next time you catch a bug in a paper cup and chant Hare Krsna to it before throwing it out the window, remember that this little guy was someone who never served Krsna in any way in his previous life.
This "third world" concept opens an interesting, though speculative, window on who or what the aliens may be that so many people have seen in the last 50-plus years. Do you want to know more? Well, I for one am not going to say any more about it. Just recite to the bug as you drop him out the window these lines from the Panchatantra:
With no stranger share your house;
So did Leap, the flea, kill Creep, the louse.
That's a nice story from the Panchatantra, about a flea named Leap and a louse named Creep, two bugs in a king's bed. But it's time to go now.