IBSA (ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Sadhana Asrama), Govardhana, India
16 December 2003
Emily Dickenson was a poetess who lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the later 1800s. Amherst is very close to Holyoke, where I was born. In a line of one of her poems, which I unfortunately cannot quote from memory, she wrote to the effect that the weight of the world is equal to the weight of the human brain.
What I think she was meaning is that each of us lives in an "anthroposphere", a realm of human perceptions. We do not see the real world; we see what our brain, our mind and our sense organs permit us to see. The weight of that world is the weight of our brain.
It is pointless to look for the origin of the world in the anthroposphere. That would be like looking for the author of a novel within the novel or an artist within his painting. Similarly we ourselves are outside the anthroposphere. We are not the brain, the sense organs, the sense objects, nor even the subtle mind. All that we perceive. But we are the perceiver. What is materially perceived can never be the transcendental perceiver. A flashlight can never shine on itself; it can only illuminate the world around it. The attempt to see the self through the anthroposphere leads into what logicians call "infinite regress" or endless intellectual backpedaling: "Ah-hah, yes. . . now I understand I am this, the physical body. No, wait. . . I am thinking about the body. That means I'm different from it. That's it, I'm the mind. But wait, now I am thinking about the mind. That means I must be different from it also. " Neti-neti, "not this, not this. " Infinite regress brings one at last to the concept of absolute impersonality. But even then, the real identity as a transcendental person with spiritual senses and desires remains unseen behind the coldly rational "face" that we use to see the impersonal. Unseen because it is us. We try to negate that real identity because our knowledge of how of to realize it is lacking. But known or not, the self is always there. In another line of poetry, Emily Dickenson spoke of a worm that gnaws at the soul. That worm is our inner disquiet at not knowing who we really are.
Ceto darpana marjanam. Cleanse the mirror of consciousness. That mirror is the reflective power of transcendental knowledge granted us by the Lord in the heart. Due to lust and sloth we have allowed that power, our svatah-siddha-jnana, to become covered with dust. When it is cleansed by pure chanting the holy names, then we can see the real self, just as a flashlight will be illuminated if it shines into a mirror. Its rays reflect back from the glass to light up the flashlight itself.
Those brilliant rays of spiritual illumination are the mercy of Krsna. Sri Vrndaban Dhama also can only be seen by the same means. Otherwise we are just groping about in the anthroposphere. In that benighted state, the whole of what we know as the dhama weighs only as much as our brain.