IBSA (ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Sadhana Asrama), Govardhana, India
19 December 2003
Dear Vaisnava readers,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Today I received a letter from my Godbrother HH Devamrta Maharaja. He graciously advised me of something I was not aware of before: that remarks I've made in this journal regarding some Russian devotees and their questions have caused a degree of perplexity among a good number of readers. My immediate response is to apologize and beg forgiveness from all my readers, particularly those from Russia and the CIS.
I was being sarcastic. About sarcasm, especially when it is rendered into written words, we have to be very cautious in the Vaisnava community. Vaisnava aparadha is so dangerous. Truthfully, after I published those remarks I felt bad about them; but I did get one letter of feedback from the CIS a few days later that caused me to think that my remarks were appreciated. So I let my ill-considered words stand.
With the help of Devamrta Maharaja I see my mistake. I've asked the administrator of this Website to excise the offending remarks immediately. Removal of those words is a great relief, esecially to me.
It is true that a few times I have found some lines of inquiry from some CIS devotees annoying. Some Godbrothers have expressed the same sort of annoyance to me. I do hope that devotees will reflect more on the content of their questions before they ask them, and be more considerate of others before they ask them in public.
Still, it was wrong for me to write sarcastically, and moreover in a way that seemed to generalize about the devotees from Russia and the CIS, who are doing such nice services for Srila Prabhupada.
If you who are reading these words right now are among those who felt personally offended by what I wrote, again I beg your forgiveness. I am sorry, yet I am also grateful to you, for you are helping me provide better service in this journal. Thank you.
In service to Srila Prabhupada and all his servants in ISKCON,
Dasanudasa Suhotra Swami
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Yesterday I wrote about Ouroboros, the Gnostic image of the world-serpent turned upon itself to form a circle, with its tail in its own mouth. I did not mention why it has its tail in its mouth. It discovers itself that way--thus we get a hint of universal consciousness that links all jivas together as a whole. But in discovering itself, it devours itself too. By devouring itself, Ouroboros renews itself. Such is cyclical time. And such is the rule of life in this universe that binds all jivas together:
phalguni tatra mahatam
jivo jivasya jivanam
Those who are devoid of hands are prey for those who have hands; those devoid of legs are prey for the four-legged. The weak are the subsistence of the strong, and the general rule holds that one living being is food for another. [Bhag. 1. 13. 47]
All jivas are food for the ultimate jiva, Lord Sankarsana.
As I mentioned yesterday, there is a clear correlation between Ouroboros and Sankarsana (Ananta Sesa). I cited Srila Prabhupada' statement about Sankarsana: "For the dissolution of the creation, He also exhibits Himself as the Supersoul in Rudra, irreligiosity, ahi (the snake), antaka (death) and the demons. " At the time of maha-pralaya, Lord Sesa destroys the universe by emitting flames from His many mouths. Sesa/Sankarsana is called jiva since the root of the existence of all jivas is Him; at maha-pralaya time it appears He consumes them by consuming Himself. Of course, He is not consumed by the flames that devour the universe, because the universe is material while He is transcendental; but it must seem that way to those whose spiritual vision is not perfect.
Sankarsana and His expansions Pradyumna and Aniruddha are the cause of what some philosophers call "the structures of consciousness", which, from the Bhagavatam insight, are states of mind influenced by the three modes of material nature. Sankarsana presides over the state Srila Prabhupada called the subconscious (which is often termed the unconscious by modern thinkers). Pradyumna presides over the state of dreams. Aniruddha presides over the waking state of rational thought. This is recounted in detail in In2-MeC of 19 July and 29 June.
The subconscious is known as the karana-deha, the causal body. Lord Sankarsana appears to sleep within the karana-jal, the Causal Ocean, as Maha-Visnu. The karana-deha that expands from Him is submerged in susupti, unconsciousness or dreamless sleep. Great yogis who achieve the turiya realm of consciousness, the fourth state beyond the influence of the three modes, remain transcendentally awake even within susupti, just as Maha-Visnu is transcendentally awake while apparently asleep. This state is yoga-nidra. In an In2-MeC entry earlier this month entitled What is Yogamaya, Srila Prabhupada is quoted as saying yoga-nidra is yogamaya, the superior "maya" that connects us to Krsna. Yogis in the trance of yoga-nidra perceive primeval desire hidden at the bottom of the black pool of susupti. Primeval desire is the seed of the mind (linga-sarira, where dreams appear) and in turn the seed of virat, the gross creation, where wakeful awareness appears. Primeval desire is the very essence of the karana-deha. By the grace of yogamaya, perfect yogis perceive the natural relationship of desire to the Supreme Lord.
This transcendental wakefulness within susupti is described in Bhagavad-gita 2. 69:
ya nisa sarva-bhutanam
tasyam jagarti samyami
yasyam jagrati bhutani
sa nisa pasyato muneh
What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.
Great sages headed by Lord Brahma remain awake in susupti and commune with Sri Maha-Visnu while the beings in lower consciousness are fast asleep; what these beings believe to be wakeful consciousness (jagrata)--the state of mind in which they gratify their senses--the sages remains aloof from, as if they are asleep to it.
In each creation, the living entities are given a chance to close their business as conditioned souls. When they misuse this opportunity and do not go back home, back to Godhead, Lord Sankarsana becomes angry. [Bhag. 5. 25. 3p]
The anger of Lord Sankarsana is the origination point of devastation, which is why He is called tamasi. The tamo-guna is the destructive feature of material nature, and He, Tamasi, is the ultimate shelter of that tamo-guna.
Devastation threatens us in the external world. But devastation also lurks within the dark waters of the subconscious. This double threat was portrayed in Greek "mythology" as Scylla and Charybdis. The former was a six-headed monster that lived in a cave overlooking the Strait of Messina that separates the tip of the "boot" of Italy from the island of Sicily. Scylla embodied the threat of external devastation. Charybdis was a gigantic undersea monster that swallowed vast quantities of water three times daily, sweeping down her throat anything that happened to be floating by, including ships. Charybdis embodied devastation that appears from beneath the surface of the mind. Human beings are like the sailors of The Odyssey who, passing through the Strait, had to choose one danger or the other. Their leader, Odysseus, chose to sail nearer to Scylla. Some sailors were devoured as a result. We tend to rather face the "visible" dangers of the external world, because we believe we have a better chance than facing invisible terrors from within.
This fact of human nature sheds light on why alpha-thinking has become predominate. People in Kali-yuga are asleep to deep truth of Krsna consciousness known by great Vedic sages. The subconscious realm, which covers that truth, cannot be investigated by them because they are asleep. Their wakeful perceptions extend only into the outer world. And so it is said, "better the enemy you know than the one you don't. " Alpha-thinking attempts to take away all reality from the subconscious, and from the deep truth that it hides. Alpha-thinking in turn tries to gives full reality to the external world as it appears to the senses.
In any event, alpha-thinkers are sunk. Because of their ignorance of the subconscious realm of the mind, they cannot control their desires. And because they cannot control their desires, they are devoured by sinful reactions, both from within and from without.
It must be pointed out that the strict adherance to alpha-thinking is itself a sinful reaction that comes from within. Alpha-thinking, or thinking only about the external world, is analytical. Analysis is the process of dividing something into parts in order to understand it better. But analysis is intellectual vivisection: it kills the thing the analyst is trying to understand. One tears bits and pieces away from the world, fragmenting the whole. The so-called "postmodern condition" is the pervasive meaninglessness that has resulted from excessive scientific analysis. The analysts themselves are divided by the island-disciplines upon which they live: the island of The Humanities, the island of Life Sciences, the island of Physical Sciences, the island of Mathematics, and so on. The communication between these islands of analytical subjects is strained and often nonexistent. In our age of specialized knowledge, the big picture is lost. We can't see the forest for the trees. Modernism analyzed the perceived world into a dead body of information; postmodernism slices that body into disconnected bits and proposese to reassemble them according to whim. The result is entertaining gibberish, like a music video. . . ever-shifting, hallucinatory sounds and symbols with no message to convey, the point being not to inform but to amuse.
In ancient Egypt, the analytical mind was known as the Seth Mind. Seth was the brother of Osiris, who personified the light of consciousness. Seth, who was blind and unregulated, "analyzed" (dismembered) his brother into fourteen pieces. Later Osiris was restored and Seth became his guardian. . . thus there is a place for the analytical mind in spiritual life--the cerebral self needs not be an enemy of the spirit self. But it is interesting to note the worth the Egyptians gave to the brain, cherished today as the organ of intelligence. When mummifying the dead bodies of important persons, the Egyptian embalmers would extract the brain through the nose and throw it away. But they would carefully preserve the heart. As in the Vedic understanding, the Egyptians considered the heart to be the seat of consciousness.
The image of Ouroborus eating itself can be said to pertain to the analytical mind, which springs from the deep of the subconscious. The analytical mind attempts to understand the world by devouring it but ends up devouring the refined, sensitive consciousness seated in the heart. In devouring consciousness, the analytical mind devours itself. This is a sinful reaction that befalls those who neglect the opportunity to become Krsna conscious in this human form of life.