The Journey of Self Discovery
The Journey of Self Discovery
Srila Prabhupada declares, "We don't say that this scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics—this is also knowledge…but the central point is atma-jnana—self-knowledge, knowledge of the soul."
In these thirty-one essays, talks, and informal conversations, Srila Prabhupada reveals the central point of essential self-knowledge—a knowledge that makes all other knowledge and activities pale in comparison.
Brighten your life with the light of self-knowledge and gain a world perspective usually reserved for ascetics and saints.
Chapter 1: The Journey of Self-Discovery
Chapter 2: Super-consciousness
Chapter 3: The Pleasure Principle
Chapter 4: The Spiritual Master
Chapter 5: Yoga and Meditation
Chapter 6: Material Problems, Spiritual Solutions
Chapter 7: Perspectives on Science and Philosophy
And Introduction to ISKCON and Devotee Lifestyle
The Physics of the Self
In October 1973, Dr. Gregory Benford, an associate professor of physics at the University of California at Irvine, visits Srila Prabhupada in the garden of the Los Angeles Krishna center. In the course of their intriguing discussion about the possibility of scientific understanding of the soul, Srila Prabhupada declares, “We don’t say that this scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics—this is also knowledge—but the central point is atma-jnana—self-knowledge, knowledge of the soul.”
Srila Prabhupada: What is the current scientific knowledge about the spirit soul?
Dr. Benford: We have virtually no scientific knowledge about the soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore you have actually made no advancement in scientific knowledge.
Dr. Benford: Well, scientific knowledge is a different class of knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Perhaps. There are so many departments of knowledge: the medical study of the body, the psychological study of the mind, and ultimately spiritual, transcendental knowledge. The body and mind are simply the coverings of the spirit soul, just as this shirt and coat are coverings for your body. If you simply take care of the shirt and coat and neglect the person who is covered by this shirt and coat, do you think that this is advancement of knowledge?
Dr. Benford: I think that there is no category of knowledge that is useless.
Srila Prabhupada: We don’t say that this scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics—this is also knowledge. But different departments of knowledge differ in their comparative importance. For example, if someone wants to cook nicely, this is also a science. There are many different departments of knowledge, but the central point is atma-jnana—self-knowledge, the knowledge of the soul.
Dr. Benford: The only form of knowledge that is verifiable—that is, verifiable in the sense of getting everybody to agree with it—is that which can be proved logically or experimentally.
Srila Prabhupada: The science of the self can be verified logically.
Dr. Benford: How so?
Srila Prabhupada: Just consider your body. You once had the body of a child, but now you don’t have that body anymore; you have a different body. Yet anyone can understand that you once had the body of a child. So your body has changed, but you are still remaining.
Dr. Benford: I am not so sure it is the same “I.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you are the same “I.” Just as the parents of a child will say, after he has grown up, “Oh, just see how our son has grown!” He is the same person; his parents say so, his friends say so, his family says so—everyone says so. This is the evidence. You have to accept this point, because there is so much evidence. Your mother will deny that you are a different person, even though you have a different body.
Dr. Benford: But I may not be the same being that I was.
Srila Prabhupada: Correct. “Not the same” means, for example, that a young child may talk nonsense now, but when he gets an adult body he does not speak foolishly. Although he is the same person, along with his change in body he has developed different consciousness. But the spirit soul, the person, is the same. He acts according to his body, that’s all-according to his circumstances. A dog, for example, is also a spirit soul, but because he has a dog’s body he lives and acts like a dog. Similarly, when the spirit soul has a child’s body, he acts like a child. When he has a different body, the same soul acts like a man. According to circumstances his activities are changing, but he is the same. For example, now you are a scientist. In your childhood you were not a scientist, so your dealings at that time were not those of a scientist. One’s dealings may change according to circumstances, but the person is the same.
Therefore, the conclusion is tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati: “When this body is finished, the soul gives it up and accepts another body.” [Bhagavad-gita 2.13] Tatha dehantara. Dehantara means “another body.” This is our Sanskrit knowledge from the Bhagavad-gita. When the spirit soul is injected into the womb of a woman, it forms a little body. Gradually, through the emulsification of secretions, the body develops to the size of a pea because of the presence of the spirit soul. Gradually the body develops nine holes—eyes, ears, mouth, nostrils, genitals, and rectum. In this way the body is developed to completion in seven months. Then consciousness comes.
Dr. Benford: At seven months?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The child wants to come out. He feels uncomfortable; therefore he prays to God to kindly release him from the bondage. He promises that when he gets out he will become a devotee of God. So after nine months he comes out of the womb. But unless his parents are devotees, due to circumstances he forgets God. Only if the father and mother are devotees does he continue his God consciousness. Therefore, it is a great fortune to take birth in a family of Vaishnavas, those who are God conscious. This God consciousness is real scientific knowledge.
Dr. Benford: Is it true that the children of all such parents are somewhat spiritually superior to the children of other parents?
Srila Prabhupada: Generally, yes. They get the opportunity of being trained by the mother and father. Fortunately, my father was a great devotee, so I received this training from the very beginning. Somehow or other I had this spark of Krishna consciousness.
Are you in any way dissatisfied with your life as it now stands? Has the pursuit, or even the achievement, of the goals you have set for yourself become somewhat frustrating? If so, read on.
For one acquainted with the spiritual wisdom of India, the ideal life is not a fast-paced competitive run through a self-serve consumer paradise. There is a higher measure of success and happiness than the number of high-gloss gadgets, baubles, and thrills one can zoom through the check-out counter with—before Time runs out.
An awakened person will try to learn something worthwhile along the way, to gradually accumulate assets of permanent value. In the final analysis, the supreme accomplishment is to improve significantly the one possession that is really ours to keep—our consciousness, our sense of identity, our inner self. All else eventually slips away.
Seen in this way, life becomes a journey of self-discovery, and that is the theme of this book. The Journey of Self-Discovery is your guide to a new way of looking at life, a way proven to lead you to higher levels of awareness and satisfaction.
Thousands of people like yourself are already experiencing these results. All it takes is some expert guidance, the kind available from a person who has already completed the journey, who knows the ways and means by which you can arrive safely at your destination.
In The Journey of Self-Discovery you will become intimately acquainted with a spiritual master about whom Harvey Cox, of Harvard’s School of Divinity, said, “Srila Prabhupada is, of course, only one of thousands of teachers. But in another sense, he is one in a thousand, maybe one in a million.” According to Dr. Cox, one of America’s leading Christian theologians, Srila Prabhupada’s life was “pointed proof that one can be a transmitter of truth and still be a vital and singular person.”
Srila Prabhupada, the founding spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, translated over forty volumes of the most essential works of Vedic literature. Complete sets of these books, with original Sanskrit and Bengali texts, have been purchased by thousands of university libraries around the world, and dozens of scholars have praised them.
But that is not what you will find in The Journey of Self-Discovery. In these pages you will see Srila Prabhupada taking the essential truths of the timeless Vedic wisdom of India and communicating them live, to persons like yourself—in talks, conversations, and interviews. With gravity and wit, roses and thunderbolts, Srila Prabhupada delivers transcendental knowledge with maximum impact and precision.
All the selections printed in The Journey of Self-Discovery originally appeared in Back to Godhead, the magazine Srila Prabhupada founded in India in 1944. When he came to America and started the Hare Krishna movement in 1966, he requested his new followers to take up the task of publishing the magazine. Ever since, Back to Godhead has served the vital function of bringing the Vedic knowledge to the contemporary world, addressing the spiritual needs of people confronting the frustrations of modern life.
Authoritative and informative, The Journey of Self-Discovery is also easy to read. The anthology format allows you to approach the book in a variety of ways. You can read The Journey of Self-Discovery from start to finish, proceeding through the systematically arranged selections. Or you can glance over the table of contents and find a selection of particular interest. Because each selection is short and complete in itself, you can easily explore topics that attract your attention without having to go through the entire book.
The principal lesson of The Journey of Self-Discovery is that our conscious selfhood is not an accidental cosmic side-effect, a fleeting electromagnetic discharge generated by a temporary configuration of subatomic particles at some point in space and time. Rather each center of consciousness is itself an absolute, irreducible unit of reality. As Srila Prabhupada tells physicist Gregory Benford, “We don’t say that scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics—this is also knowledge.…But the central point is atma-jnana—self-knowledge, knowledge of the soul.”
And after we understand the soul, the quest for knowledge continues. Srila Prabhupada tells a press conference in Los Angeles: “In the background of this body you can find the soul, whose presence is perceivable by consciousness. Similarly, in the universal body of the cosmic manifestation, one can perceive the presence of the Supreme Lord, or the Absolute Truth, by virtue of the presence of…Superconsciousness.”
Just as we are individual and personal, the Superconsciousness is also individual and personal. In the Vedic scriptures, the identity of the Superconscious Self is revealed to be Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Srila Prabhupada describes Krishna as “the greatest artist,” the source of all beauty and attraction.
The real key to happiness and satisfaction, Srila Prabhupada explains, is discovering the eternal personal link between ourselves and the Superconsciousness. This state is called Krishna consciousness, and in The Journey of Self-Discovery you will learn how to achieve this, the highest and most pleasurable consciousness, in your own life.
Krishna consciousness is loving consciousness. In the selection “Absolute Love,” Srila Prabhupada says to his audience, “Everyone is frustrated-husbands, wives, boys, girls. Everywhere there is frustration, because our loving propensity is not being utilized properly.” Srila Prabhupada then goes on to explain how love is most fully experienced when directed toward the Supreme Person, Krishna, who can perfectly and completely reciprocate with everyone.
This is the secret of lasting happiness. In “Krishna, Enchanter of the Soul,” Srila Prabhupada advises, “A man is attracted by a woman, a woman is attracted by a man, and when they are united in sex, their attachment for this material world increases more and more.…But our business is not to be attracted by the glimmer of this material world; our business is to be attracted by Krishna. And when we become attracted by the beauty of Krishna, we will lose our attraction for the false beauty of this material world.”
Here Srila Prabhupada stands in contrast to the many so-called spiritual teachers who promise their followers they can have it all—unrestricted material enjoyment as well as spiritual profit. In “Showbottle Spiritualists Exposed,” Srila Prabhupada gives an unsparing critique of deceptive gurus and spiritualists who mislead their followers.
Srila Prabhupada did not manufacture his own spiritual process, with a view to personal profit. Rather he freely taught the specific meditation technique recommended in the Vedas for this age. In “Meditation Through Transcendental Sound,” Srila Prabhupada tells students at Boston’s Northeastern University, “If you take up this simple process—chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—you are immediately elevated to the transcendental platform.”
Those who progress on the journey of self-discovery are better able to understand and solve the world’s problems. In “Material Problems, Spiritual Solutions,” we learn from Srila Prabhupada how we can practically apply Krishna consciousness to relieve the widespread suffering brought on by violence and food shortages.
In the early 1970’s, Srila Prabhupada gave a remarkably foresighted analysis of the failure of the communist system of government to provide happiness for its people. You will find this striking conversation in section VI, “Perspectives on Science and Philosophy.”
In “Evolution in Fact and Fantasy” Srila Prabhupada says, “We accept evolution, but not that the forms of the species are changing. The bodies are already there, but the soul is evolving by changing bodies and by transmigrating from one body to another.…The defect of the evolutionists is that they have no information of the soul.”
Ultimately, the journey of self-discovery leads from this material world to the spiritual world. In “Entering the Spiritual World,” Srila Prabhupada tells his listeners, “Everything in the spiritual world is substantial and original. This material world is only an imitation.…It is just like a cinematographic picture, in which we see only the shadow of the real thing.”
So for those who suspect that the real thing is something more than a soft drink, The Journey of Self-Discovery will illuminate the path that leads to life’s ultimate, most perfect destination.
And for those who may not regard themselves as seekers but are nevertheless curious about the philosophy of the Hare Krishna movement, The Journey of Self-Discovery provides a thorough yet compact introduction.
Amid the parched desert of materialism, The Journey of Self-Discovery offers a sure pathway to the oasis of higher, spiritual awareness.
The author, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is recognized by scholars and spiritual leaders worldwide as the most distinguished teacher of Indian culture and philosophy of modern age.
In these fascinating essays, talks and informal conversation, he reveals how the Vedic literature and the techniques of mantra meditation it teaches can help us resolve all personal and social conflicts, come to a state of permanent peace and happiness, and satisfy the soul’s timeless thirst for perfection.