Philosophy of Krishna Consciousness

What happens to the soul during heart surgery?

Question: 
What happens to the soul during heart surgery?


Our Answer:

The soul resides within a body for a fixed duration, by the arrangement of superior powers. As Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, the soul can't be cut, burned, dried, moistened, or otherwise affected by any material condition. Only when one's allotted lifespan comes to an end does the soul leave the body.

Heart surgery is just another material condition that doesn't affect the soul or its situation within the body. The soul is situated within the region of the heart, but that doesn't mean that it's situated there like blood is. It's not that during a heart transplant the soul is replaced by another soul in a different heart.

The soul is so small that it can't be seen. By Vedic calculation, it's about a quarter of an Angstrom unit in size. Angstrom units are one hundred-millionth of a centimeter. So, during even the most complicated of heart surgeries, the soul can't even be touched. If destiny and karma decree that the soul remains in the body, it will, despite all apparent disturbance. And if the soul is meant to leave the body, it will do so regardless of even the most expertly performed medical procedures.

How should I deal with feelings of guilt?

Question: 
How should I deal with feelings of guilt?


Our Answer:
Guilt means we're aware of a gap between what we do and what we should do. As long as we don't live up to our ideals, we'll feel guilt. To be free from guilt, either we must live completely according to our accepted standards of behavior, or try to lower our standards.

Lowering our standards isn't recommended for those on a progressive spiritual path, because it means lowering our consciousness. Animals, for example, have less developed consciousness than humans; they don't have the sense of right and wrong that humans have, so they can't commit "sins." For them, there's no karma. But human beings—along with having higher consciousness—have a higher degree of responsibility for our actions. When we do something wrong—against accepted codes of morality and ethics—we feel guilt, because we know better.

How we deal with our guilty feelings determines whether our consciousness is elevated or degraded. We can choose to make amends—acknowledge wrongdoing and try to improve—or we can abandon our human responsibility, ignore our higher sensibilities, and respond to guilt by decreasing our standards. Some attempt this through intoxication or other consciousness-lowering behavior, with the result that their consciousness becomes increasingly animalistic.

The progressive route is to simply admit our offenses, pray for upliftment, and abandon behavior that goes against our ideals. Guilt is a helpful indicator that we still have progress left to make toward our life's perfection. We shouldn't let guilt immobilize us or frustrate us to the point that we give up trying to make amends. The path of spiritual progress includes learning from our mistakes. Learning can be painful, but such pain is meant to correct us and protect us from future suffering.

As the sixteenth century acharya, Srila Rupa Goswami writes, "There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service: (1) being enthusiastic, (2) endeavoring with confidence, (3) being patient, (4) acting according to regulative principles, (5) abandoning the association of nondevotees, and (6) following in the footsteps of the previous acharyas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service." (Upadeshamrita 3)

So we have to be patient and persevere. As long as we stick to the process of Krishna consciousness, our success is assured.

What is the most efficient way to control lusty desires?

Question: 
What is the most efficient way to control lusty desires?


Our Answer:
The most efficient— maximum results with least wasted energy—way to control lust is to act in Krishna consciousness.

If we're inside a material body, chances are that our natural love for the Supreme Person, prema, has been transformed into kama, lust. We're competing with God; we want to be the controllers and enjoyers. But because that's not our natural position, frustration sets in. Frustration drives intelligent people to surrender to Krishna.

When Krishna says, " surrender unto Me," He's talking about full and constant surrender. He will deliver us from all our troubles—including lusty desires—to the degree we apply ourselves to the process of Krishna consciousness. This is why constant chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra is so strongly recommended; that one simple act keeps us in touch with Krishna through sound. It's such a powerful meditation that even chanting once purely can change the trajectory of our life.

Lust is the number one enemy of self-realization. Unless one constantly meditates on Krishna—by chanting His names, hearing His teachings, or by other practical engagement of the senses—the mind's default tendency is to meditate on how to enjoy and control the sense objects. Without a steady diet of transcendental knowledge and activity, it's easy to fall off the spiritual path.

The recommended diet for controlling lusty desires is Krishna prasadam, and the recommended medication is to always chant Hare Krishna.

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.1.62, purport:

    " Unless one is very strong in knowledge, patience and proper bodily, mental and intellectual behavior, controlling one's lusty desires is extremely difficult. Thus after seeing a man embracing a young woman and practically doing everything required for sex life, even a fully qualified brahmana, as described above, could not control his lusty desires and restrain himself from pursuing them. Because of the force of materialistic life, to maintain self-control is extremely difficult unless one is specifically under the protection of the Supreme Personality of Godhead through devotional service."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 6.4.14, purport:

    " One is always a servant of lusty desires, anger, greed, illusion, envy and so forth, but if one obtains sufficient strength in spiritual advancement, one can control them. One who obtains such control will always be transcendentally situated, untouched by the modes of material nature. This is only possible when one fully engages in the service of the Lord. As the Lord says in Bhagavad-gita ( 14.26), 'One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the spiritual platform.' By engaging one in devotional service, the Krishna consciousness movement keeps one always transcendental to anger, greed, lust, envy and so forth. One must perform devotional service because otherwise one will become victimized by the modes of material nature."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 9.19.19, purport:

    " Those who are under the control of maya, and specifically under the control of lusty desires, are called maya-mriga. Indeed, everyone in the conditional stage of material life is a maya-mriga. It is said, maya-mrigam dayitayepsitam anvadhavad: [ SB 11.5.34] Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa to show His causeless mercy to the maya-mrigas, the people of this material world, who suffer because of lusty desires. One should follow the principles of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and always think of Krishna in full Krishna consciousness."

I thought the goal of spirituality is to enter the void.

Question: 
I thought the goal of spirituality is to enter the void.


Our Answer:
Therefore the Mayavada philosophy of voidism or impersonalism is not very good. You cannot stay impersonal or in a void, because you are a living entity, part and parcel of the supreme living entity, Krishna. Krishna is anandamayo 'bhyasat; He is always full of jubilation. So being part and parcel of Krishna, you also want jubilation. But how can you be jubilant in the sky, in the "zero"? That is the difference between Mayavada philosophy and the philosophy of Krishna consciousness.

Why Criticize Mayavada So Strongly?

Question: 
In all the ISKCON books I have read, I find severe criticism for Mayavada and Advaitavada philosophy. My understanding is that these theories are paths of self-realization or liberation. Is it fair to criticize such theories or people who are following these theories? Mayavada and Advaitavada might be difficult paths, but does it mean they're wrong? Also, these theories were propounded by Sri Gautam Buddha and Sri Adi Sankaracarya respectively. Scriptures say that these great personalities were respectively incarnations of Lord Krishna and Lord Siva. Then is it not an offence to criticize the theories suggested by the Lord Himself?


Our Answer:
Yes, it's true that our books strongly criticize Mayavada (the theory that all variety and individuality are illusion) and Advaitavada (the theory that the only truth is impersonal undifferentiated oneness).

Is it fair to criticize these theories? Why not? Theories ought to be open to reasonable criticism. And if they collapse beneath the weight of superior arguments, they may justifiably be looked upon as wrong, and their adherents as mistaken.

As stated in Bhagavad-gita (12.5), Mayavada and Advaitavada are indeed difficult paths. Apart from that, scriptural and logical evidence also demonstrate them wrong. The books of the Hare Krishna movement present this evidence strongly.

In the case against Mayavada and Advaitavada, numerous points can be made. But here, let just one suffice.

According to these monistic theories, the Ultimate Reality is ultimately pure undifferentiated oneness. And all variety and individuality are but products of illusion. Accepting this view, one logically has to ask: Where does this illusion come from? This is a question that Mayavada and Advaitavada can't answer. If only oneness exists, illusion cannot also exist, because then we would have twoness—duality—not oneness. And if we say that twoness only seems to exist—that its existence is but an illusion—then we're back where we started, and going around in a circle.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu therefore taught the doctrine that everything is one with the Absolute Truth yet simultaneously, inconceivably different from the Absolute Truth as well, just as sunshine is both one with and different from the sun. Within the Personality of Godhead, everything irreconcilable is reconciled. The Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Reality, has countless energies, and these are all real—including the energy that places us under illusion when illusion is what we desire. In Bhagavad-gita ( 7.14) Lord Krishna says that although this illusory energy is nearly insurmountable, one who surrenders to Him can at once cross beyond it. The Hare Krishna movement therefore strongly teaches surrender to Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, in preference to all speculative impersonal theories.

In the incarnation as Lord Buddha, Lord Krishna rejects the Vedas and teaches what is in essence an atheistic philosophy. He does this to stop needless animal slaughter being indulged in under the excuse of Vedic rituals.

Later, by the order of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva appears as Sri Adi Sankaracarya, defeats Buddhism, and reasserts the authority of the Vedas, but to do so he teaches a compromised philosophy that is in essence a covered form of Buddhism.

So even though taught by great personalities, these doctrines of voidism and impersonalism are temporary contrivances, not the conclusive truth. For the true Vedic conclusion, we should turn to Srimad-Bhagavatam, as taught by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers, now represented by the Hare Krishna movement.

A detailed discussion of these points may be found in Sri Chaitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Seven.

Why do some scriptures promote the philosophy of absolute oneness?

Question: 
Why are there statements in scripture that seem to promote the idea of oneness between the Absolute and the living entities?


Our Answer:
There are two types of transcendentalist—the devotee and the monist—and statements promoting oneness or impersonalism are only to attract those who are attached to the monistic idea.

But really, isn't everything ultimately "one"?

Question: 
But really, isn't everything ultimately "one"?


Our Answer:
Everything is one, in the sense that everything is either Krishna or Krishna's energy; Krishna and His energies are one and different simultaneously, like the sun and the sunshine.

But everything is not one in the sense that a tiger is not a tomato, night is not day, and a cotton ball is not a cotton shirt. The Absolute Truth has variety. Krishna is like the goldmine, and His energies are like infinite particles of gold. Qualitatively, they're one. Quantitatively, there are differences.

The understanding that everything is one is called brahman realization; all energies—tigers, tomatoes, night, day, gold, cotton—are Krishna's energy. In that sense, it's all one. But it would be a mistake to say that Krishna is identical in every respect with a tomato. Krishna is the ultimate source, the personality from whom everything comes. Understanding Him as the Supreme Person means going beyond understanding spiritual oneness.

Krishna is infinite, and from Him come infinite tomatoes; we worship tomatoes, but only after they’ve been offered to Krishna.

How do we exist during Brahma's night, when everything material is annihilated?

Question: 
In the Bhagavad Gita it says that once Brahma's night arrives, every living entity is annihilated and unmanifest, and thereafter they take rest in the body of Lord Vishnu. After the living entities are unmanifest in the body of Lord Vishnu, do they live in their spiritual bodies, since they don’t have material bodies? I assume that they live in their spiritual bodies, because all living entities are eternal, and if they don’t have a material body, still they must continue to exist, thus without being covered by this material body I assume that we become purely spiritual and live in our normal spiritual bodies.

Our Answer:

It is like they are asleep—as far as their conscious experience goes. Krishna remembers their karma and desires, and they get suitable bodies to continue to try to fulfill those material desires in the next creation.