My dear friends,
Please accept my humble dandavat pranamas.
When my grandparents were young and listened to the radio they turned it on, waited for the tubes to warm up and then heard what was being broadcast.
When I was young and got my first transistor radio, I turned it on and immediately heard the broadcast.
When our children listen to a broadcast, they “A”, turn on some device, then “B”, wait for a connection to be established to a network. After that they “C”, wait for a download to begin. After that, they wait for “D”, the “buffering” to complete and then “E”, listen to the content they’ve selected. If they decide to change sources they repeat B through E.
I believe it was in the 80’s (three decades ago) that I began hearing that advancements in electronic communications had caused us to enter the era of the paperless society. Since that time I have more paper than I can possibly manage. Incidentally, I also have more electronic communications than I can possibly manage.
I think it was the great prophet Pogo who said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”
What could be more true?
And what is the popular term for these magnificent and wonderful events? They are called progress.
Technological progress is no progress at all. It is simply a method for increasing the speed of the yantra, the machine; with no understanding of the direction the machine is taking us, which happens to be backwards. Many decades ago Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote something like this “The further science progresses, the further it is removed from the truth.”
If you are abreast of my comments about Steve Deace you will know he is a strong advocate of Protestant Christian theology. Recently he credited Christianity with giving birth to Western civilization. At the same time, he derides the decadence of modern Western civilization and offers a revival of Christianity as the cure for this great ill.
As I see it, decadence is the natural outcome of Western civilization. If Christianity is the birth mother of Western civilization then, by that very fact, a revival of Christianity must lead once again to the same outcome, a decadent Godless society.
What is Western civilization? At it’s heart is the belief that advancement of technology will cure the sufferings of humankind (mankind, before PC enveloped us). If Western civilization is the birth-child of Christianity, then where will Christianity take us? It must take us to a mechanistic worldview with the concomitant acceptance that consciousness is the offspring of matter and its chance combinations.
Indeed, a close examination of the Christian’s rejection of reincarnation or transmigration of the soul, can only lead to one conclusion: the soul—according to them—is produced by human sexual intercourse and by no other means. A great deal of effort is undertaken to obfuscate this conclusion, but it is inescapable.
What do I mean by obfuscation? Christians will say they believe only God can create life. Darwinians can say the same thing, while utterly disproving it with their belief in evolution. There is, in fact, little difference between the belief in Darwinian evolution and the Christian belief that life begins at conception. Both beliefs are, at their core, purely mechanistic materialistic explanations for the existence of consciousness and conscious entities.
Here, roughly, is how Steve Deace—who, I believe, well represents core aspects of Christian theology—understands the origin of the soul. “Life begins at conception. When a woman and man unite and one of her eggs is fertilized by his sperm, a soul is created which did not exist prior to this function.”
All the arguments that come afterwards, such as: “Fertilization only occurs when God wills it or intervenes.” do nothing to detract from the central theme that God is incapable of creating a soul without man’s cooperation. God is, therefore, dependent upon man for the generation of souls.
More to the point, whether by evolution or Christian theology, the soul is a product of material combination. The first believes it is produced by the matter of the universe, the second by the matter comprising an egg and sperm.
Adam and Eve are apparently conceived of as material beings, not souls. God did not create them as souls but as man and woman, two bodies of different sex who, by their combination, would start the production line for the souls God intended to inhabit the earth.
Adding more mystery to this idea is the fact that (according to the Christian belief) these souls are only created on one planet in the vast universe and all of them, each and every one, is created as a sinner against God, one who stands opposed to God’s will.
Thus, as I’ve heard countless times from Mr. Deace and others of his persuasion: man is inherently bad, where bad is a nice way of saying evil.
Mr. Deace is also fond of saying man is the imago Dei, created in the image and likeness of God, a distinction born by no other living creature. Imago Dei is subject to varying interpretations. Deace focuses on the concept that man is the only creature capable of reason and it is in this sense that he is made in the likeness of God. Following that logic, that God is a person of reason—one would assume, supreme reason—by what reason would He create souls that are inherently evil and antagonistic to Him, their creator? I, also an imago Dei, having reason and given the choice, as God would have, would create offspring inherently good and affectionate to me, not the opposite.
Indeed, that is the conclusion of the Vaishnava scriptures. The Christians need only ask the same question asked by Vidura to Maitreya to know the truth about the soul’s inherent nature:
deśataḥ kālato yo ’sāv
avasthātaḥ svato ’nyataḥ
sa yujyetājayā katham
deśataḥ — circumstantial; kālataḥ — by the influence of time; yaḥ — one who; asau — the living entity; avasthātaḥ— by situation; svataḥ — by dream; anyataḥ — by others; avilupta — extinct; avabodha — consciousness; ātmā — pure self; saḥ — he; yujyeta — engaged; ajayā — with nescience; katham — how is it so.
The pure soul is pure consciousness and is never out of consciousness, either due to circumstances, time, situations, dreams or other causes. How then does he become engaged in nescience?
The soul is not only inherently pure, but is eternally so. It is logical to assume that nothing impure can come from He who is perfectly pure. To believe the imago Dei is inherently evil and must be converted to goodness defies the reason of “the reasonable man.” Why should we accept illogic when logic will do just fine? Maitreya supplies the logic:
yad arthena vināmuṣya
The living entity is in distress regarding his self-identity. He has no factual background, like a man who dreams that he sees his head cut off.
yathā jale candramasaḥ
kampādis tat-kṛto guṇaḥ
dṛśyate ’sann api draṣṭur
ātmano ’nātmano guṇaḥ
As the moon reflected on water appears to the seer to tremble due to being associated with the quality of the water, so the self associated with matter appears to be qualified as matter.
sa vai nivṛtti-dharmeṇa
tirodhatte śanair iha
But that misconception of self-identity can be diminished gradually by the mercy of the Personality of Godhead, Vāsudeva, through the process of devotional service to the Lord in the mode of detachment.
The Darwinian “theists” will argue that evolution is no affront to God because it is simply His Divine arrangement for creating man (the only living being with a soul). Christians, who decry this idea, principally argue the lack of scientific evidence in support of the theory and/or scientific evidence that argues against it. Reason is also employed in their arguments, but all of these miss the real point: only consciousness can produce consciousness and the Supreme Consciousness is Krishna. As the cause of all causes, only His consciousness can produce other conscious entities:
nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām
eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān
(Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13)
There are unlimited eternal conscious beings but there is one eternal conscious entity who is Supreme and the source of and creator of all other conscious entities. All the other innumerable conscious entities are, therefore, dependent upon Him.
This theory depends upon absolutely nothing material or mechanistic for the creation of souls. Thus, it is the only truly spiritual answer on the subject. All other solutions inevitably depend upon speculation and materialistic theories that cannot possibly lead to the truth of the matter.
Why should we accept illogic when logic will do just fine? It is due to prejudice and false ego. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his book Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts explains the prejudice.
4. The soul is His vibhinnamsa or separated part. By soul are meant all sorts of souls whether animal, human or celestial. It must be understood that Mahaprabhu believed in the very liberal theory of transmigration of the soul. Certain readers may reject the idea on the ground that certain forms of faith do not support that theory. It is not liberal to reject a theory, because it is in antagonism with the dogmas of certain sectarian creeds. Indeed, it is a matter which reason cannot dare to meddle with.
Candidly examining, we do not see any strong reason to disbelieve the theory of transmigration. On the other hand, our un-prejudiced mind is inclined to stand for it. The belief that the human soul has only one trial in life is evidently illiberal, unjust and contrary to the belief that God is All Good. When our spiritual sentiment supports the theory, and the Vedas, the receptacles of inspirations, have taught us the fact of continual existence of the soul in different stages in creation, we cannot but give up the idea of disbelieving in the theory of transmigration of the soul. However educated and scientific a man may be, he is always liable to a creeping error. That which holds good regarding a man holds good also regarding a nation or a sect.
The soul, according to Sri Chaitanya is an atomic part of the Divine Soul. It is a sort of God’s power to produce beings who are spiritual in essence but liable to be enthralled by maya, when they forget their position as eternal servants of the Deity. God here is compared with the sun and the souls are said to be the atomic portions of that sun’s rays unable to stand freely, unless they are protected by another competent attribute of God’s power. By the word part is not meant to be portions cut out of a piece of stone by the axe, but is meant to be like one lamp lighted from another, or gold produced from an alchemist’s stone as believed by the ancients. The souls are also compared with separate atomic emanations of the burning fire.
Each soul has drawn from its Fountainhead a proportionate share of the attributes and consequently a small proportion of the free will. These souls are naturally located between the cit-jagat, and mayik-jagat. Those who chose to serve their God were protected from fall by the interference of the hladini attribute of the Supreme cit-sakti. They have been admitted as eternal servants of the Deity in various ways. They know not the troubles of maya and the karma-cakra or the rotative principles of mayik action and its result. Those who wanted to enjoy were grasped by maya from the other side. They are in maya’s karma-cakra, ending only when they again see their original position as servants of the Deity. These souls, whether liberated from maya or enthralled by her, are separate responsible beings depending on the Deity.
Hari is the Lord of maya, who serves Him at His pleasure. The soul or jiva is so constructed as to be liable to be enthralled by maya in consequence of want of power when unassisted by the hladini-sakti of the Deity. Hence, there is a natural and inherent distinction between God and jiva, which no pantheistic manoeuvre can annihilate. Please avoid this misleading question, “When were these jivas created and enthralled?” The mayik time has no existence in spiritual history, because it has its commencement after the enthrallment of jivas in matter, and you cannot, therefore, employ mayik chronology in matters like these.
Christians appreciate humility, but they are almost incapable of manifesting it in a significant way. Other than false ego, why would one accuse God, the all-pure, all-good Divine Entity, for one’s being inherently bad, evil and born into sin?
“I am as God made me. Therefore, I am a sinner. He made me this way.” Is there a greater expression of decadence than this? No, you are not as God made you. You are as you choose to be. You are responsible for your nasty condition. It was your choice. Make the choice to serve God and you will find the inherent goodness that is eternally existing with all souls is also existing with you.
I pray this finds each of you well in all respects.
Swami B.K. Giri