Monday, October 15, 2012

What Do Hare Krishnas Believe? Part 1: Energies

There are many ways I could introduce the ABCs of the Hare Krishnas' understanding of reality.  Here is one approach.  There is SO much more to tell; I didn't even get into the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra here, what it is and why we do it, which is so basic to our identity!  I'll have to get to that in a future blog post.  Also, sorry that I didn't include any scriptural citations to back up the points I made here.  Maybe I'll be able to find those and add them in sometime later -- although I'm not going to promise that!  :)

1. God (Krsna) is the eternally-existing fountainhead or source of everything that be. Everything emanates from him, just like sunlight from the sun.

2. As the sunlight is the energy of the sun, so everything emanating from Krsna is technically called His energy.

3. Krsna's energies, though unlimited in variety, can be divided into three main categories: interior, marginal, and exterior. His interior and marginal energies are both composed of living spiritual beings, who all have three properties, namely eternal existence (sat); consciousness, awareness, or knowledge (cit); and bliss (ananda). His external energy, on the other hand, takes the shape of various material elements, some of which are termed "subtle" and some "gross," but all of which are simply inert matter until activated by the Lord and the living spiritual entities. The subtlest (most difficult to detect) of all material elements is the false ego that makes those of us who are covered by it identify with our temporary material bodies and feel like we're independent islands, unconnected to God, who in reality is the very source of our existence and our eternally loyal, patient, and caring best friend and parent. The next-subtlest material element is the rational intellect, which analyzes information in search of understanding or assesses options in search of the best course of action. The third is the subjective mind or emotional psyche, which is in charge of deciding what we do and don't like/enjoy/appreciate (we Hare Krishnas call it the mind). Then there are the gross elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. I like how Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, in "The Nature of the Self: A Gaudiya Vaisnava Understanding", "translated" these traditional terms into ones more intelligible to modern scientific minds by proposing that earth = solids, water = liquids, air = gases, fire = radiant energy and ether = space.

4. What is the difference between the interior and marginal energies of Krsna, which are both made up of living spirit? His interior energy is His eternally great saktis or powers, who can never become covered by the material elements or influenced by the illusory world-view caused by such a covering, whereas the marginal energy is made up of multitudes of infinitesimally tiny spiritual sparks (jivas), who are capable of becoming so covered. Those of us who live here in the realm of matter belong to this category of covered jivas.

5. Each and every one of the innumerable jivas in existence has a unique and eternally individual spiritual personality, and a similarly individual innate relationship with God that is based on his or her unique nature.

6. The best purpose for which we can use our human life is to uncover and reawaken our memory of this special relationship that we are supposed to be enjoying with God, because forgetting about it and looking elsewhere for happiness is the source of all the futility and suffering that is to be found within this world.

Why is that so? What are the processes by which this emancipating and fulfilling self-realization can be attained? And how did we come to be covered in the first place? Why are we here in the material world -- and why does it often seem to be such a nasty place? Why doesn't God make it perfect here? Who is God -- what is He like? Where, how and with whom does He live? What are the different kinds of relationships we can have with Him? These are just a few of the questions I'd like to address in future blog posts. Stay tuned! I'm trying to make sure I post something here at least once a month. :)