Plus, Mayavadis' idea of merging into the identity and self of God and becoming one with Him / Her / It would extinguish all opportunities for continuing with the sweet exchange of love with Him (or Her) that is bhakti. How can you have a relationship with yourself?! All you can do is exist. They try to say that that simple, eternal existence is blissful. But we say, just look at the nature of living beings. They are active. Rocks sit still because they are solid matter, with no soul inside. Trees and plants sit still because their consciousness is at an extremely low ebb, like they are sleeping. But look at any higher life-forms with more developed consciousness and what will you see? Activity. To be specific, service: all embodied living entities serve their own senses' demands, many serve their family members and friends and society, and in the highest consciousness of all within the material world, the individual will see the whole world and all the living creatures in it as his or her family and will try to be of service to everyone. Along with consciousness, the activity of service is symptomatic of life.
Yes, the “enlightenment” that impersonalists tout, involving freedom from attachment to matter and material activities, is possible; I might call it “brahma-bhuta” blissfulness. It means the understanding that you yourself are an immortal spark of spirit, and unlike the temporary and vulnerable material body, you cannot be killed under any circumstances. In this consciousness you have the utter peace and contentment of knowing that nothing can ever harm you and you yourself will always continue to live no matter what happens to your body. The stress of ordinary day-to-day living in the material world, involving the effort to keep one's body (and those of the other persons to whom one is attached) fed, clothed, warm, and dry, and one's mind and senses pleased, disappears. It no longer matters whether you do these things or not. You can choose to do them to keep body and soul together, but it's optional. You no longer are under the impression that you have to do these things in order to continue to exist. Thus, you are free to take it easy – to relax and feel the joy of life itself. Your natural love and enthusiasm can express themselves. By removing your identification from your vulnerable, easily-destroyed material body and the connections with others that came about because of your body, and identifying instead with your eternal, indestructible spirit self, you enjoy ultimate peace, contentment and security. Another feature of this “enlightenment” is that you know the same is true for all the other souls suffering from attachment and fear in this world, and you may very well have the urge to help your brothers and sisters understand the same delightful thing you've understood, and be free of suffering just like you are. You recognize that your self and all other life that exists, regardless of the body that life is contained within, are of one and the same substance, and thus distinctions of relative and foreigner, friend and enemy, are abolished.
So far, so good. This is a sublime and highly developed consciousness, rarely to be found in this often nasty and selfish world. And there is opportunity here for the natural propensity of the conscious self, namely the activity of serving. One can adopt a mission of compassion to bring this enlightenment to the suffering and bewildered souls of the world. But after all the enlightened souls leave their bodies – then what do they do?
Hare Krishna philosophy contends that their natural attributes of enjoying relationships and the activity of service are an innate part of all living souls, and these souls will therefore not be able to give up their desire for these things after leaving behind their material bodies. They may luxuriate in the absence of suffering for a little while as they float with other souls in the shining spiritual sky, just existing, not interacting with anyone (because the meditation on the strength of which they got there was simply “I am Brahman; I am transcendental to the material world; I am one with God,” and as I pointed out, oneness leaves no opportunities for relationship or interaction). But in order to be content with nothing more than mindless existence for eternity – eternally alive and conscious but eternally doing nothing – we would have to change our fundamental nature to something different from what it is, because right now, to anyone in their right mind, that prospect sounds HELLISH. Why do you think children can be punished by being put in time-out? Because relationships and activities are necessary to the child's happiness. Similarly, the Mayavadi idea of liberation is really like eternal time-out. Who would want that?! It's an extreme, dramatic, pendulum-swing reaction to the suffering of this world: “Better be checked out, eternally uninvolved, than stay here and suffer.” But as the pendulum swings back, they end up coming back to the material world anyway (according to Hare Krishna knowledge; Mayavadis don't expect to come back after they're “liberated”!) because it is just too boring for them up there in the Brahman effulgence (the famous “white light” that you may have heard about).
Suppose a Mayavadi countered me by asserting, “Children, along with the rest of us, are like that [i.e., dreading “time-out” or “just existing in full consciousness without any activity”] because of material conditioning; it's not our innate nature to dread that which is our original and rightful state!”
Well, some religious traditions glorify childlike nature, and say things like “except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The Mayavadi's claim would appear to criticize and devalue the spontaneous nature of children, to say it can all be chalked up to contamination, and to insist that we stubbornly and utterly erase all trace of our humanity in order to attain the goal! Can that be healthy, desirable, or even possible?! It sure sounds like an artificial attempt that's bound to either fail or end in misery!
What's more, how can you say it's better, purer, or more advanced to be like a vegetable?! Oh, sorry – a conscious vegetable! How is it not better to do glorious, noble, admirable, wonderful, and relishable actions in fully enlightened spiritual consciousness?! Why shouldn't that be held as the topmost state of being, the ideal goal for all?
To be continued...