Ascending vs. Descending Process of knowledge

What is knowledge? What is ignorance? How do we acquire knowledge? Which method actually works? Finding out things the ascending way, or hearing from an authority? How to acquire perfect knowledge beyond all doubt?

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Are these people getting anywhere? Are they “progressing”?

With knowledge, comes power. Power to do good, and also power to do evil. Knowledge can be a liberator, but also can be a tool for enforcing bondage.

Also, what qualifies as knowledge anyway? If, for example, a person acquired some knowledge on “how to rob a bank” and applies that knowledge, landing in prison, or even if they escape somehow, was that really knowledge? Or was it ignorance?

There are 2 main types of knowledge:

  1. Knowledge of the material world -material knowledge
  2. Knowledge of what lies beyond this material world through the scriptures – spiritual knowledge – In Sanskrit “परोक्ष” or “parokṣa”

There are many means of acquiring knowledge:

  1. By Direct experience or perception – In sanskrit “प्रत्यक्ष” or “pratyakṣa”
  2. By hypothesis/logic/conjecture/guessing – In sanskrit “अनुमान” or “anumāna”
  3. By hearing from a higher authority – In Sanskrit “शब्द” or “śabda”

Ultimately, there are 2 fundamental processes of acquiring knowledge:

  1. Ascending Process – build up knowledge from building blocks – In Sanskrit “आरोहपन्था” or “ārohapanthā
  2. Descending Process – Knowledge descending directly from God and His messengers – In Sanskrit “अवरोहपन्था” or “avarohapanthā

In an article, with an example of an ant who wanted to map the Universe, I discussed the futility of the ascending process of knowledge, especially about items that are outside of our realm of perception.

Much of what we know exists, is actually too subtle to perceive.

These are the material elements, listed in the Bhagavad Gita:

Gross Material Elements:

  1. Earth
  2. Water
  3. Fire
  4. Air
  5. Ether (Space/Sky)

Subtle Material Elements:

  1. Mind
  2. Intelligence
  3. False Ego

BG भूमिरापोऽनलो वायु: खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च ।
अहङ्कार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा ॥ ४ ॥

bhūmir āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā

Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.

The Material-Spiritual Disconnect

Earth is the most gross of the material elements, more subtle is water, even more subtle is air, and ether is quite subtle, you can’t touch or feel space, but we can still perceive it. Now, when we get to the mind, that is even more subtle. Intelligence is still more subtle, and the most subtle material element is false ego, our sense of identity.

However, none of the material elements can directly approach that which is non-material, namely the spiritual is outside of the realm of material elements, even subtle.

If we see our material means of acquiring knowledge, the mind, intelligence, and our sense of identity are all material in nature, and therefore, the ascending process of acquiring knowledge cannot possibly extend to the spiritual realm.

There is another main reason why the ascending process of knowledge is flawed… all of us who are “conditioned” to accept a material identity, have 4 defects:

  1. Tendency to be illusioned (In Sanskrit “भ्रम”or “bhrama”) – we often misunderstand facts and are illusioned about things as they are
  2. Tendency to make mistakes (In Sanskrit “प्रमाद” or “pramāda”) – there is no conditioned souls who can say they never make mistakes
  3. Tendency to cheat others (In Sanskrit “विप्रलिप्सा”or “vipralipsā”) – this is a great weakness, to want to appear better than we are, or know something we don’t, etc.
  4.  We possess imperfect senses (In Sanskrit “करण पाटव” or “karaṇa-pāṭava”) – all our senses are quite imperfect, and we miss a lot from our senses

So, with these 4 defects, it is impossible to acquire perfect knowledge using only our senses. Why is that? It is because with an imperfect instrument, you cannot make something that is perfect. No matter how hard we try, our imperfections stand in the way.

The common example is if we’re doing some mathematical calculation or solving an equation… a tiny mistake somewhere along the way can get us a wrong answer.

Let’s say, for example, someone didn’t know who their father was… they can do some detective work, or a DNA test of every man in the world, or they can take the answer from their mother. The mother’s answer is authoritative and a lot easier too.

Reconnecting Material to the Spiritual

The only way to acquire perfect knowledge, then, is through the descending process, “avarohapantha”. In this process, the Supreme Absolute Perfect (generically called God, specifically named Krishna, Allah, Rama, Govinda, Buddha, Jehovah, Yahweh, etc.) conveys the perfect knowledge, and whoever hears this knowledge passes it on without addition or subtraction.

Perfect Knowledge means something that never changes. Compare this to our ascending process of knowledge. Researchers make a career out of making mistakes! First they publish one paper hypothesizing (and sometimes also offering “proof”) one particular thing… the laypeople accept that as the truth, and then a little while later, that or another researcher publishes another paper contradicting the original hypothesis or proof. In this way, the so-called philosophers and scientists bumble about, going from imperfection to imperfection. This is not called knowledge, this is called nescience, or ignorance.

Why is that? Because material knowledge gives the impression of advancement, whereas it actually traps us in bigger and bigger problems, requiring more and ever more complexity. A material “solution” is only another problem in disguise… it is simply creating one problem in place of another. Therefore, material knowledge is not called knowledge, but ignorance. And those who pursue material knowledge excessively are said to be ignorant.

So therefore, spiritual knowledge is worth pursuing, and such knowledge cannot be “discovered/created/invented” by anyone else other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

धर्मं तु साक्षाद्भ‍गवत्प्रणीतं
न वै विदुऋर्षयो नापि देवा: ।
न सिद्धमुख्या असुरा मनुष्या:
कुतो नु विद्याधरचारणादय: ॥ १९ ॥

dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaṁ
na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ
na siddha-mukhyā asurā manuṣyāḥ
kuto nu vidyādhara-cāraṇādayaḥ

Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great ṛṣis who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the asuras, ordinary human beings, Vidyādharas and Cāraṇas.

But, one may ask, it’s not like the Supreme Personality of Godhead is directly perceivable to a materially conditioned soul. So what is to be done?

Fortunately, there is a clear way…

स्वयम्भूर्नारद: शम्भु: कुमार: कपिलो मनु: ।
प्रह्लादो जनको भीष्मो बलिर्वैयासकिर्वयम् ॥ २० ॥
द्वादशैते विजानीमो धर्मं भागवतं भटा: ।
गुह्यं विशुद्धं दुर्बोधं यं ज्ञात्वामृतमश्नुते ॥ २१ ॥

svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ
kumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ
prahlādo janako bhīṣmo
balir vaiyāsakir vayam

dvādaśaite vijānīmo
dharmaṁ bhāgavataṁ bhaṭāḥ
guhyaṁ viśuddhaṁ durbodhaṁ
yaṁ jñātvāmṛtam aśnute

Lord Brahmā, Bhagavān Nārada, Lord Śiva, the four Kumāras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahūti], Svāyambhuva Manu, Prahlāda Mahārāja, Janaka Mahārāja, Grandfather Bhīṣma, Bali Mahārāja, Śukadeva Gosvāmī and I myself know the real religious principle. My dear servants, this transcendental religious principle, which is known as bhāgavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord and love for Him, is uncontaminated by the material modes of nature. It is very confidential and difficult for ordinary human beings to understand, but if by chance one fortunately understands it, he is immediately liberated, and thus he returns home, back to Godhead.

Now, at least some of those personalities have established disciplic successions on this planet.

There are 4 main authorized disciplic successions to receive perfect knowledge in discipic successions. A disciplic succession is known as “Sampradaya” or “That which gives completely”.

A mango, intact, passed down

A useful example is that if a ripe mango is high in a tree, then if the mango is handed from person to person from those who are at various heights pass the mango down from hand to hand, vs. trying to throw the mango down to the ground…

A Sampradaya delivers spiritual knowledge perfectly, without addition or subtraction
  1. Brahma Sampradaya and its branches, especially expounded by the great teacher Madhva, Lord Chaitanya, and their followers.
  2. Rudra Sampradaya and its branches, especially expounded by the great teacher Vishnu Swami and his followers.
  3. Sri Sampradaya and its branches, begun by Lakshmi devi, the Goddess of Fortune, consort of Lord Narayana, and especially expounded by the great teacher Sri Ramanuja and his followers.
  4. Kumara Sampradaya and its branches, especially expounded by the great teacher Sri Nimbarka and his followers.

What about the rest?

To the extent the teachings of others are in line with one of these descending lines of discipic succession, they are valid, and anything outside of these is at best a stepping stone to one of these 4 lines of disciplic succession. In the worst case, it is a materialistic business masquerading as a genuine spiritual tradition.

Those who claim to be part of a certain tradition but add or subtract from the fundamental principles or twist the teachings are called “apasampradayas” or “anti disciplic successions”.

His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari

By the mercy of my parents and then my spiritual master His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari who is a disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada The Founder Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, even though personally unworthy, I am connected to one of these lines of disciplic succession, called the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya, and seeking to pass on those pure instructions to whoever may want to follow, without adding or subtracting any principle, only, if need be, adjusting details to suit the individual and times.

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

And what is a principle and what is a detail? That, Srila Prabhupada said, requires some intelligence. I pray for this intelligence, which in my case, I simply ask my spiritual master with a clear description of context.

Ultimately however, knowledge coming from the scriptures and the spiritual master in disciplic succession must be realized in the heart through a process of personal effort (sadhana) and purification. Then the paroksha jnana or scriptural knowledge through scripture, becomes “aparoksha” or that which is beyond the reach of the material senses. In order to experience such knowledge in action, one’s senses must be spiritually awakened, or re-spiritualized.

Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead

Pure devotional service to Krishna is the Ultimate goal of all knowledge, and anything besides this is a waste of time.

Questions? I remain your servant on your spiritual journey! Hare Krishna!

The “science”(dogma) of conjecture

Evolution is a fact. But not the way it is commonly understood… How to understand evolution scientifically?

You may have heard about Darwin’s theory of natural selection… yes, where the claim is that one species evolved into another species because the fittest who evolved survived and the others died off, thereby creating a natural evolution of species just sort of accidentally and randomly. It is in line with the magical wishful thinking of the Big Bang.

But according to the Vedic scripture all 8.4 Million species are created by the arrangement of God. 400,000 of those species are human in nature, and the remain 8 million are sub-human.

“jalaja nava lakshani, sthavara laksha-vimshati, krimayo rudra-sankhyakah, pakshinam dasha-lakshanam, trinshal-lakshani pashavah, chatur lakshani manavah”

Jalaja (Water based) – 0.9 million, Sthaavara (immobile like plants & trees) – 2.0 million, Krimaayo (Reptiles and germs) – 1.1 million, Pakshinaam (Birds) – 1.0 million, Paashavah (terrestrial animals) – 3.0 million, Maanavah (human-like bodies, including human species, demigods, danavas, gandharvas etc) – 0.4 million.

Padma Purana

Some species may be visible at some times, and other species may be present at other times. So what determines whether there are any specimens of any given species are actually on a planet at any given time?

A tiger has no choice…

Karma! Karma is the law action and reaction – every action has an equal and opposite reaction, that is the law of Karma. This most basic law of nature drives the circumstances of a living entities trajectory in the material world… simply put, certain deeds are classified “karma” or deeds that bring pleasing reactions, and certain deeds are classified “vikarma” or deeds that bring unpleasant reactions. Karma and Vikarma is only accrued in human forms of life, the sub-human species are simply living our their karma – the tiger suffers no reaction for killing a deer but a human does.

A human has choices…

अधस्तान्नरलोकस्य यावतीर्यातनादय: ।
क्रमश: समनुक्रम्य पुनरत्राव्रजेच्छुचि: ॥ ३४ ॥

adhastān nara-lokasya
yāvatīr yātanādayaḥ
kramaśaḥ samanukramya
punar atrāvrajec chuciḥ

Having gone through all the miserable, hellish conditions and having passed in a regular order through the lowest forms of animal life prior to human birth, and having thus been purged of his sins, one is reborn again as a human being on this earth.

After transmigrating through the millions of different species, we get a human life. What we do in our present human life determines our future trajectory.

It takes a lot of transmigraton through species to get a human life…

Of course, trying to piece together the effects of the law of karma is a fool’s errand, because here’s something – let’s say you have one seed – one karmic action. That seed sprouts, grows into a tree, flowers, and fructifies – each fruit contains many more seeds… those result in more trees and more and more and more. Pretty soon, you don’t know where you started and why you’re enjoying or suffering. All sorts of apparently anomalous phenomena occur, and people ask questions like “why do bad things happen to good people”. In the material world, no one is really fully innocent. We all came here by our own free will, due to the original sin of trying to displace God after all.

A Banyan tree – where did it all start?

There is one kind of action, called “akarma” which can be loosely translated as “inaction in action”…

कर्मणो ह्यपि बोद्धव्यं बोद्धव्यं च विकर्मणः ।
अकर्मणश्च बोद्धव्यं गहना कर्मणो गतिः ॥ १७ ॥

karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ
boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ
akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyaṁ
gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ

The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is and what inaction is.

कर्मण्यकर्म यः पश्येदकर्मणि च कर्म यः ।
स बुद्धिमान्मनुष्येषु स युक्तः कृत्स्नकर्मकृत् ॥ १८ ॥

karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed
akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu
sa yuktaḥ kṛtsna-karma-kṛt

One who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.

Statements like this can be mysterious and confusing, and they did end up confusing a lot of western scholars who studied the Bhagavad Gita without the guidance of the disciplic succession, a bona fide Guru.

But it is quite easy to understand with the context, go ahead and click on the link to BG 4.18 and you will get a crystal clear explanation. Basically, you might think you are inactive, but you could be accumulating karmic reactions just by your breathing… but there is a way to do everything so that not only are there no karmic reactions but your existing karmic reactions are burned away…

Coming back to the speculative idea that somehow or other one organism adapted and evolved into another species, and that the fossil record is to be taken as proof is fallacious. The fossil record, is at best, a conjecture.

Why is that?

Fossils are not truly reliable as evidence for evolution…

Because the fossil record simply represents certain events or accidents depending on whose viewpoint you are looking at – some hapless animal got caught in some clay that solidified to rock preserving the skeleton as a fossil, and just because this didn’t happen a billion years before or after doesn’t necessarily give us the time when that species was around. A fossil is essentially like a little child pointing and clicking a camera randomly – you can’t decide what exactly happened that day just from the photos. A lot of room for error.

A great book on this subject is Nature’s IQ by by Balaz Hornyansk and Istvan Tasi.

Nature’s IQ

The introduction to the book reads “It is not at all surprising that insects behave like insects, birds behave like birds, and mammals behave like mammals. They execute most of their intricate behavior in a predetermined, instinctive manner. But how do they know when and how they should act? Where did the intelligence that is manifested in nature come from? Can the current view be true, that inert matter (lacking consciousness) somehow acquired intelligence over the course of a vast span of time? Darwin’s theory of evolution is widely accepted as the explanation for the varieties of life. Evolutionists attempt to explain the origin of behavioral patterns by gradual modifications of more simple behavior forms. But when we try to explain complex animal behavior this way, it becomes impossible! Nature’s IQ invites the reader to investigate an alternative explanation. Is it possible that our world reflects, in many different ways, a supernatural intelligence that has applied its own infinitely ingenious solutions to create the living world?”

One of Darwin’s ideas is that some fortunate specimens of a particular species developed a particular advantage that helped them survive while their peers perished due to the lack of that advantage.

The key idea is that for example, it is conjectured that a giraffe needed a long neck so it could eat the leaves from trees that were very tall and thus have an advantage over those animals that depend on grass and other short plants… one day, a short-necked ancestor of a giraffe developed a slightly longer neck, and its descendants developed longer and longer necks… but the authors make an argument like, OK, what advantage did the giraffe ancestor with a neck only slightly longer than its previous generation have? How could that change continue in the absence of any tangible advantage? What about more complex instincts and behaviours? What about the intelligence that many animals exhibit?

Such examples abound in nature… Michael Cremo writes in his foreword… “These complex behaviors involve many behavioral steps, linked in specific sequences. Without all the parts of the behavior being present in proper sequence, the behavior would not be executed. We can thus say that not only biological form but biological behavior can be irreducibly complex. That means these behaviors cannot have arisen in the step by step fashion that evolution requires. Thus biological behavior also provides evidence of intelligent design.”

In other words, the theory of evolution of species is not much more than mental speculation combined with healthy doses of conjecture. It is the dogma of conjecture.

Another great book is Rethinking Darwin, by Leif Jensen.

Rethinking Darwin

What can we do then? We can evolve back to a higher consciousness with our efforts and lots of mercy.

The Vedic Scriptures say:

aprārabdha-phalaṁ pāpaṁ
kūṭaṁ bījaṁ phalonmukham
krameṇaiva pralīyeta

For those who are engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all sinful reactions, whether fructified, in the stock, or in the form of a seed, gradually vanish.

Quotation from the Padma Purana in purport of

Here is real science. You can know this, follow the process of Bhakti, Loving Devotional Service to the Supreme, and go back home. It is a repeatable process. Countless have done it. You can too. Dear Spirit Soul, you are already perfect in your original state. Over countless lifetimes, you have devolved from your original perfection to a state which is an embarrassment to your true identity. Wake up! Know yourself! Be yourself! Go back home to the spiritual realm where you belong! I pray to serve you on your journey back home, that is why I exist. Ask me how!

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