In 1945 when the United Nations was setup, there were 74 countries. Now there are 194. Since 1945, more than 285 wars have been fought. So clearly the nations are disunited! Did you know why we can never achieve unity through negotiations and resolutions?
In 1919, the League of Nations was established to maintain world peace. It went bust in 1946, after being unable to prevent the second world war.
In 1945, the United Nations was setup, another attempt at maintaining world peace.
Since 1945, the Nations have been anything but “United”… some nations became superpowers, some others teamed up with one or the other, and yet others formed their own little group of have-nots.
And what has the United Nations accomplished?
There were 74 sovereign countries in 1945.
There are now 194 countries in the world, as I write this, in 2022.
And within every country, there are groups of people who want to separate into their own country… think about India, now is Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.
Think about Yugoslavia, it is now seven different countries… Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo… actually I had a hard time figuring that out, with the almost continuous change there.
And wars? How many wars have been fought since the “war to end all wars” – the second world war?
Since 1945 till 2001, 194, and from 1945 to 2020, there were more than 285! In other words, about 91 in less than 20 years! (source Uppsala Conflict Data Program)
And what about the wars going on today around the world?
Let’s face it, the United Nations is impotent and useless.
At this rate, every village will be a country. Why stop at that, every family, and every individual wants to declare independence!
So, actually, to anyone who has a little spiritual knowledge, that comes as no surprise.
After all, we came here to this material world to declare “independence” from God!
The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.
We are all eternal fragmental parts of God. We are simultaneously one and different with Him, described as the philosophy that synthesizes all philosophy. In other words, we are different in identity, but one in quality and are meant to be one in purpose too.
In fact, no matter how you approach God, you benefit!
Putana was a witch who specialized in killing little babies. She smeared poison on her breast and disguised herself as a wet nurse… she took baby Krishna on her lap to “feed” him. Krishna, He is God and cannot be killed. He took her milk and her poison, but also sucked out her very life. With that act of what appears to be “killing”, he killed the nastiness of Putana completely. So much so that she attained the service of serving as one of Krishna’s mothers in the spiritual world.
अहो बकी यं स्तनकालकूटं जिघांसयापाययदप्यसाध्वी । लेभे गतिं धात्र्युचितां ततोऽन्यं कं वा दयालुं शरणं व्रजेम ॥ २३ ॥
Alas, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than He who granted the position of mother to a she-demon [Pūtanā] although she was unfaithful and she prepared deadly poison to be sucked from her breast?
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?
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:
Knowledge of the material world -material knowledge
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:
By Direct experience or perception – In sanskrit “प्रत्यक्ष” or “pratyakṣa”
By hypothesis/logic/conjecture/guessing – In sanskrit “अनुमान” or “anumāna”
By hearing from a higher authority – In Sanskrit “शब्द” or “śabda”
Ultimately, there are 2 fundamental processes of acquiring knowledge:
Ascending Process – build up knowledge from building blocks – In Sanskrit “आरोहपन्था” or “ārohapanthā“
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:
Subtle Material Elements:
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.
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:
Tendency to be illusioned (In Sanskrit “भ्रम”or “bhrama”) – we often misunderstand facts and are illusioned about things as they are
Tendency to make mistakes (In Sanskrit “प्रमाद” or “pramāda”) – there is no conditioned souls who can say they never make mistakes
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.
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.
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 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…
Brahma Sampradaya and its branches, especially expounded by the great teacher Madhva, Lord Chaitanya, and their followers.
Rudra Sampradaya and its branches, especially expounded by the great teacher Vishnu Swami and his followers.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!