In this talk, His Divine Grace
Ramesvara Swami points out that
an erroneous self-concept can
keep us from self-fulfillment.
HIS DIVINE GRACE RAMESVARA SWAMI is one of eleven spiritual masters that ISKCON’s founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada selected to initiate new disciples. He is ISKCON’s director for Japan, Hawaii, Colorado and Southern California. He is also a trustee of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
The original consciousness of the self cannot be awakened as long as it is contaminated by material affection. The soul in his pure state does not want anything material: he doesn’t want a big home; he doesn’t want a fancy car; he doesn’t want the trappings of material life; he doesn’t want to be surrounded by material possessions, absorbed in material thoughts, caring only for material friends and relatives. All this has nothing to do with the soul.
These are the aspirations of persons haunted by ghosts. Haunted—this is a very appropriate description. A man can sometimes become possessed. This is actually possible. The ghost will come at a time when the living entity’s senses are not under his control—in a moment of intoxication or in a moment of deep sleep. At that time the ghost will cover the soul. And once the soul is covered, the ghost enters and possesses the material body. Under the possession of a ghost, a man behaves in a crazy way—not at all in the way he would normally behave. His body is now moving under the control of someone else. The soul is inside the body, but he’s unable to control it. It’s being directed by some other personality, the ghost, who has different motives and desires.
This is a suitable analogy. We know that the soul doesn’t desire anything material, yet we see that everyone is actively trying to acquire material opulence—wealth, beauty, family, friends, society, home, education, fame, prestige, honor—as much as possible. So everyone is acting in a way which is completely contrary to the real self, the Soul. it’s as if they were haunted by ghosts.
The “ghost” is the false ego—the conception that “I am this mind, I am this body.” Everyone is under the spell of this false ego. Sometimes we say that everyone is under the spell of the witch called maya, illusion. Everyone is sitting on the lap of maya, and she’s playing with them, Sometimes we say that everyone is being tossed about on the waves of the ocean of maya, or sometimes we say that everyone is just like a feather being tossed in the wind of maya.
Because our material desires, our material affections, are misguiding us, our real self is unable to feel satisfied. Thinking that this material body is the self, we are simply being misdirected at every moment. As soon as we feel a bodily urge—”Oh, I’M hungry. Oh, I’m sleepy”—we think, “Oh, my dear body, don’t worry. Let me immediately make some arrangement for you.” As soon as our mind wants to go to New York or London, “Oh, my dear mind, don’t be in anxiety. I’ll immediately make all arrangements. Please don’t worry.” In this way the living being becomes the servant of the body and mind.
As soon as the tongue wants to eat something nice or sweet, we say, “Oh, my dear tongue, immediately I’ll serve you.” We’re serving a slab of flesh so faithfully Forgetting to serve God, Krsna, we have become a servant of this slab of flesh, the tongue, and also of the genitals. This is a haunted life. It’s as if some other force were controlling everything we do. This is due to our false ego—the idea that “I am this body. “
We have to understand that there is more to life than the bodily activities of eating, sleeping, and mating. There’s more to life than enjoying ordinary friendship, family, and society. There’s more to life than just satisfying our animalistic urges. That’s the symptom of a wise man—he has come to the conclusion that there is more to life than just living like an animal. A wise man can see that the animals have an ample supply of food, ample opportunity for sex, ample arrangement for sleeping. They have ample time for all these things, yet they are not happy.
But one who is intoxicated by materialistic illusion is so blind that he cannot see things as they are. Blinded by the intoxication of material opulence, people can’t understand they are living like animals—simply eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The dazzling material world intoxicates us. Material wealth, material prestige, material power, material beauty, material education, material family and reputation—these things intoxicate us into an illusion, and we forget the goal of life.
We’re subjected to a dreamlike conception of who we really are. A crazy man might be thinking, “I’ve become Napoleon. I am the ruler of Europe.” But there isn’t any difference between the crazy man who thinks he’s Napoleon and the so-called sane man who thinks, “I am very rich. I an, powerful I am the president of General Motors.” What is the difference” Actually, there is no difference. He’s dreaming just as much as the man who thinks he’s Napoleon, because his bodily identification has nothing to do with his real sell’, the soul. The more a man becomes preoccupied with these material conceptions and desires, the more intoxicated he becomes. He hallucinates about who he is and what he’s doing.
So these material things are not assets. They are anarthas—unwanted things. Actually, they are disqualifications for spiritual life. A wise man sees all this. lie sees that there is more. There must be more. Obviously we can’t ever be satisfied by the animalistic existence of eating, sleeping, sex, and fighting. No one is satisfied with that. There must be something else. So when we realize this, we begin to search for spiritual happiness, spiritual satisfaction. Then we have to take up following the codes of spiritual life.
The first thing we have to understand is that we cannot achieve our goal unless we first free ourselves from all material attachment. We have to be prepared to give up our selfish desires in order to become qualified spiritually. We have to give up the desires of our false, bodily ego for the desires of our real, spiritual ego. We cannot have both. Then arguing about it. There’s no changing it.
If we are actually searching for spiritual perfection, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual satisfaction, then the first point is that we cannot achieve it until we give up our material hankering, our material attachment. That is why in the Krsna consciousness movement we follow four rules—no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication, no illicit sex. As we gradually give up these things, we can become more and more advanced in spiritual life. That is the key to Krsna consciousness.
We’ll never experience ananda, spiritual bliss, if’ we foolishly cling to our bodily desires, thinking, “I have just one more thing I want to experience. I have just one more thing I want to go through, just one more stage of’ material life.” We’re fools for thinking like that. In our past lives we’ve already had all kinds of sex. We’ve had millions of years of family life. We’ve had millions of years of’ eating all kinds of nonsense. We’ve had millions of years of serving our senses. Why do we say, “Just let me have one more thing, just one more chance to see if I can be happy by a material arrangement. Give me just one more chance to enjoy my genitals.” You’ll never put out the fire of material life by pouring on the gasoline of bodily sense gratification. Wake up to the truth. Become wise. There’s no real happiness in animal pleasure, in animal indulgence. We’ve already gone through it.
Of course we might think, “Weil, just let me try once more, because I haven’t gone through it in this type of body. Now I’m a human being.” Or we might think, ” A may have been a human before, but this is a different type of human body. It must be at least a slightly different experience.” This is all foolishness, dreaming, hallucination—to think we’re going to be happy in attempting to do the very things we’ve been doing for millions of’ years, in millions of bodies. We may, have a human body now, but we’ve already tried to do all these things before, when we were royalty and when we were worms.
Give it all up. Krsna says. Come to the position of being wise. Realize that the goal is spiritual Satisfaction, spiritual enlightenment, and then take up the process to achieve this. But don’t do it whimsically. The whimsical approach to spiritual life is nothing more than slavery to the mind. Actually, we will experience spiritual advancement only as much as we give up our material attachments. There’s no way around it. We have to be prepared to give up all our false hopes that there’s something for us to enjoy in this material world. There’s not.
Krsna tells us in Bhagavad-gita, “From the highest planet to the lowest, everywhere you will find misery, repeated birth and death.” We have to become convinced of this and give up our hope that there is anything in this material world that will make us happy, When we’re enlightened in that way, we become satisfied. Then our original consciousness is reawakened. Then we enter fully into the loving network of Krsna’s pastimes, Then we experience fully the spiritual pleasure energy of God.
But we cannot experience this unless we come up to the spiritual platform. We have to give up our illusory dreams once and for all. If we cling to our material plans, then Krsna sees that we are putting other desires before Him and He doesn’t reveal Himself as much to us.
So this is what we have to work on. This is what we have to do. If we can give up our material plans we’ll someday come to the position of the great devotee Yamunacarya, who said, “Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krsna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste.” Of course, Krsna does say in the Bhagavad-gita that there is such a thing as sex according to religious principles. But when we finally experience spiritual pleasure, we’ll remember our former pleasures and see that they were nothing.
In other words, it’s a question of our desire. Everything is resting on our desire. Now our desire is impure, but we can purify it by hearing this philosophy, and by chanting the holy names of God, the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. And when our desire is pure, then we’ll fully experience ananda—unending, loving spiritual exchange between the soul and the Supreme Soul.