Satyaraja dasa addresses a gathering at the
Whole Life Expo in New York City.
Thank you for allowing me to speak at the 1985 Whole Life Expo. I would like to ask you all to reflect for a moment on the implications of the word whole. What does it mean to be truly whole? That is what I propose to discuss here today.
Everyone can appreciate “holistic life.” Some may call it that, and some may not. But everyone tries to make his or her life as “whole” as possible. No one likes to live in a fragmented way. Accordingly, we struggle to keep a balance, making sure that there is no lack in our life. We like to feel complete, or whole.
Somehow, we sense that a complete whole is more complete than just the sum of its parts. Indeed, Webster’s unabridged dictionary defines holistic in much the same way: “The view that an organic or integrated whole has a reality independent of and greater than the sum of its parts.”
And so a thoughtful person is concerned with himself as a whole, his physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. If one of these aspects of his personality is out of kilter, it throws his whole system off. He does not feel complete. The struggle for existence is thus largely a struggle for keeping perfect equilibrium among the different facets of ourselves as a whole.
The more subtle aspects of our being are generally more essential to our wholeness. If we have a physical problem—let’s say we have a broken leg—that will certainly affect us. But we can still function—and we can function quite well for that matter. Now, if get more subtle—off the physical platform—and we now get onto the mental platform, a problem can get more serious. Mental equilibrium can affect the whole body—what to speak of the leg. Thus, although bodily maintenance is important, mental and intellectual maintenance is more important.
Subtler than body, mind, and intelligence is the spiritual dimension, the soul. Logically, then, this must be most important of all. And a holistic concept that neglects the soul is thus not holistic in the true sense of the word. A person who ignores his spiritual side is not whole.
Of course, the goal is to maintain all dimensions of our existence in harmony. But the comparative importance of the spiritual side cannot be denied. After all, we may claim that we are a combination of body, mind, intelligence, and soul—and this is certainly true to some degree. But the body, mind, and intelligence are always changing. We cannot claim to have the same body now that we had when we were youngsters—yet we are the same person. We do not have the same mind or intelligence—yet, again, we are the same person. You are always you. And that “you” must be the one thing that doesn’t change. Acknowledging that the body, mind, and intellect are always changing, you are the soul.
This soul requires just as much nourishment as does the body, mind, or intelligence. To give great amounts of time to the maintenance of the material body—especially to the exclusion of the soul—is a great waste. One can never be happy like that. It’s like cleaning a bird cage and neglecting to feed the bird within. Of course, the bird cage should be kept clean—but why waste time if you’re just going to let the bird die? Clean the cage, but feed the bird. Take care of the body, mind, and intelligence, but don’t neglect the soul, the spiritual dimension.
Such holistic truths were originally espoused by ancient India’s Vedic literature. In the invocation to the Isopanisad, the perfection of holistic life is enunciated, as is its source:
om purnam adah purnam idam
purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.”
This profound verse clearly explains why we pursue completeness, why we want to be whole. The reason, very simply, is that we are constitutionally whole. It’s inherent.
As part of the Supreme Whole, God, we are whole in and of ourselves. This is the nature of spiritual wholeness—it is the exact opposite of so-called material wholeness, which isn’t really wholeness at all. For instance, if you take a piece of paper and rip it into little pieces and then throw all the pieces around the room, you no longer have the original piece of paper. But spiritually it is just the opposite. If you could rip a spiritual piece of paper and throw the pieces all over, the original, whole paper would still exist! This is the way it is with God. Although He expands into the innumerable spirit souls, He still remains complete. His original position is not diminished. He remains whole.
And because the spirit souls emanate from the complete whole, they have a sort of wholeness themselves. Any quality found in God can be found in the ordinary living entity to some minute degree—hence the Biblical statement that we are made in the image of God. But our wholeness must be considered subordinate to God’s. He is infinite, and we are infinitesimal.
One manifestation that shows our wholeness is subordinate to God’s is our need to render service. God is wholly independent. We are not. We are dependent on Him for so many things: food, air, fire, rain—even for our body, mind, and intelligence. Our perfect wholeness is exhibited when we render service to that which sustains us.
One hand washes the other, both hands wash the face, and in this way we take care of the rest of the body, knowing full well the importance of our body as a whole. Thus, our hands “glorify” the body in that they work for the benefit or well-being of the whole body. Similarly, the living being begins to nourish himself spiritually when he starts to glorify the Lord. When one takes the time to vibrate praises of the Lord, one’s overall physical, mental, and intellectual well-being is augmented by genuine spiritual well-being.
The world’s original religious scriptures, the Vedic literatures, specifically recommend the chanting of the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the prayer par excellence, because it asks nothing of God in return. It asks for nothing more than to be engaged in the Lord’s service: “O Lord! O energy of the Lord! Please engage me in Your service.” This prayer contains every aspect of the Absolute Truth and is thus the essence of holistic life in the fullest sense of the term.