Material vs. Spiritual

BY: D. DAS - 23.11 2021

Naturally, it is from the teachings of Srila Prabhupada's alone that his followers, the Hare Krsna movement, extract their supreme understanding of the Absolute Truth as ultimately a person, the Supreme Person, the Supreme Brahman, Lord Sri Krsna, the speaker of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

One of the main purposes of Srila Prabhupada's teachings is to make his followers aware of the difference betwen the spirit and matter. "You are not this gross material body nor even the subtle one, which are both part of the material nature, Pradhana, but a spirit soul, brahman." Meaning, be aware because there is a "....vast ocean of diference...." between those two.

This for the advancement in spiritual understanding so vitally important issue, even though crystal clearly explained by Srila Prabhupada, gets sometimes clouded by faulty concepts and misconceptions about what he actually says regarding it.

The question comes, therefore, to light whether this Pradhana is a separate entity all together or is identical to Brahman, the spirit, the transcendental, or is somewhat otherwise related. The ultimate answer to it, of course, can only be found within the Sastras as they are explained by Lord Caitanya Himself whose acintya bhedaabheda tattva directly addresses this topic.

The acintya bhedaabheda tattva seems to suggest two separate entities and their relation to God as the origin of them both.

As explained, as the perception of one or another nature is revealed as dependent on the purity of a jiva's consciousness, with her progressively clearer "vision" the concept that the Pradhana constitutes not only her ahamkara but also the outside, the actual material world, the information about which enters to her through her material senses (because that is where the ahamkara is situated - within that material energy) and because that alone is perceivable by them (those senses), such a simple concept makes it quite clear that she is different from her false ego. It also perfectly harmonizes with the sastric principle of the"perverted reflection".

The process of purification seems stated not as hapenning within the senses but within the ahamkara, the source of the (polluted) senses. And the ahamkara can have no perception of the spiritual world not because the senses are polluted but because it has no capacity (constitutionally) to "register" the spiritual energy (despite it being revealed as surrounding it all around) at all.

So as the pure jiva is covered by something foreign, the ahamkara, so is the spiritual world covered by, for her, something separate, the material nature known as the Pradhana.

The transcendental vision by an advanced devotee of equality of all jivas (a gentle brahmana, cow, tree....) has clearly nothing to do with their different bodies nor with their presence within the material nature but only with the soul's position beyond them both.

To believe that it is the Brahman itself that is simply perceived as the material nature without the actual material nature's existence seems incomplete and also hard to reconcile with Krsna's own statement, because it is not the pure jiva herself who witnesses the material energy, but the "....gunas that are active amongst the gunas...." as the interaction of the false ego with its environment, which cannot be the spiritual world where the gunas have no access.

Because for Gaudia Vaisnavism the material nature is real and not illusiory the separate, the bheda aspect, existence of Pradhana seems justifiable from that perspective.

The pure consciousness of the jiva is said to be AS IF covered and how it is possible Prabhupada explains with use of the principle of the perverted reflection in several of his illucidations.

On the other side the abheda aspect of Lord Caitanya's statement is alo addressed by Srila Prabhupada.

"This total material substance, the mahat-tattva, is described as Brahman in the Vedic literature (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.1.19): tasmād etad brahma nāma-rūpam annaṁ ca jāyate." ( Bg.14.3. Purport)

The Vedanta-sutras texts also declare the same in many slokas, like for example in Brahma-sutras 2.1.15.

So who can dispute this fact, that the material nature, Pradhana, is (sometimes) called Brahman in the Vedic Sastras.

Srila Prabhupada, as a bona fide acarya, does not dispute this fact, because his duty is to present the Vedic knowledge "as it is" as well as to follow in the footsteps of the previous acaryas.

Nevertheless, as he himself explains, the different acaryas' paramparas have their own interpretation of different sastric texts and that is what determines what their mood is.

In the parampara from Lord Caitanya, it is His acintya-bhedaabheta tattva that clarifies the ultimate position of the matter and spirit as both identical with and distinct from God.

The abheda aspect harmonizes with the description in the Vedanta-sutras (in the section mentioned above) which explains in detail how it is so. In particular, for example, that this material world, Pradhana, is a part of Brahman's body as it is Krsna's external energy and Prabhupada himself similarly describes it below, and therefore in that sense it is neccessarily identical with Brahman, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

"The living entity is responsible for his own acts. The Lord only gives him facilities, through the agency of material nature, His external energy..." (Bg 14.4 Purport)

"People in general, especially in this Age of Kali, are enamored by the external energy of Kṛṣṇa.." ( Bhagavad-gita, Preface, the last paragraph)

"It is explained in the Seventh Chapter that material nature is the manifestation of the inferior energy of the Supreme Lord. The Lord impregnates the inferior, material nature with fragments of the superior nature ... The living entity, although Brahman by natur, has the desire to lord it over the material world.." (Bhagavad-gita 14.27, Purport

"That pure energy is spiritual energy, and from that spiritual energy the material energy comes out. And because the spiritual energy is the cause and the material energy is the effect, therefore in one sense (only) you can say there is no difference between material energy and spiritual energy." ( Room Conversation with Robert Gouiran)

So Prabhupada, without denying the validity of the eternal Sastric statements, points out that in his teachings, which is in full harmony with Lord Caitanya's conclusive statement regarding the actual position of the material nature, which in forming merely His external body is, therefore, as if separate from His very Self, the "bheda tattva" aspect.

So it can be appreciated that there will be a big difference between being situated in the external energy or the internal energy of the Lord.

The external energy, the material world, the "bheda tattva" aspect which is, even though only sometimes (as Prabhupada stresses) called Brahman, but in Reality it is actually NOT because it is His internal energy, the spirit, that is the actual Brahman, the "abheda tattva" aspect that is the one that Prabhupada's teachings fully stress as being the exclusive goal.

"Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is." (Bhagavad-gita 8.20)

"That which the Vedāntists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which, having attained it, one never returns – that is My supreme abode." (Bhagavad-gita 8.21)

Kṛṣṇa's superior, spiritual energy is transcendental and eternal.... Kṛṣṇa's superior energy is completely opposite in quality to material nature. Superior and inferior nature are explained in the Seventh Chapter."

Clearly, as per Srila Prabhupada's as well as Krsna's teachings, these two slokas describe the actual Brahman, beyond the material nature and, therefore, beyond even the Brahma-loka, the goal of mayavadis who cannot distinguish between the two (the material and spiritual).

So, it is in this light that the entity expressed by the meaning of the words "sometimes called brahman" (into which the living entities are revealed, in Bhagavad-gita 14.3, to be impregnated ) has to be (correctly) conceived of as different from and opposed to the conception of the essence of the True, transcendental Brahman, the spiritual world. In other words, as a mere NON brahman.

It is a matter of Prabhupada's mood wherefrom his crystal clear presentation of the eternal Vedic teachings one gets the crystal clear theoretical idea of whom he/she is.

Thus it is not this entity which is "sometimes referred to as Brahman" that we want to reach or the Hare Krsna mahamantra leads to. On the contrary, trapped within it, we want to, by all the transcendental means available to us, get away fom it for ever. And that is the actual meaning and purpose of Prabhupada's teachings.