Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa
Impersonalism is a very dangerous philosophy for it proposes the absurd idea that we are all God. It is presently being taught in schools, universities and colleges all over the world. Some of its adherents are teaching it more subtly and do not speak out directly about becoming God. Rather, they disguise it in various ways like self-improvement, success-oriented seminars, "Christianity" and movements that aim to cultivate the "hidden powers of man." Yet, people succumb to the foolishness of this idea. Life Force Series, then, takes a stand and aims to educate people of the stupidity of impersonalism. We hope that with this understanding, people may recognize such a philosophy even in its disguised forms to be foolish and absurd. We therefore present this in-depth interview with JAGAD GURU Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa, world renowned philosopher and teacher of the Science of Identity.
QUESTION: Why have you come to California?
JAGAD GURU: I have come here to be the bad guy. There are so many swamis, yogis and gurus coming here and teaching people that they are "God." It is a good business. People like to be told that they are God or will become God. I've come to ruin their business.
I have come here to teach people that they are not God. I have come to say, "Guess what? You're not God, I'm not God, none of us is God." None of us is the Supreme Lord; we're all spirit souls, sparks of God. We are not these material bodies. We are all parts and parcels of the Supreme Soul. In quality we are all God, in the sense that we are Brahman, or spirit, but above us all is the Supreme Being, Supreme Owner, Controller, Enjoyer. God is the original Cause of all Causes. God is all powerful, all-wise and all-beautiful.
QUESTION: Evidently you 're writing a book on this subject now. Could you elaborate on this idea a little? Who 's teaching that we are God?
JAGAD GURU: Practically every swami and his uncle is teaching the impersonalist "I am God" philosophy. Some are more direct about it and some less direct.
Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert, Harvard professor, LSD drop-out) says it like this:
The game is not to know God; the game is to be God. 1Werner Erhard, the founder of est, has a similar teaching:
You're god in your universe. You caused it. You pre- tended not to cause it so you could play in it, and you can remember you caused it any time you want to. 2Swami Muktananda puts it this way:
Meditate on your SelfMaharishi Yogi, Vivekananda, and a host of other prominent swamis and theologians, as well as countless numbers of religion professors and yoga teachers, are also directly teaching the "I am God" philosophy.
Honor your Self
Worship your Self
Understand your Self
God dwells within you as you. 3
To equate the living entity with the Supreme Being is absurd. Some people think that they are the body. They are illusioned, they are in maya (illusion). Other people, although they know they're not the body, foolishly think they are the Supreme Spirit. They are also illusioned. The first snare of maya is when I think "I am the body," and the last snare is when I think "I am God."
QUESTION: How do you know we're not God?
JAGAD GURU: Because we've become covered by ignorance. If I am God but I become covered by ignorance, it means I'm neither all-wise nor all-powerful. In other words, I am not God. To say that I am God, but to admit that I have become covered by ignorance, is to say that maya is more powerful than God. This is atheism. The impersonalists do not accept that there is a God above the material energy.
QUESTION: But by meditating, can't God transcend ignorance? Can't we become God?
JAGAD GURU: Nonsense. God never needs to meditate to realize He's God. God never forgets. Ignorance can no more cover God than a cloud can cover the sun. A cloud can't even get near the sun without evaporating.
The idea of God having to meditate and struggle to remember who He is, is absurd. But even more than absurd, it is the most offensive idea because it denies the glory of the Supreme Lord. In the 15th century, Lord Chaitanya condemned the "I am God" philosophy of Shankar Acharya, stating:
The impersonalist philosophy is so degraded that it has taken the insignificant living entity to be the Lord, the Supreme Truth, thus covering the glory and the Supremacy of the Absolute Truth with monism. -- Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila, Vol. 2,7:120To say that God is forced to transmigrate into the bodies of worms, maggots, flies, dogs and hogs, birds and humans denies His power and intelligence.
The impersonalists say this, though. They say that God has forgotten He is God. Muktananda explains it like this:
. . . the highest consciousness becomes bound by . . . limitations; its primal powers of omniscience, omnipotence, perfection, everlastingness and all-pervasiveness are experienced in a reduced condition. Although omniscient, He knows only a few things; though omnipotent, He feels helpless and acts effectively only in a small sphere. The Master of perfect bliss, He is ensnared in pleasure and pain, attachment and aversion. The Eternal Being cries aloud from fear of death, regarding Himself as mortal. Pervading all space and form, He grieves because He is tied to a particular place and a particular form. 4So, according to the impersonalist philosophers, God becomes bound up on the wheel of birth and death, and this is all due to His having forgotten that He is God. According to this theory, God needs to meditate and struggle against material nature to remember who He is. So we have "God" watching His diet, doing breathing exercises, bouncing up and down on His bottom to try to wake up the kundalini, and trying in so many ways to remember His identity.
I am God . . . I am God . . . How did I forget? I am God . . . damn mosquito! . . . It's just me, I haven't forgotten. I am God, I am God . . . Why am I having to struggle?This is the impersonalists' philosophy. Muktananda says:
God forgets His own true nature and looks for God. God worships God. God meditates on God, and God is trying to find God. 5He's saying that God forgot. Now, that's just brilliant! "God forgot who He was and now He has to meditate to remember." Only a fool could make such a statement. The fact is, God does not need to meditate to remember His identity. God knows who He is, always has and always will. There is no question of amnesia for the Supreme Lord. God never forgets His identity, or anything else for that matter. In fact, it is described in the ancient Vedic scripture, Srimad Bhagavatam, that Mayadevi, the personification of ignorance and illusion, is afraid to show her face before the Lord.
QUESTION: So the very fact that we are or were under ignorance is a symptom that we are not the Supreme God?
JAGAD GURU: Yes. We are spirit in essence, but because we are not all-powerful, we sometimes fall under maya--ignorance. For protection, we must take shelter of the Supreme Soul. Taking shelter means surrendering to the Supreme Soul. Surrender means loving. Naturally, one who loves the Supreme Person dovetails her will with His.
This is called devotional service or bhakti It is the soul's natural function to be engaged in the loving service of the Supreme Soul. The soul who tries to enjoy separately from God--the soul who wants to be God--ends up chained to the wheel of birth and death by the karmic reaction to her self-centered activities.
QUESTION: But if the 'I am God" philosophers say that God is chained to the wheel of birth and death, doesn't that deny that He's the Supreme controller?
JAGAD GURU: Yes, these people are simply atheists. They are materialists in disguise. The fact is, they see themselves as God, and since they are limited, they say God is limited. They can't stand the idea of someone being greater than them. It's simply envy. And because they are envious of God, they don't want to serve Him; thus they remain unqualified to enter the Spiritual World.
QUESTION: Where do the 'I am God" people get their philosophy from?
JAGAD GURU: The foundation of the "I am God" philosophy is the idea that God is impersonal. They have this idea because their view of the Absolute Truth is limited. The impersonalists know that God is beyond the limits of material energy--that spirit and matter are opposite. So, since the persons of the material world are limited and God is unlimited, they wrongly conclude that He's impersonal. Since all material forms are temporary and changing, and God is eternal, unchanging, they say He must be without form. The impersonalists conclude that the Absolute Truth is impersonal, devoid of qualities and attributes. They say God is spiritual in essence, pure consciousness, without material or spiritual form.
QUESTION: What is the historical background of the impersonalist philosophy?
JAGAD GURU: It is a very old philosophy. And our philosophy, the Vaishnava philosophy, has been at loggerheads with the philosophy of impersonalism for thousands of years. One of the main propounders of the impersonalist philosophy was a man by the name of Shankar Acharya who taught in the 8th century A.D. Throughout history, you'll also find many prominent teachers of the Vaishnava philosophy. Of course, five thousand years ago Lord Krishna spoke Bhagavad-gita; then, in the 11th century, there was Ramanuja Acharya and, 500 years ago, Lord Chaitanya and His associates. I am coming in this disciplic succession of Lord Chaitanya.
QUESTION: How do the impersonalists come to the conclusion that we are God ?
JAGAD GURU: The impersonalist says that "the formless spirit" takes shape as the many forms. They say each of us is a form of God, we are God in His formed condition, His differentiated condition. All forms, including the inanimate forms, spring from the formless spirit, according to impersonalist philosophy. Swami Muktananda says:
It is only the One that becomes many. There is only the One in the many. Behind the differences lies the undifferentiated. The undifferentiated manifests differences. It is only the nondual becoming dual that revels unceasingly. 6In other words, the impersonalist theory holds that God has become the world and all souls or living beings. Impersonalists sometimes explain that God is like a piece of paper tearing itself up into many pieces. Thus God becomes fragmented and scattered everywhere. He divides Himself and appears as the many. And, like a piece of paper that is torn and scattered about, the original and unseparated whole no longer exists other than in that separated condition as the world and all living beings.
The impersonalist theory holds that God, impersonal Brahman, transformed himself into the world and individual souls. Shankar Acharya states that this transformation of God is just an illusion, that God is just playing a game with Himself, and that there is no factual existence or separate existence of the world and the souls. A popular aphorism among impersonalists says:
Brahma satyam jagan mithya. ["This world is false; only Brahman is real."]QUESTION: What is your idea? Isn't God impersonal? Isn't that the Absolute Truth?
JAGAD GURU: God is both impersonal and personal. But His impersonal feature is subordinate to His personal form. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says:
I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman.-Bhagavad-gita 14:27So the personal form of God is not material, but is sat-chit-ananda-- full of eternity, knowledge and bliss. The impersonal Brahman (which the impersonalists consider Supreme) is simply the rays or effulgence emanating from the Supreme Person. This is described in the Brahma Samhita:
I serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose transcendental bodily effulgence is known as the impersonal Brahman (which is unlimited, unfathomed, and all-pervasive).The impersonalist knows that all material forms spring from the formless Brahman--and this is a fact--but that formless Brahman is springing from the Supreme Person.
-Brahma Samhita 5:14
There is a vast difference between the form of the Lord and the temporary forms within the material world. The form of the Lord exists prior to the creation of the innumerable material forms, during the existence of the material forms, and after the material forms dissolve. This means that although the Absolute Truth is both impersonal and personal, the personal form of the Lord is, in fact, superior. Therefore, in the ultimate sense, we must understand that God is personal.
"The Absolute Truth is
both impersonal and
personal; the personal
form of the Lord is, in
JAGAD GURU: Yes. While the impersonalist philosophy holds that the Supreme Brahman transforms into the world, the living beings, etc., the Vaishnava teaching is that the world and all living beings are simply energies emanating from Him. The Vaishnava acharyas give the example of the sun.
Although there are so many sun rays emanating from the sun, the sun globe itself still remains. God doesn't become the world any more than the sun globe transforms into the sun rays. To say that the sun globe transforms itself into the sun rays is to say that there is no longer any sun globe. To say that God transforms or turns into the world is to say that there is no more God.
It would be wrong to say that the sun has become the sunshine, although undoubtedly the sun rays emanate from the sun. Similarly, although nothing can be considered separate from God because everything emanates from Him, still it is not correct to say that He has become everything. Although everything emanates from God, He always remains as He is--unchanged and complete. My spiritual master, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, says:
The Absolute Truth is so perfect that although innumerable energies emanate from Him and manifest creations which appear to be different from Him, He nevertheless maintains His personality. He never deteriorates under any circumstances. 7QUESTION: So, if we are emanations or energies of God, then we're actually eternally individuals?
JAGAD GURU: Yes. The impersonalists maintain that individuality is an illusion, but actually we are eternal individuals. The Buddhist impersonalists meditate, "I am nothing." And Shankar impersonalists meditate, "I am everything." This is the same teaching, only in different words, because both deny the eternal individuality of the Supreme Lord and the individual souls. Impersonalists teach that individuality is just an illusion because it is the same Supreme Being who has assumed all these different bodies. Muktananda says:
Assuming physical bodies, He appears as separate entities. 8The impersonalist idea is that we appear to be individuals because we have on physical bodies. Without the physical bodies there would be no individuality.
However, the fact is, God is eternally the Supreme Person and the living beings, as His parts and parcels, are also eternally persons. In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated:
One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies, and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul is ever destroyed, actually sees.Also, Krishna states:
- Bhagavad-gita 13:28
Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to exist.The individuality of the soul and the Supreme Soul is clearly documented in this verse. Krishna could have said, "I am you and I am them and I have always existed and always will," but He didn't. He made a clear distinction between Himself, Arjuna and the kings by pointing to each as being eternal.
- Bhagavad-gita 2:12
QUESTION: The impersonalists compare the living entity with air in a jar. If the jar breaks, then the soul will again merge into the Oversoul. . .
JAGAD GURU: But this analogy is of no value. How can you compare air in a jar with the living entity in the body? Air is not conscious, the soul is conscious. Air has no feelings, the soul has feelings. Air is inactive, the soul is active by nature. Air cannot be compared to the living entity because air is impersonal. Air does not love. You do not find air in one jar falling in love with air in another jar. You can keep two jars side by side for a long time and you will find that they will not fall in love. Nor do you find jars moving around, nor do you find jars disagreeing with one another or arguing about philosophy. Also, you don't find jars growing, but wherever there is a living being, there is growth. So, how can you compare air to a living entity?
QUESTION: What about the example impersonalists use comparing liberation of the individual soul to a drop of water merging into the ocean?
JAGAD GURU: There is no such thing as a drop of water "merging" into the ocean. To a less intelligent person, it may appear that a drop of water "merges" into the ocean But a learned person knows that when a drop of water enters the ocean, it pushes aside and replaces other particles of water. That's why there are ripples or waves when there is rain. So it appears like a drop of water merges into the ocean, but the molecular particles are still separate even within the oneness of the ocean. Similarly, the soul, even after entering the Spiritual Sky, retains individuality.
The impersonalists can be compared to someone inland who sees the ocean for the first time. At first glance it appears to be one body--impersonal, without variety. People who don't know much about the ocean think it's like this, but their vision is limited.
The Vaishnava can be compared to someone who knows the ocean--like a deep sea diver or an underwater photographer. Such people know that the ocean is full of variety; it is full of living, active entities--fish, plants, corals, etc.
The Absolute Truth appears impersonal to the impersonalist because he is far away from it. Those whose vision of the Absolute is from far away, see Him as impersonal. They don't know about the spiritual form of the Supreme Person, nor are they able to see the loving pastimes that He is engaging in with those souls who live in His abode.
In the same way that the ocean is full of living entities, the ocean of the Supreme Being is full of living entities. But the difference is that, unlike the self-centered activities of the souls in the material ocean, those souls who are in the Spiritual World are engaged in Krishna-centered activities.
QUESTION: It seems that the law of karma also points to individuality.
JAGAD GURU: Yes. Each individual soul is responsible for his particular activities. "As you sow, so shall you reap." Our karma can be different only if we are different individuals. If you were me and I were you, our karma would be the same.
QUESTION: So we're not "all one" either here or in the Spiritual World?
JAGAD GURU: No. This "we are all one" business is wrong. We are one in quality, that is correct--we are all spirit--but we are still individuals. It's absurd for someone to teach that we are all one being. Teaching means communication. Communication is a flow of expression, ideas, sentiments, etc., from one person to another or to others. Thus, communication necessitates the existence of more than one person. If someone says we are "all one," he's trying to communicate the idea that there's no individuality or plurality. Yet he's trying to communicate this to someone else!
'We are all one in quality, that
is correct--we are all spirit--
but we are still individuals.'
JAGAD GURU: Good question. Avatar means the descent of the Supreme Person. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says:
Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharat, and a predominant rise of irreligion--at that time I descend Myself.Guru actually means the descent of the representative of the Supreme Personality. But since the impersonalists say that each of us is God descended, "avatar" or "guru" has no meaning. To them guru or avatar is nothing special. According to their theory, we are all avatars, even the soul in the body of a dog or rat.
- Bhagavad-gita 4: 7
QUESTION: So why are some considered special? Why are some impersonalists labeled avatars or gurus?
JAGAD GURU: They supposedly get to have the label avatar or guru when they "realize they are God." Satya Sai Baba, a contemporary self-acclaimed avatar, was once asked, "Are you God? " He answered, "Yes, so are you. The difference is that I know it. I know I am God, whereas you haven't yet realized that you are God."
This is another contradiction because he's saying that he's a different person than his disciple--that he could realize something and another person did not simultaneously realize it. Their whole philosophy is full of contradictions.
QUESTION: But if the disciple is God, why does he need help from a guru?
JAGAD GURU: Obviously because the disciple is not really God. God doesn't need anyone's help. If He did, He wouldn't be God, would He? But the impersonalists don't accept the existence of the Supreme Person; this is their problem.
QUESTION: The impersonalists say that the individual ceases to exist or that he becomes everything at the time of liberation. What brings a person to the point of wanting to become everything or nothing? Why do people want to lose their individuality ?
JAGAD GURU: Frustration. One who tries to enjoy the material world ultimately becomes frustrated, unhappy. This ultimately leads to the point of wanting to commit suicide, to cease existing. A frustrated person who identifies the body as the self thinks he can kill himself by killing the body. So he jumps off a skyscraper or shoots "himself" in the head. But the body is not the self. The body is like a shirt that the individual wears temporarily, so killing the body doesn't get rid of the soul.
The frustrated person who knows that he isn't the body may try to kill himself by meditating--hoping to merge into everythingness or nothingness. Their idea is that if you don't exist, you won't suffer. Their solution is to get rid of the suffering by getting rid of the person who is experiencing the suffering. It is like getting rid of the patient instead of getting rid of the disease.
QUESTION: How do the impersonalists explain that God forgets that He is God?
JAGAD GURU: This is a very sore point in their philosophy, so it is very difficult for them to explain it away. But still they do their best. Swami Muktananda tries to say that God forgets, not because He's overcome by ignorance, but because He wants to forget--that He willingly puts Himself in this suffering condition.
The truth is that the highest Lord, pure consciousness, lives in absolute freedom . . . He can do whatever He likes. If an emperor wants to enact the role of an ordinary constable, he puts aside his pomp and majesty, his elephants and horses, and plays a commoner for a while. In exactly the same way, the supreme Lord, who is of the nature of consciousness, sheds His undifferentiated state and accepts differences. 9Muktananda goes on to explain how the Emperor, God, then gets subjected to the most terrible misery, sometimes taking on the bodies of hogs, sometimes dogs, sometimes humans, sometimes maggots, etc. That is the flaw in this philosophy.
An Emperor, even while playing the part of a commoner, still remembers he is the Emperor and, in reality, is also still the Emperor. He is still the controller and the lawmaker. He is never subjected to the laws of the state. He is not thrown into prison and tortured by his own police. And, of course, at any time he can again formally don his robes and go back to his palace.
Muktananda, however, says that God is less than such an Emperor. He says that God completely forgets that He is God and gets subjected to the laws which He originally made. He says that God is chained up on a suffering wheel of birth and death, loses His throne, loses control, and begs eternally as a miserable pauper. Then he even goes so far as to describe this suffering on the wheel of birth and death as being a "divine dance" or "divine lila."
QUESTION: What is this divine dance thing all about? Isn't that the philosophy that "I am God and I have created this world for my enjoyment"?
'An Emperor, even while playing
the part of a commoner, still
remembers he is the Emperor...'
We're all here in eternal time and space . . . We're just doing lila rasa, the divine dance. We're dancing and dancing and dancing, dance after dance, in one body, in another body. 10QUESTION: And after God divides Himself into many, He forgets the Oneness that He can enjoy?
JAGAD GURU: That's the insane belief of the impersonalist. This is their divine dance theory and it is a complete absurdity. The most obvious absurdity is that this world isn't a place of enjoyment; it's a place of misery. Why would God come to the material world to "enjoy" when, by nature, the material world is a place of suffering? Is it God's lila or pastime to take the body of a cat and get run over by a truck, or to take the body of a dog and enjoy getting kicked or beaten in the face by a shoe? God enjoys birth, disease, old age and death? PERSONALISM: The end is to be reinstated as the loving servant and friend of the Supreme Person, Krishna, Who is the source of the spiritual effulgence that the impersonalist is trying so hard to attain. There is complete awareness of the individual existence of oneself, others, and Krishna. IMPERSONALISM: The end result is to merge into the spiritual effulgence of the Supreme Person, Krishna. In this condition there is absolutely no awareness of the existence of oneself or of others. That is why this condition is called "void."
QUESTION: But I've read statements by impersonalists, that show that they know this world is a place of suffering.
JAGAD GURU: They contradict themselves! On the one hand, they say they created the world as a divine pastime for enjoyment. Then, on the other hand, they claim that it's a place of misery. They say God must try to struggle to free Himself from the drama which He supposedly set in motion because He wanted to enjoy!
QUESTION: What experiences do the impersonalists go through to make them think they 're God in the first place?
JAGAD GURU: Most of them just mentally speculate, or they meditate, "I am spirit, not matter." Then they add the meditation, "I am the Supreme Spirit, I am expanding everywhere," etc. But a few of them actually merge temporarily into the impersonal feature of God, the Brahmajyoti.
Let me give you a short summary of that process, which is physiological in nature. First, the yogi gathers the life air at the base of the spine. She then moves it up the spine through a special tube or passageway. She raises the life air through the different energy centers until finally, if she is successful and God is willing, she leaves the body out of the top of the head and temporarily "merges" into the impersonal Brahman. She then may return to the body she left, or, in the future, take on an altogether new body.
Upon returning to the material elements, she will feel that she has descended from a state of God consciousness. In the condition of being merged in the Brahman, there is no awareness of her individuality, and upon descending through the subtle and gross layers of the material energy, there is the feeling of returning to the world.
Combined, these two experiences convince the soul that she is God descending; that she is the "whole formless Godhead" taking on a material body. In this way, the soul gains the "I am God" complex. She is not aware that the Brahmajyoti is the effulgence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. She could not reach the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
QUESTION: Why does she come down then?
JAGAD GURU: Because material desires drive her down. Also, the need to be active is an integral part of the soul, and being unable to act and love in the merged condition, and being unqualified to engage in loving activities in the abode of the Personality of Godhead, she must return to the material dimension, searching for love and engaging in actions.
QUESTION: So the impersonalist is brought back down by the force of lust?
JAGAD GURU: Correct. From lust springs envy; from enviousness of the Lord springs the impersonalist philosophy. The impersonalist claims that he is God descended. He claims that it is his conscious choice to descend. Ram Dass says:
If you come back into form from having merged with God, you are in the world though not of it. You play the cosmic sport. You fill the forms though there is no one home, it is just more lila, the dance of God. 11So, the impersonalist admittedly descends to "enjoy" the names and forms of the world. This is lust. After going so high to the outer circumference of God's Kingdom, still they are attracted to enjoy pastimes in the material world. When they come down, they again get polluted by karmic reaction due to their sinful activities. After again becoming polluted, they want to again "merge" and become "nothing."
So they try to merge again, then again they come down to enjoy matter. They go up to the Brahman and then down to the material elements--up and down--up, down--up, down. And sometimes when they're not happy in either state, they try to stay right in the middle. This is the life of the impersonalist. He moves between the impersonal Brahman and the temporary forms. Being self-centered, he has no entrance into the Vaikuntha planets of the Supreme Person.
QUESTION: What do you mean by self-centered?
'From lust springs envy;from
enviousness of the Lord springs
the Impersonalist philosophy. '
QUESTION: Some impersonalists seem to care about others, though. Don't many of them say that they descended from the Brahman out of compassion?
JAGAD GURU: Yes. Many of them say this. Ram Dass says:
You're in the void. Then the Buddha nature sees there are many beings whose veils are very thin and you can come back and teach them through your being. That's the boddhisattva role. 12Most impersonalists say they descended out of compassion, but compassion is based on individuality, and impersonalists deny individuality. But to say that they descended out of compassion for others means that they are admitting the existence of others. The impersonalist says he was enjoying perfect bliss in the Brahmajyoti but that he has come down to help suffering humanity. He thinks, "I was enlightened and in a blissful condition, but out of compassion I descended to help others."
So he is saying that he was not suffering but others were suffering. He is saying that he was experiencing Brahman, free from all pain, all suffering, all frustration, and yet others were not experiencing this. Although he was merged in the Brahmajyoti, he is admitting that others were not merged. This means he's admitting individuality. It means he's admitting himself to be an individual, separate from others. Otherwise, where is the question of compassion?
QUESTION: What is a boddhisattva?
JAGAD GURU: There is no such thing. We must analyze Ram Dass' statement:
You're in the void. Then the Buddha nature sees there are many beings whose veils are very thin and you can come back and teach them through your being That's the boddhisattva role.Firstly, when someone is merged in the Brahman effulgence or void, there is absolutely no awareness of one's self as an individual. Nor is there any awareness of others as being separate from one's self. That is why the condition is called void. Buddhists describe the void like this:
'Nirvana'--'the state of a fire blown out'. When a fire is blown out, nothing remains to be seen. 13It is absolutely impossible to be "merged" into the Brahman and simultaneously be conscious of the existence ]of others--what to speak of feeling compassion for them. The statement that when one is "in the void," he sees many beings who are suffering, is not based on reality. There is no such experience.
Also, while merged in the Brahmajyoti, there is no knowledge or awareness of the material world. So where is the question of making a decision to go "back"? The material elements of earth, water, fire, etc., are not present in the Brahmajyoti. Thus there is no thought of material names, forms, activities, personalities, etc. It's not that one thinks of his mother while he is in the Brahman. One is simply aware of and identifying with the all-pervading, impersonal energy of the Absolute. So if a person says, "I descended out of compassion," he denies the very philosophy he claims he descended to teach--namely, that we are all one being and that there is no individuality.
The most obvious contradiction of this compassion theory is that it contradicts the "divine lila" theory which we were just speaking about. The impersonalists' compassion theory is based on the fact that this material world is a place of misery. But these same impersonalists teach the divine lila theory which holds that each of us is God and that our entire existence in the material world is our own pleasurable pastime. Again, let me quote Ram Dass:
We're just doing lila rasa, the divine dance. We're dancing and dancing and dancing. dance after dance, in one body, in another body. And we're all here. We're all staying right here. 14Or, as Swami Vivekananda puts it:
It is all really in sport . . . If you are poor, enjoy that as fun; if you are rich, enjoy the fun of being rich; if dangers come, it is also good fun; if happiness comes, there is more good fun. The world is just a playground, and we are having good fun, having a game . . . It is only when you forget that it is all play . . . that misery and sorrows come. But as soon as you give up the serious idea of reality . . . and know it to be but a stage on which we are playing . . . at once misery ceases for you. 15These people sound like complete mental cases. Just try to understand that Vivekananda said this in the middle of Calcutta, the most poverty-stricken, suffering city in the world. The question is this: if a person is God and he is having "good fun" in this world--if this is his pleasurable pastime--why does he come back to get himself out of it?
QUESTION: Shankar impersonalists teach that this world is false, or illusion, and only Brahman is real. This also seems to contradict the compassion theory.
JAGAD GURU: That's correct. Such an impersonalist should be asked, "How is it that you're feeling compassion for everybody who is in the world when, by your own philosophy, they do not exist and neither does the world?" Can you imagine listening to one of these guys try to explain this to his students?
DISCIPLE: Why have you come, O Guru?These people are fools covered by maya
GURU: I have come out of compassion for others.
DISCIPLE: For others?
GURU: Well, of course there are no others, but I have come to help them. They do not really exist, but I could not bear to see them suffering.
DISCIPLE: You're so heavy, Guru. Perhaps one day I will understand.
GURU: Don't worry. Be happy.
QUESTION: Do you think it's right to criticize these teacher?
JAGAD GURU: I don't like criticizing anybody, but they are criticizing God by saying that He's a fool. They say that God forgot He was God; they say God has become a dog, that He's suffering on the wheel of birth and death and so on. So, as God's servant, it is my duty to criticize them. I don't go for all this "be nice at any cost" business. If people are telling lies, they should be called liars. I don't care if they have on guru suits, or shaved heads, or hair down to their feet. A liar is a liar.
Some people think that the goal in life is to be "peaceful" or to be known as a peaceful person, so they don't want to hear that there's disagreement. They just say, "It' all the same. They're saying the same thing in different words, that's all." That way they don't need to think, to pray, to find out which one is right. This is due to their lack of faith that God can and will show them what is true if they truly desire to know the truth.
QUESTION: Some people just might think you're wrong for criticizing others.
JAGAD GURU: But if they criticize me for criticizing others, then they are also being critical, which then makes them guilty of the same "crime" that they accused me of. They should question why I am criticizing others. I am criticizing them, this is right; but what they should do is ask the impersonalists to stop criticizing God. In other words, they should be aiming their criticism at the real culprits--those who criticize God. If they stop criticizing God by saying that He forgot and that He's a dummy, and that He ends up taking on the bodies of worms, maggots, etc., suffering on the wheel of birth and death, then I'll stop criticizing them.
QUESTION: Then it's not all the same? All paths don't lead to the same place?
JAGAD GURU: If all paths lead to the same place, as many of the swamis are saying, then why do they put up posters telling people to come to their lectures, to take their courses, to follow their paths? Everybody's already on a path.
The fact is, different paths go to different places. Those who worship the temporary forms and sounds of this world become more attached to this world. Those who are attached to the impersonal Brahman get to merge by the astanga yoga process into the impersonal Brahman for awhile. And those who worship the Supreme Person, the Cause of all Causes, go to Him and live eternally in His abode, beyond birth and death and beyond the impersonal Brahman.
'If they stop criticizing
God. . . then I'll stop
So all paths don't lead to the same place. That is why, for example, there are different road signs and different departure lounges at airports. If every path led to the same place, that would mean that you could get on a plane marked Tokyo even if you wanted to go to Calcutta.
Saying all paths are the same is for people who don't want to think, who are too lazy to discriminate or to figure out which path to take. They're the kind of people who walk into a big international airport and see all these different destinations and they just start babbling and spinning in circles because it's so confusing for them. They end up muttering, "It's all the same. It's all the same," and somebody has to pick them up off the floor and take them to a mental hospital. An intelligent person, however, will analyze things very carefully and then get on a plane to where he wants to go.
So it's silly and dangerous to say that all paths go to the same place. They might go in the same direction--for example, in the astanga yoga process, the impersonalist may be moving towards God-but they don't all go as far. Impersonalists go only as far as the impersonal feature of God, but they do not reach the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
QUESTION: From the things you've been saying, it seems that impersonalism is atheism in disguise.
JAGAD GURU: Yes. The impersonalist philosophy leads to atheism and materialism. To equate the living entity with God is to deny the very existence of God. For there to be a master, there must be a servant. If you equate the servant with the master, the master is no longer the master. To equate the souls with the Supreme Soul is to say that there is no Supreme Soul. Ram Dass sums up the goal of impersonalism like this:
The experiencer and the experience have merged and you have become God; and the concept of God is long gone. 16QUESTION: And atheism leads to materialism?
JAGAD GURU: Yes, because atheism denies the glories of the Supreme Lord. Failing to see the unlimited beauties and glories of the Supreme Person, the impersonalist becomes attracted by the limited beauty and glory of the material world.
Everyone needs someone to love and \ serve. This is the soul's eternal need. Even the die-hard impersonalist "comes down" and falls in love. One contemporary swami now aims his love towards a pet dog. Because he is equating himself with the Supreme Person, he has ended up focusing his love on a pet dog. If you don't aim your love towards G-O-D, it will end up aimed towards D-O-G.
QUESTION: So what you're saying is that it's an either/or proposition like Jesus said: "You cannot serve both God and mammon." Either you're a lover of God or you 're a lover of material energy?
JAGAD GURU: That's right. The impersonalist teaches that all forms and sounds are from the formless and that worship or attachment to any form or sound leads back to the formless spirit. This leads to worship of and attachment to the temporary names and forms of the material world. This is in harmony with their atheistic teaching that God has be- come the world. If God became the world, the world would be God and attachment to the world would mean attachment to God. Therefore, love for the world would equal love for God. This is Super Materialism. This is the fruit of the impersonalist philosophy.
"It is all really in sport . . . If you are poor, enjoy that as fun; if you are rich, enjoy the fun of being rich; if dangers come, it is also good fun; if happiness comes, there is more good fun. The world is just a playground, and we are having good fun, having a game."
- so says Swami Vivekananda
QUESTION: What is Super Materialism ?
JAGAD GURU: An "ordinary" materialist feels that he is the center of the universe and everything and everyone revolves around him for his exploitation and enjoyment. If God exists, He exists as an order supplier. A Super Materialist "knows" that he is not only the center, but also the creator of the universe. The Super Materialist not only "knows" that everything and everyone revolves around him for his enjoyment/exploitation--he also "knows" that he has created everyone and everything expressly for the purpose of this enjoyment exploitation. It's all his divine dream!
The ordinary materialist is admittedly selfish. The Super Materialist, however, has turned selfishness into a refined religious observance. As Muktananda says:
Meditate on your Self, honor and worship your Self. Kneel to your Self, because the supreme reality, the highest truth, lives within you as you. 17The ordinary materialist usually discriminates between correct or incorrect, acceptable or unacceptable ways to get sense gratification. The Super Materialist, however, has no such "hang-ups." Whatever feels good, do it! It's all the same. No limits of good or bad, right or wrong. After all, you are "God."
Ram Dass exclaims:
You are the laws of the universe. 18There is no question of having to act in such a way that God is pleased. After all, since you are God, whatever is pleasing to you is pleasing to God. Whatever you (God) wants to do is what God (you) wants you to do.
Werner Erhard says:
What you are doing is what God wants you to do. 19Since you are "God," doing "God's will" is no problem at all. Your will is God's will.
Ram Dass' close friend and teacher, Bagawan Das, seems to be completely "enlightened" in this regard. Rolling Stone magazine reported that:
Bagawan Das, clearly a young man of extremes, ate one [pizza] and then went upstairs in the company of a female admirer, coming back a half hour later for another of each. 20Ram Dass' other friend and teacher, the popular Tibetan Buddhist, Trung Pau Rimpoche, is also described in Rolling Stone as "one who sleeps with his female devotees, appears drunk in public and plays ego deflating games with his closest associates." 21
He also eats the flesh of innocent animals (Buddha preached non-violence). Actually, many impersonalists go back to eating meat, drinking and illicit sex because "it's all the same."
In fact, now, to engage in sinful activities is a kind of sign of advancement--that you've gone beyond all these "hang-ups." Discrimination is seen as necessary only for beginners.
A disciple of Rimpoche once told me that his guru can eat and kill animals, use women as sex objects, etc., because "he's not touched by the karma, he's so high."
This points out how the impersonalist is still selfish. He is simply interested in sense gratification and liberation. If he can exploit others without himself having to suffer for it, then he does it. If he can slaughter animals without getting caught by karma, then kill he does! There is no consideration for the suffering of others, and there is no consideration of pleasing the Supreme Lord. It is the ultimate selfish life and, of course, this belief that they or their gurus won't reap the karma of their past activities is simply wishful thinking.
QUESTION: But I know many impersonalists who curb their senses; they don't feel right about going hog wild. Look at Ram Dass, for example. He didn't feel right about the illicit sex and drugs indulged in by Bagawan Dass or Rimpoche.
JAGAD GURU: This is to Ram Dass' credit. But, according to the perverted logic of the "I am God" philosophy, Ram Dass' hesitation to also indulge in these things would be a sign of unenlightenment. The impersonalist idea is that it is God alone who is enjoying through the different bodies. Muktananda says:
The "I" who uses the senses and organs of action is none other than the Supreme Lord who has limited Himself for His own sport or amazement. 22By this philosophy, we can conclude that to try to restrain the senses so that you are not "enjoying" is based on the illusion that you are the enjoyer when, in reality, it's simply God enjoying via the bodily senses.
When we eat, Shiva [God] is eating. When we hear, Shiva is hearing. 23This is how Muktananda puts it.
So, according to this philosophy, when we are enjoying sex or whatever, it's really God who is enjoying through the senses. So if one says, "I should not be the enjoyer, God should be the enjoyer," then this is to say that God and I are two different entities. This is heresy in impersonalist philosophy.
According to impersonalist theory, if I am "enlightened," I realize that I am God. Therefore, I can appreciate that my enjoyment is His enjoyment and that this world is created by me, for me to enjoy. So, the perfected impersonalist lives by this philosophy.
QUESTION: There is one guy from India named Bhagavan Rajneesh and one of his main teachings is that people should have sex with anyone and everyone (including animals and children) as often as they like, that they should enjoy their senses to the fullest without any restrictions whatsoever. So from the "I am God "ist point of view he would be completely realized, wouldn't he?
JAGAD GURU: Yes, from the impersonalist point of view he would be considered a real saint. People like Ram Dass, however, who speak this or mentally accept this but can't quite fully apply it would not be considered perfect impersonalists. So they are not yet totally lost; they still cannot totally accept they are God. This is to their credit. They have not lost all their intelligence.
QUESTION: It seems the perfected impersonalists, who are really convinced they are God, the All-Perfect, won't have any motivation to change themselves.
JAGAD GURU: If each person is God, then each person is already good. Where is the question of having to try to be come a better person? Like Werner Erhard says:
Sometimes people get the notion the purpose of est is to make you better. It is not. I happen to think that you are perfect exactly the way you are. 24(Of course, if he thinks like this, one may ask, why does he teach his course? ) If all individuals are already perfect, this means that society is also perfect, no changes are needed, social improvement is unnecessary. If we are all God (perfect), then this is the Kingdom of God, this is heaven. It is just a matter of "realizing it."
QUESTION: So the practical effects of the "I am God" philosophy on society would be disastrous?
JAGAD GURU: Yes, the exploitative, selfish attitude of ordinary materialists has already brought our planet to the brink of complete social and political ruin. The "I am God" philosophy and its child, Super Materialism, will surely hasten the complete destruction of civilized society. It is, without a doubt, the most dangerous philosophy on the planet.
- Ram Dass, Grist for the Mill (Santa Cruz: Unity Press, 1976), p.166.
- Werner Erhard, If God Had Meant for Man to Fly He Would Have Given Him Wings, or: Up to Your Ass in Aphorisms (booklet available from the est Foundation).
- Swami Muktananda, Play of Consciousness (San Francisco: Harper & Row,1978), back cover.
- Swami Muktananda, Siddha Meditation (Oakland: SYDA Foundation,1975), p.73.
- Ibid., back cover.
- Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami, in purport to Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 2:7:121, p.115.
- Swami Muktananda, Siddha Meditation, p.59.
- Ibid., p.72.
- Ram Dass, Be Here Now (Albuquerque: Modern Press, 1979), p.81.
- Ram Dass, Grist for the Mill, p.166.
- Ram Dass, Be Here Now, p.95.
- Junjiro Takakusu, The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, 3rd ed. Edited by Wing-Tsit Chan and Charles A. Moore (Honolulu: Office Appliance Co., Ltd.,1956), p. 48.
- Ram Dass, Be Here Now, p. 81.
- Swami Vivekananda, Bhakti Yoga (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1964), pp. 114-15.
- Ram Dass, Grist for the Mill, p. 166.
- Swami Muktananda, Getting Rid of What You Haven't Got (Oakland: SYDA Foundation,1974), p.43.
- Ram Dass, Be Here Now, p. 86.
- Werner Erhard, If God Had Meant for Alan to Fly . . .
- Richard M. Levine, "The Pizza and the Path: Ram Dass' U.S.A. Rolling Stone, April 22,1976, pp. 76-77.
- Ibid., p. 46.
- Swami Muktananda, Siddha Meditation, p. 19.
- Peter Marin, "The New Narcissism," Harper's Magazine, October 1975, p. 46.