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Is Karma an Effective Form of Justice?

3 people fightingQuestion: What is the real purpose of karma? Is it to hold jivas accountable and responsible for their actions? Or is it reform the jiva and help it return to the spiritual world?

Answer: The immediate purpose of karma is to make the jiva responsible for his/her actions. The ultimate purpose is to help the jiva transcend these things.

Karma also maintains balance and order in the universe. Whenever any action is performed, it brings a change, which keeps the world in balance. Just as Government laws to keep balance and order, the universe has laws. Without law there would be chaos.

Question: Is Justice delayed is justice denied?

Answer: That is a saying I’ve heard many times. I don’t know who coined it. Whether it is true or not, it begs a question: “What constitutes ‘delayed’ justice?” Five minutes? Five years? Five centuries?

It is inevitable that there will be some delay in justice. A person commits a crime, but it takes some time to catch and prosecute him. Then, even if he is found guilty, he can appeal to the High Court. Then still, he could appeal to the Supreme Court.

Is this “delayed justice” or is it as swift as possible? After all, it is not possible to punish a criminal immediately.

The same is true for karma. It is not possible to mete out the outcome of every karma immediately. It requires coordination of so many factors.

Question: Then why do many crimes seem to go unpunished? And if the delay spans many lifetimes the jiva has absolutely no idea why he/she is suffering and has no knowledge of how karma works. It just ends up in more sinful activity with further bondage.

Answer: It does not matter if we do remember the specific details of the deed we are being punished for. The important thing to know is that we are being punished because of some past forbidden act. So, if we are intelligent, our suffering will inspire us to avoid forbidden, immoral actions.

It is not crucial to remember exactly what caused our situation. What is crucial is proper education, so we know it is not meaningless – it must be related to a particular forbidden act we performed. Just as there is a penal code that explains which punishments are given for which crimes, there are dharma shastras that explain the specific outcomes of specific forbidden acts. Read them and you will know what you did to merit a particular suffering.

Even those who know this still tend to perform forbidden actions. This is just like the people who know that stealing is punishable, but do it anyway; sometimes even after being imprisoned for it. So there also needs to be some cause for inspiration to improve oneself and one’s life.

Question: “Justice should not only be done, but should be seen.” Is this statement of any value concerning karma?

Answer: Yes, but in the case of karma seeing is through the shastra-cakshu (the knowledge of scripture)It will require understanding and faith that forbidden action is the cause of suffering. Without that, one will not pay heed to the vision granted through shastra.

The ultimate factor here is proper education. Without the proper mindset and mental discipline we will refuse to see punishment as something just and deserved, and will be unable to desist from forbidden acts, just like criminals, who continue to commit crime even after being punished for it.

Question: Is karma supposed to undo that which was done or is it just punishment & reward and nothing more?

Answer: I don’t know what you mean by “undo.” Action brings reaction, and it is not possible to undo an act that has already been executed. Is someone has murdered someone else, no amount of karma will “undo” that and bring the murdered person back to life.

Question: I am particularly sad and disappointed to see cows being slaughtered, our temple being destroyed, Ayodhya and Vrindavan devotees being killed, harassed, and holy places desecrated and destroyed. The philosophy of karma seems to state that such actions should generate terrible consequences, but I don’t see anything such justice happening. Rather, those who commit such acts are not punished in any way. So, we have so much talk about karma and the consequences of sinful deeds, but we see no real justice meted out for such things.

Answer: I don’t know what you mean by temples being destroyed or devotees being killed. I live in Vrindavan and don’t know about such incidents.

Not everyone is always able to see and judge how karma works. We do not, for example, see continuity beyond death. If you will understand that life extends beyond death, you may reconsider your evaluation of the power of the law of karma.

You have a choice to be frustrated and disappointed with how you perceive the world, or to become enlightened about how the world really works in truth. Truth is meant to be understood and complied with. If we make sincere effort to do that, we will not be frustrated. For this we need help from shastra. Our brain is very limited and we cannot consider all the factors involved in the complex operations of the universe, related to laws like karma.

Question: A person performs all kind of sinful activities, harasses others and pushes them to the point of death, and then the perpetrator dies, and nobody saw any justice being carried out by material nature in perceivable ways for any of his sinful and unjust acts and in next life or whichever life, karma arranges both victim and suspect to settle their scores and both have absolutely no clue of what had happened in the past, just they get further implicated in the cycle of karma by settling their scores. How will anyone ever believe in karma if they can’t perceive it?

Answer: As I said previously, not everything can be perceived by an uneducated person. Furthermore, some things are not perceived except through their effect. Do you perceive gravity as a discrete entity? No. But you perceive it through its effect. Karma may also be like that.

Our uneducated perception cannot definitively limit reality. Perception depends on education. To improve our perception of things outside conventional experience, we can receive education from shastra. It is specifically meant for this ajnate-jnapakam shastram. If you want to know whether justice is being done, you should study shastra, because without that education your perception lacks the capacity to fully perceive reality, and the many ways in which justice may be done.

Shastra informs us that karma exists. The very same shastra informs us that it is just. To know about it in more detail, study about it from shastra in more detail.



The Purpose of Vedanta Sutra

India has a tradition that any great acarya, in particular a founder of a particular sampradaya, had to write commentaries on Vedanta Sutra, the principle Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Vishnu Sahasra Nama. They had to show that their philosophy was based on these four pillars. The Upanishads or sruti are called the cream of the Vedas. They are the topmost authority which is considered to have emanated from the mouth of the Lord himself. Vedanta Sutra is the logical explanation of the Upanishads.

The Upanishads speak on various different topics. It is very difficult to figure out a conclusive meaning, since there is no systematic presentation. Moreover, they can be interpreted in many different ways. Sanskrit itself has the ability to give different meanings to a sentence. On top of that we are dealing with the human mind which is expert in speculating. These two factors combined gave rise to various schools of thought.

Therefore Vyasadeva composed the Vedanta Sutra in an attempt to find a conclusive thread of philosophy in the Upanishads and to give a systematic presentation. Before him many other people have tried to bring out some coherent philosophy, but it appears that their work was not very authoritative, and therefore it did not survive. All is left is their names. When Vyasadeva’s Vedanta Sutras appeared all other attempts became futile in comparison. The Sutras became the final conclusion of the Upanishads. Some of these previous opinions have been refuted there.

Later it became a trend that everyone had to ground their philosophy in the Vedanta Sutras which only then became an authoritative explanation of the Upanishads. In India things could survive if they were based and found their source in the sruti. Otherwise people would always attack. Since Vedanta Sutras is giving the essence of the Vedas, everyone wanted to give their philosophy on that basis. Therefore we have many commentaries of these Sutras, the oldest known one from Shankaracarya. Before also many commentaries were written as Ramanujacaraya has mentioned, but they are not available any more. Some of them have been refuted by Shankaracarya.

After Shankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Nimbarka and Vallabha wrote their commentaries on these sutras and refuted the explanations of Shankaracharya. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not comment on the Vedanta Sutras, nor did he encourage it because the Sutras are liable to misinterpretation which he pointed out in his dialogue with Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya while the latter was teaching him Vedanta Sutra based on Shankarara’s explanations.

Happiness in this world is not lasting, and always mixed with suffering. There is always an undercurrent of misery. Theology is more practical and popular than the impractical metaphysics of Vedanta Sutras because people want to put their faith in something and perform an activity which can give solace to their disturbed mind.

The Vaishnava acaryas therefore brought out devotion to Lord Vishnu from these sutras, which is more practical. Even if people didn’t know the sutras they were able to perform devotion and get some benefit from that.

Audio excerpt:

[audio:|titles=Vedanta Sutra]

The Meaning of the Word Yoga

The word yoga has two somewhat different meanings. One meaning is to unite, the other meaning is to be distinct from everything else, thus to disunite. Patanjali, the famous author of the “Yoga Sutras”, uses the second meaning when he speaks of  “yogas citta-vritti-nirodha“. Here yoga means to terminate all of one’s thoughts, which means not feeling anything externally. Yoga philosophy describes the mind, particularly the citta, as mutable. The word citta is usually translated as mind or heart, a very subtle object. When it perceives something it takes the shape of that object, and the object reflects into the self. The self does not directly come into contact with anything externally. Only the senses come in contact with their objects, and then the mind undergoes a transformation called vritti. Whenever we perceive something our mind undergoes transformation or modification. This is how we come to know or feel anything. This keeps our awareness focused on objects other than ourselves.


Patanjali says that we should bring an end to these modifications. When there are no modifications or citta-vrittis, we are not disturbed or carried away by anything. The soul becomes aware of itself.  The soul does not experience anything else, it has become disunited. So although yoga is considered as union, in this context it means the opposite, disunion. At present the soul is united with something external. Yoga wants us to give up this relation with external sensations. In the highest stage of yoga, samadhi, there is no sensation of the external world. You are situated in yourself, being who you are.

The word can also be used in the sense of union: Yoga is a means to unite us with our goal. There are different types of yoga, such as karma yoga, jnana yoga or bhakti yoga. When we use karma or actions for uniting or reaching our goal, it is called karma yoga. Similarly when we use jnana or knowledge of oneness with the Absolute to achieve our goal, it is called jnana yoga, and when bhakti or devotion is the process, it is called bhakti yoga. The specialty of bhakti yoga is that it is both the means as well as the end. Karma yoga is based on knowledge of karma and devotion to the deity. In the same way jnana yoga also depends on certain actions and devotion to the Absolute. Bhakti is action in devotion accompanied by the knowledge of the Supreme God. It is only by the path of bhakti that ultimate welfare is achieved.  Karma and jnana are ineffective without bhakti. Bhakti however is not dependent on either karma or jnana.

Audio excerpt: [audio:|titles=Meaning of Yoga]

Knowledge from the Vedas

Ancient Sanskrit ManuscriptThe Upanishads are part of the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of the world. There are four Vedas, namely the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva Veda. Each Veda is further divided into four parts which are called Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanishad. The first three parts of each Veda mainly deal with rituals. The Samhita part consists mostly of prayers to different deities and is used for sacrifices. The Brahmanas deal with how the sacrifices have to be performed, and the Aranyakas give the philosophy of the sacrifice. The Upanishads deal with the philosophy of the Vedas.

One can approach the Vedas with a traditional or a modern understanding. The tradition says that the Vedas were revealed by God himself to humans at the beginning of creation, therefore there is no date on them. Modern scholars have different opinions about when they were written, but they have no concept of who wrote them.

The word Veda means knowledge. The Vedas are the books of knowledge. In that sense they are not sectarian, because they are not related to a particular group of people or faith; rather, they are the manuals for human beings. They show how one should lead one’s life on earth and attain perfection.Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa

Another name for the Vedas is sruti, because they are heard from the teachers and “sru” means to hear.  If someone wanted to study the Vedas, traditionally he had to go to a teacher and hear them from him. Vedic knowledge is divided into two categories, known as karma-kanda and jnana-kanda. The former stresses the rituals and sacrifices for attaining material gain. The latter deals with the ultimate goal of life—realizing the Absolute. The bulk of the Vedas deals with karma-kanda. As part of karma-kanda the Vedic texts have to be chanted or recited in a particular way, just like music. That is similar to ragas which have to be sung in a specific tone. To attain a particular goal, the Vedas prescribe sacrifices. If there is even a slight discrepancy in the chanting of these mantras one could even get an adverse result.

Audio excerpt:

[audio:|titles=Knowledge from the Vedas]

Vishuddha Sattva is not of this World

One of the very important verses of Srimad Bhagavatam (4.3.23) speaks about the manifestation of the Lord:

sattvam visuddham vasudeva-sabditam
yad iyate tatra puman apavrtah
sattve ca tasmin bhagavan vasudevo
hy adhoksajo me namasa vidhiyate

Translation: The state of unalloyed being, vishuddha-sattva, is called vasudeva because the Personal God is unveiled therein.

Pure sattva or vishuddha sattvam, is called vasudeva. In it, the Lord becomes manifest. Therefore He is also called Vasudeva. Vasudeva is vishuddha sattva, completely free from impurities. Vishuddha sattva cannot be achieved through material sattva, although sometimes people think sattva in a purified state becomes visuddha sattva because it appears like that.

Material sattva is the means or cause for bringing what is beyond perception into the range of perception. By the same token, pure sattva is a particular function of the internal potency (cit-shakti) that allows us to perceive the otherwise imperceptible transcendental sphere.

Since vishuddha means pure, the implication is that there is pure and impure sattva. An adjective added to a noun distinguishes it from the rest of that class. If we take the term “red rose”, the noun “rose” distinguishes it from all other objects, while the adjective “red” distinguishes a particular rose from roses of other colours. Similarly the term vishuddha sattva suggests there is also ashuddha sattva, impure sattva. Since sattva is a guna of material nature some people think that if sattva is made very pure, it will become vishuddha sattva, and God will manifest in it.

Impersonalists or Advaita-vadis in particular understand it in this way. For them God is also within the three gunas. Only Brahman, which has no attributes and qualities, is beyond the three gunas. Bhagavan – whether Krishna, Rama or another avatara – is considered to be also within the gunas, even though in sattva guna. This is their understanding of visuddha sattva.

The sadhana of Advaita, yoga, or any of these paths is meant to increase sattva in one’s life. The idea is that by decreasing rajas and tamas, a person advances spiritually. This does not apply to the path of bhakti which is not dependant on the three gunas. Bhakti is supremely independent, but this is not known even in some Vaishnava sampradayas.

Increasing sattva is still helpful, since it gives the facility to understand, and it illuminates. In Sankhya it is said that sattva leads to light, while rajas and tamas cover a person. Krishna also explains that in Bhagavad Gita. Yet, if we want to become free from the gunas, we have to understand that sattva is also a conditioning. Krishna says, sukha-sangena badhnati jnana-sangena canagha (Gita 14.6): sattva binds to knowledge and happiness. Rajas gives misery, and tamas leads to ignorance. So even though sattva gives knowledge, it cannot make a person transcendental to itself.

Since the material gunas are constantly in flux, they can never be pure. Sattva cannot be completely isolated from rajas and tamas. Besides, material sattva is necessarily constituted of a portion of inertness. Therefore there cannot be pure sattva or vishuddha sattva in this material world.

As Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita,

There is no state of being (sattva), whether on earth or even amongst the gods in heaven, that is free from the three gunas born of material nature. (Gita 18.40)

When it is said, for instance, that cow’s milk is in sattva-guna, it means that sattva-guna is predominant. Moreover, this is a relative statement. If one consumes more milk than he is able to digest, or drinks stale milk, the result will be rajasika or tamasika. None of the gunas are found in a pure state anywhere in the material world.

Lord Brahma therefore tells Narada,

It is not possible to find only sattva or only rajas or only tamas anywhere. They are always mixed with each other and thus they are said to be mutually dependent. (Devi-bhagavata Purana 3.8.14)

In the same way material happiness, which is the result of sattva guna, can also not be pure. It is always mixed with misery to some extent. Pure happiness is ananda, which is not to be found in this material world. It is the Lord’s own energy.

Our senses are material and can only perceive matter. Therefore they are able to perceive sattva, but they cannot perceive vishuddha sattva which is identical to Krishna’s essential nature, since it is the agency through which the Lord’s form becomes manifest. Vishuddha sattva is also a name for the cit– or antaranga shakti of the Lord, which means bhakti. So it is a synonym for bhakti because the Lord manifests only in bhakti. When one’s heart is imbued with this energy one can have an inspiration of the Lord’s form in the heart.

Video Snippet: Vishuddha Sattva

The Meaning of Spiritual Love

The Divine Couple Radha and KrishnaPriti is translated as love, but people have many different concepts of it. Priti and prema are synonyms, but specifically what we mean by priti or prema is hardly understood by anybody.

If we want to achieve spiritual love or priti, we must know what it means so we don’t try for something we don’t really want.

Jiva Gosvami, who always bases his philosophy on shastra, defines priti in Priti Sandarbha, Text 61. First he quotes a verse from Vishnu Purana 1.20.19 in which Prahlad Maharaja speaks about the defining characteristics by atidesha (comparison):

“My Lord, that priti which men who lack discrimination have in the sense objects, a similar priti should not leave my heart while I remember you.”

From this verse Jiva Gosvami extracts the meaning of priti as something unending and undiminishing. People in the material world never give up the hankering for sense pleasure. Without any training, that desire always exists in their minds. It is never taken away from their hearts. Therefore they never renounce sense pleasure, and they never give up that desire. It is like the flow of a river.

Prahlad is praying that just as their priti is unending, my priti should also be unending. So the atidesha is material love. The word used for both material and spiritual love is the same, but they should not be confused with each other. The definition is similar, but we must understand the difference. The first priti is a manifestation of maya, the external energy of the Lord. Thus it is under the jurisdiction of the three gunas of nature – rajas, sattva and tamas. It keeps on changing because the gunas fluctuate. The second, which Prahlad begs for, is a manifestation of the Lord’s internal potency. It is transcendental and conscious. Just as material priti always takes us towards insentient material objects, the spiritual priti, which is the svarupa shakti of the Lord, will always take us towards Him. These two cannot stay together.

The first, maya-shakti vritti, is like darkness, and the second, svarupa-shakti vritti, is like light. The former is self-centered, the latter is other-centered; it is called bhagavat-priti, because it is centered around the Supreme Lord, Bhagavan.

Audio excerpt:

[audio:|titles=Priti or Spiritual Love]

Introduction: Vedic Psychology

Babaji Satyanarayana DasaPsychology in Greek means the science of the soul. Vedic psychology is also related to the soul. The soul  makes matter function. Vedic psychology deals with the question how the soul perceives this world.

God has two types of energies manifest in this world. Ksetra and ksetrajana – the field and the knower of the field.  One energy is made of matter, the other is conscious.

Matter is manifest at three different levels:

The level of the mind

The level of the senses

The level of the physical elements

Matter is acit, and does not have consciousness. The soul or purusha comes into contact with the physical world of matter  only indirectly, through the subtle elements of citta (unconscious mind), buddhi (intelligence) and ahankara (ego), citta is the store house of experiences, which contains subtle impressions, samskaras. Whatever we experience is stored in the citta throughout the different forms of life a living entity goes through. The vision of the world is based on our samskaras which we modify with every experience.

Buddhi or intelligence is the conscious mind. Manas is the subconscious mind which works through comparison.

Ahankara or I-consciousness (ego) is that which gives us the feeling of an individual being, different from everything else. It consists of two parts: The functional (related to functions inside or outside of our body) and the representational part, which gives identity. Those who can transcend ahankara can get into contact with cosmic intelligence.

Ego, unconscious, conscious and subconscious minds are all interrelated.

Prana is energy carried through life air. Life air is the air functioning inside the body. The soul can infuse consciousness into citta through prana.

Although not perceivable to us, consciousness is actually everywhere and pervades everything. This world is a combination of ksetra and ksetrajna, or in terms of Sankhya,  purusha and prakriti. What is holding the world together is Paramatma, the immanent being  and controller of all beings.

Audio excerpt: Introduction to Vedic Psychology