The Journey of Self-Discovery
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Table of Contents Introduction Chapter 1: The Journey of Self-Discovery Chapter 2: Super-consciousness Chapter 3: The Pleasure Principle Chapter 4: The Spiritual Master Chapter 5: Yoga and Meditation Chapter 6: Material Problems, Spiritual Solutions Chapter 7: Perspectives on Science and Philosophy Author Index And Introduction to ISKCON and Devotee Lifestyle From Chapter One The Physics of the Self In October 1973, Dr. Gregory Benford, an associate professor of physics at the University of California at Irvine, visits Srila Prabhupada in the garden of the Los Angeles Krishna center. In the course of their intriguing discussion about the possibility of scientific understanding of the soul, Srila Prabhupada declares, “We don’t say that this scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics—this is also knowledge—but the central point is atma-jnana—self-knowledge, knowledge of the soul.” Srila Prabhupada: What is the current scientific knowledge about the spirit soul? Dr. Benford: We have virtually no scientific knowledge about the soul. Srila Prabhupada: Therefore you have actually made no advancement in scientific knowledge. Dr. Benford: Well, scientific knowledge is a different class of knowledge. Srila Prabhupada: Perhaps. There are so many departments of knowledge: the medical study of the body, the psychological study of the mind, and ultimately spiritual, transcendental knowledge. The body and mind are simply the coverings of the spirit soul, just as this shirt and coat are coverings for your body. If you simply take care of the shirt and coat and neglect the person who is covered by this shirt and coat, do you think that this is advancement of knowledge? Dr. Benford: I think that there is no category of knowledge that is useless. Srila Prabhupada: We don’t say that this scientific knowledge is useless. Mechanics, electronics—this is also knowledge. But different departments of knowledge differ in their comparative importance. For example, if someone wants to cook nicely, this is also a science. There are many different departments of knowledge, but the central point is atma-jnana—self-knowledge, the knowledge of the soul. Dr. Benford: The only form of knowledge that is verifiable—that is, verifiable in the sense of getting everybody to agree with it—is that which can be proved logically or experimentally. Srila Prabhupada: The science of the self can be verified logically. Dr. Benford: How so? Srila Prabhupada: Just consider your body. You once had the body of a child, but now you don’t have that body anymore; you have a different body. Yet anyone can understand that you once had the body of a child. So your body has changed, but you are still remaining. Dr. Benford: I am not so sure it is the same “I.” Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you are the same “I.” Just as the parents of a child will say, after he has grown up, “Oh, just see how our son has grown!” He is the same person; his parents say so, his friends say so, his family says so—everyone says so. This is the evidence. You have to accept this point, because there is so much evidence. Your mother will deny that you are a different person, even though you have a different body. Dr. Benford: But I may not be the same being that I was. Srila Prabhupada: Correct. “Not the same” means, for example, that a young child may talk nonsense now, but when he gets an adult body he does not speak foolishly. Although he is the same person, along with his change in body he has developed different consciousness. But the spirit soul, the person, is the same. He acts according to his body, that’s all-according to his circumstances. A dog, for example, is also a spirit soul, but because he has a dog’s body he lives and acts like a dog. Similarly, when the spirit soul has a child’s body, he acts like a child. When he has a different body, the same soul acts like a man. According to circumstances his activities are changing, but he is the same. For example, now you are a scientist. In your childhood you were not a scientist, so your dealings at that time were not those of a scientist. One’s dealings may change according to circumstances, but the person is the same. Therefore, the conclusion is tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati: “When this body is finished, the soul gives it up and accepts another body.” [Bhagavad-gita 2.13] Tatha dehantara. Dehantara means “another body.” This is our Sanskrit knowledge from the Bhagavad-gita. When the spirit soul is injected into the womb of a woman, it forms a little body. Gradually, through the emulsification of secretions, the body develops to the size of a pea because of the presence of the spirit soul. Gradually the body develops nine holes—eyes, ears, mouth, nostrils, genitals, and rectum. In this way the body is developed to completion in seven months. Then consciousness comes. Dr. Benford: At seven months? Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The child wants to come out. He feels uncomfortable; therefore he prays to God to kindly release him from the bondage. He promises that when he gets out he will become a devotee of God. So after nine months he comes out of the womb. But unless his parents are devotees, due to circumstances he forgets God. Only if the father and mother are devotees does he continue his God consciousness. Therefore, it is a great fortune to take birth in a family of Vaishnavas, those who are God conscious. This God consciousness is real scientific knowledge. Dr. Benford: Is it true that the children of all such parents are somewhat spiritually superior to the children of other parents? Srila Prabhupada: Generally, yes. They get the opportunity of being trained by the mother and father. Fortunately, my father was a great devotee, so I received this training from the very beginning. Somehow or other I had this spark of Krishna consciousness.
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