"Consciousness, and Krishna’s Form” (SB 1.18.5)
Thompson begins this lecture by listing the symptoms of Kali Yuga described in the Puranas. For example, the Puranas state that during this age, “social status is gained simply by wealth,” and “justice is obtained only by power.” Thompson then expands the discussion by touching upon a variety of concerns including quantum mechanics, epiphenomenalism, Darwinian theory, and the concept of achinya-bedhabedha-tattva.
TRANSCRIPT: Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 1, Chapter 18, Text 5. “Kali, Consciousness, and Krsna’s For.” San Diego – December 28, 1988 / (065)
Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 1, Chapter 18, text number 5, translation:
As long as the great powerful son of Abhimanyu remains the emperor of the world there is no chance that the personality of Kali will flourish.
Purport by Srila Prabhupada:
As we have already explained, the personality of Kali had entered the jurisdiction of this earth long ago, and he was looking for an opportunity to spread his influence all over the world. But he could not do so satisfactorily due to the presence of Mahārāja Parīkṣit. That is the way of good government. The disturbing elements like the personality of Kali will always try to extend their nefarious activities, but it is the duty of the able state to check them by all means. Although Mahārāja Parīkṣit allotted places for the personality of Kali, at the same time he gave no chance for the citizens to be swayed by the personality of Kali.
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena
tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
śrī-caitanya-mano-'bhīṣṭaṁ sthāpitaṁ yena bhū-tale
svayaṁ rūpaḥ kadā mahyaṁ dadāti sva-padāntikam
As long as the great powerful son of Abhimanyu remains the emperor of the world. There is no chance that the personality of kali will flourish.
So, the Kali-yuga is characterized in the Srimad-Bhagavatam by various symptoms. And it's interesting to contrast those symptoms with the... their opposites so as to see what it would be like not to be in the Kali-yuga. For example, it's described there that in the Kali-yuga the criterion for aristocratic status will be wealth. So, you can contrast that and ask, “Well, what other criteria of aristocratic status might there be anyway?” It's interesting if you... today if you go over to La Jolla for example, on the harinama party, you'll see these individuals who have wealth loitering around. And practically, it's their only noticeable virtue that they have some money – apart from that, there's no particular redeeming quality that they seem to be exhibiting.
Actually, when I first saw Srila Prabhupada, I got a direct impression of what... of other qualities associated with... aristocratic status. It was quite interesting when I first met Srila Prabhupada, He was coming through the New York airport. He had just arrived on a visit to New York City. So, He came out of the entrance door in the airport after going through customs. And I immediately had the impression that here was a great emperor. And that was interesting, because of course I had never seen any one even remotely in that category in my entire life. So you might say, “Well, how did I know that that's what He was like?” But anyway, He was exhibiting the personal qualities of a very aristocratic person. But there was no indication that this had anything to do with wealth. In fact, the... a person of high social standing should be characterized by all kinds of positive qualities associated with principles of religion and so forth.
So, another feature of the Kali-yuga, it's mentioned, is that the only way of obtaining justice is through power. And we can see that if we look at the world: you have to have money and power. For example, in this Robin George case, I guess we've spent about a million dollars in defense already. So, that's necessary even to be able to defend oneself in court, you need huge sums of money. Also, you can see in the... in the matter of freeing the different devotees who are held in prison camps and psychological institutions in Russia. That was done on the basis of an organized international protest. So, by an exhibition of power it's possible to attain justice. Otherwise, there's no possibility of that.
Or another feature of the age of Kali is that status... spiritual status is determined by external dress and symbols. So, and also people will adopt different spiritual statuses or change from one status to another just by changing the external dress and symbols. So, that's also a very prominent feature of the Kali-yuga. Also, we have to be careful about that ourselves, because one can easily adopt certain symbols and designations without the internal purification, which really should go with them. Likewise, the status of being a brahmana is determined by having a thread – just another example of that same phenomenon.
Or another interesting feature that's mentioned is that marital relations are determined by superficial physical attractiveness in the Kali-yuga. And the marital agreements are based on mutual consent, that's also described. Beauty is based on hairstyle, it's described, and the quality of manliness or womanliness is determined on the basis of sexual attractiveness. So, these are different features at the age of Kali. Another interesting one that was mentioned is that the family is reduced simply to what we call the nuclear family. That is, just the husband and wife and their children. It's interesting to see how, for example, that has developed in this country with the advent of the automobile. Because, for example, if you look at traditional families in India, you find that there... what the anthropologists call “extended families.” That is there... there's a whole network of relatives and so forth. And that was true in this country up until about the turn of the century; it was the same basic situation. But in the 20th century, you see that whole system breaking down until finally you just have husband, wife, and children – so-called nuclear family. And then even that begins to disintegrate.
So, these different symptoms of the Kali-yuga are mentioned. It's described also that physical strength is reduced in the Kali-yuga, the power of memory is reduced, and for example, it's mentioned the lifespan finally goes down to 50 years toward the end of the Kali-yuga. So, these manifestations of Kali-yuga appear to different degrees in different societies. For example, there's an anthropologist named Colin Turnbull, who did a study of a certain tribe in Africa, that had been somewhat devastated by their encounter with British civilization. The result was that apparently all their social institutions completely deteriorated; and in describing that tribe, he said apparently all concern, positive mutual concern between individuals, had completely been destroyed within that tribe. So, everyone was simply sort of out for themselves: old grandmothers were being left to starve. The young men would go out in the forest and kill some game and they'd eat it right there on the spot. And then they'd come back home and they wouldn't feed their dependents. So, old people or sick people were just being abandoned or even killed. There was no morality etc. etc. He was describing a totally hellish situation in this particular tribe. So, that's just a more severe manifestation of this Kali-yuga.
So, of course, the interesting thing is that in the Bhagavatam we see this reference to the personality Kali, so, there's the idea that some personality is behind the different manifestations of degradation which appear. So, this is an interesting concept; actually in the Vedic literature you find different manifestations that we tend to regard as impersonal as being personified in different ways. For example, the material energy is described in the Vedic literature in considerable detail, in terms of physical laws and principles and so forth. But the material energy is also described as being personified by the goddess Durga or Maya Devi. So, you have the basic idea of a manifestation of energy being controlled in some way by a personality. So this is a basic Vedic conception. Actually, in the description.. in the descriptions of Lord Visnu in the Bhagavatam, you see Him described... that He's accompanied by His various personified energies. So, in the Vedic literature, the idea of personality is given a fundamental role in the basic description of reality. So, in modern science, you have a different idea, namely that personality is a byproduct of impersonal forces. The idea there is that you have some basic impersonal substrate consisting of energy which transforms according to some particular laws or principles. And as a result of that, personality appears as a by-product.
So, actually the idea of personality appearing as a byproduct of a impersonal material substrate is there in the Vedic literature. And that is how the principle of false ego is described in the Vedic literature. Krsna points out that the different bodily forms that are manifest in the material world are actually manifestations of impersonal energy. And all that is truly there in those bodily forms is the impersonal energy. In other words, let us say you are to look very closely at a person in the material sense, that is a physical body within the material world. If you stand back from that body at a distance and look at it, you may get the impression that there's a person there. And you can talk to that person and so forth.
But if you look more closely... actually the more closely you look the less what you see seems to be like a person. For example, you could zero in on a person's skin with a microscope and you would just see a sort of rugged looking terrain made of different layers of epithelial cells. So, as you come in close to the person what you see looks more like geography than anything else. And you can come in even closer, and you can do this anywhere in the body. You could enter into someone's body somewhere and zoom in with high magnification and see a sort of tube, which might be a blood vessel let's say; then you could focus in more closely and see different cells; then at a still higher level of magnification you might be able to encounter different molecules and so forth. Finally, the idea of magnification fails – according to the modern scientific idea, you come into a domain of quantum uncertainty in which everything becomes unvisualizable. But it's certainly impersonal, whatever it is, at that state.
So, in that sense, the person turns out to be an illusion. It looked like a person from a distance, but when you look more closely at what is the essence of that entity and see what's really there, it resolves into some impersonal manifestation of energy. So, Krsna explains, in particular in the Eleventh Canto, He explains to Uddhava that that's actually the situation in the material world. The principle of reductionism that you find in modern science is actually explained there. Krsna makes the point that whatever is made of a given element, or some other thing, in the ultimate issue is only that other thing. So the different forms in the material world that seem to be persons are in essence simply the impersonal energy that goes into their makeup. So in this way the material world is a world of illusion. You can give the example there of, say, ripples on a pond; this is appropriate if you consider the idea that, for example, in quantum mechanics it's described that matter is a kind of wave pattern. And in the Sankhya philosophy in the Vedic literature, it's described that the gross material elements are created from sabda, or sound vibration. In other words, the creation of ether, air, fire, etc., is through the action of some kind of wave-like phenomena. So, there's an interesting parallel there.
So, you can make the analogy of, say, a pattern of ripples on the surface of a lake. You could imagine a pattern of ripples producing the image of a face, let us say. And so, if you saw that you might think, “Well, there's a person there,” and try to speak to that person or something like that. But actually there's nothing there but water in which certain ripple patterns are present. So if this material world is an illusion, then one can raise the question of “who or what is it that is illusioned?” Certainly if all you had was a impersonal substrate and different patterns imposed on it somehow or other, what question would there be of anything being aware of those patterns? It might create an illusion, but there'd be no entity to experience the illusion. So in this strictly material picture, the... something is left out, namely the conscious... the consciousness that is actually perceiving these different patterns of energy and so forth.
So, even in the whole area of Western science and philosophy, you'll find that some people have recognized this. Actually, in general scientists don't even consider these things, but some people have, for example, this Thomas Huxley in England observed that consciousness is something that we cannot understand in terms of patterns of matter. So, it is something that's real – it exists – but it's completely distinct from anything that we can understand in terms of… the way he put it was, matter and force, because he was thinking in Newtonian terms back in the 19th century. So, Thomas Huxley proposed that when matter somehow or other winds up in a particular pattern or configuration, at that point consciousness comes into being. And he called consciousness an epiphenomenon. So, somehow consciousness is produced at that point. Darwin actually once made the comment that, “Just as the liver secretes bile so the brain secretes consciousness” – this was his idea.
However, the analogy doesn't work very well because of course bile is a definite substance, a chemical produced by the liver, but this consciousness is something you can't even understand in physical terms. So, it's very hard to see how such a thing could be produced from matter; in fact there's nothing in our understanding of matter that would lead one to suppose that such a thing would ever come to be. Yet we know that consciousness is there, and in fact, we're aware of everything else by virtue of our consciousness. So, consciousness is actually the most important thing. In fact, there was a physicist named Eugene Wigner, who's actually still living now, who made this point. He once wrote an article entitled “Two Kinds of Reality” in which he made the point that there's the reality of the physical world that scientists observe, but then there's also the reality of our consciousness, which is a distinct kind of reality. And that's the most important kind of reality, because it is through that that we're aware of the other reality of the physical world.
So, there's the question of “what is this consciousness?” Actually, in the Eleventh Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam when Krsna was explaining to Uddhava this principle of reductionism in which one level of manifestation is reduced to another and so forth, Uddhava raised the doubt that it seems that our conscious self is so much wrapped up in matter, that one doubt that occurs is: Could it be that our conscious self is simply a product of matter – that it also reduces to matter in some way – because we're so wrapped up in matter it seems that we must be part and parcel of matter. But Krsna made the point that actually the principle of reductionism applies to the material phenomena, but the conscious self is something completely different; it's a categorically different level of reality. So the Vedic literature places great stress on understanding the nature of the conscious self. So there are various misconceptions concerning consciousness. One standard misconception is that consciousness ultimately exists in some sort of state of oneness. This is a very, very commonly presented idea. This idea has also obtained some currency among Western scientists. For example, Schrodinger was a great advocate of this idea. In fact, Schrodinger made the comment that actually there is only one mind and it's an illusion to think that there's more than one.
And in fact, he made an interesting point. He said that, “I see on the one hand that different phenomena are occurring in nature according to the laws of physics. And I see on the other hand, that I have the freedom to act according to my will.” So, he said this seems to be a contradiction. So how can we resolve this contradiction? So, Schrodinger said, “The conclusion that I come to is that I am the power that is moving the atoms according to the laws of physics.” So, in fact, he even put it in Latin. He said his conclusion was deus factus sum, meaning “I’m God.” So, this was the idea that he arrived at. Of course, there's the fact that our consciousness is extremely limited. And so, it is hard to see how one could regard that as being in any way universal or supreme. And in fact, there's the problem that we have individualization of consciousness: I’m conscious in one domain of activity, another person is conscious in another domain of activity. So, there's definitely individuality, at least at a certain stage.
So, one concept is that that individuality can somehow be extracted from some state of uniformity and then return to that state, but the idea presented in the Vedic literature is that the individuality is irreducible. In other words, consciousness is associated with individual self-awareness. And ultimately, this individual self-awareness is personal in nature. By saying that it's personal in nature, what that means is that the individual conscious awareness is associated first of all with desire, with feeling, with awareness, knowledge of different things.
In the Vedic literature, this is described or summed up by this term sat, cit, ananda. Sat is the aspect of consciousness of being, or existence. Actually, what is really conveyed by sat is the idea of eternal existence. The conscious self by its nature has no beginning or end – it eternally exists. Another feature of consciousness is cit, which means cognition or knowledge. The conscious entity is capable of having knowledge. And this is interesting because knowledge means variegatedness. In knowledge you... in order to have knowledge, you can't just have oneness because knowledge by its very nature means many different things. It is described in the Bhagavad-gita that the spirit soul, or the conscious entity, is indivisible. And yet the spirit soul has knowledge.
This is an interesting point because from a material point of view this would seem contradictory. For example, if you want to build a material apparatus that can have knowledge, in a sense, or at least store information, which is a little bit different from having knowledge, then this material entity has to have many parts. And that means it's divisible into its parts. For example, a computer can store information. And it's able to store information because it has a memory, let’s see, they call it RAM, a Random Access Memory, consisting of many little units. Each unit can store a one or a zero. For example, you may have capacitors that are charged or not charged, so they can store in that as a one or a zero. So, you have a huge number of these. So, you can store in that way many different ones and zeros. In this way, information can be stored in the machine. But for that to be possible that means the machine can be divided up into all those different parts that it's made up from. But the nature of the conscious entity is that it's not divisible into parts; and yet, it can store information. In fact, the conscious entity can store information to an extent far beyond any machine that we can construct.
So, this is a fundamental characteristic of spirit, which is actually described by Lord Caitanya using the principle of the acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which is inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference. The idea here is that the quality of spirit is that it has variegated parts, but simultaneously it’s unified as an indivisible unit. So, this characteristic of spirit is actually necessary in order to understand even the consciousness of the spirit soul. In other words, for the spirit soul to be able to have this cit potency, and for... at the same time for the spirit soul to be a unified entity, which is irreducible, you have to have this principle of a acintya-bhedabheda-tattva.
So the other aspect of the spirit soul, ananda, sums up all of the different qualities of emotional experience. Ananda of course means bliss, and refers to positive emotional experience or enjoyment. So, it's described that the fundamental nature of the spirit soul is to enjoy. And enjoyment takes place in variegated situations. If you had a state of perfect homogeneity, there'd be no question of enjoyment because there'd be nothing to enjoy.
So, these are the characteristics of the conscious entity. So, it's described in the Vedic literature that the conscious entities, which are ourselves, namely the jiva souls, are parts and parcels of the Supreme Conscious Entity, or Krsna. So, just as the individual parts and parcels have this quality of knowledge and enjoyment, experience of pleasure in different ways, so likewise the Supreme Personality of Godhead also has these qualities. And so, this principle of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva applies to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In particular it's described that God, or the ultimate cause of all causes, has spiritual form. But this spiritual form is not like the kind of form that you see in the material world. Just as we saw in that example of the computer which has knowledge by virtue of many different parts that are juxtaposed, so that is the nature of these material bodies. But then as we were pointing out before, if you look closely at the material body, you don't find in it anything to account for this phenomenon of consciousness and enjoyment and so forth, which is going on in the material body. In other words, in the material world one tries to enjoy through the material body, but what one is enjoying is distinct from that which is doing the enjoying. And if you look closely at the material body, you merely see an impersonal substrate, which has no quality of enjoyment or knowledge. It's just there undergoing its different transformations.
So, on the level of... on the transcendental level however, the bodily form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead has this principle of a acintya-bhedabheda-tattva in order... in other words, in order... instead of being composed of different parts that are stuck together, the bodily form of Krsna is completely unified, and yet at the same time it's variegated. So, it's described in the Brahma-samhita that Krsna has different limbs. He has arms and legs and so forth, but each part Krsna’s transcendental form is identical with Krsna as a whole. So, from a material point of view, that is inconceivable, which is why it's called acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, but this is the… could be regarded as an axiomatic definition of the nature of spirit.
So, the form of God then is not like a material form that we see. Also, it's described that Krsna’s form is simultaneously present in all places. For example, when Pariksit was being killed within the womb of his mother by the brahmastra weapon, Uttara, Pariksit’s mother, came to Krsna because she knew that this was happening. And so she begged Krsna to save her... the embryo in her womb. So at that point Krsna manifested himself within the womb of Uttara and He neutralized the effects of this fire weapon that had been released there. And then He reconstructed the body of Pariksit, which had been destroyed by this weapon. So, He did that within the womb of Uttara, but He was still standing outside. And it's described that it's not that He traveled into her womb by some method of moving through space, but actually He was already there. He simply manifested Himself and performed that particular operation, and then ended that particular manifestation. Likewise, when Dhruva Maharaja, at the end of his meditation, actually had darsana of Lord Visnu. Lord Visnu at that time was in the heavenly planets. There was a particular incarnation. I forget the name. Anyone remember that one? Prsni-garbha, could be. Yeah, so, I think that, that rings a bell.
So, Visnu was there in the heavenly planets. So, it's described that the austerities performed by Dhruva were causing the breathing of the demigods to choke up. Somehow or other, Dhruva was able to... he was suspending his breath in the state of meditation, and he was so intent on this that he was linking up with the universal system for controlling breath. So, even the demigods were feeling their breathing choking up, so they went to Lord Visnu to ask him to... well, what was happening. So, Lord Visnu said, “Don't worry, this is simply due to the austerities being performed by this person named Dhruva.” So, He then went there and appeared before Dhruva. But He didn't have to travel in order to do that, because in fact He was already there – He simply became manifest before Dhruva Maharaja. So, He was still there in the heavenly planets also.
So, that is the nature of the form of Krsna: that this form is variegated and simultaneously present everywhere, but at the same time perfectly unified, so that there's no question of dividing Krsna into parts. If one could do that, then one would say, “Well, this is a relativistic materialistic conception.” But actually, the form of Krsna is indivisible and unified but at the same time has variegated characteristics. So, this indeed seems inconceivable, but if one tries to understand even how our own consciousness works, you can see that a similar idea has to be brought in. In other words, even to understand how the conscious entity can have knowledge, something like the principle of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva has to be brought into the picture. So, it's around six o'clock, I’ll stop there. Are there any questions or comments? Yeah?
Answer: Why not?
A: “It creates a very”... well that doesn't sound too scientific: “...it creates the very subtle energies.”
A: Well, let's eliminate the word subtle from that. If we really want to play devil's advocate, we have to stick to the scientific principles. So, the brain is electromagnetic and biochemical. So, there's nothing... unless you want to call those things subtle. There's nothing subtle there. So, you can say there's a central control unit in the brain, and the brain is doing information processing. Well, you gave the example of a painting. In the painting there's just so many globs of paint sitting next to one another. Somehow, you have to do something with that in order to get the beautiful painting, because as long as it's in the form of the painting, they're just so on so many globs of paint and they just happen to be sitting next to one another. So, where's the beautiful painting, in one sense? So okay, let's say the eye looks at the painting; an image of the painting is focused on the retina, so you just have some regions juxtaposed on the retina with different intensities of light and so on. So, then nerve cells respond to that, different chemical reactions involving rhodopsin and cyanopsin and so forth take place, different electrical impulses go down different axons, and so on.
So, now you have a bundle of axons with nerve impulses, but that's just like the painting: in one case you had globs of paint, in this case you have a pattern of pulses in a series of axons. Now, you can carry that further into the brain and say that you go through different patterns of nerve impulses. But whatever you do with the information, you've got to have it in the form of some kind of pattern of nerve impulses or chemical concentrations distributed in different parts of space within the brain, no matter what you do with it. Whether it's going through the so-called central control unit or whatever it's going through, that's what it has to be. So, at every stage, it's really just like the original painting. So, how do you understand the unified consciousness of that picture? At every stage, it's just like the original painting. You have little bits and pieces sitting next to one another in space. So, you really don't come to an understanding of how there's perception of the painting there.
A: Well, what experiences the illusion? You may say the feedback is so fast. Well, it occurs at a certain speed. So, at what... and it's you know if you... the brain is... nerve impulses are not so fast. Computers are much faster, that they should really be conscious in that case, but the nerve impulses move at a certain speed, so let’s say a thousandth of a second, you can sort of freeze the action of the brain and you have a certain pattern. And the next thousandth of a second you go a step forward; different pulses have moved further on their axons and you have a different pattern. So, at different times you just have different patterns, that's all, so where does the unified consciousness come in?
A: We've already answered that. Central doesn't help, because call it central or not, you just have in space different config... different little physical situations and different positions of space. In a fraction of a second later, you have a slightly different arrangement of chemical concentrations or electrical flows or whatever in different parts of space. Whether they're in the central part of the brain or the peripheral part, it's the same thing. So, where's the consciousness?
A: We agree that it's complicated, but where is the consciousness?
A: What's this living entity?
A: The central controlling unit has desires? What is the desire in terms of nerve impulses?
A: Yeah, it acts in a certain way. So basically, what you can say is: it is conceivable that you might explain behavior in terms of programming based on nerve impulses that interact in certain ways. The way you could hope to do that is if you can find the basic Boolean logical operations within your network of neurons: and, an or, and negation. Then they could be linked together to do what a computer does. And so, they could execute a program, and which step-by-step different things occur. And this might conceivably produce human behavior. That is conjectural, whether that could really be like that or not, because no one knows about such programs – it's only a speculation. So, that's conceivable, but where the awareness comes in, to consciousness – that is the question. And we can go to the example you originally brought up yourself, namely that in the painting you just have so many globs of paint sitting next to one another, so where is the unified consciousness of painting? Likewise, in the nervous system in the brain, you just have so and so many physical states juxtaposed next to one another in space and that's all you ever have, complicated or not. So, how can we understand the consciousness?
A: But the consciousness is there, so therefore that idea is inadequate. In other words, another way to look at it is this: one could fully understand the computer without ever bringing in such an idea as consciousness. That would be a superfluous idea to bring in, in understanding a computer. So, if the human being is just like a computer made of, you know, wetware instead of hardware, right? ...then there would be no need to bring in such an idea as consciousness. Now some philosophers will say, “That's true, there is no need to bring it in, and you shouldn't.” They're the eliminative materialists, they're called, who will argue that the whole idea of consciousness is null and void, so you shouldn't bring that in. But one can say, “Well, based on the fact that we know we are conscious, that is simply not correct.” Of course, you can give an answer to that; you can say, and this has been done, “What do you mean we know we're conscious? I don't know that I’m conscious.” So, one can take that position. But for those who do know that they're conscious, they can consider the other idea. So, yeah?
A: Well, I was discussing that idea of consciousness as being somehow one or homogeneous, but the point I then went to after mentioning that idea was the variegated nature of individual consciousness. And that's where we got into acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. The individual consciousness by its nature has this variegated characteristic. And the whole point then with regard to the brain is, if you try and explain this in terms of the brain – if you look closely at the brain – you can zero in on a given nerve impulse. So, that's just like a little fluctuation that's going on there; and you go over to another place, maybe there's another nerve impulse, the whole thing is the sum total of all of that, just going on. How is that really different from, say, looking out at the surface of the ocean and seeing so many waves, pushing against one another and so forth? There you wouldn't have such a thing as consciousness; or to put it another way, there's no reason to bring in such an idea as consciousness in order to understand what's going on there. So, the point then is: consciousness has this property of variegatedness, which you can't understand in terms of material parts. And that's... so, the point that I was making was you come to that point even trying to analyze our own consciousness, but then Lord Caitanya was saying this principle of the acintya-bhedabheda-tattva is describing the spiritual nature of the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead also. So, anyway, it's getting a little late.
Jaya. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I'm not saying the soul knows everything that there is to know. The soul has knowledge, that doesn’t mean it knows everything. The point is the soul itself is capable of having knowledge; the soul is the actual knower when it comes down to it. A material system may store data, but the soul actually has knowledge. And the point I was... the point I was making then was that the soul has knowledge, but the soul is of an indivisible nature. So, how do you represent information as something that is indivisible? Materially, when we represent information, we need a lot of little storage units, like those capacitors that store ones and zeros. Or when you write on paper, there are different little parts of the paper: it either has ink or it doesn't have ink. So, it's the same thing. But the soul isn't like that – the soul is indivisible – you can't slice it into two parts, let's say, well here's this half of the soul and here's that half of the soul. There's no question of doing that. And yet the soul can have a variegated knowledge, knowledge of different things. So, that's acintya-bhedabheda-tattva.
Q: Individual souls can be.. are lumped together to make... one entity. I mean take... individual consciousness being able of all…
A: I was simply making…
Q: But also you can take the individual consciousnesses and put them together and they become one or one consciousness, over all conscious.
A: You say you could put them together? That's the hypothesis or…?
Q: No, they’re individual parts of the thing, of a larger entity.
A: Yeah, well, they are their parts and parcels of Krsna and that also is acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, because Krsna is one and He expands Himself into different visnu-tattvas and from Sankarsana there's the expansion of the jiva-tattva. So, all the different spirit souls are actually part and parcel of Sankarsana. So, they’re actually part of Krsna’s body, so there's perfect oneness there and at the same time there's variegatedness.
Q: So, where is variegatedness comes from though, being variegatedly part of Krsna?
A: Yeah, yeah, the…
A: So, yeah. So, the point I was making was, basically [unclear]... that in order to understand the form of Krsna, you need this principle of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. One may say, “This seems like a self-contradictory principle.” It sounds like a cop-out, in other words. Simultaneous oneness and difference, you know, that's contradictory.
A: Yeah, you can't explain so you take your inability to explain and elevate it to a principle. You see that's what you're doing – it's just a cop-out. One could make that argument. So, the point I was making was, well, in order to understand even our own consciousness, you similarly need the principle of a acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. In other words, even to understand how we can be conscious of variegated reality, you need an idea of simultaneous variety and indivisibility, even to understand that. So, if we even need that to understand our own consciousness, what's wrong with the principle of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva for the Supreme Personality of Godhead? That's the argument. You see that? That's the idea – it's a counter to the claim that someone would make that, “Well, what you're saying is just impossible. So, therefore God is impossible and this confirms my atheism, because what you're saying about the nature of God is impossible, so therefore God doesn't exist. I'll use that in my atheist lectures now,” someone will try to argue.
Q: Well, I admit that consciousness it's there. It's currently inexplicable according to our laws, may have nothing to do with the laws that we understand now, but we can observe that it only exists in connection with physical biochemical machines. And so, must have some connection with them that we don't presently understand, but why do we have to give priority to your particular views about how it came about and where it came from.
A: You can always ask, “Why should I listen to you?” I’m not going to advocate my own personal qualifications as being a reason for listening to me or something, but you can consider the views themselves; if you like you can forget where you learned them. You can think about these views merely as some ideas that came from somewhere, maybe you thought of them yourself. They may... if you imagine that you thought of yourself, they may sound more appealing. But in any case, the arguments themselves are what should be considered regardless of whose views they are. And if you want to disagree with those arguments instead of questioning whose views they are, one might make some specific objections to the arguments themselves…
Q: It’s not necessary to suppose that even if you admit that consciousness is a nonphysical phenomena not explained by the biochemical impulses. Still we observed that you only see it in connection with these biochemical machines. Like you observe it in yourself, but you're a biochemical machine.
Q: I observe it in myself. I'm a biochemical machine. Wherever I observe consciousness, it's in connection with some biochemical machine. So, my supposition would seem logical that it's some sort of outgrowth of the…
A: Well, it doesn’t follow from that, that it only exists in connection with biochemical machines. It's true that we have experience of consciousness only in connection specifically with human bodies, as a matter of fact. As a matter of fact, I only have experience of consciousness in myself. And I only infer that it's present to you. Someone can challenge that, but from this it doesn't follow that consciousness only exists in biochemical machines, just because that's the only place where we've seen it. So, it's just like saying the only form of electricity is lightning. At a certain point someone can say that electricity only exists in the form of lightning because that's the only form in which he's ever seen it. But now we know electricity in other forms, we've learned more. No one would have, you know, guessed about computers or radio waves, other forms of electricity. So, consciousness could also be in other forms. I don't think one can justifiably say that it can only exist in biochemical machines.
A: And then there's the point that even held... that even Thomas Huxley himself recognized, namely that we can't understand it in terms of the biochemical machines. So how do we understand it?
Q: There’s a school of philosophers that takes that point, right, that they're just not even... that's part of the epiphenomenon argument isn't it?
A: Well, it's... the whole epiphenomenon argument involves saying that a totally different principle for some reason just comes into being when matter gets in a certain organization; but according to that philosophy, you need two things. The extra principle... left the rule by which it comes into being at a certain point. So, what we're proposing is actually simpler than that. We're just saying the extra principle is there. They're proposing both the extra principle and the law by which it comes into being when a certain configurations of matter takes place. So, we can say, “You're saying what we're saying plus more. So, why do you object to what we're saying? You're just saying what we're saying and adding an extra thing on to it as well. So, in that sense, what we're saying is more economical, it's more an agreement with Ockham’s razor. I had fun with the limits of materialism.
A: Cognitive science.
A: Yeah, well, we'll have to do that. Look, we'll get together a good presentation on consciousness, take it to the cognitive scientist.