"Relationship Between God and Matter" (SB 3.26.21)
In a famous debate between Newton and Leibniz, Newton proposed that God periodically adjusted the motions of the planets in order to maintain precise motion, whereas Leibniz countered that since God is perfect, adjustments were not required. Thompson draws from perspectives offered in the Bhagavad-gita to help shed light upon this age-old dispute.
TRANSCRIPT: Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 3, Chapter 26, Text 21. “Relationship Between God and Matter.” San Diego - 1993 / (524)
The mode of goodness, which is the clear, sober status of understanding the Personality of Godhead and which is generally called vasudeva, or consciousness, becomes manifest in the mahat-tattva.
Please repeat. The mode of goodness
Audience: The mode of goodness
RLT: Which is the clear, sober status of understanding
Aud: Which is the clear, sober status of understanding
RLT: The Personality of Godhead
Aud: The Personality of Godhead
RLT: And which is generally called vasudeva
Aud: And which is generally called vasudeva
RLT: Or consciousness
Aud: Or consciousness
RLT: Becomes manifest in the mahat-tattva
Aud: Becomes manifest in the mahat-tattva
RLT: Purport by Srila Prabhupada:
The vasudeva manifestation, or the status of understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead is called pure goodness, or suddha-sattva. In the suddha-sattva status there is no infringement of the other qualities, namely passion and ignorance. In the Vedic literature there is mention of the Lord's expansion as the four Personalities of Godhead – Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. Here in the reappearance of the mahat-tattva the four expansions of Godhead occur. He who is seated within as Supersoul expands first as Vasudeva.
The vasudeva stage is free from infringement by material desires and is the status in which one can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or the objective which is described in the Bhagavad-gita as adbhuta. This is another feature of the mahat-tattva. The vasudeva expansion is also called Krsna consciousness, for it is free from all tinges of material passion and ignorance. This clear state of understanding helps one to know the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The vasudeva status is also explained in Bhagavad-gita as ksetra-jna, which refers to the knower of the field of activities as well as the Superknower. The living being who has occupied a particular type of body knows that body, but the Superknower, Vasudeva, knows not only a particular type of body but also the field of activities in all the different varieties of bodies. In order to be situated in clear consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, one must worship Vasudeva. Vasudeva is Krsna alone. When Krsna or Vishnu is alone, without the accompaniment of his internal energy, He is Vasudeva. When He is accompanied by his internal potency, He is called the Dvarakadhisa. To have clear consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, one has to worship Vasudeva. It is also explained in Bhagavad-gita that after many, many births, one surrenders to Vasudeva. Such a great soul is very rare.
In order to get release from the false ego, one has to worship Sankarsana. Sankarsana is also worshiped through Lord Siva; the snakes which cover the body of Lord Siva are representations of Sankarsana, and Lord Siva is always absorbed in meditation upon Sankarsana. One who is actually a worshiper of Lord Siva as a devotee of Sankarsana can be released from false, material ego. If one wants to get free from mental disturbances, one has to worship Aniruddha. For this purpose, worship of the moon planet is also recommended in the Vedic literature. Similarly, to be fixed in one's intelligence, one has to worship, Pradyumna, who is reached through the worship of Brahma. These matters are explained in the Vedic literature.
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena
tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
śrī-caitanya-mano-'bhīṣṭaṁ sthāpitaṁ yena bhū-tale
svayaṁ rūpaḥ kadā mahyaṁ dadāti sva-padāntikam.
So the translation again:
The mode of goodness, which is the clear, sober status of understanding the Personality of Godhead and which is generally called vasudeva, or consciousness, becomes manifest in the mahat-tattva.
This is an interesting point that initially, a pure state of consciousness becomes manifest in the mahat-tattva at the time of the creation. So that doesn't last for very long though. Shortly after that, we have false ego becoming manifest. So next the material egos springs up from mahat-tattva. So shortly thereafter, everything becomes plunged into darkness and ignorance. So in any case, the question was raised as to what the exact relationship is between the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the specific actions and reactions that are carried out by the elements of material nature? So I thought I would say a little bit about that.
This question comes up, especially because of certain philosophical developments in Western civilization, in particular there’s a philosophy known as Deism, which was subscribed to by the founders of the United States. For example, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were Deists. So according to the philosophy of Deism, God has created everything in the material world. But what happens is that God creates the total material system and sets that into motion and then He has nothing further to do with the material world because everything then occurs automatically according to the material system that God has set up. So you can compare God in this context to a clockmaker, who builds a clock, winds it up, and then lets it run; and then, of course, you don't have to do anything more with the clock. It just runs automatically. And that's the whole point of building a clock. After all, if you built a clock that you had to continuously adjust, then that would you know not be very competent of you.
In fact this point was raised in a famous debate between Newton and Leibniz. Leibniz was a German philosopher. Newton had argued that God has to occasionally adjust the motions of the planets according to the laws of gravity in order to keep everything running properly and Leibniz, who always would disagree with Newton, no matter what Newton said – they had a relationship like that – so Leibniz made the point that Newton is attributing incompetence to God by saying that He has to adjust things periodically. But actually because God is perfect, when He sets the different material particles into motion according to the laws of nature, He never has to adjust anything from that point onward. Everything just runs automatically. So there's that idea about how things work.
So, I thought I would, go through some points made in Bhagavad-gita that are relevant to that topic. I probably won't get through all this because there won't be time, but I'll just make some brief observations. Let's see. Yes, here's the first one. It's stated here: “Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature. Therefore, no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.” So that could be used to indicate that things are occurring according to the modes of material nature.
Let's see, here's another one: “The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself a doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature.” So, we may imagine that we're the doer, but according to this, it's actually the modes of nature that are active.
So okay, let's see. I'm just going through these in order as they appear in the book because that is the most convenient way. But then we have a statement by Krsna, “As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” So, here Krsna is saying that depending on what you do, He reciprocates in some way: “As they surrender unto me, I reward them accordingly.” So, it doesn't seem here that material nature is exactly functioning in an automatic fashion. Rather, it would appear that there's some individual reciprocation between Krsna and the individual jiva soul. So that point can be considered.
Let's see. But then again it is stated, "The embodied spirit, master of the city of his body, does not create activities, nor does he induce people to act, nor does he create the fruits of action. All of this is enacted by the modes of material nature.” This is an interesting statement, because one would think then that, people's actions as they surrender unto Krsna must also be enacted by the modes of material nature. So, if you put those two things together, then what you get is as they act impelled by the modes of material nature, I reward them accordingly. So it's just material modes of nature cause certain things to happen, and as a result, Krsna arranges for other things to happen. Because after all the individual is not the doer – things are just being carried out by the modes of material nature. So, in that sense, in what way can one say that they surrender onto me? After all, it's just the modes of material nature that are carrying out activities. It says so right here. So, that's a thought.
Let's see what else comes up here. Oh the verse, well let's see. It's 5.14: He does not create activities, etc. All this is enacted by the modes of material nature. So, let's see, what else have I marked here? Now, these next two verses bring up another point, which may sound Jeffersonian. Krsna says, “By Me and My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them. And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities, and although I am everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation for Myself is the very source of creation.” So that's an interesting statement. In one sense, Krsna seems to be distancing Himself from the cosmic manifestation. He's saying, “I'm not part of this cosmic manifestation and everything that is created does not rest in Me and I am not in them.” Of course, He says “all beings are in Me.” Actually, these are deliberately contradictory statements, which describe Krsna's mystic opulence. Krsna is capable of doing things that appear contradictory, but nonetheless, one could interpret this as indicating that Krsna is at some distance from the material universe. So one could say then He's the clockmaker. After all, He says ‘Myself’ is the very source of creation. So He builds the clock, but He's not there. He just lets the clock run one could say.
Now let's see, oh yeah, here's one. This is 9.8: “The whole cosmic order is under Me. Under My will it is automatically manifested again and again, and under My will it is annihilated at the end.” There's a word avasam, which is translated here as automatically. So one could say well, this thing is occurring in an automatic way, one could say.
Let's see what else is there. Here though, this is of course, is a famous one: “This material nature, which is one of My energies is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, producing all moving and non-moving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” So one could say, well, perhaps this one's a bit ambiguous because, first of all, Krsna says “This material nature is working under My direction” and He says “under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated.” So, now the question is, what kind of direction is Krsna giving? One can think of different possibilities. One possibility would be that Krsna gives a sort of global overall direction to the material nature. And then the material nature deals with the details.
So, that would be similar in a way to the clockmaker idea. Or to give a more modern example, let's say you program a computer. So when you type in your program in the computer, you could say that you're giving it direction and then you push the return key and the program begins to execute. And from then on the manifestation occurs under the rule of the computer, according to the directions that you gave it when you typed in the program. But you have nothing further to do with the computer. It's just running automatically. One could look at direction in that sense. Of course, there's another way to look at direction. You could say that Krsna is directing the material nature from moment to moment to do different things. So, the whole idea is that, “As they surrender to Me, I reward them accordingly.” Well, that seems to fit in with that conception – so, namely that of moment to moment individual direction.
Let's see what else we have here. Here's a statement, 9.22: “But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form, to them I carry what they lack and I preserve what they have.” Well, this sounds pretty much individualized because after all, Krsna says I carry what they lack and I preserve what they have. That seems to indicate that Krsna is doing things specifically in relation to the individual, because He's considering what they lack and what they have. So, He's bringing them things that they need. Now, I suppose one could say that, Krsna creates the whole cosmic system in the beginning so as to carry to everyone what they lack and preserve what they have. But nonetheless, the way it's stated here, that sounds like a very strained interpretation, because Krsna seems to be speaking of individual reciprocation. So let's see what comes up next.
Now of course, here's a famous one or two, 10.10 and 11. “To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” Well, that really sounds individualized. Now, an important point to note here is that “understanding by which they can come to Me” also involves what matter is doing. Because suppose Krsna gives you understanding, then that affects what you're going to do with your material body, presumably. In other words, you'll behave differently after getting that understanding than you would have if you hadn't gotten the understanding. So that means that Krsna is doing something individually, which has an influence on what matter is doing. So, it's not just that Krsna created the whole universal system and set it into motion and then everything is running according to that system. But according to this, on an individual basis, He is giving understanding and that, of course, influences what the bodies are going to do. That means on an individual basis, Krsna is influencing what matter is doing, controlling what it is doing.
Then again, He says, “To show them special mercy I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” So here the translation is special mercy. Let's see, anukampa-artham. If this is truly special mercy, then it's individualized. Otherwise it wouldn't be special. So there's that one.
Let's see what else? What did I have here? Oh, this is in the section on the universal form. This is kind of interesting because in the description of the universal form... Well, here are two verses. Krsna says, “O best of the Bharatas, see here the different manifestations of the Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Asvini-kumaras and all the other demigods. Behold the many wonderful things which no one has ever seen or heard before. O Arjuna, whatever you wish to see behold at once in this body of Mine! This universal form can show you whatever you now desire to see and whatever you may want to see in the future. Everything moving and non-moving is here completely in one place.” Well, at least in this description, the whole cosmic manifestation, well Krsna is saying that's directly His body. So, it would appear then that all manifestations are being directly controlled by Krsna. In fact, that's what He's saying in this universal form chapter.
A little bit later on He says, “Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people. With the exception of you, the Pandavas, all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” So it would appear that Krsna is making specific plans, governing what's happening in material nature. Namely, He's arranged for all these soldiers to be slain in the battle. It doesn't really sound as though He sort of, in the beginning of time, created the total system, which of course later brought about the condition in which the soldiers would be slain. Rather, it seems that He's made a decision to slay these soldiers. So He's directly guiding the material energy to do that.
Let's see, now then we come to the Supersoul. Let's see, what's going to come up here? Oh yeah. For example, in describing the Supersoul, there's the statement, 13.17: "Although the Supersoul appears to be divided among all beings, He has never divided. He is situated as one, although He is the maintainer of every living entity, it is to be understood that He devours and develops all." I always thought this devouring and developing phrase was interesting: grasisnu, devouring. So this certainly makes it appear that the Supersoul is directly controlling things, developing things and destroying them also, and maintaining them. Actually, those three things – creation, maintenance, and destruction – are attributed here to the Supersoul.
So, let's see further statements. But here we have one: “Nature is said to be the cause of all material causes and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.” Now this one is interesting, because you could interpret the first part, which refers to prakriti, material nature, so if material nature is the cause of all material causes and effects, you could think, well, it's this material set up that's causing all the different things to happen. But then it says the living entity is the cause of sufferings and enjoyments. Hmm – so how does that work? Because wouldn't the various material causes and effects include the sufferings and enjoyments? And the living entity is different from nature. So, it says the living entity is the cause of the sufferings and enjoyments. But then nature is said to be the cause of all material causes and effects, which should include those. So, how do we resolve this problem?
So just briefly, the solution would be that the living entity desires different enjoyments and so forth; and the Supersoul controls the material energy in accordance with the desire of the individual soul; and the instrument that the Supersoul uses for that is the material nature. So, that resolves the apparent difficulty. Namely, material nature is the cause of causes and effects, but it does so under the direction of Supersoul. For example, if I push a rock with a stick, you could say the stick pushes the rock. That would be a correct statement. It would also be correct to say that I pushed the rock. So, and if I'm pushing the rock according to someone's desire, let's say someone desires the rock to be pushed, then that person may think, "Gee, I desired the rock to be pushed and it moved." But actually I, in response to the person's desire, pushed the rock with the stick. So, the person was wrong to think that, “I desired the rock to move and it moved.” Actually, the stick made the rock move, but a more complete understanding is that I made the rock move using the stick. So, the idea then is the Supersoul is controlling everything according to the desires of the individual and He's using material nature to do that.
Now let's see, here's another one about the Supersoul. This is 13. 23: “Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the Supreme Proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter and who's known as the Supersoul." So, the Supersoul is called the overseer and the permitter. So, He's controlling things and presumably He's doing that on an individual basis. Otherwise, what would be the point of being there in each body as the controller or the permitter and overseer.
Let's see. How much time have we got here? What's the next one? Ah here's one though. "One who can see that all activities are performed by the body, which is created of material nature and sees that the self does nothing actually sees." So, here we have all activities being performed by the body again. So, that is intriguing.
Here's another one. "Those with the vision of eternity can see that the imperishable soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite contact with the material body, O Arjuna, the soul neither does anything nor is entangled." Actually, the explanation here is that in fact the soul is not making the body do anything directly. The soul is not the doer, but the Supersoul is controlling the body, and so if you can understand that, then you can understand that you're not actually the doer. But due to illusion, we identify with the material body. So, we think when the material body is doing things that I'm doing that, and thus we become entangled in material existence. So, that would be the interpretation there. Let's see. Well, there are a lot more here, but I'll stop for the moment. Are there any questions? Yeah.
Answer: Well the problem with it is that He is intervening all the time. So yes, He has the option of intervening as He likes, but...
Q: So does that mean that there really are no laws and it's all being run by mystic power? [unclear]
A: There are laws, just like if I push the rock with the stick. Now, there are laws involved with that, because first of all, the stick has rigidity. If I tried to push the rock with a rubber stick, I might not be able to push the rock. So the point then is, there are certainly laws of nature that Krsna sets up in the beginning, and those laws are permanent. They're always there. They're just a part of the way things are, once Krsna has set up the whole system. So, in this analogy, the stiffness of the stick is an example. If you're going to push rocks with sticks, the sticks have to be stiff. So, the laws provide the apparatus, which Krsna is using in running the whole material manifestation. But at the same time, there's continuous intervention.
You see there's a difference between the idea of, say, setting up one vast computer and, you know, putting in the program, hitting execute and the thing runs, and then maybe you come back occasionally and add an additional, a little click of the mouse or something like that and change what's happening. So there's a difference between that and let's say a piano player. Consider a person who's playing a very complex piece on the piano. So, there are laws there, because every time a key is pressed down, a hammer is flipped up and it hits a string and the string has a certain tension and that vibrates and it has certain harmonics and all kinds of things have to be adjusted just right to get a good tone. So that's all occurring according to laws, without a doubt. But at the same time, the piano player is continuously intervening because he's hitting keys at the rate of, I don't know how many keys per second, throughout the entire piece that he's playing and it's because he's doing that, that you get beautiful music coming out.
Now the alternative to this would be say, computer-generated music. You know, you have your program set up, you can do this with your computer, by the way. And by doing calculations, according to the program, it generates notes and sounds, the little speaker on the computer. So that produces music. So those are two different versions of how you could produce music, and both of them involve laws. But from what I can understand, the first one is... corresponds more to what Krsna is doing with the material world. It's like He's playing the piano, rather than setting up the computer and letting it run.
Q: Or a flute.
A: Yeah. Or a flute as the case may be. So... Yeah?
A: Well now there you see, there you have the occasional interventions because Krsna is playing the piano of material nature, you might say. Which means that in people's ordinary lives, they're being guided by God all the time. Even the drunk who goes to the bar is being guided by the Supersoul, because the Supersoul is reminding him, “Okay, you wanted to get drunk, now here's your opportunity, go do it.” So, that's the ordinary course of affairs. I mean the fellow couldn't even go get drunk if the Supersoul didn't guide him.
There's a purport in the second Canto where Srila Prabhupada explains that quite nicely. But occasionally Krsna does something that's really special. You know, He comes to this world, He lifts Govardhan Hill, and He does so many different things. So there He's not following the normal rules of His own system, because hills don't normally go up into the air. So, of course, you have to be careful there though, because Govardhan Hill was transported there through the air, you know, by a sage who put it down. There's a whole story. But in any case, Krsna comes and does marvelous things also, which don't follow the normal laws. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Audience: All glories to Srila Prabhupada.