A Bucket of Mustard Seeds

The many universes“In the Chaitanya-charitamrita, the total universes in the external potency of the Lord are compared to a bucketful of mustard seeds. One mustard seed is calculated to be a universe itself. In one of the universes, in which we are now living, the number of planets cannot be counted by human energy, and so how can we think of the sum total in all the universes, which are compared to a bucketful of mustard seeds?” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.6.18 Purport)

The universe is too grand to understand within one lifetime. The full scope of human history alone, that which is documented at least, is impossible to consume for the human brain. A computer couldn’t even handle it. As soon as you expand the database to fit all the recorded perceptions, the expansion itself becomes part of that history, thereby creating a recursive loop that continues infinitely. It is the nature of the human being to be inquisitive, and the predictable search for the greater unknown, the vast beyond, consumes much time. From the Vedas, however, we learn that the universe is impossible to fully know, and therefore the real aim of human life is to inquire into the source of the universes.

The source is more powerful than the creation. To be able to create in such a way makes one greater. I can taste every pizza dish ever made by a specific cook, but if I can learn the recipe from the cook himself, then I will know what really goes into the dishes. Moreover, I will learn about the qualities of the creator and why they create in the first place. Only then will I have a proper understanding.

If the timeline of an individual’s life were to be compared to a game, the clock would run out before there was success. The two-minute drill in American football is fun to watch because when the time remaining in the game starts to dwindle, the team that is up against the clock doesn’t mess around. They are in full panic mode, eager as ever to score so that they can either tie or take the lead. If you make it to the five yard line of the opposing team, i.e. you are really close to scoring, but time runs out before you score, of what use was your drive? Your attempt was futile.

In the game of life, know that time will run out before you can learn about every universe. And just because you have a large collection of information doesn’t mean that you will know what to do with it. Data mining is an outgrowth of this issue, as predictions are made based on patterns found within data. Think of the “recommended items” section on e-commerce websites. They recommend other products to you based on the product you are currently viewing. The recommendations are created through data mining, through finding patterns based on the past purchases of other customers.

Nevertheless, these are just recommendations. They are not accurate predictions of the future, nor do they claim to be. In the same way, just because you know a little about only one universe doesn’t mean that you have solved the real pressing issue, namely the repetition of birth and death. Birth and death follow in a cycle similar to the repetition of days. In fact, the days are just arbitrarily identified. Nothing changes between today and tomorrow except the passage of time and its influence. Our identity is the same tomorrow as it is today, but we consider ourselves to be a day older due to the relative positioning of the sun.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

Bhagavad-gitaBirth and death is a similar type of demarcation. We say someone is born when we see them emerge from the womb, but they existed prior to that. We say someone is dead when the soul exits the body, but the soul itself is not killed. These facts and more are concisely and confidently presented in the Bhagavad-gita, a sacred scripture of the Vedic tradition. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has provided wonderful commentary on these verses in his translation titled, “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”. The commentary incorporates Vedic culture and the teachings of past acharyas who knew Krishna through practicing the ancient art of divine love, bhakti-yoga.

One universe is compared to a mustard seed, and all the universes together are thus a bucketful of mustard seeds. In this way it is impossible to think of the full breadth and scope of all the universes. The creator of such universes is more worthy of our attention. This should make sense if we think about it. If He creates the universes, He can destroy them. If He creates them, He also maintains them, which means He is in charge of the rules of operation. If we are subordinate to the elements of nature in just one part of His creation, imagine then how inferior we are to Him as a whole?

If we approach Him, He can give us the knowledge necessary to transcend the effects of His creation. If we should so choose, He can invest the power of creation in us, as He does with Lord Brahma. The wiser choice is to follow devotional service, wherein we surrender to the original creator and give up the false notion of being a supreme controller. His universe is impossible to understand, and fortunately we don’t need to understand it fully. If we know that He is intimately tied to us in the relationship described as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, we’ll take up devotion in a confident way and be duly benefitted.

Chanting the Holy NamesAchintya means inconceivable, and bheda means division. There is both bheda and abheda, or non-division, in the relationship between the living entities and God. This simultaneous oneness and difference is impossible to understand empirically. It’s like looking at an equation that says two equals three. Two is one greater than three but never equal to it. The inconceivable relationship to God can be realized through service, which is best practiced through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In this endeavor the clock never runs out, as bhakti-yoga corresponds directly with the property of eternality in the soul. Pure bhakti-yoga is practiced without motivation and without interruption, so even the forces of nature can’t stop it. Bhakti doesn’t have to begin at birth, and it doesn’t have to stop at death. Through chanting the holy names, awareness of the divine master, Shri Krishna, awakens, and soon the need to beat the undefeated clock of time vanishes, allowing for transcendental pleasure to arrive in a steady supply without any fear of loss. Think of Krishna, worship Him, honor His creation, and know that even a bucketful of mustard seeds is not accurate enough in describing His true potency.

In Closing:

Atheist scientists in ignorance full of bluster,

Don’t know that universes like bucket of seeds mustard.


Too many are in there to count,

Why then opposition to reality mount?


Find out who is the creator of those seeds,

To know the Supreme Being our only need.


Normally ticking clock of time out on us to run,

But in bhakti loss in progress there is none.


Birth and death no longer to apply,

To he who gives devotion a sincere try.


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