“My devotee actually becomes self-realized by My unlimited causeless mercy, and thus, when freed from all doubts, he steadily progresses towards his destined abode, which is directly under the protection of My spiritual energy of unadulterated bliss. That is the ultimate perfectional goal of the living entity. After giving up the present material body, the mystic devotee goes to that transcendental abode and never comes back.” (Lord Kapila, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.27.28-29)
The word “progress” itself speaks of an imperfection. If the original state was without flaw, there would be no need to progress to a better state. The small child is imperfect in knowledge. Therefore they must go to school, take education from teachers, and progress in intelligence. Gradually, they reach a more perfect state. And despite all the experiences that come with life, as much as intelligence can be sharpened, there is still always room for more progress. The same imperfection is not found in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His teachings.
In the disciplines that deny the existence of God, there is always room for progress. One day they believe the earth is flat. They tell everyone so. Anyone who doesn’t believe it is considered fool number one. If they remain insistent in their defiance, then other measures can be taken. “Violence and coercion are okay because what the scientists say is flawless. The earth is indeed flat, so the deniers should be duly punished.”
Ah, but in the future progress takes over and brings a new conclusion. The earth is round after all. It is not flat. The people who continue to hold on to the notion that the earth his flat are jeered as “flat-earthers.” That term is now used colloquially to describe anyone who doesn’t go with the opinions of modern science. Progress now is defined in terms of consensus. If a consensus of scientists believe that the earth is warming due to human behavior, it must be accepted as fact. If anyone disagrees, they are a “flat-earther.”
Of course what is overlooked is the fact that if science were perfect, there would be no need for progress. There would be no need to evolve to any other position. Though man has cellphone technology and advanced medical machinery available today, he has not evolved to a better position. In times past, he would take to the simple life to take care of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Now such things are more difficult to maintain. As the human being is always in anxiety, his condition is more hellish than the animal’s. The animal is considered less evolved, but they have no trouble eating or sleeping. They are too dumb to understand scientific studies, and yet their necessities in life are provided just fine.
In the Vedas there is no concept of progression with respect to essential truths. The individual does progress through the different species. This is similar to the theory of evolution, except the changes are due to the spiritual laws of nature. The same individual goes from the body of a tree to the body of a fish. They eventually make their way up to the body of the human being, though none of this is due to their own work. They can’t control the sun, the wind or the moon. They can’t control how much water is on the earth or what the average temperature is for a year. How, then, can they control what features the different species will have?
In whatever state of being the individual finds itself in, the essential truth of life is the same. This truth is known as dharma, and since it applies to all time periods, it is also sanatana. Sanatana-dharma is the better term for religion. Religion is faith, putting trust in words from a book. Sanatana-dharma is a scientific basis for describing the inherent nature of the individual. The dharma of the individual is to serve. This is evidenced in all kinds of behavior.
The eternal dharma is to serve God, as this is the only service that can take place without cessation. Sanatana-dharma needs no evolution. The initial truth is without flaw, so there is no need for progression. Applying a little thought, how can one progress from the truth of the need to serve God? Perhaps over time the exact implementation can change, but the inherent nature of the relationship between the individual and God cannot. The truth is described by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which means the truth of the inconceivable and simultaneous oneness and difference between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. We are the same as God in quality but vastly different in the quantitative measurement of the exercise of that quality.
The truth is realized through yoga, and the different ages have preferred methods for practicing yoga. Even with the apparent progression in preferred implementations, the methods themselves are still applicable during any time period. Meditation is difficult in today’s time, but it still works if done properly. So does worship in a temple and performance of sacrifice for the benefit of understanding God. The best method today is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
From chanting the aforementioned mantra there is a progression in consciousness. The pure spirit soul is covered by ignorance when in a temporary body. The initial state is perfection, but just as gold can be covered up by dust, the consciousness can be clouded in such a way that the individual looks for perfection in all areas except dharma. The drift away from the original dharma is what leads to so many different religious systems, social causes, and searches for truth in the absence of God. These areas are all imperfect, and so progress is the name of the game. The common mantra is “One day we will find perfection. Just give us some time.”
The followers of sanatana-dharma say, “Take all the time you need. Even with thousands of years you’ll still not get anywhere.” They are indeed correct, as the propensity to serve will always be there. When this service is directed at God in a loving way, it is known as bhakti, which is the constitutional engagement. One who finds it again never has to let it go, progressing to the spiritual realm in the afterlife.
To progress from here to there,
Means that imperfection everywhere.
If what you say today is right,
In future not to be a change in sight.
Take a month, a week or a year,
But still to eat, sleep, mate and fear.
Real truth time’s test to last,
Valid in present, future and past.