“Since the individual soul is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, in that sense the Lord is living in every body, and, as Supersoul, the Lord is also present as a witness. In both cases the presence of God in every living entity is essential. Therefore persons who profess to belong to some religious sect but who do not feel the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in every living entity, and everywhere else, are in the mode of ignorance.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.29.22 Purport)
The Sanskrit word “brahmana” has a specific meaning. There is no reference to birth within that meaning. Nothing is said about honor automatically descending. That meaning does not mention a position within a system of castes, which is a sort of pecking order. The word references Brahman, which is the universal spiritual energy. Brahman is what animates every living being. Covering the vision of Brahman is maya, which is the illusory material nature. The brahmana is a person who understands Brahman; they see spirit within everything. This immediately makes them truly religious and in the mode of goodness.
“If the real brahmana, one not determined solely by birth, is religious in the true sense of the word, what is someone who is only halfway religious? If the brahmana sees in the mode of goodness, which mode are the less advanced in? In what way do they view the world?”
The brahmana is also a pandita, which is a learned person. In today’s vernacular a pandit can also be an occupation, like a priest who is called upon to perform rituals. But once again the original Sanskrit word gives us the real meaning. In the Bhagavad-gita, the vision of the pandita is described.
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste] .” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
The pandita views with equal vision so many different species. He equates the wise brahmana with the dog. He sees the cow and the elephant as being the same. There are obvious differences between these species. You can’t expect an elephant to behave in the same way as a cow. You can’t talk to the dog in the way that you talk to a human being.
In the same verse, the explanation for the vision is given. The pandita, the humble sage, sees this way because of true knowledge, vidya. This knowledge is what puts them in the mode of goodness, which is higher than passion and ignorance. Passion is pretty easy to understand. Think of the distinctions drawn when taking part in a competition. The competitors try their best to beat each other, going to the point of cheating even. They view everyone else as competition, not understanding that the rest of the field is no different than they are. Each person is the same; it’s just that the nature of competition has made it so that viewing with differences is beneficial in the short term.
The term “religion” connotes intelligence with relation to the spiritual. The religious person is synonymous with the pandita. Therefore to limit the presence of spirit to only a few species is religiousness in the mode of ignorance. Spirit comes from God, and to say that spirit is only in a few types of animate bodies is to say that the potency of God is limited and absent in certain living things.
For instance, it is quite common to see the presence of God in the child. The process of a new life coming into this world seems like a miracle. Their departure is similarly amazing, as within a second a person can go from being alive to being dead. To see God in the newborn is to see with an advanced vision.
To see God in the dog and in the cat is also wise. The dog eats, sleeps, mates and defends just like the human being. There is something animating it. Brahman is there, and Brahman comes from God, who is Parabrahman. If the vision stops there, however, then it is a sign of ignorance. Why should God only be in the newborn, the cat and the dog? Why not the cow? Why not the ant? The types of bodies are surely different, but the animating force is not. We know this based on the life cycle of the human being. In infancy, the human being is less evolved than many animals. Yet the same individual matures to become wise. The bodies change, but the individual does not. The development of the body, therefore, cannot determine whether spirit is present or not.
The human being is meant to rise to the mode of goodness and beyond. That is in the nature of the type of body given. The other species do not have this advantage. They are limited in what they can understand. Religion is meant for elevation in consciousness. One who is religious and still sees with duality has not matured fully. Their behavior can often descend to levels lower than what is seen in the nonreligious. Killing innocent women, children and animals in the name of religion is the very definition of activities in the mode of ignorance.
In the mode of goodness one sees the presence of spirit everywhere. That spirit comes from the Supreme Spirit. In fact, the Supreme Spirit is also within every creature through His expansion of the Supersoul. Therefore both the expansions of God and God Himself are everywhere. There is a benefit to seeing this way. The maturity in consciousness brings one closer to the eternal engagement known as sanatana-dharma. This dharma is the essential characteristic of the living spirit and sanatana means that it should be carried out eternally. Sanatana-dharma is service to the Divine, and it can only take place unconditionally and without stop when there is pure love and devotion. The mode of goodness is the platform from which one can again reach in full sanatana-dharma, which is joyfully performed.
Pandita with equal vision to see,
Spirit found in everything that be.
Cow, dog and elephant too,
Spiritually equal are me and you.
When the vision narrowly applied,
Then sadly mode of ignorance the guide.
Human life for goodness and beyond meant,
In bliss of eternal engagement to be spent.