Is There Really No Such Thing As A Material Existence

[Krishna's lotus feet]“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

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Friend1: Okay, reality check time.

Friend2: For you or me?

Friend1: The central teaching of the Bhagavad-gita is that we are not the body. I am spirit soul.

Friend2: Aham brahmasmi.

Friend1: I am part and parcel of the spiritual energy known as Brahman.

Friend2: I wouldn’t say that is the central teaching of that one particular book, but it is certainly the starting point when taking up the science of self-realization.

Friend1: The spirit is reality. It is real and lasting. It is never born and it never dies. Material nature is a different story.

Friend2: Dull and lifeless. An inferior energy. Prakriti, or that which is enjoyed.

Friend1: As opposed to purusha, or the enjoyer. I get it. I’m just laying the foundation here.

Friend2: For what?

Friend1: A counterargument.

Friend2: That we are the material body? We are not spirit soul? What exactly are you going to say?

Friend1: I heard a conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada where he says that actually there is no such thing as a material existence.

Friend2: What was the context?

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend1: Someone was asking if there was an empirical way to distinguish between a material sound and a spiritual one. Like if we can show that the horn from a car is different from the sound of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend2: Hmm. That is an interesting thought, but obviously the premise is flawed. In the right consciousness, both the holy name and the car horn are considered spiritual.

Friend1: That was essentially Prabhupada’s response. Material existence is more of an idea, a concept within the mind. That is why it is called maya, or that which is not.

Friend2: Absolutely. The stuff we see around us is real, but with the impure consciousness we don’t know how to properly identify anything.

Friend1: Okay, but does this truth mean that there is no “fall down” from the spiritual world? Is there no such thing as reincarnation? What does liberation really mean, then? I’m a little confused.

Friend2: No need to overthink it. Reincarnation, being susceptible to illusion, the changing of bodies – those things are real. They do happen. You can fall down from the heavenly realm and reach earth again.

Friend1: Then why the teaching that there is really no material existence?

Friend2: When the state of mind changes, the objects around us get utilized properly. No more illusion. The car horn is seen as part of Krishna’s creation. It is but one aspect to His amazing potency.

Friend1: For those unfamiliar, Krishna is God.

Friend2: More than that. He is beyond some fuzzy concept or a person accepted on blind faith alone. He is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He says in the Bhagavad-gita that a person really sees when they know that the body is doing everything, which is part of nature. The individual within isn’t actually working.

Friend1: Okay, but that nature is material. How does it become spiritual?

Friend2: It doesn’t change. It doesn’t transform. It doesn’t become anything. It is the external viewpoint which changes. I may hate this package that arrived in the mail. It won’t do anything. It’s just sitting there, bothering me. But if I open it up and figure out what to do with the object inside, the nature changes. The object itself was always the same; only my viewpoint as changed.

Friend1: Then what is the difference between a material and spiritual world? Is there a difference?

Friend2: Both come from Krishna, so ultimately they are both spiritual. The difference is that in one world the illusory concept can take shape. There is the potential for improper identification. That mindset, or consciousness, if you will, is called material existence.

Friend1: Oh, and in the other place there is no potential for illusion. There is always a clear and pure consciousness.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Exactly. It is the realm free of anxieties, Vaikuntha.

In Closing:

In this world dichotomy to find,

But really just state of mind.

Everything first from Krishna coming,

By viewpoint material becoming.

Since improperly to use,

For bodily pleasure to choose.

Liberation when no more to illusion bound,

Seen as same car’s horn and mantra’s sound.

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