“In the government, the criminal department and civil department may appear different in the eyes of the citizens, but in the eyes of the government both departments are one and the same. The criminal department is troublesome for the criminal but not for the obedient citizen. Similarly, this material energy is troublesome for the conditioned soul, but it has nothing to do with the liberated souls who are engaged in the service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.24.61 Purport)
Purusha and prakriti. Spirit and matter. Enjoyer and the enjoyed. A person and the material elements covering them up. The constant factor and the ever-changing one. The living being and the dull and lifeless substance on top.
These are different ways to understand spiritual life, at least in the beginning. Rather than rely on blind faith alone, inheriting traditions from parents, following rules and regulations out of fear, going to a certain place every week just because you are supposed to – use the intellect. Ask questions. The same way there are inquiries made about every other topic, starting from birth, ask about the origin of everything. Ask why life is the way it is and what can be done to change things. What should the goal be?
This distinction between matter and spirit is the foundation of the science of self-realization, which descends from the Vedic tradition. The passing along, flowing from one area down to another, is the proper way to understand, since such knowledge can never be conjured up in the mind. Real jnana, or knowledge, surpasses the limits of time and space, which baffle the mind.
Spirit is that which continues to live. It is the identifying agent. Matter is the opposite. Though the energy is eternal, its manifestation and its position are not. The constant changes we see around us are due to matter. There are two specific influences to this material energy, and on the surface they look contradictory.
The comparison made by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is to the government. There are two specific departments which are known to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. The civil department and the criminal department.
The civil department is where you go to get marriage licenses, permits for building, papers for filing for elections, and other such administrative tasks. There is nothing necessarily negative associated with this area of government. Some type of administration is necessary to maintain order in society.
The criminal department is for going after the bad guys. Not everyone is law abiding. Not everyone follows the law. Without some sort of punishment, there would be no meaning to the laws passed by government. Behavior wouldn’t change unless there was some authority on the other side enforcing.
The material energy is like the criminal department to the conditioned living entities. That is to say it is troublesome. From the very beginning, starting at birth, there is one misery after another. Like the fire burning a hand gives a warning to not try contact again in the future, the difficulties in material life are meant to be a wakeup call, to seek something higher, to escape the cycle of birth and death, which seems perpetual.
2. Not an issue
This is for the liberated souls, who are engaged in the service of the Lord. They are like the law-abiding citizens who are not afraid of the criminal department. Such people actually hope the government does its job in punishing the bad guys. They think both the civil department and the criminal department are equally important. There is no reason to fear.
By serving the Almighty in love and devotion, there is no bother from the material energy. The same aspects of life which were previously miserable get viewed as auspicious. In old age I am increasing in knowledge. Disease helps me to slow down and concentrate more on God, who is all-attractive. The renewing of days, indicated by the rising of the sun, allows me to again enter my routine of chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Death, tragedy, pain and heartache, separation and the like are not viewed negatively since the spirit soul is known to live on. These external changes are like events from a dream. The experience is real, but the influence is not.
The liberated state is not easy to achieve, but through the descending process passed on to a teacher there can be training. Meeting such a teacher is the height of auspiciousness, a result of pious credits, sukriti. From surrender to a person who is directly linked to the Supreme Lord the outlook can quickly change. That which was previously a cause of trouble no longer is. Soon liberation arrives even before death, without having to wait for ascension to the spiritual world. All the energies of God are appreciated, since they are stimuli for remembrance of Him.
Like criminal department existing,
For those laws of society resisting.
Material nature like this viewed,
But devotees from analysis exclude.
Since all His energies appreciating,
Helping in further meditating.
On Supreme Lord’s lotus feet,
That heaven even now to greet.
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