“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, and His plenary portions cannot be understood by mental speculation nor by the nondevotees. If anyone wants to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he has to take to pure devotional service under the guidance of a pure devotee. Otherwise, the truth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead will always be hidden.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.55 Purport)
Friend1: I’ve heard it said that there is actually a fifth regulative principle.
Friend2: You mean in addition to the prohibitions on meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex?
Friend2: I know what it is.
Friend1: So do I. But it only gets mentioned some of the time.
Friend2: I think there might be a loose association with gambling.
Friend1: It is mental speculation.
Friend2: Don’t do it. You’ll get in trouble [laughing].
Friend1: You know I will have to delve deeper into this issue.
Friend2: So you want to speculate about mental speculation?
Friend1: Not general conversation, where there is a back and forth and no conclusion reached; the way of the muni. I want the final word. What is the authoritative explanation for the restriction?
Friend2: I see. First, do you know what it means?
Friend1: To let the mind wander. Put in a bunch of “what if” scenarios. Kind of letting thoughts run wild.
Friend2: Well, it could be controlled thinking, as well. Ultimately, there is a specific topic for which the prohibition really applies, but you have the general idea.
Friend1: I will put one argument in favor. Using the mind in this way is good. There is something in school called “creative writing.” Let the student use their brainpower. Write stories. Create settings and characters. Develop a narrative. Maybe even have a message to convey at the end.
Friend2: That is combining imagination with skills in communication. You are learning to put different tools to use for a specific purpose. I wouldn’t necessarily call that speculation.
Friend1: Okay, but what is wrong with guessing about things, then? I don’t know specifically what happened in a certain situation. Let me put forward different potential ideas. Isn’t that a good way to use the brain? Is that not better than having no curiosity?
Friend2: Let’s work through an example. Say that you want to guess what your ancestors did. Go back maybe three of four generations.
Friend2: Maybe they were rulers in a distant land. Maybe they owned a farm. Perhaps they were members of organized crime.
Friend1: Interesting. See, you’re using your imagination. I like it.
Friend2: The thing is, in this situation there is a way to get a clear understanding. You ask people in your family.
Friend1: But how would they know? They were not there to personally witness.
Friend2: They heard from their immediate elders, who heard from the previous generation, and so on. That is a chain of information transfer. You don’t need to speculate.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: The prohibition really deals with the origin of the universe and the purpose of life. Every sober person eventually ponders these questions. Most likely the religion they inherited from the family will not provide satisfactory answers. The other option is to speculate, to try to guess. According to shastra, authorized scripture that is the Vedas, this path is very dangerous.
Friend1: How can it be harmful to question important issues like those?
Friend2: Because you will never reach the proper conclusion through speculation alone. It is simply not possible. The wrong conclusion here means continued rebirth. So in a future life you will have to ponder the same issues. If you are not in a human species, there won’t be enough brainpower to even ask the questions. That is why the human birth is so auspicious. Athato brahma-jijnasa.
Friend1: “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman, the spiritual energy.”
Friend2: Yes, and the inquiries should be made to an authority figure. I understand that there are cheaters everywhere and that the risks are many, but that doesn’t mean the effort is guaranteed to be fruitless. Learn what existed in the beginning, how time is infinite in both directions, and the purpose of the body provided by nature. Learn the essence of identity and what kind of work matches its qualities.
Friend1: These issues really are too complicated to understand through guessing.
Friend2: You may approach the shadow. You may skirt around the edges, but only the original teacher, the adi-guru, who passes on the information in a chain of teachers, can provide the clear explanation.
From descending teachers chain,
Knowledge of real truth to gain.
That foggy picture clearing,
Away from speculation steering.
Only possible way to know,
That to authority figure to go.
Since Almighty beyond the mind,
Through Vedas way to find.