“Birth, death, old age and diseases affect this material body, but not the spiritual body. There is no birth, death, old age and disease for the spiritual body, so one who attains a spiritual body, becomes one of the associates of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and engages in eternal devotional service, is really liberated. Aham brahmasmi: I am spirit. It is said that one should understand that he is Brahman-spirit soul.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.29 Purport)
Friend1: Obviously, someone who reads the works of the bhakti school of Vedanta understands that there is a difference between body and spirit.
Friend2: I will take issue with something. Bhakti and Vedanta are identical.
Friend1: But you know what I mean.
Friend2: I do not.
Friend1: Sometimes Vedanta, which translates to “the conclusion of knowledge,” focuses on the impersonal side of the Divine. Well, not so much focus. They simply don’t address the personal nature.
Friend2: Why not?
Friend1: Perhaps the teacher does not know. No one has taught them. Maybe they do know and they vehemently deny it. Subtle atheism.
Friend2: There you go. That’s why it’s important to say that bhakti and Vedanta are really the same thing. Another word for bhakti is yoga. Linking the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. Vedanta study is also known as jnana. The results of yoga and jnana are the same.
साङ्ख्य-योगौ पृथग् बालाः
प्रवदन्ति न पण्डिताः
एकम् अप्य् आस्थितः सम्यग्
उभयोर् विन्दते फलम्
sāṅkhya-yogau pṛthag bālāḥ
pravadanti na paṇḍitāḥ
ekam apy āsthitaḥ samyag
ubhayor vindate phalam
“Only the ignorant speak of karma-yoga and devotional service as being different from the analytical study of the material world [sankhya]. Those who are actually learned say that he who applies himself well to one of these paths achieves the results of both.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.4)
Friend1: Yoga is the key term. It implies two components. Union, but what are we joining? There is the individual. That is me. Then there is the Supreme. That is the concept of God.
Friend2: Yes. You cannot join to nothing. Two distinct entities.
Friend1: Aham brahmasmi is one of the aphorisms to learn. I am Brahman. I am spirit. Particularly, I am not the body.
Friend2: Which is maya, or the illusory material energy.
Friend1: The identification with illusion begins from the time of birth. I wanted to ask you. Which flawed conception is worse? Thinking that I am the body or completely denying the personal side of God?
Friend2: Explain that second one to me.
Friend1: It’s what we touched on before. It acknowledges that body is maya, but at the same time it doesn’t consider there to be anything beyond. I am not body. I am really nothing. Something like nirvana is the goal. Merge into a stateless existence.
Friend2: Or Mayavada, which considers everything in this world to be maya. Even if the Divine should descend, He becomes subject to the same illusion.
Friend1: Right. Which one is worse?
Friend2: Honestly, who cares? That is like saying one person thinks two plus two equals five and another person thinks that two plus two equals six. They are both wrong.
Friend1: Okay, but isn’t one person closer to the truth? Isn’t it easier to correct one side versus the other?
Friend2: You will get differing opinions on this. The side of nothingness might be more dangerous since they have a bit of knowledge. They may even quote from Bhagavad-gita and the Upanishads. At least the side with bodily identification can have their minds opened about the true nature of living.
Friend1: That is where I wanted to go with this. Thank you.
Friend2: I will reiterate, both conceptions are flawed. Better to find the right way. Shri Krishna explains that studying the impersonal side is difficult and advancement takes longer. Better to worship directly.
With flawed bodily conception,
But also another direction.
That spirit exists but nothing at source,
Everything merging again in course.
As to which is worse the debate,
No point since neither straight.
Better to avoid impersonal side,
Where bumpier, longer ride.