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The secrets of various gods and goddesses || Acharya Prashant, on Vedanta (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
23 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): What is this invocation to the gods – Indra, Pūṣā, Bṛhaspati – and there are several other gods as well, the Upanishads talk of. If the Upanishads are monistic, if the Truth is one, what are these gods?

The Upanishads are known for their austere monism. Right? From where do the gods come then? Brahma Vidya and these innumerable gods – how are they dotting the same? Who are they? These are the questions you must ask.

If the Upanishads are all about Brahm and Ātman and they address the aham, then only these three should be appearing and reappearing in the texts – Brahm, Ātman , aham. With some kind of smattering of man (मन्, mind), indriya – all these things too can be present but where are these gods coming from?

These gods represent the various faces of Prakṛti as seen by the ego. The ego is in the middle of Prakṛti . The ego is purusha. Going by Sankhya Yog, purusha and Prakṛti constitute a duality. Going by the Bhagavad Gita purusha is just another kind of Prakṛti .

Jada(जड़, unconscious) and chetan are not separāte, but a continuity. Do you see the beauty in this? Purusha is chetan (conscious), Prakṛti is supposed to be jada(जड़, unconscious). Sankhya Yog says they are different. Purusha is the watcher, Prakṛti is the watched – seer and the scene.

Śrīkṛṣṇa says something a little beyond that. He says, “ No; Prakṛti itself watches itself. Purusha is Prakṛti but if you want to differentiate it from insentient matter, you can call it ParāPrakṛti .” Now that's great because that which you call as conscious, actually arises from that which is unconscious, the two are inexorably linked. Look at your own body. Can you have consciousness without matter?

Can you be conscious without the brain? Right? These two go together; it's a continuum. Sometimes matter is just matter and there are times when the matter starts exhibiting consciousness.

Sometimes the soil is just the soil and then comes a point when the soil becomes the plant. So how do you say that these two are different dimensions? How can you say that jada(unconscious) and chetan( conscious) and purusha and Prakṛti are dimensionally different? No; they are not. They are continuity.

You remain jada, jada, jada and then slowly you turn chetan. So there is that which you call as unconscious; there is that which you call as conscious and then there is that which you call as super conscious or beyond consciousness; and the three are all actually a continuity and that's such great news for human beings.

The insentient body consisting of stuff like minerals, bones, blood gives rise to consciousness. Sentience arising from insentience and this sentience that arises from this insentience is incomplete as human consciousness is incomplete consciousness. This incomplete consciousness can rise to become complete, so it's a continuum.

From the insentient to the sentient to the supra-sentient; from the body arises consciousness and this consciousness has the potential to reach the sky. Are you getting it? From the soil arises the man and this man has a potential to reach the sky. You get the metaphor; right? (We are not talking of spacecrafts.) So it's a continuum.

Now you know why the soil itself can be worshiped as the ultimate because it's a continuum; it's a same thing. From the soil comes man and man can turn divine. So you can worship the soil as well. You can say that the divine is hidden in the soil particle( kan kan me bhagawan). Are you getting it? So what are the gods? If you can worship soil, you can also worship the wind. The plant requires wind probably as much as it requires soil. Right? Man requires air almost as much as he requires soil.

We say man arises from soil and then man can reach the sky; you could also say man arises from the air and can reach( soil) . So if soil is to be worshiped, then water too is to be worshiped. These are gods. You see why they are worshiped? Do you understand this?

What is polytheism then? You have to understand: Upanishads in a way are monistic as well as polytheistic. Now that's a strange combination – One Brahm, millions of gods. One Brahm, millions of gods.

Everything in Prakṛti is worthy of worship because all of it has the potential to be That. And as far as I am concerned – the ego, the purusha – I will require Prakṛti to be at its most favorable to me if I am to reach the sky.

How am I to reach the sky? By using Prakṛti , so I worship. I say, “ Rivers, kindly be kind to me.” Not because the river is the ultimate thing but because, unless the river blesses me, I will not reach the sky. Do you get this?

The drop of water has the potential to attain utmost consciousness. Tell me where does your consciousness come from? Obviously no soul enters the mother's womb anywhere from outside. Doctors, researchers are trying to pinpoint a day or a week during pregnancy, at which point they can confidently label the fetus to be conscious.

And part of their motive is to figure out a day or a week before which abortions can be safely and conscientiously allowed (not consciously), conscientiously allowed without the guilt of feeling like a murderer.

You can say, “ You know, before the nth week the fetus had no consciousness, so it is alright to kill it; it is just a bit of flesh having no consciousness.” This is foolhardy. It is always conscious; you cannot arbitrarily draw a line somewhere.

If you want to kill, go ahead and brazenly kill. But do not say that you have killed something inanimate or unconscious. Getting it? So whether to kill or not to kill has to be decided on some other criteria. This criteria is not alright.

People laugh at Indians when they worship animals and trees and rivers and mountains and stones, and a lot of that is actually worth laughing at. I do not want to defend the insane. But it is also important to understand where all that came from.

It comes from a very rigorous philosophical understanding; it is not superstition; it is not some tribal myth being played out. It is coming from very-very analytical philosophy. We all want the Absolute; the Absolute in consciousness.

And consciousness itself seems to be coming from the unconscious. So the unconscious and the conscious are one – it's a continuum because if you will not believe the unconscious and the conscious to be one, then you will have to accept miracles. You will have to say, “ There is the material, the material, the material and suddenly it becomes conscious".

And how can that happen? Then you will have to bring in a miraculous god from somewhere. “You know, god did it. This (pointing to a towel) was there and then god decided to breathe life into it.” No; you don't have to breathe life into it. It already has all the seeds of life; else life could not have begun on this planet.

Tell me how did life begin? There were the rocks and water and soil. From where did life come? The rocks contained life in a very-very subtle form. The rocks are alive. Oh my god! That's what India has said, everything is alive; respect everything, every bit of it; it's all alive.

Obviously the level of consciousness is different. So the kind of feeling you need to have for a Krishna has to be very different from the kind of feeling you need to have for a pillar. Even if you know fully well that the pillar has all the potential to be Krishna, yet Krishna is that potential manifested and pillar is just potentially divine. Therefore if you have to step over Krishna or the pillar, you have to make a choice; the choice is clear. Even though we know that the pillar too is worth worshiping yet our respects will first go to Krishna. Are you getting it?

So that's where we stand and that's why everything in Prakṛti has to be worshiped. By worshiping Prakṛti you are just worshiping your own highest potential; nothing else.

And if you are not taking Prakṛti as the mother of consciousness, then remember that superstition will be your only recourse. You get the clear logic? If this( pointing to a towel) is not leading to life, then life has to come from some godly intervention And that's what so many people believe in. Right? That there was just the soil and god picked up soil and god told soil, ‘you come alive’ and then soil came alive. "No, no, no, you don't have to make the soil conscious; the soil is already conscious." The unconscious and conscious are a continuum. That which we call as dead is alive just as that which we call as alive is dead. So this duality is not very useful. It will not take you very far.

Think of how life sprung up from what you call as the primordial soup of amino acids. They are just amino acids. How can amino acids – chemicals – turn into something living? What does that mean? Jada(unconscious) is chetan(conscious) – Śrīkṛṣṇa knew a thing about amino acids, it seems. (Acharya Ji is smiling).

If you will go into the implications of what we have just said, you will be astounded. In fact we can have a complete course on this topic – what are the implications of knowing that the pillar is in some way my consciousness? What does that mean, for the way I live, the way I look at myself, the way I decide, the way I go about life?

If you start going into these things, you'll find them so juicy, you will forget all those modes of cheap entertainment you go after. This is so exciting in an enriching way that you will simply drop all the TV soaps and the cheap gossip and the slander and the excitement and sex – all that will just vanish from your radar. Getting it?

Remember that the absolute Truth is not available to be worshiped. You cannot call the Truth as immeasurable, infinite, unknowable and yet worship it. There are many streams of religiosity that engage in this kind of a thing.

On one hand they say, “No, the Truth can neither be seen nor be heard. You cannot even draw a picture of the Truth. You cannot even give multiple names to the Truth.” And yet they worship the Truth. You cannot do that.

Look at how inconsistent you are being when you declare in the same breath that the Truth is unknowable and yet you worship it. How can the ego worship something that is unknowable to it? The moment it will start , it will create an inner subtle image. That's the reason why in the advanced scriptures of Advait Vedanta, you find the seers declaring, ‘worship whom?’ . Go to the Avadhuta Gita and that's what is being said. They are saying, “ There is nobody left here to salute. There is nobody to worship.

I am That; how do I worship! To whom do I pay obeisance! I alone am. Or That alone is, let's say, That alone is. And That cannot even be thought of.

How do I do something with respect to That! Is it worshiping an action? Is it not? That which you cannot see, think of, talk of, how do you act with respect to that? So worship is precluded. Therefore if you are so fond of worshiping; worship Prakṛti .

Prakṛti can be worshiped; Brahm cannot be worshiped; ever found a temple dedicated to Brahman? But, yes, you can worship the water god, the sun god, the fire god, the god of the mountains, the horse god, the cow goddess. Oh, they can be worshiped; Brahman, no.

So when you say, you believe in the absolute, that very moment you should also say I will not worship anymore. And if are still worshiping, then you are bringing down the Absolute. You are pulling down the Absolute to a level where it is amenable to worship. That's what even the most staunchly monistic of world religions have been doing. It's just that they probably do not realize what they are doing. This is the way out – leave Brahm alone, worship Prakṛti .

Meditate into Brahm, worship Prakṛti and worshiping Prakṛti can be a way to meditate into Brahm – in fact the only way. Worship Prakṛti , so that you can move into Brahm. If Ātmā is the only Truth, why do we never worship Ātmā ?

You never wondered? Hmm? So that Ātmā is not brought down from its untouchable position. The moment the ego touches the Ātmā , it colors the Ātmā in its own hues. So leave Ātmā alone. We do not deserve to touch it. You can dissolve into it; cannot hold it. Getting it?

Questioner(Q): Acharya Ji, what is that mood of a saint when he says that ‘Nirbhay, Nirguṇa Guṇ Re Gaunga’? ( Nirbhay = without fear, Nirguṇa = without attributes, gaunga = sing)

AP: The mind has to sing. That attainment is so overwhelming, so overpowering that the normal functioning of the mind is totally disrupted, your usual patterns are dynamited – it's like your chains being dynamited – so there is great freedom.

What do you do with that freedom? And there will be times when you will fall deeply silent, very-very silent. There will be times when you will walk. There will be times when you will run. That exuberance will show up in all the ways and whatever ways are possible to you. Right?

Obviously this elbow cannot bend 180 degrees, so even if I realize the so-called Truth, I cannot bend it 180 degrees to display my gratitude or my joy. But this much movement is possible, so this much movement I will definitely exhibit in a celebratory way.

Are you getting it? Whatsoever I can do, whatsoever is possible to be physically, manually done by me will be used to communicate or exhibit my gratitude, my exhilaration, my euphoria everything. So what all can I do, what are the things? I can remain silent; I will remain silent. I can sit; I will sit. I can walk; I will walk. I can dance; I will dance. I can sing; I will sing as well. It's just that singing gains more prominence because singing does not usually come to us.

We are people of prose because prose is more logical, more intellectual. Singing requires you to be a bit off-center. Aren't songs, I mean good songs, a bit cranky? You cannot logically approach them. It doesn't mean that they are illogical or that they are insane or foolhardy. It says that they have transcendental fragrance in them. That starts coming to you.

Obviously that transcendence will be there even when you are just walking – plain vanilla walking, morning walk – even in that walk that transcendence will be there but it will not be very detectable because you are just walking – maybe you will know inwardly. Maybe somebody who loves you will be able to detect. Maybe somebody who has wisdom too will be able to detect.

But it will not be very pronounced; it will not be very obvious. So it is not as if saints just sing in realization; they also eat in realization; they also sleep in realization; they also fight in realization. It is just that singing is something that the others can more easily relate to as a mark of celebration, so songs have become prominent.

You'll have the book by the name ‘songs of saints’ but you will not have a book by the name ‘abuses by saints'. The thing is saints have abused as well but nobody bothers to or rather has the guts to collect all those abuses and compile them into a book.

Firstly nobody would have recorded those abuses. It's considered sacrilege – I mean, my guru has just hurled expletives at me. Do I document them? Even if they are documented what do you want? To delete them quickly, otherwise people will come to know that my guru is foul-mouthed. And so many of them are foul-mouthed.

But you can't have an assortment of the choicest abuses by saints. On and off you do get a glimpse, I mean, if you go through the scriptures, if you dig deep into them, you do get the idea that something is there.

Songs are something we can more easily resonate with, so there are those songs. See, wisdom or realization or Truth attainment or right living – these are not passive things. They show up in all your activities.

You cannot say your daily activities all belong to one dimension and Truth realization belongs to another dimension. When that thing happens – and it's a constant happening as I have always said – as that thing keeps happening, it casts it's shadows, rather it sprinkles its colors on all the myriad aspects and activities of your life. Are you getting it?

Your relationship with your dog will change as you turn spiritual. Your relationship with the jacket will change. Your relationship with your food will change. The way you sleep changes as you grow in wisdom. Are you getting it?

But those things cannot be complied – you know the way the saints slept – it would be pretty uninstructive firstly – sleeping poses of various saints; if you come upon such a book and all that it has is sketches of – now this saint used to sleep this way, that saint used to sleep that way. You will not learn much from it because whatsoever is happening there is not, as I said, very instructive. Songs, they are utterly instructive. So mankind has saved them, preserved them and passed them over generations. If you can learn, you can also learn just from the glance of the wise one. But how do you document a glance? Today probably you can.

You can click the face and the glance can be somewhat preserved but you couldn't have done that in the times of Kabir sahab. So all that you have managed to preserve is ‘Nirbhay Nirguṇa Gun Re Gaunga' .

Otherwise could you somehow preserve his glance, the glance too would have been equally illuminating; not for everybody, only for those who know how to read eyes. And such people are not very numerous. Are you getting it? You cannot remain the same person. It is as simple as that. As you grow in consciousness, you cannot remain the same person. Your songs change; your face changes; your eyes change; everything about you changes. I dare say the very bodily makeup changes; your cells change; you genetically change. The change might be minor but it does happen.

That's why liberation is also called the great death. The very body changes. The old body does not exist anymore. So that's a death, even in physical terms it's a death. Don't be too surprised if your thumb impression changes but that will put you in trouble with your bank may be – It won't change, don't worry(Acharya Ji is smiling).

It's not as gross as that. But, yes, the odor of your body can change; subtle things can change. Our faces they always carry a fundamental underlying expression. Even if you are totally unexpressive – let's say during your sleep – still you carry an expression and that expression is unique for each particular person. Your stock expression changes.

There is an underlying expression for each person and it's unique for each person and on top of that underlying expression do we cry and laugh and smile and grin and grimace. We may do anything but all that is on top of the underlying expression. Right? The underlying expression itself changes. How you look when you are asleep, that changes. They say, face is the index of the mind. Face has to change. The entire book of the mind has changed, the index – how can it remain the same?

Q: Acharya Ji, we talked about praying and worshiping. So the way the worship and prayer is done in the contemporary sense nowadays, it's as if people have forgotten the reason behind the worship. You worship Prakṛti because Prakṛti enables you to reach the divine. But it has degenerated in a way that now people want to fulfill their own wishes through prayer. So for someone who has forgotten the reason for praying, can the act of praying itself somehow remind him of something which has been forgotten?

AP: May or may not happen; can't say with certainty. You go to a temple or a mosque or a church where you have a hundred others like you indulging in same bleak ignorance as you. How will that serve to remind you of the real objective of worship? It won't; or it may depending on who you come across.

Maybe the priest is special. Maybe something in the lines, verses, words you have just uttered, struck a chord within you. Can't say with certainty.

Q: On the same lines, for someone who is clear about the ultimate aim, who remembers the divine all the time, for that person, is praying helpful in any sense for keeping him constant on the path?

AP: See, somewhere there has to be sincerity. Right? Praying is like reminding yourself of your sorry state as well as your great potential. But there has to be right intent behind the reminder. Right?

You can set an alarm to wake up or you can set an alarm to not to wake up. What is the intention? There are times when setting an alarm can become just a rite, some ritual, pattern. And there is no life, no warmth in it.

You want to live the right life and you find that you often forget rightness. Therefore you remind yourself that every Monday, every Thursday I will visit the temple. Now this is one thing because the intention holds sincerity.

On the other hand you do not even have the intention to live a right life and you go to the temple twice a week; just like that; doesn't mean anything. A temple can be a great help only if you want to be helped.

If you are randomly straying into the temple. How will it help you? – You know everybody is walking to the temple; is it Tuesday today? Oh, it is Tuesday, I too will go – Now this won't help. First of all there has to be an intent or a feeling; that takes you to the temple and then the temple can be of help.

Can the temple help a dead man? There has to be consciousness. Right? If the temple could help you even without your consciousness, then temples could have helped even dead men but temples do not help dead men.

They require the support and the intent of your consciousness. You, first of all, need to want freedom or liberation or clarity and then the temple can probably help or prayers can help or worship can help or all the others things that have been created as instruments to help, they can be helpful. Firstly there has to be intent from your side, that much is clear. Without your active demand, nothing will come from that side.

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