44. Vedic Culture As a Platform For Spiritual Progress

Air stairs

“The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become transcendental to these three modes. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the self “. Bhagavad Gita 2.45

So there is a Vedic path of gradual progress through the modes, from ignorance to passion and from passion to goodness. And finally there is a decisive last step of rising above the modes of material nature.

This is similar to how a passenger who is boarding the plane gradually climbs up the air stairs and when he has entered the plane the stairs pull back, it is no longer required, now another force will take him higher.

Similarly, there is a progress in the purely spiritual transcendental state, when a person at once takes up the highest principles of yoga practice without any trouble or deviation, and there is also a progress up to this transcendental state.

Thus the Vedas describe the three modes as a ladder and different rituals, rules and culture that help a person to rise from a low state to a higher one. And depending on the level of a person, he is given the appropriate instructions.

There are a lot of instructions in the Vedas. And it is impossible to give the same instruction to everyone and expect it will have the same effect.

Patient_talking

For this reason, in one’s spiritual life an ongoing relationship with the teacher plays an imperative role, he could determine the nature of a disciple and give appropriate and timely advice. The teacher or Guru is like a doctor. The doctor looks at a patient, his condition, and despite the fact that there are some common ways of treatment, he adapts them in accordance with the individual patient’s conditions.

Similarly, the teacher sees the nature of the student, understanding to what degree he is conditioned or liberated, and gives him the knowledge accordingly –  how to apply this knowledge in individual circumstances.

How does one progress in the modes?

The progress from the mode of ignorance to the mode of passion takes place without our direct participation, because those who are in the mode of ignorance, for example, plants or animals, can not progress consciously, it’s impossible to give them any guidance whatsoever, their intelligence is too limited but the senses are strong. Therefore, the senses will dominate over the intelligence and a living creature will move in the direction of his senses.

animals

That is, at this level the progress from ignorance to passion goes more or less automatically, through the slow process of experiencing the reactions of accumulated past karma. A living entity, the atman, has to live in the ignorant bodies like the trees, the animals or the birds etc., and when he’s suffered enough in these lower forms of life, he is given an opportunity to obtain a human body and a human body means the mode of passion or creativity.

Animals usually do not create or build anything, everything has been arranged for them, maximum what they can create is perhaps a little hole in the ground, but they can’t build something fundamental, they do not have enough passion for that.

creative

Once in the human body, the living entity gets a lot of creative energy or passion that can be directed at anything – from procreation to the development of technological progress, etc. And this mode of passion, if not consciously cultured by the Vedas, can lead to various negative consequences.

weapons

Now in Kali Yuga, we have a lot of different resources and opportunities, but life becomes scary, because people do not properly use these resources and capabilities – they create terrible weapons or orchestrate man-made disasters. All this is a manifestation of uncontrolled and irresistible human passion, which act without the real knowledge or the Vedas. The Vedas are given to people rather than animals because human passion must be controlled by knowledge.

Another words, the Vedas are those instructions that adds a cultural aspect to the creative energy of man, that helps him to go higher.

Thus, a person with a help of knowledge may gradually rise from passion to goodness. And this process is quite complicated. Even for people who are engaged in spiritual practices and have a direct contact with the spiritual energy, it is quite difficult to overcome the influence of passion at the level of their attachments and the habits for years.

But for an ordinary person who lives in a Vedic society, this eradication of passion can take many lifetimes, gradually rising to the mode of goodness.

And this is the purpose of the Vedic culture, the apex of which is Moksha, or liberation, that is, freedom from all material conditionings and constraints that are forced on the living entity.

freedom

By nature the soul is a free being and God is a free being, therefore freedom is the highest value. When there is freedom, there is a possibility to choose. Freedom means the ability to choose. And while the living being is not free, he cannot choose properly and intelligently.

And what do we have to choose from?       How to keep developing!

In our freedom we can choose the Supreme Personality of Godhead – Krishna or we can choose emptiness or perhaps we can choose other versions of spirituality that also exist in the spiritual world in a huge variety – the way people eat, dress, dance or sing.

338

Nowadays people contaminated by passion and ignorance, define freedom as freedom to sin or freedom to satisfy one’s uncontrollable lust and greed. But real freedom is an ability to act properly, for the personal benefit and the benefit of the others.

And when such people get to learn about the Vedic culture, they wonder why there are so many restrictions. They think that the Vedic culture puts so many limitations. But the purpose of the Vedic culture is to lead to freedom and remove all restrictions!

People who don’t understand the meaning of this culture, wonder why we can’t do this or that, why we can’t drink this and eat that, indulge in this or that activity. And they can’t understand why there are so many restrictions. So where is the freedom?  And restrictions scare people, because they are accustomed to FREEDOM TO SIN, or the activity that disturbs the natural balance of life.

Yes, actually the Vedic culture puts some restrictions, but for what reason?  For the reason to balance the responsibilities and rights of people. Nowadays the stress is mainly placed on the human rights.

“I have my right and don’t tell me what to do!”

On the other hand people have a very vague idea of their responsibilities. And they do not understand why restrictions are needed. They think that it is someone’s hypocrisy.

The fact is this path has a certain harmony between what you can do and what you have to do. If the human rights are emphasised but the duties are not, people will simply be degrading.

Another words, people within the discipline framework become more goal oriented. How can a person be disciplined if no one demands anything from him?

And now the question is how to apply it all in relation to the highest goal?

If a person does not know anything about a higher purpose, then all these rules will appear to him to be very strange at best.

Sometimes people misunderstand and misapply the Vedic culture, which they recently have got familiar with, considering it as something outdated, irrelevant and very difficult to follow.

They say, “Well, I’ve tried it and all my material life went south.”

And the most common mistake that people make after having got acquainted with the Vedic culture, is that they want to immediately jump from the mode of passion to the transcendence. They want to get on the plane without the air stairs, so to speak.

But when do people not require air stairs any longer? When they reached the last top stair!

fall down

Similarly If the person has not reached the highest level and is trying to throw away the ladder, then what will happen?   He will fall down the stairs and won’t reach the goal.

And then people say that Vedic culture is not working. It works great! One needs to understand how to walk the stairs correctly. It is an auxiliary tool, but if a person is careless he may fall down.

Modern people usually do not fully understand it. There is not enough depth of understanding in the mode of passion.

The Vedic culture is required to ensure human progress. All the Vedas emanate from God, and when a person follows all these rules and restrictions laid out in the Vedas, he gets closer to God.

God or Krishna is the all knowing and all loving Person, therefore in any Vedic ritual there is a share of His love and knowledge. And when people follow these rituals, the love and knowledge get manifest in them. Such is the trick.

There are only two types of culture – the Vedic one or the Post-Vedic culture with elements of the Vedic culture and the contemporary culture.

Modern culture is the culture of the mind and senses, that is, the culture of comfort. How to create a comfort for the senses and mind. Modern culture does not attempt for spiritual progress.

This culture is closely associated with science, and science is generally atheistic. Science does not provide any knowledge of the eternity of the soul and the prospects for a relationship with God. This culture is based on the immediate needs, how to arrange everything in such a way that it would be nice and comfortable right now, and we don’t care what happens then.

And phenomenon of this culture is that people as spiritual entities begin to degrade, and become frustrated. They’ve got everything but it’s all meaningless and has no intrinsic value.

And when people begin to practice their spiritual life, they start doing it in the context of the contemporary culture where they have taken shelter of long ago.

Modern culture is the culture of people who do not follow the Vedic path, they have no purpose of spiritual development. Modern culture may appear polite and friendly, but in fact it is very superficial. It doesn’t offer anything substantial.

The contemporary culture, saturated as we are with consumerism, obsession with commercialism, fame, transient superficial pleasures that provide little nutrition – all of it pledge happiness but deliver so little and nonetheless this pursuit of happiness is a must for the majority of people heavily conditioned by all these promises.

And those who got accustomed to it, find it very comfortable. And people become more and more lazy and lethargic, unable to control their senses, turning into talking animals.

They speak and think, but are on the short leash of their senses like pet talking animals. The exulted thoughts rarely visit them, because it is not really encouraged nor supported by the social system aimed at satisfying the primitive lower needs of people.

However the Vedic culture is the ladder – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

dharma, artha, kama moksa

Dharma is the level of law, duties and voluntary restrictions. Artha is the economy, a way to maintain and generate resources. Kama is a way to enjoy these resources in their gross and subtle forms. And Moksha is a natural loss of interest to material activities after having tried everything and boldly moving up to different life standards.

All people are at different levels of their development. And if someone is already on the last step of the ladder, the other is at the beginning of the ladder, and the third somewhere in the middle, it is clear that they must be given completely different instructions despite the common goal.

Vedic culture means that Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are in balance.

At the level of Dharma the moral values and a sense of duty are instilled – how to behave correctly in accordance with the highest goal. Morality is the foundation of everything.

There’s God, and we’re His servants, there are seniors and they are representatives of God. Why, for example, in ancient cultures was a cult of respect and worship of elders?

Because the seniors are not the ones whose bodies are older, ideally the seniors are God’s representatives: mother, father, teacher –  are morally decent people. Therefore they should be naturally respected accordingly.

In contrast, one of the biggest problems of modern society is the lack of respect for elders. Of course it has its reasons. The seniors had become immoral people and that has destroyed the faith.

And when a person becomes deeply moral, he is given knowledge and skills that he can properly use. If a person is immoral, it is likely he will misuse the knowledge and the skills.

With the right foundation of life ( dharma ), the stable permanent prosperity ( Artha ) comes. And when there’s Artha, there’s a possibility to satisfy the senses (Kama).  If there is no Kama, a person remains unsatisfied.

Of course when people hear the word “Kama”, they think “Kama Sutra” or something like that. However in reality it’s way broader, Kama means that a person is satisfied with beautiful aesthetic forms, delicious food, a real beautiful music etc.

And real Kama is not possible without one’s control of the senses and the mind. Because the real Kama is the ability to experience the deep subtle feelings and emotions.

A person in the lowest modes of ignorance and passion, in principle, is unable to experience the real Kama. Such a person is capable to experience the primitive superficial pleasures only, like animals, jumping from one sense object to the other, without even having properly tasted it.

The real Kama is perceived by the controlled purified senses only when one is capable to dive deep into the fine exulted music or literature and feel very refined sublime tastes. Therefore, Kama is accessible only to highly cultured people.

The purpose of Kama in a Vedic society is to ennoble the senses to the max, because all Vedic arts have a spiritual connotation. And such ennobled and purified senses will be easily reconnected with the source of the senses – Lord Shri Krishna.

All elements of the Vedic culture are in harmony. If there is no understanding of Moksha or liberation, what is the use to follow the Dharma? When a person gets liberated, he gets freedom from karma and the choice to return to the original spiritual reality. It only seems that real freedom is a freedom to sin.

Of course the choice to return to the original spiritual reality or to follow the highest principles of bhakti one can make before without going naturally through all the progressive stages of culture, but it will be extremely difficult because these intermediate stages – Dharma, Artha and Kama will trouble a person. It is an observable fact.

For example, if there’s no Kama a person will be dissatisfied and an unhappy person can not be a harmonious member of society, he will a be troublesome individual. And a dissatisfied person can not think about the Moksha just like a hungry man does not perceive the situation adequately.

In this way if a person ignores the gradual Vedic culture, one automatically accepts the contemporary culture that is not conducive for spiritual progress whatsoever. Yes, it facilitates the enjoyment of the senses and the mind, but to be honest, the goal of this culture is different.

On the contrary the Vedic culture firstly instills the moral values and then provides the knowledge and skills. Therefore, everything has its proper time in life. The Vedic system is the system of upbringing and education, and upbringing or instilling the intrinsic values comes first, and only then the education which is knowledge and skills.

The knowledge and skills are given in high school, college or university, but values are formed in a family.

If a person is trying to progress spiritually in a context of the contemporary culture it will be much harder to do than if one tried to adopt the elements of the Vedic culture.

So, if a person is morally mature enough, situated in the mode of goodness and is internally ready to accept the direct path of the transcendent spiritual practice of bhakti yoga, then it should be done.

But if the person has not yet overcome one’s bad inclinations and attachments, then one should take up a more mild and moderate path of spiritual development in the context of Vedic culture and progress step by step.

options

The Vedas provide a wide range of options for everyone. For example, in the Bhagavad Gita 12.8 – 12.12 these options are described as follows:

Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.

My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you can not fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.

If you can not practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.

If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness of Me, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.

If you can not take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.

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