This is one of the talks from my recent visit to the USA – it is in Austin, Texas.
Many people do not have a very clear concept of what is material and what is spiritual which is the subject I was asked to speak on at an Austin Kirtan event.
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, I was asked to speak on the difference between the material energy and spiritual energy. One of the big challenges that people face in taking up a spiritual practice is to be able to come to a very clear understanding of the distinction between that which is material and that which is spiritual. If you ask most people what they mean by the terms, you’ll find that the majority of people actually don’t have that much clarity on these terms. The Vedas offer some extraordinary insights that offer great clarity on this subject.
In the world today you ask people, most people will recognize, “Yeah, it’s good to be more spiritual. It’s not good to be materialistic,” but when you ask them what it means to be more spiritual, they will often reference things like, “Oh, I’m a spiritual person, I’m more drawn to nature. I like a peaceful, natural environment,” without understanding that a natural environment is also material. And that’s kind of like, “What?! That sort of rocked my world a little bit. But I thought if I really liked all of this kind of stuff, and I’m into rainbows and butterflies that I’m going to be a really spiritual person.” And the answer is, “Well, not necessarily,” or perhaps even, “Maybe not!”
The material energy is described in a number of different ways, but fundamentally it will have specific characteristics. One is that it goes through cycles of creation and destruction. It is constantly in change, constantly changing; whereas that which is spiritual is eternal, and is not subject to change. And right there it’s kind of like, “Well…” you know, when I start trying to think what that means to me and how it relates to me, and my life, and what I’m thinking.
One of the foundational understandings of a genuine spiritual life is to come to this appreciation that the body which I am currently inhabiting is actually not me. It actually has nothing to do with me. I will be in it for some time. It will go through all this transformation. It will age—if I get to hang out on it long enough—it will significantly deteriorate, and I will be forced to leave it. That’s what they call death.
And so, it’s sort of like the idea, the understanding, the cultivation of the understanding that myself, I, the person who is experiencing what I call life, that I am an eternal spiritual being. I am an eternal spiritual being. This body does not define who I actually am. That idea is like—
You know, we live in a time where we have this horrible magnification of bad ideas through social media. The word “selfie” for me is a totally crap word, because you can take a picture of your body at any moment in its journey of growth and development, deterioration, up to death, but that’s not really a picture of you. And it’s all part of this culture where we are encouraged to try to find acceptance, to consider whether we are lovable, to consider whether we are attractive, to consider what is the possibility of actually experiencing a deep and real love—if I tie all of those things to the body that I am wearing around, this is a formula for unhappiness. It cannot produce permanent, deeply peaceful and satisfying happiness. It can only have the opposite effect.
A lot of people when they think of spirit, the word spirit, or spiritual, they think of it as being an energy, which is okay, but they equate energy with something that is inherently impersonal. The truth of the matter (and this is absolutely mindboggling, if you can actually come to deeply appreciate it), the body by nature is impersonal. When the living being leaves the body and it falls over, we see its actual nature. The personality that’s manifest through the body is because of the presence of an eternal spiritual being, and one of the characteristics of an eternal spiritual being is that we are inherently persons. The Sanskrit word for this is purusa. Purusa literally means a person, the one who is able to enjoy, the one who is able to experience.
And the most extraordinary thing is, that by some amazing mechanism, when the living being finds themselves embodied, within a body, the potency and the power of you, the spiritual being, is so great that it is, you lend life, you lend the symptoms of life, you lend an apparent personality to the body, to the external body. And most people, though, in this world, will go through their entire life, absolutely and completely absorbed in the wrong idea that the body is who I am. All the way up to the end of the life in this body people will be lost in this erroneous conclusion, and they will not have come to discover their true self, to experience the truth and the wonderful reality of my eternal spiritual nature.
The symptom of the presence of the spiritual energy is life. The material energy does not have the characteristic of life. Life is a symptom. Anywhere where you see life, it is because of the presence of the spiritual energy, the energy of the living being. It is called the jiva atma. Atma means the self, and the jiva refers to life and to living. The reality is that anything that we look at where we can see some symptom of life is because of the presence of this spiritual energy.
The process of a spiritual journey, or a spiritual life, is the cultivation of a very deep and wonderful, not just understanding, but a realization of who I truly am, who I actually am, the living being within this body. There is factually nothing more liberating, there is nothing more powerful in terms of its ability to free you from experiencing emptiness, loneliness, unhappiness, states of depression, fearfulness, finding no home although we desire a home; there is nothing that will actually address these things in the same way that the realization of my spiritual identity, who I am as a spiritual being, and the effect that that will have on my life. That will transform, not only the way I look at myself and where I seek happiness, where I seek a home, where I seek love, where I seek fulfillment; it will radically affect how I look upon all other living beings, and it will radically impact how I look upon this world.
Is this easy to grasp? Does anybody have a problem with it? We can handle this okay?
Part of the discovery, and to become more intimately connected with the spiritual dimension, with the spiritual being, my true inner being, part of that experience will be that I come to recognize that many of my desires and pursuits in life are actually coming from a spiritual source, but they are being mis—due to misidentification, we head into really bad directions.
I’ll give you an example: Every single living being desires happiness. Right, or not? Do you know anybody that’s really happy about being on a bummer, they aspire to be deeply lost in unhappiness and on a bummer? No. We desire happiness. And the reason that we desire happiness is, it is because it is part of our inherent spiritual nature. The spirit soul itself naturally exists in a state of limitless happiness. And because that is part of our deeper and eternal spiritual nature—We’ve kind of lost the plot. We’re so caught up in this external garment of the body, and the mind, which also covers us, and then we think, “Okay, yeah, I want to—” We have this perpetual desire for happiness. And so, we approach things in a very limited way. I just try to stimulate my body and my mind. I feed it things. I listen to things that are all trippy and I like. I like to look at things that stimulate my sight. I like to feel nice, gentle things, caressing my body. I’m just kind of like constantly directing the search for happiness toward this external garment, this vehicle. And because of this, we suffer terribly from spiritual malnutrition. We feed our bodies, but we don’t feed the soul, if I can put it that way.
And it doesn’t matter how stimulating things can be, how extraordinary the experience can be, it never touches me in the core of my being. Even at the moment when I’m lost in some intense sensual experience, I’m like, “Aaahaha,” but then as soon as that moment passes, again I’m in that lonely place. I’m in that unfulfilled place. I’m in that space where I’m looking for more meaning and purpose and a greater form of happiness that’s actually lasting, that doesn’t just reach a peak and then dies. I desire it so much because it is part of my eternal spiritual nature.
The other great driver is the desire for love, to both love and to be loved. This is actually probably more powerful than the desire for happiness. But once again, we seek to fulfill what is actually a spiritual need and desire with limited material personalities, in a limited and temporary world. And so while we may have nice relationships, we may even feel that, “Yes I actually love someone, and they love me,” at the same time I have the experience that this is not completely fulfilling. There’s got to be a higher ideal. And so, everybody loves a good love story, or a book or something, they—people like it. People are drawn to it, because we have this greater ideal that’s actually driven by a spiritual condition, a spiritual desire.
I mentioned earlier that people who may think that they have a tremendous affinity for nature, or for animals, or—that this is somehow a spiritual condition, and I said that it wasn’t. This is actually a really big subject, it’s a really big subject, but I’ll just say a little about it, just in case somebody is wondering, “What the hell is he talking about?”
There are different types of invisible forces within the world. They are categorized into three primary categories. One of them is called the mode of goodness, another one is called the mode of passion (you—don’t worry, you don’t have to learn this or anything), and the third is the mode of ignorance.
And when the people are influenced by these, which are material energies: in the mode of ignorance, one is, you see these places in the big cities where you have all these people with needles hanging out of their arms, and…they’re either taking copious amounts of drugs, and Fentanyl, and stuff, or alcohol, or prescription medication, but then they’re just like zombied out, their life is just purpose less and empty—this is what’s broadly categorized as this influence of this mode of ignorance.
In the mode of passion, people strive, to create, to become, to excel, to achieve, you know, what—you just think of like high-level athletes, or great painters, or movie directors, or actors, or musical performers, people striving for this excellence, and the business people, building all these buildings and stuff—this is considered the influence of what’s called the mode of passion.
The aspect of nature where a person becomes drawn to that which is quiet and peaceful, where one can feel a bit more settled and less disturbed by things—this is the influence of this energy known as, what’s called the mode of goodness. That is not the same as being spiritual. It just means a person is in a state where they can actually, if they decide to adopt a real spiritual practice, this becomes like a really good springboard to a deeper spiritual, an actual spiritual experience.
But this is probably—I just felt the need to mention that, don’t worry too much about it, but just because we’re discussing the subject and seeking some clarity on what is the distinction between that that is material and that which is spiritual. They are two entirely different energies.
In the very famous Bhagavad-Gita, there are a couple of verses that describe the breakdown and nature of the of material energy, and then in the succeeding verse it says,
“… and besides these, [meaning the varieties of different material energy] there is another superior energy which comprises the living entities, who are exploiting the resources of the material, or inferior nature.”
So this is the material condition, where you have an eternal, glorious perfect, wonderful, lovable spiritual entity who’s adopted a false identity, adopted the body, in which I’m currently inhabiting, and the mind that’s running all over the place, as being me. The living being is the one making it so the body manifests symptoms of life, and the mind becomes highly active, but in that process I become lost, I become lost as to who I truly am.
If you can begin a spiritual journey, a journey of cultivating understanding, and a newer and better way of looking at the world, looking at others, looking at myself, it will automatically mean that the qualities that actually we are drawn to—we are drawn to kindness, we are drawn towards gentleness, we are drawn towards the humble souls. The arrogant, the loud, the violent, that’s not attractive, not really. But my heart becomes drawn to that which is innocent, towards kindness, towards gentleness, towards humility. If I actually cultivate a genuine spiritual life, not only will I increasingly be drawn to that type of person or those types of things, I will tend to manifest these things also, which will greatly help restore a wonderful balance and a gentleness to my life.
Apart from cultivating some understanding of spiritual truth, the greatest thing that you can do to bring about a transformation, a realization—you know what the word realization means? Anybody want to have a shot? What is realization?
Audience: To realize what is real.
Acharya das: Fundamentally yes, it is where something goes from being an idea to a reality that you actually experience. This is realization. It became a realized experience. So, the things that we are talking about are not just mental ideas. Many people can sort of like consider it, and go,“Yeah, yeah, I can buy into that. Yeah, I kind of get that, I sort of see that.” But our everyday life doesn’t necessarily change very much.
If we want transformation, if we want a revolution of the heart, where everything is completely switched 180°, for the better, there is nothing more potent and powerful as the use of spiritual sound, as a form of meditation. And doing it in a community together (this is called sanga) this is particularly potent in this time in which we live. So being able to not only cultivate a personal and private practice of using spiritual sound in a meditation, I’ll use the word habit, something that is done every day for at least a certain amount of time, not only that, but then to come together and engage as a group in kirtan, sankirtan, it is powerfully transformative, and can change your heart and purify your mind and gift you with deep understanding and spiritual vision, and begin to awaken this increasingly wonderful perception of my actual spiritual identity.
So that’s what’s been offered, and I think that’s about all I got for now. Anybody have a question? Or if you like, if you like after, I was going to lead a meditation kirtan, and perhaps afterward, if anybody has a question, you want to hang or, then, yeah? We can do it for a little bit? Yeah. Just so we don’t hold everybody else up who may have other things they’re committed to doing. So we can do that after the kirtan.
Thank you all very, very much for giving me the opportunity to share these wonderful truths. So, we will chant a little.
So, I will begin with the Haribol Nitai Gaur Mantra, Haribol Nitai Gaur mantra and then maybe Gopala Govinda Rama mantra, and see how it’s going, we might progress into Mahamantra.