All Glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
Every so often in life we have a special experience, one that sort of validates one’s existence, well for me it was listening to this exchange in the heart of China.
We are in a small town of Mianyang, just outside the big city of Chengdu, the provincial capital. Today was a most interesting experience for me. Many things I had read about Buddhism from the books of Srila Prabhupad and the statements of Gurudev but I have never heard them directly. There was a very large Buddhist temple just outside of town and we went on a walk there.
As you can see from the photos it is a very impressive structure. Most of the heritage of China was destroyed in the cultural revolution of the Communists in the 1960’s. This current temple is only 25 years old. There the main temple room is the 10,000 sitting Buddhas, all of them are gold plated at a cost of 20 million yuan. At present value that is 2.5 million dollars. They would not let us in there without security present.
As you see from the photos the big gold guys are called Rohan, So Damodar maharaj asked the Monk who are these guys? He said that they are liberated souls. Damodar maharaj asked him what their activities are. He replied that their activities are to come to this world in order to save the conditioned souls. Damodar maharaj asked, “what kind of liberation is that? That is a type of bondage. Actually the liberated souls don’t even know there is a material world." The monk became excited. The monk said that they are not bound to come but they have natural compassion towards the suffering of the souls in this world, then they come to this world to take the souls towards liberation. Damodar maharaj, becoming more excited than him replied, “They are recruiting the souls into the same kind of bondage that they are in, this is not liberation to return constantly to the world, what type of liberation is this?" The monk said, “No. They become Buddha. Everyone can become Buddha. Through helping other jivas they can become Buddha. Their job is to remove the miseries of this world. Then this world will be full of happiness." Damodara Maharaja answered, “How can they free others if they are not free themselves."
They could not answer these questions and in a few minutes they returned with the local star, his name was Yong Ji which means eternal auspiciousness. He was quite impressive. His robe was full of patchwork. They explained that he was doing many austerities here.
DM: What is the goal of your austerities?
Yong Ji: My goal is to understand the self.
DM: What are the activities of the self?
Yong Ji: Nothing. The soul is inert. It does not do anything.
DM: This is foolishness. If we have activities now in the conditioned stage then how can you think that the soul will have no activities in the liberated stage? It is simply like a mango in the unripe stage, in the ripened stage the mango still exists, only it has matured, so in the conditioned stage activities are there, and in the stage of perfection they are pure and perfect. The activities and attachment the soul experiences in this world are a shadow of the real activities of the soul in liberation. Like looking at your reflection in the mirror, everything is there only it is oppositely reflected, but even the reflection’s existence depends on the original form, but in both there is existence also.
Yong Ji: But all activities in this world are illusion. It is like the meeting we are having now, before we met it did not exist, and after will leave each other. Therefore the relationship in this world come from nothing. They are illusionary. All is illusionary.
DM: If all is illusionary then everything you are saying is also illusionary. You are also illusionary. This temple is illusionary and your goal and practice are also illusionary.
Yong Ji: Yes. (everyone including him was laughing)
DM: But we say that all is not false just temporary. This material creation is a shadow or a reflection, and a reflection has to be reflecting something real. We say that all is not false or illusionary, just temporary, and this material creation is a shadow or reflection of the real substance. Something does not come from nothing. Like the shadow of my hand has it’s source from the real hand above it. So this world is real because it comes from the ultimate reality, the source of everything. You are endeavoring for the neutral position the inertness of liberation. You are endeavoring for non-existence. Buddha called this the middle path.
Yong Ji: The middle path is also false. It’s just a convenient way to free the self attachment. Buddha had one false attachment, and that was compassion to the souls of this world.
DM: But his compassion is also illusionary because according to you the souls are false and their suffering is also false, not only that the Buddha is also false. Your goal and your practice are illusionary. Why are you following falsehood? Your so called mercy is also false. Your Buddha is false, your middle way is illusionary.
Yong Ji: Yes. (everyone laughed again.)
DM: Where does illusion come from? It cannot exist independently. Falsity can not come from non existence. Illusion has an existence, otherwise why are we captured by it? Then tell me where does illusion come from?
Yong Ji: It comes from the fantasy of the mind. DM: Whatever it may be it comes from somewhere. Where does the mind come from? Actually even illusion comes from Lord Krishna. It has a source. It is also real. In Bhagavad Git? Krishna says,
“daivi hy es guna-mayi mama may duratyayaEven illusion depends of the Lord for her existence. The jiva is very minute and the illusory power is very great. Who will give liberation to the jiva?
mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etan taranti te."
Yong ji: He will liberate Himself from bondage by His own efforts.
DM: He cannot liberate himself because he is bound. Therefore the jiva cannot break the bondage of illusion by his own efforts. Also you said that your practice is illusionary, how can you attain freedom from illusion by an illusionary effort? Only when he surrenders unto the Lord then Lord Krishna will releases him.
Yong ji: I see.
DM: Yes you are chasing an illusion. Like a dog chasing his tail.
Yong Ji: Yes that’s what I’m doing. (everyone was laughing).
DM: So you should give up this illusionary process and come to reality. Krishna is real, the devotees are real, our path of chanting the holy names is real, our goal is real, and attachment to Krishna is real. If you are really merciful how can you give a falsity to the people? We also give mercy to the people by the chanting of harinama, by this we will achieve love for Krishna.
Yong Ji: Yes. But. The compassion of Buddha is deeper then love.
DM: But you said that He is illusionary and his love is also illusionary.
Yong Ji: Oh yes that’s right. Illusion here means attachment. Attachment is illusionary
DM: Therefore we are saying detach yourself from illusion and attach yourself to reality. You yourself said that Nirvana is an illusion. Why are you attached to it and your illusionary practice. Therefore you are suffering. You should detach yourself from this illusion you are experiencing called Buddhism. The devotees also say attachment is suffering and the happiness in this world is like a dream, but the wakened state is not a dream, it must be real. Your state of non-existence is a dream, it does not exist. We say the same thing as you. Buddhism is false, but some people become angry when we explain the same thing that you say.
Yong ji: (really laughing, but looking a bit worried at the same time) I see.
DM: Instead you should attach yourself to reality. Satyam param dhimahi. You should meditate on the reality. Sri Krishna is the reality. We believe in Buddha, He is one of the ten avatars, but we do not believe His teachings. At that time in India the Brahmin community was misleading the common people towards animal sacrifice. People are naturally inclined towards meat eating and sexual enjoyment. Therefore in order to regulate people and gradually bring them to the stage of renunciation the scriptures have give them provision for meat eating by ritualistic slaughter and sexual enjoyment is regulated through marriage, but it is not the intention of the scriptures to encourage people in this. Misunderstanding the statements and intentions of the scriptures, people were blindly slaughtering animals in the name of the Vedas. Therefore Buddha said the Vedas are false, he decried the Vedas, and encouraged all to follow Him in renouncing the Vedas. He removed all signs of brahminical culture from His body, like sikha (the tuff of hair grown on the back of the head) and upanayan (sacred thread worn by the higher castes as a sign of acceptance of a spiritual master), and created His own theories. What did he say? “Nir-vana? Vana means forest, and nir-vana indicates being out of the forest, but simply being out of the forest of this material world doesn’t mean that we are home.
Buddha, like Sankaracharya spoke up to liberation, but what happened after this, he remained silent. Buddha cheated the common people, but that cheating is good for us, just like a bad child is punished by being sent to the corner facing the wall without any activity. But when the child is well behaved then he can perform good activities. This is what you are doing. Not doing bad thing but also not doing good thing.
Yong ji: Yes this is what I am doing in my meditation, I am not doing good or bad, I am sitting alone in my room, (all laughed); but this is only words. The reality of the inner part of the self is beyond description.
DM: Yes the Vedas also say this avacaniya. Krishna is beyond description. In the end even the Vedas are silent and say “Neti neti? or He is not completely like this or completely like that. One devotee also says like this. “I described Krishna’s complexion to be like a sapphire but after seeing Him the devotee lamented, “How could I compare the beautiful luster of Krishna to be like a useless sapphire. How could I compare Him His toe nails to be like moonstones, or His form to be like cupid? He is more attractive than millions of cupids?
Yong ji: But attachment to anything is the cause of suffering.
DM: Yes, but attachment to Krishna is not illusionary. Therefore even though Krishna is unlimited, inconceivable, still He can be captured and controlled by pure devotion.
Yong Ji: Yes if he is unlimited He can do it.
DM: In Bhagavad Gita Krishna says,
“mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena bhakti-yogena sevate /Which means that the activities of attachment to Krishna begins at the end of liberation, when one is free from the bondage of illusion. Therefore His service is not material in the least. Even liberated souls are attracted to Him. You are endeavoring for what we call brahma-jyoti. In Bhagavad Gita Krishna says, Brahmano hi pratistaham? That brahma jyoti, or nirvana which is the mid point between liberation and material existence is nothing else expect His bodily effulgence. In another Upanishad it has been stated:
sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate"
“hiranmayena patrenaThe yogis pray to Krishna for Him to remove that effulgence so they may see His smiling face. Therefore after liberation the soul takes a form and serves Krishna with full attachment. ‘Mukti api lilanam' After liberation the souls achieves a pure spiritual form and serves the form of the Lord after entering His past-times. You should give up the neutral position. Here everything is temporary full of ignorance and full of suffering but the spiritual world is the opposite, sac-cid-ananda, eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. Actually a soul like you is very rare. Who can understand this world is full of material suffering and no real happiness? Most people are like two legged animals, just no horn and or tail.
tat tvam pushann apavrnu
Yong Ji: Yes (laughing) it is really true.
DM: You should read Bhagavad gita, you would get so much out of it. Actually what you are practicing in India is called mayvad. The philosophy of illusion. Buddhism does not exist in India anymore. It was pushed out by the devotees because it is full of contradictions, that is how it came to the borders of India like to Tibet, China, Burma. Thailand and Korea etc.
Yong Ji: Yes I know. (nodding head) It has come to me. But we are not controlled by any god.
DM: How can you say you are not controlled? What foolishness? Can you stop your hair growing? What about your beard? How is your food digesting? Old age, you cannot stop it. You are controlled at every step.
Yong Ji: But this is illusion.
DM: But then you are controlled by illusion.
Yong Ji: Oh Yes, okay. (everyone was laughing cause that was the only English he knew)
DM: Therefore the process for the age of Kali Yuga has been given by the scriptures. The chanting of the Holy Name is the only process.
Yong Ji: All religions should be in harmony. God appeared in China as Confucius and Taoism, in the west as Christianity and as Mohammad in the east. God is one, all religions should be equal.
DM: This is not possible. All are not the same, and they cannot be one in all respects. You worship the philosophy of illusion, and we are devotees of the absolute Truth. The mother and the prostitute are not the same.
Yong Ji: They are both women and a mother can also become prostitute. This is duality.
DM: After crossing all Dualities, the devotee surrenders to Krishna. The mother and the prostitute are not the same in all respects although both are women, there is a difference. You are missing the point. All of these religions have some fault. You yourself said that a liberated soul has perfect discrimination. Therefore we should see the faults and rectify them. If we cannot find the truth in this faulty religion then we should abandon it and embrace the truth.
Then Madhukar brahmacari sang sweetly the Maha-mantra, surrounded by the 10,000 gold Buddhas.
hare krishna, hare krishna, krishna krishna, hare hare
hare rama, hare rama, rama rama, hare hare.
We invited him to come for Nrsimha’s appearance day to learn about love and affection, and we will give Him a copy of our Chinese Bhagavat Gita that we borrowed off Iskcon, but printed in our own name, no copyright laws in China.
On a personal note, this exchange is not trying to glorify myself, because I cannot take any credit for a single statement made above, as all the ideas have come from the mouths of the superior devotees, but for me it was the first time to really meet a practicing mayavadi who was convinced in the philosophy of illusion. Often, in my ignorance, I used to think that the statements made by our Gurudeva about Buddhism were maybe a little exaggerated, just to prove a point, but today I learnt that really Mayavada and Buddhism is the same philosophy, under different names. For more information you can read our Param Gurudeva’s Mayavada Jivani (the life History of Mayavada).
The arguments given by our authorities are really a thunder bolt for them, and I felt today for the first time their infallibility and completeness. I thank Sri Krishna, Guru and Gauranga for this mercy.
atmaramas ca munayoAll different varieties of atmaramas [those who take pleasure in atma or spirit self], especially those established on the path of self-realization, though freed from all kinds of material bondage, desire to render unalloyed devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead. This means that the Lord possesses transcendental qualities and therefore can attract everyone, including liberated souls.
nirgrantha apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukii bhaktim
Sri Rupa-pada has said in His Sri nama Astakam:
nikhila-sruti-mauli-ratna-mala"O Hari-nama! O name of Sri Krishna The tips of the toes of Your lotus feet are constantly being worshiped by the glowing radiance emanating from the string of gems known as the Upanisads, the crown jewels of all the Vedas. You are eternally adored by liberated souls such as Närada and Sukadeva. O Hari-nama! I take complete shelter of You."
ayi mukta-kulair upasyamanah
paritas tvam hari-nama samsrayami
Yours in the service of the vaisnavas