Lecture 4: Key Themes in the Upanishadic Vision (Part 2)
Course: Introduction to Hinduism
Did you have a question too? Earlier or are you OK? It wasn't a time for Indians to speak. I know you're from the non-Hindu ...
Question: ? I'm learning from you. We have our own individual will. Unless we realise that we are Brahman, we cannot be all of this wheel?
Question: So is that ...
So we have a union with Brahman.
Question: So unless we kept that motif we cannot be united with the Brahman.
That's right. It cannot.
Question: So when we are released from the cycle of life we become Atman or Brahman.
Yes, you become Brahman.
Question: And if we are in the cycle of life, what we are?
Right now, you're under a massive illusion. You're under ... you're in what they call a deja. You're under ignorance. You are in ignorance. You believe you have individual separate existence.
Question: So that cannot be Atman.
Atman is the essence that you have that's beneath all of this. But it's underneath all the layers of personality and individual consciousness and how your knowledge of self. It's underneath all of that.
Question: If the meat-eater become a tiger or lion or what, the Brahman he don't eat meat and ??? the vegetables at all. So what will the ???
Well, that's the reason the Brahmans claim that they are Brahmans – because they have refrained from eating meat. And, of course, there are Brahmans who do eat meat. You probably know that. But ... they ignore all that. They take off the ??? and they eat the meat and then ??? That's right. But according to their theology, the reason a Sudra's a Sudra is because they have violated these dietary laws. According to this whole process, which we haven't gotten to yet, with the next thing, the next line of Moksa, but only a Brahman male can escape the wheel of Samsara. According to this – I now have given you kind of the basic, standard Brahminical Hindu – this is Brahminical Hinduism I'm giving you. Now, there are going to be dissent movements that challenge the role of the Brahmans to say all this. And there's other ways this will be permeated, but the basic – what's so amazing is that no one really argues with the basic problem of Samsara, Karma, escape and Moksa. But the Brahminical view is that until you – unless and until you become a Brahman male – you cannot escape the wheel of Samsara. The only way to be reborn as a Brahman male is through careful adherence to your Dharma. So even if you are a Sudra, and you're called to clean toilets, you should clean toilets with all your heart. OK, this is the way they reinforce ethical action and obedience in their society. You should be a good toilet cleaner. This is why in the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna comes down, has a conversation with Arjuna. Arjuna is feeling reluctance about killing his uncles and his cousins. They're facing this battle – whole thing open on a field of battle – and Arjuna says: "I don't want to go over there and kill them, because that's my family over there." What does Krishna say to him? "You're a Kshatriya. Because you're a Kshatriya means you're a warrior. You've been made to be a warrior. The only way to fulfil your Dharma is to be a warrior. You must kill or you cannot escape." He says: "Besides, all those – those are bodies over there. All you'll do is killing bodies. You can't kill the Atman. They're going to be migrated. You can't kill them. The real them is the Atman. So go over there and slay them." So finally he says: "OK. I will." That's a very crude summary of the Bhagavad-Gita – but that's essentially the storyline of it. So you'll be reading that. But it's all about your Dharma. You keep your Dharma – do your duty. It improves your karma. And you can be released from the wheel of Samsara. That's why the Brahmans are trying to control it so that they are at the top of this scheme and they're about to jump off. Everybody else has got to serve them and do what they say so they can get to their position.
Question: On the wheel, what is a day and a night? Is it one full cycle, or ...?
A day and a night is the kalpa – which is this 8,000,000 years. This is – a day is 4,000,000; a night is 4,000,000. But this is only a minor dissolution. The full day and night – I mean, the whole thing together – 1000 cycles is like the big day of Brahman. And 1000 cycles is a big night. So everything has a minor and a major. So the individual dissolutions, the minor dissolutions, and the big mega-dissolution. It's both of these referred to as day and nights.
Question: All right. And then the other periods, the ???? Do any of the writings have like stories of happenings during those periods or ...
No. The stories will reveal them – revealed here – but they often refer to events and things that happen in these stages. They do. So they often talk about the great krta age when this warrior did this; this warrior did that. O yeah, they have all kinds of stories about what happened in different, earlier yugas – but not in different, not in the previous pre this dissolution. So this is all one of these cycles, right. So, if we'll say you're in the 888th cycle of this, you're still talking about the 888th cycle of this – not what happened on the 887th. So once you do that you get into Sruti. So Smrti only occurs in this cycle. And so Sruti is about things that transcend all of this. So in that sense, that's different.
OK, yes. I told you that they were prepared to answer questions. So everybody's on board and we go on. So it's all right.
Question: ??? the mega-dissolution ??? dissolutions, what happens to the people who stay ????
Well, that's what I was saying that the ... – again you don't have this individual Atman, but it is true that the Atman – all the potentiality of the universe – lies latent inside a Brahman. So when it's readmitted out, which I realise is speaking as saguna Brahman because that's how they describe it, but when it's readmitted out, then all of that Atman is once again re-embodied. Now there's no individual consciousness according to this particular Brahminical school we're looking at. Now, later on, there's other schools. One of these schools I mentioned – I mentioned these seven major schools. We're looking at Vedanta. One of these is called Samkhya – s-a-m-k-h-y-a – which does believe that your individual consciousness continues in all of this. So in that case, they would have the horrible realisation at some point you would be conscious of being readmitted and starting all over again after, what is it, what did I say – 315 quadrillion years.
OK let's move down to Maya and see if we can make a little progress on some of the questions you may have in relation to Maya. Maya is a rather illusory term – or allusive term I should say. I shouldn't say illusory because that's part of the problem with this term. And I have here "problems in the history, usage and translation of the term". It is very, very difficult indeed to translate this word into English. I used to use a textbook in this class by David Kingsley who flat-out defines Maya as "illusion or appearance". I simply do not believe that is a proper translation of the term and I don't know what to do about it because most textbooks usually go kind of in that direction.
And it is certainly in that direction, there are certain Indian thinkers who do go that way. But actually most of the Indian scholars who today say that Maya is illusory or is illusion are scholars who studied Hinduism in the West – then go back to India.
So if you go back to the early Vedic period and you read the Vedas, there's no question that Maya and in those period – nobody does this point – in the early period the word Maya does not have anything to do with illusion. So in the earliest period Maya refers to the ability of the gods to create the world essentially – and give it an appearance that they choose. So it's the power to create a real universe. It isn't talking about a world that's illusory or whatever, but it does have the possibility that the gods can make it appear in various ways.
John Brockington in his well-known book, Sacred Thread – which is another textbook than the one that you have – and he says, and I quote: "The view of the world as illusory has never been actually true of Hinduism as a whole, but only a few small schools of philosophical thought." So, what happens is the word Maya eventually becomes used in the sense of the ability of the gods to conceal how things really are. Now, once you get into the idea of concealment, you start getting closer to the idea of illusion. If you're saying that, you know, you see this table as a table, but really it's something else, then you're getting closer to the idea of illusion. What we definitely have in the ???? to the Upanishads is the idea that the phenomenal world – the phenomenal world means the world of our senses – cannot be identified with nirguna Brahman. That we can definitely say in the Upanishads.
Question: Can you say that one more time?
That if the world of our senses, the phenomenal world, cannot be identified with nirguna Brahman. So that is to say, we cannot rely upon our sense to give us accurate information about god or ultimate reality. And therefore questions begin to be raised in a knock-on effect, if we cannot speak authoritatively about god who is nirguna or ultimate reality, then can we speak with authority about anything? Can we talk about the world with a certainty? Can we talk about our bodies with a certainty? How can we be certain about anything that we see around us if we cannot have any certain knowledge about God?
This is actually, if you're interested in philosophy, this is a very critical insight into the role of ontology in philosophical thought. Because if you abandon a basic ontology – like that god is the basis of everything – and so once you deny that paradigm, that great ontological paradigm of god, it rattles all the way to the top, because then you have to doubt everything. There's no foundation for anything.
Now essentially what happens in Hinduism: Can anything less than ultimately real still be real? This begins to be addressed and I have this actually as one of your reflection points in the area of contingent being number 4. I have here: "If God is personal relation, does that limit God because it makes the creation necessary and not really contingent?" Let me explain what I mean by that. If you say that only Brahman is real – if you say Brahman is ultimate reality – and we say that the world is not Brahman, then this is essentially what we have in the equation. Brahman equals ultimate reality. Therefore the world is not Brahman. That means the world is not ultimate reality. Now, if the world is not ultimate reality, does that mean that the world equals illusion? Now that is the jump that I don't think one can necessarily make. Maybe you can make it. Maybe it's true. But you cannot absolutely say it's true. What you simply are saying is the world is not ultimate reality. So could the world equal a certain level of reality – little "r" – but just not big "r" reality? If that's true then the world has a contingent existence – that is a dependent existence – whereas ultimate reality, of course, has necessary existence – non-contingent existence. So this is kind of the line along which this whole discussion occurs really.
Maya is somewhere in this point. And it's difficult to actually nail this down. In fact, what I argue in my book on this subject is that if you actually – I went through all of the Upanishads and all of the major philosophers who comment on the Upanishads at the point about Maya – and what I basically discovered was that the philosophers, when they talk about the world, they obviously use metaphors. And these metaphors point to this reality of Maya. So what they end up doing is they – and we'll look at this more later on when we get to the philosophers – but essentially you have this term Maya and they use different metaphors to describe Maya. One of these metaphors talks about illusion. But it's only one of a whole range of metaphors which points to this reality. So if you go over here and camp out on this particular metaphor only you get yourself in trouble, basically. So you actually have to look at all of the different categories of metaphors to get a full picture of this mystery.
They have this principle in India in hermeneutics that they call – there's a term for it – it's a, the Sanskrit term, it's basically, it's called a arundhati. Now arundhati means – it's the name of a star in the Great Bear constellation. It's a very dim – what we call the Big Dipper – it's a very dim star and the average person cannot find it. So what they do is, when you take a child outside, and you say: "Can you see Arundhati?" And the child, of course, says: "No. I can't see it." So the master, who really knows the stars, says: "Well, can you see that bright star there?" "Yeah. I can see that." "Can you see that bright star out there?" "Yeah. I see that." "How about that bright star there?" "I see that." "OK. Arundhati is right in the middle of those three stars." "O yeah. I think now I see it." So the idea is that you use brighter stars to point to dimmer stars.
By implication, in Hindu philosophy, whenever they say something is this, something is that, something is the other, they're actually talking about kind of the surrounding stars. And they're pointing to the mystery that it transcends all of them. So because of that, it's difficult because Hindus don't talk in propositional terms like we do – like this is this, this is that. It's always kind of like pointing to something you can't quite put your finger on. So this has happened with the word Maya.
So Maya – I'm defining here as a false way of looking at the world due to ignorance. We're not really going to say more than that. It could be more dramatic. And it could be that the world is illusory. But it is at least a false way of looking at the world – that is, attributing to the world ultimate reality when in fact it does not have ultimate reality. So due to our ignorance and our superimposition – is a term they love to use, adhyasa they call it – superimposition of reality upon it. Then your senses can think that it has a reality that it does not actually have.
So, if you go outside and you see a tree and say to yourself: "Well, that's a tree." And you believe that that tree has reality. OK, the Hindus are saying essentially that's the basic problem with the human race is that we have imposed on our entire universe of existence all kinds of ideas of reality. So we think we have individual existence, for example. We think we have self. And so part of our problem is that we've got to break free from that. So as long as you keep reaffirming your self, you're further encrusting yourself into karma. You're embedded in the wheel of Samsara. And you'll be reborn and reborn and reborn. You've got to break out of this and see reality as it really is – or see ultimate reality as it really is. And that is a big part of this discussion.
So you have avidya which means ignorance of the true nature of reality. Adhyasa means superimposition of a false view of reality on that which we encounter with our senses. And finally, when it comes to the world, people often ask: "Well, if the world is not really real, then why in the world was it created in the first place? Why did Isvara create it?" And again, the philosophers, the Upanishads, regularly invoke the term lila. Lila means sport or play. God didn't need to create the universe. He just wanted it for the fun of it. He wanted to just do it. So he did it.
They give the analogy of a king who goes out into the forest to hunt tigers. It's a good Indian analogy. Then the king goes out and he loves to go into the forest to hunt tigers. It's not because he needs to eat any meat because all his needs are met. He's the king. They bring him all the meat he wants. But he enjoys hunting. In the same way, the creation of the world is lila – it's sport, it's play. It's something that he just wanted to do.
So this creates, you know, obviously another weakness in the ontology of the universe because in the Christian worldview instils the whole world with great cosmic purpose. You know, that we're involved in a great drama that really matters. In Hinduism, there is no fundamental cause that undergirds this great human experience. And so you have lila – it's not just a minor doctrine. It's very prevalent in the writings of Hindu writers. And therefore it creates less sense of purpose. And I think in that's what he'll say that India's life-denying. What they mean by that is simply that you don't have an undergirding purpose even though some people are very successful and wealthy and some people are poor and impoverished. The whole structure of the Hindu religion is based on a purposeless universe. And that becomes a problematic for the whole worldview in terms of how you instil people with drive and meaning to their life and existence. Yes.
Question: Do the gods ??? on the ??? or kalpa? Are they totally removed from that or are they somehow intertwined with it?
All the popular gods of Hinduism are a part of this Maya. They're part of this less than ultimately real. At least according to the Brahminical, you know, stream we're looking at right now. The Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva, Hanuman, you know, Ganesha – all of these gods are part of the illusion. The only breaks you have from this begin to be dissent movements that begin to argue for a personalised description of god. So for example, with the Hare Krishna movement, which you've heard about. The Krishna movement wants to argue that you have the popular gods, which is saguna Brahman. You get above that – you have nirguna Brahman. But nirguna Brahman actually is a reflection of the supreme personality of god which is Krishna. So Krishna is the supreme reality – absolute reality – for the Hare Krishna, for the whole Ishkan movement. So they would argue that Krishna is not in the same category as Rama, for example, or Vishnu, or whoever. So those are some different ways it's talked about in other movements. But according to Advedic kind of standard mainstream Hinduism, all of the gods, including Krishna, are all part of the illusion and have no ultimate reality.
Quesetion: When the wheel starts over, do you have completely different gods or do you have the same gods reappearing again or ...?
It's a good question and actually Shankara addresses that question in his philosophy. That question's asked him by one of his students and he says that Brahma has the ability to, if he chooses to, to reiminate the same gods that have the same form, including the Vedic gods of Indara and all those if he chooses to. So there's no – in that sense it doesn't have to be haphazard. That shows some purpose which I've actually pointed that out in my own writings. I kind of think that it's very interesting that he argues that point because to me, to be consistent, you would think that he would have answered that there's no correlation between the gods between the big kalpas. But he doesn't say that. He says that if god chose to there could be a reimanation of the same god back again. So that – you think about the implications of that. We won't actually get into that much in this class – that is, kind of implications. But interesting.
Question: How can you use Maya in a sentence? Like, what is its function?
Maya functions in a mountain.. You should view Maya as like a huge cloud that's over your body. And this cloud is affecting the way you see things. And so Maya keeps you from seeing what it ultimately real. So you're being captured in this cloud of confusion/illusion, if you want to go that way. It basically says: "You think the world has certain existences that it doesn't actually have." And so you push great stock in the reality of the world.
By the way, this same big debate goes on in Buddhism. So this, all of this struggle, is fundamental to both Hindu and Buddhist worldviews, as different as they are. They are all struggling with the same thing – the reality of the world, the nature of the world, the nature of ultimate reality. All of this is very important in the discussions of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Question: So now different things ??? above that cloud? So ...
O you mean the Brahmin? I'm sorry.
Question: Is that how they see and can teach and come up with concepts?
Right. Well, they believe there are ways that can get above the cloud. And, for example, if you had a particular school of thought that said: "Through mediation and through studying under this particular Brahman and releasing certain kinds of mantric power, then you can be lifted above this and see things clearly. Yeah. It's not like getting in a plane, but yeah.
Question: How can you trust that, if you can't trust your senses? How can you trust that you have the keys then to understanding?
Again, we're talking about how do you deal with this in terms of ... you know, how can you trust it? Obviously, from my point of view as a Christian, the whole thing is untrustworthy at its fundamental level because there's no … This is a big sham by the Brahmans really. This whole thing is a big confidence scheme to keep six ... I mean, it's 8% of all of India, but it's only 4.5% of Hindus. So you don't 4.5% of the Hindu world controls everything. That's a lot of power. So the Brahmans have the ability not only to maintain control but to keep it. And the way they keep control is to keep everybody fighting against somebody else. They're great at dividing everybody. So they claim that they have special knowledge. The society, through putting them in positions of power, reinforces that. They must know something that we don't know. And they're claiming they have the power over this. So the only way to break out of your ignorance is to play their game. And their game says: you stay under us. You learn from us. We are the teachers in this society. And that's the way it works. And that's maybe a little cynical but that's essentially the way it works.
Question: ??? the way you speak of it is as though the Brahman realises what they've done ???
Well, the Brahmans are very well aware of their power in India and they're protective of the power. There's no question that many, many Brahmans sincerely believe all this and believe that they really do have these insights and they believe that they really are – when they die, they're going to go into Moksa. They believe that. There is no question there are sincere Brahmans out there by the millions. But the question is whether or not is there any substantial reason to believe that the Brahmans are teaching what is true. And just obviously, as a Christian, I'm totally unconvinced. If you ever have read any of the works of Vishamunga Wadi – he was just speaking up here recently – came to PB and spoke a few weeks ago and he'll be back, I think, next semester. But Vishamunga Wadi has spent much of his life – he's an acclaimed Indian writer and he's written many, many books in a way only an Indian can do – exposing the incredible abuses of the Brahmans and how they've really have robbed the society.
I mean, it used to be, for example, that the Brahmans owned all of the land. When India became a, even a nation, the government seized all of this land from the Brahmans and then to give it to other people to help redistribute wealth. And the Brahmans have never really gotten over that. And they're very upset about that. They're desperate to reclaim their control. They had, I mean, I could say the control they have today in 2003 compared to what they had in, you know, in 1903 or 1803 or all the back, is dramatically diminished. So the Brahmans are like an animal in a corner. I mean, everything today is about extolling the power of the Dalits, finding ways to empower the people – you know, give them seats in Congress, give them place in the university. All of these things threaten the Brahmans. So, they're upset and that's partly why when I go to India, you know, there's so much animosity by these Brahmans against Christians because they see everybody's a threat to them right now. And the fact that Christians are being converted in large numbers is a threat to them. And they are losing power they've had for centuries. And this does not apply to north-east where you don't have this structure in north-east but, for the vast majority of India, this is a huge reality, especially in the north where we work.
Question: What's the power structure like in the southern part of India? There's a lot of Christian down there, but I mean as far as the Hindus that are all low-caste. You know, because they're farther south. Are there Brahmans that go down there to give orders and stuff like that?
Yeah, there are Brahmans now ... there are Brahmans all over the whole country. And so they ... when the Aryans came, migrated down, they eventually migrated all the way down to the very tip of India. So the migrations continued. So the fact that the Dravidians were pushed, the original Dravidians were pushed, means you do have a lot of low-caste Indians or non-caste in south India, but they're also all over India. So because of population changes you've got Brahmans everywhere. You have outcasts everywhere. Though there's no problem with that. There's plenty of Brahmans to go around. Yes.
Question: There's no anger for any reality or truth, so would you say, within Hinduism, the Brahmans become the standard for truth and reality – their interpretation of ....
Well, Brahman is the anchor of reality in the Hindu ontology cause the Buddhist eventual will break from that. But the Hindus essentially believe that, at the base of all of the universe, is Brahman. You're right though, the Brahmans mediate that. And because they mediate that, then they control things, because they're the only access to Brahman is to follow in their scheme.
Now you realise the Upanishads represents the meditations of the Brahmans. All right. I mean, it's pretty obvious, I guess. These are Brahmans meditating. The original Aryans are Kshatriyas. So then, the Aryans were the warriors. So you have a process, we don't know how it happened, where the priestly class eventually, once the warriors became settled, dominated themselves over the rest of the class. And the warriors are still upper caste, but essentially the society's controlled by a relatively small group of priests. So the Upanishads represents the main corpus of the meditations of Brahmans. So naturally it's going to feed into their whole power structure. We're going to look as we develop this how major dissent things happened to challenge this – both within Hinduism and eventually breaking free like Buddhism and Jainism. But right now we're trying to keep this at least main picture and then we can look at how things break from it.
The sixth, and I guess we'll close with this one, is the word for karma – which literally means act or deed, act or deed. This is the immutable law of cause and effect. It's one of the great eternal principles in the eastern world. And this is just as important in Buddhism as in Hinduism. Everybody regards it alike as immutable. It is the ultimate sowing and reaping. What you sow is what you reap. Now, it's interesting that we in Christianity, we have a concept of sowing and reaping. What you sow is what you reap. This is actually even more profound than that, in the sense that, it's not only what you sow that you reap. What you sow, you alone reap if you ??? the distinction. What you sow, you alone reap. So, your actions will affect your karma and your rebirth. Your actions can in no way influence or affect someone else. This is especially true all the way through to the 19th century and the missionaries arrive in India. And into the 19th and 20th century Hindus began to address ethical considerations in a way that is really alien to the Brahminical system.
So, Hindus would say, for example, if I'm, OK, I'm married to Julie. We'll say every Friday when I get paid by the seminary, I go immediately with my cheque, cash a cheque, and I drink myself to oblivion every weekend with alcohol. I crawl home and collapse on the floor. I've gambled my money away. My children are destitute. My wife is in suffering and pain. OK. In the karmic world of karma, there is no relationship whatsoever between my suffering and my wife or children's suffering. So, the idea that my alcoholism, my gambling, or whatever, is causing my, vicariously, my wife and children to suffer is absolutely impossible with karma. That would say: What you sow, someone else reaps. And that's impossible in Hinduism. What you sow, you alone reap.
So we have a concept of sowing and reaping that's individual and corporate. So we believe Adam's sin – that has corporate realities for all of us. Of course, it's true. You sin, you have consequences. But it has consequences for your family. If someone in this school were to go and do some horrible deed, it would affect all of us. That is a mentality that is largely absent from the Hindu mind, apart from later influences.
So karma states that every action is the effect of a cause and it is in turn the cause of an effect. So everything you do either further embeds you on the wheel of Samsara or helps to liberate you from the bonds of Samsara in ignorance and superimposition. So, whatever you are doing, it's because of your previous karma. And all of the acts that you're doing now, creates more karma.
One of the famous stories along this line is when the pupil comes to the master and he says: "Tell me, why is it that some people are rich, some are poor? Why are some Brahmans, some Sudras? Why are some kings, some slaves? Why are some wealthy, some poor?" All these different things – rich, poor, fat, skinny, and all this. And the guy responds and says: "Well, tell me: why is a tree different from a bush? Why is a bush different from a flower? Why is a flower different from grass? Why do we have differences in creation?" And the person says: "Well because of seeds." Brava says: "Seed of an oak tree will produce an oak. The seed of a thorny briar will produce a briar." And the guy says: "Well, that's how it is with people. They are different seeds. Different seeds for different people. Your karma is your seed." So, if you have bad karma – based on the laws of Manu and other writings, you do things you shouldn't do, you break the Brahminical codes essentially – then you'll be reborn back in a negative ... Your seed changes. Your seed becomes corrupted. And you migrate in another existence.
You simply have ... you could view karma as moral baggage. This is moral baggage that you carry with you wherever you go from one lifetime to the next. You, by virtue of your life, you're working off your bad karma in this lifetime. But a karma can accumulate. Because it will say you have a lifespan of this long. You go into the life with x amount of karma. OK. During the course of this life, you're working off that karma. OK. You are born as a Sudra. So maybe you are satisfying some of that karmic debt. But the real question is: you're also maybe accumulating more karmic debt based on things that you do in this life. So when you get to the end of your life, the real question is: Have you worked off more than you've gained? Because when you get a new life, you don't start with a new slate. You start with the accumulated karma that's been encrusted over, it could be, thousands of lifetimes. So there are people that are in very – from the Brahminical point of view – very dire situations. Whereas the fact that you're a Brahman male means that you've already passed through all of that and you are at the point where you're ready to, once you satisfy the karma of this lifetime, you're going to be released.
There are even Brahmans who say that I have already satisfied all my karma – and therefore it is impossible for me to accumulate any bad karma at this point. There are many Brahmans who teach ... this is the ultimate Brahminical trick. They'll say: "OK, at this point, I have satisfied all my karma of previous lifetimes. I have satisfied all the karma I've accumulated in this lifetime to this point. All my baggage is taken care of. And so, because of that, I'm now ready. Once I die, I will go into Moksa." So, what they do is, they say because of that then no more ... karma can no longer touch me anymore. So I can now eat meat. I can have sex with whomever I want to have sex with. I can do all kinds of things that are really, really horrible karma because now I'm free from all of that. This comes out especially in the Puranas – this literature of the Puranas you have a lot of this that comes out where the Brahmans will do all kinds of horrible misdeeds and they'll be caught in the act by somebody. And they will explain it by saying: O I'm free from ??? karma. They can't touch me anymore.
Even Krishna, I hate to say it, the exquisite Krishna, he says this. The most famous story is when Krishna goes down to the riverbank one day. And these women are bathing. Indian women are famous for bathing every day. That's where the Western world first learned about daily bathing was from the Indians, by the way. Europeans didn't practise daily bathing. So, they ... he go down to the riverbank and there are the ladies bathing. So he immediately gathered all their clothes. And he goes up in a tree and he hides up there and they, of course, come out of the banks to get their clothes. Their clothes are gone. He goes: "Ha! Ha! Ha! I have your clothes." And so the women are like this, naturally covering their naked bodies and they're saying: "This is terrible. This is mean. You shouldn't do this." And he says: "I have your clothes. Come and get them." And they say, you know, they're trying to get to where he is and he says: "O you must show your honour, your allegiance to me, as Krishna and so you must put your hands on your head." And so they eventually have to do this to get their clothes back. But according to Krishna, this experience of seeing all the naked ladies in no way affects him because he is free from this and all of this just goes right past him. He's free from these desires. Even Krishna. Yes.
Question: So would that be bad karma for the women even though Krishna was the one that ... is that bad karma for the women ...
There's nothing that Krishna could do that cause the woman to have an increase or decrease in their karma. But everything a woman or man or anybody else does creates, has the potential to create, karma. And karma, of course, embeds you in Samsara. So if, for example, a woman exposes herself to a man – I don't even know, I'm not sure if there's any laws on that or not – but we'll just say hypothetically, that a woman exposing herself naked to a man, creates bad karma. Then that would happen to this woman, regardless of the cause of it. Because they don't have this cause and effect, you know, kind of thing that would be present traditional Western ethics.
We will come back to this next time – the topic, three different kinds of karma. And we'll finish up all ten of these next class period, Lord willing.