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The first important thing we learn from Bhagavad-Gita 2.13 is that “just as the soul passes from childhood, to youth, to old age, in the same way, the soul passes to a new body at the time of death”. Most people take this to mean that after death there will be another life, which is true. But that is not all that this Bhagavad-Gita verse says. It employs two terms—yatha and tatha. Yatha means “just as” and tatha means “in the same way”. So, the transmigration of the soul is not just between lifetimes, it is within a lifetime as well. The correct understanding of the verse is “just as the soul is transmigrating from one body to another in this life, similarly, there is transmigration after death”.

The bodies are discrete states and the soul is the continuity between those states. Each body is like a point in space, and the soul is like a trajectory that connects these points. The body is not an object, and the body is not moving. Rather, the soul moves from one location to another, accepting different states. Childhood, youth, and old age are such states of the soul. If we don’t know about the soul, then we think that the body is getting older, sicker, and dying. All our modern thinking is based on the false idea of body movement and everything in the Vedic system begins by changing this idea from the motion of the body to the motion of the soul from one body to another.

The reality, however, is that nobody is able to accept that the body is not moving. People studying Vedic cosmology, for example, think that the sun globe is moving in the sky. They don’t know that the sun-soul is moving from one globe to another. Without this basic understanding, everything else is useless, because people keep drawing geometries of object motion rather than soul motion. The geometry of soul motion involves meanings (qualities) and the geometry of object of motion involves physical points (quantities). The study of alternative geometry can elevate us. But if we don’t know that the soul is moving, while the body is static, then it cannot elevate us.

The entire material universe is a collection of states, rather than objects. These states constitute a space. When space expands or contracts, or when parts of space become accessible or inaccessible, that is the motion of matter. And when the soul moves from one state to another, that is the motion of the soul. Hence, Durga—the creator of the material space—performs five activities called creation, destruction, maintenance, revelation, and hiding. No motion! Why? Because She is expanding or contracting the space, making some parts of the space accessible or inaccessible, and then maintaining that space in a certain contracted, expanded, accessible, or inaccessible state.

In this post, I will try to examine a slew of historical ideas that contravene object-motion thinking. These ideas span various traditional philosophies, the ideas in modern mathematics and physics, and the mystical experiences obtained by the practice of yoga. I will then return to the discussion of Bhagavad-Gita and Śrīmad Bhagavatam and how they describe the changing relationship between the soul and the body, while also simultaneously holding that neither matter nor soul change! We think that matter is changing, but in Vedic philosophy, it is not. Rather, the relationship between matter and soul—i.e., the position of the soul in the material space—is changing.

The Philosophy of Buddhism

Buddhists do not agree with the idea that the soul is a particle, although they agree that the body is discrete and conscious experience is continuous. Buddhists believe in transmigration, without the soul. That transmigration is like a trajectory that connects points in space, however, that trajectory is a line rather than a line created by the movement of some particle. This is called anātma-vāda in Buddhism or soulless consciousness. So, when a Buddhist talks about consciousness, he means that there is a trajectory that connects discrete points. However, the points are not moving, and the trajectory is not a byproduct of the movement of the soul. According to the Buddhists, if you remove all the points in space, and just leave trajectories, then there will be no sense of the passing of time. You can imagine flying in space which has no planets, galaxies, light, or anything else. It is just an empty space. You can be going a million miles a second, but you will feel no wind on your face, no change in scenery, and no sense of time. Time, according to the Buddhist, arises because there are things that we seem to pass by.

The Buddhist will say that there is a portion of space that is empty. You go into that space, and you stop the experience of time because there is just a trajectory but it is not passing through points—i.e., objects, people, stars, galaxies, etc. That will give you the sense of eternity, but there is no “self” that is moving from one thing to another. To go to empty space, you have to practice detachment. Basically, by withdrawing the consciousness from the world, you get a trajectory disconnected from all points. In short, if we remove the discreteness from the experience, then the continuity is already there.

One of the peculiarities of Indian languages is that negations like anātma do not mean no-self. They mean non-self. A trajectory is an individual thing, distinct from other trajectories. So, we cannot say that there is “no self”. We have to say that it is non-self, which means that there is no moving particle. Thus, a Buddhist will have no mind-body interaction problem, because he can say: The bodies are discrete points, and the mind is the continuous trajectory that connects these points. However, the trajectory can exist even if we remove all the points. It is a continuous thing already. It just appears to be passing through discrete states because we are attached to worldly experiences. If we practice detachment, then discreteness disappears.

The Philosophy of Impersonalism

In this broader context of Buddhist thinking, impersonalism appeared in India to say that there isn’t even a trajectory; there is just space, which is called Brahman. So, whatever the Buddhist calls the non-self still involves an individuality of the trajectory, and we should get rid of even that individuality. There was simply no debate about whether (a) matter is moving, because it is agreed that it is not moving, and (b) the soul is moving, because both voidism and impersonalism agree that there is no soul. Their debate was whether there is one space or an infinite number of individual trajectories.

The difference between Buddhism and impersonalism is this: Buddhism says that there are many individual conscious individual trajectories that can enter a timeless state if they stop interacting with each other. However, there is no personality, no soul, nothing that is moving from one state to another. And impersonalism says that even these individual trajectories do not exist.

Modern Ideas of Number and Geometry

We can appreciate all these distinctions through a little bit of mathematics because there are three ways to construct the idea of “space”. First, you can say that space is a collection of points. This is how most people tend to think of space at present, although it is not mathematically precise.

Second, you can say that whatever we call space is lines, and points are created by the intersection of lines; if we remove all the intersections, then there is no point, although there are still lines. You might think that this is crazy, but this is how the theory of irrational numbers is built. The number √2 for instance is defined by the intersection of lines. Once you apply this idea to irrational numbers, then you can extend it to any number. Mathematics today rests on the idea that reality is not objects or points; it comprises lines or trajectories. When the trajectories intersect, the illusion of objects is created.

Einstein employed this idea to say that there is no space or time in the classical sense of points. Rather, there are trajectories. And when these trajectories intersect, then points are created. If we remove these intersections, then we cannot define any point, and there will be no “distance” between points. So, both points and distances are imaginary constructions, and everyone can construct them differently. People struggle with these ideas because they are accustomed to thinking of the world as points, objects, moving things, temporal change. But Einstein was thinking like a Buddhist: Let’s not separate space and time, object and event, distance and duration. Let’s just use the idea that there are only trajectories, and whatever we call the “world” is an illusion created by trajectory intersection.

Intuitive Illustrations of Line Intersection

When I was a small boy, we used to have a Grundig radio at home. It was huge. I used to tune the radio to listen to Voice of America, Moscow Radio, BBC, etc. Then, one day it occurred to me: What if we are all radios, and all experience is like tuning into a radio station? You change the tuning in yourself, and you see a different reality. You don’t have to go anywhere, because everything is available right here—if we know how to tune our radio. I was already fascinated by various places in the world and would memorize Atlases. I knew all the countries, their capitals, how their flags looked like. And radio was the way to go to those places. I could go to any country by reading about it, listening about it, thinking about it. I did not need an airplane, if only the vision could become more detailed rather than abstract. Of course, I kept such flights of fancy to myself. Then many years later, I heard Srila Prabhupāda talk about Goloka’s vision as a radio transmission. Some people can see it because they know how to tune their radios. Others cannot. Then, everything came back to me and I started thinking of space and time in a new way.

The implication is that you don’t have to be “close” to anything in the classical sense. Distance is not what we think it is. Whatever we call “proximity” is just a strong interaction with something. We can call that the “intersection of trajectories”. Or, we can call it the tuning of the radio. You tune into one station, and you are “there”. If we tune into Krishna, we are with Krishna.

So, in one sense, Buddhism is a really good philosophy, and certainly much more advanced than the thinking of most people. Those who know deep problems in mathematics and physics can think in this way. Otherwise, those who are trying to escape the drudgery in their life can also think in this way. Those who like to think of the world in terms of classical ideas of distance are either not thinking about deep problems or not tired of the world’s drudgery. So, it seems real to them. The flaw in Buddhism is simply that it says: Stop tuning your radio to listen to anything. And I would rather like to tune my radio to listen to a good station. Other than that, we are perfectly aligned.

The Third Idea of Space as “Field”

Impersonalism arose in this type of context in India, and it constitutes the third way to speak about space, which advances the Buddhist idea. Recall that, under Buddhism, there are no points, objects, bodies, or motion. All this is an illusion created by the intersection of trajectories. So, impersonalism says: Yes, we accept all that, but let’s move it along to say that even trajectories are not real. Why limit it to objects, if it can be extended to trajectories?

Now, there is just space in which even individual trajectories are illusions just like points. Whatever we call objects or trajectories are simply illusions that pop out of the space and can collapse back into space, quite like bubbles emerge from the ocean and dissolve back into the ocean. Again, you might think that this is crazy, but quantum mechanics shows that particle and antiparticle pairs pop out of a “field” of energy and then dissolve back into the field. That also reifies the other claim of impersonalism that matter is dualistic or just like particles and antiparticles. Buddhism also held a similar view, and it is called Pratītyasamutpāda or “co-dependent arising”. Those co-dependent things are the particle and antiparticle pairs, and they emerge at once and then collapse back simultaneously into the quantum field.

Again, remember that we don’t actually need a space; we can replace it with a “field”. And particles, trajectories, etc. are popping out of the field and then collapsing back into that field. Since they are temporary, therefore, they are illusory. This “illusion” doesn’t mean that the world doesn’t exist. It simply means that it is not conserved or eternal. It is created and destroyed; therefore, it is less real than the field from which it is created. The thing that impersonalism could not explain, quite like quantum mechanics, is why, when, where, how, and which particles will be popping out of the field. Since we cannot predict those things, therefore, they seem to be random. Impersonalism now says: It is actually random; there is no order, purpose, or meaning in life, other than to stop this random creation and destruction.

The Position in Vaishnavism

Before you get upset with these claims, let’s understand in which sense they are correct. Whatever impersonalism calls Brahman was redefined as Lord Viṣṇu in Viśiṣṭādvaita, and as Krishna in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The creation pops out of Krishna and pops back in. It is just like a bubble that temporarily manifests in an ocean, and it is dualistic in the sense of particle-antiparticle pairs. The thing that personalists don’t agree with is the idea that this popping in and out is random. We say that it is the will of the Lord, and when He wills, then it pops out, and when He wills, it pops in again. So, there is an order in the popping in and out, and that order is the will of the Lord. That will is also not random because it is based on a certain type of qualitative personality. So, if we study the order in the world—i.e., how things are popping in and out of Brahman—then we are studying the personality of Godhead.

Again, remember that objects and trajectories are not real in the sense that most people think that points in space are real, and by their combination lines are created, and by that combination, space is created. We are way past those ideas. After rejecting the reality of points and objects, and accepting the reality of trajectories whose intersection creates points and objects in Buddhism, and then rejecting the reality of trajectories to assert the reality of a field in which the world is like a bubble in an ocean in impersonalism, we are asserting that the field that produces these bubbles is a personality.

More precisely, according to the Śrīmad Bhagavatam, the Lord divides Himself by Himself to create all the individuals. So, there are two “Himself”—the first Himself is the field that is divided, and the second Himself is the divisor or the person Who wills to divide the first Himself. You can say that the first Himself is the numerator, and the second Himself is the denominator. By that superimposing of a numerator and denominator, fractions are created, which are parts of the numerator. Those parts were previously undifferentiated inside the numerator, and after the division, they have been separated. Impersonalism insists that there is only one Himself, and personalism insists that there is a second Himself. These are just aspects of the same Himself.

The Field and the Knower of the Field

A miracle has just occurred. Now, we can get everything back that we lost previously. Here’s how. We can say that one of the fractions of the Lord is like a trajectory, and the other fraction is like points. The trajectory-like fraction is called the soul, and the point-like fraction is called the material energy.

They are described in Bhagavad-Gita as Kṣetra (material field) and Kṣetrajña (the knower of the field). How does the Kṣetrajña know the Kṣetra? Well, the Kṣetrajña moves over the Kṣetra to know it. Just like you can walk in the park, similarly, the soul is moving over the park called the material field. The park is not moving, rather, you are moving. But by that movement, you see new things every moment. And you call those things particles, properties, trajectories, etc. That’s all an illusion. The park is real, and you are real, and your walking in the park is real. Everything else is an illusion of that walk in the park.

Now, you might argue: If the soul is just a trajectory, then how is it an individual particle? And the answer is: There are two himself. One himself is like a trajectory, and the other himself is like a particle. The particle himself can bend the trajectory but he cannot stop the trajectory. The trajectory is eternal, which means the soul is eternal. However, that trajectory can be bent due to the second himself. Just like the Lord divides Himself by Himself, in the same way, the soul bends the trajectory. Our future is actually all the possible trajectories that we can take, so it is a bundle of trajectories. However, the second himself—the personality of the soul—selects one trajectory out of this bundle. By that selection, one future is chosen, and the other futures remain possibilities. That selection is like bending the trajectory—if we are so insistent on classical thinking—but it is just a selection from the bundle.

Therefore, even if the soul is liberated into the spiritual world, the bundle of trajectories remains. However, everything in the bundle is not chosen, because there is a second himself that chooses. That doesn’t mean that other trajectories from the bundle cannot be chosen; the fall is always possible.

Now, we can come back to the first important verse of Bhagavad-Gita: “just as the soul passes from childhood, to youth, to old age, in the same way, the soul passes to a new body at the time of death”. We might think that the body is moving, but it is not. The bodies are the Kṣetra or the park in which the soul is walking. The soul is the Kṣetrajña or the person walking in the park. The park is not moving. Rather, the person is walking in the park. So, childhood body is one garden in the park; youth is like a garbage dump or trash can; and old age is the sewage drain in one corner of the park. You come to the end of the walk by the sewage drain, and nature will put you back into some garden again. That discontinuity from sewage to the garden is also a walk in the park, although it is indeed a big change from the incremental and progressive encounters with the garden, garbage can, and the sewage drain.

Therefore, if we don’t understand how the soul is moving from one body to another, then we can also study the philosophy of Kṣetra and Kṣetrajña from the Bhagavad-Gita. They are saying the same thing, in different words.

The Classical Physical Conditioning

Now, let’s try to recapitulate and summarize. The theory of numbers says that points are an illusion of the intersection of lines. Relativity theory says that worldly experience is an illusion of trajectory intersection. Quantum theory says that the world is an illusion created by the popping out of particle-antiparticle pairs from a field. Buddhism says that the world doesn’t exist except when there are path intersections. Impersonalism says that even these paths are not real; only the field is real. Then, Vaishnavism says that the world is real as a combination of Kṣetra and Kṣetrajña, hence, the body is not moving although the soul is moving. After so many centuries of anti-realism in philosophy and science, there is realism in Vaishnavism. But it is not classical realism—the mundane ideas about objects and motion that most people believe in. Matter is real and eternal, but matter is not moving. This realism is better than everything else, but that doesn’t mean it is classical realism.

So, who in the right mind would insist that the body is actually moving?

Oh yes, those who believe in classical physics, which is 99.999999% of people of this world. People don’t know mathematics, physics, philosophy, or religion. The education system trains them to not think and ask questions. Society trains them to push buttons and pull levers. So, they are totally convinced that the world is working by pushing buttons and pulling levers. That is all that classical physics teaches people. It has conditioned everyone to think in a way that is contrary to mathematics, physics, philosophy, and religion.

Confirmation by Yoga Practice

All these false ideas are easily refuted by every yoga practice if we practice them properly. The problem is that people don’t practice yoga.

In the aśtānga-yoga system, the practitioner first stills the body via āsana. The Pātāñjali Yoga Sutra describes a single āsana called the sukha-āsana or quite simply “a comfortable posture” to still the body. The body is considered stilled if it is perfectly relaxed, and you stop feeling pains and aches. Then, they still their breath through prāṇayāma. Then they still their senses, which is called pratyāhāra. Then they still their mind, which is called dhārana. Then they concentrate their consciousness on one thing which is called dhyāna. When that consciousness is perfectly stilled, then, it is called samādhi.

The aśtānga-yoga system is about stopping the movement of consciousness. And it is achieved through the progressive steps of stopping the movement of the body, the senses, the mind, and finally the movement of consciousness. The understanding is that if we can stop the movement of consciousness, then we can stop the aging of the body because aging is nothing but the soul moving from child body to youth body to old body. If you slow this process, you don’t get old. Thus, the yogi enters a trance, which means he stops the movement of consciousness, and he can then sit in that state for thousands of years. How? Simple answer: Because the consciousness is not moving, hence, the body is not aging. The Kṣetrajña has stopped walking in the Kṣetra and the Kṣetra was never moving in the first place. Therefore, the Kṣetrajña is standing in one place, and watching one part of the garden. That is a fixed body. The body will start changing again if the Kṣetrajña started walking in the Kṣetra. Until then, there will be no body changes. Of course, since most people have never seen an aśtānga-yogi, so, they might not understand this.

Then, what about hunger and thirst? That is also the movement of consciousness. There is a hungry body, a thirsty body, a sleepy body, and a lusty body, and the soul is moving from hungry to thirsty to lusty to the sleepy body. If we stop the movement of consciousness, then we will never feel hungry, thirst, sleepy, or lusty. Lust is not coming to us; we are going to lust. Hunger and thirst are not coming to us; we are going to hunger and thirst. Sleep and tiredness are not coming to us; we are going to them. Therefore, if someone doesn’t believe that the soul is moving from one body to another, then they are advised to conquer their hunger, thirst, sex, and sleep.

Formerly, there were so many yogis, who just sit in one place for thousands of years, and they don’t need to drink, eat, or sleep. Ordinary people could ask them: How do you do this? And they will tell you: Stop the movement of consciousness. You don’t need food, sex, a comfortable bed, a job, a house, a car. All these are not achievements; they are needs created because you cannot control the movement of consciousness. They are symptoms of your failure. Achievement is if you can stop all these things. And most people would understand. But at present, we cannot. We think that achievement is to get all these things. In fact, by technology, we are creating new things every day. Now, there is more distraction, disturbance, more things to buy, harder to work to buy those things, always running here and there to do something that doesn’t actually need to be done. The more we move the consciousness, the less we understand how to stop the movement of consciousness.

Confirmation by Mantra Chanting

In the bhakti-yoga process, we follow the inverted process. We try to focus our consciousness on the sound of a mantra. If the consciousness is perfectly focused, then the mind becomes totally still. By the stilling of the mind, the senses become completely still. And by the stilling of the senses, the body becomes perfectly still. If we concentrate our consciousness on the sound of the mantra, then the body will stop moving. No need to pace the floor. We will lose awareness of sight, touch, taste, and smell. We will stop all thoughts. No more planning, rumination, emotions, or relationships. Everything comes to a halt and is perfectly stilled because we are hearing intently.

This is a matter of practical realization, not just theory or philosophy. One has to practice and perfect such intense concentration. If we can perfect this, then we get the following simple realization: The body is moving because the senses are uncontrolled; the senses are uncontrolled because the mind is disturbed; the mind is disturbed due to the ebb and flow of emotions; and this ebb and flow occur because consciousness is not focused. We do not need to control the body, senses, mind, and emotions in order to control consciousness. That is absolutely not required (although aśtānga-yoga does exactly this). We rather just need to focus our consciousness on the sound of the mantra. By that concentration, everything else will be stilled.

This process is called śravana or “hearing”. Just hear intently, and it will still the emotions, mind, senses, and the body. If these other things are not stilled, it means we are not hearing intently. Rather than focusing the consciousness on the sound of the mantra, the consciousness is moving—from emotions to thoughts to sensations to the body. And because the consciousness is moving, therefore, the body is moving, the senses are moving, the mind is distracted and the emotions are disturbed. Just increase the concentration on the mantra, and everything else will stop. This is also not theory or philosophy. It is a matter of realization through practice. Anyone can try and confirm this.

Thus, if anyone is chanting intently, the idea of a moving consciousness should not be strange. In fact, anyone chanting intently can realize that the emotions are disturbed because the soul is conflicted. The mind is distracted because the emotions are disturbed. The senses are uncontrolled because the mind is distracted. And the body is restless because the senses are uncontrolled. But if the consciousness is fixed, then everything is fixed.

This is a top-down model of causality in which the soul moves first. That movement then creates an encounter with emotions, which then creates an encounter with some thoughts, which then creates an encounter with disturbed senses, which then creates an encounter with a restless body. In the aśtānga-yoga system, we try to control the body followed by the prāṇa, followed by the senses, followed by the mind and ultimately the consciousness. But in the bhakti-yoga system, we directly concentrate the consciousness and bypass all other systems of control. And yet, we achieve the results of all these other controls. By stilling the consciousness, the emotions, mind, senses, and the body are also stilled. It needs practice.

Therefore, the body is not moving. Instead, the soul is jumping from one body to another. If the soul is stilled, then the body change stops. By stopping the soul’s motion, we stop bodily motion. This is almost trivially true, doesn’t need any philosophy, and is practically and directly realizable.

The “Movement” of Material Objects

We can extend this idea to the “motion” of objects. Even when we see the sun moving in the sky, the soul is moving from one body to another, like the soul moves from boyhood, to youth, to old age. In the sun’s case, there is a body called Capricorn and another body called Sagittarius. Both these bodies are the shirt and pants of the sun-soul. The sun-soul removes one shirt and pants and wears another shirt and pants. Thereby, we stop seeing the old shirt and pants and start seeing the new shirt and pants. Why? Because we are seeing the sun-soul covered by a shirt and pants. It is not the motion of the same shirt and pants. It is rather the motion of the same soul from one shirt and pants to another. If you think that Capricorn and Sagittarius are the same shirt and pants, then there should be no difference between the months in the year, no difference between the different times of a day, and no difference to your life whether you were born in one month or another. Classical physics makes all these claims, but we don’t. We say: There is a difference in the time of day, the time of the year, and when you are born. And we identify the consequences of that difference based on the shirt and pants worn by different demigods at that time. That is the basis of astrology.

Newton created the biggest lie in history when he described the sun’s motion as the motion of a ball, rather than the motion of a soul from one shirt and pants to another. Buddhism has some issues, but it is not a complete lie. Impersonalism has some issues, but it is not a complete lie. Greek philosophy has many issues, but it is not a complete lie. Christianity has issues, but it is not totally false. Newton’s theory, however, is completely false.

And yet, that false idea is taught to every child in every school in every city and town in the world. It is called “primary education”. This means that you drill a completely false idea into the innocent minds of all children to indoctrinate them from childhood. When they grow up, they cannot think differently—even if you give them mathematics, physics, philosophy, or religion. Doesn’t matter what the problem is, the solution is body movement.

Your mind is changing from one thought to another? Sure, it must be molecular movement. Your emotions are changing from happy to sad? Sure, it must be molecular movement. Your senses are changing from one sensation to another? Sure, it must be molecular movement. There are millions of types of changes—the evolution of ideas, the rise and fall of societies, the changes in fashion, economic growth, and decline. But you cannot think of them differently if you were indoctrinated in childhood about all change being body motion. It doesn’t matter what the change is; it has to be body motion.

Why All Doors to Knowledge are Closed

There is actually no cure to this problem. We can try mathematics, physics, philosophy, or religion. But, nobody is going to change their thinking, because they were indoctrinated in childhood and not seriously educated afterward. Even when we read clear philosophy, we say: Ah, this must all be mental speculation. And we are unable to practice yoga. The real problem is not the indoctrination but our inability to practice yoga perfectly. By yoga, we can see that if the consciousness stops moving then the body stops changing and moving. That is only possible if we attribute the motion to the consciousness rather than the body. It is easily realizable through sincere practice.

The reality is that people are not concentrating on mantra sounds. Due to the absence of concentration, the mind, senses, and the body are disturbed. However, our diagnosis of the problem is always inverted. Everyone that I speak to about this problem says: “My mind is disturbed”. Not one person says: “the soul is not attached to chanting the mantra”. So, everyone has accepted that the mind controls the soul, the senses control the mind, and the body controls the senses. All this follows from not chanting properly.

Due to indoctrination, ignorance, and lack of practice, everything has become useless. We cannot talk about mathematics, physics, and philosophy, because of ignorance. We cannot speak of the description of Bhagavad-Gita, because indoctrination is deep. And we cannot say that you should concentrate because people will say: What can I do? My mind is always disturbed.

Vedic epistemology identifies three primary methods to learn something—observation, reasoning, and scripture. If we cannot concentrate, then observational confirmation is ruled out. If we don’t know philosophy and science, then rational confirmation is ruled out. And if we are so indoctrinated that we cannot accept simple ideas like Kṣetra and Kṣetrajña, then scriptural confirmation is ruled out. Basically, we have closed all the doors and windows on our education. Now, we can only surrender to Lord Krishna and ask Him humbly: “I am completely lost; please give me some intelligence”.