A person who has turned away from the world of sense objects finds an
answer to these three questions. Scriptures and philosophies attempt to answer
these three questions. In our country answers are given by the Vedas, Vedanta,
and other books following the Vedic teachings. Answers are also given by
philosophies that misinterpret the Vedic teachings, philosophies like nyaya,
pseudo-sankhya, patanjala, vaisesika, and karma-mimamsa.
Answers are also given by philosophies that openly oppose the Vedic teachings, philosophies like Buddhism and the philosophy of the atheist Carvaka. In this way many
philosophies give many different answers. In China, Greece, Persia, France,
England, Germany, Italy, and other countries many different philosophies were
preached, philosophies like Materialism, Positivism, Secularism, Pessimism,
Skepticism, Pantheism, and Atheism. Many philosophers used logic to prove the
existence of God. Then again, in other places was preached the idea that one
should simply believe in God and worship Him. In many places were preached
religions that claimed to be originally given by God.
Some religions were rooted in each persons own individual faith in God. In other places it was said that God Himself had given the teachings of religion. Religion rooted in each person s own individual faith is called Theism. Included among the religions with belief-systems
and scriptures given by God are Christianity and Mohammedanism. The answers
to the previously mentioned three questions are truly of two kinds:
- the answer given by a soul situated in his original form, and
- the great variety of answers given by all others.
Why is not a single answer only given to each of these questions The true answers are given by a pure person situated in his original spiritual form. All persons situated in their original spiritual forms give the same answers. However, the persons who have fallen into the material world are not situated in their original spiritual forms. The material world is not their real home. It is a world born from material illusion. The Supreme Truth (para-tattva)
has a spiritual potency (para-sakti). The shadow of that spiritual potency is the
potency of illusion (maya-sakti). Maya-sakti is the mother of the material world.
The great variety of qualities maya offers are accepted by the souls residing in the
material world as their own qualities. In this way the soul s original qualities are
withdrawn and the specific mixture of qualities and an identity offered by maya
are accepted by the soul. In this way the spirit soul identifies with matter.
Spiritual and material ideas thus become mixed together in many different ways in
the mind of the spirit soul. Each accepting a different mixture of material
qualities, the spirit souls misidentifying with matter each give his own answers to
these three questions.
In this way a great variety of answers is manifest. Influenced by the traditions, activities, associates, foods, language, and thought patterns of the countries where they live, the souls in this world give answers to these three questions. In this way time, place, and circumstance combine to create a great variety of natures. Firstly, the souls come in contact with matter in
different ways. Those different kinds of contact bring one set of variations of
nature. Secondly, their different countries, languages, families, and other
circumstances bring another set of variations of nature. In this way the a great
variety of natures becomes multiplied. Only a person who has traveled to every
country, learned every language, and studied every country’s history can
understand the scope of that variety. Here I will only point in the direction of that
variety. I will not do more. It would be a great trouble.
Of the two kinds of answers given by the living entities, one is the true answer. The other is the great variety of answers according to the views of different philosophies. The great
variety of answers may be divided into two groups. The first group is called
“jnana” and the second group is called “karma”. Here someone may protest:
“When you say the true (yukta) answer you imply that you honor logic (yukti) as
the way to know the truth.
“Why, then, do you not accept the great variety of answers that logic brings?”
To this protest I reply: Spiritual logic does not depend on the material logic that brings a variety of answers. Therefore when I use the words logic (yukti) and t rut h (yukta), I refer to the logic and truth accepted by liberated souls purified of matters touch, logic and truth that properly distinguish between matter and spirit. Logic that is material, that takes shelter of matter, will always lead to a great variety of conclusions. A liberated soul situated in his
original spiritual form can give the true, the genuinely logical answer.
Among the great variety of answers is seen the group called jnana. Employing jnana, the spirit soul in contact with matter tries to distinguish spirit from matter. When it speaks
positively (anvaya), jnana affirms the primacy of matter, saying matter is the
beginning-less root of all that exists. When it speaks negatively (vyatireka) jnana
says that matter cannot be destroyed, for it is merely a transformation of the
Supreme (brahman), who has no potencies (nihsakti). They who follow karma
say God does not exist, and therefore the living entities should engage in material
activities. Pure jnana and karma have their place in true spiritual love and
spiritual activities. They are part of the true answers to our three questions. They
will be discussed later in this book, when devotional service (bhakti) will be
described. Because they are material in nature, words cannot completely describe
the pure spiritual truth…
Excerpted from Tattva-viveka of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Text 3