Scriptural Literalism and the excesses of scripture

Scriptural literalism, the act of taking a literal interpretation of scripture without any room left for the seeker’s own experience, realization or interpretation, is a sell off for any spiritual tradition.  In the fledgling stages of religious experience, it is good to stick to authorised, bona fide interpretations of scripture in an effort to obtain the right guidance out of the quagmire of illusion.  But this is just like a crutch which sooner or later must be given up in order to evolve alongside the religious tradition. Any religion is enunciated within the context of a particular time, place and circumstance and in the exoteric praxis alone no room is given for the experience of religion. 

            That being said, I need to point out that religious traditions like the Vedic Tradition comes in an unbroken succession of spiritual masters who vow to maintain the integrity of the spiritual wisdom and are against mundane interpretation because of how easily our own ideas can lead us astray, even on the path of spiritual realization. This happens because of our tendency to use our imperfect senses in just about everything.  In this way, a subjective view on true religion leads us nowhere.  There is a reason why there are saints, sages, prophets and messianic personalities.  These are empowered representatives of God, Vishnu Himself, who have the thankless task of calling back the conditioned souls who have gone wayward and have strayed away in rebellion.

            One very cogent idea in the consideration of scripture within the context of the Krishna Consciousness movement is that the mind which yokes all the senses is the nexus of an influence which pervades the entire spectrum of the material energy: the 3 modes of nature.  Vedic lore denominates 3 modes operational within nature’s mechanism – sattva guna or mode of goodness characterised by knowledge and happiness, rajo guna or mode of passion characterised by activity and passion and tamo guna or mode of ignorance characterised by indolence and base instincts.  Within the framework of the brain itself, we find the conceptual consideration in science of a triune brain consisting of 3 different levels – the R-complex responsible for our base desires and instinctive tendencies (tamo), the emotional cortex responsible for our range of emotions (rajo) and the neo-cortex responsible for logical thinking and reasoned behaviour (sattva).

            These 3 layers of our mind are the biological epiphenomenon of consciousness being influenced by the modes of nature.  Hence we find that our thoughts are imbued with an instinctive or intuitive connotation, an emotional overtone and a logical bias which makes that all knowledge we gain has a cumulative effect on how we act on them.  This defeats virtually all present knowledge acquiring processes we know of by virtue of us not acting from unadulterated consciousness. The workings of these modes are visceral to material nature and we find these hues everywhere in nature.  This is why some traditions such as the Hare Krishna movement stress on the fact that to deviate from the Vedas and Vedic literatures in pursuance of the Vedic version is tantamount to a flaw or stumbling block in spiritual realization. It literally obstructs the path of Bhakti.

            Scriptural writings come from a reason of consciousness which is inaccessible to our routine experience of life.  At their conservative best, they are modulations of one Primal Truth accessed by personalities of various epochs from the level of consciousness we know as superconsciousness.  This is why specifically we hit the wall of incredulity in the face of their apparent excesses like hell, reincarnation and illusion. When considering the graphic depictions of life in the hellish planets we find it hard to digest that nature is thorough in holding us accountable for every misdeed just like it is difficult for some, especially “open-minded” scientists, to believe that there is an afterlife and it doesn’t obey our preconceived notions. Also when considering the fatality of such a concept as Maya within the context of the Vedic traditions, some may back off. 

            However, for me personally since my deliberate attempts to wise up have been matched by deep faith in the experiential aspect of religion, I have come to accept that our failures to come to terms with the authoritative figures of speech of scripture actually originates from an innate nefarious sense of rebellion and a questioning attitude we didn’t usually find in other epochs.  Perhaps, since modern education promotes scientific inquiry, we balk at scriptural injunctions that seem too rigid.  This is a stark reminder that our actions are so enmeshed within the net of the field of Karma that sooner or later we will be forced by its stringent laws, whether we accept them or not, as they will act upon us with or without our consent. 

            The example of how the force of time acts upon us isn’t immediately obvious but the reality is that we are being carried by its incessant waves and for one who isn’t tuned into a higher level of consciousness, he will be carried away after living a mundane life of desire ending in the frustration of death which efficiently nullifies all our worldly achievements and possessions. So many kingdoms and civilizations have been washed away under the powerful influence of Kala (time) which is but another aspect of the Supreme Personality.

            I have found, under the auspices of the teachings of A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami, the perfect platform for spiritual interrogation and the answers I have been given by one of his disciples, His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari, my instructing Guru, have been proven and supported by scripture every time. What’s even more interesting is that I have acquired a basal state of consciousness which filters out material life and every day I gain experiential, factual faith in the wisdom of the Vedic scriptures.  Every true seeker is meted out a bona fide spiritual master. This is Spiritual Law. Hence, we find that there is never any dearth of guidance. The lighthouse of God always shines for those ships being tossed here and there in the material ocean.

By Krishna Leela Prakash ©


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