In the Bhagavad-gītā it is explained that the five elements earth, water, fire, air and ether constitute the gross energy of the Absolute Truth and that there are also three subtle energies, namely, the mind, intelligence and false ego, or identification with the phenomenal world. Thus the entire cosmic manifestation is divided into eight energies, all of which are inferior. As explained in the Bhagavad-gītā (mama māyā duratyayā (BG 7.14), the inferior energy, known as māyā, is so strong that although the living entity does not belong to this energy, due to the superior strength of the inferior energy the living entity (jīva-bhūta) forgets his real position and identifies with it. Kṛṣṇa says distinctly that beyond the material energy there is a superior energy which is known as the jīva-bhūta, or living entities. When in contact with the material energy, this superior energy conducts all the activities of the entire material, phenomenal world.
The supreme cause is Kṛṣṇa (janmādy asya yataḥ (SB 1.1.1)), who is the origin of all energies, which work variously. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has both inferior and superior energies, and the difference between them is that the superior energy is factual whereas the inferior energy is a reflection of the superior. A reflection of the sun in a mirror or on water appears to be the sun but is not. Similarly, the material world is but a reflection of the spiritual world. Although it appears to be factual, it is not; it is only a temporary reflection, whereas the spiritual world is a factual reality. The material world, with its gross and subtle forms, is merely a reflection of the spiritual world.
The living entity is not a product of the material energy; he is spiritual energy, but in contact with matter he forgets his identity. Thus the living entity identifies himself with matter and enthusiastically engages in material activities in the guises of a technologist, scientist, philosopher, etc. He does not know that he is not at all a material product but is spiritual. His real identity thus being lost, he struggles very hard in the material world, and the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, is trying to revive his original consciousness. His activities in manufacturing big skyscrapers are evidence of intelligence, but this kind of intelligence is not at all advanced. He should know that his only real concern is how to get free from material contact, for by absorbing his mind in material activities he takes material bodies again and again, and although he falsely claims to be very intelligent, in material consciousness he is not at all intelligent. When we speak about the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, which is meant to make people intelligent, the conditioned living entity therefore misunderstands it. He is so engrossed in the material concept of life that he does not think there can be any activities that are actually based on intelligence beyond the construction of skyscrapers and big roads and the manufacturing of cars. This is proof of māyayāpahṛta-jñāna, or loss of all intelligence due to the influence of māyā. When a living entity is freed from such misconceptions, he is called liberated. When one is actually liberated he no longer identifies with the material world. The symptom of mukti (liberation) is that one engages in spiritual activities instead of falsely engaging in material activities.
Transcendental loving devotional service is the spiritual activity of the spirit soul. Māyāvādī philosophers confuse such spiritual activity with material activity, but the Bhagavad-gītā (BG 14.26) confirms:
- māṁ ca yo ’vyabhicāreṇa bhakti-yogena sevate
- sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate
One who engages in the spiritual activities of unalloyed devotional service (avyabhicāriṇī-bhakti) is immediately elevated to the transcendental platform, and he is to be considered brahma-bhūta (SB 4.30.20), which indicates that he is no longer in the material world but is in the spiritual world. Devotional service is enlightenment, or awakening. When the living entity perfectly performs spiritual activities under the direction of the spiritual master, he becomes perfect in knowledge and understands that he is not God but a servant of God. As explained by Caitanya Mahāprabhu, jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya—kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’: the real identity of the living entity is that he is an eternal servant of the Supreme (CC Madhya 20.108). As long as one does not come to this conclusion, he must be in ignorance. This is also confirmed by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gītā (BG 7.19): bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate . . . sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ. “After many births of struggling for existence and cultivating knowledge, when one comes to the point of real knowledge he surrenders unto Me. Such an advanced mahātmā, or great soul, is very rarely to be seen.” Thus although the Māyāvādī philosophers appear to be very much advanced in knowledge, they are not yet perfect. To come to the point of perfection they must voluntarily surrender to Kṛṣṇa.