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The Indigenous Science of Permaculture

On the ENVIRONMENT, By Rohini Walker

The last few decades have seen a slow yet steady rise in the awareness and practice of permaculture in conservation and environmental communities. This growing understanding is both heartening and deeply necessary. It also gives rise to occasional pauses to take a closer look at what the term permaculture implies and means, and its true origins. In particular, this examination compels us to look at how permaculture, like much other wisdom deriving from pre-industrial, non-hierarchical, collaboration with land and nature, is at risk of being appropriated and colonized. The resulting reductionist approach seeks to create homogenizing formulas to work in harmony with the environment, a hallmark of mainstream western scientific materialism. This is anathema to what was originally — and still is — an indigenous science of working in partnership and reciprocity with the land and cycles of nature.

Bill Mollison in the garden of his Enmore, Australia home on January 16, 1989. | Greg White / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

The term permaculture — a fusion of “permanent” and “agriculture” — was first coined in the 1970s by two Australians, David Holmgren, and Bill Mollison. Both were academics in Tasmania. Holmgren was at the time a graduate student studying environmental design at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, and Mollison — also dubbed the “father of permaculture” — was a senior lecturer in environmental psychology at the University of Tasmania. The foundations of permaculture rest on two concepts: an understanding and acceptance of the diversity of whole systems, as opposed to the soil-degrading effects of industrial monoculture; and on the relational, slow-yet-dynamic practice of observing the land, and its many complex ecosystems.

Running Ditches and Slowing Water
Paiute People Adapt Traditions to Modern-Day Gardens

That permaculture arose as a vital response to the dangerous environmental and human degradation of industrialization, and its toxic farming and agricultural practices is undeniable. Its philosophy is based on the common-sense truth that the human race cannot survive in any measure of health if the Earth is being poisoned. We are at a point in our evolution where anything less than an applied understanding of this idea spells disaster to our survival. In all of this, the propagation of permaculture is crucial.

What is at issue here is the importance of recognizing that permaculture’s roots lie firmly and deeply in the ancient, fertile, organic soil of indigenous science. To overlook and ignore that is to leave permaculture at the mercy of the dogmas of mainstream science, and the latter’s view of the manifold, complex systems in nature as nothing more than resources to be exploited. From this vantage point, humans control, degrade and exploit the land to become obedient, consummate consumers; and the indigenous science of cultivating a reciprocal, regenerative relationship with the Earth, in which the human acknowledges her innate connection to Earth, is dismissed as “unscientific” and empirically unsound.

The Potawot Community Garden, housed at United Indian Health Services’s facility in Arcata, California, incorporates elements of permaculture seamlessly into the center’s holistic approach to healing the Earth and body. | Still from “Tending Nature” episode “Healing The Body with United Indian Health Services.”

Without actively anchoring itself to the wisdom of indigenous science, permaculture is rudderless and vulnerable to invasion by the parasite that only feeds off its host, without giving anything back, ultimately destroying both.

Indeed, Mollison attributed much of what he came to create as “permaculture” to what he learned from the Aboriginals in Tasmania, and other Indigenous people around the world.

Permaculture is fundamentally then, an indigenous science. Its framework is a design system that incorporates core principles and practices from indigenous knowledge around the world, assimilating it with sustainable new technology that is making strides towards harmonizing this traditional wisdom with pioneering modern quantum science. As such, it can restore valuable ancient knowledge, while steering our industrialized society towards a more viable future based on regeneration and reciprocity.

In California, the Chumash, Yurok, Karuk, Hupa, and Miwok tribes have, for over 13,000 years, practiced and handed down the tradition of prescribed burning as a way of tending the land. As people Indigenous to California, and as guardians of Native wisdom whose cultural foundations rest on a reciprocal, reverential, subject-subject interaction with nature, the practice of prescribed burning sees fire as a necessary medicine for the land. For millennia, this method of small-scale, skillfully managed, intentional burning of dead or dying underbrush has been a way of regenerating the land, and significantly decreasing the risk of catastrophic, out-of-control, large-scale wildfires.

Given the devastation caused by wildfires in recent years, a result of climate change and rising temperatures, the art of prescribed burning is something that is finally being looked at by state fire officials and environmental agencies as a viable means of minimizing the risk of wildfires. Tribes are now working together to revive this ancient and practical wisdom of fire as preventative, restorative medicine through the Indigenous Peoples Burning Network. Crucially, state governing bodies are now beginning to work with tribes and their tradition of prescribed burning as a time-tested way of reducing the conditions that cause wildfires in our current, climate-sensitive age.

This restoration of Native wisdom is critical at this time because we are all indigenous to somewhere. There is as much to be gleaned from pre-Christian, pre-industrialized, indigenous old European culture and wisdom as there is from our more current understanding of what being native is. These traditional societies also operated within an Earth-focused, reciprocal, relational paradigm and were decimated through the terror of widespread witch trials and burnings. They also became colonized by the belief that man is here to exercise dominion over land and sea. These old, indigenous, pagan ways became marginalized at best, literally demonized at worst. What did survive we displaced to the fringes of society, viewed by mainstream science and “sensible” society as esoteric, crackpot nonsense — Fait accompli.

Permaculture’s ability to re-indigenize Caucasian people, to reconnect them with their indigenous wisdom traditions of working in partnership with the land, has the potential to stem the tide of the, frankly, crackpot notions of the colonial mindset. These notions are summed up succinctly in the unabridged subtitle of Charles Darwin’s landmark “Origin of Species,” which is: “By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” There is nothing that comes close to resembling “natural” about this type of “selection.” That this book is the cornerstone of what has been accepted science for almost 200 years, also coinciding with the Industrial Revolution, has alarming and multiple layers of significance. For this piece, however, our focus is on the importance of recognizing the core truth that permaculture is an indigenous science.

Why is this important? As a philosophy, practice, and movement, permaculture is gaining much support and momentum across the world. Inevitably, the reductionism of mainstream science and its focus on relentless hyper-productivity, are making insidious advances towards permaculture. This rise in awareness is a bid to dominate and reduce to formulas a system rooted firmly in the cultivation of a dynamic, reciprocal relationship between the human and the Earth, both as subjects. As with any relationship, this takes patience. Permaculture can thrive under the pioneering auspices of new quantum science and technology that is discovering that what the ancients knew to be true is also empirically verifiable. The findings of this new science accept the wisdom of indigenous science — and permaculture as a product of it.

As Bill Mollison, the “father of permaculture” so articulately put it:

“Each such cycle is a unique event; diet, choice, selection, season, weather, digestion, decomposition and regeneration differ each time it happens. Thus, it is the number of such cycles, great and small, that decide the potential for diversity. We should feel ourselves privileged to be part of such eternal renewal. Just by living we have achieved immortality — as grass, grasshoppers, gulls, geese and other people. We are of the diversity we experience in every real sense.

“If, as physical scientists assure us, we all contain a few molecules of Einstein, and if the atomic particles of our physical body reach to the outermost bounds of the universe, then we are all de facto components of all things. There is nowhere left for us to go if we are already everywhere, and this is, in truth, all we will ever have or need. If we love ourselves at all, we should respect all things equally, and not claim any superiority over what are, in effect, our other parts. Is the hand superior to the eye? The bishop to the goose? The son to the mother?…

“Stupidity is an attempt to iron out all differences, and not to use them or value them creatively.”

We must safeguard the permaculture movement against colonizing influences that seek to reduce it to a system of sterile formulas if we want it to remain a powerful agent of healing for the Earth — and for us. It has to be seen for what it is: an indigenous science.

Potawot Health Center: A Holistic Approach to Healing

“Every individual in the world, regardless of cultural background or race, has an indigenous soul struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile environment created by that individual’s mind. A modern person’s body has become a battleground between the rationalist mind — which subscribes to the values of the machine age — and the native soul. This battle is the cause of a great deal of spiritual and physical illness.”


The relatively new science of quantum physics is discovering what indigenous science has known for millennia: we live in a world where all matter is sentient, a subject-subject stance. This traditional knowledge is very much at odds with the fictions of the lifeless, mechanical “objective” world over which humans ruthlessly rule that has been the prevailing dogma of mainstream science. Permaculture can remain immune to the parasitic disease if colonialism of its origins are grounded in indigenous science, and with this new science as its companion and benefactor. It can be a powerful movement of authentic and radical change that it has the potential to be.

“Permaculture’s focus on symbiotic relationships is informed by the concept of ayni, a Quechua and Aymara word for sacred reciprocity, an ethic shared by many traditional cultures and sometimes translated as ‘today for you, tomorrow for me.’ If the permaculture movement can successfully integrate and spread indigenous science in a way that truly benefits both traditional and modern cultures, perhaps this exchange — this sacred reciprocity — has the power to help guide the future of the planet.” – cultureofpermaculture.org

Indigenous science is unequivocally a science, and the system of permaculture is a recent offspring. A dismissal of it as such is a telltale sign and symptom of the colonizer and its unnatural selections.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rohini Walker is a writer, editor and nature enthusiast. She lives in Joshua Tree, CA and is the co-founder of Luna Arcana, a desert-focused arts & literary print publication.

This article was originally published in support of Tending Nature, a KCET program exploring how traditional practices can inspire a new generation to find a balance between humans and nature.

The Vedic Times is working to create Eco-Villages that will utilize these methods. Please read also “Eco-Villages, Vastu & Sadhu Huts” and join the RE-Evolution.

Financing The Soul

Story by Maria M. Anderson

Gilfre paused the plow, granting his aged dappled beast invite to nibble the few early sprigs of green, poking through the departed winter’s fallow soil. It was not fatigue, but curiosity that prompted the farmer’s attention elsewhere, to the adjacent road, whereupon a team of black horned goats pulled a gilded wagon. Alone, managing the reins, appeared to be a crimson-robed king, of sorts, his hands gnarled, jeweled wooden crown worn upside-down.

“Stranger!” called Gilfre. “A foreign sight to behold, insooth!” The farmer’s hearty amusement chuckle short-lived, extinguished by sudden stench of brimstone, arrived in a hot whirl of grey smoke. The stranger now stood beside the startled farmer, and his even more terrified horse, that in a frenzied instant managed to release from its yolk and hasten home, towards the barn.

“A gallant steed,” commented the Stranger.

“In a day long passed, perhaps,” replied the farmer, whilst exchanging fear for marvel, at the speed of his spooked beast, fast fading from view.

“Perception determines value,” said the Stranger.

Every hair on Gilfre’s body prickled in foreboding, yet his curiosity was piqued by what he could not comprehend. “I am a simple farmer.”

The Stranger smiled and removed a rolled document from beneath his red robe. “Riches await. May we strike a deal?”

Finger-prick sangre signature, in exchange, the Stranger’s promissory note. Gilfre sold his soul and his horse to the faux king, for a magnificent sum, twenty pieces of gold, secured by indiscernible verbiage, pre-penned on parchment paper. At the Stranger’s instruction, as noted in the agreement, the farmer was required to immediately buy back his plow horse, and return the afore signed note, promising twenty pieces of gold, plus two additional silver coins, as interest. Silver coins, Gilfre’s sole life savings, that he was required to retrieve (much to his wife’s angry dismay) from a hidden box beneath the cottage hearth, and present in tangible actuality, to the open-handed Stranger.

Transaction complete, with verifiable receipt.

Gilfre could now tout his plow horse, to the entire village, as a fine equine specimen, one that he had purchased for twenty pieces of gold, plus two silver coins.

A stud craze ensued. Every townsperson, from near and far, who wished to capitalize on Gilfre’s invested fortune, brought broodmare, along with gold and silver payment, hoping to breed offspring of equal or greater value.

In the name of conspicuous consumption, Gilfre’s wife forgave her husband for what she’d deemed foolish. Every coin earned by the procreating plow horse, two coins were spent by his jubilant spendthrift masters. Until the old plow horse died of pleasure, leaving Gilfre and his wife with numerous debts, and no means of repayment.

Desperate not to lose his only remaining asset, his land, Gilfre called upon the faux king for advice and assistance.

The Stranger produced a second binding document, one that required the farmer’s wife to sangre sign, before financial remedy could be divulged. She pricked and penned without inquiry or hesitation.

“Very well,” said the Stranger. “I will purchase your land.” He removed a tin coin from his robe pocket and handed it to Gilfre.

“This pittance would not garner a loaf of bread from the baker, let alone the land on which the wheat was grown!” Gilfre attempted to return the coin to the Stranger. “Do you think me a simpleton?”

“Who sought my assistance?” asked the Stranger. “Go forth and inform farmers the value of their land, and my offer to purchase it before prices fall lower. Each secured parcel purchase, I will reward you with a piece of silver as commission.”

The farmer’s wife pulled her husband aside. “A fair compensation, one that will pay our debts and provide means to repurchase our land.”

Gilfre agreed.

Gilfre’s past financial success, as master of a valuable plow horse stud, gave credence to his dire alarm: Sell your land before it is too late. Frightened farmers lined up to trade their properties for coins. The Stranger, in self-pronounced charity, offered consolation to dismal market values. Since most lands had been owned and worked by families for generations, the farmers could continue to plant and harvest on their former plots, in exchange for providing a portion of crop proceeds to the Stranger. All agreed.

Gilfre and his wife once again became rich, on commission silver. Rather than squandering as before, they paid creditors and saved half of the remaining silver coins; the other half were presented to the Stranger. “I come in good faith to repurchase my land,” announced the former farmer. “Offering the amount paid, plus fair profit, to give thanks for your prior assistance and generosity.”

“That land has increased in value, tenfold.” The Stranger laughed and tossed Gilfre back his bag of silver. “A barrel of gold would not suffice for property as precious as that which you once owned.”

Word of increased property values spread like fire throughout the village. The few farmers who had not sold for a pittance were tempted to finally forgo their lands for hefty profits, paid by other foreign investors, procured by the Stranger. Most of whom paid low-wage imported crews to manage, plant, and harvest the lands. Farmers who had sold cheap, rightly feared the Stranger would increase crop proceed amounts.

Amounts soon doubled, then tripled.

To make up for the deficit, farmers inflated the price of their crops sold to merchants, and decreased the wages paid to local hired laborers. The village bakery was the first business to close. Gypsies replaced local workers, who departed town to seek better compensation, elsewhere. Children of age fled family farms for big cities, without intention of returning. Those without means entered servitude. Instead of land and toil, the generation with means, inherited or borrowed, sought ideas and progress. Skills and traditions were deemed useless by scholars who lectured about knowledge in brick and mortar institutions, created and financed by the Stranger, for profit.

The village and surrounding farms fell into abject ruin. Consumption, crime, and poverty plagued the few who remained. Still, the Stranger grew richer, claiming for his own the deserted decay, and mortgaging it to a new crop of eager speculators, who also signed sangre on the dotted line.

Years passed. Nothing remained of the village, not even its name. Gilfre’s former way of life had become an industry, owned not by many, but by a select few. Gilfre blamed himself. On his deathbed, the old farmer pleaded for his wife to summon the Stranger, one final time.

He came.

“Please, tell a dying man who you are,” implored the farmer, fast fading. “You wear a misplaced crown, but are more cunning and powerful than any king.”

“True. I own what remains of you, and many others, for eternity,” the Stranger replied. He bent down and whispered into Gilfre’s ear. “Call me, The Banker.”

Vaishnava Etiquette

for Men by a Woman

Why? Because apparently all ladies are still only their bodies.

Dear Kind Souls and Wonderful Vaishnavas.
Dandavat pranams. Jaya Gauranga!

By a great blessing, I have been exposed to sweet Krsna (God) and ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) since 2002; so today, at the beginning of 2020, it’s been 18 years.

With all this time, it could be (and maybe should be) expected that I am now mature in the art of philosophy and versed in spiritual etiquette. Therefore, I also expect the same from others that have been within the culture and society of Krishna consciousness for this long, or much longer. I know many who were born into this beautiful culture, and yet, unfortunately, their immaturity is quite prominent; and often hypocritical in regards to Vaishnava etiquette. Many times it is like a one way road, where you’re expected to conduct yourself with perfect etiquette, while the one in front of you is not. This has left me stupefied every time.

No need to say, I’ll likely be criticized for speaking of this unacceptable trend; often, you’re an offender for noticing and speaking up about anomalies in the behavior of ‘spiritual’ people.

Over the years, much criticism has been given in regards to my frankness (trying to keep things real) and upfront ways; way too often in fact. So much so, that I’m quite infamous (especially in the UK Yatra). Many today seem to enjoy saying that I am ‘very offensive’. Others, that know me well, will say that it’s mostly because of my constant refusal to just ‘go along’ with absorbing so many irregularities and unacceptable behaviors; especially from Men.

Why specially from men?

First, I would like to acknowledge and express my appreciation for men of steady and great character, as this does not apply to them; and most ladies, because ladies are more straightforward with me; they simply like me or dislike me – usually strongly – and that is just fine. With ladies, once the relationship is established, we then get closer or just move on. But with men it has been quite a different story.

For a start, Vaishanva men (or so they think) are constantly attempting to contact me on facebook, to be their ‘friend’. Many times getting very upset if their intentions are questioned, or when I mention my husband; which they should already know, being that my status says: MARRIED!

When they try to engage me in conversation – if not for a specific service or question – it more often then not, goes like this:
Devotee Man: Hare Krsna Mataji…
Me: Hare Krsna prabhu, How can we serve you?
Devotee Man: Where are you? or …. Where do you live?
Me: How can my husband serve you?

It usually stops there, but if the conversation continues a little further, there are usually two outcomes:

1) They get insulted and try to shame me, sometimes even insulting me for asking what it is that they want, or
2) They just get upset, insult me and go away.

I have roughly three men per day (friend of a friend, or a complete stranger from within the devotee community) asking to connect on FB, most strangers are declined, of course. Only once in a blue moon will a lady seek my attention, and when they do, I am so very glad.

Secondly, after I meet an aspiring devotee in a male body, in person at a temple, an event or kirtan, or even online, more often then not – and especially if they are a little older – there is quickly, a clear undermining of my capacities. This is followed, way too soon, with the preaching of personal philosophy with a hard and clear attempt to control who I am, what I do and how; as if my prana (life force) is now theirs to control, to use to their advantage, rather than mine to use in the mission of spiritualizing the whole planet.

In the event we do begin serving together in some way (apart from a very few cases up to today), a very clear competition is soon established, usually ending badly. Because, when it comes to articulating reason, common sense and expressing their clear capacity to prove themselves worthy of either being followed and/or adored (as some work so hard to do) they fall short, and are at a loss. The only thing for them after that is to engage in a ‘correcting Aradhana campaign’. (Some women have also tried this, but again, it is rare.)

What most are not considering is a bigger and more complicated problem. Our spiritual intelligence is granted by Krsna Himself, and only because of our sincere love, dedication and honesty. This intuitive knowledge facilitates the complete understanding of anyone’s ‘hidden agenda’, and that has been priceless.

Akrura (great scholar) visits the cowherd ladies to learn about Love of God.

Most of the time, in this material world, when someone sees the great potential of another – especially if there is a ‘seniority complex’ – there is an absolute and pointed desire to conquer; the urge to control and utilize others’ amazing energy, only to achieve one’s own desires, being whatever they are. And when this ‘how to control others’ is thought out and strategized, it’s commonly done while fully disregarding any of the spiritual etiquette instilled in us by Srila Prabhupada. So, depending on the sincerity level, which may be low in many cases, defeating a soul in a ‘female body’ becomes more important than the service.

Srila Prabhupada explained many times this important fact, that must be understood: we’re all gurus (with different levels of knowledge, of course) and bodily designations are to be disregarded.

“We are not this body” is indeed the very first lesson.

This being so, why is it that I have been reminded again and again that I am a ‘female’, especially when it comes to ISKCON’S authorities; big and small alike. It has been the case that when positions of responsibility are sought (by me, or other ladies), bodily designation remarks are there every time. Even if just to avoid the consideration of a ‘woman’ filling such positions.

Most positions of authority, and 95% of the time, have been given openly and irresponsibly to men demonstrating a pronounced lack of: spiritual (or even mundane) etiquette, Krsna consciousness, and even a basic understanding of the true value of all souls. Just see what is actually being done to the Hare Krsna movement today!

Hindu Temples everywhere? Unimportant and irrelevant rituals, such as burning Ravana outside a temple? Is that really the goal?

My deepest concern is that for so long now, this distasteful approach has become quite clear. Where do I send sincere souls to enjoy Krsna’s presence in a temple, where nobody will prey upon them!

And these prominent issues are not only noticed by me – of course – but by so many that love Srila Prabhupada and his lovely temples (as they were), who also face the same predicament. Today, it’s very difficult to have authentic transcendental interactions with others; so many are not even nice people. It’s my feeling that this is due to a lack of proper Vaishnava etiquette and a minimum level of sincerity.

Certainly I have here only touched the tip of this iceberg so it may be that this will become a series of short articles, because this is a serious matter that needs expression.

I feel strongly that the younger generation needs guidance, and as they much prefer short and pointed information, here we are; simple, and without a great need for dropping slokas or long convoluted exposés. It is about loving God (Krsna) and His creation which includes every amazing living entity in this realm and beyond. Simple really! Right?

The Vedic Times is here to stay, and we remain keen to serve true Vaishnavas, spiritual seekers and all darling souls. We do prefer the ones that are willing to stay level headed, kind and reasonable, regarding all matters; of course!

To be continued…

An Introduction to Achintya-Bheda-Abheda Tattva

The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabeda Tattva embodies the quintessence of all systems of Indian philosophy. Indian philosophy, embodied in the Vedic literatures, is over 5000 years old and inspired the birth of the two great Eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. It has also greatly influenced the western world, particularly over the last 200 years. Most systems of Indian philosophy propound the view that the universe is fundamentally one, part of and pervaded by the Supreme Being, from whom it has emanated. As such, they maintain that the universe is not the outcome of blind chance, but that it is the result of intelligent design and that it has meaning and purpose. Furthermore, according to most systems of Indian philosophy the material universe, in which we live, is only part of an infinite and spiritual universe. Both the material and spiritual universe are considered energies of God, the Supreme Spiritual Being. The spiritual universe is defined as God’s internal energy, and the material universe His external energy. All living beings in the material world are essentially spiritual, and part of His internal energy. Finally, according to most systems of Indian philosophy, God is defined as a transcendental Person, endowed with consciousness, attributes and form, and who stands at the center and source of his infinite energies and emanations.

At the cornerstone of this world view is the notion that God, and the universe emanating from Him, are essentially one and different. He is one, in that He is the origin of, and pervades all beings, and He is different, in that His energies have their own independent existence and identity. This independent existence and individual identity accounts for the world of many-ness and variegatedness.. The problem is, that the principles of oneness and many-ness contain a logical paradox, and appear to be mutually exclusive. On the bases of logic it is indeed hard to reconcile how one entity can be one and many at the same time. Within the different schools of Indian thought, philosophers and mystics have attempted to resolve this paradox by emphasizing one principle over the other, thereby reducing e.g. many-ness to a by product of oneness. Some schools of thought, taking a more extreme position, have even postulated that only oneness is real, and that the many-ness constitutes an illusion. Throughout the history of Indian philosophy this theme, and its implicit paradox, has been at the center of philosophical discussions.

Thereby the oneness and many-ness principles do not just confine themselves to the relationship between God and His creation. The principle extends to virtually all areas of philosophy and science, such as the relation between matter and consciousness, between qualities and substance, between particles and fields, between energy and matter, and the personal and the impersonal. Interestingly, therefore, it appears that the principle of oneness and many-ness, with its inherent paradox, extends to all areas of reality.

Within the history of western philosophy we also find the constant recurrence of the oneness versus many-ness theme, resulting in different schools of opposing thought. Thereby the parallels between Indian and western thinking are striking. Most notable is e.g. the discussion and debates that have flourished on the issue of realism and idealism, or the relation between matter and consciousness, during the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe.

The great 16th century Indian philosopher and mystic Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu formulated a new principle, shedding light on the paradox, and making explicit what was already acknowledged implicitly by many great Indian thinkers. Caitanya stated that the principles of oneness and difference are inherently inseparable, that they always exist simultaneously, and that their simultaneous existence lies at the core of all metaphysics. He furthermore stated that the simultaneous existence of oneness and many-ness is called Acintya in Sanskrit, which means “inconceivable”. Inconceivability implies that this aspect of reality is inconceivable to the human and finite mind, and transcends the principles of logic. The philosophy of Caitanya has been formulated in Sanskrit as “Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva”. Acintya means inconceivable, Bhedabheda means simultaneous oneness and many-ness, and Tattva means principle or truth.

The problem is, of course, that if we abandon and ignore the principles of logic, then we may be forced to accept any irrational worldview, and loose our ability to analyze and verify scientific and philosophical theories. For logic lies at the core of all philosophy and science. The principle of Caitanya however, makes a noticeable difference, in that Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva should not be considered ‘illogical’, but rather it should be considered ‘supralogical’. The difference is that while a supralogical principle may appear to defy the laws of logic, the principle itself can be perceived and verified by means of direct perception, and has an empirical foundation. As such the principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva can be observed in many phenomenon and occurrences in this world.

A good example is the perception of a red rose. As mentioned before, the discussion on one-ness versus many-ness has extended itself to all aspects of philosophy and science. In the western tradition, two schools of thought emerged on the issue of the relation between substance and its qualities. One school, called the realists, founded by the Greek philosopher Plato, stated that qualities and substance are in fact two different realities. E.g. Plato postulated that there is such a thing as universal ‘redness’, that becomes superimposed along with other universal qualities, on a particular material substance, thereby creating a red rose. Plato therefore viewed qualities and substance as being different. Many centuries later another school of thought emerged, called the nominalists, that disagreed with Plato, and postulated that a quality can never be separated from its substance, and that quality and substance are in fact one and the same. This discussion is a very good example of the paradox inherent in the relation between a substance and its qualities. The fact is, that they are simultaneously one and different, and that while this may transcend, or defy, the laws of logic, our perception of the red rose confirms the principle.

Another example is the spatial perception of an object, say a coin. While the coin is one, it has many sides, an inside as well as an outside, an upside and down side. These different sides establish an element of many-ness within the object, that is simultaneously perceived as one object.

In modern physics the relation between particles and fields has been a subject of many discussions. Scientists have observed that a field, or wave, sometimes behaves like a continuum of energy (oneness), and other times behaves like a stream of finite particles (many-ness). The phenomena has in fact been named “wavicles” clearly establishing the simultaneous oneness and many-ness of these manifestations of energy. The discussion reflects the underlying principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva. Following this theme, modern physics leans towards a worldview whereby the universe is seen as a unified field of energy, from which finite particles, in the shape of matter, emerge as a continuous process of creation. These finite particles can at any time revert back to their non-finite energetic state, which paints a picture of oneness (the field) and many-ness (particles) continually interchanging, and in fact simultaneously coexisting.

There are in fact many more examples that could be adduced to illustrate the principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva, and that confirm the principle by means of direct perception. As such the principle is not illogical, but should be defined as ‘supra-logical’, transcending the limitations of the finite human mind.

Ultimately the philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva explains the relationship between God and His creation, and more specifically, it also explains the relationship between God and living entities, such as ourselves. The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva states that this relationship too, is characterized by simultaneous oneness and difference. We are one with God in a qualitative sense, however we are different quantitatively. In quantity God is infinite and we are finite. It is therefore a mistake to assume, as some Indian schools of thought have advocated, that man is identical to God, and fundamentally one with Him in every respect. We are not God, merely small parts of God, with a limited degree of independence.

Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva also sheds light on the identity of God Himself. It maintains that while God is a transcendental Person, he is simultaneously impersonal as well. The relationship between the personal and impersonal too has been the subject of many philosophical arguments. While consciousness and form represent the personal aspect of God, infinity and all-pervasiveness represent the impersonal aspect, which attributes appear contradictory. Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva maintains that they both exist simultaneously, and that they complement each other. God is simultaneously full of form and formless, finite and infinite, personal and impersonal.

The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva, as expounded by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, therefore represents a revolutionary new paradigm in our ability to understand reality, and it in fact resolves many of the apparently irresolvable paradoxes that have dominated philosophy and metaphysics in the east and the west for thousands of years.


Experience it for yourself !
Chanting Yoga Retreats