Anartha and Atma

By Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj, from Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion, Volume III.

Anartha means “separate interest.” Krishna consciousness is causeless, nirguna. It has no end. Nirguna means that the central flow and vibration of Krishna consciousness is eternal: that wave has no end. Any interest which is separate from Krishna consciousness is anartha. Artha means necessity, and anartha is that which is not my necessity — that which is opposed to my necessity, being based on separate consciousness and interest.

So to get out of the trap of separate interest which is misleading us, and to learn how to read the Infinite, we are to identify with the universal flow, the universal wave. At present we are being carried away by different waves of separate-interest consciousness: anartha — it is not necessary for us. Our only necessity is to merge in the wave of the universal interest, which is for Itself, for Himself. The Lord says:

aham hi sarva-yajnanam bhokta ca prabhur eva ca

“I am the only enjoyer of all sacrifices, of all movement in this world. I am the only enjoyer, and everything belongs to Me unconditionally.”

Bhagavad-gita 9.24

God’s position is such. He is paramount. He is the highest harmonizing center, and we must all submit cent-per-cent to Him. Any deviation from that is anartha. Anartha means “meaningless,” it has no meaning. The only real meaning or purpose worthy to be served is the connection with the universal wave, the universal movement. Anything besides that is anartha — undesirable and unnecessary. The anarthas will serve no purpose. We are in connection with anarthas, undesirable things which will not serve any real purpose towards our cause.

But the real cause of our life and the whole satisfaction of our very existence will be found only in connection with the universal wave of the whole Absolute. That is Krishna consciousness. It is the most universal, fundamental wave and we have to catch that. Our goal, our satisfaction, and the very fulfillment of our life is only to be found there, in that layer, in that plane, and not in the superficial plane of nationality interest, family interest, or social service, for that is provincialism.

One section of the population is busy with many local interests, and another section wishes to stop all activity. To stop one’s own movement, to do away with one’s own existence is renunciation or samadhi, and that is suicidal. We have to give up renunciation as well as enjoyment. The tendency to do evil and the tendency to go on strike — both are to be given up. In a nation, we may find so many workers doing some wrong, going against the principle of the law, and that is bad because it is disorderly – but to go on strike or to refuse to work is also bad. The good path is to work only for the interest of the country.

This we have to learn: from local interest we must go to the universal, the Absolute. We are not to have any local interest, however extensive it may be. Whether self-centered, family-centered, village-centered, or society-centered as in humanitarianism — it is all only a part of the Infinite. This is the fact, and generally, we are to try to understand things in such a way. The technical words like anartha nivrtti, bhava, asakti, all these are covered by this understanding.

Lord Krishna has recommended in Srimad Bhagavad Gita how one can conquer kama, or lust, by regulating the senses. He advises us to become acquainted with the nature of the soul, then all the problems caused by kama will be turned into ashes:

indriyani parany ahur indriyebhyah param manah
manasas tu para buddhir buddher yah paratas tu sah


evam buddheh param buddhva samstabhyatmanam atmana
jahi satrum maha-baho kama-rupam durasadam

Bhagavad-gita 3.42-43

Lust is not easily accessible but is hidden. We cannot easily trace where he lives, but he comes suddenly, and after looting, disappears. But here we are told that lust really lives in the intelligence, the mind, and the senses. To conquer that lust we have to regulate the senses, but in order to do so, we must first analyze what the senses are and what is their position, and then what is the position of the internal king of the senses, the mind. After that, we must analyze what is the intrinsic position of the buddhi, or the faculty of reason, judgment, and intelligence. With the help of reason, we must try to find out what is in the background of that faculty of reason, of judgment, and of decision-making.

In the background is a pencil-thin ray whose nature is diametrically opposite to the world of experience. In Srimad Bhagavatam, an example is given that at night a cloud may cover the moon. Though the cloud obscures the moon, still the cloud can only be seen by the light of the moon.

na rarajodupaschana svajyotsna bhasitairghanaih
aham matya bhasitaya svabhasa puruso jyatha

Srimad Bhagavatam 10.20.19

In this example, the soul is likened to the moon and the ahankara is likened to cloud cover. The sense-consciousness, the mind, and the intelligence have all combined to form a system, ahankara, which has covered the soul. But they are seen, and it is possible for them to act, only because there is light — the light of the soul, the moon. So by the help of our reason, we must try to perceive what is above reason, and we shall come to see that it is the atma or the soul. In this way, we may have some direct connection with the atma, or at least some conception, however vague, of its existence and nature. At that time our whole material aspiration will turn into trash and within ourselves, we will be able to conquer all the charms of this world. The Lord’s advice in Srimad Bhagavad Gita is to somehow or other try to obtain an understanding of the true nature of our own atma. We are really of such a superior nature and hold a noble, dignified position in the higher plane, but lust and so many base things have come to entrap us.

raso ‘py asya param drstva nivartate

Bhagavad Gita 2.59

By even slightly coming in contact with the dignified position of our own soul, all worldly charm will vanish, and even that will seem to be a negligible thing compared to the awakening of higher levels of realization all the way up to the Supersoul [Paramatma] then to Narayana and Krishna. There is so much ecstatic enjoyment on that side, and it will be realized only when it is revealed within us.

Although to our present conception it is far away, still, that experiencer, that taster is within us: it is the jivatma, and if we try to concentrate there even for a second, we will discover what a dignified position the soul holds. We shall think: “Who are these thieves? The intellect, the mind, the senses — all thieves and plunderers! They are taking me into the land of misery as if through some intricate conspiracy.” It will seem like that to us.

indriyani parany ahur indriyebhyah param manah

Bhagavad Gita 3.42

Our senses are superior in comparison to all the things that we experience around us: if we had no sense of touch, sight, hearing, and so on, then we would have no conception of anything external. The world would mean nothing to us.

At the center of all the senses is the mind. Someone may call but we may not hear. We may find: “He was calling me? Oh, I was unmindful, unconscious, and did not hear him. Even though I have my senses, because I was unmindful, I did not hear or see him.” So the mind is the center of the senses, and it has two functions, sankalpa, and vikalpa, or acceptance and rejection. “I want this, I don’t want that; I don’t want that, I want this.” This is mainly the function of the mind.

Higher than the mind is the buddhi, or intelligence. From the mind we will go up to the buddhi, the reason. What is it? Discrimination. “Oh, my mind wants that, but that will bring such a reaction, so don’t do that.” The buddhi, the intelligence or faculty of judgment will give the warning: “Don’t go! Don’t listen to what the mind says! Don’t obey him.” That is the intelligence.

If we go higher, surpassing the intelligence, searching for what is next, what is above the intelligence, backing it and making the function of intelligence possible, we will be able to see: “Oh, this is my real self and everything else is an outside extension in the material world — it is all a material overcoating. I can leave it, and with only myself, my own atma, alone, I can go up to somewhere higher. This present atmosphere is not at all necessary for me, rather it is harmful, a coating, a garment which has been thrust onto me in order that I come in connection with this bad environment.” With this realization, with our soul proper, we can go in a higher direction, towards Paramatma, Narayana, and Krishna.


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