A bearded man sitting across from me at the round table asks, “What is the descending process?” I tell him, “It’s the way of receiving Vedic knowledge. At the beginning of the creation, the Supreme Lord revealed the Absolute Truth to the first created living being, Lord Brahma. Brahma passed it to his disciple and son Narada, and Narada enlightened Srila Vyasadeva, who compiled all the Vedic scriptures. Vyasadeva taught it to his son Sukadeva Gosvami. And Suta Gosvami received it from Srila Sukadeva. The truth of the Vedas continues to be passed down even in the present day by the process of disciplic succession. This process has been compared to different men sitting on branches of a mango tree and handing down the tender, ripened fruit until it can be safely handed over to a person standing on the ground. If the fruit were to be thrown from the top of the tree to the ground, it would be bruised and ruined. Care is taken in handing down to the person situated in the tree so that one receives it from a living bona fide spiritual master who is in the chain of disciplic succession. There are three sources of authority in this descending process: guru, sastra and sadhu, and they are all necessary. The sastras like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam teach all that one needs to know in the science ofbhakti. But the sastras are grave in meaning, and they require a realized guru to guide one in understanding their conclusions.
“Genuine sadhus are saintly persons who are learned in the scriptures and who lead exemplary lives. A guru must teach the same things as the I teach. The guru, sastra and sadhu all teach the same conclusion (siddhanta) and one must harmonize his education by following all three.”
The bearded man then asked, “And what is the ascending process?” And I told him. “The ascending process is just the opposite of the descending process. The descending process is practiced by submissive aural reception of the Vedic message from the authorities of guru, sastra and sadhu. One may inquire from the authorities to clear up something one doesn’t understand, but that inquiry shouldn’t be done in a challenging spirit. The ascending process is the attempt to arrive at the truth by one’s own power of mental speculation. It is always faulty. All conditioned living beings suffer from four defects or imperfections. We all have a tendency to make mistakes, we have a propensity to cheat, we are in illusion and our senses are limited. As such, our attempt to know the ultimate truth will always be baffled. We have to learn by the deductive or descending process, hearing from the perfect authorities coming from the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His transparent representatives.”
Baladeva came to the roundtable and served the four of us pieces of pizza. While we ate (three slices for each man), Narayana read to us from the Third Canto, Chapter 18, “The Battle Between Lord Boar and Hiranyaksa.” The giant demon had plunged into the ocean and challenged Lord Varuna to fight. Varuna told him, ‘We are too old to fight,’ and recommended that he seek out Lord Vishnu, who would defeat him and make him eatable for the dogs. Hiranyaksa took up that challenge and sought out Lord Varaha just as He was uplifting the earth out of the ocean. “The demon challenged the Lord, ‘When You fall dead with Your skull smashed by my mace, the demigods and sages who offer You oblations and sacrifice in devotional service will cease to exist, like trees without roots.’ The Lord went on lifting the earth, while the demon ordered Him to stop and fight with him. The Lord tolerated the demon’s painful words, but in order to reply to him He expressed His terrible anger: The Personality of Godhead said: ‘Indeed We are creatures of the jungle and We seek out hunting dogs like you. One who is freed from the entanglement of death has no fear from the loose talk in which you are indulging, for you are bound up by the laws of death.’ The demon became agitated for the challenge of the Personality of Godhead and trembled in anger like a challenged cobra.
The demon quickly sprang upon the Lord and dealt Him a blow with his powerful mace. The Lord, however, dodged the violent mace-blow aimed at His chest, just as an accomplished yogi would elude death. Then with His mace the Lord struck the demon on the right of his brow, but the demon protected himself by a maneuver of his own mace. Both sustained blows of each other’s pointed maces and grew more and more enraged at the smell of blood on his person. Lord Brahma then arrived along with his followers. Brahma pleaded with the Lord that there was no need to play with the demon, but he should be killed at once. Lord Brahma said, ‘The auspicious period known as abhijit, which is most opportune for victory, commenced at midday and has all but passed; therefore, in the interest of Your friends, please dispose of this formidable foe quickly.’” At this point in the reading we had finished our pizza and also finished our dessert of yogurt and cookies, and Narayana stopped reading. He closed the book and went back to his room. We will have to wait until tomorrow to hear the outcome of the battle.
The last part of Gite Stories will be a free write. You write whatever comes to your mind. I am sitting at the round table alone.Bhajana-rahasya is finished. Heart of Darkness is finished. Mark Twain’s autobiography is finished until they come out with Volume II. I’m at the start of the story Introducing Bhakta Bob. Bhakti-tirtha Swami commented that people will read my books after I have died. Haridasa says they are reading them now. Syama-gopa-rupa had a table of my books set up at the Gita-nagari Ratha-yatra. A man came up and saw my name on the books. “I’ve never heard of him,” he said. But then he picked upWrite and Die and noticed it said “a novel.” “Hmm.” That interested him. He bought the book and several others. I was not at the festival. It’s too long a drive. I stay at one place. Baladeva is running the lawnmower. I can hear the engine running. But he’s supposed to be here in six minutes to bring me warm milk and read Caitanya-caritamrta to me. I hope he will read a section that I can write a poem about tomorrow. Guru dasa sent me suggestions for gite stories, but they were too fantastic. Baladeva gave me suggestions too but they were too straight Krishna-conscious.