Question: What is the Science of Identity, and why is it important for me to understand it?
JAGAD GURU: My desire is to share the Absolute Truth with you. When you know who you really are, when you understand the truth of your identity, you will be able to live a happy, purposeful life. And when the time comes for you to leave this world, you will be able to do so without fear, and at peace. If I can help just one person in this way, then I will have succeeded in life.
“When you know who you really are, when you understand the truth of your identity, you will be able to live a happy, purposeful life.”
Question: So what is my true identity?
JAGAD GURU: Most people think they are their physical body or their mind. But the fact is, you are not your physical body, and you are not your mind. You are the eternal spiritual soul (atma) who is only temporarily in a material body. If God were the sun, then you are a ray of that sun. In other words, you are an eternal offspring or child of the Supreme Soul. Your body will die, but you, the eternal spirit soul, will never die.
The next truth you need to realize is this: God loves you unconditionally. My purpose in life is to help you realize this truth—to share with you the process which has been shared with me, which will help purify your consciousness so that you can directly perceive or experience your true identity and God's unconditional love for you, and awaken your natural love for God.
When you are united with God in a bond of love, you will have achieved the goal of the human form of life. This state of being is called "yoga." Yoga means union. Yoga also refers to the different processes, practices, and techniques that help us achieve that union with God. So the science of identity is the science of yoga.
“In other words, you are an eternal offspring or child of the Supreme Soul. Your body will die, but you, the eternal spirit soul, will never die.”
Question: Where do your teachings originate?
JAGAD GURU: First, you should understand that these are not my teachings. If what I teach comes from me, then it is bound to have imperfections because I am imperfect. What I share is what has been shared with me by my guru based on yoga scripture.
And my guru also is not the originator of these teachings. Rather, he received this transcendental knowledge from his guru. In this way, the transcendental knowledge of yoga has been handed down from spiritual master to disciple from time immemorial.
The originator, the source, of this transcendental science is Bhagavan, the Supreme Soul. Bhagavan Sri Krishna shared this transcendental knowledge with Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita, which is the foundation and most important of all yoga scriptures.
The chains of teachers that have been handing down the Bhagavad-gita in this way are known as disciplic successions. There are many disciplic successions coming from Sri Krishna. I received the science of Bhagavad-gita from His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, who was a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupad, who received this science from his spiritual teacher, Gaurakishora das Babaji, who received this science from his guru, and so on. This disciplic succession is called the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya.
“The originator, the source, of this transcendental science is Bhagavan, the Supreme Soul. Bhagavan Sri Krishna shared this transcendental knowledge with Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita, which is the foundation and most important of all yoga scriptures.”
Question: Why is yoga called a science, such as the science of self-discovery or the science of identity?
JAGAD GURU: Generally speaking, when people think of “religion,” they envision something that a person can join or quit, can be converted from or converted to. Science, on the other hand, is the step-by-step process of understanding what already is--discovering the truth that already exists.
So yoga is the science of discovering the truth that exists already. In contrast, “religion” is commonly perceived as something that one decides to join or believe in. The approach between these two is very different. Someone who is on the path of yoga wants to know what the truth is and is open to that truth—no matter what the truth may be or where it may lead. A true yogi, therefore, can never be a blind believer or blind follower.
Question: What exactly does “guru” mean?
JAGAD GURU: “Guru” as an adjective means “heavy or weighty” as in “one who is heavy with spiritual knowledge and wisdom.”
“Guru” also means spiritual master—this means that he has dovetailed his body, his mind, his intelligence, and his will with the will of God. In other words, guru means one who is the loving servant of God and well-wisher of others. “Guru” does not mean one who becomes a master of other people.
It’s very important to understand that a bona fide guru never sees himself as the dominator or master of anyone. He never teaches that he is God or tries to take the place of God in people’s lives.
A guru is someone who is so filled with bhakti or love for the Supreme—and therefore love or compassion for all living beings who he understands are parts and parcels of the Supreme—that he sees himself as the servant of everyone and dedicates his life to helping everyone find true happiness.
“In other words, guru means one who is the loving servant of God and well-wisher of others. “Guru” does not mean one who becomes a master of other people.”
Question: So are you or I God?
JAGAD GURU: Of course not. God is the Supreme Controller. In yoga, the exact word is Ishvara. Ishvara means the Supreme Controller. As sparks of God, we also have the characteristic of being controllers, but because each of us is just a ray of the sun, not the entire sun, therefore, we are not the supreme controllers. We have a little bit of control, not supreme control. Ishvara, God, is the Supreme Controller. So any spiritual teacher who claims to be God is in illusion.
Question: How do you feel when people criticize you for having faults?
JAGAD GURU: They’re not telling me something I don’t already know. I have many faults. I am not perfect. But God is perfect. He is so perfect that He loves me even though I am imperfect. He loves me even though I am not worthy of being loved. He calls me to His embrace even though He knows all my faults.
This is why God is so wonderful. So while we should try to be righteous, without flaws, we should always know that we will all fall short of perfection. But God loves us anyway. I have said many times that those who criticize me for having one fault or another are not telling me anything I don't already know. Whatever faults they criticize me for having are nothing compared to the faults that I know I have. And what's so wonderful about this is that by "exposing" my faults, they are indirectly helping me in my mission to convince you and everyone else that God's love is unconditional.
In other words, if God loves me despite my many faults and imperfections, then you can know that God loves you also, despite your faults. If I were perfect and God loves me, then how would that help you? You know that you have so many faults and imperfections. If you thought that God loves me because I am perfect, then you would conclude that in order for you to be loved by God, you would first need to become perfect or qualified for God to love you. So you would feel that, "to get God to love me, I first need to get rid of all my faults, all my flaws, all my imperfections."
But if you try to do that, you ultimately will fail. And so you'll always feel separate from God. You'll never be able to actually rest your heart in God. You'll be too busy trying to become qualified or pure. As I said, my goal is to convince you that God loves you unconditionally. God loves you as you are. You don't need to become someone or something else. You simply need to realize in the core of your very being how much God loves you, without conditions.
“God loves you as you are. You don't need to become someone or something else.”
Question: To achieve self-realization, or love for God, do I need to give up all my possessions and live in a monastery or ashram?
JAGAD GURU: No. As Krishna makes clear in the Bhagavad-Gita, one can be in the world and yet not be of the world. In other words, if one is engaging in so-called worldly activities in the spirit of karma yoga—motivated by love for God and others-—then their activities become spiritualized, and their wisdom and spiritual love will grow endlessly.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a businessman, homemaker, politician, worker, farmer, police officer, construction worker, yoga teacher, or anything else. No matter what your occupation or interest is, you can apply the principles of karma yoga to your life. You can serve people in whatever position you are in. Whether you are a street-sweeper or a businessman, it doesn’t matter. What matters is your attitude of selfless service. The spirit of karma yoga is a spirit of caring for the well-being of all people, our country, and the world.
I have students from all walks of life, and it is my hope that all of them, regardless of their age, gender, religious or political beliefs, occupation and so on, will try to apply the ideals and principles of karma yoga to their personal life and work.
Back in the 70’s, the common perception was that one could only be a practitioner of Bhakti Yoga if they lived in a temple, wore Indian dress such as saris and robes, shaved their heads, and gave up all their material possessions, jobs, family, etc. and moved into an ashram or temple. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I teach my students that instead of withdrawing from the world and living in a temple or ashram, they should integrate into society and practice karma yoga and bhakti yoga within the context of their living regular lives in society.
I'm not saying that one should never spend time in a monastery, ashram, or temple-type situation. If approached with the right attitude, understanding that one is entering into that institution in order to increase one’s spiritual understanding, being careful not to hand over the responsibility for one’s own spiritual well-being to the group, then it can be helpful.
That is the original yoga system of learning and living. You live for a while as a student, you learn, and then you leave the ashram or monastery and try to apply in your life the spiritual values, practices, and principles that you have learned.
But everyone is different. Some people feel the need for living in such a situation and others would rather not. Either way can work.
But for myself, I try to teach and encourage people to turn their homes into temples where they can have morning and evening times for meditation, wisdom, and prayer within the privacy of their home. They can have their friends and family members congregate, meditate, and study yoga scripture together.
My goal is to convince as many people as possible to turn their hearts into temples—where they can meditate and worship the Supreme Lord within their hearts constantly.
People are mistaken when they think that God is only in the church or the temple or the mosque. The Supreme Lord expands himself as the Paramatama, the Lord in the Heart, of every living being. Therefore, we can be worshiping God in the temple of our hearts every day, every moment.
So, we try to make it so that individuals can take the information, the knowledge, and the techniques and the practices, and apply them to their own life, and not need to join an organization. We're not criticizing organizations or temples or mosques or churches. But the Science of Identity Foundation teaches something different: what's most important is not joining a church or a religion or a group—what's important is applying the techniques, practices, principles, and spiritual understanding to your own life and your own relationships.
Most of my students are married with families. They work, have businesses, or are involved in the community in different ways. They do their best to apply the teachings to their own lives. Some of them are successful in their spiritual development and others are not so successful. Everyone is different. But one thing is the same: each individual must take personal responsibility for him or herself.
“My goal is to convince as many people as possible to turn their hearts into temples—where they can meditate and worship the Supreme Lord within their hearts constantly.”
Question: A lot of times in the world, religion often acts as and is seen as a divider of people and a source of conflict rather than a source of unity and greater understanding for people. Why is this? And what, if anything, can be done to change this?
JAGAD GURU: When a person or a society has only a superficial acquaintance with or understanding of religion generally or about a specific religion, then this is a source of misunderstanding and can lead to more conflict.
On a superficial level, various spiritual and religious practices may seem completely different from each other. But if you look deeply into the teachings and practices, especially the spiritual practices, you will find a lot of universal spiritual principles and practices that they share.
People who consider themselves to be of a particular religious faith are themselves actually not advanced in their spiritual development. Their understanding of their own spiritual path is very shallow and, in that condition, they have an even more shallow understanding of other spiritual paths. Such individuals cause a lot of conflict.
On the other hand, individuals who seriously follow their particular spiritual path and make personal spiritual advancement gradually come to the point where they transcend their superficial sectarian attitude by dint of their own spiritual advancement.
In other words, they come to understand what real religion is and they begin to recognize that people who follow other religious or spiritual paths can also come to that level of spiritual advancement if they are serious in their practices and sincere in their quest.
“On a superficial level, various spiritual and religious practices may seem completely different from each other. But if you look deeply into the teachings and practices, especially the spiritual practices, you will find a lot of universal spiritual principles and practices that they share.”
Question: What do you think about politics?
JAGAD GURU: Let me tell you a very instructive story about a great yoga sage long ago. Although he was just a child, he was already very enlightened. His father was a very powerful king, always involved in politics and diplomacy, and he wanted his son to also get involved in politics. But his son expressed to his father, “I’m not inclined toward politics because I feel friendship toward everyone, and I want to feel friendship toward everyone; but in politics, this is very difficult.
Because in politics, it is usually necessary to see one person as your opponent and another person as an ally or friend. And conversely, people see you as their opponent or ally or friend, depending upon your political position. I wish to be a friend to all and have others accept me as their friend and well-wisher.” That’s how I feel. I want everybody, regardless of their politics, to be able to learn and apply the Science of Identity to their life.
I want everyone to have the opportunity to follow the path of yoga, regardless of their political viewpoints or alliances. If I get involved in politics, then automatically I will be denying many people the opportunity to accept the gift of yoga and apply it in their lives. So although some people may feel comfortable trying to work for the welfare of others in the arena of politics, serving in that way is not my calling.
It is just like some people feel very comfortable being involved in business endeavors—that is also not my calling. Everybody works and tries to serve in different ways, and my humble attempt to serve is as a teacher. I do not consider being a teacher superior to other occupations or that it somehow makes me better than other people who try to serve in some other way. But it is an occupation that comes naturally to me.
Why no interview with the Star-Advertiser?
The mission of Science of Identity Foundation and Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda (Chris Butler) is to share with people the beneficial practices and philosophy of yoga—especially yoga meditation and the teachings Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, which is the Supreme scripture of yoga and Hinduism.
Therefore, both Chris Butler and Science of Identity Foundation always welcome the opportunity to discuss these topics with any publication or broadcaster.
The reason why we were not interested in the interview with the Honolulu Star Advertiser is because it was clear that the subject matter of the interview was not yoga and meditation, but rather political.
Those who practice the yoga systems taught by Chris Butler are involved in a wide variety of occupations, from farming, business, nursing, law enforcement, education, politics, etc.
It would make no more sense for Chris Butler to be interviewed about politics than it would be to interview him about nursing, medicine, business, agriculture, or other topics which are not his expertise.