Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #14 – Seeing, But Not Seeing, Sri Sri Radha and Krishna

April 3rd, 2023

In the history of the world, everyone has died. We don’t have to look far to see that our eldest relatives are gone, and that eventually we are next. Still, the most amazing thing, according to the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, is that we act as if somehow we will not die. Yes, we may acknowledge the fact that one day we will leave this body, and we may also be very fearful of death, but still, we are mostly oblivious to the stark reality of our mortality in how we look at, react to, and plan our lives. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam calls this paśyann (seeing) api na paśyati (but not seeing).[1] When I again chanced upon this phrase this week, I was intrigued and began to meditate on its meaning. What became obvious was the myriad of reasons why we don’t see that which is right before our eyes. What struck me most in my musings is how relevant it is to recognize this phenomenon to fully understand Radha and Krishna in truth.


First, my thoughts on what the various obstacles to perception are:




Perception is not just a matter of the senses. It depends on the focus of the mind. Have you ever daydreamed while chanting your japa or reciting a prayer and didn’t hear anything although you were chanting the mantra or prayer and vibrating the eardrum with its sound? The reason you didn’t hear anything was because in order for something to register in our awareness it requires not only the activation of the external senses, but the focus of the internal sense—the mind. Real chanting is thus done with the mind—although for most people, without activating the external senses, the mind will not be focused on our meditation, and there will not be a willful impression of the holy name in the consciousness. Conclusion: Unless one is attentive, even though we may be hearing and seeing, we in fact are not seeing (paśyann api na paśyati).




Can you perceive something if you do not know what it is? Imagine going back 2,000 years in time and showing your iPhone to a person of that era. Although seeing it, they would not be able to perceive it as a phone because of ignorance of what it is. Therefore, to see and respond to the world properly, a cultured and intelligent person consciously sees the world through the lens or eyes of knowledge or śāstra (jñāna-cakṣus). Conclusion: Unless we have knowledge, although seeing and hearing, we in fact are not seeing (paśyann api na paśyati).




Our attitude also effects our perception. Go back to the last presidential election in the United States and choose a candidate that you dislike the most. Probably half the country who is seeing and hearing the exact same person is perceiving him in exactly the opposite way as you. Our attitude, especially in terms of the dualities of desire and hate, very much affect our ability to accurately perceive the world, especially its people. For example, when we hate or envy someone, we tend to see them as less than they are. Conclusion: Unless one is beyond prejudice, although seeing and hearing something, we in fact are not seeing (paśyann api na paśyati).


Strong Material Attachment


Have you ever entered a monetary transaction with a narcissist? A narcissist sees the world through their own desires, so in all likelihood at some time in the transaction they saw your money as theirs and were either reluctant to give it back to you or they outright kept it. Our nature is to color the world by our attachments only seeing what we desire as true and not hearing as valid what we don’t like. Conclusion: Unless we become detached, although seeing or hearing something, we in fact are not seeing (paśyann api na paśyati).


Seeing and Hearing Radha and Krishna


The goal of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is to hear and realize the Tenth Canto, specifically the love of Radha and Krishna. But are we hearing about Radha and Krishna in truth if we are not sufficiently attentive, knowledgeable, free from envy and pure in heart? Śrīla Vyāsa, the author, didn’t think so. He therefore organized the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam so that before we hear about Sri Krishna’s pastimes in the Tenth Canto, we need to study the preceding nine cantos first, which are written to purify us of the obstacles to perception so that when we finally hear about Radha and Krishna in the Tenth Canto, we hear the highest spiritual reality and not something mundane or fantastical.


I am foolishly convinced that the reality I see is what is there, including that my temporary body is my true, lasting identity, but if I am seeing the truth then why when I hear the holy name and the pastimes of Radha and Krishna, the ultimate reality and the truest source of love and beauty, does my heart not melt in ecstasy?


“Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of one’s chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end.” (Bhag. 2.3.24) Paśyann api na paśyati.



[1] Bhag. 2.1.4


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