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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Vedas in the heart, part 2

This blog is a sequel to my blog of November 1, which led to an interesting debate between Pt. Satyanārāyan dās jī and an anonymous commentator. Since the new reply of Satyanārāyan dāsjī is extensive, it was impossible to post it as one single comment, so I am making a new blog about it.

Satyanārāyan dāsjī -
I am replying to the comments made by Anonymous on the topic of whether or not the Veda exists in the ātma. I have no intention of attacking or refuting anybody. I was asked to comment on Bhaktivinoda Thākur’s conclusion that the Veda exists in the pure soul, ātma. According to my study of the works of Jīva Gosvāmī and other ācāryas, this understanding does not find support in their writings.   Before I reply to the comments of anonymous, I will give reference from the writings of Jīva Gosvāmī on this topic.

In Paramātma Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has done a lengthy analysis of the constitutional position of the living being in sections 19 through 47. In Anuccheda 44, he cites verse 11.22.10 of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

svato na sambhavād anyas
tattvajño jñānado bhavet

Self-realization for the jīva, who is saddled with beginningless ignorance, is not possible by his own efforts. It is possible only if knowledge is imparted to him by another who knows the reality.
  In this verse, Kṛṣṇa tells Uddhava that knowledge about the Supreme comes from an external source, who is called here as tattvajña, the knower of the Absolute Reality. Jīva Gosvāmī comments that this “another” is none other than Īśvara. He also writes:

“The word jñānada, “bestower of knowledge,” here informs us that Bhagavān is distinct from both knowledge and the knower. Uddhava will similarly say further on [in the same chapter of the Bhāgavata], tvatto jñānaṁ hi jīvānāṁ pramoṣas te’tra śaktitaḥ. The jīvas’ knowledge verily comes from You, and it is stolen away by Your [Māyā] potency. (11.22.28)”

 Knowledge of the Absolute also indicates the knowledge of the Veda, because the essence of the Vedas is to know Kṛṣṇa (Gītā 15.15). The word used in SB 11.22.10 is jñānada, the giver of jñāna, or knowledge. It does not say that he makes the pre-existing knowledge in the ātma manifest. Rather, the verse clearly says that the jīva is ignorant without beginning (anādi avidyā). This is further fortified by Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī in section 47 of Paramātma Sandarbha, where he again says that the conditioned jīvas have beginningless indifference to Bhagavān, anādita eva bhagavat-parāṅmukha. In Bhakti Sandarba, Anuccheda 1 he clearly says that a conditioned jīva is devoid of knowledge of bhagavan - taṭastha-śakti-rūpāṇāṁ cideka-rasānām api anādi-para-tattva-jñāna-saṁsarga-abhāvamaya-tad-vaimukhya. He repeats the same point in Priti Sandarbha,  Anuccheda 1, taj-jñāna-saṁsarga-abhāva-yuktatvena. In these two references of Bhakti Sandarbha and Prīti Sandarbha the compound word saṁsarga-abhāva refers to pre-absence (prāg-abhāva). Pre-absence is well-known to have no beginning but can come to an end. Thus, saṁsarga abhāva implies that a jīva has never had knowledge but he can acquire it. That is the significance of the word jñānada in verse 11.22.10.

While commenting upon SB 1.7.5 also he writes that a conditioned jīva is devoid of jñāna of Bhagavān, jīvānām anādi-bhagavad-ajñānam asahamāna. In these statements the word abhāva and ajñānam very clearly state that a jīva has no knowledge of Bhagavān or the Veda inherent in him. In fact, the very reason that māyā can overpower the jīva is because he lacks knowledge of Bhagavan. This knowledge has to be received from a qualified guru. That is the significance of the Bhāgavatam verse 11.22.10.

On this, one may raise the pūrvapakṣa (objection) that in Anuccheda 19, Jīva Gosvāmī has cited verses about the svarūpa of a living being from Padma Purāṇa and Jamātṛ Muni of the Śrī Sampradāya. In these verses, the word cidānanda-ātmaka is used as one of the characteristics of the jīva. This means that the jīva has knowledge (cit) and bliss (ānanda) in him.

This, however, is not true, because while explaining this term in section 28, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that the meaning of the jīva being of the nature of cit, or jñāna, is that he is not inert, and the meaning that he is of the nature of ānanda, or bliss, is that he is devoid of suffering, tatra tasya jaḍa-pratiyogitvena jñānatvaṁ duḥkha-pratiyogitvena tu jñānatvam ānandatvam ca. In other words, the term cidānanda-ātmaka does not means that the jīva is full of knowledge and bliss, as it is misunderstood sometimes. It means that he is devoid of inertness and suffering. Nowhere in his analysis of the constitution of the jīva does Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī write that the knowledge of the Vedas or that of Bhagavān is inherent in the svarūpa of the jīva or ātma. No such statement is found in any of his writings, such as Sarva Samvādini or Krama Sandarbha, the commentary on the complete Bhāgavatam. Personally, I have not come across any statement in the writings of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana, Śrī Jīva, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti Thākur or Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, which says that knowledge of the Veda or that of Bhagavan is inherent in the svarūpa of the jīva or ātma. In the same vein, Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja in Caitanya-caritāmṛta says: guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja [Cc. Madhya 19.151] that the seed of bhakti is attained by the grace of guru and Kṛṣṇa. It does not say that the seed is already inside and that it manifests by sādhana bhakti.

In another place of CC it says by performing sadhana-bhakti, the seed of bhakti blooms into devotion (Śravaṇādi śuddha-citte karaye udaya (Cc. Madhya 22.107) Rūpa Gosvāmī also asserts the same thing in BRS 1.2.2 where he says that bhakti is eternally existent in pure devotees and it manifests in the heart of a sādhaka by the grace of guru. (nitya-siddhasya bhāvasya prākaṭyaṁ hṛdi sādhyatā). While commenting on this verse, Mukunda Das Gosvami clearly writes that this nitya-siddha bhava here refers to the bhava of nitya-siddha bhaktas. This is also made clear by Jīva Gosvāmī in his commentary on verse 1.3.1 from BRS.

There are various statements which they clearly say that the jīva is devoid of any knowledge, although he is a conscious being and he has the potential to acquire knowledge. This is certainly supported by Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in verses such as:

svato na sambhavād anyas
tattva-jño jñāna-do bhavet

ekasyaiva mamāṁśasya
jīvasyaiva mahā-mate
bandho 'syāvidyayānādir
vidyayā ca tathetaraḥ

deho 'savo 'kṣā manavo bhūta-mātrām
ātmānam anyaṁ ca viduḥ paraṁ yat
sarvaṁ pumān veda guṇāṁś ca taj-jño
na veda sarva-jñam anantam īḍe

yadṛcchayopasṛtā yam āpnuyur
vimuktido naḥ paramo gurur bhavān

A similar statement is also found in Garuda Purāṇa, Preta Kalpa, 49.7. In the very first verse of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (1.1.1), it is very clearly stated that the Vedic knowledge was imparted to Brahmā by Bhagavān through the heart, tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye. The third case in hṛdā means that Bhagavān revealed the Vedas through the heart and not through the ears. This means that Brahmā received Vedic Knowledge while in a trans-cognitive state, samādhi. This is also confirmed by Svetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.18. While giving the four-versed Bhagavatam to Brahmā, Bhagavān says, “Take this knowledge from Me, gṛhāṇa.” It is not said that Bhagāvān revealed the knowledge that was already existing in the heart of Brahmā. Sometimes, when it is said that the knowledge was revealed, it means that knowledge given in the heart in super-cognitive state. It does not mean that knowledge is already there inside the ātma and then it is revealed into heart. This is seen in the case of Brahmā receiving the catuḥ-ślokī Bhāgavatam.

Keeping this view in mind, I now reply to anonymous. He writes:

“You (SND) wrote:
12.6.40-41 – ‘There is no mention in this verse that Om manifests from atma, as is seen in the above translation. You can check the Sanskrit yourself.’”

My reply: In verse 12.6.40, the word ātmanah refers to Paramātma and not the individual living being. This is very clear from the commentary.

śṛṇoti ya imaṁ sphoṭaṁ
supta-śrotre ca śūnya-dṛk
yena vāg vyajyate yasya
vyaktir ākāśa ātmanaḥ

My translation is as follows.”When the power of hearing is dissolved (supta-śrotre), the one who  hears this sound (imam sphoṭam) [i.e., Om], even at that time is  the one who can perceive things beyond sense perception (śūnya-dṛk) [i.e. Paramātmā]. It is from Him that the speech [in the form of the Veda] is manifested. The [Vedic speech] becomes manifest in the sky [of heart] from Paramātmā (ātmanaḥ).”

The relative pronoun yaḥ in this verse refers to Paramātma and not to an individual living being. This is made clear in the commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīdhara Svami, as well as by Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura. All the other commentators also agree with them. Although these three commentators have not glossed the word ātmanah as Paramātma, it is clear that the term cannot mean the living being here, because it is Paramātma who hears this sound, and not ātma, the individual living being. The context here is the manifestation of the Veda to Brahmā from Paramātma and not the living being. The topic is not related with an individual living being. The meaning is also given according to the context. The word ātma can mean the Supreme Being (Paramātma), an individual living being, mind, intellect, body or object of love. Examples of the word atma being used for Paramātma are i.e.

sarvam hi etad brahma ayam ātma brahma‘so ayam ātma catuṣpat
(Maṇḍuka Upaniṣad 2)

nāyam ātma pravacana labhyo na medhayā na bahunā śrutena
Yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyas tasyaiṣa ātma vivṛṇute tanuṁ svam

(Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 3.2.4)

ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo nididhyāsitavyo maitreyi ātmani khalu are dṛṣṭe śrute mathe vijñate idam sarvaṁ viditam

(Bṛhad-āranyaka Upaniṣad 4.4.6)

Further, Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura writes that it is from Paramātma that the jīva gets the knowledge of Om, jīvasya yā upalabdhiḥ sā paramātma dvārikaiva iti jñeyam. If the nāda, Om, or the Vedas were inherent in a jīva then this comment of Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura would make no sense. At least three commentators, i.e., Śrī Sudarśana Suri, Śrī Vijayadvaja Tirtha and Śukadeva have clearly glossed atmanah as Paramātma. Thus, the manifestation of the Veda in the heart is from Paramātma, not from ātma.

Moreover, according to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam verse 12.6.37, the nāda which is mentioned here refers to the heart of Brahmā, brahmaṇaḥ parameṣṭhinaḥ, and not any living entity. This certainly matches with the statement of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.1.1. that Vedic knowledge was revealed by Bhagavān to Brahmā through the heart. Verses SB 12.6.37 and 12.6.40 do not say that the Vedas are established in the ātma. These verses give a description of the Vedas appearing in the heart of Brahmā and not the living entities. This is also  understood from the questions of Śaunaka to Śukadeva Gosvami (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.6.36).

Anonymous comments:

Śrī Satya Narayana das Babaji’s comment that Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has refuted sphotavada in Sarva Samvadini is irrelevant for two reasons:

1) Śrīmad Bhagavatam 12.6.40 says – śṛṇoti ya imam sphotam supta-srotre – “He hears this sphoṭa when the senses do not function”.

This verse describes the manifestation of the syllable AUM from nāda as the “sphoṭa”. Thus, the theory of sphoṭa is supported by Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the very text Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī is defending in Sarva Samvādini.

2) The sphoṭa theory refuted by Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī in Sarva Samvādini has nothing to do with the sphota theory discussed in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.6.40. Rather, in Sarva Samvādini (11) Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has refuted the sphota theory of the grammarian Pāṇinī, which distinguishes between śabda as syllables and śabda as sphota. No such differentiation exists in the description of sphota in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.”

 My reply about these two points is that they are irrelevant. When I say, Jīva Gosvāmī refuted sphota-vāda, I obviously mean the sphota-vāda of the grammarians. That is the only sphota-vāda accepted in scholarly circles. Just because SB 12.6.37 uses the term sphota, it does not mean it is sphota-vāda. Words have popular meanings and secondary meanings. The term sphota-vāda is used only to mean the theory of the grammarians. I never heard or read of anyone referring to sphota-vāda of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, including Jīva Gosvāmī. Therefore, my comment is not irrelevant because I am referring to the popular sphota-vāda. There is no such thing as “sphota theory” of Bhāgavatam.

Anonymous comments:

“Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Thākura comments on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.21.37:

Bhūteṣu sarva-prāniṣu ghoṣa-rūpena ghoṣo nādaḥ tad-rūpena lakṣyate manīṣibhiḥ
“The Veda is seen as nāda by the wise in all beings.”

If you have no problem with this statement of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Thākura, then you have to ask yourself why do you have a problem with Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thākura saying exactly the same thing?”

My reply: You have to first decide whether the Vedas exist in the ātma or in the heart. Both are not the same. The heart is part of the subtle body, which is made of matter. It has nothing in common with the qualities of ātma.

 In this verse, it is stated that Kṛṣṇa has established the nāda in the jīva. From the commentaries of Jīva Gosvāmī and Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura it is apparent that this nāda is established in the Mūlādhāra Cakra of Brahmā and from there it moves up. There is no mention that the nāda is established in the ātmā. Moreover, if the Veda were already inherent in the ātmā, then there would be no need to establish it. But Kṛṣṇa says that he established, māyā upabṛṁhitam. This supports my explanation of the word ātmanaḥ in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.6.40, where I said that ātmā here means Paramātma, and therefore the Vedas manifest from Paramātma and not the individual beings. But if you interpret the word ātma in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.6.40 as individual soul, it would contradict Kṛṣṇa’s statement in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.21.37 that is it He who established the Veda in the heart of Brahmā.

Anonymous comments:

“Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Thākura comments on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.6.39 -

svarāt sāksāt parameśvara eva - From nāda manifests AUM, which is directly the Supreme Lord.

Since the Supreme Lord is vibhu (vyāpaka), all-pervading, in all his forms, including AUM, the seed of the Vedas, what benefit is there from claiming that the Lord pervades everything except for the jīva?”

My reply: This comment does not serve the purpose of proofing that the Vedas are in the ātma. If you apply your logic, then the jīva would not be conditioned at all because of God being inherent in him. Wherever there is God, there is no māyā.  The Srutis say, sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma, neham nānā asti kincana, There is only Brahman that exists and nothing else. Thus we are all Brahman, as is verily proclaimed by Advaitavādis. And Kṛṣṇa says, vāsudeva sarvam iti, everything is Vāsudeva. Then we are all Kṛṣṇa. In fact, it is only He who exists and  nothing else. This will demolish your own principle of the path of bhakti. You will end up in Māyāvāda.

Thus it is not a question of citing a particular statement to prove your point. You need to reconcile everything.

Anonymous comments:

“Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Thākura comments on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.21.38:

ananta-pāram prākṛtāprākṛta-prāṇamayasya kālato deśataś cāparicchedāt
‘The Veda, composed of prākrta and āprākrta-prāṇa is infinite due to its being undivided by space or time.’

There are two types of hṛd-ākāśa. One is prākṛta, namely, the anāhata-cakra, where the Veda, in the form of paśyanti, becomes manifest as madhyama. This takes place in the subtle body. The other hṛd-ākāśa is aprākṛta and pervades the jīvātmā. That is described in Chandogya Upanisad 8.3. When the Vedic sound manifests in the aprākṛta-ākāśa, the absolute meaning is understood in relation to bhakti. When the Vedic sound manifests in the prākṛta-ākāśa, the relative meanings related to karma and jñāna are understood due to the vitiation of māyā.

The śabda-brahma is not limited by time or space, therefore it is pointless to argue that it exists in one place but not in another. These are all mundane propositions arising from conditioned binary thinking. All that is needed is a sympathetic disposition towards Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thākura and you will appreciate the perfection of his presentation. Otherwise, vivādātmaka-buddhi will simply create contradiction where no contradiction exists.”

My Reply:
The commentary of Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.21.36 according to my book (11.21.38 according to your reference) makes no mention that the aprākṛta prāṇa belongs to the jīvātma. If you read the commentary of Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura on 11.21.38 (the verse beginning with yatho’rṇanābhi), he clearly mentions that this manifestation of the Veda is from Paramātma or Kṛṣṇa into the Mūlādhāra cakra of Hiraṇyagarbha, or Brahmā (svasmād udbhava prakāram āha yathorṇeti tribhiḥ….. prabhur īśvaro mad aṁśo hiraṇya-garbhāntaryāmī ….hiraṇyagarbhasyādhāra-cakre āvirbhūya). The commentary says, svasmād udbhava prakāram āha, which means, “The manifestation of the Veda from Kṛṣṇa is being described.” It is very clear from the commentary that this manifestation is from the antaryāmi of Paramātma who is part of Kṛṣṇa, mad aṁśo hiranyagarbha antaryāmi. This manifestation is from the unmanifest (aprakaṭa) ākāśa [in which Paramātma exists] into the manifest (prakaṭa) ākāśa in the heart of Brahmā (ākāśād ākāśam avalambya…) into the Mūlādhāra cakra of Hiraṇyagarbha (hiranyagarbhasya ādhāra cakre āvirbhūya). Therefore, there is no mention here in the commentary that the Veda is coming from the aprakat ākāśa of the jīva.

This is also confirmed in the commentary of Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura on the Bhāgavatam verses 11.12.17 and 11.12.19. He comments that the word jīva in 11.12.17 means Paramātma, who is He Himself, jīvayati iti jīvaḥ parameśvaraḥ śāstra prasiddhaḥ eṣa mallakṣaṇaḥ puruṣa eveti sva-tarjanyā sva-vakṣaḥ spṛśati. Then in the commentary it is explained how the nāda manifests in the body of Brahmā, vivareṣy caturmukha-śarīrastha-ādhārādi-cakreṣu… There is no mention that nāda is in the ātmā of Brahmā and from there it comes into his Mūlādhāra cakra. Even Paramātma manifests the Veda in the body of Brahmā and not into his ātmā. This is made further clear in the commentary on 11.12.19 – veda-lakṣaṇayā vāṇī yathā brahma-śarīrād-udbhutā, “just as the speech in the form of Veda manifests from the body of Brahmā ….”

Anonymous comments, “When the Vedic sound manifests in the aprakṛta-ākāśa, the absolute meaning is understood in relation to bhakti.”

My reply: I don’t understand what you mean by your statement. Where is this aprākṛta ākāśa. Is it in ātma or Paramātma and who understands it?

Anonymous further writes, “When the Vedic sound manifests in the prākṛta-ākāśa, the
relative meanings related to karma and jnana are understood due to the vitiation of māyā.”

My reply: This does not make sense to me because the whole description in verses 12.6.37–44 is about the manifestation of the Veda into the heart of Brahmā and that definitely is a manifestation in the prākṛta ākāśa. So by your statement it appears that Brahmā does not understand that the Vedas speak about bhakti because he only got the Vedas in prākṛta-ākāśa. This however goes against the statement of Śukadeva (bhagavan brahma … Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.2.34) which said that Brahmā studied the complete Vedas three times and understood that their essence is bhakti. This goes against Śrīmad Bhāgavatam verse 2.7.51 in which Brahmā orders Nārada to expand the Bhāgavatam which he received from Bhagavān Himself. If he did not understand the meaning of the Bhāgavatam, how could he teach it to Nārada? Our whole paramparā is coming from Brahmā, so the above statement is actually an attack on the whole Gauḍīya sampradāya.

I find no such description anywhere in the works of the Gosvāmīs, Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura or Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. I do not know what is the basis for this. Kindly give reference for this.

As far as your reference to Chandogya Upanisad 8.3, I don’t find any reference to prākṛta and aprākṛta-ākāśa in it. Please supply the exact Sanskrit.

So with all this, at least in the Bhāgavatam-verses that you have referred to, I do not see any description of the Veda being within ātma.

The only argument which remains is that śabda-brahma or the Veda is not limited by time and space, therefore it also exists in the ātma. About this I have already written above that this is acceptable, but then you have to explain the statements that say that the jīva is ignorant of Bhagavān. You cannot just take one set of statements and neglect the other. Otherwise, you fall prey to ardha-kukkuti nyāya (example of accepting only half of a hen, the part that gives eggs and neglecting the part that needs to be fed).

In Bhagavad Gita 9.4, Kṛṣṇa says that He pervades everything and yet He is not in everything. He also says that everything that exists is He, vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti. Indeed He says that He is the ātmā in everyone (Gītā 10.20). Then by your logic, we are all Vāsudeva and certainly we have the Vedic knowledge. But this fact is not experienced by us. Otherwise what was the need for Kṛṣṇa to tell this to us. We would know it as He knows. Your logic of “all pervading” is tantamount to Māyāvāda philosophy.

 By accepting the Vedic knowledge in the ātma, there is one more difficulty that arises. According to Bhāgavatam, there are five types of mukti. One of them is called sāyujya, which is of two types, brahma-sāyujya and bhagavat sāyujya. A jīva who attains brahma-sāyujya does not have any subtle or gross body because that is the very definition of mukti: muktir hitvānyatha rūpaṁ svarūpena vyavasthiti (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.10.6). Such a jīva also does not get a spiritual body because in Brahman there is no form or attribute. It is a homogeneous state of pure consciousness. So according to your proposition (or BVT), such a person should be situated in Vedic knowledge, because he does not have any more conditioning by the subtle or gross body. This goes against the very principle of brahma-sāyujya, because in brahma-sāyujya there is no awareness of anything except of Brahman. There is no duality in brahman realization. But if one has Vedic knowledge, one must have knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, as Kṛṣṇa Himself says: vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedya. This also needs to be accounted for if you accept that there is Vedic knowledge inherent in the ātma.

Further questions can be raised on this: Is this knowledge of the Veda manifest or unmanifest? If it is manifest, then it cannot be forgotten at all. For example, the ātma has I-consciousness in it. ātma is the referent of the word ‘I”. This knowledge of “I” can never be forgotten in any state of existence—wakeful, dream or dreamless state. No matter what the jīva thinks of himself, the sense of “I” always exists, because it is inherent in the ātma. It is this sense of “I” that is superimposed on the gross and subtle bodies, which makes one think, “I am the mind or the body.” In the same way, consciousness in the inherent quality of ātma, therefore it can never be taken away from it in any state of existence. No matter how much māyā influences the jīva, he never loses consciousness and the sense of “I.” He cannot become dead matter. In the same way, if Vedic knowledge were manifest in the ātma, the jīva could never forget it or be unaware of it, no matter how much he is covered by māyā. Just like a bulb which has light in it cannot lose it, no matter how much the bulb is covered externally. Therefore Jīva Gosvāmī is right when he says that the jīva has beginningless ignorance, anādyavidyā. However, being a conscious entity, he has the potential to acquire knowledge.

If we consider the second option, that the knowledge is unmanifest in the ātma, then the proponent of this idea must explain what is means to have unmanifest knowledge and how it exists in the ātma. What is the mechanism? The constitution of ātma is eternal and not liable to any modification, avikārī (Gītā 2.25). If the knowledge would change from unmanifest to manifest by some practice as proposed by Anonymous, then that would make the ātma modifiable, vikārī, like matter. One may argue that the practice of bhakti makes this knowledge manifest, but we find no support for that. On the contrary, Kṛṣṇa says that knowledge comes from an external source (see Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.22.10 as cited above). The knowledge is given from outside. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Kārtik - from Ekādaśī or full moon?

It is not necessarily wrong to start the Kārtik vow on full moon day. Haribhakti Vilāsa (16.183) says –

aśvine śukla-pakṣasya prārambhe hari-vāsare 
athavā paurṇamāsītaḥ saṅkrāntau vā tulāgame 

“(The Kārtik vow) starts on the Ekādaśī of the light quarter of the month of Āśvina. Or it can be started from full moon day, Saṅkrānti or from the day when the sun enters the Tulā-constellation.”

Sanātan Goswāmī’s commentary on the verse includes - hari-vāsare ekādaśyāṁ, tasya vaiṣṇava-pakṣatvād ādau nirdeśaḥ “Harivāsara means Ekādaśī – for Vaiṣṇavas that is the primary order”. So it is not wrong to start the Kārtik-vow on full moon, but starting on Ekādaśī is the first choice.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Scriptural knowledge dormant in the heart?

Bhaktivinode writes in chapter 3 of his Vaisnava-siddhanta-mala):

Q. How can one know the truth about the Lord (bhagavat-tattva)?

A. He can be known by the soul’s own self-manifest innate knowledge (svataḥ-siddha-jñāna).

Q. What is self-manifest knowledge (svataḥ-siddha-jñāna)?

A. There are two types of knowledge: (1) self-manifest, or svataḥ-siddha-jñāna and (2) that which depends on the senses, or indriya-paratantra-jñāna. Self-manifest knowledge is that which is inherently a feature of the pure soul’s original spiritual form, or svarūpa. It is eternal, just like all spiritual reality. This inherent self-manifest knowledge is called Veda or āmnāya. This pure knowledge, or svataḥ-siddha-jñāna, has appeared along with the conditioned soul in the material world in the form of the Vedas, namely the Ṛg-veda, Yajur-veda, Sāma-veda, and Atharva-veda. Ordinary people collect knowledge of various objects by the help of their material senses. This is called indriya-paratantra-jñāna.

Q. If Bhagavān is attained through the soul’s own self-manifested knowledge (svataḥ-siddha-jñāna), then what is the necessity of studying the Vedic scriptures?

A. It is true that the Veda is present in every pure spirit soul in the form of svataḥ-siddha-jñāna. However, that self-manifest Vedic knowledge awakens in the heart in proportion to the soul’s freedom from bondage. It is manifest completely in some, and present in a covered form within others. In order to make that svataḥ-siddha-jñāna available to everyone, the Vedas have appeared in this world."

If he means to say with this that śāstrik knowledge is dormant in the heart of the conditioned soul then I'm afraid that is not correct.

Śrīmad Bhāgavata [11.22.10] says -

puruṣasyātma-vedanam |
svato na sambhavād anyas
tattvajño jñānado bhavet

"Because a person whether covered or not covered by beginningless ignorance cannot realize ātmā on his own, there must a separate Supreme Lord who knows and gives knowledge."

Śrīla Śrīdhara Swāmi comments on this verse -

svato na sambhavati, anyatas tu sambhavāt. svataḥ sarvajñaḥ parameśvaro’nyo bhaved 

“It is not possible [to have or attain knowledge] on one's own - it is only possible from others and that ' other' is the Supreme Lord.”

[Quoted by Śrīla Jīva Goswāmi in Paramātma Sandarbha 44]

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Vaikuṇṭha-eligibility and acting against better knowledge.


It is a popular belief that Vaikuṇṭha is only attainable by pure devotees, but what does śāstra actually say about this? The Bhāgavata (3.29.13) clearly says that the four types of liberation in Vaikuṇṭha can go without devotional service –

sālokya sārṣṭi sāmīpya sārūpyaikatvam apyuta
dīyamānaṁ na gṛhnanti vinā mat sevanaṁ janaḥ

“My devotees do not accept the four types of liberation, like sālokya (living in the same world with Me), sārṣṭi (sharing My wealth), sāmīpya (being close to Me), sārūpya (having the same form as Me), what to speak of ekatva (merging with Me), even if I grant them, if it goes without devotional service.”

Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī explains in Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu (1.2.56) –

sukhaiśvaryottarā seyaṁ prema sevottarety api
sālokyādir dvidhā tatra nādyā sevājuṣāṁ matā

“Of the four types of Vaikuṇṭha-liberation one is called sukhaiśvaryottarā, which means the predominant desire (uttarā) for the happiness and powers which are natural to the spiritual world. The other one is prema sevottarā, the desire just to serve the Lord with love.”

 The first option may explain how it is that simply by leaving the body somewhere, even if one is not a pure devotee, which could be the case with many Vraja-residents, one can attain Vaikuṇṭha. Another explanation is given in the Laghu bhāgavatāmṛta 4.63-64 –

brahma-lokopariṣṭāc ca harer loko virājate ||63||

“The planet of Hari is above Brahma-loka. “

svar-loke vasatir viṣṇor vaikuṇṭhasya mahātmanaḥ |
tathā vaikuṇṭha-loke ca svayam āviṣkṛto hi yaḥ ||64||

“The abode of the Lord named Vaikuṇṭha is on Svarga-loka, where Vaikuṇṭha-loka manifests.” Many Purāṇas promise a pleasant but temporary stay in Vaikuṇṭha for those who perform pious acts. That obviously refers to the Vaikuṇṭha planets in the uppermost realm of the material universes. Another explanation of how those who are not pure devotees can attain the supreme abode, is that by the grace-power of the holy dhāma they attain pure devotion simply by leaving the body there. The best example of this is Pūtanā:

aho bakī yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ jighāṁsayāpāyayad apy asādhvī
lebhe gatiṁ dhātry-ucitāṁ tato’nyaṁ kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema

“Aho!  Evil Pūtanā, who offered her poisonous breast to Kṛṣṇa to drink with the intention of killing him, attained the position of a nurse in the spiritual world. To which other merciful person could I surrender?” (Bhāg 3.2.23)


Śrī Kṛṣṇa closes the 16th chapter of Bhagavad-Gītā with the warning:

Jñātvā śāstra vidhānoktaṁ karma kartum ihārhasi

“Once you know the laws uttered by śāstra, you must act according to them.”

Jñātvā means ‘once having known’ – there is no turning back from that. Once one knows that one’s comfort zone is having deficient or wrong teachings, one is at fault continuing to enjoy the facilities of that comfort zone, paying lip-service to their teachings, against better knowledge.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

vyavahārika kārpaṇya and a compromise with vegans

In Bhakti Sandarbha (173) Śrī Jīva Goswāmī speaks about the absence of vyavahārika kārpaṇya in a devotee, who has faith that Kṛṣṇa will take care of him. Some translate this vyavahārika kārpaṇya as ‘materialistic miserliness’ (meaning: he hesitates to spend his money because he is afraid that he will go broke and Kṛṣṇa will not provide more funds), and others translate it as ‘acting pitifully like a beggar, hoping that people will come and support him’. I think both meanings to these words apply.
After this, Śrī Jīva Goswāmī quotes Kṛṣṇa’s famous assurance in Bhagavad-Gītā (9.22) -

Ananyaś cintayanto māṁ ye janaḥ paryupāsate
Teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmyaham

‘Whoever thinks exclusively of Me and fully worships Me, to those who are eternally connected with Me, I provide what they lack and preserve what they have.”

About acting pitifully, I remember that in the early 1980s I used to send letters from India to my concerned mother about all the hardship and diseases I suffered there, subtly hoping she would send some financial aid, prompting a rebuke from my elder brother that I should not criticize the lifestyle of persons that I am subtly begging from. I told this to Sādhu Bābā, who said that my brother was right. Sādhu Bābā taught that one should not beg, flatter, pretend to be a saint or perform a pitiful theatre to attract donations, but that IF money was offered spontaneously and with love or affection, it could be accepted with both hands.


In the weeks I suffered from stomach flu I had to offer feasts mentally – either partially or wholly – to Giridhāri because I was either unable to prepare them or to digest them physically. Sādhu Bābā gave permission for mental devotional service on the condition that it would not replace physical service out of laziness. It may be the way vegans can actually get their way. On the past festival days I was unable to either buy or digest milk, so I physically offered Giridhāri His abhiṣekha with water while mentally turning the water into milk, yoghurt and ghee. If vegans could at least mentally offer a dairy pancāmṛta abhiṣekha to the deities it could be an acceptable compromise……..

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Logic, bed-bringing, pāraṇa-cheating and vinata

Too often scriptural evidence is dismissed or overruled by rational logic in important philosophical discussions, such as fall from perfection, dormant love, free will, eligibility for rāgānugā bhakti and caste-distinctions. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes in his commentary on Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.17: 

tasmāc chāstrārtha-viśvāsa eva śraddheti labdhe śraddhā-tāratamyena śraddhāvatāṁ tāratamyam āha—śāstra iti dvābhyām | nipuṇaḥ pravīṇaḥ | śarvatheti tattva-vicāreṇa sādhana-vicāreṇa puruṣārtha-vicāreṇa ca dṛḍha-niścaya ity arthaḥ | yuktiś cātra śāstrānugataiva jñeyā | yuktiś ca kevalā naiva [ 1.1.45] yukteḥ svātantrya-niṣedhāt | śrutes tu śabda-mūlatvāt [ve.sū. 2.1.28] iti nyāyāt | pūrvāparānurodhena ko nv artho’bhimato bhavet | ity ādyam ūhanaṁ tarkaḥ śuṣka-tarkaṁ tu varjayet || iti vaiṣṇava-tantrāc ca | evam-bhūto yaḥ prauḍha-śraddhaḥ sa evottamo’dhikārīty arthaḥ ||17||

“Conviction in the contents of the scriptures is called śraddhā or faith.  According to the degree of faith in the scriptures, there will be classifications of persons possessing that faith. That is now the topic of discussion for two verses. Śāstre yuktau nipunaḥ means “conversant with scripture and logic.” This person developed firm conviction (dṛdḥa-niścayaḥ) through studying thoroughly the principles of philosophy (tattva), the sādhana, and the goal (puruṣārtha). That is the meaning of sarvathā (in all ways). Logic (yukte) should here be understood as logic following the statements of scripture, because independent logic is condemned in verse 1.1.45: one cannot understand bhakti by dry logic (yuktis tu kevalā naiva). This is also understood from the Vedānta-sūtras 2.1.27: śrutes tu śabda-mūlatvāt: The Lord can be understood only through the scriptures.”

pūrvāparānurodhena ko nv artho ’bhimato bhavet 
ity ādyam ūhanaṁ tarkaḥ śuṣka-tarkaṁ tu varjayet

“A meaning should be accepted with reference to what precedes and follows. Such reasoning is the logic to be used. Dry logic should be rejected."   

(Vaiṣṇava Tantra)

In other words, one should not quote texts out of context because that may be a distorted form of scriptural ‘evidence’.

A person who is qualified as above, and has deep faith, is the uttamādhikārī.

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī s Tattva Sandarbha, 9 – 

athaivaṁ sūcitānāṁ śrī-kṛṣṇa-tad-vācya-vācakatā-lakṣaṇa-sambandha-tad-bhajana-lakṣaṇa-vidheya-saparyāyābhidheya-tat-prema-lakṣaṇa-prayojanākhyānām arthānāṁ nirṇayāya tāvat pramāṇaṁ nirṇīyate | tatra puruṣasya bhramādi-doṣa-catuṣṭaya-duṣṭatvāt sutarām alaukikācintya-svabhāva-vastu-sparśāyogyatvāc ca tat-pratyakṣādīny api sa-doṣāṇi ||9||

“Four topics were suggested in the previous anuccheda: Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the subject (viṣaya), the connection between Him and the words describing Him (sambandha), service to Him as the recommended process (abhidheya or vidheya), and pure love tor Him as the ultimate goal (prayojana). Now to understand these we should first determine the means of acquiring valid knowledge. Human beings are bound to have four defects: they are subject to delusion, they make mistakes, they tend to cheat, and they have imperfect senses. Thus their direct perception, inference, and so forth are deficient, especially since these means of acquiring knowing cannot help them gain access to the inconceivable spiritual reality.” [9]

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī s Tattva Sandarbha, 10 – 

tatas tāni na pramāṇānīty anādi-siddha-sarva-puruṣa-paramparāsu sarva-laukikālaukika-jñāna-nidānatvād aprākṛta-vacana-lakṣaṇo veda evāsmākaṁ sarvātīta-sarvāśraya-sarvācintyāścarya-svabhāvaṁ vastu vividiṣatāṁ pramāṇam ||10||

“Consequently, for us who are inquisitive about that which is beyond everything, yet the support of everything—which is most inconceivable and wondrous in nature—direct perception, inference, and so on are not suitable means of gaining knowledge. For this purpose the only suitable means is the Vedas, the transcendental words that are existing without beginning. They are the source of all mundane and spiritual knowledge and have been passed down in paramparā.” [10]



Bhakta – “We try to imbibe the bhāva of the mañjarīs. There is one thing which kind of "disturbs" my inner mood when worshipping my Giridhāri. I know that we pray to Him for rādhā dāsyam and all is fine...But the things is that bringing Him to bed feels weird a bit vātsalya bhāva coming up...I am not quite comfortable with this "bed-bringing"...How to "deal" with this...any ideas/inspiration? I felt better without bringing my Giridhāri to bed...

Advaita Das: śāstra says āgaccha śayana sthānam priyayā saha keśava

“O Keśava! Come to bed with your priyaji! (Haribhakti Vilasa 11.40)
How can He love Priyāji if we don't put Him to bed?

Bhakta – Thanks. So in this mood...and we think the mālā is Rādhikā.”

Advaita Das : “Yes, the gunjā-mālā should go to bed with Giridhāri. Some versions of this verse say priyābhiḥ which means a plural number of sweethearts sleep with Him. In either way, the gunjā mālā should sleep with Giridhāri.



Bhakta: “Can we not break the fast of Nṛsiṁha Caturdaśī or Janmāṣṭamī on the time the Lord appeared in India, instead of our local time?’

Advaitadās – “If you did that, you would not have to fast at all on the American west coast. Midnight in India is morning time of the same day on the American west coast. Full day fasting is our birthday present to the Lord. It is the attitude of dedication that counts.”


Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā : vainateyaś ca pakṣinam - 'Of birds I am the son of Vinatā (Garuḍa).' 

Vinatā is the mother of Garuḍa, who the winged carrier of Viṣṇu. vinata means humility. nata means bowing down and vi means completely. The Bengali word binoy (vinaya) comes from it. It means that only humility can carry away the Lord.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Omniscience of Bhagavān and questions on Mahābhārata

On the Lord’s omniscience Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī comments on Bhagavad-Gita 7.26:

kiṁ ca māyāyāḥ svāśraya-vyāmohakatvābhāvād bahiraṅgā māyā | antaraṅgā yoga-māyā ca mama jñānaṁ nāvṛṇotīty āha vedāham iti

(Kṛṣṇa says:) “But My own knowledge is not covered by external māyā or the internal yoga-māyā, since I cannot be bewildered by that to which I give shelter. I know everything.”

The oldest Vaiṣṇava commentator, Śrīdhar Swāmī, comments similarly:

māyāśrayatvān mama | tasyāḥ svāśraya-vyāmohakatvābhāvād iti prasiddham

‘I am the shelter of māyā, and it is celebrated that there is no illusion in the shelter of illusion.”

Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.87.41 seems to say that even Kṛṣṇa does not know His own limits - na yayur antam anantatayā tvam api. But this is the purport of Śrīdhar Swāmī to that part of that verse:

anantatayā antābhāvena na hi śaśa viṣāṇa jñānaṁ sārvajñaṁ tad aprāptir vā śakti vaibhavaṁ vihanti antatvam evāha -

“If one is ignorant of something that does not exist, like a rabbit’s horns, then that does not detract from his omniscience. And if one fails to find such a non-entity that does not limit his omnipotence.”
This shows what is meant with ‘He does not know His own limits.” Kṛṣṇa appears as Ananta Śeṣa, who has 1,000 heads that constantly glorify…...Himself. Yet they find no end to those glories. This is how the text na yayur antam anantatayā tvam api in 10.87.41 must be seen.


Q – It is said that Karṇa was named so because he was born from Kunti’s ear, the word karṇa meaning ‘ear’.

Advaitadās – “Karṇa being born from Kunti’s ear is a part of the Indonesian version of Mahābhārata only. Karṇa was named so because he cut off his own cover or shield at the request of Indra, not because he was born from Kunti's ear. The story is in the Vana parva of the Mahābhārata, ch.305-306.”

Q – It is sometimes said that when Arjun did tapasya to attain the Paśupat-weapon he defeated Shiva.

Advaitadās – “It is clearly described in all detail in Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, chapters 39 and 163, that Śiva defeated Arjuna instead of the other way around.”

Finally, it is sometimes said that the Rājasūya-sacrifice was held after the Kuruksetra war while it was held long before, when Yudhisthira got Indraprastha.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The tenth offence for bhajanānandīs and goṣṭhyānandīs.

Though the subdivision among Vaiṣṇavas in bhajanānandīs and goṣṭhyānandīs is a recent invention and is not mentioned in any of the Goswāmīs books, Sanātana Goswāmī's ṭīkā to the 10th offence to the holy name gives an interesting description of how false pride about the chanting of the holy name is manifest among different types of devotees. The offence is mentioned in Haribhakti Vilāsa 11.524 -

ahaṁ mamādi paramo nāmni so’py aparādha kṛt ||524||
kiṁ ca, nāmny eva viṣaye yo’haṁ-mamādi-paramaḥ. ahaṁ bahutara-nāma-kīrtaka itas tato nāma-kīrtanaṁ ca mat-pravartitam eva, mayā samo nāma-kīrtana-paro’nyaḥ kaḥ. madīya-jihvādhīnam eva nāmety-ādikam eva paramaṁ pradhānam. nāma-kīrtanaṁ ca kadācit sidhyati na vā yasya tathā-bhūto yaḥ, so’pīti. ata evādiṣṭaṁ bhagavatā— tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā. amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ ||524||

"To think 'I' and 'mine' to be the greatest in connection with the holy name is the 10th offence to the holy name" - aham bahutara nāma kīrtaka 'I am chanting more' (than you). You may hear this while associating with 'bhajanānandīs'. They will approach you and ask you 'How many rounds are you chanting?' 
Not that it is any of their business anyway, and it is not out of personal interest that they ask, but to establish themselves as greater devotees. One "bhajanānandī" approached Sādhu Bābā and asked him: 'āpni koto lākho nām koren' ('How many times 64 rounds you chant each day?'). Sādhu Bābā replied: 'bābā āmi kichu bhajan-tajan korinā, āmi śudhu ghumāi o khāi' - "Bābā I am not doing any bhajan at all - I am just eating and sleeping".

Among 'bhajanānandīs' the hallmark is how many rounds you do, though the biggest chanters often have a pretty appalling track record of misconduct, showing that quality, and not quantity of chanting is needed. They also tend to show off their great quantity of sādhana by walking around on the market with their bead-bags, showing an impressive row of counting beads on the outside, indicating how many rounds they have already completed. 

If we read on, we recognize the ego of some 'gosthyānandīs' next - itas tato nāma-kīrtanaṁ ca mat-pravartitam eva, mayā samo nāma-kīrtana-paro’nyaḥ kaḥ "Only I am spreading the chanting of the holy name all over the world, who is equal to me in dedication to nāma kīrtan?" Sounds familiar? Often more unpleasant ego is added to that, like "You are just doing bhajan, and thinking only of your own liberation", which is a false accusation because bhajan is done for Kṛṣṇa's pleasure only - Vaiṣṇavas reject liberation outright, but even if it were true, it is not humble to claim to be soooo selfless to  be preaching instead of doing bhajan.

Next Sanātana Goswāmī writes madīya-jihvādhīnam eva nāmety-ādikam eva paramaṁ pradhānam. "My tongue is the greatest chanter of the holy name  ("Chanting is under the control of my tongue. I am chanting the holy name myself"). Though Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmīpāda said ataḥ śrī kṛṣṇa nāmādi na bhavet grāhyam indriyaiḥ; sevonmukhe he jihvādau svayam eva sphuratyadaḥ "Thus the holy name of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is not manifest through the material senses, it is only manifest in the tongue and other senses of those who have a service attitude." (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.234).

Sanātan Goswāmī concludes: nāma-kīrtanaṁ ca kadācit sidhyati na vā yasya tathā-bhūto yaḥ, so’pīti. ata evādiṣṭaṁ bhagavatā— tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā. amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ ||524||
"For such a person it even rarely happens that he does kīrtan. The Lord has instructed 'Lower than a blade of grass, tolerant as a tree, not wanting honour, giving all honour to others - this is how the holy name of Lord Hari should always be glorified."

Otherwise the holy name will not bestow its desired fruit.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Husbands, throwing prasāda and welcome to the machine

Returning to the issue of the mañjarīs having husbands – Govinda-līlāmṛta 2.57 says the sakhīs come sva gehāt, from their homes at early morning 6 a.m., after Rādhikā returned home from Vṛndāvana, while the next verse, 2.58, speaks of the mañjarīs being immediately ready for Swāminī’s devotional service, without mentioning them coming from any home. This shows that they are not married.

Question – I have seen many Iskcon-utsavas wherein pūjārīs throw mahā-prasādam from the altar to temple crowds. Do any śāstras say that prasadām can be thrown? Some may cite Gaurānga’s throwing coconut pulp to a Puri dog as pramān??

Advaitadas - Mahāprabhu threw the coconut pulp at the dog because dogs are untouchable, not because prasād can be thrown about. It is like throwing Kṛṣṇa’s deities around. See my blog ‘brahmins dogs’. In 1979, during the annual birthday extravaganza of Bhagavān Dās in France, there was a massive prasādam-fight, in which tons of prasād was thrown around. Bhagavān Dās was, rightly so, incensed about it. But it is not that prasād cannot be given from the altar at all. You see in many temples in India dona’s (leaf cups) or kulla’s (clay cups) of mahā-prasāda are politely and gently handed down to devotees in the temple, not thrown about.

Question – “Nowadays devotees use bread machines and so.”

Advaitadas – “That is very bad. The benefit of the devotional service goes to the machine. The idea of bhakti is to work hard to please Kṛṣṇa. Nowadays also you see Hindus going on Govardhan parikrama by car or flat-bed riksha. The benefit goes to on one of course. The drivers do it for money and the lazy fat passengers do some sight-seeing instead of getting the reward of the sacrifice of walking many miles. Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmīpāda says dhana śiṣyādibhir dvārair yo bhakti - If you pay someone for rendering devotional service or have it done by disciples then it is not bhakti. (Bhakti rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.259) Nanda Mahārāja personally milks a cow to feed milk to Kṛṣṇa and mother Yaśodā personally supervises the kitchen of Nandagrām where Kṛṣṇa’s meals are prepared. They don’t lay back in a board room like the managers of today’s devotional institutions and leave the ‘menial services’ to novices. The best machines we can use are airplanes to bring us to Vraja.”

Question – “Then what about internet? That is also a machine and you sit on that all day.”

Advaitadas - You must earn your reward in bhakti by giving and sacrificing. A devotee can work very hard for Kṛṣṇa on the internet - preaching, uploading kathā and kīrtan. It is the effort which counts, that is not the same as a bread machine because rotis can and must be made by hand. patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayacchati (Bhagavad-gītā 9.26). Kīrtans cannot be uploaded to the internet by hand. What’s next? A drone which does ārti while the pūjārī watches TV? In the 1970s there was someone in LA who would chant the rounds of busy gṛhasthas against payment. Will anyone benefit from that – employer or employee?”

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sat-guru, humor in pāṭha and atonement for breaking Ekādaśī

Bhakta – “By definition a casual śiṣya is a śiṣya who is not serious. But if he is not serious then can he be called a śiṣya at all? We often say “bona-fide Guru” but if he is not bona-fide then is he even a Guru at all? If we say “Supreme Personality of Godhead”, does it suggest that there is also a Lower Personality of Godhead? What I wish to ask is: are these adjectives used as help in our understanding or do they come from Sanskrit texts too? Somehow I think that Sanskrit verses speak only of Guru, śiṣya and Godhead…”

Advaitadās – “It is true that generally there are no adjectives to words like Guru, śiṣya and bhagavān in Sanskrit, though Kṛṣṇa is called bhagavān swayam in S.B. 1.3.28. We have to understand from the context of the story if Guru is sat (genuine) or not. Śukrācārya opposed Bali Mahārāja’s Viṣṇu-worship, yet he is called Guru. Thursday in India is guru-vāra, named after him. Rāmacandra Puri offended his Guru and is yet considered śiṣya. The Pāṇḍavas killed their own Guru in Kurukṣetra, but surely they were in a Guru-śiṣya relationship. Of course, these are not standard circumstances.”

Bhakta – “I remember that once you spoke about having pāṭha (spiritual devotional lectures), and you said that the pāṭhaka (lecturer) must be very serious in his speech and not make jokes about transcendental matters, as the assembled devotees are Vaiṣṇavas who come to seek the truth and are not a public who come to seek fun. “

Advaitadās – “I cannot remember that I said anything against humor during pāṭha. I heard great pāṭhaks crack a joke during pāṭha, but it should not become like a slapstick-show, with non-stop jokes either. Because then the audience will come only to have a good laugh and that is not good. One joke in a pāṭh is good, no more. We are not going to a funeral though, either.”

Bhakta - You said: “Evidence for the re-appearance of the Guru in his selfsame form is ‘janme janme prabhu se’, ‘Śrī Gurudeva is my master birth after birth’, in Narottam Ṭhākur’s famous Guru-song. Logic is found also in Bhagavad-Gītā 8.6.” Please help me to connect these two in this context. How are these two statements connected?”

Advaitadās – “The connection between Narottama’s statement and the Bhagavad-Gītā verse 8.6 is that if one constantly remembers Guru (sadā tad-bhāva bhāvita, Gītā) one will attain him in the next life (tam tam evaiti, or janme janme prabhu se), as you have contemplated his personal features.”


When one has broken Ekādaśī one cannot atone for it by fasting the next day or the day after. The pāpa puruṣa is only present in grains on the astrologically determined day of Ekādaśī. Lord Nārāyaṇa gave the pāpa puruṣa, man of sin, his residence in food grains on Ekādaśī alone -

śrī-bhagavān uvāca—
uttiṣṭha pāpapuruṣa tyaja śokaṁ mudaṁ kuru
ekādaśyāṁ tithau yatra tava sthānaṁ vadāmi te

The Lord spoke: "Rise O pāpa puruṣa! Give up your sorrow and rejoice! I am telling you that the lunar day of Ekādaśī will be your abode." (Padma Purāṇa, Kriyā kaṇḍa, 22.45).

         So fasting on another day is useless and will also not bring the pious or devotional result bestowed on Ekādaśī. There is also no provision in śāstra for such alternative days of fasting. In fact there is no atonement system at all in bhakti mārga, as harināma provides cira niṣkrtah, the complete atonement. Atonement is an item of karma mārga, wherein one has to take ice cold baths in the middle of the winter to expiate sins. Drinking tea on Ekādaśī does not break the vrata. Sādhu Bābā drank tea on Ekādaśī. It is a leaf, not a bean or grain.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Free will


I found this excellent essay about free will on my laptop, I cannot remember who wrote it, I will acknowledge him/her when I found out -
We have the innate ability to desire, but not the free will to carry out that desire. Bhakti is about purification of desire by the destruction of avidyā (ignorance) and ahaṅkāra. We don’t have the free will to choose what path we go down in anything we do or experience. People take birth after birth deluded by avidyā and ahankāra until their desire is purified. Their desire shapes their actions, not by their own free will, but by the will of Paramatma in deciding what the jīva needs to experience to become free from aversion to God’s control. Often karma is seen as a simple action-reaction; if you do bad you are punished. The reality is that karma is designed to purify the desire of the jīva. It’s not about vengeance; it’s about changing aversion to acceptance of God’s control. As for free will, we need to understand what that means — it’s the concept of being able to act independently of some other controlling factor. The śāstra is quite clear that free will is an illusion. We simply don’t possess the knowledge or the ability to think or act independently.

ajno jantur anīśo‘yam ātmanaḥ sukha-duḥkhayoḥ
īśvara-prerito gacchet svargaṁ vāśv abhram eva ca

“The ignorant living entity is not God – his happiness and distress are prompted by the Supreme Controller and so he goes either to heaven or hell.” (Mahābhārata 3.31.27)

eṣa eva sādhu-karma kārayati taṁ yamebhyo lokebhya unninīṣate. eṣa evāsādhu karma kārayati taṁ yam adho ninīyate (Kauśitaki Upaniṣad 3.8)

“The Lord makes whomsoever he wishes to lead up from these worlds do good deeds and makes him whom he wishes to lead down from these worlds do bad deeds.”

It is said in the Vedānta sūtra and Govinda Bhāṣya 2.1.34-35 -

vaiṣamya-nairghṛṇye na sāpekṣatvāt tathā hi darśayati

“There is no partiality and cruelty in the Lord, because the pleasure and pain suffered by the living beings, has regard to their karmas - that is shown thus by śāstra.” (2.1.34)

na karmāvibhāgād iti cen nānāditvāt

“(The theory of karma cannot explain the inequality and cruelty seen in this universe, because when the creation first started) there was no distinction (of souls and consequently) of karmas.” This (objection however) is not valid, because there is no beginning of karma and the mundane creation.” (2.1.35)
In his Govinda Bhāṣya commentary, Baladeva quotes Bhaviṣya Purāṇa –

puṇya pāpādikaṁ viṣṇuṁ kārayet pūrvakarmaṇā
anāditvāt karmaṇaś ca na virodhaḥ kathañcana

"Lord Viṣṇu causes the living entities to engage in pious and sinful acts according to their previous karma but there is no contradiction because karmas are beginningless."

The idea of having no free will, of there being a destiny set in stone that cannot be altered, for everyone and the world, seems so counter-intuitive only because we are ignorant on how we function. It’s not easy to come to terms with the reality of having no control, of there being a controller over everything you do and think, and of what everyone else does and thinks. When we’re ready, all the truths of God’s ontological presence and control in our lives is gradually revealed to us. Usually through religious philosophy, and ultimately through Vedanta.

mayādhyakṣena prakṛtiḥ  sūyate sa-carācaram

prakṛti (matter) works under my supervision, O son of Kunti.” (Bhagavad Gītā 9.10)

prakṛtyaiva ca karmāṇi  kriyamānāni sarvaśaḥ
yah paśyati tathātmānam  akartāraṁ sa paśyati

“All activities taking place, in all respects, are performed by material nature. He who sees that the ātmā is not the doer, he sees.” (Bhagavad Gītā 13.30)

na kartṛtvaṁ na karmāni lokasya sṛjati prabhuḥ
na karma-phala-saṁyogam svabhāvas tu pravartate

“The jīva is not the doer nor is the cause of actions, nor is he connected to the reactions from actions (not the controller, doing or doer), nevertheless they take place because of the nature of the jīva.” (Bhagavad-Gītā 5.14)

Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti comments - nāpi tat-kartṛtvena karmāṇy api, na ca karma-phalair bhogaiḥ saṁyogam api, kintu jīvasya svabhāvo’nādy-avidyaiva pravartate.  taṁ jīvaṁ kartṛtvādy-abhimānam ārohayitum iti bhāvaḥ
“He does not make the jīva do activities nor does He give the jīva the results of his activities. Rather the nature of the jīva in the form of his beginningless ignorance alone produces this. That ignorance makes the jīva assume the false identification as the doer.”

The statement “yathecchasi tathā kuru” (“Whatever you like, you can do”) in Bhagavad-Gītā 18.63 does not indicate free will. The Lord has already told Arjuna to act according to his adhikāra and svabhāva, 3 verses earlier. Therefore, the statement means, he must understand his adhikāra and act according to that adhikāra. If he does not, he will suffer and that too has been pointed out in previous verses -

svabhāva-jena kaunteya  nibaddhah svena karmana
kartuṁ necchasi yan mohāt  kariṣyasy avaśo‘pi tat

“Out of illusion you do not wish to act, but due to your nature which binds you to your actions you will act helplessly anyway.” (Bhagavad-Gītā 18.60)

Īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtanam  hṛd-dese‘rjuna tiṣṭhati
bhrāmayan sarva-bhūtāni  yantrārūḍhāni māyayā

“The supreme controller is in the heart of all beings Arjuna, prompting the movements of all living beings, who are mounted on the machine of his deluding potency.” (Bhagavad Gita 18.61)
Free will seems another Christian insertion into Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava philosophy so popular with western rationalists. There is anādi karma (Vedānta-sūtra 2.1.35) and there is no question of free will when there is anādi-karma. The entry into bhakti is not due to free will.
As to Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa's ṭīkā to Bhagavad Gītā 18.14, there is a difference between free will and agency or being the doer of things (kartṛtva). If being the doer is not there, scriptural statements will become meaningless. The will of the jīva is not beyond its svarūpa. This is said in Brahma-sutra 2.3.39.

kārya-kāraṇa-kartṛtve hetuḥ prakṛtir ucyate
puruṣaḥ sukha-duḥkhānāṁ bhoktṛtve hetur ucyate

“Material nature is said to be the cause of all material activities and phenomena, while the living entity is the cause of its happiness and distress.” (Bhagavad-Gītā 13.20)

The line puruṣaḥ sukha-duḥkhānāṁ bhoktṛtve hetur ucyate in this verse does not refer to free will, as the results of activities are prompted by Bhagavan or the jīvas’ svabhāva. Vedānta Sūtra 2.3.39 and 40 says -
parāt tu tacchruteḥ

“Activities of the living beings come from (are prompted by) the Supreme. The scriptures declare it so.”

kṛta prayatnāpekṣas tu vihita pratiṣiddha avaiyarthyādibhyaḥ

“The Lord makes the soul act and the results are accordingly, so that injunctions and prohibitions of the scriptures may not become meaningless.”

The jīvātma has kartṛtva (power to act), but that kartṛtva is granted by God only. It is limited kartṛtva. An object in darkness cannot get into the sunlight unless the sunlight falls on it. Free will is like the will to see. The eyes can see - that much capacity is there. But the eyes can see only that which is within its field of vision. If the eyes are in darkness, they can only see darkness. They cannot see light. Bhagavān prompts the jīva according to his svabhāva, karma, saṁskāras etc. The jīva always has the capacity to will, feel and act, but what he wills, feels and does is restricted by his own karma, svabhāva and the Lord's sanctions. By free will, one who is under bahiraṅgā-śakti cannot come under antaraṅga and vice-versa. His free will under bahiraṅga śakti is restricted to acting within bahiraṅgā śakti.

Sanātan Goswāmī says there is freedom for the siddhas in Vaikuṇṭha, but that is freedom compared to this material world - freedom from the bahiraṅgā śakti, but not freedom to leave/fall from Vaikuṇṭha. The jīva is then under the antarāṅgā-śakti and it will be impossible for him to fall. The mamatva (possessiveness) has changed from a dead body to parama-saccidānanda-vastu. It will be impossible for mamatva to change again. siddhi is siddhi - otherwise it is not siddhi - perfection.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

rasika sanga at Rādhākuṇḍa

This spring an aṣṭakāla-līlā seminar was held at Rādhākuṇḍa by Śrī Jayahari Dāsjī - some items may be the realizations of nityadhāma-gata Madanmohan dās Bābā, his śikṣā-guru

The coral trees in Braj are red because they reflect Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa's passionate love, and the trees of Rādhākuṇḍa are watered by the waterfalls of Girirāj, though they are a bit distant in location.

daṇḍātmikā sevā smaraṇa (meditation according to a daṇḍa in the day) does not box the līlā in a 24-minute framework. What is a daṇḍa in paravyoma, after all? One can meditate on a daṇḍa’s līlā for hours!

Items in the spiritual sky look the same as here but have totally different functions. Why, if everything in the spiritual sky is spiritual, are the trees and vines called kalpa-vṛkṣa and kalpa-latā still? They are mentioned as such to remind us that it is not a mundane place but the kingdom of God. Otherwise it will look mundane and fools will imitate the līlās. The Rāsa-līla narration in the Bhāgavat starts with the word bhagavān (10.29.1), to remind us of the same.

Holi is both a daily pastime and occasional pastime, hence it is included in Govinda-līlāmṛta. The flowers in the cinmaya vasanta-vana (transcendental spring-forest) are eternally in a bud, but if you move to the grīṣma-ṛtu-vana (summer forest) they eternally blossom there.

Husbands are needed to cheat with Kṛṣṇa as a lover – why manjarīs need a husband as they don’t have an affair with Kṛṣṇa anyway? All husbands in nitya-līlā are chāyā-rūpa anyway – shadow-forms, not real.

Only the Gauḍīya Sampradāya believes in parakīya bhāva. Manjarī bhāva is so attractive that it attracted even Tungavidyā-sakhī (Prabodhānanda Saraswatī, who wrote elaborately on manjarī-bhāva in his books).

Q – Is there pramāṇa (evidence) that Mahāprabhu personally bestowed mañjarī-bhāva?
A – A generous king does not personally distribute charity, but has his personnel to do that. Similarly, Mahāprabhu did not personally bestow mañjarī-bhāva, but had His followers, Rūpa-Raghunātha, to distribute it. He also spent 16 years in Puri with Raghunāth Dās Goswāmī and gave him the service of Giridhārī.

About the mysterious vidaṁśa-snacks that are taken during madhupāna-līlā (Rādha-Kṛṣṇa’s noon-time wine-drinking pastime) in Govinda-līlāmṛta 14.96 – vi means special [viśeṣa] and daṁśa means bite, so a ‘special bite’. They are chewy, not crunchy snacks, like Namkeen in taste but not in crunchy substance. Their saltiness increases thirst, the thirst causes more wine-consumption and that causes more naśā, intoxication.

The word kuṭṭamitta refers to kuṭīnāti, deceitfulness. Kila kincit means a little of every bhāva, like a massala of emotions. Krṣṇa is sent to all 8 sakhīs’ kuñjas by Rādhikā so He can enjoy Her partial representatives there, but when He returns to Her at the end it is madhureyaṁ samāpayet, the sweets come last, full circle completed.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thank you! And next life’s Guru

Saying “Thank you” is not Vedic. There is no real word for it in Sanskrit. The word ‘dhanyavāda’ being used in modern India for ‘thank you’ is introduced to facilitate westerners only, but can’t be found used in śāstra. People who are related in love or friendship do not say ‘thank you’ to each other. It is showing a distant relationship only. Of course, we do express gratitude, as Uddhava Mahāśaya did in Śrīmad Bhāgavata (11.29.6) after Śrī Kṛṣṇa spoke the Uddhava-gīta to him –

naivopayanty apacitiṁ kavayas taveśa
brahmāyuṣāpi kṛtam ṛddha-mudaḥ smarantaḥ
yo ’ntar bahis tanu-bhṛtām aśubhaṁ vidhunvann
ācārya-caittya-vapuṣā sva-gatiṁ vyanakti

“O my Lord! Intelligent persons can not fully express their indebtedness to you, even if they were endowed with the lifetime of Brahmā, because on remembering what you have done for them, their joy increases even more: appearing externally as Guru and internally as Paramātma, you reveal the supreme destination to them.”

Bhakta – „Some say this verse and the song „Caksu dān dilo ye, janme janme prabhu se‘ means that guru-tattva appears in another form in the next life to a śiṣya who did not attain perfection yet.“

Advaitadas – „The words ‚ye‘ and ‚se‘ refer to an individual person, not that anyone else becomes the Guru in the next life. That happens to casual śiṣyas, not to loving śiṣyas. For loving śiṣyas Śrī Gurudeva will re-appear as exactly the same person. How can it be otherwise? Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (8.6) – yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvan tyajantyante kalevaram. „Whatever bhāva you contemplate, when you leave your body....“ You meditated on a Guru with a certain form, features and characteristics your whole life and as a result you will get another Guru in the next life? Sadā tad-bhāva bhāvita. „Due to always contemplating that sentiment“, tam tam evaiti, „You will surely attain that‘. For a devotee who abandoned bhakti-mārga there will be no bhakti-guru next life, for a casual śiṣya it may be anyone, for a loving śiṣya Gurudeva will reappear in his selfsame form and for a siddha śiṣya Gurudeva appears as guru-rūpa sakhī only. Nikuñja yūnoḥ rati-keli-siddhyaiḥ yā yālibhir yuktir apekṣanīya.


Ashamed of never having seen anything yet? These are words of hope (āśā-vāṇī) -

asphūrtitaḥ kathāto'pi śrīmad-vṛndāvane vasa

“Even if one has no divine revelations, one should still engage in Kṛṣṇa-kathā, living in Śrī Vṛndāvana." (Vṛndāvana Mahimāmṛta 8.42)


Lamenting about one's tapasya

Bragging about one's tapasya

Both will dim Hari's satisfaction with them.