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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.