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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.

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