Vaisnava-siddhanta-mala ( A Garland of Vaisnava Truths )
by Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda
(printed in 1892 and distributed as a preaching pamphlet for spreading the Nama Hatta Program - the Marketplace of the Holy Name)
Nava-prameya-siddhanta (Nine Truths of Evidence)
Q. What command has the supremely worshipable Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu given to us?
A. His order is this - that we very carefully observe the nine essential instructions of truth that have been handed down through the guru-parampara (disciplic succession) from Sri Madhvacarya.
Q. Who are the spiritual masters in the guru-parampara?
A. The adi-guru (original guru) of all the spiritual masters in the disciplic succession is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Showing His great mercy, He instructed Brahma, the adi-kavi (original poet from whom the Vedic scriptures emanate). These truths were in turn taught by Brahma to Sri Narada, by Narada to Sri Vyasa, and by Vyasa to Sri Madhvacarya. Such instructions as received through this disciplic succession are called guru-parampara-upadesa.
Q. What are these nine essential instructions given to us by Sri Madhvacarya?
A. They are thus:
1) Bhagavan (God) alone is the supreme truth,
one without a second.
2) He is the object of knowledge in all the Vedas.
3) The universe is real (satya).
4) Differences (between God, souls and matter) are real.
5) The spirit souls are the servants of Sri Krsna.
6) All souls are different according to their different situations.
7) Liberation (moksa) is the name of attainment of Bhagavan's lotus feet.
8) Bhagavan's pure worship (amala bhajan) is the only way to attain liberation.
9) Pratyaksa (direct perception), anumana (logic) and sabda (spiritual sound) are the three types of evidence.
Bhagavan Alone is the Supreme Truth
Q. Who is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
A. Bhagavan is the one supreme being Who expands all souls and all matter by His inconceivable energy (acintya-sakti), and then enters into these emanations as the Supreme Lord (isvara-svarupa). He also transcends all souls and matter as the impersonal brahman effulgence (brahma-svarupa), which is far beyond all imagination. He manifests His divine potency (para-sakti) to reveal His form of eternity, knowledge and bliss (sac-cid-ananda-svarupa), thereby becoming the object of devotion for all souls.
Q. What are the various types of saktis (potencies) of the Lord?
A. We are unable to fully describe the Lord's potencies. The reason for this is that while His sakti has no boundaries, we have boundaries. Therefore His energies are called para (above), because His sakti is completely imperceptible to us. Above the veil of matter, in the divine realm of His para-sakti, all things are accomplished effortlessly. The opposing affairs of spirit and matter are conducted by the para-sakti automatically.
Q. Then is Bhagavan subordinate to the sakti?
A. It's not that Bhagavan is one thing and the sakti is another thing; just as the burning power of fire is inseparable from the fire, so Bhagavan's sakti is similarly inseparable from Bhagavan.
Q. If Bhagavan, God, is the one and only Supreme Truth, then why did Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instruct His followers about devotional service to Sri Krsna (krsna-bhakti)? Isn't Krsna just one aspect of Bhagavan?
A. Bhagavan has six eternal qualities that make Him all-attractive. He possesses unlimited and ever-expanding wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. Different forms of the Lord (bhagavat-svarupa) manifest according to whether these qualities are expressed to greater or lesser degrees. For example, when His wealth feature is foremost, then He manifests as Narayana, the Lord of Vaikuntha. When His beauty or sweetness predominates, then Bhagavan manifests as Sri Krsna. The name Krsna means "all-attractive"; therefore Krsna is the topmost supreme manifestation of Bhagavan.
Q. How many types of forms does the Lord have?
A. All of His forms are fully conscious, supremely beautiful, overflowing with divine bliss, all-attractive, vibrantly active, and perceivable by pure love. According to the different natures of different souls, the Lord's eternal form manifests in an infinite number of ways. Thus, according to these differences in the Lord's manifestation, different-natured souls are eternally attached to Him in their own original forms. The form of Sri Krsna is the original form of Bhagavan that includes all other forms of God.
Q. What is Sri Krsna's lila?
A. Lila means "pastime" or "play". God is the origin of everything, including the playful spirit. In the limitless realm of the spiritual world, the most supremely charming portion is called Sri Vrndavana. There, Sri Krsna displays His conjugal lila with His divine feminine counterpart Sri Radha. When souls attain their own forms of divine bliss, they become qualified to participate in Radha and Krsna's eternal loving pastimes.
Q. What are the obstacles to the attainment of Sri Krsna's lila?
A. There are two types of obstacles: 1) material consciousness (jada-buddhi) and 2) impersonal consciousness (nirvisesa buddhi), which is beyond the conception of material consciousness.
Q. What is material consciousness?
A. Material consciousness is an awareness that is confined to material place, time, objects, aspirations, thoughts and activities. According to material consciousness, one thinks of Vrndavana as a material place. Material consciousness divides eternal time into three parts: past, present and future.
The objects of material consciousness are the perishable forms of matter. Material aspiration refers to the hopes for impermanent happiness, such as attaining higher and higher material pleasures. In this condition, the soul can think only material thoughts. Such a soul imagines the following temporary activities to be worthwhile: the culture of civilization, moral ethics, scientific learning, industrial development, and the increase of domestic prosperity.
Q. What is impersonal consciousness?
A. The principle that separates one material object from another is called visesa (distinction based upon material quality). When one renounces material objects, one only gives up the conception of visesa or material distinction. Consciousness then enters into nirvisesa (nondistinction). In this condition, one is not able to perceive the differences between material objects, since the self is situated in nirvana, the impersonal state of negation. This state is not a happy one at all. Bereft of the natural bliss of fully awakened consciousness, the soul's prema or ecstatic love for Krsna remains concealed. The eternal pastimes of Sri Krsna are beyond matter. They are endowed with cin-maya-visesa, or divine distinction which is transcendental to distinction based upon material quality.
Q. If Sri Krsna's pastimes are beyond matter, then exactly how does He enact His lila in the material world as He did 5000 years ago?
A. Sri Krsna-lila is certainly transcendental to matter, but by the power of His inconceivable potency (acintya-sakti) He manifests His pastimes within the material sphere. Even so, Sri Krsna's pastimes never blend with matter or become subject to the laws of matter. The pastimes of Sri Krsna have two phases: 1) prakat (visible in the material world) and 2) aprakat (visible only in the spiritual world beyond matter) and both are visuddha-cinmaya or pervaded with the purest divine consciousness. His pastimes are performed only in the most purely sacred realm of the splendid spiritual forest of Sri Vrndavana. Their manifestation in the material world and in the hearts of purified souls is only due to Krsna's causeless mercy. Even when Krsna's lila is performed in the world of matter, the conditioned souls who are absorbed in material consciousness (jada-buddhi) are unfortunately cheated; their contact with matter makes them see the lila with faulty vision. Only souls free from jada-buddhi are able to understand the truth. When one becomes relieved of faulty material vision, he is then attracted to the Lord's pastimes. As long as the souls cannot understand Sri Krsna-tattva (the truth about the Lord), they cannot taste rasa or the pure sweetness of loving exchanges with God.
Q. The teachings of Sri Krsna-tattva are the religious principles of the Vaisnava-dharma. What about people who follow other types of religion?
A. Different religions have different instructions for the worship of either Isvara (the personal God), Paramatma (the localized Supersoul in the heart) or Brahma (His all-pervading impersonal feature) but all three of these types of religions are ultimately pointing in the direction of Krsna-tattva (the truth of Krsna). After the souls evolve upward through their various paths of development, they will eventually attain Krsna-bhakti (devotion to Krsna) in the end. Even though they aspire for the incomplete goals of various religious paths, Krsna-bhakti is always available to them, because the perception of Sri Krsna-tattva is the ultimate knowledge inherent within each and every living entity.
He is Knowable by All the Vedas
Q. How can one know the truth of the Lord (Krsna-tattva)?
A. This can be known by the soul's own inner awareness of the self-evident truth (svatah-siddha-jnana).
Q. What is self-evident truth?
A. There are two kinds of jnana, or knowledge. One is self-evident (svatah-siddha), and the other is that which depends on the senses (indriya-paratantra). Self-evident knowledge is the spiritual truth that is inherently a feature of the pure soul's original form. It is eternal, just as the totality of the divine realm of pure consciousness is also eternal. This self-evident knowledge is called Veda or Amnaya. This Veda of the form of pure knowledge (siddha-jnana-rupa) has incarnated within the material world in the shape of the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva texts. By studying the Vedic texts the materially conditioned souls can acquaint themselves with self-evident knowledge (svatah-siddha-jnana). Otherwise, whatever knowledge they gather through the use of their physical senses is only the inferior type of knowledge, indriya-paratantra (dependent upon the senses).
Q. Can anyone know Krsna-tattva (the truth of the Krsna) by indriya-paratantra-jnana (sensual knowledge)?
A. No. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is beyond the scope of all the material senses. For this reason He is known as Adhoksaja (adho = He who defeats, aksa = material perception, ja = knowledge born of). The senses, and all mental conceptions gathered from sense perception, are ever-distant from Krsna-tattva.
Q. If Krsna is attainable only through self-evident knowledge (svatah-siddha-jnana), then why can't we perceive Him through whatever innate awareness we now have? Why must we study the Vedic scriptures?
A. The Veda is present in every pure spirit soul's existence in the form of svatah-siddha-jnana. According to the different levels of different souls in the materially conditioned state, this Veda will spontaneously manifest itself to someone or remain veiled to someone else. Therefore to help re-awaken the forgetful conditioned souls to the eternal self-evident truths, the Veda incarnates in the form of written books that are to be heard, recited and remembered.
Q. But the scriptures say that Krsna is perceivable only through bhakti (pure devotion). If this is true, how can it also be said that he is to be perceived through jnana (knowledge), even the self-evident jnana?
A. Bhakti and svatah-siddha-jnana are just different terms for the same pure awareness of God.
Q. Then why is jnana sometimes condemned in the bhakti scriptures?
A. The bhakti scriptures glorify svatah-siddha-jnana as the only auspicious knowledge. Condemned are indriya-paratantra-jnana (knowledge based on sense perception) and nirvisesa-jnana (impersonal knowledge). Nirvisesa-jnana and indriya-paratantra-jnana are actually the same. Nirvisesa-jnana is simply the negation of indriya-paratantra-jnana. It does not bring one beyond sensual knowledge.
Q. In the Vedic scriptures are found recommendations for karma (fruitive work), jnana (speculative knowledge) and bhakti (devotional service). Which of these three can reveal Krsna-tattva?
A. There is no contradiction between the Vedic statements. The karma recommended in the Vedas leads ultimately to Krsna. The directions for cultivating jnana given in the Vedas ultimately bring one beyond both indriya-paratantra-jnana and nirvisesa-jnana to the realm of pure knowledge. The bhakti path naturally leads to a direct relationship with Krsna. Therefore the Lord is to be known by all the Vedic scriptures.Fourth Chapter
The Universe is Real
Q. Some people say that the universe is false, being just a fantastic display of maya (illusion). Is this correct?
A. The universe is real, but it is temporary and perishable. The two categories "real" and "eternal" have separate applications. The material universe is not eternal because eventually it will be destroyed according to the Lord's desire. But it is a factual reality. Whenever the scriptures say that the universe is false, it is to be understood that this statement merely refers to its temporary, perishable nature.
Q. What is maya?
A. Bhagavan's divine potency (para-sakti) is composed of an infinite variety of energies. Among all of these, three in particular are known to us. These are 1) cit (consciousness), 2) jiva (the spirit souls), and 3) maya (illusion). From His cit potency, the Lord manifests His own forms and pastimes (bhagavata-tattva-prakasa); from His jiva potency, the Lord manifests a limitless number of infinitesimally small particles of consciousness; from His maya potency, He manifests the material existence. Whatever is produced from the maya potency is perishable, but for the duration of its manifestation it is real.
Difference (Bheda) is Real
Q. In the Vedas, both Bhagavan and the jivas (souls) are spoken of as being conscious (caitanya). Does that mean that there is no real difference between the two?
A. No. Bhagavan's consciousness is all-pervading (vibhu-caitanya).
The jiva's consciousness is infinitesimal (anu-caitanya). The
difference between the two is not imaginary. Bhagavan is the Lord of
the maya-sakti. He is never in
illusion. The jivas are subordinate to the maya-sakti. They may fall into illusion when they leave the shelter of Krsna.
Q. How many types of bheda (difference) are there?
A. There are two types of bheda: vyavaharika (conventional difference) and tattvika (essential difference).
Q. What is vyavaharika-bheda?
A. This can be seen in the difference between a clay pot and a piece of cloth. These seem to be different things. But both originate from the same source - the soil of the earth. That means in their original or essential condition as soil, there is no difference between clay and cloth. The difference is merely conventional.
Q. What is tattvika-bheda?
A. This is when one thing is different from another thing in its function as well as in its original cause.
Q. Is the difference between the jiva (soul) and Bhagavan (God) vyavaharika or tattvika?
Q. How can that be?
A. Because in no condition can the jiva become Bhagavan.
Q. Then how are we to understand the declaration of the Upanisads, "tat-tvam-asi" ("you are the same")?
A. This declaration, taught to the great sage Sveta-ketu, means that the soul is distinct from matter because it is caitanya (conscious). All living entities are spiritual beings, different from their bodies formed of unconscious matter. Thus they are the same. But it does not mean that the anu-caitanya is the vibhu-caitanya.
Q. But there are scriptural statements declaring the oneness of the jiva with the all-pervading consciousness (Brahman).
A. These statements are true, but they must be understood from the proper viewpoint. From the point of view of the individual soul, the difference (bheda) between jiva and Brahman is eternal and true. But from the point of view of Brahman, the non-difference (abheda) is eternal and true. Thus bheda and abheda are both eternal and true.
Q. But isn't this contradictory?
A. The Lord's potency is inconceivable (acintya-sakti). Within His potency all contradictory truths exist in complete harmony. But because the tiny jivas are so limited, they think that the resolution of such contradictions is impossible.
Q. If both viewpoints are true, why do the devotees of Krsna condemn the philosophy of oneness?
A. Because those who propound the philosophy of oneness say that only the oneness of the soul with the supreme is eternal, and that all difference is temporary. Sri Madhvacarya has established that the difference is also eternal, and by proving this, he has ascertained the truth of acintya- bhedabheda (simultaneous inconceivable oneness and difference). Those who propound either only bheda (difference) or abheda (oneness) adhere to a one-sided and incomplete philosophy.
Q. Who teaches the doctrine of oneness?
A. The nirvisesa (impersonalist) philosophers teach the doctrine of oneness. The savisesa (personalist) philosophers do not accept this doctrine.
Q. Who teaches the savisesa philosophy?
A. All the Vaisnava sampradayas (schools) teach it.
Q. How many sampradayas do the Vaisnavas have?
A. There are four. All of these schools teach personal devotion for Bhagavan; thus each in its own way differentiates the Lord (as the object of devotion) from His energies. There is no actual disagreement between the four Vaisnava schools because they all reject the one-sided philosophy of nondistinction between Bhagavan and the jivas.
Q. If there is no disagreement between the four Vaisnava schools, why did Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accept only the doctrine of Sri Madhvacarya?
A. The special characteristic of Madhvacarya's doctrine is that it very clearly and thoroughly defeats the doctrine of oneness. When the jiva thinks himself one with God, he simply places himself into unnecessary distress. To lead the souls along the path away from distress, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the doctrine of Madhvacarya. But by doing so He did not minimize the importance of the other three Vaisnava schools.Sixth Chapter
The Spirit Souls are the Servants of Sri Krsna
Q. What is the natural and eternal position (nitya-dharma) of the spirit soul?
A. The nitya-dharma of the spirit soul (jiva) is service to Sri Krsna (krsna-dasya).
Q. What is the unnatural, fallen position (vaidharmya) of the spirit soul?
A. The downfall of the jiva occurs: 1) when a deluded soul accepts the doctrine of non-difference (abheda) and seeks impersonal nirvana; or 2) when a foolish soul seeks advancement in material pleasures.
Q. Why do you call all these things unnatural?
A. They are unnatural because the spirit soul is made of eternal consciousness (cinmaya), and the eternal nature of that which is cinmaya is happiness (ananda) and love (priti). In the impersonalistic doctrine of nirvisesa there is no happiness; their ultimate goal is simply to negate the soul. In the philosophy of the materialistic doctrine of visesa, the spiritual identity of the soul is covered by material identity. Both the visesa and nirvisesa philosophies cause the downfall of the jiva.
Q. What kind of people aspire for material happiness?
A. People who are bewildered by their karma (fruitive work) think themselves to be their bodies, which are the instruments of their work. The identification with the physical body then expands into identification with the pleasures and pains of the senses, which further expands into identification with the material objects of the body's senses. These people work hard to possess sense objects that they think will bring pleasure to the body's senses and alleviate pain. But neither the body, its senses or the sense objects have a real relationship with the soul, because they are temporary whereas the soul is eternal. Therefore there is no possibility of attaining genuine happiness for the soul by struggling with the body, its senses and its sense objects. The only result of this struggle is the entanglement of the soul in more and more bodies, senses and sense objects in future births in the cycle of samsara (repeated birth and death).
Q. What about the practitioners of the physical yoga system?
A. They renounce the happiness of the senses so that they may obtain power (vibhuti) by sense and mind control. But this is simply a more refined form of bewilderment by karma. The fruit they want from their work of discipline in yoga is the fruit of mystical power.
Q. But if material happiness, impersonal nirvana and mystical power are rejected, what remains for the soul to attain?
A. Rejecting all these, the soul will then rest in its own natural enjoyment. The methods of sense gratification, impersonal meditation and mystic yoga are called upadhika (artificial impositions on the soul). The realization of the soul's own inner eternal bliss is nirupadhika (not artificial, or perfectly natural).
Q. What is the realization of the soul's own true happiness?
A. When the spirit soul gives up the illusory relationship with matter and cultivates its eternal relationship with Krsna, a boundless joy that is characteristic of its own pure consciousness arises in its being. That is the natural happiness of the jiva.Seventh Chapter
Different Levels of Jivas
Q. Are all souls of one type, or are there different relative levels?
A. There are different relative levels among the jivas.
Q. How many levels are there?
A. There are basically two: the level of the jiva's real and eternal form (svarupa), and the level of the jiva's dream of a false material designation (upadhi).
Q. What is the false material designation of the soul?
A. The soul's material designation consists of all the forms of maya (illusion) that encapsulate the soul as a result of having turned away from Krsna.
Q. Why don't all souls remain in their true position, free from material designation?
A. Those souls who accept nothing other than service as their eternal occupation never lose their transcendental position (svarupa). Their attraction to Krsna is everlasting. But those who become obsessed with their own separate so-called happiness turn away from Krsna and are immediately shackled by maya in the prison of the material world.
Q. Why doesn't Krsna protect spirit souls from the unfortunate fate of falling down into the material world?
A. Krsna gives the spirit souls, who are His extended parts and parcels, a free will. They may choose between loving Him or pursuing selfish illusions. If a soul chooses to misuse its independence, then its svarupa or essential eternal form is covered by dull matter. In this stupefied condition, the soul cannot perceive its own blissful nature.
Q. What is the eternal form (svarupa) of the jiva?
A. The jiva is made of eternal consciousness. Its only purpose is to serve Krsna. By assuming its service role, the jiva is endowed by Krsna with a form of pure bliss.
Q. Are there levels of souls who are situated in their forms of eternal service to Krsna?
A. There are five eternal relationships with Krsna. These constitute levels of eternal existence.
Q. What are the five eternal relationships with Krsna?
A. The first is the neutral (santa) relationship. The second is the servitor (dasya) relationship. The third is the friendly (sakhya) relationship. The fourth is the parental (vatsalya) relationship. The fifth is the conjugal (srngara) relationship.
Q. Please explain these terms in greater detail.
A. The santa relationship does not involve a personal relationship with Krsna. It is passive but reverential. The dasya relationship is personal. It consists of a reverential mood of active service. The sakhya relationship surpasses the limits of reverence and becomes friendly and informal. In the vatsalyarelationship, loving concern for Krsna overflows the limits of carefree friendliness. In the srngara relationship, loving concern intensifies into an intimacy of the most brilliant beauty.
Q. How many different levels of material consciousness are there?
A. There are three: 1) concealed consciousness, like trees and plants; 2) constricted consciousness, like animals and birds; 3) budding consciousness, like human beings who are not yet spiritually awake. These three subcategories fall within the basic category of upadhi-jiva, souls living a dream of falseidentity. This category is also known as nitya-baddha-jiva, or eternally conditioned souls.
Q. How many levels of budding consciousness are there?
A. There are many different types. They may be roughly classified as six levels.
1) Uncivilized tribes.
2) Civilized races with developed material knowledge and industrial capabilities, but who are ignorant of proper moral conduct and who have little faith in God. These are the characteristics of the mlecchas (meat-eaters).
3) Civilized races that follow no personal God but are very fond of the beauty of the material world. Buddhist culture provides an example of this.
4) Civilized races that follow an imaginary God. They worship various demigods, thinking them to be supreme, and do good works in the hopes of being promoted to the heavenly material planets where these demigods reside. This form of religion is called imaginary because they believe their conception of God to be the highest, though it is still only material.
5) Civilized races that accept the Original Transcendental Person as the true Supreme Lord, but who do not perform devotional service to Him.
6) Civilized races that are fond of nirvisesa philosophy (the doctrine of impersonal oneness).
Q. Is there level that a soul must pass through to go from the eternally conditioned state to the eternally liberated state?
A. From the nitya-baddha or eternally conditioned level the soul must rise to the baddha-mukta level, at which the soul lives in the material world but is not caught up in maya (illusion). From the baddha-mukta level the soul mayrise to the nitya-mukta (eternally liberated) level, which is the level of svarupa-jiva (souls situated in the reality of their own eternal forms).
Q. Are there different types of baddha-mukta jivas?
A. There are two types: 1) those with blooming consciousness, like the practicing devotees (sadhana-bhaktas) who serve Krsna by following the rules of the scriptures; and 2) those with fully flowering consciousness, like the devotees who experience spiritual ecstasy while executing scriptural duties.
Q. Where do the nitya-baddha, baddha-mukta and nitya-mukta souls reside?
A. The nitya-baddha and baddha-mukta souls reside in the material world. The nitya-mukta souls reside in the spiritual world, Vaikuntha (the place of no anxiety).Eighth Chapter
Liberation is the Attainment of Krsna's Lotus Feet
Q. How many kinds of liberation (mukti) are there?
A. The Vedic scriptures inform us of five kinds of liberation. These are 1) salokya (to live in the same Vaikuntha-world as the Lord), 2) sarsti (to achieve divine opulences similar to the Lord's), 3) samipya (to become a close associate of theLord), 4) sarupya (to obtain a transcendental form similar to that of the Lord, and 5) sayujya (to merge into the impersonal effulgence of the Lord). The sayujya-mukti is not accepted by the liberated souls who know the full truth of oneness and difference (bhedabheda). The conception of absolute oneness of soul and God is actually a mistake that results in the soul's becoming blinded by the glaring rays of the brahmajyoti, the divine light that emanates from Krsna's spiritual form. When the soul takes shelter of Krsna's lotus feet, the blinding power of the brahmajyoti recedes to reveal the full truth. Taking shelter of Krsna's lotus feet is therefore the true liberation.
Q. Out of the different forms of liberation mentioned above, why is it concluded that the only real liberation is the attainment of Krsna's lotus feet?
A. The shelter of Krsna's lotus feet automatically frees one from the influence of matter. The ecstatic bliss of drinking the nectar of the Lord's lotus feet is the permanent spiritual situation. Without the shelter of the Lord's lotus feet, the forms of liberation mentioned above will not last.Ninth Chapter
Pure Worship If Krsna is the Cause of Liberation
Q. What must one do to attain liberation in the form of drinking the nectar of the lotus feet of Lord Krsna?
A. One tastes this nectar by engaging in pure devotional worship of Krsna (amala-krsna-bhajan).
Q. What makes amala-krsna-bhajan different from other worship?
A. Amala-krsna-bhajan is free from impurities and is performed only for the purpose of attaining attraction to Krsna.
Q. What are the impurities that hinder worship of Krsna?
A. There are three. These are the desire for material sense gratification, the desire for impersonal liberation and the desire for mystic powers.
Q. What are desires for material sense gratification?
A. These are the desire to enjoy the immediate pleasures of this world; the desire to help ourselves and others advance to a higher standard of material enjoyment; and also the desire for the seeming peace that comes from renouncing sense pleasures after one has enjoyed them to the fullest.
Q. If all these forms of material sense gratification are to be rejected, how will one maintain one's body? How will one benefit humanity? How will one get relief when one is weary of sensual pursuits?
A. As long as one has a material body, it is not possible to completely give up the affairs of the material senses, or welfare work promoting the material benefit of others, or renunciation of sensual affairs that have become stale and tasteless. Still, we should not desire them. We should not waste time enthusiastically pursuing them.
Q. But how can that be possible?
A. A devotee of Krsna depends upon Krsna for everything. His life's activities are harmonized with the goal of serving and remembering Krsna always.
Q. But material life is very different from spiritual life. How can one dedicate himself to Krsna and at the same time perform the tasks expected of him by family and society?
A. Krsna consciousness means the awakening of the soul's higher spiritual emotions of devotional attachment to Krsna. This awakening takes place through the nine specific methods of bhakti-yoga (the yoga of devotion). For instance, one should worship the beautiful form of Krsna. One should eat only prasadam, the remnants of pure vegetarian foodstuffs that have been offered to Krsna in sacrifice. One should hear and chant Krsna's holy name and the descriptions of His glories revealed in the scriptural texts. When the devotee's spiritual emotions are awakened, he sees his worldly duties in relationship to Krsna and not in relationship to the demands of the material senses, family, society, and so on. Thus he fulfills his responsibilities in a blissful mood of loving attachment to the Lord.
Q. But there are other ways to become released from material life, aren't there? For instance, wouldn't the discipline of the hatha-yoga system help me restrain my senses and attain samadhi?
A. You must understand your position. As a jiva (spirit soul), you are dependent - either you are dependent upon Krsna or you are dependent upon maya. If you do not awaken the higher attachment to Krsna, then the lower attachment to material sense pleasure will remain firmly rooted in your consciousness. Only by attaining the higher can you renounce the lower. Merely restraining the senses from the lower objects will not rid the consciousness of the taste for lower pleasures.
Q. What are the nine methods of bhakti-yoga?
A. These are: sravana (hearing about Krsna), kirtana (chanting), smarana (remembering), pada-sevana (rendering menial service to Krsna), arcana (worshiping His divine form), vandana (offering prayers), dasya (executing His mission), sakhya (becoming His friend) and atma-nivedana (surrendering everything without reservation).
Q. What is the goal of these methods of bhakti-yoga?
A. As explained before, these are methods of awakening the pure spiritual emotions of attachment to Krsna. This spiritual awakening culminates in Krsna-prema (love for Krsna).
Q. What does a person with Krsna-prema experience?
A. Words fail to describe the ecstasy of Krsna-prema. It is the bliss that all souls hanker for but fail to attain so long as their consciousness is focused upon matter. May you taste it yourself. Then you will know.
Q. In striving for amala-krsna-bhajan (the pure execution of the nine methods of bhakti-yoga), what hindrances must we overcome?
A. There are six. These are 1) vikarma (sinful activities), 2) akarma (inaction), 3) bewilderment by karma, 4) dry renunciation, 5) dry knowledge and 6) offenses.
Q. What kinds of activities constitute vikarma?
A. There are four primary vikarmas (sinful activities). These are meat-eating, illicit sex, gambling and intoxication. If one can cease from these, he can gradually overcome any number of lesser vikarmas such as envy, cruelty, hard-heartedness, anger, greed, selfishness, deceit, disrespect, pride, delusion, uncleanliness and so on.
Q. What is akarma (inaction)?
A. Akarma is the absence of auspicious deeds; for instance, the reluctance of someone to perform the nine methods of bhakti-yoga would be called akarma. The cause of akarma is atheism, ingratitude and lack of association with devotees of Krsna.
Q. What is bewilderment by karma?
A. The Vedic scriptures recommend pious material action (karma) because these help a person to overcome vikarma and akarma. Some prominent examples of pious karma are truthfulness, cleanliness, simplicity, forgiveness, mercy, sense control, helping others, serving one's superiors, charity and kindness to all living beings. Performance of such good deeds promotes a person to a better material standard of existence. But a comfortable material life may bewilder a person to the need for spiritual advancement.
Q. What is dry renunciation?
A. This is renunciation that is very troublesome to maintain because it is unnatural. It is bereft of a higher transcendental taste.
Q. What is dry knowledge?
A. This is knowledge that is not directly concerned with the nine eternal truths that are the subject of this essay.
Q. What are offenses?
A. There are two kinds of offenses (aparadha): nama-aparadha (offenses committed while chanting the holy names of Krsna) and seva-aparadha (offenses committed while rendering other kinds of services to Krsna).
Q. In summary, what must one do to perfect amala-krsna-bhajan?
A. One should live one's life in a detached mood, one should cultivate pure knowledge of Krsna, and one should hear and chant the glories of Krsna in the association of the Lord's devotees.Tenth Chapter
Three Evidences - Spiritual Sound, Direct Perception and Logic
Q. What is evidence (pramana)?
A. Pramana is that by which the truth is ascertained.
Q. How many types of evidences are there?
A. There are three: spiritual sound (sabda), direct perception (pratyaksa) and logic (anumana).
Q. What is spiritual sound?
A. All the Vedic scriptures are evidence in the form of spiritual sound. They are the incarnation of self-evident knowledge (svatah-siddha-jnana). Sabda alone is the best evidence because it reveals the truth that lies beyond material perception.
Q. Can Krsna and the spiritual world be observed by direct perception (pratyaksa) and logic (anumana)?
A. These are based upon material sense perception. They help us to understand the Vedic evidence in terms of our present condition. But they themselves are unable to reveal eternal truths.
Q. Then why are direct perception and logic accepted as evidence?
A. Because they provide us with useful tools by which the Vedic knowledge can be demonstrated and confirmed. When employed skillfully, direct perception and logic reinforce faith in the sabda-pramana (evidence of spiritual sound). (End of Vaisnava-siddhanta-mala)
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