Vedic philosophy

This is the second part of the blog on six branches of Vedic philosophy. In the last blog we read about these different philosophies or ṣaḍ-darśana, today we will read how they are connected with each other, each leading to another, like the rung of a ladder. Below is an excerpt from the book Ocean of Mercy by HH Bhakti Charu Swami. Maharaj is with Srila Prabhupada, the place is Rishikesh, somewhere between May 5 and May 15, 1977. Please relish the ease with which Srila Prabhupada unravels them.

A Question

Often, when senior devotees were gathered around Śrīla Prabhupāda in his room, he would spontaneously instruct them about devotional service.

On one such occasion, when I was sitting with the group, he said that an ideal preacher should have the proper understanding of the six branches of Vedic philosophy, ṣaḍ-darśana. “When one understands them properly,” he declared, “one can understand that devotional service is the ultimate goal of the Vedas. Only then does one become eligible to impart the conclusion of Vedic wisdom.”

 I listened, a question flashed in my mind. Śrīla Prabhupāda had mentioned in his books that five out of six branches of Vedic philosophy were atheistic, so how could an understanding of those branches lead to the conclusion that devotional service to Krishna was the ultimate goal? I still felt shy to ask questions in front of the others, so I remained silent. But at night, when I was alone with Śrīla Prabhupāda, I remembered Tamāl Krishna’s advice. So I gathered my courage and asked, “Srila Prabhupada, in your books you mention that five of the six branches of ṣaḍ-darśana are considered atheistic. And at the beginning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Nārada Muni points out to Śrīla Vyāsadeva that even the sixth branch—Vedānta—is tinged with impersonalism. So that also falls short of perfection. Why, then, is it necessary to study them, and how is that knowledge going to benefit us? Is it in order to defeat the proponents of the other doctrines?”

Ultimate Goal

Śrīla Prabhupāda seemed pleased with my question. “No,”he explained, “our main business is not to defeat others, but to establish the fact that devotion to Krishna— Krishna consciousness—is the ultimate spiritual goal. This material nature is the perverted reflection of the spiritual reality. We have to understand that whatever is here in this world has its origin in the spiritual world. When in a reflection of a tree we see the green leaves, red flowers, and yellow fruits, we have to understand that they must be there in the real tree. Otherwise how can they be in the reflection? Everything is coming from the spiritual sky. Whatever is here in this material nature is also existing in the spiritual reality. “The perfect perception is to see things in that light. The Vedas have been designed to reveal the identity of Krishna and bring the living entities to His lotus feet. The six branches of Vedic philosophy are actually six steps of gradual elevation to understanding the ultimate goal—devotion to Krishna.

Six branches of Vedic Philosophy

“These six branches are Pūrva-mīmāṁsā [preliminary conclusions, or Karma-mīmāṁsā], Nyāya [logic], Vaiśeṣika [atomic theory], Sāṅkhya [analytical studies], Yoga [linking with the Supreme Lord], and Uttara-mīmāṁsā [final conclusions], Vedānta. If you simply regard them as independent branches of philosophy and study them without their relation to Krishna, they appear to be atheistic. These six branches are like rungs on a ladder. The rungs of the ladder by themselves cannot be the real goal. Their actual utility is in relation to the ladder, and the purpose of the ladder is to reach the ultimate height—devotional service to Krishna.

“The Vedas impart three levels of understanding—karma-kāṇḍa, jñāna-kāṇḍa, and bhakti.

Initially, one in this material nature wants to enjoy through sense gratification, and the karma-kāṇḍa section of the Vedas gives directions on how to enjoy. As you act, accordingly you will get the result: right action leads to enjoyment and wrong action to suffering. This is called the law of karma—the principle of action and reaction. Therefore, one must know how to act in order to really enjoy. Which can lead one to the highest region of the material universe—Satyaloka, where Lord Brahmā is situated. “However, in spite of all endeavors for enjoyment, one eventually realizes that he cannot avoid suffering—uninterrupted enjoyment is not possible in this material nature; suffering comes on its own and is unavoidable.

“When a person begins to wonder why he is suffering and tries to find the way out of it, he comes to the jñāna-kāṇḍa platform, and through four branches of Vedic philosophy—Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya, and Yoga—he gradually transcends the material world and establishes his connection to the Lord in the heart.

Through Nyāya he comes to understand that this material nature is a place of suffering, duḥkhālayam, and that the material body is a perfect instrument for receiving pain. For example, just consider how many ways you can inflict pain on your little finger, or any part of your body, but you will find so few ways to give it pleasure—from which we can conclude that this material body is a wonderful instrument for receiving pain.

“Thereafter, one begins to consider what this material nature really is, and through the Vaiśeṣika branch of philosophy he realizes that the perceivable material world is actually composed of the minutest particles, called paramāṇu, or atoms. But to our senses it takes various shapes, forms, and perceptions. In other words, what appears to our senses to be real is not actually real. Therefore, this material nature is an illusion.

“This leads to the next branch of Vedic philosophy, called Sāṅkhya, or analytical study, which describes the material nature consisting of five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and the individual with five senses—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. The senses interact with the elements, and five objects of the senses are generated: the ears interact with ether, and sound is produced; the skin interacts with air, and touch is produced; the eyes interact with fire, and form is produced; the tongue interacts with water, and taste is produced; and the nose interacts with earth, and smell is produced. “There are also five working senses, with which we become active in this world—namely, the hands, legs, voice, anus, and genitals. In this way Sāṅkhya philosophy determines twenty tattvas, or aspects of material nature, and then considers three subtle elements beyond that—the mind, intelligence, and false ego—and subsequently, the mahat-tattva, the total material energy, from which the entire creation became manifest. “Through these twenty-four manifestations, Sāṅkhya philosophy analyzes the entire material nature. However, it concludes that these twenty-four manifestations are objective in nature and cannot exist without the subject—the ‘I’, the self, the soul. The entire material nature has been analyzed, but the soul cannot be found there; therefore, it comes from another reality—the spiritual nature—and has its origin, its source, in the Supreme Soul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this way, Sāṅkhya philosophy takes one to the spiritual reality and transcends the material nature.

“Recognition of the fact that the soul is a part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead leads to the final aspect of jñāna-kāṇḍa, called Yoga. Yoga is the process by which the spirit soul becomes connected to the Supersoul, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This process has eight different stages, or limbs; therefore, it is called aṣṭāṅga-yoga—yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, dhyāna, dhāraṇā, and samādhi. In the final stage, samādhi, one perceives the Supersoul—the Supreme Personality of Godhead—in one’s heart. Recognizing one’s minuteness and the greatness of the Supreme Lord, one’s head automatically bends down in respect and one surrenders to Him.

Perfect Understanding

“This surrender to the Lord is the very foundation of devotional service—bhakti, the main aspect of the final branch of Vedic philosophy—and it has been explained through the sixth branch of Vedic philosophy, called Uttara-mīmāṁsā, or the final conclusion. It is also called Vedānta. The Vedanta philosophy is based on the Vedānta-sūtra, which apparently refers to the impersonal Brahman, but in his natural commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Vyāsadeva establishes that surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and loving devotional service to Him is the actual objective of Vedānta philosophy. Thus bhakti takes one beyond liberation to engagement in loving devotional service to the Lord. “In this way, through karma-kāṇḍa and jñāna-kāṇḍa, one is gradually elevated to the ultimate point of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the perfect understanding of the six branches of Vedic philosophy.”

(Ocean of Mercy, chapter 7)

I hope we learned something about six branches of Vedic philosophy, their conclusions, how each one leads to the next one, leading to their final destination- the lotus feet of Sri Krishna.

It is our good fortune that by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada many complex topics have been revealed to us in an easy to understand manner. It may be a good idea to read Srila Prabhupada’s books every day.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

To love God

Hare Krishna and pranams dear devotees,

The stellar role accomplished by the troika of  Srila Bhaktivinoda ThakurSrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur and Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, to re-establish, reinforce and then broadcast the lost teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is incomparable. Their genius in understanding the unique mood of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the six Goswamis is also exceptional.

Recently I read an article written by Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura on the famous quote from Bible ‘Love God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul’. This amazing article not only gives us a proper understanding of how ‘To Love God’ means different to different people at different levels of consciousness but he also beautifully explains in brielf the whole Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy. Here it is –

To Love God

It was Christ Jesus who first said “Love God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and love man as thy brother.” This is an absolute truth indeed; but different men put different interpretations to this noble expression. The expressions of all great men are nice but somewhat mysterious. When understood they bring the truth nearest to the heart otherwise they remain mere letters that ‘kill’. The reason of the mystery is that men, advanced in their approach to the Deity, are in the habit of receiving revelations which are but mysteries to those that are behind them. The stages of progress are very much the same as the circles of spiritualism which, though not true themselves, explain a great deal about the gradual development of the soul.

We have understood some spiritualists to maintain that matter when sublimated converts itself to spirit. This theory is indeed against any inward conviction. Matter is matter, and spirit is spirit; one of them cannot form the other. Spirit is certainly of a superior existence; though we cannot fully understand in our present state of material imprisonment, what relation Spirit does exactly bear to matter, space and time.

Metaphysics apart, we decide that the human soul rises higher and higher and can understand things of which we have no idea at present. Subject to this important rule, Christ Jesus of Nazareth received and uttered the words quoted above.

To readers who are a little above the scale of ordinary men, these expressions of Jesus teach that man should love God with all his heart (meaning the affections of the heart perceivable in all children as opposed to hate), with all his mind, (meaning the intellect which knows as opposed to ignorance of good things), with all his soul (meaning that principle of the human constitution which worships the Almighty and feels its own immortality), and with all his strength (meaning all active work). To the inspired, however, more things and better and more sublime meanings appear beneath these holy words of the inspired Jesus. He teaches man to love God and not to know, infer, hate, or think of God. He tells us that man in his absolute state is not the intellect or the body but is the pure soul itself.

The essence of the soul is wisdom and its action is love absolute. The absolute condition of man is his absolute relation to the Deity in pure love. Love then alone is the religion of the soul and consequently of the whole man. The pupil asks here, “What have I to do with the heart? — My heart loves ‘to see the sun smile, to eat the sweetest dish and to see a dance.’ Jesus profoundly replies “Yes, you must love God with all thy heart, your heart now runs to things other than God, but you must, as you train a bad horse, make your feelings run to the loving God.” This is one of the four principles of worship or what they call in Vaisnava literature, santa rasa.

Then the pupil says, “My Lord, the intellect takes me elsewhere from God, that is, it wants to take me to positivism; please instruct me what am I to do?” “Yes,” replies Jesus, “You must love God with all your mind, that is, when you perceive, conceive, remember, imagine and reason, you must not allow yourself to be a dry thinker but must love. Love alone can soften the dryness of the intellect, you must develop the intellect on all good and holy things by means of love of truth, spiritual beauty and harmony.” This is the second phase of Vaisnava development which passes by the name dasya rasa.

The pupil then inquires whether development of the affections and the intellect is quite enough for him. Then says the Lord “You must love God with thy soul also, that is, you must perceive yourself in spiritual communication with the Deity and receive holy revelations in your sublimest hours of worship.” This is called the sakhya rasa of the Vaisnavas — the soul approaching the Deity in holy and fearless service.

The disciple apprehends that he will be lost in such a position and will be unable to act. Then the Saviour tells him these words, “You must love God with all thy strength or will — you are wrong in concluding that you will loose your active existence — you will get it the more. Work for God and work to God, proceeding from no interested views but from a holy free will (which is alone the strength of man) and identifying with pure love, it will fully engross your attention.” This is a description of bhakti in general.

Then Jesus proceeds to tell us, “You must love man as thy brother.” From this is inferred the fourth phase of love which is a feeling that all men are brothers and God is their common Father. This is vatsalya rasa in its first stage of development.

Bhakti (love) is thus perceived in the very first development of man in the shape of heart, then in the shape of mind, then in the shape of soul and lastly in the shape of will. These shapes do not destroy each other but beautifully harmonize themselves into a pure construction of what we call the spiritual man or the ekanta of Vaisnava literature.

But there is another more sublime truth behind this fact which is revealed to a few that are prepared for it. We mean the spiritual conversion of the soul into a woman. It is in that sublime and lofty state in which the soul can taste the sweetness of an indissoluble marriage with God of Love. The fifth or the highest stage of Vaisnava development is this, which we call madhurya rasa, and on this alone the most beautiful portion of the Vaisnava literature so ably expatiates.

This phase of human life, mysterious as it is, is not attainable by all, nay, we should say, by any but “God’s own“. It is so very beyond the reach of common men that the rationalists and even the ordinary theists cannot understand it. Nay, they go so far as to sneer at it as something unnatural. Oh God! Reveal Thy most valuable truths to all so that “Your own” may not be numbered with the fanatics and the crazed and that the whole of mankind may be admitted as “Your own.”

(Reprinted from a Journal of Tajpur dated Friday, 25th August, 1871)

I hope we liked the illuminating peek, which Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura mercifully allow us, into a heart which is sold-out to the teachings and instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We may scratch our head at some of the above topics, fortunately, our way of gaining access into higher topics is by first praying and then reading it repeatedly.

All glories to Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Taking shelter of Krishna

Hare Krishna and Pranams dear devotees,

In response to my last blog ‘Turning distress into an opportunity‘, I received a few calls from devotees on taking shelter of Krishna in times of distress. In all the calls the crux was the same- Should we trouble Krishna with our material problems? Shouldn’t bhakti should be practiced without any motivation. My response was- of course bhakti should not be motivated, which means we practice bhakti for no other purpose than to please Krishna. But when faced with challenges in our lives then whose shelter should we take? Should we place our faith in Krishna’s hands or should we put it in the hands of some demigod, doctor, lawyer, money deposits, etc.?

As a small child depends exclusively upon his father similarly we, aspiring devotees, should practice keeping our faith only in Krishna. We do whatever else needed to be done but we should have the firm faith that the final decision is in the hands of Krishna and hence take shelter of Krishna only. Of course, as a dependent servant, we accept with love whatever Krishna finally decides to do about it.

This morning I read a beautiful verse from Srimad Bhagavatam and in his purport, Srila Prabhupada speaks about the importance of taking shelter of Krishna. I am sharing the same with you all of you.

tasyogra-daṇḍa-saṁvignāḥ  sarve lokāḥ sapālakāḥ
anyatrālabdha-śaraṇāḥ  śaraṇaṁ yayur acyutam

Everyone, including the rulers of the various planets, was extremely distressed because of the severe punishment inflicted upon them by Hiraṇyakaśipu. Fearful and disturbed, unable to find any other shelter, they at last surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu.

Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gītā (5.29):

bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ
 sarva-loka-maheśvaram
suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ
 jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

“The sage who knows Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is actually the best friend of everyone. In a condition of distress or misery, one wants to seek shelter of a well-wishing friend. The well-wishing friend of the perfect order is Lord Sri Krishna. Therefore all the inhabitants of the various planets, being unable to find any other shelter, were obliged to seek shelter at the lotus feet of the supreme friend. If from the very beginning we seek shelter of the supreme friend, there will be no cause of danger. It is said that if a dog is swimming in the water and one wants to cross the ocean by catching hold of the dog’s tail, certainly he is foolish. Similarly, if in distress one seeks shelter of a demigod, he is foolish, for his efforts will be fruitless. In all circumstances, one should seek shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then there will be no danger under any circumstances.

(SB 7.4.21+p)

There are innumerable examples – Gajendra, Kunti Maharani, Pandavas, all the Vrajavasis practiced it -Nanada Maharaj, gopas and the gopis. In all their challenges, they would call out only one person- Krishna!

Nanda Maharaj took shelter of Krishna

While Nanda Maharaja was returning home, he considered Vasudeva’s warning that there might be some disturbance in Gokula. Certainly the advice was friendly and not false. So Nanda thought, ”There is some truth in it.” Therefore, out of fear he took shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is quite natural for a devotee in danger to think of Krishna, because he has no other shelter. When a child is in danger, he takes shelter of his mother or father. Similarly, a devotee is always under the shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but when he specifically sees some danger, he remembers the Lord very rapidly.

( Krishna Book, chapter 6)

Gopas always call out to Krishna

Since it was almost night and all the inhabitants of Vrindavan, including the cows and calves, were very tired, they decided to take their rest on the riverbank. In the middle of the night, while they were taking rest, there was suddenly a great forest fire, and it quickly appeared that the fire would soon devour all the inhabitants of Vrindavan. As soon as they felt the warmth of the fire, they immediately took shelter of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although He was playing just like their child. They began to say, ”Our dear Krishna! O Supreme Personality of Godhead! Our dear Balarama, reservoir of all strength! Please try to save us from this all-devouring and devastating fire. We have no shelter other than You. This devastating fire will swallow us all!” Thus they prayed to Krishna, saying that they could not take any shelter other than His lotus feet. Lord Krishna, being compassionate upon His own townspeople, immediately swallowed up the whole forest fire and saved them.

(Krishna Book, chapter 17)

Whole Vraja took shelter of Krishna

Ordered by King Indra, all the dangerous clouds appeared above Vrindavan and began to pour water incessantly, with all their strength and power. There was constant lightning and thunder, blowing of severe wind, and incessant falling of rain. The rain seemed to fall like piercing sharp arrows. By pouring water as thick as pillars, without cessation, the clouds gradually filled all the lands in Vrindavan with water, and there was no visible distinction between higher and lower land. The situation was very dangerous, especially for the animals. The rainfall was accompanied by great winds, and every living creature in Vrindavan began to tremble from the severe cold.

Unable to find any other source of deliverance, they all approached Govinda to take shelter at His lotus feet. The cows especially, being much aggrieved from the heavy rain, bowed down their heads, and taking their calves underneath their bodies, they approached the Supreme Personality of Godhead to take shelter of His lotus feet. At that time all the inhabitants of Vrindavan began to pray to Lord Krishna. ”Dear Krishna,” they prayed, ”You are all-powerful, and You are very affectionate to Your devotees. Now please protect us, who have been much harassed by angry Indra.”

(Krishna Book, chapter 25 )

Gopi’s golden advise for us

Your lotus feet are the proper shelter of Your servitors.

(Krishna Book, chapter 29)

I pray that it helped and it inspires us to take shelter of Krishna’s lotus feet in all conditions- favourable or unfavourable.

All glories to the divine shelter of Krishna

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Do devotees suffer karmic reactions?

7th April, 2017. Gurgaon.

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

I could not post the blog for a long time as life turned a bit busy, please forgive me for this laxity.

Yesterday morning I read the very beautiful, and famous, verse from Srimad Bhagavatam and now sharing the same with you. 

This particular chapter, SB 10.14, describes the Brahmā ji’s prayers to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Brahmā ji first praised the beauty of the Lord’s transcendental limbs and then declared that Krishna’s original identity of sweetness is even more difficult to comprehend than His opulence. And only by the devotional process of hearing and chanting transcendental sounds received from Vedic authorities can one realize the Personality of Godhead. It is fruitless to try to realize God through processes outside the scope of Vedic authority.

Brahmā  ji is praying to Lord Krishna:

My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.

O almighty Lord, in the past many yogīs in this world achieved the platform of devotional service by offering all their endeavors unto You and faithfully carrying out their prescribed duties. Through such devotional service, perfected by the processes of hearing and chanting about You, they came to understand You, O infallible one, and could easily surrender to You and achieve Your supreme abode.

(SB 10.14.4-5)

Then comes the gem of a verse wherein Brahmā ji reveals that to go back to Godhead a devotee simply has to patiently tolerate his past karmic reactions in this lifetime, while sincerely & seriously practicing Krishna consciousness! This may sound too good to be true or too easy but these are the words from Srimad Bhagavatam, Amala Purana, spoken by Brahmā ji, who also happens to be the head of our sampradaya. Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura said that this verse describes Bhakti.

tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk

My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.

(SB 10.14.8)

In his purport Srila Prabhupada too reveals an ‘inside’ secret as to how even those apparent karmic reactions are also actually a favour by the most merciful Krishna. Many of us may have read this verse before but as we read and reread it our conviction for the scientific process of Krishna consciousness, and the amazing journey we are in, goes few notches higher. It also helps us appreciate how compassionate is Krishna towards His devotees.  And that only is Krishna silently working to get us back home but He is very much looking forward to see us soon.
Purport

Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī explains in his commentary that just as a legitimate son has to simply remain alive to gain an inheritance from his father, one who simply remains alive in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, following the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, automatically becomes eligible to receive the mercy of the Personality of Godhead. In other words, he will be promoted to the kingdom of God.

The word su-samīkṣamāṇa indicates that a devotee earnestly awaits the mercy of the Supreme Lord even while suffering the painful effects of previous sinful activities. Lord Kṛṣṇa explains in the Bhagavad-gītā that a devotee who fully surrenders unto Him is no longer liable to suffer the reactions of his previous karma. However, because in his mind a devotee may still maintain the remnants of his previous sinful mentality, the Lord removes the last vestiges of the enjoying spirit by giving His devotee punishments that may sometimes resemble sinful reactions. The purpose of the entire creation of God is to rectify the living entity’s tendency to enjoy without the Lord, and therefore the particular punishment given for a sinful activity is specifically designed to curtail the mentality that produced the activity. Although a devotee has surrendered to the Lord’s devotional service, until he is completely perfect in Kṛṣṇa consciousness he may maintain a slight inclination to enjoy the false happiness of this world. The Lord therefore creates a particular situation to eradicate this remaining enjoying spirit. This unhappiness suffered by a sincere devotee is not technically a karmic reaction; it is rather the Lord’s special mercy for inducing His devotee to completely let go of the material world and return home, back to Godhead.

A sincere devotee earnestly desires to go back to the Lord’s abode. Therefore he willingly accepts the Lord’s merciful punishment and continues offering respects and obeisances to the Lord with his heart, words and body. Such a bona fide servant of the Lord, considering all hardship a small price to pay for gaining the personal association of the Lord, certainly becomes a legitimate son of God, as indicated here by the words dāya-bhāk. Just as one cannot approach the sun without becoming fire, one cannot approach the supreme pure, Lord Kṛṣṇa, without undergoing a rigid purificatory process, which may appear like suffering but which is in fact a curative treatment administered by the personal hand of the Lord.

So we can appreciate how unique is our journey in Krishna Consciousness. How even the aspiring devotees remain under the direct shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna. We just need to remain sincere & serious, practice tolerance and be simple hearted. Then there is no faster route back to Godhead.

Now it is up to us to decide if sincerity, simplicity and tolerance are too high a price to pay for gaining the personal association of Lord?

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Who is a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, a madhyama-adhikārī and an uttama-adhikārī ?

Hare Krishna
27th Feb, 2015. Gurgaon

Vaishnava-Etiquette-3-Basic-Principles

This is the second last blog in the series of last few blogs on Vaishanava etiquette and Vaishanava Apradha. We will read about three categories of devotees and what Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has to say on Vaishnava Apradha.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes in `Vaisnava Ninda’ (Sajjan Toshani, 1893) that If we neglect to show respect to the ordinary jivas, special honour to the religious jiva, and proper respect to brahmana-jivas and vaisnava-praya-jivas, then we invite sin upon ourselves. But to show disrespect or dishonour to a vaisnava-jiva is an aparadha. Performing ordinary penances can erase so many sins, but an aparadha is not dispelled so easily. Sins influence the gross and subtle bodies. Aparadha specifically affects the jiva’s very soul and causes him to fall down. Thus, whoever wishes to perform bhajana of the Lord must guard against committing aparadha.

Three kinds of Vaishnavas

In NoI verse 5 Rupa Goswami writes :

kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam
śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-saṅga-labdhyā

One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation [dīkṣā] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.

Prabhupada writes in his purport that

The kaniṣṭha-adhikārī is a neophyte who has received the hari-nāma initiation from the spiritual master and is trying to chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. One should respect such a person within his mind as a kaniṣṭha Vaiṣṇava.

A madhyama-adhikārī has received spiritual initiation from the spiritual master and has been fully engaged by him in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. The madhyama-adhikārī should be considered to be situated midway in devotional service.

The uttama-adhikārī, or highest devotee, is one who is very advanced in devotional service. An uttama-adhikārī is not interested in blaspheming others, his heart is completely clean, and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

What does Srimad Bhagvatam says (Srila Prabhupada also quotes the same in his above purport of NoI verse 5) :

A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called a prākṛta-bhakta, a materialistic devotee, and is considered to be in the lowest position. (SB 11.2.47)

An intermediate or second-class devotee, called madhyama-adhikārī, offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (SB 11.2.46)

The most advanced devotee sees within everything the soul of all souls, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Consequently he sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord and understands that everything that exists is eternally situated within the Lord. (SB 11.2.45)

What does Mahāprabhu says :

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then finally advised, “One who is chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is understood to be a Vaiṣṇava; therefore you should offer all respects to him.” cc madhya 15.111

“A person who is always chanting the holy name of the Lord is to be considered a first-class Vaiṣṇava, and your duty is to serve his lotus feet.” cc madhya 16.72

The following year, the inhabitants of Kulīna-grāma again asked the Lord the same question. Hearing this question, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu again taught them about the different types of Vaiṣṇavas.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “A first-class Vaiṣṇava is he whose very presence makes others chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa.” cc madhya 16.74

krama kari’ kahe prabhu ‘vaiṣṇava’-lakṣaṇa
‘vaiṣṇava’, ‘vaiṣṇavatara’, āra ‘vaiṣṇavatama’

Translation:
In this way, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught the distinctions between different types of Vaiṣṇavas — the Vaiṣṇava, Vaiṣṇavatara and Vaiṣṇavatama. He thus successively explained all the symptoms of a Vaiṣṇava to the inhabitants of Kulīna-grāma.

So according to the above instructions of Mahaprabhu, simply by chanting Hare Krishna mantra, one attains the platform of a Vaisnava !

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied, “Whoever chants the holy name of Kṛṣṇa just once is worshipable and is the topmost human being.
( CC Madhya 15.106)

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then finally advised, “One who is chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is understood to be a Vaiṣṇava; therefore you should offer all respects to him.” (CC Madhya 15.111)

Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to above verse that :
A properly initiated Vaiṣṇava may be imperfect, but one who chants the holy name of the Lord offenselessly is all-perfect. Although he may apparently be a neophyte, he still has to be considered a pure, unalloyed Vaiṣṇava. It is the duty of the householder to offer respects to such an unalloyed Vaiṣṇava. This is Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s instruction

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura adds

O readers! Any faults that were previously in a Vaisnava before bhakti appeared within him should never be considered, unless there is some noble intention in doing so. A Vaisnava should never be criticized for the insignificant residue of his previous faults, which is why Sri Krsna has explained the following in Bhagavad-Gita:

Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination. He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kuntī, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes. (BG 9.30-31)

Through the influence of bhakti, all abominable activities that may have existed before the appearance of bhakti, which seemed to be one’s very own nature, are reduced day by day and are finally destroyed within a short time. Discussing the faults of a Vaisnava without a virtuous intention results in vaisnava-aparadha. If one sees some fault in a Vaisnava that appears due to divine providence, one should still not blaspheme that Vaisnava. In this regard, Karabhajana has said

One who has thus given up all other engagements and has taken full shelter at the lotus feet of Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is very dear to the Lord. Indeed, if such a surrendered soul accidentally commits some sinful activity, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated within everyone’s heart, immediately takes away the reaction to such sin. (SB 11.5.42)

Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura further emphaises in the end that :

Apart from well-intended discussions of those faults that may arise accidentally, one is liable to commit the offense of criticising a Vaisnava. The fundamental point here is that slandering and blaspheming a Vaisnava..leads to namaparadha, and if one commits namaparadha, then divine revelation (sphurti) of the Holy Name will never manifest. One cannot become a Vaisnava without such revelation of the Holy Name.

O readers! You must think carefully upon this serious subject matter. According to proper devotional conclusions, you must show honor to true Vaisnavas and without any hesitation whatsoever, abandon the company of non-devotees. If one blasphemes a genuine Vaisnava, then the transcendental truth concerning the Holy Name (nama-tattva) will never manifest within one’s heart.

So this is the punishment we receive if we blaspheme other devotees, the Holy Name withdraws the taste from us!

We can clearly see from the above that anyone who chants Krishna’s name is to be considered a vaisnava and he/she is worshipable. We also understood what are the serious consequences of criticism of a devotee on our bhajan and spiritual journey.

Please pardon any errors in the blog as I do not have too much realisations on this deep topic but I still felt inspired to share the same with devotees.

In the next blog, the final one in this series, we will find out what is the cause of Vaishnava Apradha? And how to avoid it!

All glories to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Anarthas and Anartha-Nivrtti

Hare Krishna
3rd, February, 2015, Gurgaon.

Quotes-by-Bhakti-Charu-Swami-on-Getting-Rid-of-the-Impurities-of-the-Heart

After the last blog on `demons in Krishna Lila‘ I thought let me share more anarthas as described in detail in Madhurya kadambini, I also took the help of VIHE book ‘demons in Vrindavana Lila’ to write this blog. This topic also connects with the earlier blog How to change our heart.

At one level we hear that bhakti is causeless meaning that there is no cause for bhakti (like pious deeds, austerity, penance, etc.), bhakti is independent. I heard a beautiful analogy by HH Bhakti Vijnana maharaj, he described how in the material world everything is cause' andeffect’ and this is what science does it focuses on finding cause and it’s effect. Bhakti, on the other hand, not being from the material wold is `causeless’ !

But still in this causeless realm there is a way, described by Srila Rupa Goswami in his famous verse in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11, there are nine stages a devotee pass through as we advance in Krishna consciousness.

adau sraddha tatah sadhu- sango-‘tha bhajana-kriya
tato’nartha nivrttih syat tato nistha ruci’s tatah
athasaktis tato bhavas tatah premabhyudancati
sadhakanam ayam premnah pradhurbhave bhavet kramah

These stages are:
1. Shraddha — faith
2. Sadhu-sanga — association with devotees
3. Bhajana-kriya — trying to seriously take up the process of devotional service
4. Anartha-nivrtti — becoming free of all unwanted things
5. Nistha — steadiness in Krishna consciousness
6. Ruchi — a deep taste for Krishna consciousness
7. Asakti — attachment for Krishna
8. Bhava — ecstasy, the first rays of the sun of love for Krishna
9. Prema — pure love for Krishna

Out of all the above stages anartha-nivrtti is a very important and one of the most bumpy/bouncy/stormy stage to be crossed. There is relative calm before and after this stage but this stage is really choppy waters and troubles devotees most. This is a very important milestone in our spiritual journey and we must make all endeavour to cross it, it won’t happen `automatically’.

Srila Prabhupada wrote in the purport of CC madhya-lila 23.13: “Srila Bhaktivinoda Thaura summarizes this growth of love of Godhead as a gradual process. A person becomes interested in devotional service by some good fortune. Eventually he becomes interested in pure devotional service without material contamination. At that point, a person wants to associate with devotees. As a result of this association, he becomes more and more interested in discharging devotional service and hearing and chanting. The more one is interested in hearing and chanting, the more he is purified of material contamination. Liberation from material contamination is called anartha-nivrtti, indicating a diminishing of all unwanted things. This is the test of development in devotional service….. When one is freed from all material contamination, his firm faith awakens in devotional service. When firm faith develops, a taste arises, and by that taste, one becomes attached to devotional service. When this attachment intensifies, the seed of love of Krsna fructifies…”

Hence, once one has passed through the stage of anartha-nivrtti one is able to advance more quickly.

Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura explains that there are four types of anarthas, recognized according to their origins:

  1. Anarthas arising from previous sin
  2. Anarthas arising from previous pious activities
  3. Anarthas arising from imperfectly performed bhakti
  4. Anarthas arising from offenses in devotional service

Anarthas Arising From Previous Sinful Activities:

Anarthas arising from previous sin are the five types of klesas, or material sufferings:
A. Avidya — ignorance (mistaking impermanent to be permanent etc.)
B. Asmita — false ego (bodily identification and the tendency to only accept sense perception)
C. Raaga — attachment (the desire for material happiness and the means to achieve it)
D. Dvesa — hatred (of unhappiness and the causes of it)
E. Abhinivesa — acquired nature (absorption in bodily existence, including fear of death)

Anarthas Arising From Previous Pious Activities:
Anarthas arising from previous pious activities are attachments to the enjoyments which arise from pious action.

Anarthas Arising From The Improper Performance Of Bhakti:
Anarthas arising from improper performance of devotional service are a little more subtle, Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura says that, just as, along with the main plant, many weeds grow, similarly, by the cultivation of bhakti there appears acquisition of material wealth and other facilities, worship and respect by others, a comfortable position, fame etc. By their very nature, they have the power to influence the heart of the devotee, grow in size,and cover up the main plant intended for cultivation, bhakti. (these do not include seva aparadhas).

Anarthas Arising From Offenses:

Anarthas arising from offenses in devotional service are the ten offenses against the chanting of the holy names: These are standard 10 offenses against the Holy Name, which most of us read every day before starting our rounds. I am not writing them here to save the space.

Seva aparadhas do not fit into this category, because they are normally overcome in the course of the performance of one’s devotional service, due to the potency of the devotional activities. Some example of seva aparadhas are entering the temple with shoes, not offering the arti or bhoga in time to the deities, etc.

However, if one commits seva aparadhas knowingly, that becomes the seventh offense against the chanting of the holy names.

A person who commits nama aparadha loses the mercy of the Lord in the form of His name, and therefore suffers in many ways, but if such a person humbly takes the appropriate remedial methods for his offenses (there are recommended remedies for each of the ten types) then he is able to gradually get the mercy of the name again, and his diseased condition is relieved.

The last and the most damaging aparadh is vaishanava Apradha. I will write about it in a separate blog, it commands top position in apradhas, and can even destroy our bhakti.

On a positive note this is what Srila Prabhupada writes we should do when we cross the stage of anartha-nivrtti :
`By His practical activity, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu informed us how to cleanse our hearts. Once the heart is cleansed, we should invite Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa to sit down, and we should observe the festival by distributing prasādam and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to teach every devotee by His personal behavior. Everyone who spreads the cult of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu accepts a similar responsibility…The Lord was very pleased with those who could cleanse the temple by taking out undesirable things accumulated within. This is called anartha-nivṛtti, cleansing the heart of all unwanted things. Thus the cleansing of the Guṇḍicā-mandira was conducted by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to let us know how the heart should be cleansed and soothed to receive Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and enable Him to sit within the heart without disturbance.’

All glories to Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.