A few days back I heard a lecture by Srila Prabhupada where Prabhupada spoke about an essential quality of any disciple- inquisitiveness. We make progress in Krishna consciousness by asking questions, clarifying our doubts. This is a Vedic principle and a key part of guru-disciple relationship. Srila Prabhupada famously said ‘asking questions is a sign of intelligence’. I am sharing part of the transcription of the lecture below –
People should be engaged always inquiring about progress of spiritual life. That is advancement. Bodhayantaḥ parasparam. There should be constantly discussion. So this is jijñāsu.
And to dissipate this ignorance, get out of this ignorance, one has to approach a person who is not abodha but bodha, budhā. Budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ: one who has known what is the destination of life. That budhā . . . What is that? Bhajante ananya manaso budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ (BG 10.8). So one has to approach a budhā.
Therefore Lord Buddha’s name is Buddha, from this bodha. He has understood everything. He was prince, and he never came out of the palace, and when he came out he saw one old man with a stick, with great difficulty walking. So inquired his servants, “What is this?” “This is old man. Everyone has to become like this.” That was the inspiration of understanding. “Why he should be like that? Why one should become old man? Why he should walk on sticks?” So these inquiries made him Buddha, Lord Buddha, by meditation. That is his pastime.
That means one should understand by nature study, why this man is diseased, why this man is old, why this man is suffering. Then bodhayantaḥ parasparam, then the inquisitiveness can lead him to the proper knowledge. And where to get that proper knowledge? That is guru. Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (MU 1.2.12). But if there is no inquiry, if one is dull like stone and tree, then how there will be inquiry?
So our education at the present moment is given just dull like stone and trees. Trees standing, cutting. No inquiry. “Why you are cutting?” He cannot. So dull. But this inquisitiveness should be enthused. People should be enthused to inquire: ādau gurvāśrayaṁ sad-dharma pṛcchāt. Sad-dharma pṛcchāt. That inquisitive must be . . . Guru means . . . To accept guru means the disciple should be very very eager to know. Sad-dharma pṛcchāt. Ādau gurvāśrayam. Why you accept a guru? “It is a fashion.” One should be very inquisitive: sad-dharma pṛcchāt.
And everywhere the same thing. Paripraśna. Tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā (BG 4.34). But don’t make inquiries cheap: “Ah, here is my guru, and he’s meant for answering all my questions. Let me go on questioning, questioning, questioning.” No.Sevayā: you must serve him. You must be ready to serve him. Then you have got right to make question. Otherwise not.
Two things. First of all, you must find out a person where you can fully surrender, praṇipātena. And then you can inquire, and the inquiry should be compensated by seva. Yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasāda. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ. The more you are inclined to render seva, the more the truth becomes revealed. yasya deve parā bhaktir, yathā-deve tathā gurau, tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ, prakaśante. It is a different science. The more you are inclined to render service, the more the spiritual truth becomes revealed.
And two things: if you are not inquisitive, don’t bother yourself to have a guru. Useless. There is no need. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta (SB 11.3.21). Tasmād, “therefore.” What is that? Jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam. If you are inquisitive about transcendental science, śreya uttamam.
I felt a bit embarrassed after hearing this lecture as I do not ask too many questions. I prayed to Srila Prabhupada to help me that I do not assume I have understood a particular point rather I should confirm it from senior devotees and develop the quality of inquisitiveness. At the same time I should be careful that I don’t treat senior devotees like an ATM machine to answer my questions at all the times, I should develop the mood to serve them as well.
Yesterday I came across an amazing insight into the Sankirtan mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu by HH Bhakti Vidyapurna swami. Maharaj shared a unique insight into why Caitanya Mahaprabhu came, how those three internal reasons are divided into Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana and much more. Here it goes-
The Sankirtan mission has three parts. They are the three parts why Lord Caitanya came. He came to taste:
The attraction to Krishna
What is gained by the experience of serving Krishna
What is the experience of love for Krishna
So the sambandha , abhidheya and prayojana , so you get Madana-mohana, Govinda and Gopinatha.
The Sankirtana as we define it generally is dealing with the Madana-mohana part. You are attracting others to Krishna. That is the within Madana-mohana, you are dealing with the Sankarshana aspect of establishing Krishna is God and we are not, so you are establishing that relationship and you are sparking that attraction, or Pradyumna aspect to Krishna. But once that is done, they take up the devotional service, but you still have to inspire that attraction. Because they are attracted this much now, but there is more to go: Krishna is unlimited. So it is eternally being inspired. So that Sankirtana mission is going on, that is doing it, so, therefore, you have your preaching, your festivals, these things, they are inspiring and creating more and more attraction. That is Caitanya, that is the life, that is the force. Then you have Vishvambhara, which means that you are cultivating and nourishing those that are in the process because they themselves have to be able to contemplate and take it deeper. And then in that they have to know the goal, you have Gaura. Because it is Radha-Govinda, means it is Radha and Krishna, worship of Radha and Krishna, that is what you are trying to get to. Then you see that is the complete mission. Because you have to have all those three.
By maharaj’s mercy we get a unique glimpse of how the Sankirtan mission has three aspects that relate to three aspects of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Please read it again carefully and I am sure we will get newer realisations.
Most of us, at least I can speak for myself, are struggling devotees, struggling to shuffle between our spiritual, family and professional life. We struggle, feel stretched and many times feel frustrated as well. The Acharyas are merciful, and understanding our condition, they leave in their footsteps, keys on how to build spiritual muscles and keep on progressing further in Krishna consciousness with enthusiasm, patience and tolerance. I am sharing one such key today. This is a verse from Srimad Bhagavatam and partial purport, highlighting how do we get spiritual strength.
As long as one has to accept a material body, with its different parts and paraphernalia, which are not fully under one’s control, one must have the lotus feet of his superiors, namely his spiritual master and the spiritual master’s predecessors. By their mercy, one can sharpen the sword of knowledge, and with the power of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s mercy one must then conquer the enemies mentioned above. In this way, the devotee should be able to merge into his own transcendental bliss, and then he may give up his body and resume his spiritual identity.
It’s a packed verse and we can go on and on unpacking it however today we will look at only one key from it- spiritual strength. Now we will go to the purport which not only highlights this particular key so we do not miss out to ‘pick’ it up but it also tells us how to ‘operate’ this key to build our spiritual strength. Here it goes-
A significant word here is acyuta-balaḥ. The spiritual master is certainly very merciful to his disciples, and consequently by satisfying him a devotee gets strength from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore says, guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja:one must first please the spiritual master, and then one automatically pleases Kṛṣṇa and gets the strength with which to cross the ocean of nescience.
If one seriously desires to return home, back to Godhead, one must therefore become strong enough by pleasing the spiritual master, for thus one gets the weapon with which to conquer the enemy, and one also gets the grace of Kṛṣṇa. Simply getting the weapon of jñāna is insufficient. One must sharpen the weapon by serving the spiritual master and adhering to his instructions. Then the candidate will get the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is difficult to pull myself away from reading Srila Prabhupada’s purports. They seem like an unending ocean with precious gems spread all over. The only effort needed is to go a little deeper. We don’t find precious gems in the shallow part of the sea. As we delve deeper into Bhaktivedanta purports we can feel the mistakable presence of Srila Prabhupada, his gentle hand nudging and guiding us into newer and newer regions of the vast sea of Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, CC or any other scripture he wrote for us. It is an amazing experience, and it’s accessible to all of us.
They are not my words, as I have repeatedly informed you that I am simply the bearer of the message from Lord Caitanya through the disciplic succession and I do not make any addition or subtraction.
Lover of God- this term evokes different feelings or images in our hearts. Who is a lover of God? What are his symptoms? How does he behave?
And do we know that all of us, yes each one of us, has love of God within our heart and the perfection of our spiritual life is get eternally and permanently reinstated as a lover of God!
Our present condition
By nature, we are lover of God, but here, being illusioned, we think God as our enemy and we don’t like God. We like this māyā.
(SP Lecture, January 9, 1967, New York)
Religion means to awaken that love
Religion means to awaken that Krishna consciousness. That is religion. Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje (SB 1.2.6). That is religion. Religion is not formalities and ritualistic ceremonies. Religion means how to awaken the normal condition, to become lover of God. That is normal condition. Love is there, but because we have no objective, because we have no instruction where to place our love we are loving so many things—up to the dog. Instead of God we are loving dog. Love is there.
(SP Lecture, September 6, 1976, Vrindavan)
An exchange between God and the living entity
The living entity is sanātana. Mamaivāṁśo jīva-bhūtaḥ jīva-loke sanātana. He is sanātana. God is sanātana. The exchange between God and the living entity is called sanātana-dharma or Vaishnavism. So we are teaching that. We are not teaching Hinduism, Muslimism, Christianism. We are teaching how to love God. That’s all. There is no question of proselytization. It is natural. We are, by nature we are lover of God. Just like father and son. The love is already there. It cannot be extinguished. The father and son may be separated for many, many years, but when they come together the affection immediately revives.
( SP room conversation, June 28, 1976, Vrindavan)
We broke this relationship!
Originally every living entity is unimaginably beautiful, intelligent, wealthy, and so strong that his spiritual body lives forever. But we foolishly give up this eternal, blissful situation because we are unwilling to meet the condition for eternal life. The condition is that one should be a lover of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Although love of Krishna is the most exquisite ecstasy, surpassing by millions of times the most intense pleasure of the material universe, we foolishly break off our loving affair with the Supreme Lord and artificially try to become independent enjoyers in the material atmosphere of self-delusion and false pride.
In the human form of life the highest achievement is to attain the platform of love of Godhead. Lord Caitanya did not invent a system of religion, as people sometimes assume. Religious systems are meant to show the existence of God, who is then generally approached as the cosmic order-supplier.But Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s transcendental mission is to distribute love of Godhead to everyone. Anyone who accepts God as the Supreme can take to the process of chanting Hare Krishna and become a lover of God.
A person who is completely free from sinful activities, such person can become a devotee, a lover of God. So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is teaching to the human society how to become purified. There is no such restriction that “This man can be purified; that man cannot be.” No, there is nothing like that. Everyone can be purified if he desires to be so. So immediately we may not be able to purify. As it is prescribed—no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication—it may not be possible because those who are accustomed, it is difficult to give up. Therefore the process is given very simple: “Chant Hare Krishna.” So purification is absolute. That is necessary. Without purification, you cannot understand God. But the method we are prescribing… Not we are prescribing; it is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s prescription. We are simply propagating that “Chant Hare Krishna.
( SP Lecture, February 12, 1975, Mexico)
We can begin from any stage
Lust is only the perverted reflection of the love of God which is natural for every living entity. But if one is educated in Krishna consciousness from the very beginning, that natural love of God cannot deteriorate into lust. When love of God deteriorates into lust, it is very difficult to return to the normal condition. Nonetheless, Krishna consciousness is so powerful that even a late beginner can become a lover of God by following the regulative principles of devotional service. So, from any stage of life, orfrom the time of understanding its urgency, one can begin regulating the senses in Krishna consciousness, devotional service of the Lord, and turn the lust into love of Godhead—the highest perfectional stage of human life.
So this is the process, how to increase your attachment for Krishna. This bhakti-yoga or Krishna consciousness movement is nothing… We do not say that “You Christian, you are good. I am Hindu, I am bad.” Or “You are bad, I am good.” We don’t say that. We simply say that “It is your right now, this human form of body, how to love God.” That’s all. “You have loved so long dog. Now you try to love God.” That is our propaganda.
So we don’t criticize anyone. Simply we want to see whether he or she has developed his love of God. That’s all. So you can do it either as Christian or as Hindu, as Muhammadan. We don’t care for that. But we want to see you that you are actually lover of God. If you are not, then we tell you, “You try to love God in this way.” What is that? Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ. Simply hear about Krishna. Simply chant about Krishna. Is that very difficult? If you have not yet learned how to love God, take this process, and you will learn how to love God. This is our propaganda. It is not difficult.
(SP Lecture, June 30, 1972, San Diego)
Heart of a Premi Bhakta
A bona fide lover of God could never forget Him, even in exchange for everything else. The devotee of the Lord cannot be happy in any circumstance without the Lord. In the absence of the Lord the devotee associates with Him by remembering His separation, and because the Lord is absolute, the devotee’s feeling of separation is transcendentally more relishable than direct contact. This is possible only when we develop genuine love for Him. In that state the devotee is always with the Lord by feelings of separation, which become more acute and intolerable in suitable circumstances.
(Light of the Bhagavata 42, Purport)
Premāñjana-cchurita. By prema… Prema means love. The ointment of love, when it is smeared over the eyes, then those who are devotees, santaḥ, saintly persons, they can see always Krishna within hisheart. Premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti. Antaḥ. And bahiḥ, so far experience, that he sees everything. One who is lover of God, he can see Krishna in everything.
Whatever he sees, he sees Krishna there, because he knows that “This thing is produced out of Krishna’s energy.” Take for example a flower. A devotee sees a flower produced by Krishna’s energy. He sees the beauty of flower, appreciating Krishna’s artistic sense. When he hears the sweet voice of a bird, he immediately understands that “Krishna is speaking so nicely through this bird.” This is called Krishna consciousness.
(SP Lecture, April 9, 1971, Bombay)
Lover of God
This relationship of attachment is very sublime. It requires time to understand, but there is a position where, instead of asking, “O God, please give us our daily bread,” you can instead think that God will die if you do not supply bread to Him. This is the ecstasy of extreme love. There is such a relationship between Krishna and His devotee Rādhārāṇī, the greatest devotee, the greatest lover of Krishna. Mother Yaśodā is His lover as a parent; Sudāmā is His lover as a friend; Arjuna also as a friend—there are millions and billions of different kinds of direct devotees of Krishna.
( KC- Topmost yoga system, chapter 2)
Among the gopīs, Srimati Radhika is the foremost. She surpasses all in beauty, in good qualities, in good fortune and, above all, in love.”
Among all the gopīs, Srimati Radharani is the most exalted. She is the most beautiful, the most qualified and, above all, the greatest lover of Krishna.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura explains that unless one is directly empowered by the causeless mercy of Krishna, one cannot become the spiritual master of the entire world (jagad-guru). One cannot become an ācārya simply by mental speculation. The true ācārya presents Krishna to everyone by preaching the holy name of the Lord throughout the world. Thus the conditioned souls, purified by chanting the holy name, are liberated from the blazing fire of material existence. In this way, spiritual benefit grows increasingly full, like the waxing moon in the sky. The true ācārya, the spiritual master of the entire world, must be considered an incarnation of Krishna’s mercy. Indeed, he is personally embracing Krishna.
And as soon he becomes a lover of God… Just like I am Indian, but I have come to western countries to teach love of God. It is not that I am satisfied only in myself that I love God, that’s all right. But due to my love to God I love others also, because I am trying to teach them to love God, the same philosophy. So if people take seriously this movement, how to love God, then human society will be first-rate.
( Room conversation, September 5, 1971, London)
Therefore this love of God cannot be distributed by anyone unless he is empowered by God. No ordinary man can, if he’s not a lover of God.
(SP Lecture, August 26, 1971, London)
I hope the above compilation was satisfying and pleasing to the lotus feet of all the devotees. I pray that by reading the words of Srila Prabhupada we feel inspired to become a serious and sincere devotee, and also aspire to become an eternal servant of a lover of God.
Vrindavan – simply writing or speaking the name of dhama has a purifying effect on our consciousness. Recently I read a very unique talk by Srila Prabhupada where he spoke about the right understanding of being in Vrindavan and what did Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu teach us by His own example. How do we properly understand where is Vrindavan. Here it goes-
Hari Sauri: Prabhupada pointed out that Lord Caitanya could have remained at home as a big devotee but didn’t. He went out all over India to spread the holy names, and He instructed His followers to spread it all over the world. Prabhupada spoke strongly against the mood of many of the bābājīs in Vrindavan that one should never leave the place. And as he spoke I couldn’t help but be reminded of Nitaī dāsa’s recent criticism’s of ISKCON and Prabhupāda’s refutation of them.
“Pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi grāma [Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya 4.126]. ‘All over the world, as many towns and villages are there, this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement should be . . .’ “Not that ‘We are big, big gosvāmīs and bābājīs. We do not go out of Vrindavan.’ Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi grāma. And they have become very big Vaiṣṇava: ‘No, I don’t go beyond the limits of Vrindavan.’ “What is this nonsense? Did Caitanya Mahāprabhu say like that, that ‘You do not go beyond the limits?‘ A devotee, wherever he is, that is Vrindavan. That is Vrindavan tīrtha.
“A pure devotee can make any hell a tīrtha, a holy place. That is devotee. Tīrthī kurvanti tīrthāni [SB 1.13.10]. That was Bhagīratha. Gaṅgā was hesitating that ‘I shall go to the material world. “All sinful men will take bathing, and I’ll be overloaded with sin. Then how I shall get out of this accumulation of sins?’ So Bhagīratha said, ‘My mother, don’t hesitate. When a holy man will take bath in your water, then all the sins he will assimilate.’ Then she agreed.
So if we become holy man, actually, then immune. There is no difference. That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu. “These are bogus, that ‘I do not go out of Vṛndāvana.’ They are making Vrindavanlimited. Vrindavanis not limited. Wherever there is Kṛṣṇa, wherever there is a Rādhā Kṛṣṇa temple, that is Vrindavan. “Caitanya Mahāprabhu, once only He went to Vrindavan. Does it mean He was not in Vrindavan?
So this is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission, that preaching must go on in hell and heaven. “We should be very much expert and follow the instruction of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the simple instructions. Mukunda mādhava yādava hari bolena bolo re vadana bori. Simply chant the holy names of Lord, mukunda mādhava yādava. “This is Caitanya. Rise early in the morning. You go and preach, and work hard, day and night, and that is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s . . . This song indicates.”
Prabhupada sat back and with a sideways tip of his head brought the short darśana to close. “Thank you.”
As the devotees dispersed, Surendra hung back to express his appreciation of Prabhupada comments. “As you rightly said that these Vaiṣṇavas, they want to become maṭha deśas, they want to become like kings. They don’t want to leave their empire and go out, working hard like you and spreading the message of Lord Kṛṣṇa.”
Prabhupada was happy that he had caught his mood. “Yes. That is our mission.”
“That is the right attitude,” Surendra continued. “Even if there is one bhakta, that is Vrindavan.”
Telling him that a bhakta creates Vrindavan, Prabhupada concluded,
“Kṛṣṇa says, ‘I do not stay in Vaikuṇṭha.’ Nāhaṁ tiṣṭhāmi vaikuṇṭhe yogināṁ hṛdayeṣu [Padma Purāṇa]—’Neither I stay at the core of the heart of the yogis.’ Tatra tiṣṭhāmi nārada yatra gāyanti mad bhaktāḥ—’When My pure devotee chants the glories of My . . . I immediately stay there. I immediately stay.’
“It’s not that He is packed up in some place. He’s all pervading. Therefore His name is Vāsudeva. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam. He’s everywhere. Electricity is everywhere. Only one who knows how to take the electricity . . .
“So Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s preaching and teaching, their effect you have to follow. Then our life will be successful. We don’t manufacture ideas. That is not wanted.”
[22. Biographies and Glorification of Śrīla Prabhupāda / A Transcendental Diary Volume 5 – Hari Sauri dāsa / Volume Five]
After reading the above discussion multiple times I contemplated whether I wish to continue to remain an enjoyer of dhama or should aspire to become a servant of dhama. Should I always think of myself going to Vrindavan or should I preach, as per the desire of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada, and make the glory and mercy of Vrindavan available to more souls. My miserly heart needs to expand. And who knows, by the mercy of Sri Guru and Gauranga, in some lifetime Sri Vrindavan dhama may appear in my dry heart also.
The appearance of the form of Kṛṣṇa anywhere, and specifically within the heart, is called dhāma.Dhāma refers not only to Kṛṣṇa’s form, but to His name, His form, His quality and His paraphernalia. Everything becomes manifest simultaneously.
This is the second part of the blog on six branches of Vedic philosophy. In the last blog we read about these different philosophies orṣaḍ-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.
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?”
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.
“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.”
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.
Do we ever wonder why there is so much confusion about God? India, the ancient and pious land known as Bharat Varsha, is supposed to be the spiritual center of the whole world, distributing spiritual knowledge to all the seekers. However, we find that great Indian philosophers and sages from India, each of them present a very different path and understanding of the Absolute Truth. No doubt genuine seekers get confused about where to go as all different philosophies seem logical and authenticate, being proven by various quotations from the Vedas. As a result, the general population got confused. Without the shelter of a bonafide spiritual master common man started considering demigods as equal to Supreme Lord, many became indifferent to our own culture, the rules and regulations thinking them to be outdated or dogmatic, gradually falling down into atheism. Is it a case of Chiraag tale andhera (darkness under the lamp)?
We will try to unlock this great mystery in two steps ( two blogs)-
Understand six philosophies based on Vedas, called Sada Darsana
Learn how theese six philosophies are not separate rather they are like different rungs of a ladder, gradually leading the practitioner to the top of the ladder- Supreme Absolute Truth.
In today’s blog, we will learn about six Vedic philosophies or Sada darsana. We will also see how more or less all the so-called great western philosophers fall in any one of them.
Seeing it from the eyes of Guru, Sadhu and Shastra
There are many theoretical philosophers in the world who put forward their own theories of cause and effect especially about the cause of suffering and its effect on different living beings. Generally there are six great philosophers: Kaṇāda, the author of Vaiśeṣika philosophy; Gautama, the author of logic; Patañjali, the author of mystic yoga;Kapila, the author of Sāṅkhya philosophy; Jaimini, the author of Karma-mīmāṁsā; and Vyāsadeva, the author of Vedānta-darśana.
(1) The Mīmāṁsaka philosophers, following the principles of Jaimini, stress fruitive activity and say that if there is a God, He must be under the laws of fruitive activity. In other words, if one performs his duties very nicely in the material world, God is obliged to give one the desired result. According to these philosophers, there is no need to become a devotee of God. If one strictly follows moral principles, one will be recognized by the Lord, who will give the desired reward. Such philosophers do not accept the Vedic principle of bhakti-yoga. Instead, they give stress to following one’s prescribed duty.
(2) Atheistic Sāṅkhya philosophers like Kapila analyze the material elements very scrutinizingly and thereby come to the conclusion that material nature is the cause of everything. They do not accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes.
(3) Nyāya philosophers like Gautama and Kaṇāda have accepted a combination of atoms as the original cause of the creation.
(4) Māyāvādī philosophers say that everything is an illusion. Headed by philosophers like Aṣṭāvakra, they stress the impersonal Brahman effulgence as the cause of everything.
(5) Philosophers following the precepts of Patañjali practice rāja-yoga. They imagine a form of the Absolute Truth within many forms. That is their process of self-realization.
All five of these philosophies completely reject the predominance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and strive to establish their own philosophical theories.
However, Śrīla Vyāsadeva wrote the Vedānta-sūtra and, taking the essence of all Vedic literature, established the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
All five kinds of philosophers mentioned above understand that impersonal Brahman is without material qualities, and they believe that when the Personality of Godhead appears, He is contaminated and covered by the material qualities. The technical term used is saguṇa. They speak of saguṇa Brahman and nirguṇa Brahman. For them, nirguṇa Brahman means “the impersonal Absolute Truth without any material qualities” and saguṇa Brahman means “the Absolute Truth that accepts the contamination of material qualities.” More or less, this kind of philosophical speculation is called Māyāvāda philosophy.
The fact is, however, that the Absolute Truth never has anything to do with material qualities because He is transcendental. He is always complete with full spiritual qualities. The five philosophers mentioned above do not accept Lord Viṣṇu as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but they are very busy refuting the philosophies of other schools.
There are six kinds of philosophical processes in India. Because Vyāsadeva is the Vedic authority, he is known as Vedavyāsa. His philosophical explanation of the Vedānta-sūtra is accepted by the devotees. As Kṛṣṇa confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15):
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known; indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”
The ultimate goal of studying all Vedic literature is the acceptance of Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is propagating the philosophical conclusion of Śrīla Vyāsadeva and following other great ācāryas like Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī, Nimbārka and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself.
It may be argued that Śukadeva Gosvāmī is not the only authority of perfect knowledge in transcendence because there are many other sages and their followers. Contemporary to Vyāsadeva or even prior to him there were many other great sages, such as Gautama, Kaṇāda, Jaimini, Kapila and Aṣṭāvakra, and all of them have presented a philosophical path by themselves. Patañjali is also one of them, and all these six great ṛṣis have their own way of thinking, exactly like the modern philosophers and mental speculators. The difference between the six philosophical paths put forward by the renowned sages above mentioned and that of Śukadeva Gosvāmī, as presented in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, is that all the six sages mentioned above speak the facts according to their own thinking but Śukadeva Gosvāmī presents the knowledge which comes down directly from Brahmājī, who is known as ātma-bhūḥ, or born of and educated by the Almighty Personality of Godhead.
You know there are six kinds of philosophies in India; the mīmāṁsaka philosophy; and Sāṅkhya philosophy; and nyāya—nyāya means logic—nyāya philosophy; then Māyāvāda philosophy; then Patañjali, yoga system, Patanjali philosophy; and at last, this Vedānta philosophy. So there are six kinds of philosophers. Out of them, only the Vedānta philosophy is compiled by Vyāsadeva. So it is considered that Vedānta philosophy only establishes the existence of God; all other philosophies, they do not admit the existence of God. They are atheistic philosophies.
( SPL, 24/1/1967, San Francisco)
The philosophy of Brahma-mīmāṁsā, or Vedānta, the ultimate conclusion of the Absolute Truth (janmādy asya yataḥ), propounded by Vedavyāsa. Actually Vedānta philosophy is meant for the devotees because in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15) Lord Kṛṣṇa says, vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham: “I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” Vyāsadeva is an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, and consequently Kṛṣṇa is the compiler of Vedānta philosophy. Therefore Kṛṣṇa clearly knows the purport of Vedānta philosophy. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, whoever hears Vedānta philosophy from Kṛṣṇa is actually aware of the real meaning of Vedānta. The Māyāvādīs call themselves Vedāntists but do not at all understand the purport of Vedānta philosophy. Not being properly educated, people in general think that Vedānta means the Śaṅkarite interpretation.
For eons, all over the world, research on the subject of kṣetra and kṣetrajña has been going on. In India the six philosophical schools have extensively discussed this topic, but this discussion has merely been an exercise in logic and sophistry that has led to many differing opinions among the sages. Hence none of these schools has truly practiced jñāna -yoga, the path of perfect knowledge. Only when discussion of kṣetra and kṣetrajña is applied in the Lord’s service does the exercise become jñāna -yoga
(Renunciation through wisdom, 3.2)
Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada – Empowered Acharya in parampara
So the Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya, they are also Vedāntist. And because Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya, they are concerned with the bhakti, bhakti, I mean to say, cult, therefore our society, the Vaiṣṇavas, they were pleased to give me this title, Bhaktivedanta that, “You will explain the Vedānta-sūtra.” So this Bhaktivedanta title was especially offered to me, and I do not know why. That’s all. So that Vedānta means bhakti, devotional service.
( SPL, 24/1/1967, San Francisco)
Devotees should know these six philosophies
Theism is explained completely in the Vedānta-sūtra, whereas in other systems of philosophical speculations, practically no mention is given to the ultimate cause of all causes. One can sit on the vyāsāsana only after being conversant in all systems of philosophy so that one can present fully the theistic views of the Bhāgavatam in defiance of all other systems.
I pray and hope that the above quotes from scriptures helped us to get a general understanding of six philosophies, or Shad darshan as they are called in Sanskrit. Krishna willing, in the next blog, we will hear how each of these six philosophies is interconnected, one leading to the next, gradually meant to elevate our consciousness up to the Supreme Absolute Truth- the lotus feet of Sri Krishna.
The current worldwide lockdown situation is unprecedented in recent history and presents a challenge to all humanity, including devotees. At this time material energy is very strong and sharp. She is continuously testing our faith. Doubts, which are anarthas, can easily enter our hearts, further weakening us spiritually, making us lax and lethargic. And an indiscriminate decision, material or spiritual, can very quickly land us in trouble. However, if we simply remain fixed in our daily sadhana, and service, and take proper shelter then these same circumstances can also become an instrument to develop our spiritual muscles.
One of the easiest and most effective way to remain enthusiastic and fixed in our sadhana is- devotee association- association of like-minded devotees- sajātīyāśaye snigdhe. During the lockdown, we have seen a worldwide explosion of online classes and seminars, making the best out of a bad situation. Applications like zoom allow devotees a free, easy and interactive way to connect online with other like-minded devotees. In fact, the quantity of quality devotee association available today is also unprecedented. Most senior sannyasis and devotees are giving online weekly classes where we can interact with them, ask questions, make new devotee friends, etc.. We should take advantage of these online sessions.
I recently came across a very inspiring lecture by HH Sacinandana swami on this topic. I am sharing it with you.
The safe boat of devotee association
The influence of maya is very difficult to overcome. In our scriptures, the material energy is therefore compared to an ocean. When you sail the ocean you never know when the weather will become stormy and high waves will make it impossible for you to continue your journey. Material life is similar – you never know when difficulties will shake you. Krishna explains this fact to Uddhava and then says:
“Devotees are like a strong boat that comes to rescue those persons who are repeatedly rising and falling in the fearful ocean of material life. Thus, they are the ultimate shelter” . (SB 11.26.32)
Krishna gives another example SB 11.26.31– When someone approaches a fire in a dark night, all 1) coldness, 2) fear and 3) darkness will go away.
Something similar happens when one comes into the association of devotees.
1) Your dullness goes away 2) your fear of samsara leaves you and also 3) the darkness surrounding you in the form of the uncertainty of how to reach Krishna disappears.
You will no longer worry: “How will I approach Krishna, reach Him and how will I please Him?” This is because in the association of devotees you come in contact with, talk about, glorification of Krishna and the sincere effort to please Krishna. Seeing this, Krishna feels invited and comes into the association – and everyone can feel it. Everyone can feel the effect of such kirtan in the heart; when it starts to blossom and lighten up.
Krishna also often manifests Himself through what the devotees say and share with us and we feel that “ Krishna spoke to me through this devotee! ”
Another effect of the association of devotees is the feeling “Oh, I have become so neglectful of devotional service, my consciousness has become so invaded by the material energy and I again feel the same attraction to maya as earlier in my life”. In other words, we become humble by seeing the good qualities of the devotees and by this newfound humility, which wakes us up, even startles us at times, we are at a great starting point for serious practice.
To summarize, the association of devotees gives us the following blessings: it destroys our spiritual dullness, it removes the fears of material life and dissolves our uncertainty about how to reach Krishna .
“Therefore,” Krishna says to Uddhava, “ an intelligent person should take up the association of saintly devotees, whose words cut off the excessive attachment of one’s mind.”
The above words touched my heart and I pray and hope they touch your heart as well. I realised the importance and urgency to actively seek devotee association, more so during the current pandemic when material energy is so strong. If we combine a firm sadhana and devotee association with daily reading of Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam or Krishna book then we will find ourselves properly sheltered and nourished even the under the present lockdown conditions.
Circumstances do not make us Krishna conscious, it is what we do under particular circumstances that make us Krishna conscious.
The rivalry between Karna and Arjuna is one of the highlights of Mahabharata. Even today people debate who was better among the two great warriors- pitted against each other by destiny. It’s Karna Vs Arjuna.
Karna vs Arjuna
Karna is one of the most complex characters in Mahabharata. We see his virtuous side, he was well known for his charitable nature, his word, his archery skills, a great warrior, and amongst all this, being the son of the sun-god. On the other hand, we also see a person driven blindly by pride and personal ambition. It was Karna who prompted Duryodhana that Draupadi is dragged into the assembly and then further suggested that Draupadi should be disrobed publically in the court assembly. He asked Draupadi to select another husband because, being lost by Pandavas, she was rendered a slave of Kurus. Karna hid his urge for self-glory behind his so-called gratitude and friendship with Duryodhana.
Karna refused the advice of his own father sun-god, his mother Kunti, and even Krishna. He was envious of Pandavas, especially Arjuna. Overconfident, he often bragged about his prowess which made Duryodhana even more confident of his victory, leading to the disastrous war. He refused to fight under grandfather Bhishma, boasting that he can finish up the Pandavas within five days if Bhishma would not interfere with his plans. His arrogance and pride led him to earn curses from Parshurama, a brahmana and mother earth.
Duryodhana was bereft of his fortune and duration of life because of the intricacy of ill advice given by Karṇa, Duḥśāsana and Saubala.
On the other side is Arjuna. He is also the son of a demigod- Indra, who is the king of all the demigods. Arjuna is one of the greatest archers and a close friend of Krishna. He was a favorite disciple of his teacher Dronacharya, who, impressed with his dedication, sincerity and humility, lovingly bestowed upon him all the blessings of military science. All the Pandavas due to their virtuous behavior were favorites not only of their elders but also of all the citizens of the Hastinapur. Arjuna used his powers to protect dharma and never fought out of arrogance or false pride. As a result, he received boons from personalities like lord Siva, Indra, fire-god, Yamaraja, Varuna and Kuvera.
Arjuna was not itching to fight with his envious and irreligious cousins who had left no trick of the trade to kill his family. Unlike Duryodhana, who saw Pandavas as his enemies, Arjuna still saw them as his brothers and relatives. He had the compassion and strength to say:
‘How can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhīṣma and Droṇa, who are worthy of my worship? It would be better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers.’
Life seemed unfair
It may seem that life was not fair to Karna. He was born out of wedlock, abandoned by his mother, brought up (lovingly) by a chariot maker, denied the respect due as a great warrior, etc. But the same is more true for Arjuna, who suffered far more. Bereft of a father, staying with envious cousins who were always plotting to insult and kill them, and had humiliated his wife in front of the whole assembly. They had to go to the jungle for 13 years after being cheated in a gambling match. Theirs is a much longer list.
Difference in Character
The difference is how they both reacted to those so-called unfavorable circumstances. Karna was brash, overconfident, bitter and became determined to fight against what destiny was rolling out for him. Arjuna, on the other hand, remained calm during all atrocities, accepted all injustices as the will of Lord and had complete faith in Krishna.
It is said that giving good counsel to a foolish person causes the fool to become angry, just as feeding milk to a snake only increases its venomous poison. Saint Vidura was so honorable that his character was looked up to by all respectable persons. But Duryodhana was so foolish that he dared to insult Vidura. This was due to his bad association with Śakuni, his maternal uncle, as well as with his friend Karṇa, who always encouraged Duryodhana in his nefarious acts.
According to Vedic civilization, a descendant of a brāhmaṇa family should never be heavily punished. This was exemplified in Arjuna’s treatment of Aśvatthāmā. Aśvatthāmā was the son of a great brāhmaṇa, Droṇācārya, and in spite of his having committed the great offense of killing all the sleeping sons of the Pāṇḍavas, for which he was condemned even by Lord Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna excused him by not killing him because he happened to be the son of a brāhmaṇa.
Hence we can see that circumstances do not make us Krishna conscious but it is what we do in those circumstances which makes us Krishna conscious.
Who are Karna and Arjuna?
Mahabharata reveals that Karna was a demon called Dambodbhava in his previous life. He led a very sinful life and killed thousands of humans and rishi munis on the strength of a boon he received from sun-god. He was finally defeated by Nara- Narayana rishis but as he was about to be killed he took shelter of sun-god. This same demon took birth as Karna in his next birth.
Devotees like Arjuna are constant companions of the Lord, and whenever the Lord incarnates, the associate devotees incarnate in order to serve the Lord in different capacities. Arjuna is one of these devotees.
So we can appreciate that Arjuna is an eternal associate of Lord Krishna, wherever Krishna’s pastimes manifest Arjuna participates in it. A soul worth taking shelter of. No wonder Krishna made Arjuna an instrument to speak Bhagavad Gita and also the hero of Mahabharata.
A few weeks back we read Bhagavad Gita 18.74 verse on our Whatsapp group. I am sharing the verse and my two penny worth of thoughts on it.
Sanjay is saying that he felt ecstasy after hearing the conversation between Govindadev and Arjuna. It made me think as to how many times I felt ecstatic after reading verses from Bhagavad Gita… not too many.
If we wish to progress in spiritual life then it’s very important for us to hear very attentively. Out of nine limbs of bhakti Sravanam or hearing is the most important and most effective. And proper hearing naturally includes following the instructions.
Being Krishna consciousness does not mean becoming a pious Hindu, which is not very different from being a pious Christian or a pious Muslim. I follow a particular faith simply because I am born in it. I have no clue about who is God, what is my relationship with God or what is God’s role in my personal life, going back to God doesn’t even come in my list of priorities.
The teaching of Bhagavad Gita, on the other hand, is the supreme science- the science of the soul. It’s a revelation, which if heard sincerely and from a bonafide source, starts a revolution within us. If we will follow Krishna’s instructions then definitely there will be a revolution in our heart. We will find the purpose of our existence and how to reach there.
Srimad Bhagavatam says
On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms and pastimes of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly hones.
That’s why Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport of Bhagavad Gita 18.74 that if we follow in the footsteps of Arjuna to understand Krishna, then our life will be happy and successful.
Our proposition is to give up all these mental concoctions and come to the spiritual platform. If one comes to the spiritual platform, there will be no more revolution. As Dhruva Maharaja said,nātaḥ paraṁ parama vedmi na yatra vādaḥ: “Now that I am seeing God, I am completely satisfied. Now all kinds of theorizing processes are finished.” So God consciousness is the final revolution.