by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura
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All animate beings of this world are Vaishnavas or servants of Vishnu, the all-pervasive Supreme Lord. All lifeless objects are also Vaishnavas. Those who possess the faculty of taking the initiative are Vaishnavas as also those who do not possess the power of initiative. The Highest of all persons Whom all these Vaishnavas serve, Who is the root and support of everything is Vishnu. The atheist is also a Vaishnava by constitution, but not by disposition. His aversion to Vishnu is due to the abuse of freedom of will which is the natural condition of cognition forming the stuff of the individual soul. The atheist is unwilling to serve Vishnu. He is, therefore, deluded to serve Vishnu and he can thus exist only through ignorance which overtakes the soul although he is by constitution perfectly self-conscious, which is the natural state. The atheist is a disobedient servant of Vishnu whose existence is maintained by the mercy of Vishnu in the form of His deluding Energy which persuades the atheist to accept willingly the ignorant service of Vishnu under the impression that the atheist is his own master in doing so.
The word 'Vaishnava' does not refer to anything of this world, either directly or indirectly. It means the servant of Vishnu and has not been coined by the linguists of this world. An etymological meaning has no doubt been ascribed by grammar to the word Vishnu. Vishnu etymologically means the 'All-pervasive.' But the etymological meaning, although apparently perfectly intelligible and acceptable to all people of this world and for that reason also convenient for adoption as implying a sufficiently distinguishing attribute of Godhead, is not, however, the true meaning of the word itself.
The peculiarity of the word 'Vishnu' consists in this, that it is transcendental, that is, part and parcel of the revelation. The Name Vishnu, in other words, is identical with Godhead Himself. This peculiarity inhering in the word is necessarily incomprehensible to the limited intellect of man. The word 'Vaishnava' as the name of the servant of Vishnu is similarly identical with the devotee of God. The word ‘Theist’ is not claimed to have been revealed and has been coined by man and, therefore, belongs to this world and is so regarded by all who use it. It has a worldly connotation and can have, for this reason, no reference to the spiritual except by way of analogy, which process can never be of any spiritual benefit to those who are not in a position to realize its analogical nature.
The Veda says that for Him there is no work nor any instruments for doing work. Nothing is found to be equal to or greater than He. The power of the Supreme is heard to be various and is norma1ly three, viz.., Knowledge, Power and Work. He knows, but for Him there is no object of knowledge or knower. We target Him by the terms of the fourth dimension (Turiya) or the unlimited (Vaikuntha). He is the scorner of the knowledge derived from the senses (Adhokshaja). Such is Bhagavan, Who by virtue of His divine immeasurable power without being reduced to a position of subordination to the senses of the jiva chooses to maintain His own full independent existence.
We can understand the qualities of length, breadth and height. But the Entity denoted by the term Vishnu is not any of the objects included within the scope of the three dimensions. The Entity called Vishnu has an external form which is a mere toy for keeping our senses in play. Those who possess the knowledge of the Reality call those who mistake as Vishnu any Entity of three dimensions by the term illusionist (Mayavadins). The Vishnuvite Entity is not any of the products of physical Nature. That which is not apprehensible by the senses of man, from the fourth to infinite dimensions is termed Vishnu. He possesses the three-fold power called bliss-giving (Hladini), cementing (Sandhini) and perfectly knowing (Samvit), respectively. By the proposition that all peculiarities from this fourth dimension upwards are located in Vishnu, He is not an Entity that is conflated to three dimensions.
The sensuous knowledge of man is compulsorily limited to the linear, superficial and cubical. The empiricist can understand no more than the linear, superficial and cubical. He in Whom all supremacy, power, glory and the potency, all beauty are ever present is alone Bhagavan.
He is an indivisible fully knowing Entity. Vishnu is not to be supposed to be only one more of such objects as are observable within the circle of the horizon. He is indivisible, real, full knowledge. Indivisible knowledge is not to be identified with partitionable knowledge. He is the basis of the principle of all renunciation. Is there anything that can be the measure of his detachment from selfish enjoyment? Renunciation signifies the absence of pleasurable activity. Whatever can be touched by the sensuous consciousness is liable to be enjoyed. But no contact with the Most Excellent Person Purushottam can be attained, no search can find Him in this world. In this world the indivisible manifestation of Vishnu is crossed by the divided manifestation of the creator (Brahma) and the destroyer (Rudra). Here the manifestations of Brahma and Rudra can be understood, but it is not possible in this world to reach the manifestation of Vishnu by avoiding those of Brahma and Rudra. Nothing that is attainable in this world possesses the quality of renunciation of selfish enjoyment. If Vishnu could have been found in this world He could not have been declared the basis of the principle of all renunciation. He would then have been reduced to a god resembling ourselves, bound with the eightfold chain, but He ever dominates over the limiting power. All renunciation has its support in Him. It is for this reason that His Name is the Surpasser of all sensuous knowledge (Adhokshaja). This world is created by the external limb of Vishnu. Whatever has obtained a locus standi within the vacuum is not Vishnu. To be a divisible part of Vishnu is to be His illusory power.
Bhagavan can be served by the quality of devotion. If we regard Him in connection with abstract knowledge He is designated as Brahman. In connection with knowledge regarding the Supreme Soul we are enabled to approach close to Him. If after attaining His proximity we engage in serving Him, then the Entity who is the eternal object of service is called Bhagavan.
Vishnu is not a changing Entity. Vishnu has not sprung from any other entity that is different from Him. The thing which is the changing product of empirical knowledge or the process of control over the mind is subordinated to the senses. By knowledge Brahman is attainable, by Yoga the Supreme Soul is attained, and by the principle of service alone embodying full Knowledge and mental control (Yoga) Bhagavan is attainable.
It is by all means our duty to restrain the faculties of the mind from meddling with external objects. But is it practicable? Says the Bhagavat, the soul which is being always overtaken by lust and greed cannot be tranquilized so effectively by the methods of Yoga such as Yama, etc. as by the service of Mukunda. There are bears and tigers in the forest. If one enters the forest with the resolve of making a club by which to slay them so soon as they attempt to bite and with this intention begins to cut timber for making the club, he has to forego the chance of killing the tiger if it makes its appearance before he has finished making the club. If before the attainment of realization (Siddhi) by means of Yoga one is liable to be slain by the tigers and bears in the shape of lust, anger etc. — the predicament that overtook Vishwamitra, the model Yogi, on his meeting with Menaka — then the attainment of the wished for goal in the shape of the abeyance of the functions of the mind is rendered impracticable for good. The honey secured on the path of work for worldly well-being attainable with so much difficulty is doomed to drain off like the honey of the lotus flower accumulated with arduous toil in an earthen pot with a hole that lets it out. By concentrating upon the activities of the outside world, temporary peace of mind for the time being may be produced but by its means real lasting happiness or the supreme peace of the soul is not gained. Success is not attained by serving the shadow or without worshipping Mukunda, the reality that delivers from the bondage of worldly ignorance. Those who serve the symbol or shadow postulate as the function of God in accordance with the requirements of the formula ‘Iswara pranidhanad va,’ or in other words, although they admit God in a secondary way as a minor and not a necessary means of attaining their object, they do not recognize any relationship with or necessity of God for themselves, their only object being the suppression of the functions of the mind. But those inexperienced schools do not understand that the suppression of the functions of the mind is never attainable by such methods. Salvation can never be gained except by the service of Mukunda. When we discard the service of the Lord we are swallowed up by the service of inanimate Nature. There is, therefore, no possibility of deliverance except by serving Hari.
He is called free in this life who has an active desire to serve Hari by Work, mind and speech in all circumstances. If I chance to meet with the damsel Menaka, in the midst of my activities for controlling the breath, I am sure to be ruined. If I am attacked by the tiger while still busy in cutting the tree for making my club, my success will no longer be possible. If Hari is worshipped why should one practice asceticism? If Hari is not worshipped why need a person practice asceticism? If Hari is both inside and outside, what is the use of practicing asceticism? If Hari be not both inside and outside, what is the necessity of practicing asceticism? We find many methods laid down in the Shastras but the best path is that of taking the Holy Name.
The Puran Shastra proclaims at the top of its voice the formula of the Divine Name, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare; Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare." It says that if you want to be saved from the state that is normal for this age of discordant speculation adopt the Divine name which will enable you to swim across this ocean of Discord (Kali). Between the Absolute Name and its possessor there is no such difference as separates the names of this limited world from their possessor. Bhakti is nothing but activities laid down by the Shastras that are performed with reference to Hari. If we pretend to worship Vishnu with the object of filling the belly then such activity is not devotion (Bhakti) but is only improper work (Vikarma) or offence (Aparadha). All endeavors for the satisfaction of relatives and the adventitious physical body is work (Karma) not devotion (Bhakti). Whatever function happens to be of the nature of the search for a way out of the miseries of this world is not worship of Vishnu. To all external appearance, these indeed seem to act as servants of Vishnu, but as they do not admit at the subsequent stage the eternal nature of the service of Vishnu therefore, in the words of the Bhagavat, they fall headlong into the abyss after having climbed with great difficulty to the steep edge of the transcendental position, by reason of undervaluing the support of Thy Feet. The sojourners on the path of work with the object of benefiting themselves enter the realm of death after their merits wear off.
By worldly work or worldly knowledge the summum bonum desired by the transcendental seers is never gained. It is only if one has the good fortune of listening to the tidings of Hari from the mouth of one who serves Hari in the measure of cent per cent of his activities that he is enabled to obtain the sight of the transcendental good and the bonds of his heart are snapped, all doubts are cut through and all worldly work is worn off. The continuous remembrance of the twin lotus Feet of Sri Krishna, by destroying all the evils and dangers of the jiva, multiplies his unbounded well-being. By the recollection of His Feet purification of the heart and devotion characterized by knowledge, wisdom and love attended with detachment from the world are gained. From the most effectual association with the saintly devotees (Sadhus), by continually serving with love those pure words on which they discourse that draw the attachment of the heart and the ear, these will soon arise end grow gradually faith, then liking and lastly amorous devotion for Me who am the Path for the stoppage of ignorance. The desire for one’s own sensuous gratification is called lust. The desire for the gratification of the spiritual senses of Krishna is known as Love.
Krishna is the only Enjoyer of all objects in their unconditional state of existence, the only Master of all entities, the only Friend of all things, the only Son of all parents. The only sweet heart of all maidens. One to whom Krishna manifests Himself as the object of worship no longer serves any other object.
"What I am able to understand, what pleases me, what interests me, I will approve and what is not so I will discard." —This is what the seeker of selfish pleasure says to himself. What the Bhagavat says, the message of the good, is like the myrobalam. The servants of Bhagavan (Bhagavats) go about chanting his good tidings. For those who are disinclined to listen to the message of the good, the Bhagavat has the following provision of imprisonment with hard labor. The God who executes the cosmic law of doom (Yama) declares to His emissaries frustrated in their mission of death by the messengers of Vishnu. "Bring up before me for receiving their due punishment those sinful mortals who are always averse to the sweet taste of the service of the Supreme Lord and being constantly addicted to mere domestic pleasures that lead to hell are deprived thereby of the bliss of association with the Paramahansas who are free from all selfish desires. Bring up to me for punishment those worldly people devoid of the service of Vishnu whose tongues desist from chanting the glories of the Lord, whose minds do not recollect the Lotus Feet of the Lord and whose heads never bend to the Feet of Krishna."
Vishnu is not a thing that is located within the Jurisdiction of our senses. Brahma, the Creator, stole the calves of Krishna under the supposition that Krishna was one of the objects subject to Himself and included under his creation. When Krishna broke the pride of Brahma by making manifest the exact visible figures of the identical herd of calves by the force of His own inconceivable power Brahma realising the omnipotence of Krishna addressed Him in the following prayer: "Thou Invincible One, they alone in all the three worlds can conquer Thee, Who remaining in their own positions with the help of their ears, listening to the tidings of Godhead chanted by the mouths of Sadhus, giving up with body, mind and speech the desire for accumulation of empiric knowledge by adopting the ascending method of reasoning dedicated to selfish enjoyment, turn their faces in the direction of service by being firmly disposed to submission. Great ones! Those who for the purpose of gaining an isolated existence adopt as beneficial the knowledge regarding worldly enjoyment by giving up the service of Godhead obtain only misery. Just as a person is disappointed by pounding husk from which the grain has already been extracted by finding nothing inside it, so also only suffering is found in the end to be the fruit of their labor."
The holy Names of the Godhead are not fabrications of the human brain like other names current among the nations that refer to things of this world. There are no doubt also epithets of Godhead coined by man. Such epithets need not be classed with the real Names. The Names 'Vishnu', 'Krishna', etc., are the eternal Names of the Godhead. As such They are identical with the Form, Quality, Activity and Paraphernalia of the Absolute. The holy Name of Godhead possesses this additional power by the will of Godhead that He is the first to appear in this world to the Truth-seeking cognitive faculty of the soul who is not satisfied with worldliness. The spiritual nature of the holy Name and His descent into the purified consciousness of the sincere seeker of the Truth is the only means of spiritual enlightenment revealed by the Scriptures available to us. The holy Name in the Form of the word or spoken Sound belongs to the realm of the Absolute, The holy Name is Godhead Himself and is the source of all cognition. The cognition of the individual soul of man is derivative, conditioned by the will of the Source. The limitation of human cognition is willed by the source. Deliverance from limitation also proceeds from the same quarter.
So long as the ban of limitation is not lifted from the cognitive faculty of a person, he is unable to realize the real nature of the holy Name even when He chooses to appear in this world in the Form of the spoken Sound. It is open to the Sound or Name Himself to lift the ban. It is His will revealed in the scriptures to lift the ban if the individual soul is sincerely inclined to seek for real enlightenment, which can only be by grace.
Atheism is nothing but refusal to recognize the supreme necessity of Divine Grace and, by implication, of the implied necessity of receiving enlightenment from the servant of God, in the form of the spoken Name. Any concession in the matter of nomenclature is thus a concession to the atheistical disposition. The atheist alone can insist on his own concocted terminology in pursuance of his principle not to recognize the necessity of Divine Grace and its implications. Such persons are not likely to be benefited by any discussion of the subject of the Absolute and are excluded from real participation in such discussion by deference to their own bad logic.
The term 'Theism' which is so current and is regarded as being properly applicable for designating the revealed creeds, is not free from very grave defect for the purpose of expressing the real Truth. Theology should not allow itself to degenerate into a mere speculative science on a line with the empirical sciences. There is a real Subject of investigation for theology, Who is categorically different from the subjects of investigation of the speculative intellect. This clear demarcation must be preserved with sufficient care, which cannot well be expected from those who are themselves wholly ignorant of the Truth. No competent mechanic will agree to run his locomotive except by the proper method because he really means to run his machine. The speculators on the Absolute are not in the know and should be wise enough to have the modesty of their utter ignorance. They should not regard the conduct of the hypothetical mechanic as either narrow or orthodox for the reason that it happens not to be identical with their unproved speculations. The real theologian must possess the degree of orthodoxy of the competent mechanic and need not give up his function of guiding the machine properly by uncalled for deference to the wishes of the passengers who never expect any such foolish concession to their irresponsible opinions.
If it be asked whether it will be possible for those who are not in the know to follow any discussion conducted in transcendental vocabulary, the answer is that the business is to understand the transcendental by means of the transcendental, by the grace of the transcendental. It should, therefore, be possible for one who is not in the know to join in the discussion as learner, but only as learner. If he Wants to know, the discussion will be intelligible. If he wants to serve it will also appeal to his conviction. All this will be possible by the grace of the transcendental teacher, because, being in the know, he can properly manipulate the analogical vocabulary to explain the nature of the holy Name of Krishna as being the only Means as well as Goal of all spiritual endeavor.
Krishna is the only Cause of all causes, He is the Cause of Brahman (the Great), the Cause of Paramatma (the Supreme Soul), the Cause of all existences of Vishnu. Krishna is the Supreme Ruler, the Embodiment proper of the principles of existence, cognition and bliss, the primal Lord without a beginning, the ultimate Cause of all causes.
If Krishna is supposed to be amenable to the canons of history, there forthwith ceases to be any real quest of Krishna. The materialistic judge is thereby enveloped in the fog created by Krishna's delusive power. "This delusive power of Mine is supernatural and is possessed of the triple quality of worldly knowledge, sensuous activity and inanimation. Those who seek only My protection can cross the ocean of this illusion." There is no other method of well-being than His service, than listening unceasingly and with care to discourses about Hari from the highest devotee who is the best beloved of Krishna.
At present our eternal function in a perverted form is spread over a variety of objects. If we are enabled, as the result of obediently following the person who is the greatest of all great persons and the best-beloved of Krishna, to obtain the sight of Krishna in the neighborhood of the Keshi-Tirtha there no longer remains in us any desire for seeing anything else. When Brahma speaking with four mouths, Anantadeva speaking with a thousand tongues are unable to complete the discourse on the Vaishnava religion how little can I say of it who am so insignificant? Yet may I continue to listen to my last day to discourses about Hari from those who really serve Hari and to chant to my last day the discourses about Hari, about the religion of the Vaishnava.
"He who listens to or describes with faith the Pastimes of Vishnu with the spiritual damsels of Vraja attains to the Transcendental love of Godhead and thereby that patient person is quickly cured of all lust which is the disease of the worldly heart."