by Srila Bhakti Vinode Thakura
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The teaching of Srimad Bhagavatam falls into three distinct parts according as it treats of (1) Sambandha or relationship, (2) Abhidheya or the Function or Activity that pertains to the Relationship, and (3) Prayojana or Object or Fruit of such Activity.
The aphorisms of the Upanishads, which contain the highest teaching of the Vedic literature, are presented in the form of a systematic body of knowledge under the heads of Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana in the compilation of the Brahmasutra. In his Satsandarbha Sri Jiva Goswami bas applied the same method of treatment to the contents of the Srimad Bhagavatam which is admitted to be the only authentic Bhasya or exposition of the Brahmasutra.
But the first of the six Sandarbhas, viz., the Tattva-sandarbha , applies itself to the elucidation of the epistemology of transcendental knowledge and discusses incidentally the purpose, definition and scope of the principles of classification of the Brahmasutra. It supplies as it were the key the knowledge that is detailed in the following five Sandarbhas . It has made possible the comparative study of religion on the only admissible and scientific basis. Its main conclusions are summarized in the following pages.
Sri Krishna, the Ultimate Reality, is One without a second. Sri Krishna, the Absolute Integer, is distinct from His Shakti or counterwhole including her integrated, and dissociable fractional parts in their synthetic and analytic manifestations. Sri Krishna is the Predominating Absolute. His Shakti is the predominated Absolute in the three positions of antaranga, tatastha-and bahiranga respectively.
Antaranga is that which pertains to the proper Entity of the Absolute Person. It is also called Swarupa-shakti for this reason. The literal meaning of the word antaranga is "that which belongs to the inner body." Shakti is rendered as "power."
Tatastha means literally that-which is on the borderline as between land and water. This intermediate power does not belong to any definable region of the Person of Sri Krishna. It manifests itself on the borderline between the inner and the outer body of the Absolute.
The power that manifests itself on the outer body is, bahiranga-shakti. As there is no quality between the Body and Entity of the Absolute Person the distinctions as between the inner, outer and marginal positions of His Body are in terms of the realization of the individual soul.
Although Sri Krishna is One without a second, He has His Own multiple Forms corresponding to the degree and variety of His Subjective Manifestations. The Subjective Entity of Sri Krishna is not liable to any transformation. His different Forms are, therefore, aspects of the One Form manifesting Themselves to the different aptitudes of His servitors.
But the power of Sri Krishna is transformable by the Will of Sri Krishna. These transformations of power in the cases of the antaranga and tatastha- shaktis are eternal processes. In the case of the bahiranga shakti the transformations of power are temporary manifestations. The phenomenal world is the product of the external power of Sri Krishna. The Absolute Realm is the transformation of the inner power. Individual souls are the transformations of the marginal power.
The conception of the parinati or substatitive change is not applied to the transformations of the inner and marginal powers. It is applied only to the transformations of the outer power. The eternal transformations of the inner power are called Tad rupa vaibhava or the display of the connotation of the Visible Figure of the Divinity. Individual souls or jivas are the eternal infinitesimal emanations of the marginal power, capable of subservience to the inner power but also susceptible to dissociation from the working of the inner power.
The conception of shakti or the predominated Absolute and the transformations and products of the same is developed by Sri Ramanuja for the negative purpose of refuting the claims of the impersonalist school of keval-advaitavada to Vedic (or more properly Upanisadic) sanction of undifferentiated monism. The system of Sri Ramanuja is called Vashistadvaita. He shows that the Unity of the Absolute is not tampered by the initiative existence of His attributive connotation and its subservient activities. The teaching of Sri Krishna Chaitanya which is identical with that of Srimad Bhagavatam supplements and develops the conception of Shakti of Sri Ramanuja in most important respects.
Sri Krishna is termed Advaya-jnana in Srimad Bhagavatam. It may be rendered as Absolute Knowledge. Absolute knowledge cannot be challenged. He can only be approached by the method of complete self-surrender by the reciprocal, otherwise ineligible, cognition of individual souls.
Transcendental epistemology is differentiated from empiric epistemology in respect of relationship, function and object for the reason that it refers to entities that are located beyond the range of assertive cognitive endeavor normally practiced by the deluded people of this world for temporary purposes.
On account of the peculiarities of their infinitesimal, essentially spiritual nature and marginal position all individual souls have the constitutional option of choice between complete subservience and active or passive hostility to Sri Krishna.
These opposed aptitudes lead them to the adoption of correspondingly different methods for the realization of the respective ends. Those methods that are adopted for the practice of active hostility to the Absolute are termed pratyaksha (direct individual perception) and paroksha (associated collective perception by many persons past and present) respectively.
The aparoksha method (the method of cessation from individual and collective perception) leads to the position of neutrality. The pratyaksha and paroksha methods are diametrically opposed to the methods approved by the Bhagavatam for the search of the Truth. The aparoksha method also tends to an unwholesome and negative result if it seeks to stand on the mere rejection of the pratyaksha and paroksha methods without trying to progress towards the positive transcendence. Such inactive policy would indeed be tantamount to the practice of passive hostility to the Absolute and as such is even more condemnable than open hostility.
No method can be recognized as suitable for the quest of the Truth that is actuated more or less by the purpose of opposing the Absolute Supremacy of Sri Krishna. In other words, individual souls cannot realize the subjective nature of the Absolute except by the exercise of their fullest subservience to Sri Krishna and His inner power.
The failure of individual souls to find the Truth is brought about by their own innate perversity. They possess perfect freedom of choice as between complete subservience to Sri Krishna and the practice of active or passive hostility to Him. There is no other alternative open to them. If they choose to refuse to serve they have to practice hostility or indifference towards the Absolute. The perverse individual soul is not obstructed in the active exercise of his freedom of choice. He is enabled to exercise the function of hostility and indifference within consistent deterring limits by the wonderful contrivance of the deluding power of Sri Krishna. The continued deliberate exercise of such hostility and indifference towards the Absolute by the perverse individual soul results necessarily in the suicidal abdication of all activities by the deliberate offender.
The methods that are adopted for practicing active and complete subservience to the Absolute are termed respectively as adhokshaja (external or reverential method of serving the Transcendental Object of worship)- and aprakrita (internal or confidential method of service of the Absolute). Srimad Bhagavata inculcates and divulges the search of the Absolute by the adhokshaja and aprakrita methods. It condemns the pratyaksha and paroksha methods, but recognizes the proper use of the aparoksha method.
The pratyaksha, paroksha and the passive aparoksha methods are collectively called the aaroha or ascending process. The proper aparoksha, adhokshaja and aprakrita methods constitute the avaroha or descending process. By the adoption of the ascending process the perverse individual soul strives to realize his suicidal end by the positive and negative perverse manipulation of mundane experience gained through direct and indirect sense perception.
On the other hand, by following the descending process the soul is enabled to strive for the realization of the unalloyed service of the Absolute by the honest exercise of his unreserved receptive aptitude to the Initiative of the Absolute when He is pleased to come down to the plane of his tiny perverse cognition.
The fruits that are realizable by the different methods of endeavor correspond to the particular method that is followed. The pratyaksha and paparoksha methods aim at dharma (virtue), artha (utility), and kama (sensuous) gratification). The wrong aparoksha method aims at pseudo-moksha (annihilation). The right aparoksha method aims at positive transcendence. The adhokshaja method aims at Bhakti or reverential transcendental service of the Absolute. The aprakrita method has in view the realization of prema or Divine Love.
Pure theism begins with the first appearance of the positive desire for the service of the Absolute Who is located beyond the range of our sensuous activity. It involves the clear perception of the fact that all empiric activity is the deliberate practice of perverse hostility against the Absolute supremacy of Sri Krishna.
The word adhokshaja which is applied in Srimad Bhagavatam to the Object of worship refers to the fact that Sri Krishna has reserved the right of not being exposed to human senses. The theistic methods alone thus apply to the proper entity of the Absolute.
Those, who are in rebellion against the supremacy of Sri Krishna by the adoption of sensuous activity, are prevented from all access to His presence by the operation of deluding power of Krishna. The individual soul is always susceptible to being thus deluded by maya (the limiting or measuring potency). The conditions of the practice of sensuous activities in this realm of finite existence are provided by Maya the correction of the suicidal perversity of rebellious souls.
It is in this manner that a person, who is averse to the service of Sri Krishna, is made to proceed along the tracks of Karma and Jana by the ascending process for gaining the bitter experience of the practice of perverse hostility to Sri Krishna and his own self. This world is inhabited by persons who are deliberately addicted to this suicidal course. They are unconditionally committed to the ascending process for sojourning in this realm of nescience. The method is further characterized by the hypocritical assumption, of the validity of experience derived through the senses for providing progressive guidance in the quest of a state of perfect felicity.
The method of quest in which the Truth Himself takes the Initiative is termed the avaroha or descending process. The individual soul. can have no access to the Absolute by reason of his infinitesimally, dissociable marginal position and his own nature as emanation of power. He can, however, have the view of the Truth if the Absolute is pleased to manifest His descent to the plane of his tiny cognition.
Real theism cannot begin until the individual soul is enabled by the manifestation of the Descent of the Absolute to have the opportunity for His service. The Absolute manifests His descent in the Form of the Name or the Transcendental Divine Sound on the lips of His pure devotees. Diksha or the communication of the Knowledge of the Transcendental in the Form of the Sound to the submissive receptive cognition of the individual soul by Authorized Agents of the Absolute is the Vedic mode of initiation into Transcendental Knowledge.
The Name is the Object of worship of all pure souls. The transcendental Service of the Name, or Bhakti is the proper function of all souls and the only .mode of quest of the Truth.
The pursuit of this right method of quest leads to a growing perfection of Bhakti and progressive realization of the Subjective Nature of the object of worship. Srimad Bhagavatam uses the pregnant phrase "really real thing ," (Vastava Vastu) to denote the Entity Whose service is realizable by and in the right method of quest. Srimad Bhagavatam accordingly distinguishes between apparent and Real truth that is experienced respectively by the followers of the ascending and descending methods of quest. It admits the existence of apparent truth and the followers of apparent truth alongside real truth and the servitors of the real truth.
The true conception of the Absolute is realized by following the right method of quest. The Ultimate Reality is termed in the shattvata shastra, as Brahman, Paramatman and Bhagavan.
The Brahman conception stresses the necessity of excluding the deluded, concrete, limited experience of the followers of apparent truth. The conception of Paramatma seeks to establish a tangible connection between this temporal world and the Ultimate Reality.
Both these conceptions present not only an imperfect, but also grossly misleading, view of the Absolute. The conception of Bhagavan as Transcendental Personality Who is approachable by Suddha-bhakti or unalloyed devotion of the soul, corresponds to the complete realization of the Absolute, which, necessarily also accommodates and supplements the rival conceptions of Brahman and Paramatman.
The comparative view of the three conceptions is clearly stated in a passage of the Karcha of Damodara Swarupa quoted in Ch. Ch. 1.1.30. It is also stated by Sri Jiva Goswami in 'Tattvasandarbha' 8.
The Brahman conception is misunderstood by exclusive monists (KevaIadvaita of Shankara school) who quite disingenuously assume that the conception denied the Transcendental Personality and Figure of the Absolute. The root of the error lies in the apprehension of the impersonalist school that admission of concreteness in the Absolute will be tantamount to the importation of the undesirable features of apparent truth, experienced by the methods of sensuous perception into the transcendental conception of the Absolute Reality favored by the scriptures.
The method of Suddha bhakti, while recognizing fully the necessity of admitting the Transcendental Nature of the Ultimate Reality, does not deny the immanent transcendent connection of the Absolute with manifest mundane existence that is sought to be recognized in the wrong offensive way in their conception of Paramatma, by the Yogins. The conception of Bhagavan realized by the process of Suddha-bhakti harmonizes these respective requirements as secondary features of the Proper Transcendental Personality of the Absolute. The adhokshaja and aprakrita methods of quest alone, tend to such realization.
Sambandha or relationship implies a numerical reference. The Ultimate Reality is One without a second, though the Aspects of the Absolute may prove different in different eyes. The Unity of the Ultimate Reality carries a similarity to the integer of mathematical conception, denoting Himself as the Object of worship (Sri Krishna), and connoting His Shakti in her three aspects and her transformations and products. Under relationship, therefore, come all those parts of the teaching of the Bhagavatam that reveal the knowledge of the subjective nature of Sri Krishna, the subjective nature of His Shakti or power; in all her three aspects and the subjective nature of the activities of the different aspects of power.
Under abhidheya or function are included all those parts of the teaching of Srimad Bhagavatam which reveal the nature of transcendental worship, and, negatively of the activity of aversion to Sri Krishna.
Under prayojana or fruit are included those portions of the teaching of Srimad Bhagavatam, that deal with prema or spiritual love and negatively with dharma (virtue), artha (material utility), kama (lust) and moksha,(merging in the Absolute).
These definitions of relationship, function and fruit are supplied by Sri Jiva Goswami in his Tattvasandarbha as a preliminary to his comparative treatment of the theme of the Srimad Bhagavatam under those heads. The conception of relationship, function and fruit differs in the case of the followers of the different methods of search of the truth.
The epistemological considerations detailed above on the lines of the study of Sri Jiva Goswami, can alone enable us to understand in any rational form, the genesis of the misconceptions that have been engendered by empirical thinking, about the Nature of the Divine personality (Purushottama) that is revealed in the Upanisads, and, in an unambiguous form, in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Srimad Bhagavatam targets the Acme of Personality (Purushottama) in Sri Krishna. The worship of Sri Krishna is the only full-fledged, unadulterated function of all souls, the only complete theistic worship. All other forms of worship represent the infinity of gradations of approach towards this complete, worship.
Pure theism, involving active reciprocal relationship of the soul with the Divinity, does not begin until there is actual realization of the Transcendental Personality of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. The degree of this realization corresponds to that of the loving aptitude of His worship. The Proper Figure of Sri Krishna (Swayamrupa) is identical with the Entity of Krishna, and is One without a second. There is an infinity of Aspects of the Divine Figure that emanate from the Figure-in-Himself (Swayamrupa). These plural Aspects of the Divine Figure are of the nature of Identities, Manifestations, Expansions, Plenary Parts, Plenary Parts of Parts, Descending Divinities (Avatars). These Divine Aspects, Who are part and parcel of the Divinity in His fullness, are worshipped by the corresponding aptitudes of love of Their respective worshippers.
Sri Krishna is possessed of infinite power (shakti). Three aspects of His shakti are distinguishable by the individual soul. These three aspects are Swarupa shakti, jiva-shakti, and maya shakti.
The power of Sri Krishna stands to Him in the attributive reference. The personality of shakti is, therefore, that of the counter-whole of the Absolute in her three aspects and their transformations. The relationship of service subsists between Sri Krishna and His power in all her aspects and transformations. The infinite Aspect of the Divine Personality Himself, emanating from the Figure-in-Himself (Swayamrupa), are related to Sri Krishna as Servitor-Divinities Who are possessors of Power.
These Divine Persons show an order of classification into the categories of Swayamprakasha (Manifestation-in-Himself), Tadekatmarupa (Essentially Identical Figure and Abesharupa (The Figure of Divine Superimposition). Of these, Swayamprakasha is, as it were, the other-self of Swayamrupa, and is also One without a second Tadekatmarupa and Abesharupa are multifarious. The account of the Divine Personality in all His Aspects is detailed in Vrihad Bhagavatamritam of Sri Sanatana Goswami summarized in Ch. Ch. Madhya, chapter 20, verses 165-374. Each of these Divine Persons possesses His Own absolute Realm (Vaikuntha) where He is served by the infinity of His servitors. These Vaikunthas transcend the countless worlds of finite existence constituting the realm of the deluding power (maya).
Sri Krishna is possessed of 64 Divine Excellencies (Aprakrita gunas) Sri Narayana the Supreme Object of reverential worship possesses 60 of the full perfections of Divine Excellence. Brahma and Rudra who wield the delegated powers of mundane, creation and destruction possess 55 Excellencies but not in their full divine measure. Individual souls (jivas) possess 50 of the Excellence s of Krishna in an infinitesimal measure. These concrete details are revealed by the Puranas and in the works of the Goswamis.
The clue to the Supreme Excellence of the Personality of Sri Krishna is supplied by the principle of Rasa which is defined by Sri Rupa as "that ecstatic principle of concentrated deliciousness that is tasted by Sri Krishna and in sequel reciprocated by the serving individual soul, on the plane that transcends mundane thought." Sri Krishna is the Figure-in-Himself of the whole compass of the nectarine principle of Rasa (Akhilarasamrita-murti). The Figure of Krishna excels all other Aspects of the Divine Personality by being the Supreme Repository of all the Rasas.
The Supreme Possessor of power, Sri Krishna is inseparably coupled, with His antaranga-shakti or power inhering in His Own proper Figure. Srimad Bhagavatam refers to the service of a particular Gopi (one who is fully eligible for the service of Sri Krishna) being preferred by Sri Krishna to those of all the other Gopis. In other words Swarupa or antaranga-shakti is one and all-perfect. She is the "predominated Absolute." She has her own specific figure, viz., that of Sri Radhika. The two aspects of Swarupa-shakti namely, tatastha-shakti and maya or bahiranga-shakti, reveal themselves in the intermediate and outer regions of the Divine Figure. Jivas or individual souls are detachable infinitesimal emanations of the tatastha-shakti, sharing the essence of, the plenary spiritual power. Individual souls appear on the border-line between the inner and outer zones of divine power. They have no locus standi in their nascent or tatastha state. They are eternally exposed to the opposite, attractions of Swarupa-shakti,, and maya-shaktiat the two poles. Their proper affinity is with Swarupa-shakti, but they are susceptible to be overpowered by maya shakti, at their option. If they choose to be the subservients of maya-shakti, they are subjected to ignorance of their proper nature which results in confirmed aversion to the service of Sri Krishna. In this manner is brought about the deluded condition of individual souls who sojourn in the realm of maya. The constitutions of individual souls in their nascent state and the realm of maya are comparable to the outer penumbral and shadowy zones respectively of the sun, while the position of antaranga shakti is like the inner ball of light which is the proper abode Of the Sun God who corresponds to Sri Krishna.
Individual souls are detachable infinitesimal, emanation s of the marginal power located on the border-line and exposed to the opposite pulls of Swarupa and maya shakti. They are distinct from the plenary emanations, manifestations and multiples of Swarupa-shakti on the one hand and from the products of maya-shakti on the other.
The individual soul, in his nascent marginal position, is confronted with the alternative of choice between subserviency to the plenary power on the one hand and apparent domination over the deluding power on the other. When he chooses the latter alternative, he forgets his relationship of subserviency to the inner power and his subserviency to Sri Krishna through such subserviency. It is never possible for the conditioned soul to understand the nature of the service of Sri Krishna that is rendered by His inner power. There is, therefore, categorical distinction between the function of individual souls and of the inner power even on the plane of service. Superficial readers of the commentary of Sridhara Swami on the Bhagavatam are liable to miss the importance of this distinction which has not been explicitly stated by the commentator. If any person is led to suppose the function of individual souls to be identical with that of the inner power, on the strength of the brevity of Sridhara he is liable to fall into the error of philanthropism.
Neither should Sridhara Swami be regarded as belonging to the school of exclusive monism, which is the contention of certain scholars of the impersonalistic school. Sridhara Swami has described with true esoteric insight the functions of Rama and other extensions of the figure Sri Radhika the plenary inner power, in his commentary on the Bhagavatam. He is the authoritative commentator of the Eternal Lila of the Divine Personality in His different Aspects and Avatars.. Sridhara Swami belongs historically to the school of Vishnuswami, the propounder of the school of Suddhadwaita, and professes unalloyed devotion to Nrisingha Vishnu.
The reticence of Sridhara Swami has been supplied by the Achintyabhedabheda system propounded by Mahaprabhu Sri Krishna Chaitanya. In the works of Sri Rupa, Sanatana , Jiva and Krishnadasa Kaviraja and the commentaries of Sri Viswanatha Chakravarty, the subject of the working of the inner power and individual souls has been treated in all its details in pursuance of the Achintyabhedabheda doctrine. This constitutes the most distinctive contribution of Gaudiya Vaishnavism to the cause of pure theism. The clue to the comparative study of the working of power on the transcendental plane is supplied by the account of the Rasa dance in Srimad Bhagavatam. The system of Suddhadwaita is not incompatible with Gaudiya Vaishnavism in spite of its reticence on this particular aspect. Neither Ramanuja nor Madhva has treated the subject of the functioning of power in such elaborate manner.
When the individual soul chooses the alternative of unreserved subserviency to the inner power, he has access to the service of the untampered Personality of the Absolute. The kaivalya state mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam, the state of unalloyed devotion to the untampered Personality of the Absolute. This is also explained in that sense in Sridhara Swami's commentary. This unalloyed service which was promulgated by the school of Vishnuswami to which Sridhara Swami belongs forms the basis of the teaching of Srimad Bhagavatam.
Exclusive monists imagine that the figure of the object of worship exists only in the mundane world and that the final position there is also no activity of worship. In other words they deny the possibility of the Lila or the Eternal Transcendental Activities of Sri Krishna. Srimad Bhagavatam flatly denies this groundless contention in the most explicit terms. There is total absence of all mundane reference in the transcendental activity of Suddha-bhakti. Exclusive monists deny the possibility of the total absence of all mundane reference in transcendental manifestation. It is absurd to class Sridhara Swami, who is the standard commentator of Transcendental Lila described in Srimad Bhagavatam, with the exclusive monists who deny the very possibility Transcendental Activity.
The word activity is not expressive of Lila. It corresponds to kriya or mundane activity. Transcendental Activity has neither beginning nor end. There is, of course, relativity in Lila but it is not the unwholesome relativity of mundane activity or kriya. The notion that Lila can have an end or termination is due to ignorant confusion between the conceptions of Lila and kriya. Suddha bhakti belongs to the category of Lila. In Vrindavana the Gopies serve Sri Krishna by unconditional Amorous Love. The super-excellence of this service cannot be admitted if the absolutely wholesome nature of all unalloyed activity on the plane of' Vraja is disbelieved on principle by one's ignorant perverse judgment.
The function of conditioned souls is of two kinds. The function that is provided by the 'Varnashrama' system for conditioned souls, is not opposed to Suddha bhakti. Srimad Bhagavatam has treated the Varnashrama system from the point of view of unalloyed devotion. Thereby it has provided an intelligent way of viewing the situation of conditioned souls during their sojourn to the mundane world. The spiritual value of the 'Varnashrama' system is due to the fact that it admits the possibility of the activity of conditioned souls being endowed with reflected spiritual quality by being directed towards the unalloyed service of the Absolute on the Transcendental Plane. It is the purpose of the 'Varnashrama' regulation to impart this direction to the activity of conditioned souls. The crucial nature of this theistic purpose of the 'Varnashrama' arrangement is fully treated in Srimad Bhagavatam. It is not explicitly treated in any other Shastric work.
Mahaprabhu Sri Krishna Chaitanya is the great exponent of the unalloyed spiritual function of all souls in its highest developed state. His teaching is identical with that of Srimad Bhagavatam.. It is in agreement with the principle of kaivalya of Suddhadwaita school to which Sridhara Swami belongs. But the kaivalya (exclusivism) of the Bhagavatam is wholly different from the conception of merging in the Brahman of impersonalistic kevala-dwaitavada.
The nature of the eternal function of all unalloyed individual souls has been indicated above. Bhavatam I-2-6 declares: Bhakti or service of the Adhokshaja (Transcendental) Bhagavan (Absolute Person possessed of all attributes) as the function of all individual souls in their pure spiritual state. Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu states that function of Suddha-bhakti is uncontaminated with mundane intellectual, utilitarian, ethical or unethical activity. Suddha bhakti is the only proper function of all unalloyed individual souls and is located on the plane of Transcendence. But all animation is potentially eligible for the Transcendental service of the Absolute. Vishnu Purana states that conduct enjoined by Varnashrama system, derives all its value from the fact that its only object is the spiritual service of Vishnu.
Bhagavatam II-17 & 18 distinguishes between the function of the Paramahamsa and the activities of conditioned souls enjoined by the Varnashrama system. Varnashrama life is not the unalloyed spiritual life that is led by fully liberated souls. It is the stage preparatory to such life. Neither is it on a par with the life of unmixed sensuousness that is led by people outside the Varnashrama society. Every form of activity of conditioned souls outside the Varnashrama system is inspired by meaningless malicious hostility to the Absolute. All such activity is necessarily atheistic. This mundane world is the congenial sphere for the practice of the deluded dominating activity that is coveted by conditioned souls for practicing active aversion towards the Absolute. The conditions for such activity are supplied by the deluding power. They constitute the realm of nescience, spiritual ignorance or achit. But as soon as the activity of chit, or uneclipsed cognition, is aroused in the spiritual essence of the misguided soul, it dissipates by its appearance such wrong addiction to the ignorant activities of this world and also the susceptibility of being tempted by the deluding power.
There is no common ground between unalloyed spiritual function and the activity of conditioned souls in the grip of nescience. The one does not dovetail into the other. It is for this reason that the unalloyed spiritual function can never be understood by the resources of the archaeologists, historians, allegorists, philosophers, etc. of this world. Such empiric speculations tamper the transcendental Personality of the Absolute. They belong to the realm of nescience and constitute the active denial of the Entity of the Absolute. By indulging in such speculations our spiritual nature is deprived of its proper function.
Conduct enjoined by the Varnashrama system is calculated to counteract the inherent atheistic trend of all worldly activities which are unavoidable in the conditioned state. The distinction between the deliberate atheistic activity of misguided souls, the guided activity of persons belonging to Varnashrama society; and the unalloyed spiritual function of fully liberated souls or paramahamsa, is hinted in such texts as 'Mundaka' 3-1-2, 'Svet.' 4/6/7, Bhagavatam 11/11/6.
Activities that are prompted by the urge for sensuous enjoyment create the discordant diversity of' this world. One who is addicted to worldly enjoyment has a deluded way of looking at everything. When such a person is established in the proper activity of his unalloyed spiritual nature towards his Transcendental Master, the only Recipient of all willing service in the eternal world, the true view of everything is revealed to his serving vision. There can be no ignorance and misery if the world is viewed aright.
The urge for sensuous enjoyment expresses itself in the institutions of family and society of' worldly minded persons. They are the traps of the deluding energy. But these very traps are used as instruments of service of the Absolute by the awakened soul. The hymns of the Bhagavatam always reveal the eternal service of the absolute on the highest plane, identical with the Personality of Sri Gaurasundara, to the enlightened soul. I may refer in this connection to the interpretation of the Bhagavatam that has been supplied by the commentaries of the Gaudiya Vaishnava School. We read in those commentaries that the hymns of Bhagavatam 11/5/33-34, which seem to be in praise of Sri Ramachandra as the ideal monogamous husband, are in praise of Sri Krishna Chaitanya. This is not an instance of twisting the meaning of a text to suit the whim of the commentator. The language of Srimad Bhagavatam reveals its true meaning only to the enlightened soul. That meaning is very different from what even the most renowned linguists may suppose it to be in their blind empirical vanity.
The Bhagavatam gives the highest position to the service of Sri Krishna by the Gopies (spiritual milkmaids of Vrindavana). In its account of the Rasa dance (circular Amorous Dance), it gives the clue to the distinctive nature of the services of Sri Radhika and other milkmaids (Bhagavatam X/30/24).
Sri Krishna is served by Sri Radhika herself and simultaneously by her multiple bodily forms in the shapes of the residents of Vraja. The services of the other milkmaids, of Nanda and Yasoda, of Sridam and Sudam and of all the associates and servitors of Krishna in Vraja, are part and parcel of the service of Sri Radhika. Sri Gurudeva belongs to this inner group of the servitors. He is the Divine Manifested Entity for disclosing the forms and activities of all eternal servitors of Sri Krishna. The function of Sri Gurudeva is a fundamental fact in the Lila of Vraja where Sri Krishna is served as the emporium of all the Rasas. The servitors of Vraja minister to the gratification of the senses of Krishna in every way. Sri Gurudeva is the Divine exciting Agent of the serving activity of Vraja.
The nature of Transcendental Vraja Lila is liable to be misunderstood by the empirical study of the Bhagavatam. The limit of empirical inference is reached by speculations of the paroksha method. By the abandonment of empiricism, represented by the aparoksha method, the Brahman and Paramatma conceptions are realized. But these also are not objects of worship. We have already seen that the activity of service is possible only on the plane of the adhokshaja, which yields the realization of the Majestic Personality of the Absolute as Sri Narayana. Aprakrita-Vraja-Lila, the central topic of the Bhagavatam is the highest form of adhokshaja realization.
The dalliances of Sri Krishna in Vraja have a close resemblance to unconventional mundane amour. Sexuality, in all its forms, is an essentially repulsive affair on the mundane plane. It is, therefore, impossible to understand how the corresponding Transcendental activity can be the most exquisitely wholesome service of the Absolute. It is, however, possible to be reconciled, to some extent, to the truth of the narrative of the Bhagavatam if we are prepared to admit the reasonableness of the doctrine that the mundane world is the unwholesome reflection of the realm of the Absolute, and that this world appears in a scale of values that is the reverse of that which obtains in the reality of which it happens to be the shadow.
In the form of the narrative of the Bhagavatam, the Transcendental Vraja Lila manifests its descent to the plane of our mundane vision in the symbolic shapes resembling those of the corresponding mundane events. If we are disposed, for any reason, to underestimate the transcendental symbolism of the narrative of the Bhagavatam we are unable to avoid unfavorable and hasty conclusions regarding the nature of the highest, the most perfect and the most charming form of the loving service of the Divinity to which all other forms of his service are as the avenues of approach.
Sexuality symbolizes the highest attraction and the acme of deliciousness of transcendental service. In the Amorous Performances of Vraja, the secrets of the eternal life are exhibited in their uncovered perfection in the activity of the Love of unalloyed souls.
We may notice, in passing, certain significant differences, that should prevent any hasty conclusions, between Sri Krishna's Amorous Dalliances and mundane sex. In Vraja Lila Sri Krishna is under the age of eleven years. The spiritual milkmaids never conceive and bear children to Sri Krishna. The children born of Sri Krishna belong to the less perfect lila of Dwaraka. To suppose it to be the product of anthropomorphic speculation is the greatest offense against the Divine Lila.. The Bhagavatam declares the realization of the true nature of the Vraja-Lila in pursuance of the shrauta method, as the only remedy of all conditioned souls afflicted with the disease of mundane sexuality.
The conventions of civilized society for the regulation of sexual relationship attain their ethical perfection in the Varnashrama society can readily appreciate the Transparent moral purity of life on the plane of Vaikuntha and Ayodhya, although he cannot understand their esoteric nature. In those Realms, Godhead poses as the ideal monogamous Husband. Ethical restrictions of sex relationship, that are imposed at Ayodhya by the form of the monogamous marriage are relaxed at Dwarka where the Absolute manifests His fuller personality and appears in the guise of the polygamous Husband. The conventions of marriage are abrogated in Vrindavana where the sanctity of wedlock becomes secondary and a foil to the Amorous Exploits of Sri Krishna in His Fullest Manifestation.
The spiritual function in its unalloyed form has a real correspondence to mundane activity, with the distinction that its objective mode of activity and instrumental are unalloyed spirit. This makes the inconceivable difference between spiritual function and mundane activity. It also supplies a kind of explanation of the fact that the activities in Vraja corresponding to the most wholesome performances on the mundane plane are, comparatively speaking, the least pleasing in the sight of Sri Krishna.
The sole object of all spiritual activity is gratification the Senses of Sri Krishna. When Sri Krishna is pleased, His servitors experience unmixed joy. This is the reverse of what happens in this world. Activity, that yields enjoyment to the person indulging in the same, alone possesses attraction on the mundane plane. But such selfish pleasure is never coveted on the plane of Spiritual Service. The plane of mundane sensuous enjoyment is thereby sharply differentiated from that of Spiritual Service in respect of the quality and orientation of their respective activities. Desire for mundane enjoyment is potentially, but uncongenially, inherent in the soul, and it can be cultivated at his option. The practice of it however, leads to the abeyance of his truly natural serving function. Modern civilization does not suspect its own degradation in seeking exclusively for mundane enjoyment. The mind and body of man have a natural aptitude for sensuous gratification, and all his ordinary mundane activities are practiced for its realization.
For this reason very few people in this world can grasp the significance of the statement of the Bhagavatam, and other spiritual scriptures that the unalloyed essence of the soul has a natural aptitude for the exclusive service of the Absolute which is utterly incompatible with mundane sensuous living.
In the Transcendental service of the Absolute the aptitude, form, as well as ingredients, are uncovered absolutely wholesome living reality. In this complete uncovering of the proper nature of a person by the perfection of his serving function, he is enabled to realize fully the abiding interests of his real entity. Such unconditional submissive activity towards the Absolute is also necessarily identical with the realization of the perfect freedom of the soul expressing itself in the highest forms of his serving activity.
In the position of complete realization of the activity of the uncovered soul a person becomes eligible for participation in the Transcendental Pastime or Lila of Sri Krishna (Bh. 1/7/10 and Sridhara Swami's commentary on the same). The realization of this all-absorbing Love for Sri Krishna is the FRUIT or Prayojana of the eternal spiritual activities of all pure souls.
Sri Krishna is directly served by His plenary inner as His only consort. The residents of Vraja, the plane of this inner service, are extensions of the figure of the plenary Divine Power. They are the Divine participants in the Divine Pastimes, as all those entities display the nature of the full servitorship of the Divinity. Not so the souls of men, all of whom are susceptible to the temptations offered by the deluding face of the power for preventing the access of the nonresidents of Vraja to the Arena of the Divine Pastime. We, the sojourners of this mundane plane, have been thus kept out of the plane of Vraja by the deluding face of the Divine Power.
Individual souls who are not part and parcel of the inner plenary power have no automatic access to the plane of Vraja. They are also lacking in spontaneous Love for Sri Krishna. It is possible for them to attain to the Love of Sri Krishna only as accepted subservients of the inhabitants of Vraja.
The first appearance of the spontaneous Loving aptitude for Sri Krishna in an individual soul elevates him to the condition of the madhyam-bhagavata (mediocre servant of Sri Krishna) as distinct from the condition of the maha-bhagavata who possesses Love for Sri Krishna in the plenary measure which makes him eligible for participating, as a subservient of the servitors of Vraja, in the Loving Activities of the highest sphere of service.
In proportion as the hesitant, reverential, serving disposition of the madhyam-bhagavata is gradually developed, by the practice of pure service, into one of -subserviency to the inhabitants of Vraja in their unconventional performances of the highest Loving-services of Sri Krishna, such hesitation and distance are superseded by growing confidence and proximity to the Object of one's highest Love. Thereby the spiritual vision is perfected, in conformity with the natural capacity of an individual, and he is enabled to realize the full function of his specific spiritual self.
Goloka-Vrindavana is realizable in the symbolic Vrindavana that is open to our view in this world by all persons whose Love has been perfected by the mercy of the inhabitants of Transcendental Vraja, and not other-wise. The grossest misunderstanding of the subject of the Vraja Lila of Sri Krishna is inevitable if these considerations are not kept in view. All persons, under the sinister influence of the deluding power of Nescience, are subject to such misunderstanding in one form or another. They are fated to see nothing but a mundane tract of country in the terrestrial (Bhauma) Vrindavana and the practice of the grossest forms of debauchery in the Vraja Pastimes of Sri Krishna.
But the true esoteric vision of the maha-bhagavata is very different from realization of deluded humanity. It is described in Bhagavata X/35/9 and sequel, and also in Chaitanya-charitamrita Madhya-Lila, 17-55:
"When He (Sri Krishna-Chaitanya) catches sight of a wood, it appears to Him in the likeness of Vrindavana; when He looks at a hill, He betakes it as Govardhana."