CHAPTER NINETEEN: Further Talks with Prakāśānanda
Bhāva is the transcendental ecstatic attachment for Kṛṣṇa which results from perfectly understanding that the person Kṛṣṇa and the name Kṛṣṇa are identical. One who has attained bhāva is certainly not contaminated by material nature. He enjoys transcendental pleasure from bhāva, and when bhāva is intensified it is called love of Godhead. Lord Caitanya told Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī that the holy name of Kṛṣṇa – the mahā-mantra, or “great chant” – enables anyone who chants it to attain the stage of love of Godhead, or intensified bhāva. Love of Godhead is the ultimate human necessity, for when one compares it with other necessities (namely, religion, economic development, sense gratification and liberation), one can see that these others are most insignificant. When one is absorbed in temporary, conditioned existence, he hankers after sense gratification and liberation. But love of Godhead is the eternal nature of the soul; it is unchangeable, without beginning or end. Therefore neither temporary sense gratification nor liberation can compare with the transcendental nature of love of God. Love of God is the fifth and ultimate goal of human life. Compared with the ocean of transcendental pleasure that is love of God, the conception of impersonal Brahman is no more significant than a drop of water.
Lord Caitanya next explained that His spiritual master had confirmed the validity of the ecstasy He had felt from chanting the holy name of God, and he had also confirmed that the essence of all Vedic literature is the attainment of love of Godhead. Lord Caitanya’s spiritual master had said that the Lord was fortunate to have attained love of Godhead. The heart of one who attains such transcendental love becomes very anxious to attain direct contact with the Lord. Feeling such transcendental sentiment, one sometimes laughs, sometimes cries, sometimes sings, sometimes dances like a madman, and sometimes runs hither and thither. In this way there are various ecstatic symptoms manifest: crying, changing bodily color, madness, bereavement, silence, pride, ecstasy and gentleness. Often the person who has attained love of God dances, and such dancing places him in the ocean of the nectar of love of Kṛṣṇa.
Lord Caitanya said that His spiritual master told Him: “It is very good that You have attained such a perfectional stage of love of Godhead. Because of Your attainment, I am very much obliged to You.” The father becomes enlivened when he sees his son advance beyond himself. Similarly, the spiritual master takes more pleasure in seeing his disciple advance than in advancing himself. Thus Lord Caitanya’s spiritual master blessed Him, telling Him: “Dance, sing, propagate this saṅkīrtana movement and, by instructing people about Kṛṣṇa, try to deliver them from nescience.” Lord Caitanya’s spiritual master also taught Him the following very nice verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.40):
jātānurāgo druta-citta uccaiḥ
hasaty atho roditi rauti gāyaty
unmāda-van nṛtyati loka-bāhyaḥ
“A person who constantly engages in devotional service to Kṛṣṇa by chanting His holy name becomes so transcendentally attached to the chanting that his heart becomes softened without extraneous endeavor. When this happens, he exhibits transcendental ecstasies by sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, sometimes singing and sometimes dancing – not exactly in an artistic way, but just like a madman.”
Lord Caitanya further informed Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī: “Because I have full faith in My spiritual master’s words, I always engage in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. I do not know how I have become just like a madman, but I believe the name of Kṛṣṇa has induced Me. I have realized that the transcendental pleasure derived from chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is just like an ocean, in comparison to which all other pleasures, including the pleasure of impersonal realization, are like the shallow water in canals.”
It appears from the talks of Lord Caitanya that a person who cannot keep his faith in the words of the spiritual master and who acts independently cannot attain the desired success in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. In the Vedic literature it is stated that the import of all transcendental literature is revealed to one who has unflinching faith in the Supreme Lord and his spiritual master. Lord Caitanya firmly believed in the statements of His spiritual master, and He never neglected the instructions of His spiritual master by stopping His saṅkīrtana movement. Thus the transcendental potency of the holy name encouraged Him more and more in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, the mahā-mantra.
Lord Caitanya next informed Prakāśānanda that in the modern age people in general are more or less bereft of spiritual intellect. When such people come under the influence of Śaṅkarācārya’s Māyāvāda (impersonalist) philosophy before beginning the most confidential Vedānta-sūtra, their natural tendency toward obedience to the Supreme is checked. The supreme source of everything is naturally respected by everyone, but this natural tendency is hampered when one takes to the impersonalist conceptions of Śaṅkara. Thus the spiritual master of Lord Caitanya suggested that it is better not to study the Śārīraka-bhāṣya of Śaṅkarācārya, for it is very harmful to people in general. Indeed, the common man does not even have the intelligence to penetrate into the jugglery of words. He is better advised to chant the mahā-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. In this quarrelsome Age of Kali there is no alternative for self-realization.
After hearing the arguments and talks of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, all the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs who were present became pacified and replied with sweet words: “Dear sir, what You have spoken is all true. A person who attains love of Godhead is certainly very fortunate, and undoubtedly You are very fortunate to have attained this stage. But what is the fault in the Vedānta? It is the duty of a sannyāsī to read and understand the Vedānta. Why do You not study it?”
According to Māyāvādī philosophers, the Vedānta refers to the Śārīraka commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. When impersonalist philosophers refer to the Vedānta and the Upaniṣads, they are actually referring to these works as understood through the commentaries of Śaṅkarācārya, the greatest teacher of Māyāvāda philosophy. After Śaṅkarācārya came Sadānanda Yogīndra, who claimed that the Vedānta and Upaniṣads should be understood through the commentaries of Śaṅkarācārya. Factually, this is not so. There are many commentaries on the Vedānta and the Upaniṣads made by Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, and these are preferred to those of Śaṅkarācārya. But the Māyāvādī philosophers, influenced by Śaṅkarācārya, do not attribute any importance to the Vaiṣṇava understandings.
There are four different sects of Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, and each follows a different variation of personalism – śuddhādvaita, viśiṣṭādvaita, dvaitādvaita and acintya-bhedābheda. All the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas in these schools have written commentaries on the Vedānta-sūtra, but the Māyāvādī philosophers do not recognize them. The Māyāvādīs distinguish between Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s body, and therefore they do not recognize the worship of Kṛṣṇa by the Vaiṣṇava philosophers. Thus when the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs asked Lord Caitanya why He did not study the Vedānta-sūtra, the Lord replied, “Dear sirs, you have asked why I do not study the Vedānta, and in answer to this I could speak something, but I am afraid you would be sorry to hear it.”
All the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs replied, “We shall be very much pleased to hear You because we see that You are just like Nārāyaṇa and Your speeches are so nice that we are taking great pleasure in them. We are very much obliged to see and hear You. Therefore we shall be very glad to hear patiently and accept whatever You say.”
The Lord then began to speak on Vedānta philosophy as follows: The Vedanta-sūtra is spoken by the Supreme Lord Himself. The Supreme Lord, in His incarnation as Vyāsadeva, has compiled this great philosophical treatise. Since Vyāsadeva is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, he cannot be likened to an ordinary person, who has the four defects which arise due to contact with material existence. The defects of a conditioned soul are (1) he must commit mistakes, (2) he must be illusioned, (3) he must possess the tendency to cheat others, and (4) all his senses must be imperfect. We must understand that the incarnation of God is transcendental to all these defects. Thus whatever has been spoken and written by Vyāsadeva is considered to be perfect. The Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtra aim at the same goal: the Supreme Absolute Truth. When we accept the direct import of the Vedānta-sūtra and Upaniṣads, that is glorious. But the commentaries made by Śaṅkarācārya are indirect and are thus very dangerous for the common man to read, for by understanding the import of the Upaniṣads in such an indirect, disruptive way, one practically bars himself from spiritual realization.
According to the Skanda and Vāyu Purāṇas, the word sūtra refers to a condensed work which carries meaning and import of immeasurable strength without any mistake or fault. The word vedānta means “the end of Vedic knowledge.” In other words, any book which deals with the subject matter indicated by all the Vedas is called vedānta. For example, the Bhagavad-gītā is vedānta because in the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that the ultimate goal of all Vedic research is Kṛṣṇa. Thus one should understand that the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which aim only at Kṛṣṇa, are vedānta.
In transcendental realization there are three divisions of knowledge, called prasthāna-traya. That department of knowledge which is proved by Vedic instruction (like the Upaniṣads) is called śruti-prasthāna. Authoritative books indicating the ultimate goal and written by liberated souls like Vyāsadeva (for example, the Bhagavad-gītā, Mahābhārata and Purāṇas, especially Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Mahā-Purāṇa) are called smṛti-prasthāna. From the Vedic literature we understand that the Vedas originated from the breathing of Nārāyaṇa. Vyāsadeva, who is an incarnation of the power of Nārāyaṇa, compiled the Vedānta-sūtra (nyāya-prasthāna), but according to Śaṅkara’s commentaries, Apāntaratamā Ṛṣi is also sometimes credited with having compiled the aphorisms of the Vedānta-sūtra. According to Lord Caitanya, the conclusions of the verses of the Pañcarātra and the aphorisms of the Vedānta are one and the same. Since the Vedānta-sūtra is compiled by Vyāsadeva, it should be understood to be spoken by Nārāyaṇa Himself. From all the descriptive literature dealing with the Vedānta-sūtra, it appears that there were many other ṛṣis contemporary with Vyāsadeva who also discussed the Vedānta-sūtra. These sages were Ātreya, Āśmarathya, Auḍulomi, Kārṣṇājini, Kāśakṛtsna, Jaimini and Bādarī, while other sages such as Pārāśarī and Karmandī discussed the Vedānta before Vyāsadeva.
In the first two chapters of the Vedānta-sūtra the relationship between the living entities and the Supreme Lord is explained, and in the third chapter the discharge of devotional service is explained. The fourth chapter deals with the result of discharging devotional service. The natural commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The great ācāryas of the four Vaiṣṇava communities (sampradāyas) – namely, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī and Nimbārka – have also written commentaries on the Vedānta-sūtra by following the principles of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The followers of these ācāryas, down to the present day, have written many books following the principles of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and accepting it as the natural commentary on the Vedānta. Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Vedānta-sūtra, known as the Śārīraka-bhāṣya, is very much adored by the impersonalist scholars, but such materialistic commentaries are completely adverse to the transcendental service of the Lord. Consequently Lord Caitanya said that direct commentaries on the Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtra are glorious, but that anyone who follows the indirect path of Śaṅkarācārya’s Śārīraka-bhāṣya is certainly doomed.
Lord Caitanya admitted that Śaṅkarācārya was an incarnation of Lord Śiva, and it is known that Lord Śiva is one of the greatest devotees, a mahājana of the Bhāgavata school. There are twelve mahājanas, great authorities on devotional service, and Lord Śiva is one of them. Why, then, did he adopt the process of Māyāvāda philosophy? The answer is given in the Śiva Purāṇa, where the Supreme Lord tells Śiva:
dvāparādau yuge bhūtvā
svāgamaiḥ kalpitais tvaṁ ca
janān mad-vimukhān kuru
“In the beginning of Kali-yuga, by My order, bewilder the people in general with Māyāvāda philosophy.” In the Padma Purāṇa, Lord Śiva tells his wife Bhāgavatī Devī:
pracchannaṁ bauddham ucyate
mayaiva kalpitaṁ devi
brahmaṇaś cāparaṁ rūpaṁ
nirguṇaṁ vakṣyate mayā
sarva-svaṁ jagato ’py asya
mohanārthaṁ kalau yuge
vedānte tu mahā-śāstre
mayaiva vakṣyate devi
“The Māyāvāda philosophy is veiled Buddhism. [In other words, the voidist philosophy of Buddha is more or less repeated in the Māyāvāda philosophy of impersonalism, although the Māyāvādī philosophers claim to be directed by the Vedic conclusions.] As a brāhmaṇa boy, I manufacture this philosophy in the Age of Kali to mislead the atheists. Actually, the Supreme Personality of Godhead has His transcendental body, but I describe the Supreme as impersonal. I also explain the Vedānta-sūtra according to the same principles of Māyāvāda philosophy.”
Lord Śiva continues speaking to Bhāgavatī Devī as follows:
śṛṇu devi pravakṣyāmi
pātityaṁ jñāninām api
atra ca pratipadyate
naiṣkarmyaṁ tatra cocyate
“My dear Devī, sometimes I teach Māyāvāda philosophy for those who are engrossed in the mode of ignorance. But anyone in the mode of goodness who happens to hear this Māyāvāda philosophy falls down, for when I teach Māyāvāda philosophy I say that the living entity and the Supreme Lord are one and the same.”
Sadānanda Yogīndra, one of the greatest Māyāvādī ācāryas, has written in his book Vedānta-sāra: “The Absolute Truth of eternity, knowledge and bliss is Brahman. Ignorance and all products of ignorance are non-Brahman. All products of the three modes of material nature are covered by ignorance, and all are different from the supreme cause and effect. This ignorance is manifested in a collective and individual sense. Collective ignorance is called viśuddha-sattva-pradhāna. When that viśuddha-sattva-pradhāna is manifested within the ignorance of material nature, it is called the Lord, and the Lord manifests all kinds of ignorance. Therefore He is known as sarvajña.” Thus according to Māyāvāda philosophy, the Lord is a product of this material nature and the living entity is in the lowest stage of ignorance. That is the sum and substance of Māyāvāda philosophy.
If, however, we accept the import of the Upaniṣads directly, it is clear that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is a person with unlimited potency. For example, in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad it is stated, “The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the origin of everything, and He has multiple potencies. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is transcendental to the cosmic manifestation. He is the origin of all religion, the supreme deliverer, and the possessor of all opulences. I understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be just like the sun, profusely distributing His energies while situated beyond the cloud of this material cosmic manifestation. He is the master of masters, and He is the supreme of supremes. He is known as the greatest Lord, the Personality of Godhead. His multiple potencies are variously distributed.” Also, the Ṛg Veda (1.22.20) states that Viṣṇu is the Supreme and that saintly persons are always anxious to see His lotus feet. And in the Aitareya Upaniṣad it is stated that the cosmic manifestation came about when the Lord glanced over material nature (1.1.1–2). This is confirmed by the Praśna Upaniṣad (6.3).
The negative descriptions of the Lord which occur in the Vedic literature (such as apāṇi-pādaḥ, “the Lord has no hands or feet”) indicate that the Lord has no material body and no material form. But He does have His spiritual, transcendental body and His transcendental form. Because the Māyāvādī philosophers misunderstand His transcendental nature, they explain Him as impersonal. The Lord’s name, form, qualities, entourage and abode are all in the transcendental world. How can He be a transformation of this material nature? Everything connected with the Supreme Lord is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge.
In effect, Śaṅkarācārya preached Māyāvāda philosophy to bewilder a certain type of atheist. Actually he never considered the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, to be impersonal, without body or form. It is best for intelligent persons to avoid lectures on Māyāvāda philosophy. We should understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead Viṣṇu is not impersonal. He is a transcendental person, and the basic principle of the cosmic manifestation is His energy. Māyāvāda philosophy cannot trace the energy of the Supreme Lord back to its source, but all Vedic literatures give evidence of the Supreme Lord’s various energetic manifestations. Viṣṇu is not a product of material nature, but material nature is a product of Viṣṇu’s potency. The Māyāvādī philosophers understand Viṣṇu to be a product of material nature, but if Viṣṇu is a product of material nature, He can only be counted among the demigods. One who considers Viṣṇu to be a demigod is certainly mistaken and misled. How this is so is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.13–14): “Deluded by the three modes of material nature, the whole world does not know Me, who am above the material nature and inexhaustible. My material nature is so powerful that it is very difficult to surpass its spell, even for the greatest scholar, but those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.”