CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Māyāvādī Philosophers are Converted
In this way Lord Caitanya condemned attempts at indirect interpretation of the Vedānta-sūtra, and all the sannyāsīs present were struck with wonder by His explanation. After hearing the direct interpretation, one of the sannyāsīs immediately declared, “O Śrīpāda Caitanya, whatever You have explained in Your condemnation of the indirect interpretation of oṁ-kāra is not at all a useless argument. Still, only a fortunate person can accept Your interpretation as the right one. Actually, every one of us now knows that the interpretations given by Śaṅkara are all artificial and imaginary, but because we belong to his sect, we took it for granted that his interpretation was the right one. We shall be very glad to hear You further explain the Vedānta-sūtra by direct interpretation.”
Being so requested, Lord Caitanya explained each and every aphorism of the Vedānta-sūtra according to the direct interpretation. He began by explaining the word “Brahman,” indicating that “Brahman” means “the greatest,” the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word “Brahman” indicates that the greatest is full with six opulences; in other words, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the reservoir of all wealth, all fame, all strength, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation. When Lord Kṛṣṇa was present personally on earth, He exhibited these six opulences in full. No one was richer than Lord Kṛṣṇa, no one was more learned than Kṛṣṇa, no one was more beautiful than Kṛṣṇa, no one was stronger than Kṛṣṇa, no one was more famous than Kṛṣṇa, and no one was more renounced than Kṛṣṇa. Therefore the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is the Supreme Brahman. This is confirmed by Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā (10.12): paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma. “You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode.” Therefore “Brahman” indicates the greatest, and the greatest is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. He is the shelter of the Absolute Truth (para-tattva) because He is paraṁ brahma. There is nothing material in His opulences of wealth, fame, strength, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. All the Vedic verses and hymns indicate that everything about Kṛṣṇa is spiritual and transcendental. Wherever the word “Brahman” appears in the Vedas, it should be understood that Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is indicated. An intelligent person at once replaces the word “Brahman” with the name Kṛṣṇa.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is transcendental to the material modes of nature, but He is fully qualified with transcendental attributes. To accept the Supreme as impersonal is to deny the full manifestation of His spiritual energies. Since the Supreme Brahman, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is full with all varieties of spiritual energy, one who simply accepts the impersonal exhibition of spiritual energy does not accept the Absolute Truth in full. To accept the Supreme in full is to accept spiritual variegatedness, which is transcendental to the material modes of nature. By failing to accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the impersonalists are left with an incomplete conception of Brahman.
The approved method for understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is the path of devotional service, and this is confirmed in every Vedic scripture. The devotional service of the Lord begins with hearing about Him. There are nine different methods of devotional service, of which hearing is the chief. Hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping – all these are used in the process of attaining the highest perfection, understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This process by which the Supreme Personality of Godhead is understood is known as abhidheya, practice of devotional service within conditioned life.
In practice it is experienced that one who takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness does not like to deviate to any other consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the development of love for Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and this is the fifth and highest interest of the human being. When one takes to this process of transcendental devotional service leading to love of Godhead, he relishes his relationship with Kṛṣṇa directly, and from this reciprocation of relishing transcendental dealings with Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa gradually becomes a personal associate of the devotee. Then the devotee eternally enjoys blissful life. Therefore the purpose of the Vedānta-sūtra is to reestablish the living entity’s lost relationship with the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa, to describe the execution of devotional service, and to enable one to ultimately achieve the highest goal of life, love of Godhead. The Vedānta-sūtra describes these three principles of transcendental life and nothing more.
After Lord Caitanya explained the Vedānta-sūtra by directly interpreting the aphorisms, the chief disciple of Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī stood up in the assembly and began to praise Lord Caitanya as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa. The chief disciple not only very much appreciated the explanation of the Vedānta-sūtra by Lord Caitanya, but he publicly stated, “The direct explanation of the Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtra is so pleasing that we forget ourselves and also forget that we belong to the Māyāvādī sect. We must admit that Śaṅkarācārya’s explanations of the Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtra are all imaginary. We may sometimes accept such imaginary explanations for the sake of sectarian feuds, but actually such explanations do not satisfy us. It is not that one becomes free from material entanglements simply by accepting the order of sannyāsa. But if we actually understand the explanations given by Lord Caitanya, we will be helped. Indeed, Sri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya’s explanation of the verse beginning harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam is pleasing to all of us.
“There is no alternative to devotional service for one who wants to attain liberation from the material clutches. Especially in this age, one can achieve the highest liberation simply by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [10.14.4] it is stated that when a person abandons the path of devotional service and simply labors for knowledge, his only profit is the trouble he takes to understand the difference between matter and spirit. His efforts are like the useless labor one undergoes trying to get grains from empty husks. Similarly, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.2.32 states that a person who gives up the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Lord and superficially considers himself liberated never attains actual liberation. Although with great labor, austerity and penance he may be elevated to the liberated platform, for want of shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord he falls down again into material contamination.
“The Supreme Brahman cannot be accepted as impersonal, for if it is, then the six opulences belonging to the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot be attributed to Brahman. All the Vedas and Purāṇas affirm that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of spiritual energies, but foolish people do not accept this, and therefore they deride His activities. They misinterpret the transcendental body of Kṛṣṇa to be a creation of material nature, and this is considered to be the greatest offense and greatest sin. One should simply accept the words of Lord Caitanya that He spoke in this assembly.
“The individual personality of the Supreme Absolute Truth is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [3.9.3–4]: ‘O Supreme Lord, the transcendental form which I am seeing is the embodiment of transcendental pleasure. It is eternal and devoid of the contamination of the material modes. It is the greatest manifestation of the Absolute Truth, and it is full of effulgence. O soul of everyone, You are the creator of this cosmic manifestation, with all its material elements. I surrender unto You in Your transcendental form, O Kṛṣṇa! O most auspicious one in the universe! You advent Yourself in Your original personal form in order to be worshiped by us, and we perceive You either by meditation or by direct worship. Foolish people contaminated by the material nature do not give much importance to Your transcendental form, and consequently they glide down to hell.’ This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā ([9.11]:
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
“‘Foolish persons mock Me when I appear in the form of a human being. They do not know the intrinsic value of this transcendental form – that I am the proprietor, the master, and the Lord of all creation.’ That such foolish and demoniac persons go to the hellish planets is stated later in the Bhagavad-gītā [16.19–20]:
tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu
āsurīṁ yonim āpannā
mūḍhā janmani janmani
mām aprāpyaiva kaunteya
tato yānty adhamāṁ gatim
“‘I place those who are envious of Me and My devotees into the most degraded species of life. Thus situated, such demoniac souls have no chance of understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’
“The doctrine of by-products, pariṇāma-vāda, is asserted from the very beginning of the Vedānta-sūtra, but Śaṅkarācārya has superficially tried to hide it and establish the doctrine of illusory transformation of state, vivarta-vāda. He also has the audacity to say that Vyāsa is mistaken. All Vedic literatures, including the Purāṇas, confirm that the Supreme Lord is the center of all spiritual energy and variegatedness. The Māyāvādī philosophers, puffed-up and incompetent, cannot understand variegatedness in spiritual energy. They consequently falsely believe that spiritual variegatedness is no different than material variegatedness. Deluded by this false belief, the Māyāvādīs deride the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such foolish persons, unable to understand the spiritual activities of the Supreme Lord, consider Kṛṣṇa a product of this material nature. This is the greatest offense any human being can commit. Lord Caitanya has conclusively established that Kṛṣṇa is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha, the form of eternity, knowledge and bliss, and that He is always engaged in His transcendental pastimes, in which there is all spiritual variegatedness.”
In this way the student of Prakāśānanda summarized the explanations of Lord Caitanya, and then he concluded: “We have given up the actual path of spiritual realization. We simply engage in nonsensical talk. Māyāvādī philosophers who are serious about attaining benediction should engage in the devotional service of Kṛṣṇa, but instead they take pleasure in useless argument only. We hereby admit that the explanation of Śaṅkarācārya hides the actual import of Vedic literature. Only the explanation given by Caitanya is acceptable. All other interpretations are useless.”
After thus explaining his position, the chief student of Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī began to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. When Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī saw this, he too admitted the fault of Śaṅkarācārya and said, “Because Śaṅkarācārya wanted to establish the doctrine of monism, he had no alternative but to interpret the Vedānta-sūtra in a different way. Once one accepts the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the doctrine of monism cannot be established. Therefore by mundane scholarship Śaṅkarācārya has tried to obscure the actual meaning of the Vedānta-sūtra. Not only has Śaṅkarācārya done this, but all authors who attempt to give their own views must misinterpret the Vedānta-sūtra.
“Thus it is Lord Caitanya who has given the direct meaning of the Vedānta-sūtra. No Vedic scripture should be used for indirect speculation. In addition to Śaṅkarācārya, other materialistic philosophers like the atheist Kapila, Gautama, Aṣṭāvakra and Patañjali have put forward philosophical speculations in various ways. Indeed, the philosopher Jaimini and his followers, who are all more or less logicians, have abandoned the real meaning of the Vedas – devotional service – and tried to establish that the Absolute Truth is subordinate to the material world. It is their opinion that if there is a God He will be pleased with us and give us all desired results if we simply perform our material activities nicely. Similarly, the atheist Kapila tried to establish that it is not God who created the material world but rather a combination of material elements. Gautama and Kaṇāda have also given stress to the material elements, trying to establish that atomic energy is the origin of creation. Impersonalists and monists like Aṣṭāvakra have tried to establish the impersonal effulgence (brahmajyoti) as the Supreme. And Patañjali, one of the greatest authorities on the yoga system, has tried to conceive of an imaginary form of the Supreme Lord.
“In summary, it should be understood that all these materialistic philosophers have tried to avoid the Supreme Personality of Godhead by putting forward their own mentally concocted philosophies. But Vyāsadeva, the great sage and incarnation of Godhead, has thoroughly studied all these philosophical speculations and in answer has compiled the Vedānta-sūtra, which describes the relationship of everything with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the execution of devotional service, and the ultimate achievement, love of Godhead. The Vedānta-sūtra begins with the aphorism janmādy asya yataḥ, which Vyāsadeva explains in the first verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, thus establishing from the very beginning that the supreme source of everything is a cognizant, transcendental person.
“The impersonalist tries to explain that the Supreme Lord’s impersonal effulgence (the brahmajyoti) is beyond the material modes of nature, but at the same time he tries to establish that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is contaminated by the modes of material nature. In truth, the Vedānta-sūtra establishes not only that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is transcendental to the material modes of nature but also that He has innumerable transcendental qualities and energies. All these various speculative philosophers are one in denying the existence of the Supreme Lord Viṣṇu, and they are very enthusiastic to put forward their own theories and be recognized by the people. Unfortunate persons become enamored of these atheistic philosophers and thus can never understand the real nature of the Absolute Truth. It is far better to follow in the footsteps of great souls, or mahājanas. According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, there are twelve mahājanas: (1) Brahmā, (2) Lord Śiva, (3) Nārada, (4) Vaivasvata Manu, (5) Kapila (not the atheist but the original Kapila), (6) the Kumāras, (7) Prahlāda, (8) Bhīṣma, (9) Janaka, (10) Bali, (11) Śukadeva Gosvāmī and (12) Yamarāja. According to the Mahābhārata, there is no point in arguing about the Absolute Truth because there are so many different Vedic scriptures and philosophical understandings that no one philosopher can agree with another. Since everyone is trying to present his own point of view and reject others, it is very difficult to understand the prime necessity of life expressed by religious principles. Therefore it is better to follow in the footsteps of the mahājanas, great souls; then one can achieve the desired success. Lord Caitanya’s teachings are just like nectar, and they hold whatever you need. The best way is to take to this path and follow it.”