Bhagavat Sandarbha, Part 63


Aug 03, 2019 — CANADA (SUN) — Sad Sandarbhas by Srila Jiva Goswami

Bhagavat Sandarbha
by Srila Jiva Goswami


"The Vedas, divided into three divisions, ultimately reveal the living entity as pure spirit soul. The Vedic seers and mantras, however, deal in esoteric terms, and I also am pleased by such confidential descriptions."

One may argue that since Srila Prabhupada felt it necessary to sometimes say that the jivas fell from Vaikuntha, the same need still exists. So why change the well tested strategy of the acarya? In this regard we have to see two things. Is it really true that circumstances are the same? If they are, then we should preach the same way. But if circumstances are different, then we can preach in a straight way. The principle is that we should clearly understand our audience and preach according to what will inspire them to make progress in spiritual life while we ourselves do not forget the actual sidhhanta. Not that we accept only those statements he made which agree with our preference, accepting them as siddhanta without considering sastra and sadhu, and deny the rest.

Secondly, although Prabhupada sometimes preached that the jiva falls from Vaikuntha, he did not categorically do so, or accept this philosophy as Vaishnava siddhanta. The implication is that we should know the proper siddhanta and preach according to the best interest of our audience. He has very clearly written in numerous purports that the living entity cannot fall from Vaikuntha. Here are a few examples:

"From Vedic scriptures it is understood that sometimes even Brahma and Indra fall down, but a devotee in the transcendental abode of the Lord never falls." (Purport, Bhag.3.15.48);

"The conclusion is that no one falls from the spiritual world or Vaikuntha, for it is the eternal abode." (Purport Bhag.3.16.26);

"The eternally liberated living beings are in Vaikuntha jagat, the spiritual world and they never fall into the material world." (Purport of Bhag. 5.11.12);

"The nitya siddha devotees never fall down to the region of the material atmosphere even though they sometimes come into the material plane to execute the mission of the Lord." (Purport of Bhag.3.3.26);

"From authoritative sources it can be discerned that associates of Lord Vishnu who descend from Vaikuntha do not actually fall. They come with the purpose of fulfilling the desire of the Lord, and their descent to this material world is comparable to that of the Lord....Therefore it is to be understood that when Jaya and Vijaya descended to this material world, they came because there was something to be done for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Otherwise it is a fact that no one falls from Vaikuntha." (Purport of Bhag.7.1.35).

There are many other such statements. One point to be noticed is that in none of these purports does Prabhupada make a distinction between the nitya-siddhas who have eternally resided in Vaikuntha, and the devotees who go there from the material world. Thus we should not insist that the siddhanta of the scripture is that the jiva falls from Vaikuntha. If we do so, then we have to reconcile all scriptural statements to the contrary. If we cannot do this, then our siddhanta is faulty.

As far as preaching is concerned, the devotee must exercise his expertise. He has to preach according to time, place and circumstance. One must take into consideration the capacity of the audience and preach accordingly while not being confused himself. Srila Prabhupada knew the siddhanta although sometimes he presented something different. The Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter Eight, narrates an interesting episode about the process of imparting knowledge. Prajapati once said that one must know the self, who is free from sin, decrepitude, death, sorrow, hunger, and thirst. Lord Indra, the king of the demigods, and Virocana, the king of the demons, approached Prajapati with a desire to learn about the self. After both had served him while observing celibacy for thirty-two years, Prajapati asked them to state their purpose and they both expressed a desire to know the self.

Prajapati said, "The person who is seen with the eye, who is immortal and fearless, is to be known as the self."

They both asked, "Of the one seen reflected in the water, and the one reflected in the mirror, which is the self?"

Prajapati answered, "This very one is clearly seen in both." Then Prajapati asked them to look at their reflections in the water and said, "Tell me what do you understand about the self?" Then he asked them to decorate themselves and again look at their reflections in the water. He then said, "This is the immortal and fearless self." They were both satisfied and left.

Virocana returned and informed the demon community that the body was the self. Indra, however, was doubtful of this conclusion and returned to inquire further from Prajapati, who gave him more instructions on the subject. After again returning to his kingdom, doubts brought Indra back to Prajapati for further instruction. After Indra served as a celibate student for 100 years, then Brahma imparted real knowledge about the self to him.

This story has many nice instructions regarding the procedure for imparting and receiving knowledge. The relevant point is that the teacher speaks according to the ability of the student, and he expects the student to be very inquisitive. He is like a cow who does not release milk until the calf has persisted eagerly for some time. The more the calf pulls on the teat, the more the milk comes out. The milk does not flow on its own accord, otherwise it will be wasted.

During the time of the Six Gosvamis it was very difficult for people to understand parakiya rasa and many Gaudiya Vaishnavas were not comfortable with the conclusion that it was the highest relationship to be obtained, what to speak of vaishnavas from other sampradayas, or the general public. The Gaudiya's agreed that Krishna's relationship with Srimati Radharani demonstrated the epitome of devotion, and on this basis some argued that parakiya rasa was the highest. The most acceptable understanding, however, was that Krishna was actually married to Srimati Radharani, and this proved that svakiya rasa was superior. Srila Jiva Gosvami thus wrote a mixed commentary on Ujjvala Nilamani and hints about this controversy in the following enigmatic verse. (Locana Rocini Tika on UNM 1.18)

"Some things I have written here by my own will, and some due to the will of others. The part which is coherent is by my will, and the rest is due to others."

The very important point which he makes in this verse is yat-purvapara-sambandham- "that which is coherent", or that which reconciles the previous and latter statements of sastra,-was written by his own will. Proper reconciliation is essential if one is to understand the actual intention of an author or preacher. This, of course, requires scriptural vision and necessitates the hard work of discrimination. We must guard against taking the easier route, which is to simply accept one side and reject the other. That is not advised by Srila Jiva Gosvami.

It is not an easy task to determine what was written by Jiva Gosvami's will simply by reading his commentaries because even when he gives the wrong conclusion, his writing is based on sastric evidence and is very logical. History tells us that even some of his students were unable to accept the parakiya explanation and thus Srila Jiva Gosvami hid the truth from them. Later on Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura came and waged a war against all statements claiming svakiya was superior to parakiya. He states that the above verse composed by Sri Jiva dispelled his doubts about the svakiya/parakiya controversy. It appears that Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura refutes Jiva Gosvami because he argues very strongly against those statements which claim that svakiya is superior. But such is not the case. Because these are not whimsical statements, strong logic and scriptural authority is required to refute them. He simply sheds light on what Srila Jiva Gosvami intended, but could not say owing to the circumstances.

Therefore, one should not think that we are rejecting Srila Prabhupada's statements about falling down, or that we are contradicting him. Rather, those who accept his statements that the jiva falls, and ignore the statements to the contrary, offering no satisfactory explanation, are the ones who commit injustice and reject him. It is their responsibility to demonstrate that their conclusion conforms with the statements of guru, sadhu and sastra.

Here it should also be noted that statements made in Prabhupada's letters cannot be taken as absolute if they contradict statements in his books, as the philosophy in his letters must follow the books. The letters are like the offspring of the books. If his letters take precedence over statements in his books, that would be like matricide. His letters are directed to specific individuals, but his books are meant for everyone. How can we expect that a statement directed to one individual is applicable to others if it does not express the siddhanta found in his books? When a contradictory statement occurs between his books and letters, his books must take precedence. After all, the philosophical statements in his letters are dependent on sastra and not vice-versa.

A similar problem arises when there is a contention between sruti and smriti. The general principle for resolving the conflict is - sruti-smritir virodhestu srutireva gariyasi - when there is a contradiction between sruti and smriti, the former overrides the latter. This is because smriti is based on sruti, which is eternal.

Moreover, it is not very encouraging to think that one may fall from Vaikuntha, and it brings no glory to Lord Krishna either. If the Lord cannot protect His devotees, then He is not omnipotent. Furthermore, how will He enjoy if He sees so many of His devotees falling down? It is known from Prabhupada - lilamrita that Prabhupada would sometimes cry for the disciples who left him. Since the Lord is an ocean of mercy, then He too would continuously weep were He to see so many devotees falling into Maya. But Krishna is free from all miseries. He is omnipotent and nowhere do we find a description that Lord Krishna cries in such a way.

A pertinent problem arises if we accept that devotees fall from Vaikuntha. Prabhupada said that a first class man learns by hearing; a second class man learns from his own experience; and a third class man never learns. If we accept that a nitya-siddhas falls from Vaikuntha, it means that he is second class, since he did not learn from hearing about those who fell previous to him. And to become first class, means the nitya-siddha would have to experience a fall into the material world, learn from his experience, and then return. But Prahlada Maharaja says that a devotee has all good qualities. So how can they be second class? It is offensive to think so.

Sometimes it is said that the jiva falls owing to being envious of Krishna. But as declared earlier, maya is not present in Vaikuntha, so how will envy come about? In Bhagavad-gita (13.7) the Lord says that hatred, or envy is part of the material body.

Or, it is said that envy arises by seeing Krishna enjoying with the gopis. But it is explained that devotees who serve those in direct association with Krishna derive even more pleasure. Lord Caitanya prayed to be a servant of the servant. Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu considers following in the footsteps of Vraja residents as the highest mood of service. Moreover, Caitanya-caritamrita says that gopis derive ten thousand times more pleasure by seeing Krishna, than He does by seeing them. So how will some devotees feel dissatisfied by being servants? This means that the well propounded philosophy of being the servant of the servant is defective. Ultimately this notion indicates a defect in Krishna for not being able to satisfy His servants. Moreover, everyone does not serve Krishna directly, so it would mean there would be a lot of envious devotees in Vaikuntha.

But Srimad Bhagavatam states that pure bhakti is free from all types of cheating, and is meant for non-envious devotees (nirmatsaranam satam Bhag.1.1.2). The Lord also promises in the Gita, yoga - kshema vahamya aham. So how could one feel dissatisfied, become envious, and leave?

Moreover, do the jivas fall only from Krishnaloka and not from other Vaikuntha planets? Were this the case, then Krishnaloka must be considered inferior to the Vaikuntha planets owing to its' being less secure. This proposal contradicts scriptures like the Brahma Samhita which describes Krishnaloka as the highest. Secondly, if everyone falls from Krishnaloka, then why is it that later on some become devotees of other incarnations like Rama, or Nrisimha, and go to Vaikuntha? That means they are not going back home, but to a new home. Moreover, how are they able to alter their old relation with Krishna and become devoted to some other incarnation?

It is also argued that since Srila Prabhupada used the term "going back home" and named his magazine Back to Godhead, that he surely accepted that the jiva falls from Vaikuntha. We could accept such logic if it were supported by scripture, and all statements to the contrary were satisfactorily reconciled. But this is a far cry. Lord Krishna is the source of everything and everyone - aham sarvasya prabhavah (Bg.10.8). So although we have eternally been in the material world, when we go to Krishna, it is not improper to say that we go back to Godhead. For example, the American Ambassador to India lives in Canakyapuri, Delhi. Now suppose his wife gives birth to a child in Delhi, and after a few years the Ambassador is called back to the States. His son tells his local friends that he is going back home, back to his country. There is absolutely nothing wrong in his statement. But does this mean that he came from USA and now he is going back? Certainly not.

The case of the nitya-baddha living entities is similar. They are not born in the material world, but they have always existed here. Yet they are part and parcel of Krishna, and are his servants. So it is proper to say that they go back at the time of liberation. And this is coherent with the scripture.

Were it possible to fall from Vaikuntha, Yudhishthira Maharaja's question to Narada Muni regarding Jaya and Vijaya's descent would be meaningless. (Bhag. 7.1.34,35):

"Maharaja Yudhishthira inquired: What kind of great curse could affect even liberated vishnu-bhaktas, and what sort of person could curse even the Lord's associates? For unflinching devotees of the Lord to fall again to this material world is impossible. I cannot believe this.

"The bodies of the inhabitants of Vaikuntha are completely spiritual, having nothing to do with the material body, senses, or life air. Therefore, kindly explain how associates of the Personality of Godhead were cursed to descend in material bodies like ordinary persons."

The word "again" used in the translation does not mean that Jaya and Vijaya were previously in the material world. They are the Lord's eternal associates. In other words, Yudhishthira Maharaja would not think, "Jaya and Vijaya were previously conditioned souls and afterward became liberated. Thus it is impossible for them to fall. If they had never been to the material world before, then it would be possible for them to fall." No commentator has explained Yudhishthira Maharaja's questions in this manner. Moreover, there are no scriptural statements indicating that Jaya and Vijaya were materially conditioned prior to being gatekeepers. Furthermore, there is no Sanskrit word corresponding for the "again" used in the translation. In Text Seventy-five Srila Jiva Gosvami includes Jaya and Vijaya among the eternal associates, nitya-parshada.

The concept of nitya-baddha is not easy to grasp. We understand things according to our material experiences which concern things and activities that have a beginning and an end. Srila Prabhupada mercifully adjusted the philosophy so we neophytes could understand this difficult concept. But he did not always do so. Surprisingly enough, people who claim that the jiva falls from Vaikuntha fail to question the significance of the word nitya, in nitya-baddha. The word nitya-baddha implies that the bondage of the jiva has no beginning or end. Everyone accepts that we can achieve liberation, therefore, nitya does not apply to the future. Now, if we fall from Vaikuntha, nitya has no bearing in respect to the past. The term then loses all significance. Then why use nitya, or anadi in nitya baddha and anadi karma? Why not just say we are baddha instead of saying nitya-baddha? Many times Srila Prabhupada said we cannot trace out the beginning of our conditioned state. Why? Because there is no beginning. And how can you trace out something which does not even exist? He also said, "Do not try to figure it out-just get out." Why? Because you cannot figure out that which has no existence.

If one falls from Vaikuntha then how can it be considered superior to the heavenly planets? One may answer that from heaven everyone must fall, but only those who have never been to the material world are subject to falling from Vaikuntha-in this sense it is superior. But where is the sastric proof for this answer? Vaikuntha is a place free from anxiety. The three-fold miseries do not exist there. The residents there do not suffer from the pangs of birth, death, disease, and old age. If there is danger of falling from there, one would be in anxiety about it. And the more one enjoys there, the more anxiety he will experience when faced with losing it. Since the pleasure derived in Vaikuntha is superior even to that of Brahmananda, the anxiety of losing it must also be very great. But who will accept that Vaikuntha is a place of anxiety, much less the place of greatest anxiety?

So, the conclusion is that the living entity does not fall from Vaikuntha. And the happy news is that although we are nitya-baddhas-eternally bound-we can achieve liberation and become nitya-muktas.


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