Monday, May 18, 2009

Prameya One- Visnu-tattva is the Supreme Tattva

Being a branch of the Madhva sampradaya, the Gaudiya vaisnava sampradaya sticks to most of the epistemological basis established by Sri Madhva Acarya on the evidence of the prasthana-traya. Vidyabhusana, who previously had been fully trained in Madhva’s philosophy, presents in his book ‘Prameya-ratnavali’ an introduction to Govinda-bhasya in which he gives a description of the prameyas or objects of knowledge that are accepted both by the followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu as well as those of Madhva. He states in the Prameya-ratnavali,8-9 :

Srimadhvah praha visnum paratamamakhilamnayavedyam ca visvam
Satyam bhedam ca jivan haricaranajusas taratamyam ca tesam
Moksam visnvanghrilabham tadamalabhajanam tasya hetum pramanam
Pratyaksaditrayam cetyupadisati harih krsnacaitanyacandrah

“Sri Madhva stated that Visnu-tattva is the supreme tattva, He is to be known by the Vedas, the world is real, the difference between the jiva and God is real, all the jivas are eternally servants of God, there are different grades of living entities due to the results of their activities, attainment of shelter at the lotus feet of God is real liberation, worship of Lord Hari is the cause of liberation, and that pratyaksa, anumana and sabda are the pramanas. This is the same philosophy taught by Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya.”
These prameyas are further elaborated by other gaudiya vaisnava acaryas such as Bhaktivinode Thakura in his ‘Dasa-mula-tattva’. What follows is a succinct description of each prameya along with the main sastric evidences to support them.

1) Visnu-tattva is the supreme tattva
By this prameya, Madhva refutes the monistic theories that the Supreme Lord is non-different from the living entities and that the ultimate aim described in the Vedas is a single, undifferentiated consciousness. To substantiate this principle, Baladeva quotes from the sruti and smrti. The Gopala-tapani Upanisad states:

tasmat krsna eva paro devam tam dhyayet tam raset tam bhajet tam yajet

“Therefore, Krsna is the Supreme Absolute Truth and nothing is higher than Him. One should meditate upon Him, chant His holy names, serve, and worship Him."
And the Svetasvatara Upanisad confirms His supremacy by stating that attaining Him is the ultimate realization and produces the ultimate success:

jnatva devam sarva-pasapahanih ksinaih klesair janma-mrtyu-prahanih
tasyabhidhyanat trtiyam deha-bhede visvaisvaryam kevalam apta-kamah
etaj jneyam nityam evatma-sastham natah param veditavyam hi kincit

"When one understands the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then the ropes of illusion which bind one to this material world become cut, the material miseries end, and the repetition of birth and death in the cycle of transmigration also ends. By constantly remembering the Supreme Lord, at the time of death one attains the fully opulent spiritual world, far beyond the touch of matter, and all his desires become fulfilled. In this way he directly perceives the Supreme Personality of Godhead, than whom there is nothing higher to be known." (1.11)

In the Bhagavad Gita also there is plenty evidence:

mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam sutre mani-gana iva

“O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 7.7

aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 10.8

na me viduh sura-ganah prabhavam na maharsayah
aham adir hi devanam maharsinam ca sarvasah

“Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin or opulences, for, in every respect, I am the source of the demigods and sages.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 10.2

arjuna uvaca
param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan
purusam sasvatam divyam adi-devam ajam vibhum
ahus tvam rsayah sarve devarsir naradas tatha
asito devalo vyasah svayam caiva bravisi me

“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala and Vyasa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 10.12-13
And in the Brahma-samhita, 5.1 :

isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam

“Krsna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.”

Being the material and the efficient causes of everything that exists either in the material world or in the spiritual world, the ultimate reservoir of all sublime qualities such as prowess, consciousness and blissfulness, and being eternally served by unlimited Goddesses of Fortune, Lord Krishna’s supremacy is substantiated. By the agency of His para sakti, He is the efficient cause of the visible universes, and by the agency of the pradhana and His tatastha-sakti, the living entities, He is the material cause . The Svetasvatara Upanisad confirms (5.4-5) :

sarva disa urdhvam adhas ca tiryak prakasayan bhrajate yad v anadvan
evam sa devo bhagavan varenyo yoni-svabhavan adhitisthaty ekah

“As the sun shines in all directions: above, below, and across, the one supremely opulent and worshipable Personality of Godhead is the origin of the entire universe. He creates the material elements and their attributes, and He also transforms those elements."

yac ca svabhavam pacati visva-yonih pacyams ca sarvan parinamayed yah
sarvam etad visvam adhitisthaty eko gunams ca sarvan viniyojayed yah

“ He creates the worlds. He develops and transforms the creation. He alone rules all the world. He controls the modes of nature.”
That the Lord is all powerful, all-cognizant and all-blissful is confirmed in the following verse from the Katha Upanisad (1.2.22):

mahantam vibhum atmanam matva dhire na socati

"An intelligent person, who understands the distinction between material bondage and liberation, ends all material bondage when he understands the supremely worshipable Personality of Godhead, who is full of all powers and opulences."
In the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (3.9.28) it is said:

vijnanam anandam brahma ratir datuh parayanam

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of knowledge and bliss. It is He who gives the fruits of actions to one who perform yajnas."
The Gopala-tapani Upanisad (1.35) also confirms:

tam ekam govindam sac-cid-ananda-vigraham

"Lord Govinda is beyond the duality of the material world, and He is not different from His form which is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss."
Now, it may be asked how is it possible for something to be at the same time sac-cid-ananda and vigraha (having a form). In reply to this, Baladeva gives the analogy of a raga, that apparently is just a melody without any visible form. However, for those who know the musical science, the form of the raga is perceived mentally. It was already proved long ago that vibration does possess form and that can be registered through different natural and electronic means and thus visibly displayed as waves,etc. The Gopala-tapani Upanisad further states:

manusi vijnana-ghanananda-ghana-sac-cid-anandaika-rase bhakti-yoge tisthati

“My humanlike form, which is eternal and full of transcendental knowledge, is present in devotional service.”
Here the word ‘ghana’ is very significant, for it is used to refer to an object that has tangible form. This view is support by Panini’s Astadhyayi, 3.3.77: ‘murtau ghana’, ‘the word ‘ghana’ is employed in the sense of tangible form, as indicated by the example of a lump of salt, saindhava-ghana, given by the commentators. Indeed, when Lord Krishna was present on earth, people could see Him and touch Him, but in no respect His form was composed of material elements, for there is no difference between His body and His self, as in the case of the conditioned living entities. This is another evidence of His acintya-sakti in what appears to be simultaneously distinct and even contradictory things. This conforms to the definition of the Absolute as the One Who can reconcile all contradictions, being the fountainhead of everything. In the Srimad Bhagavatam 10.9.13-14 the following evidence is given:
na cantar na bahir yasya na purvam napi caparam
purvaparam bahis cantar jagato yo jagac ca yah
tam matvatmajam avyaktam martya-lingam adhoksajam
gopikolukhale damna babandha prakrtam yatha

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead has no beginning and no end, no exterior and no interior, no front and no rear. In other words, He is all-pervading. Because He is not under the influence of the element of time, for Him there is no difference between past, present and future; He exists in His own transcendental form at all times. Being absolute, beyond relativity, He is free from distinctions between cause and effect, although He is the cause and effect of everything. That unmanifested person, who is beyond the perception of the senses, had now appeared as a human child, and mother Yasoda, considering Him her own ordinary child, bound Him to the wooden mortar with a rope.”
His omniscience is thus stated in the Mundaka Upanisad, 1.1.9:

Yah sarvajnah sarvavit

“The Lord is omniscient and the knower of everything that exists.”
His blissfulness is stated thus in the Taittiriya Upanisad, 2.4.1:

anandam brahmano vidvan na bibheti kutascana

“One who knows the blisfull nature of the Supreme Lord is never afraid under any circumstance.”
His attributes as the Supreme One, the friend of all, the giver of knowledge and liberation are thus corroborated by the Svetasvatara Upanisad:

sarvasya prabhum isanam sarvasya saranam suhrt

"The Personality of Godhead is everyone's supreme master, controller, shelter and friend." (3.17)

prajna ca tasmat prasrta purani

"The Personality of Godhead is the teacher who reawakens the eternal spiritual knowledge of the conditioned souls." (4.18)


"The Personality of Godhead delivers the conditioned souls from the bondage of repeated birth and death." (6.16)
And His sweetness is thus described in the Gopala-tapani Upanisad:

sat-pundarika-nayanam meghabham vaidyutambaram
dvi-bhujam mauna-mudradhyam vana-malinam isvaram

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead appears as splendid as a fresh rain-cloud, and His eyes are as beautiful as lotus flowers. He has two arms and wears garments as yellow as lightning. He is decorated with a garland of forest flowers, and He is full of transcendental knowledge." (1.13)
By all these statements by the scriptures, it is proved that the Supreme Lord possesses unlimited spiritual attributes. At this point , we reach an ontological controversy: since the Lord possesses attributes, these are equal to Him or different from Him? For it is said in the Katha Upanisad (2.4.11):

manasaivedam aptavyam neha nanasti kincana
mrtyoh sa mrtyum apnoti ya iha naneva pasyati:

"A pure heart can understand that the Lord and His attributes are not different. He who sees them as different travels from death to death."
If it is said that they are different, that would contradict the scriptures. If it is said that Brahman is undistinguished oneness, without even spiritual attributes, that would also clash with all the above given quotes. Therefore, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s acintya-bheda-abheda-tattva philosophy is fully in consonance with the sruti and smrti, for it declares that the Lord possesses unlimited transcendental qualities that are non-different from Himself. Still, by a specific potency of the Lord, His qualities seem to be different from Him. Baladeva explains that the Lord’s qualities are always non-different from Him, although by His acintya-sakti they may appear to be different. The example given is that when we say that ‘time exists always’, in this statement time is both the substance and the attribute, for the adverb ‘always’ implies the idea of time, not being possible to alienate one from another. Similarly, the Lord has intrinsic transcendental qualities that make Him a unique being. As He is the ultimate source of all material and spiritual attributes, it is comprehensible that He Himself be surcharged of all qualities that are befitting His position and agreeable to His own will. The great mistake the conditioned souls make is to judge the Lord’s qualities on the basis of material qualities, therefore to dispel this misconception the Narada-panca-ratra affirms:
nirdosa-purna-guna-vigraha atma-tantro
niscetanatmaka-sarira-gunais ca hinah
sarvatra ca svagata-bheda-vivarjitatma

"The independent Supreme Personality of Godhead possesses a spiritual form full of perfect and faultless qualities. He is not different from the hands, feet, face, belly, or other parts of his form, which are all made exclusively of transcendental bliss."
There are three kinds of differences: 1) the difference between things belonging to the same category, for example: mango is different from orange. Here both mango and orange are fruits, but of a different kind; 2) the difference between things belonging to distinct categories, for example: mango is different from stone; 3) the difference between things that are part of a common element (sva-gata-bheda), for example the fruit of the mango tree is different from its flowers. Here both the fruits and the flowers are parts of the tree, but still different from one another. In the God, sva-gata-bheda does not exist, because His body is a completely spiritual being. Therefore, He is able to do things that are not possible for other living entities. This is well illustrated by the following verse from the Brahma-samhita,5.32:

angani yasya sakalendriya-vrtti-manti
pasyanti panti kalayanti ciram jaganti
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose transcendental form is full of bliss, truth, substantiality and is thus full of the most dazzling splendor. Each of the limbs of that transcendental figure possesses in Himself, the full-fledged functions of all the organs, and eternally sees, maintains and manifests the infinite universes, both spiritual and mundane.”

His omnipotency is also described in the Visnu Purana :

visnu-saktih para prokta ksetrajnakhya tathapara
avidya-karma-samjnanya trtiya saktir isyate

"The potency of Lord Visnu is summarized in three categories: namely, the spiritual potency, the living entities and ignorance. The spiritual potency is full of knowledge; the living entities, although belonging to the spiritual potency, are subject to bewilderment; and the third energy, which is full of ignorance, is always visible in fruitive activities."
His internal potency is called para(superior) or antaranga-sakti, being non-different from the Lord. The kstrajna-sakti, the living entities, are also called para, but they are considered tatastha, the marginal energy. The third energy is called apara, for it is the external potency of God that performs multifarious activities in the material world and is characterized by the three modes of material nature, sattva, rajas and tamas. Even though being the superior nature, the jivas are prone to be covered by the inferior energy due to their nature as marginal: they can be situated either in the spiritual world or in the material world. Lord Krishna, however, being the Supreme Saktiman, is never influenced by the external energy, but manipulates all His energies according to His own will. His energies are further classified in the same Purana:

hladini sandhini samvit tvayy eka sarva-samsthitau
hlada-tapakari misra tvayi no guna-varjite
"O Lord, You are the support of everything. The three attributes hladini (pleasure potency), sandhini (existence potency), and samvit (knowledge potency) exist in You as one spiritual energy. But the material modes, which cause happiness, misery and mixtures of the two, do not exist in You, for You have no material qualities."
Once the supremacy of Lord Krsna was established as the avatari, the source of all avataras, it may be questioned if His avataras share His potecies in a smaller degree or not. The Isopanisad, 1.1, affirms:

purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate

"The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance."
And the Maha-varaha Purana describes more specifically the nature of His avataras:

sarve nityah sasvatas ca dehas tasya paratmanah
hanopadana-rahita naiva prakrtijah kvacit

"The transcendental forms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are eternal and imperishable. They were not created at a certain point, and they are never to be destroyed. They are not products of the material energy.”
Thus it is also proved that the Lord and His incarnations are all invested with the same power: no matter how many expansions may be manifested from the Godhead, they are all equally omnipotent.