Sunday, December 27, 2009

The concept of acintya-bheda-abheda

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s acintya-bhedabheda-tattva philosophy aims at a reconciliation of the different scriptural statements on the nature of the Absolute. According to the gaudiya understanding, the previous acaryas played a role in preparing the ground to the philosophy of love of Godhead fructify. When Sankara appeared, India was taken by the Buddhist concepts in which there was no room even for accepting the existence of God. By the propagation of advaita-vada, once again the Vedic scriptures became the authority and the goal was Brahman. Ramanuja preached that Lord Narayana is the Supreme Brahman and thus revived the concept that God is eternally a person. Madhva staunchly defended the differences between God and the individual soul. In this way, there was a progression towards the acceptance of personalism that made the society ready to adopt the philosophy proposed by Lord Caitanya. In spite of several divergences regarding philosophical conclusions, Lord Caitanya showed respect to all the four vaisnava sampradayas, since they all agree that to please Lord Krsna is the perfection of life, and in this mood gladly accepted from each of them two specific instructions :

madhva haite saradvaya kariba grahana eka haya kevala-advaita nirasana
krsna-murti nitya jani'tamhara sevana sei ta'dvitiya sara jana mahajana
ramanuja haite anni lai dvi sara ananya-bhakati, bhaktajana-seva ara
visnu haite dui sara kariba svikara tadiya sarvasva-bhava, ragamarga ara
toma haite laba ami dui mahasara ekanta radhikasraya gopi-bhava ara

“Later when I begin the sankirtana movement I myself will preach using the essence of the philosophies of the four of you. From Madhva I will receive two items: his complete defeat of the Mayavadi philosophy, and his service to the murti of Krsna, accepting it as an eternal spiritual being. From Ramanuja I will accept two teachings: the concept of bhakti unpolluted by karma or jnana and service to the devotees. From Visnusvami's teaching I will accept two elements: the sentiment of exclusive dependence on Krsna and the path of raga-bhakti. And from Nimbarka I will receive two great principles: the necessity of taking shelter of Radha and the high esteem for the gopis love of Krsna.” Navadvipa-Mahätmyam (Parikrama-khanda)

Either if one accepts the theory of total unity between Brahman and the jivas, or their eternal separated existence, there is a partial and imperfect conclusion, failing to fulfil even the very definition of the word ‘absolute’. Nor can both views be rejected if we desire to reach an explanation that satisfies the reason and is corroborated by the sastras. If one says that they are one and the same, then the Supreme would also share all the faults that the living entities display. And if one says they are totally different, then there would be a violation of all the passages in which non-duality is stated. The synthesis of the Gaudiya-vedanta is to accept the energetic and His energy as eternally related and simultaneously one and different. This kind of relation is inconceivable from the material point of view, therefore the term ‘acintya’, indicating that we cannot expect to fully comprehend this kind of relation by means of our imperfect and limited senses, mind and reasoning power. We can, however, use these as a means to verify how indeed the nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His energies is far beyond our grasp, just like by observing the stars at night we can understand they are far from our reach. From another perspective, this philosophy cannot be understood except by those who are surrendered souls unto the lotus feet of the Lord, who fully develop spiritual senses and intellect to apprehend spiritual knowledge, as the Lord proclaims :

tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te

“To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” Bhagavad-gita, 10.10

A simple example to demonstrate the bhedabheda relation is the sun and its light. It is common sense that the sun is intrinsically related to its rays, and these are dependent upon it, thus in this sense they are one and the same. But at the same time we also can understand that the sun rays are not the sun itself. When in the morning we see the sun light coming through the window we might say that the sun is inside the house, while factually we mean to say that the sun’s rays are coming inside, for otherwise it would be a dumb affirmation. Similarly, Lord Krsna and His energies also interact intrinsically and still are distinct. Jiva Gosvami explains this concept in the following words :

ekam eva tat parama-tattvam svabhavikacintya-saktya sarvadaiva svarupa-tad-rupa-vaibhava-jiva-pradhana-rupena caturdhavatisthate suryantarmandalastha-teja iva mandala tad-bahir-gatarasmi-tat-prattichavi-rupena. durghata-ghata-katvam hyacintyatvam (Bhagavat-sandarbha ,16)

The Absolute Truth is one. His natural characteristic is that He has inconceivable potency. His inconceivable potencies are reposed in four different stages: His personal form (svarupa), the expansions of His divine form (tad-rupa-vaibhava), the jivas, and the material ingredients (pradhana). With regard to the sun, there is the sungod, the internal power of the sun, and that power when it is expanded as the external rays of the sun. Then there is the shadow of the sun, that is to say, the sun's reflection which is in darkness, far from the sun's influence. This illustration is used as an example. The point of the example is that in the same way as the sun appears in this fourfold manifestation (the sungod, its internal power, its external rays, and its shadow), there is one eternal Supreme Truth (the Lord) whose form is eternal, but who is possessed of different potencies: svarupa-sakti, jiva-sakti, and maya-sakti.

There seems to be a contradiction in this matter between the Lord being one eternal Absolute Truth and His simultaneously possessing inconceivable potency. How is it possible to understand such a contradiction? To that it is said: ‘acintya’, beyond the jiva's capacity to understand. An event which is extremely rare or unlikely, even physically impossible, is inconceivable. For the Supreme Lord, however, nothing is impossible for He has inconceivable power. Therefore the Lord's oneness with and distinction from His energy is said to be inconceivable acintya-bhedabheda-vada. Rupa Gosvami describes it in this verse :

ato 'cintyatma-saktim tam madhye krtyatra durghatah
ko nv arthah syad viruddho 'pi tathaivasya hy acintyata
sa ca nana-viruddhanam karyanam asrayan mata

“With the help of this acintya potency, what is impossible for You? Because many different mutually contradictory powers are present in it, the Lord's potency is considered inconceivable.” Laghu-bhagavatamrta, 110

Baladeva Vidyabhusana explains that this potency of the Lord is responsible for solving all the scriptural statements that seem to give contradictory information about God :

acintya-saktir astise yoga-sabdena cocyate
virodha-bhanjika sa syad iti tattva-vidam matam

“The fact that the Supreme Personality of Godhead possesses inconceivable potency (yogam aisvaram) resolves all the apparent contradictions. This is the opinion of those who know the truth.” Prameya-ratnavali, 1.15

Some of these contradictory qualities are that even though He Himself is transcendental knowledge, He still has a body, and even though He is one, He is also many. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is simultaneously all-pervading and of a small size. These opposite features can be reconciled when we accept the concept of acintya. The Lord says :

apani-pado 'ham acintya-saktih

“Although I have no hands or feet, I still have inconceivable potencies.”
Kaivalya Upanisad (21)

The smrti also confirms:

atmesvaro 'tarkya-sahasra-saktih

“My dear Lord, You are self-determined and are the Supreme Personality of Godhead for all living entities. For them You created this material manifestation, and although You are one, Your diverse energies can act multifariously. This is inconceivable to us.” Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.33.3)

Some may validly argue: if it is inconceivable, why do you write so many books about it? Here are a few points to answer that:

1) As said above, the acintya concept is meant to indicate that the Lord’s powers are beyond the human capacity of understanding, what does not mean that we cannot appreciate them at all, but rather that we should never underestimate the limitlessness of anything displayed by Him, His forms, His pastimes, His names, etc.

2)The Lord can be partially comprehended by spiritual senses and mind when He becomes pleased with His devotee, otherwise by no amount of material skill can the mundane mind and senses progress towards understanding Him.

3) Lord Caitanya personally demonstrated by His instructions that particularly in Kali-yuga no one will have the required capacity to properly understand the conclusions of the Brahma-sutras by dint of intellectual efforts. Once the great scholar Prakasananda Sarasvati inquired from Lord Caitanya: You are a sannyasi, so how is it that instead of spending your time studying Vedanta you simply chant and dance? In reply, the Lord said :

prabhu kahe—suna, sripada, ihara karana
guru more murkha dekhi’ karila sasana

“My dear sir, kindly hear the reason. My spiritual master considered Me a fool, and therefore he chastised Me.”

murkha tumi, tomara nahika vedantadhikara
‘krsna-mantra’ japa sada,—ei mantra-sara

“‘You are a fool,’ he said. ‘You are not qualified to study Vedanta philosophy, and therefore You must always chant the holy name of Krsna. This is the essence of all mantras, or Vedic hymns’.” Caitanya Caritamrta Adi 7.72

Lord Caitanya, playing the role of a perfect devotee, showed by this pastime how unqualified people erroneously take to the study of Vedanta on the basis of so-called scholarship. He obviously was not any fool, rather from His youthful days He was known as the greatest scholar in Nadia, which was in those days one of the main centers of learning in India. Lord Caitanya meant that the real purpose behind the Vedanta is to bring one to the point of loving Krsna and chanting His Holy Names, but if one just spends his life in dry speculations –neti, neti, this is not Brahman, that is not Brahman- then he is simply missing the point. On the other hand, if one directly takes to the process of bhakti, without going through all this philosophical intricacies, that is a much better course of action and much easier for people in general. Therefore, the conclusion is that knowledge about Krsna is inconceivable for those who don’t take to the process of bhakti, but want to understand Him on the strength of grammatical knowledge and academic scriptural studies.

4) There will always be a class of learned scholars, and to please them it is required to present the acintya-bhedabheda-tattva philosophy with all reason and argument to prove that this system is not based on someone’s opinion, but on the clear statements of the sruti and smrti. It is a tradition among the orthodox schools to have a dialectical way to present each premise and refute any possible objection. Without these philosophical resources, no system would be taken seriously by any learned person. On this basis, the acaryas extensively try to explain this system in so many ways, for since we are speaking of Lord Krsna’s powers, it should be understood that although they are ultimately acintya, there is so much positive information about Him that can make one appreciate His glories, and the amount of this information is also unlimited.

5) The devotees of Krsna know very well that His power is infinite and incomprehensible, and that just increases their taste to hear more and more about them. Those who write or speak about Him relish immensely, and those who read or hear about Him also relish immensely, as the sages at Naimisaranya expressed :

vayam tu na vitrpyama uttama-sloka-vikrame
yac-chrnvatam rasa-jnanam svadu svadu pade pade

“We never tire of hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Personality of Godhead, who is glorified by hymns and prayers. Those who have developed a taste for transcendental relationships with Him relish hearing of His pastimes at every moment.” Bhagavatam, 1.1.19

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Defending my Ph.D. thesis

Yesterday,11th of November, I defended my thesis in front of a board of eight doctors of the Sanskrit faculty, among which were the principal, Dr. R.C.Panda, and the head of the department of Dharmagama, Dr. K. Jha, along with several research scholars and undergraduate students. For one hour, I presented some of the main points of my work and replied to the questions and challenges they put. It was a bit ambitious to present it in spoken Sanskrit, as I’ve been out of shape, but they appreciated it very much, since no student dares to do so. The whole thing was filmed, but the audio quality is poor and the noise from the construction downstairs is annoying…

1. I started by reading out my mangalacarana and explaining its meaning. Dr. Simha objected that the meaning was clear and there was no need to explain anything, then Dr. Jha intervened saying that I was making relevant points about my parampara and philosophy, and therefore should carry on.

2. When I stated that God is to be known by the Vedas, they questioned the basis for taking this kind of evidence. I replied that for those who are ‘astikas’, the authority of the Vedas is beyond doubt, but not for the ‘nastikas’, and therefore the approach to deal with this topic must be different in each case. They preferred not to stick to the ‘nastika’ argument and let me go ahead.

3. I made the point that God being real, the world must be real too. Dr. Jha asked how the world can be real if it is manifested by maya, to which I replied that maya is also real. I was describing ‘jivesu taratamyam’ (the gradation among the living entities) and they played with my words by calling Dr. Jivesh, who was working in the next room, and then asked me what would be his gradation…

4. At last, the director of the Faculty, Dr. Panda, arrived. Dr. Simha took the opportunity to express how glad they are to have such a student.Made me blush...

5. Dr. Rohatam inquired about the nature of the incarnations of the Lord, and Dr. Jha asked about the relation between suddha-sattva and the material modes.

6. They got on my case after I stated that Srimad Bhagavatam is the supreme pramana. I referred to the Tattva-sandarbha and made a few points, but they couldn’t swallow it…When I asked back what was the difficulty in accepting the supremacy of the Bhagavatam, Dr. Panda kindly remarked that they were there to assess the integrity of my research work, not Lord Caitanya’s doctrine, and finished the case. I invited those who objected for a debate later on ;-) At the end, Dr. Caturvedi asked what is the meaning of Vrndavana, why Radharani is called Lord Krishna’s heart, and who is Tulasi :-)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Prameya eight - Worship of Lord Hari is the cause of liberation

By worshiping the Lord, Dhruva got everything he desired, even liberation

Bhakti, being beyond liberation, indeed brings liberation. There are innumerable passages in the scriptures that support this. For example:

janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”
>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 4.9

Factually, simply by chanting Lord Krsna’s Holy Names one becomes eligible for liberation:

kaler dosa-nidhe rajann asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet

“My dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 12.3.51

The Smrti-sastra explains:

hari-namaksarair gatram ankayec candanadina
sa loka-pavano bhutva tasya lokam avapnuyat

"One who marks his body with the letters of Lord Hari's holy names drawn in sandalwood paste or other similar substances, purifies the entire world and becomes eligible to enter the Lord's spiritual abode."

Bhakti is so powerful that can produce any result desired by the devotee. However, it is important to understand that the ultimate fruit of bhakti is unalloyed love for Krsna, not anything else, which could indeed be a distraction from that goal. But for attaining Krsna the topmost stage of bhakti is required, either by vaidhi-marga, according to rules and regulations, or by raganuga-marga, according to spontaneous love. In the former case, scriptural knowledge and detachment are essential factors to assure success.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Prameya Seven-Attainment of shelter at the lotus feet of God is real liberation

The surrendered souls are already liberated

There are innumerable instances in the scripture that prove God to be the giver of liberation, so if we attain eternal service to Him, by inference, that position is beyond liberation. The Svetasvatara Upanisad (1.14) explains:

jnatva devam sarva-pasapahanih ksinah klesair janma-mrtyu-prahanih
tasyabhidhyanat trtiyam deha-bhede visvaisvaryam kevala apta-kamah

"By understanding the truth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead from a bona-fide spiritual master, one becomes free from the entangling ropes of identification with the material body, as well as the various miseries and the trap of repeated birth and death which spring from that false-identification. By constantly meditating on the Supreme Lord, he becomes free from the subtle material body of mind, intelligence and false-ego. He attains the form of an eternally liberated associate of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world, and all his desires become fulfilled."

The Gopala-tapani Upanisad (1.21) also explains:

eko vasi sarvagah krsna idya ity adi ca.

"Lord Krsna is the all-powerful, all-pervading Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He is the object of the prayers and worship of the demigods. Intelligent persons worship Him as He resides in His own spiritual abode. They thus attain the eternal transcendental bliss which is not available for others."

The Bhagavatam, on the other hand, affirms that those devoid of devotion for the Lord, even if freed from the material bonds and absorbed in the Brahman platform, are prone to fall from their position:

ye 'nye 'ravindaksa vimukta-maninas tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah patanty adho 'nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah

“Someone may say that aside from devotees, who always seek shelter at the Lord's lotus feet, there are those who are not devotees but who have accepted different processes for attaining salvation. What happens to them? In answer to this question, Lord Brahma and the other demigods said: O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 10.2.32

And it corroborates the conception that bhakti is beyond liberation:

suta uvaca
atmaramas ca munayo nirgrantha apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukim bhaktim ittham-bhuta-guno harih

“All different varieties of atmaramas [those who take pleasure in atma, or spirit self], especially those established on the path of self-realization, though freed from all kinds of material bondage, desire to render unalloyed devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead. This means that the Lord possesses transcendental qualities and therefore can attract everyone, including liberated souls.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.7.10

salokya-sarsti-samipya- sarupyaikatvam apy uta
diyamanam na grhnanti vina mat-sevanam janah

“A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation—salokya, sarsti, samipya, sarupya or ekatva—even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.29.13

The devotees of the Lord don’t care for liberation, what proves that they are enjoying something more sublime than it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Prameya Six: There are different grades of living entities due to the results of their activities

By the law of karma one may become a demigod or a demon

All the jivas share common qualities, such as their fragmental dimension, and all are conscious, possess form, and are endowed with knowledge, but either in the material world or in the spiritual world, their status is different from one another due to their different activities, in the former by the contact with the three modes of material nature, and in the latter by a variety of transcendental service to Krsna. Lord Krsna says:

purusah prakrti-stho hi bhunkte prakrti-jan gunan
karanam guna-sango 'sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu

“The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil among various species.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 13.22

urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha madhye tisthanti rajasah
jaghanya-guna-vrtti-stha adho gacchanti tamasah

“Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the abominable mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 14.18

Due to the association with the different gunas, the jivas accept material bodies among the trees, animals, humans, demigods, etc. And among the liberated souls, those situated in the Vaikuntha planets are considered superior to those who merged in the impersonal Brahman. Among those who are in Vaikuntha, there is a transcendental gradation among the rasas, for dasya-rasa includes santa-rasa, sakhya-rasa includes dasya-rasa, vatsalya-rasa includes sakhya-rasa, and madhurya-rasa includes vatsalya-rasa, thus it is the topmost position. And among the different devotees who serve in the madhurya mood, Srimati Radharani is the topmost, for no one else exhibit the transcendental loving attitude towards Krsna as She does. Thus the living entities are further classified into nitya-siddhas, those who never fall in the material world, but are always under the control of yoga-maya, such as the inhabitants of Vrndavana, and the baddha-jivas, who are conditioned by the modes of nature. The sakti-tattva, however, is distinct from the jiva-tattva, and comprises the personified internal potency of the Lord, such as Radharani and Laksmi. Therefore it is clear that in any stage of existence there are different statuses among the jivas, the Lord’s potencies and even the expansions of the Lord Himself, for we see in the Bhagavatam that even Maha Visnu is attracted by Lord Krsna.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Pastimes of Saksi Gopala

The deity is an absolutely beautiful tri-bhanga, murali-dhara form, about 6 feet tall

The Appearance of Lord Saksi Gopala

After Lord Krishna’s departure from this world, the Pandavas decided to retire from the state affairs and give up all worldly connections to set the example for future generations. Maharaja Yuddhisthira appointed Pariksit, the son of Abhimanyu, to rule Hastinapura, and Vajranabha, the son of Aniruddha, to rule Mathura. Due to their family relation, they grew up as close friends and in all respects honored the glory of the Kuru and Yadu dynasties. It was the desire of Vajranabha to install deities of Lord Krishna, His great grand-father, in several places around Mathura, but he never had the opportunity to see Him. His friend Pariksit had seen Him only when he was still in the womb of His mother, Uttara. Thus, she was the only person who could accurately give details about the features of the Lord. According to her directions, Vajranabha carved several deities using a special kind of black stone called ‘vajra’, which is said to be imperishable, strong like diamond. First he carved three deities and asked Uttara if they resemble the Lord. Upon seen Govindaji, she said that the face was perfect; upon seen Gopinatha, she said that the navel was the same; and upon seen Madana-mohana, she said that His feet were very similar. Afterwards, Vajranabha carved Harideva, Kesavaji, Baladeva, Nathaji, and Gopala, Who later would become well-known as Saksi Gopala. Besides these, he also carved four deities of Lord Siva and four devis: Ganga, Vrnda, Yoga-maya and Durga, and then installed all these sixteen deities in different places in vraja-mandala.

The original Govinda, Gopinatha and Madana-mohana

According to your faith

Gopala’s temple became very popular and people from all over India used to visit it. It used to be situated in front of an ancient Hanuman temple in the area where the temple of Govindaji was built in the 16th century. It is difficult to say in which century the following incidents took place, but probably it was before the Christian age, when historical facts were hardly ever registered with specific dates. Once upon a time one young brahmana and an old brahmana from a village in the Vidyanagara district, a city nowadays situated in Andhra Pradesh, decided to go on pilgrimage to Vrndavana. Somehow they met on the way and the young brahmana was constantly rendering all kinds of services to the old man. After many days travelling, they arrived in Vrndavana and went to visit Lord Gopala’s temple. They were both delighted by His beauty and spent the day there. The old man was feeling very much indebted by the service he was receiving from the boy and decided to reciprocate by offering his daughter in marriage to him. Upon hearing such a proposal, the boy replied that he belonged to a poor and uneducated family, while the old brahmana belonged to an aristocratic and learned family, therefore such marriage should not happen. The old man insisted, and the boy again argued that even if he is so determined to give his daughter, the other relatives will certainly object. The old man kept on insisting and at last the boy proposed that if he really desires this marriage, then he should promise before Lord Gopala. They both went before the deity and the old brahmana declared that he would definitely marry his daughter to the boy. After visiting all places in Vrndavana, they set back to Vidyanagara.

When the old man arrived home, he told his relatives everything, but they became hysterical after hearing about the marriage settlement. They threatened to commit suicide if he gives the girl to a poor man. Meanwhile, the young brahmana was wondering why it was taking so long for the old man to fulfill his promise. He went to his house and questioned him about the matter. The old man’s son intervened and put him to run. The boy went to the central market and called the attention of the people around and told them all that had happened. The local people then called the old brahmana to settle the issue. Upon being interrogated, the old man just said that he could remember exactly what he had said. His son came along and said that the boy had actually stolen his father and given intoxicants to him, and now was making stories to get his daughter in marriage. He demanded a witness to corroborate his claims. The boy replied that he did have a witness: Lord Gopala. The old man’s son happened to be an atheist, therefore he boldly declared that if Gopala would go there to bear testimony, they would certainly give the girl’s hand. The boy was a staunch devotee and having full faith in the Lord, he set back to Vrndavana. He arrived in the temple and reported everything to Gopalaji. The deity then told him that there was no reason to worry, and that the boy should just go back and He would appear there to help him. The boy argued that people would not believe unless the deity Himself would come with him. Lord Gopala asked the boy how could a deity possibly walk, and the boy replied that if a deity can speak, then why would He not walk? In this way, Lord Gopala agreed to accompany His devotee under the condition that he should not look backwards- He would walk just behind him and the boy would know it by the sound of His ankle-bells. In case he violated this condition, the Lord would not move forward anymore. So they both started to south India.
For hundred days they travelled, and when they reached the border of the village, the boy could not hear the tinkling of the ankle-bells. Being anxious, he turned back and saw the Lord smiling at him. The Lord ordered him to go and tell everyone that He had arrived and was waiting for them. When all the villagers saw the Lord they were astonished. At last, Gopalaji gave testimony and the brahmana couple was duly married.

The main gate of the temple

The structure was meant to be a miniature of Jagannatha temple

Again Following His Devotee

The king of that region soon heard the whole story and went to visit Lord Gopala, and immediately gave order to build a temple on the spot. Many centuries passed till Purusottama Deva was born in 1466. He later became the king of Orissa and was know as a great devotee of Lord Jagannatha, having introduced the practice of sweeping the path before the Lord’s chariot during His ratha-yatra. After assuming the throne, he desired to marry the daughter of the king of Vidyanagara, but the king flatly refused saying that he would not marry his daughter to a sweeper. Taking this as a great insult to himself and to Lord Jagannatha, Purusottama Deva promptly gathered his army and attacked Vidyanagara. On that occasion, however, he was defeated and came back to Orissa humiliated. He went before Lord Jagannatha and pleaded His help to save his honor. On that night, Lord Jagannatha appeared in his dream and promised that on the next battle He Himself and His brother Balarama would fight in the king’s camp. Again he set with his army. Meanwhile, a lady was passing on the road with her pots for selling yogurt in the market when she saw two very handsome young men: one had a black complexion and rode a white horse, the other had a white complexion and rode a black horse. The two young men, dressed in fine silken clothes and expensive ornaments, resembled the demigods. They stopped and asked the lady to drink some yogurt. The lady was happy to feed them, but when it was time to pay, the two boys said: “We have no money here. Our brother, the King, is coming on this way very soon. Take this ring and show it to the King and he will pay you.” Soon afterwards, the lady met king Purushottama Deva, who was coming in front of his army and approached him, asking for the payment of the yogurt. The King was amazed at the story, but when he saw the ring the boys had given her, he had no more doubts: it was indeed one of the jewels from Jagannatha’s treasure. The King felt this occurrence as the special blessing of Jagannatha who wanted to reassure him of his victory. In this way, after defeating the opponents, Purusottama Deva returned to Cuttack, the capital of Orissa in those days, carrying with him the princess and the deity of Lord Saksi Gopala.
Saksi Gopala stayed in Cuttack for several years, till the king decided to move to Puri, and thus Gopala went along and was given a place inside Jagannatha mandir. Somehow, He could not adjust with the timings of the offerings there, and in a dream told the king that He wanted to move away from there. The king built a temple about 20 km from Puri, and since then Lord Gopala stays there, in a village called Saksi Gopala.

The Garuda-stambha

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Prameya Five- All the jivas are eternally servants of God

Even the liberated souls remain eternally as servants of God

After we have accepted that the Lord and the living entities are different, the next inquiry would be regarding the relation between them. In answer, the Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.7)says:

tam isvaranam paramam mahesvaram tam daivatanam paramam ca daivatam
patim patinam paramam parastad vidama devam bhuvanesam idyam

"The Supreme Lord is the controller of all other controllers, and He is the greatest of all the diverse planetary leaders. Everyone is under His control. All entities are delegated with particular power only by the Supreme Lord; they are not supreme themselves. He is also worshipable by all demigods, and is the supreme director of all directors. Therefore, He is transcendental to all kinds of material leaders and controllers and is worshipable by all. There is no one greater than Him, and He is the supreme cause of all causes."

sa-brahmakah sa-rudras ca sendra deva maharsibhih
arcayanti sura-srestham devam narayanam harim

"Innumerable Brahmas, Sivas, Indras, sages and demigods, all worship the Supreme Lord Narayana, the best among the demigods." (smrti)

The Padma Purana (Uttara-khanda, 226.37) describes the nature of the jiva (individual living entity) in the following way:

makarenocyate jivah ksetrajnah paravan sada
dasa-bhuto harer eva nanyasyaiva kadacana

"In the sacred syllable Om, the letter m stands for the individual spirit soul. The individual soul is the knower of the field of activities. He is transcendental, and he is, in his original spiritual nature, a servant of Lord Hari. He is never the servant of Brahma, Siva, or anyone else."

In the Bhagavad Gita, the jivas have been so defined:

mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah
manah-sasthanindriyani prakrti-sthani karsati

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 15.7

By definition, the parts cannot be equal to the whole, but their value is intrinsically related. Both in the material and spiritual worlds, the jivas play the role of assistants in the pastimes of the Lord. The difference is that in the spiritual world they act under the influence of yoga-maya, while in the material world they act under the spell of maha-maya, the external energy. Those who are devotees of Krsna with a favourable attitude are classified into five major divisions: those in santa-rasa, dasya-rasa, sakhya-rasa, vatsalya-rasa, and madhurya, or into seven secondary categories: hasya, adbhuta, vira, karuna, raudra, bhayanaka, and vibhatsa.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Prameya Four- The difference between God and the souls is real

Even the most powerful entity in the material world, Lord Brahma, has to bow down before the Supreme Lord

The ontological difference between the living entities and God is clearly mentioned in several passages from the sruti and smrti:

dva suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam vrksam parisasvajate
tayor anyah pippalam svadv atty anasnann anyo 'bhicakasiti

The Svetasvatara Upanisad (4.6-7) explains: "Two birds reside in the metaphorical banyan tree of the material body. One of them is engaged in eating the material happiness and distress which is the fruit of that tree, while the other does not eat, but only witnesses the actions of his friend. The witness is the Supreme Lord Visnu, and the fruit-eater is the living entity.”

yada pasyah pasyate rukma-varnam kartaram isam purusam brahma-yonim
tada vidvan punya-pape vidhuya niranjanah paramam samyam upaiti

The Mundaka Upanisad (3.1.3) explains: "One who sees that golden-colored Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Lord, the supreme actor, who is the source of the Supreme Brahman, becomes free from the reactions to past pious and sinful deeds, and becomes liberated, attaining the same transcendental platform as the Lord."
This dismisses the idea that the jiva and God are one and the same, for it is not possible for an object to become something it already is by nature. For example, water can become ice or vapour, but to say that water becomes water is illogical. Similarly, the soul is by nature an infinitesimal part of God, therefore sharing with Him the spiritual quality, but due to his fragmentary dimension, the soul gets covered by the material qualities and can only be reinstituted into his original position by the mercy of the Lord. Now, if one says that the souls are originally one with God, but are temporarily materially engrossed, and once liberated they will again be one with God, we say that in this case, there being no difference between God and the living entities, God would also be subjected to conditional life and thus unable to give liberation to anyone. In the Bhagavad Gita it is said:

idam jnanam upasritya mama sadharmyam agatah
sarge 'pi nopajayante pralaye na vyathanti ca

“By becoming fixed in this knowledge, one can attain to the transcendental nature like My own. Thus established, one is not born at the time of creation or disturbed at the time of dissolution.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 14.2

This proves that even after liberation the living entities remain as individual beings, otherwise there would be no need to use the plural or to mention the possibility of being born again. Therefore we have to understand that eternal spiritual identity is part of the ontological constitution of the jivas. The sruti is very clear in this matter:

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman
tam atmastham ye 'nupasyanti dhiras tesam santih sasvati netaresam

The Katha Upanisad (2.2.13) explains: "Of all eternals, there is one who is the chief eternal. Of all conscious living entities, there is one who is the chief conscious entity. That supreme living entity, the Personality of Godhead, maintains the others, and fulfils their desires according to their merits. Only saintly persons, who can see, within and without, the same Supreme Lord, can actually attain to perfect and eternal peace."

The word ‘brahman’ in the scriptures is used to refer to different things in different contexts, and not always to indicate that any existent object is simply one and the same undivided tattva as the advaitavadis presume. Baladeva explains that when the sruti makes statements like ‘sarvam khalv idam brahma’ this does not mean that the universe itself is the supreme, but that it is built up and sustained by Brahman, just as when we speak of the vital force present in the senses, we mean that the latter are maintained by the former and dependent on it, but it is not a fact that the senses themselves are the vital force. Another way to explain how the universe is Brahman is by the conception that Lord Visnu pervades every atom, but even in this case we understand that His position remains unaffected as the Supreme Lord and controller of the jivas and prakrti, thus different from both.

Some say that the jivas are just like a reflex of Brahman manifested in the false designations of the material world. This, however, violates the principles enunciated in the sastra: Brahman being the supreme undivided one cannot be fragmented , and being beyond the reach of the senses cannot become a reflex. If one says that actually Brahman was not divided, but that due to the illusory designations the jivas think to be so divided, the reply is that this cannot justify the fact that every living entity has a different consciousness and karma. If all the jivas were one and the same, there should be no variety of thought and action, since the soul, and not the body, is their cause. If it be said that all mental and bodily activities are just a by-product of maya, like in a movie, then there is no point in following a sadhana to achieve liberation as prescribed in the sastra, for that too would be an illusory activity and by illusion one cannot possibly come to reality. Then again, if the jivas are already one and the same with the supreme Brahman, there would be no meaning in doing anything at all for attaining liberation. At last, the advaitavadis contradict themselves as well as the scriptures, for if they mean to say that there is no difference between the jivas and Brahman, they would violate statements like ‘nityo nityanam’, and if they mean that they are different, they would deny the meaning of ‘sarvam khalv idam brahma’. To avoid all this confusion, the conclusion is that the jivas are transcendentally different from the Lord in quantity, that the whole spiritual variety possesses transcendental differences, and that the sastras refer to Brahman as nirguna due to its being beyond all mundane means of perception, and not to mean that Brahman is totally undistinguished and does not possess any attribute at all.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Prameya Three-The world is real

Brahman being real, the visible world must be real

Different philosophical schools follow one out of two main threads regarding the theory of the constitution of the manifested material world. Some accept the concept of sat-karya-vada, according to which the effect exists in its cause before its manifestation, and is therefore as real as its cause. The Sankhya system, for example, supports the theory of sat-karya-vada with the following arguments:

asad akaranad upadanagrahanat sarvasambhavabhavat
saktasya saktyakaranat karanabhavac ca sat karyam

“The effect is ever existent, 1) because what is nonexistent can by no means be brought into existence; 2) because effects take adequate material causes; 3)because all effects are not producible from all causes; 4) because en efficient cause can produce only that for which it is efficient; 5)because the effect is of the same essence as the cause.” (Sankhya-karika, text 9)

Gaudiya vaisnavism also accepts the theory of parinama sat-karya-vada, for the Supreme Lord’s existence being true, naturally everything that emanates from him is also true. There is plenty of evidence that God wished to create the material world and manifested it through the agency of His energies. The energies of the Lord are also as real as He Himself, therefore the emanations manifested by them are also real. To give a few examples:

ya eko'varno bahudha-sakti-yogad
varnan anekan nihitartho dadhati

The Svetasvatara Upanisad (4.1) explains: "The Absolute Truth, who is one without a second, and who possesses no material attributes, desired to manifest the material world, and created the different classes of human beings, animals and demigods by the agency of His multifarious energies."

ekadesa-sthitastagner jyotsna vistarini yatha
parasya brahmanah saktis tathedam akhilam jagat

The Visnu Purana explains:

"Whatever we see in this world is simply an expansion of different energies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is exactly like a fire which spreads illumination for a long distance, although it is situated in one place."

brahma satyam tapah satyam satyam caiva prajapatih
satyad bhutani jatani satyam bhutam ayam jagat

The Mahabharata explains: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose form eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, is real. Austerities are real, and Lord Brahma is also real. Because the living entities and the material world have taken birth from the supreme reality, they are also real."

Some may argue that the scriptures say that there is nothing besides atma, so to think that there is a material world besides the spirit would be just like mistaking a rope to be a snake. The answer to this is that indeed ultimately there is only spirit, but as we saw above, the Supreme Spirit can manifest anything from Himself through His potencies and still remain aloof. This is thus corroborated:

maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina
mat-sthani sarva-bhutani na caham tesv avasthitah

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 9.4

The philosophy proposed here is diversity in unity, thus the material world is not a superimposition as in the given analogy, but it can be better comprehended by the analogy of the green bird that entered a tree, for they are both existent, distinct beings, although sharing the same place, and only an inattentive observer would not perceive them to be so. In other words, the material and spiritual worlds are two parallel realities that are eternal and concomitant.

It may also be objected that the scriptures often affirm that this universe is ‘asat’. Here ‘asat’ does not mean that it is nonexistent, but that the material world is a temporary manifestation and it is so made to lead the jivas to develop detachment. By analysing the temporary nature of everything that exists in this world, one may eventually realize the transient constitution of all material objects and situations and thus give up attachment for them. Otherwise, if we take the word ‘asat’ to mean that the material world does not exist at all, the scriptures would be meaningless, since they are full of statements that particularly deal with material situations such as social organisation, politics, etc., and therefore would be self-contradictory, for if the world does not exist, it would not be possible for the jivas to live in it, so what to speak of the need of any scripture to guide them! Moreover, a fundament established by Madhva Acarya is that the scriptures should be understood on the light of the other pramanas too. In other words, the sabda-pramana should also be corroborated by pratyaksa as far as possible, even because pratyksa is the primary medium for sabda, for unless one uses his ears, there is no question of hearing anything. In the present context, the perception of the external world and its existence is common to all sentient beings, be they conditioned or liberated. This view also matches with the Cartesian pattern of thought , according to which one who thinks must definitely exist. Thus Baladeva’s conclusion that the phenomenal world is temporary, but not unreal is thoroughly backed up.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Prameya Two - He is to be known by the Vedas

A manuscript page of the "Tattva-dipa" of Baladeva Vidyabhusana

The word ‘Veda’ comes from the verbal root ‘vid’, ‘to know’, thus Veda means knowledge in general, but particularly it refers to the four Samhitas called Rg, Atharva, Yajur and Sama. Knowledge is eternal and it is manifested again and again at the time of every universal creation, being transmitted by Lord Narayana and received by Lord Brahma:

purvasyadau parardhasya brahmo nama mahan abhut
kalpo yatrabhavad brahma sabda-brahmeti yam viduh

“In the beginning of the first half of Brahma's life, there was a millennium called Brahma-kalpa, wherein Lord Brahma appeared. The birth of the Vedas was simultaneous with Brahma's birth.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.11.35

Therefore, Lord Brahma is the greatest authority testify what is the ultimate goal of knowledge:

bhagavan brahma kartsnyena trir anviksya manisaya
tad adhyavasyat kuta-stho ratir atman yato bhavet

“The great personality Brahma, with great attention and concentration of the mind, studied the Vedas three times, and after scrutinizingly examining them, he ascertained that attraction for the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna is the highest perfection of religion.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.2.34

This is corroborated by Lord Krishna Himself:

sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 15.15

There is an intrinsic relation between the Vedas and dharma, for the Vedas propagate dharma and dharma is essential to comprehend the Vedas. Manu-samhita, 2.6, states that the Vedas are one of the fundaments of dharma:

vedo’ akhilo dharmamulam smrtisile ca tadvidam
acarascaiva sadhunamatmanastustireva ca

“The whole Veda is the first source of the sacred law, next the tradition and the virtuous conduct of those who know the Veda further, also the customs of holy men, and finally, self-satisfaction.”

Thus, it is natural to conclude that the goal of the Vedas and that of dharma is one and the same. This conclusion is thus substantiated:

dharmah svanusthitah pumsam visvaksena-kathasu yah
notpadayed yadi ratim srama eva hi kevalam

“The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.2.8

The Gopala-tapani Upanisad confirms :

yo 'sau sarvair vedair giyate

"All the Vedas proclaim the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

And the Katha Upanisad (1.2.15) also confirms it:

sarve veda yat-padam amananti tapamsi sarvani ca yad vadanti

"All the Vedas worship the Supreme Lord's lotus feet, and all austerities proclaim His glories."

And in the Hari-vamsa it is affirmed:

vede ramayane caiva purane bharate tatha
adav ante ca madhye ca harih sarvatra giyate

"In the Vedic literature, including the Ramayana, Puranas ad Mahabharata, from the very beginning (adau), to the end (ante ca), as well as within the middle (madhye ca), only Hari, the supreme Personality of Godhead, is explained."

There is an old discussion regarding the knowableness of God and the capacity to express it through words. In the sastras, the Supreme is sometimes referred to as ‘avacyam’, ‘indescribable’, but this should be understood in the sense that the Lord’s attributes are unlimited and cannot be fully conceived by the living entities, otherwise if we take it in the sense that the Supreme cannot be described at all, the whole sastra would be meaningless. Rather, both sruti and smrti largely describe the Supreme Lord’s transcendental qualities, names, forms, associates, paraphernalia, abodes, etc. The example given is that the Himalaya mountains can eventually also be referred to as invisible in the sense that it cannot be thoroughly seen, and not that they cannot be seen at all. Similarly, Lord Govinda’s transcendental qualities, etc. can be partially seen by those who are favoured by His mercy, but even Ananta Sesa Himself fails to fully appreciate them.
Some may argue that when the Vedas refer to Brahman, they are just expressing the nature of Brahman in a secondary, indirect way, for the direct meaning of words are used to describe only objects that possess an origin, qualities, activities, names, etc., while Brahman is devoid of all these. So, in this sense, Brahman is not really describable by the Vedas. However, the fact is that a secondary meaning is only possible when a direct meaning exits, thus if the direct meaning of the Vedic words are not valid knowledge, their indirect meaning would be futile and again the whole Veda would be useless for comprehending God and the soul and would contradict Vyasadeva’s conclusion in the Vedanta-sutra, 1.1.3 :


“Because He may only be known by the revelation of the Vedic scriptures.”

Therefore, the conclusion is that the Vedas are the via-media for acquiring knowledge about God, He being the end of all knowledge.

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.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Music and the Heart

But who has ever heard of a happy end?

Once a neighbour came to visit me in the hostel when I happened to be watching a violin concerto. Interestingly, he asked me if violin playing would make one a better person, to what I promptly replied that rather than improving the formation of one’s character and values, it often spoils both. With due respect to the exceptions, by far, most of the musicians I have seen or heard of fit in one or more of these categories: arrogant, puffed-up, over-temperamental, mentally unbalanced, drunkard, debauchee, or as a matter of fact, stupid. Many even fit into all these simultaneously, spite admirable expertise. Anywhere in the world, musicians as a class are looked upon with airs of suspicion and disdain. This makes me wonder if from music any good quality accrues at all… Contrasting my view, I have met a certain number of musicians who seem to be quite convinced about the innumerable attributes that are magnified or generated by music, up to the point of giving even a religious dimension to it or deifying it. This view, however, is usually subjective, sentimental and based on a romantic view of reality rather than facts and tangible evidences. Indeed, it seems to be a perception induced by the quick and intense response that music can produce in some individuals who are particularly receptive to it. Now, if someone says that ice-cream tastes great, I might agree, but if from its heavenly flavor one starts advocating that its consumption leads to the development of lofty qualities and divinity, I would say ‘hold on.’ As it is said in logic: ‘phalena pariciyate’, we can judge by the result.

Do I mean to say that music and ice-cream are the same? In a certain way, since each of our senses is bound to a particular sense object. There is no means to prove that a gourmet is feeling less pleasure through palatable dishes than a musician through music, for in that case food represents the same for the tongue as music does for the ears. Similarly, a painter is inclined to appreciate form and color in a very refined way and thus gratify the mind through the eyes. And how can the mere contact of the senses and their objects degrade or elevate one? That is dependent on the individual’s mentality and interaction with the modes of nature. Usually, most people are just pushed by their own karma to act or find pleasure in a specific way, either in goodness, passion or ignorance, and in the case of these last two, without much critical and deliberate attitude towards their own living principles, supposing they have any at all.

As this is a world of relativity, the interactions of the modes create an unlimited gradation of nuances between unlimited ways of thinking and acting. Thus, art is also conditioned by nature and it is molded according to time, place, circumstance and individual. From the time of creation, art is present in all human societies, either so-called civilized or so-called uncivilized, from the most barbarian groups up to the highly intellectual ones. Much more than the technical ability required, the development of musical complexities in the form of harmony, counter-point, etc., evinces the refinement of thought and expression reached in a certain stage. It is quite obvious to me that some people don’t respond to music at all, just as some don’t respond to poetry, to philosophy, etc., while others will respond according to their idiosyncrasy, cultural background, sensibility, taste, etc. In this way, we can comparatively classify music according to distinct parameters in terms of the modes of nature, the level of structural development, and the class of people who appreciate it.

One of the interesting features of extremely opposite interaction of the modes of nature is the way they clash. For example, for a person fond of Baroque music, with its very refined harmonic principles, instrumental technique and ornamentation most of the contemporary pop music might sound revolting. This may sound snob, but compared to the musicality of an accomplished musician, expert in the European music of the 18th and 19th centuries, the most renowned pop stars display the musicality of an ass. On the other hand, for those fond of pop music, classical music may sound boring. The same as everything else, just like a vegetarian could vomit simply by thinking of what a meat-eater eats, while the latter thinks vegetarian food tasteless. And ironically each of the modes leads one to think that whatever he does or thinks is the right thing… The point I am making here is how relative values might be and how our tendencies are conditioned in a particular way by nature via social, cultural, environmental, familiar, and religious factors to the point that all our habits and tastes are more or less a reflex of them, and if we speak of a scale of values existent for everything in life, we will be situated either up or down depending on the referential point we accept. Even this referential point is also usually dependent on those factors, though. In this way, both autonomy and heteronomy play important roles in the formation of one’s cultural and intellectual assets, but ultimately what determines one’s steady progress is a deliberate and selective absorption of the elements acquired through both, provided one has a clear conception of the aims to be attained and their means.

Music in ancient Greece and India

Notwithstanding so many weird ideas, the philosophical concepts taught by Socrates and later elaborated by Plato and others resemble so much those based on the Vedas that it would be possible to draw several parallels between both. Therefore, it is no surprise that factually the view Plato and Aristotle hold about music matches considerably that presented by the sastras. Socrates and Plato conceived perfection as belonging to a perfect, ideal world, from which everything in this world is but a shadow or reflex. The different artistic representations are merely an attempt to express the original, ideal beauty that characterizes the ideal world. Thus, music for them was a means to approach the sublime beauty and perfection through divine inspiration. However, they were aware of the powerful effects music exerts on man’s consciousness and therefore were very cautious regarding its application. For Socrates, ethics was an essential principle to be observed by those aspiring moral and intellectual advancement, while any lenience towards hedonism meant corruption. Bearing this view, Plato and Aristotle clearly defined how restricted music should be inside an ideal society. They particularly condemned purely instrumental music as an unnecessary act of self-amusement and egotism, while the chanting of instructive songs, dramatic performances, prayers and hymns was encouraged as being conducive to divinity. On this basis, they supported musical education from the very childhood as an important element in the formation of one’s character. Plato believed musical training to be a very potent tool for building one’s mind. Therefore he instigated the search for a particular combination of melody, harmony and rhythm that would produce brave men. He holds love for beauty to be the supreme purpose of music, but made it clear that merely by music it is not possible to attain superior knowledge or the ultimate good.

The Greeks were convinced that the various musical modes exert different effects on the mind, therefore they were selective regarding their specific usages. In his ‘Politics’ Aristotle describes that the Mixolydian makes man sad and grave; the Dorian produces a moderate temperament; the Phrygian inspires enthusiasm, etc. Plato in his ‘Republic’ hints that the Ionian generates indolence and torpor, and the Lydian is to be given up by ladies who want to preserve their honor and by men who value their manliness. Aristotle further affirms that by indulging in mundane music one may develop a pervert mentality. Upon having a teleological reflection on music, Aristotle was more concerned with its pragmatic dimension than with the metaphysical one since he viewed music as a means of education and intellectual entertainment required to refresh the mind in leisure hours, for he believed that being a pleasure of superior order it would satisfy a man’s needs and prevent him from taking recourse to vulgar forms of pleasure. Quite noble.

Similarly, in India the Vedic tradition conferred to music a distinct but restricted scope. Arts are referred to in texts supplementary to the Vedas, usually called upavedas, such as the Gandharva Veda, and in the artha-sastras, which deal with several activities required in human society. The chanting of the Sama Veda mantras was a preeminent activity exclusively done by the priestly order, while instrumental music played an important role in entertaining the deities in the temples as well as the royalty, being performed mostly by sudras. Apart from these, the dharma-sastras clearly prohibit the brahmanas and brahmacaris to indulge in music. Describing the duties of a snataka, or one who completed his studies, the Visnu-smrti (71.70) states that he must not dance or sing mundane songs. Manu (2. 178) is very specific when stating the duties of a brahmacari:

abhyanga-manjanam caksnor-upanac-chatradharanam
kamam krodham ca lobham ca nartanam gitavadanam

. “A celibate student should refrain from anointing his body with oil, applying collyrium to his eyes, from the use of shoes and of an umbrella, from lust, anger, covetousness, dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments.”

And about a snataka, Manu (4.64) says:

na nrtyed atha va gayen na vaditrani vadayeta

“Let him not dance, nor sing, nor play musical instruments.”

And although the ksatriyas are allowed some concessions, they are warned:

mrgaya akso divasvapnah parivadah striyo madah
tauryatrikam vrthatya ca kamajo dasako ganah Manu 7.47

“Hunting, gambling, sleeping during the day, slandering, women, intoxication, dancing, singing, playing music, and useless travel are the tenfold vices springing from lust.”

Within the context, it was particularly advised for the kings that these vices lead to loss of wealth and virtue, since they had more facilities to engage in the above activities than the other classes, but the tone clearly hints that anyone should be aware of any of these items. I cannot testify the other nine, but I can promptly relate music to the concept of vice, as it produces psychological dependency, emotional upheaval, obsession, hankering, etc. Its proportion can extend to limits known only to those who have gone through it. Practically, one may become thoroughly haunted by music, breath music, eat music, drink music, feel it running in the blood, hear it inside the mind twenty four hours a day, awaken or asleep, see music in the ten directions, make music one’s religion, hardly think of anything else, be ready to live or die for it. This condition can indeed last for a life time or more, and I wouldn’t blame those who, lacking a better word, call it love. I believe this to be the common state shared by any true musician, on the contrary of those who simply developed a superficial skill or appreciation, but I doubt it can be learnt or imitated.

If the stricture is so regarding students and ksatriyas, naturally much more rigour is expected from those in the vanaprastha and sannyasa asramas:

gramya-gitam na srnuyad
yatir vana-carah kvacit
sikseta harinad baddhan
mrgayor gita-mohitat

“A saintly person dwelling in the forest in the renounced order of life should never listen to mundane songs or music. Rather, a saintly person should carefully study the example of the deer, who is bewildered by the sweet music of the hunter's horn and is thus captured and killed.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 11.8.17

Thus we can conclude that the only asrama in which the enjoyment of secular music was allowed was the grhastha-asrama, and that only in case of the ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras. The reasons for such restrictions are more or less self-evident for those with a minimum comprehension of what the whole sruti and smrti is about. After all, the Greeks were quite to the point, as we shall see below.

How can music degrade one?

To properly understand scriptural statements it is required to apply accurate exegetical principles in given contextual instances, but the general way to look through Vedic culture and all the rules and regulations comprised in it is to have in mind that literally everything must be aimed at reaching the ultimate goal of life, love of God. Therefore any means to promote this cause are emphasized, while even the most accomplished deeds not directly related to it are discarded as useless:

dharmah svanusthitah pumsam
visvaksena-kathasu yah
notpadayed yadi ratim
srama eva hi kevalam

“The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.2.8

On this basis, we can classify music in two categories: that which leads to God realization, and that which does not. By the influence of the modes of nature, we understand that music also can be divided according to goodness, passion and ignorance. Only the mode of goodness is conducive to spiritual advancement, for passion and ignorance are opposite to it and are direct means of degradation. The distinctions between them can be clearly defined in terms of the results produced:

karmanah sukrtasyahuh
sattvikam nirmalam phalam
rajasas tu phalam duhkham
ajnanam tamasah phalam

“The result of pious action is pure and is said to be in the mode of goodness. But action done in the mode of passion results in misery, and action performed in the mode of ignorance results in foolishness.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 14.16

As it is expected in the age of Kali, most of what common people call music is totally under the lower modes and the result is visible. Factually, it is notorious how certain musical genres are directly connected with intoxication and promiscuity, or are their very propellers. Being so, it is somewhat clear that one must abide by the scriptural injunctions if he desires to prevent the Phoenix of previous samskaras from taking off, as well as the formation of undesirable new ones.

So, we are left with the music in goodness, but still that would lead to two implications: Is this really in goodness? If so, can one take it to one’s heart’s content without any risk? The first consideration in this regard is that another feature of Kali-yuga is the inexistence of uncontaminated goodness in nearly everything, just like even the air and the water are contaminated in most places, and spite their original properties in a pure state, they can be thoroughly harmful. As far as I have seen, only the Baroque music and the Indian classical ragas offer instances that could eventually fit in the mode of goodness to some extent. But even in those cases I would take into consideration several factors, such as the mental disposition of the composer and the performer. I would totally disregard the case of any piece that leads to any kind of emotional excitement, as this obviously characterizes passion. Ironically, emotional response is usually intended by the composer, the performer and the audience. Indeed, in the classical and romantic periods the composers displayed eminence in conducting the public through intense emotional trips, from laughter to flowing tears. And if we could isolate some genuine pieces in the mode of goodness, then what harm there could be? In spite of its superiority over the lower modes, goodness is still a material mode and especially in the case of those who perform or compose music, the great danger it offers is increasing the bodily identification through pride and self-conceit, which are factually demoniac qualities, while the soul has nothing to do with the activities performed by the body:

prakrteh kriyamanani
gunaih karmani sarvasah
kartaham iti manyate

“The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 3.27

And for the general public, sense enjoyment in goodness is still sense enjoyment, and the senses are by nature ever demanding and never satiated. Looking for happiness through sensual repletion is one of the most utopian hopes and history has seen many an Epicurean system rise and succumb. When Bali Maharaja offered to Lord Vamanadeva anything He might desire within the universe, the Lord replied:

sri-bhagavan uvaca
yavanto visayah presthas
tri-lokyam ajitendriyam
na saknuvanti te sarve
pratipurayitum nrpa

“The Personality of Godhead said: O my dear King, even the entirety of whatever there may be within the three worlds to satisfy one's senses cannot satisfy a person whose senses are uncontrolled.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 8.19.21

To make it short, even a pinch of attraction for anything in this world will make us accept another material body. A grown up man’s play with a musical instrument is not necessarily less childish or more meaningful than a kid’s play with toys, and to think otherwise is a superimposition. If one thinks it is worth to go again through the pains of birth, disease, old age and death just to try to enjoy music, then good luck, but just remark that no amount of musical talent can assure one the chance to get another human body in the next life.

How can music elevate one?

So, should one conclude that music is very bad and we should give it up all together? Wrong conclusion, for simply rejecting everything is immature renouncement, which resembles more nihilism than what is positively taught in the sastras, as defined by Srila Rupa Gosvami:

anasaktasya visayan yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe yuktam vairagyam ucyate
prapancikataya buddhya hari-sambandhi-vastunah
mumuksubhih parityago vairagyam phalgu kathyate

"When one is not attached to anything, but at the same time accepts everything in relation to Krsna for His service, his renouncement is called complete. On the other hand, one who, desiring liberation, rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Krsna is not complete in his renunciation." (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.255-256)

Sharing the qualities of God in a minute proportion, the soul is constitutionally eternally blissful, and this implies eternal and unlimited variagatedness of rasa. It is clear that the desire for art is inherent in the soul and that the supreme purpose of all artistic manifestations is to increment the rasas between Lord Krsna and the soul. We understand from the scriptures that the material vibration propagated in the ether is but an imitation of the original, spiritual vibration emanating from the spiritual world. Therefore even in this material world, which is the abode of all miseries and the stage for all abominations, we can hear music that transports the mind to a dimension diametrically opposed to anything else perceived in external life. I fully agree with all those who express how music transpires the divine. I think of the Common Practice Period music as the acme of the expression of beauty possible in this world as conceived by the Greeks. A thousand times while hearing Bach or Mozart I thought how Fausto went a long way in search for the fugacious moment simply because he did not hear this, and I wished that time stop. The loftiness of their music can compare that of the ocean or the stars, and I can’t help but seeing God’s hand behind it. In the case of those who don’t, I can just say that they have a huge deficit of pious activities:

yad yad vibhutimat sattvam
srimad urjitam eva va
tat tad evavagaccha tvam
mama tejo-'msa-sambhavam

“Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 10.41

This made me realize that if we got this kind of musical sublimity here, how much more God must have reserved for Himself and those in the spiritual world! Nevertheless, I would not magnify this process, for it is still a quite indirect, impersonal, diluted way to look at God, and one may very easily miss the path. The attempt to fly with music may well be another Icarus dream. It is better to go for the real thing than to run after the shadow. When music is used to glorify the Supreme Lord along with selected verses from the sruti and smrti and choice poetry composed by the acaryas, that is much beyond the mode of goodness and is called transcendental. I would say that the musical genre here is secondary, being subordinate to the Lord’s Holy Names and therefore purified by Them. Still, I feel compelled to think that classical bhajan is the standard and the ideal. This is the very apotheosis of music, which can factually clean one’s heart from all unwanted things, give one all desired objects and propitiate Lord Krsna, Who is the supreme artist, the original musician and the source of all artistic inspiration, and therefore, the ultimate beneficiary of all artistic offerings.

But what about those who are still attached to mundane music? One of the advantages of the process of Krsna consciousness is engaging one from whatever position in which one might be situated. Although secular music is not encouraged in the scriptures, it is also not directly condemned as an abominable activity, therefore nothing prevents one from performing music as an offering to Krsna, as He states:

yat karosi yad asnasi
yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurusva mad-arpanam

“Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 9.27

The main criteria in bhakti is the sincerity of purpose, for the Lord is seated in everyone’s heart and there is no way to deceive Him. Even if a performance is motivated by the desire for prestige, money and personal gratification, still it can be offered to Krsna, but better to be honest in admitting these shortcomings and earnestly pray to get rid of them so that we can become purified from all material contamination and thus progress towards Him. Whatever benefit or pleasure one obtains from music, whether real or apparent, is directly or indirectly emanating from God, and since He is the One seated in everyone’s heart, only He can positively transform and purify one’s heart based on one’s activities and purposes. Music can only be indeed purifying and permanently rewarding when part of the process of surrendering unto God, but we have to bear in mind that full surrender means to do whatever He wants from us, rather what we want. If we become receptive to His wish, we will eventually realize that He might have reserved for us things much better than those desired by us through selfish musical enterprises.