Thursday, December 23, 2010

The knowability of God

When we accept the existence of God as a knowable Being, the next inquire should be regarding the efficacy of the means to ascertain any positive knowledge about Him. To clearly specify the authentic means for progressing in the path of Brahman realization, Srila Badarayana in the very beginning of his Vedanta treatise declares that shastra is the only way by which one can research about the Supreme. The central idea from the vaisnava perspective is that God is a person, and this implies that He possesses innumerable transcendental attributes which are manifested according to His supreme will. Being so, Lord Krsna reserves the right to make the rules for creation, maintenance and annihilation of the material world, as well as the proper means to get rid of it and attain pure love for Him. The Vedas are the emanation of the Supreme Lord’s breath, and therefore apauruseya or divine. The smrti and the Vedanta are all compiled by the Lord Himself in the form of Dvaipayana Vyasa, and thus there is no question of flaw in the scriptures, though one may find apparent contradictions from the mundane point of view, which can ultimately be reconciled through the lucid interpretation of the vaisnava acaryas. There are several means for acquiring knowledge, but sabda-pramana is the one chosen and given by God for those who desire to obtain knowledge about Him, and to accept this fact is the first step towards the comprehension of the final goal presented in all scriptures. Why is it so? Why not by other means, which might be more appealing to some people or can make more sense to others? Again, because God is a person and He decided that this is the way. Therefore, at least theoretically one should take to this principle from the very outset to be able to delve deeply in the conclusive Vedic knowledge. This is not an exclusive or innovative creed adopted in India, for the Christians and the Muslims similarly accept the bible and the Koran as the words of God or the scriptures composed through divine inspiration, and give proper value to revelation in their theological systems. Moreover, unless we take to this conclusion, words like ‘aupanisada’ (the One Who is known through the Upanisads) would become meaningless. Then, what is the relevance of the reasoning power, such as that used in logical inference? That is relevant as far as it is subordinated to sabda, as the smrti states :

purvaparavirodhena ko ’nv artho ’bhimato bhavet
ity-adyam uhanam tarkah suska-tarkam tu varjayet
(Quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.3)

“Conjecturing about the meaning of a scriptural passage by referring to the statements preceding and following it is called proper logic. One should abandon dry logic, however.”

Here dry logic refers to the process by which one tends to draw conclusions based on premises proceeding from one’s own mental speculation or external perception instead of those clearly defined by the scriptures.

If we thus accept the scriptural statements about God as the definite and flawless description of Him, then we have to accept His transcendental form, qualities, names, entourage, omnipotence, omniscience, etc. and worship Him accordingly, for the shastras abound in such descriptions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The nature of Brahman

Brahma-sutra is the metaphysical scripture per excellence, as from the very first aphorism it is clearly stated that its sole purpose is the inquiry into the transcendent Brahman. All the innumerable topics along the text ultimately converge to the ultimate reality of a Supreme Immanent Spirit.

A question is raised as to whether Brahman and the jiva are one and the same entity, for in the sruti there are many passages in which the interpretation can be applied to either of them or to both. In reply to this, the Vedanta-sutra starts by stating that Brahman is the original cause of the creation, maintenance and annihilation of the material universes. Thus, from the outset the distinction between the minute living entity and Parabrahma is declared, and it will be further clarified along the text. Although it is true that words like ‘bhuma’, ‘atma’ and ‘Brahman’ are indistinctly used as referring to either the jiva or the Supreme Lord, still it is required to properly apply exegetical principles in given contextual instances. Brahman is thus etymologically defined:

atha kasmad ucyate brahmeti brhanto hy asmin gunah
(Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.2)

"Why is Brahman called so? Because in Brahman all attributes expand unlimitedly."

This evidently opposes the living entity’s minuteness and limited power to act or manifest anything beyond the capacity of his respective material body and mind. Otherwise, the jiva would never be restricted by material adjuncts, therefore how could he possibly ever become unlimitedly powerful after liberation? And if the scriptures meant that there is no difference between the jivas and Brahman, then there would be no point in using a different terminology to refer to the same thing, nor any meaning in prompting someone to meditate on and worship an entity distinct from oneself. Here knowledge of the original nature of the soul is regarding relevant as far as it is part of the preliminary knowledge to understand the nature of Parabrahma, and therefore it is considered imperfect and insufficient till it blooms in the comprehension of the soul and God.

To understand the nature of Brahman, the Vedanta-sutras (3.2.28-30)
give us some illustrations: just like a serpent’s coil forms one unity with the serpent itself, Brahman and Its attributes also form an inseparable unity. When the scriptures state that Brahman is knowledge and bliss, the purport is not that Brahman is simply constituted of transcendental knowledge and bliss, nor that Brahman has them as Its qualities, but that Brahman is by definition the dharma and the dharmi, the very attributes and the very possessor of those attributes. A more subtle analogy is that of fire and its light: both are intrinsic. So is Brahman, for it is not possible to isolate either the qualities or the substance itself. Another example is time, which is generally classified as past, present and future, but in fact the three are a single element. Instead of being put aloof from its different stages, time is the very principle that defines those stages. Similarly, God is one with His qualities, yet from Him come all the concepts of all attributes existent. In the Brahma Purana it is said:
anandena tv abhinnena vyavaharah prakasavat
purvavad va yatha kalah svavecchedakatam vrajet
(Quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.30)

"As the sun is not different from its light or time is not different from its quality in the form of past, present and future, so the Supreme is not different from His bliss."
In the material world, one may circumstantially accept or develop some qualities for the time being, and then eventually give them up, but the qualities incorporated by Brahman are never originated nor decayed, but rather, are ever expanding. His qualities are primeval and the reservoir of unlimited varieties that give rise to all the reflections seen in the material plane. Moreover, there is ample evidence in the scriptures to prove that there cannot ever be any difference between God and His transcendental qualities. In the sruti it is said:

manasaivedam aptavyam neha nanasti kincana
mrtyoh sa mrtyum apnoti ya iha naneva pasyati
(Katha Upanisad, 2.4.11 and 14)

"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."

yathodakam durge vrstam parvatesu vidhavati
evam dharman prthak pasyams tan evanuvidhavati

"One who thinks the Lord and His attributes are different falls into hell, just like rainwater glides down a mountain peak."

In the Narada-pancaratra it is said:

nirdosa-purna-guna-vigraha atma-tantro niscetanatmaka-sarira-gunais ca hinah
ananda-matra-kara-pada-mukhodaradih sarvatra ca svagata-bheda-vivarjitatma
(Quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.31)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is independent, faultless, filled with virtues, not residing in a material body, untouched by the modes of nature or a material body fashioned of inanimate matter, but still possessing a face, belly, hands, feet and other features of a spiritual body filled with bliss. He is not different from His various limbs, features, and qualities."

There is a gulf of difference between the way God and His attributes are related and the way a material object and its adjuncts are related. A material object like a house may be constituted by diverse elements and suffer by their addition or reduction, but God’s status in never influenced by any external element, because all His qualities are of the same spiritual nature as He Himself, and therefore devoid of all material frailties. This point is clarified by the smrti in the following words:

jnana-sakti-balaisvarya- virya-tejamsy asesatah
bhagavac-chabda-vacyani vina heyair gunadibhih
(Visnu Purana, 6.5.79; Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.31)

"The word ‘bhagavan' means ‘He who has all knowledge, strength, wealth, power, heroism, and splendour, but no faults’.”

That we refer to both as if they were subject and object, it is merely a language limitation, just like saying that the wave is made of water. Here there is a mild redundancy, for unless there is water, there is no meaning for wave, but still we have different terms to qualify them. In a similar way, when the scriptures describe Brahman as the reservoir of all rasas, it is to be understood that He is both the rasas and the enjoyer of rasas. When Brahman is manifested in a form able to enjoy and reciprocate the sweetest varieties of rasas, that form is called Govinda, the giver of pleasure to His devotees.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Everyone definitely meets the results of one's activities

Some may consider that the Lord displays partiality and cruelty in the creation of the universe, for we see that living entities like the demigods in the heavenly planets have ample abundance of enjoyment, while those in the lower species of life or in hellish conditions simply suffer intensely. The fact, however, is that the Lord is neither partial nor cruel towards anyone, as He declares:

samo 'ham sarva-bhutesu na me dvesyo 'sti na priyah
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya mayi te tesu capy aham
(Bhagavad-gita, 9.29; Govinda-bhasya, 2.1.36)

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.”

God simply creates the conditions and environment in which the conditioned living beings can carry on the activities they performed in the previous creation. The Lord sitting in everyone’s heart simply reminds the jivas of their wishes and thus propels them to work. The Vedic hymns therefore declare:

esa u hy eva sadhu karma karayati tam yam ebhyo lokebhya unninisate. esa u evasadhu karma karayati yam adho ninisate
(Kausitaki Upanisad 3.8; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.29)

"The Lord engages the living entity in pious activities so that he may be elevated. The Lord engages him in impious activities so that he may go to hell."

One of the purposes of the creation of the material world is to give to the living entities an opportunity to fulfill their contaminated desire for sense gratification, realize the ephemeral nature of this world, and then desire to go back home, back to Godhead. The cycles of creation and destruction proceed from time immemorial, being impelled by the karma performed by the jivas. At the end of the life of Brahma, the entire universe is devastated and all the material elements and the conditioned souls become absorbed in the body of Karanodakasayi Visnu. Again, when the brahmanda is created, all the souls receive another material body according to their previous activities and desires. Ksirodakasayi Visnu as the paramatma in everyone’s heart controls the movements of all, giving to everyone the results of their work.
Karma is basically twofold: pious and impious. The scriptures prescribe the performance of ritualistic pious activities such as sacrifices, charity, etc. meant to fulfill one’s desires for fruitive results, culminating in the attainment of the heavenly planets, and prohibit the performance of impious, sinful activities such as murder, theft, etc., which lead one to suffering and the hellish planets. In either case, the duration of time of staying in heaven or hell is according to the exhaustion of the specific amount of piety or impiety respectively, after which one takes birth again on earth:

te tam bhuktva svarga-lokam visalam ksine punye martya-lokam visanti
evam trayi-dharmam anuprapanna gatagatam kama-kama labhante
(Bhagavad-gita, 9.21; Govinda-bhasya, 3.1.8)

“When they have thus enjoyed vast heavenly sense pleasure and the results of their pious activities are exhausted, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus those who seek sense enjoyment by adhering to the principles of the three Vedas achieve only repeated birth and death.”

Karma can be further divided into nitya-karma, regular, such as worship, reciting mantras etc.; naimittika-karma, occasional, such as the reformatory ceremonies performed in different stages of life; and kamya-karma, for personal desire, such as the performance of some sacrifices to attain specific desired objects. The scriptures recommend to all several sacrificial rituals as well as expiatory methods (prayascitta) as being auspicious, but warn those who desire liberation to avoid kamya-karma, for it binds one to the fruitive results by them produced. Liberation implies the destruction of both pious and impious results, for both lead the soul to accept a material body. Transcendental knowledge is the effective means that destroys both, as stated:

yathaidhamsi samiddho 'gnir bhasma-sat kurute 'rjuna
jnanagnih sarva-karmani bhasma-sat kurute tatha
(Bhagavad-gita, 4.37; Govinda-bhasya, 4.1.16)

“As a blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities.”
In sruti it is said:

ubhe u haivaisa ete taraty amrtah sadhv-asadhuni
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.4.22; Govinda-bhasya, 4.1.Adhikarana 10, Intro.)

"He crosses beyond all karmic reactions, both good and evil, and he becomes immortal."

Once such knowledge is obtained, one becomes a jivan-mukta and no action by him performed is able to bind him:

yatha puskara-palasa apo na slisyante
evam evam-vidi papam karma na slisyate
(Chandogya Upanisad, 4.14.3; Govinda-bhasya, 4.1.Adhikarana 9, Intro.)

“As a lotus leaf is always untouched by water, so a person situated in transcendental knowledge is always untouched by sinful reactions.”

Another objection that may be raised is that if the creations are done in cycles, there must have been a first creation in which everything was manifested for the first time. Thus, the Lord must be unjust, for some entities would receive animal bodies while others would receive demigod bodies, though none of them had any previous karma to start with. In reply to this charge, the smrti states:

punya-papadikam visnuh karayet purva-karmana
anaditvat karmanas ca na virodhah kathancana
(Bhavisya Purana, quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 2.1.35)

“The Lord makes the living beings perform good and bad deeds according to their past karma. There is no contradiction here, for karma is beginningless.”

Just as the jivas are beginningless, so is their karma. In other words, it is inconceivable for the conditioned soul to understand how the bondage of karma began. The details of this mystery are known only to the Lord. The jivas are simply able to comprehend how the laws of karma work and what the way out is. Therefore the scriptures focus on these points, rather than to explain something that is beyond their capacity of understanding. This is not mere evasiveness, since the living entity is infinitesimal and therefore possesses only a limited capacity of knowledge in comparison to the all-knowing Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda.

Sometimes it is also questioned why we cannot remember our previous lives if they really existed. The hint to this was already given above, for the Lord in the heart of all is the supreme conductor:

sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham
(Bhagavad-gita, 15.15; Govinda-bhasya, 2.1.11)

“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.”

It would be very difficult to live the present life if we had the clear recollection of our previous lives. For example, we would have the impressions and experiences of different animal bodies and the sufferings we underwent, and also the memory of the unbearable pain of every death, what would be absolutely disrupting for leading our present life. Therefore, paramatma in our hearts makes us forget all those impressions when we take birth in a different body, so that we may again start a cycle of activities with a fresh mind. Moreover, since we had numberless bodies, it would be impossible for us to account for which particular activity we are enjoying and for which we are suffering, therefore it would be purposeless to recollect them. Only in special circumstances someone may have the ability to remember something of his previous life, as in the case of Narada Muni and Jada Bharata.

Some scriptural statements may lead one to have doubts about the authorship of karma. Is it done by the soul or by the material nature? For example:

prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah
ahankara-vimudhatma kartaham iti manyate
(Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

“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.”

From this, one may hastily conclude that the soul has no connection with activity, but is just a passive observer of the activities of the modes of nature. This is not what is meant by the sastras. First of all, if we interpret the above verse as literally meaning that one is not a doer at all, then the whole Bhagavad-gita would be self-contradictory, for Sri Krsna again and again prompts Arjuna to fight. We find several scriptural injunctions, such as ‘svarga-kamo yajeta’, ‘one who desires to attain heaven should perform sacrifices’, etc., as well as innumerable prohibitions for those who want to avoid sinful reactions. Such injunctions can be meaningful only if there is a conscious being with some capacity and freedom to deliberate on his own actions, for unconscious matter is totally devoid of these. Those prescriptions are especially meant to create a kind of mentality that leads the soul to act in a particular way to suffer or enjoy the fruits of his deeds. Moreover, there are passages that describe how even those liberated from the material bondage also perform activities. It is said:

evam evaisa samprasado'smac charirat samutthaya param jyoti-rupa-sampadya
svena rupenabhinispadyate sa uttamah purusah sa tatra paryeti jaksan kridan ramamanah
(Chandogya Upanisad 8.12.3; Govinda-bhasya, 4.4.Adhikarana 1, Intro.)

“Having attained liberation, giving up the gross and subtle bodies, the jiva becomes equipped with a spiritual effulgent form. He is a spiritual person. In the spiritual world he eats, plays and becomes absorbed in bliss.”

Therefore mere activity does not imply necessarily suffering, for this is a feature of the conditional life which does not apply in the liberated stage, where all actions can be performed in a pure platform, without any inebriety, thus without producing any negative result. It is also evident that the life airs and the sense organs are manipulated by a conscious entity, for these being instruments need an agent to operate them. Such agent cannot be other than the soul, for prakrti is not a conscious, independent element. It is also seen that the living entities are suffering or enjoying because of their previous actions. If they were not the direct agents of their own deeds, then the creation of God would be unfair, for one would suffer on account of a sinful activity performed by someone else. It is the natural course that the author is the one who enjoys the fruits of his work, for if be said that prakrti is the real author of karma, then it would also be its enjoyer, and thus there would be no scope for any implication between the jiva and the karma.

Sometimes it is argued that if we were responsible for our karma, we would only get happiness and never distress, for no one deliberately causes one’s own misery. Nevertheless, the laws of karma are so intricate that practically it is not possible to avoid suffering completely. The soul is implicated in the wheel of samsara since time immemorial and he has to suffer and enjoy according to the results of actions performed in so many life times. Therefore, when the scriptures mention that the soul is not the doer they mean to say that they are not independent in their acts, for they are conditioned by so many factors. As it is said:

adhisthanam tatha karta karanam ca prthag-vidham
vividhas ca prthak cesta daivam caivatra pancamam
(Bhagavad-gita, 18.14)

“The place of action [the body], the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul—these are the five factors of action.”
Here it is clearly stated that the soul is one of the factors that produce action, without which the body, the instruments and the effort would not be able to act. The three modes of nature totally cover the pure consciousness of the jiva to such an extent that the acts performed by him are in all respects byproducts of their influence. This is thus explained:

karya-karana-kartrtve hetuh prakrtir ucyate
purusah sukha-duhkhanam bhoktrtve hetur ucyate
(Ib.13.21; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.31)

“Nature is said to be the cause of all material causes and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.”

The Brahma-sutras compare the soul to a carpenter, who is an agent in twofold ways- he is the agent creating objects by using tools like an axe, etc., and he is the agent who holds those tools. It can be said that the wood is cut by the axe, and from this point of view, the axe can be considered the agent, but behind it there is a conscious agent. Similarly, material nature can be the direct agent for all material activities as far as it plays the role of instrument, but it never acts on its own without the will of the jiva. On the other hand, it should be remarked that the spirit soul is not independent in his activities, for the fifth factor of action is the Lord in the heart, Who observes and gives permission to the soul to act in a particular way according to his past deeds and desires . At last, if prakrti were the sole doer, there would be no meaning for all the scriptural injunctions concerning liberation, because if the soul does nothing, there would be no bondage at all, nor any possibility to perform the prescribed sadhana.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kala- Time

Time is an impersonal manifestation of the Lord’s energy, unrelated to the three modes, unconscious, and perceived as past, present and future. Time is one of the causes of creation and destruction in the universe, and its cycle is relative in different planetary systems and species of life. The sruti confirms:

sa visvakrd visvavid atmayonir jnah kala-kalo guni sarvavid yah
pradhana-ksetrajna-patir gunesah samsara-moksa-sthiti-bandha-hetuh
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 6.16; Govinda-bhasya, Introduction)

“The Supreme soul is the creator of this universe. He is omniscient, the source of Himself, the supreme knower, the personification of time, replete with all transcendental qualities, knows everyone, and is the controller of maya . The Regent of the universe, Lord of the material modes and is beyond their influence. He is the sole authority to keep the jiva chained to the wheel of samsara, to allocate his life-span and to reward him with liberation.”

And the smrti says:

yo 'yam kalas tasya te 'vyakta-bandho cestam ahus cestate yena visvam
nimesadir vatsaranto mahiyams tam tvesanam ksema-dhama prapadye
(Bhagavatam, 10.3.26; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.45)

“O inaugurator of the material energy, this wonderful creation works under the control of powerful time, which is divided into seconds, minutes, hours and years. This element of time, which extends for many millions of years, is but another form of Lord Visnu. For Your pastimes, You act as the controller of time, but You are the reservoir of all good fortune. Let me offer my full surrender unto Your Lordship.”

However, time exerts no influence over Lord Krsna and His abode:

na yatra kalo 'nimisam parah prabhuh kuto nu deva jagatam ya isire
na yatra sattvam na rajas tamas ca na vai vikaro na mahan pradhanam
(Bhagavatam, 2.2.17; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.7)

“In that transcendental state of labdhopasanti, there is no supremacy of devastating time, which controls even the celestial demigods who are empowered to rule over mundane creatures. (And what to speak of the demigods themselves?) Nor is there the mode of material goodness, nor passion, nor ignorance, nor even the false ego, nor the material Causal Ocean, nor the material nature.”

The calculation of time is elaborately described by Maitreya muni in the Bhagavatam, 3.11.4-39:

sa kalah paramanur vai yo bhunkte paramanutam
sato 'visesa-bhug yas tu sa kalah paramo mahan

“Atomic time is measured according to its covering a particular atomic space. That time which covers the unmanifest aggregate of atoms is called the great time.”

anur dvau paramanu syat trasarenus trayah smrtah
jalarka-rasmy-avagatah kham evanupatann agat

“The division of gross time is calculated as follows: two atoms make one double atom, and three double atoms make one hexatom. This hexatom is visible in the sunshine which enters through the holes of a window screen. One can clearly see that the hexatom goes up towards the sky.”

trasarenu-trikam bhunkte yah kalah sa trutih smrtah
sata-bhagas tu vedhah syat tais tribhis tu lavah smrtah

“The time duration needed for the integration of three trasarenus is called a truti, and one hundred trutis make one vedha. Three vedhas make one lava.”

nimesas tri-lavo jneya amnatas te trayah ksanah
ksanan panca viduh kastham laghu ta dasa panca ca

“The duration of time of three lavas is equal to one nimesa, the combination of three nimesas makes one ksana, five ksanas combined together make one kastha, and fifteen kasthas make one laghu.”

laghuni vai samamnata dasa panca ca nadika
te dve muhurtah praharah sad yamah sapta va nrnam

“Fifteen laghus make one nadika, which is also called a danda. Two dandas make one muhurta, and six or seven dandas make one fourth of a day or night, according to human calculation.”

dvadasardha-palonmanam caturbhis catur-angulaih
svarna-masaih krta-cchidram yavat prastha-jala-plutam

“The measuring pot for one nadika, or danda, can be prepared with a six-pala-weight [fourteen ounce] pot of copper, in which a hole is bored with a gold probe weighing four masa and measuring four fingers long. When the pot is placed on water, the time before the water overflows in the pot is called one danda.”

yamas catvaras catvaro martyanam ahani ubhe
paksah panca-dasahani suklah krsnas ca manada

“It is calculated that there are four praharas, which are also called yamas, in the day and four in the night of the human being. Similarly, fifteen days and nights are a fortnight, and there are two fortnights, white and black, in a month.”

tayoh samuccayo masah pitrnam tad ahar-nisam
dvau tav rtuh sad ayanam daksinam cottaram divi

“The aggregate of two fortnights is one month, and that period is one complete day and night for the Pita planets. Two of such months comprise one season, and six months comprise one complete movement of the sun from south to north.”

ayane cahani prahur vatsaro dvadasa smrtah
samvatsara-satam nrnam paramayur nirupitam

“Two solar movements make one day and night of the demigods, and that combination of day and night is one complete calendar year for the human being. The human being has a duration of life of one hundred years.”

graharksa-tara-cakra-sthah paramanv-adina jagat
samvatsaravasanena paryety animiso vibhuh

“Influential stars, planets, luminaries and atoms all over the universe are rotating in their respective orbits under the direction of the Supreme, represented by eternal kala.”

samvatsarah parivatsara ida-vatsara eva ca
anuvatsaro vatsaras ca viduraivam prabhasyate

“There are five different names for the orbits of the sun, moon, stars and luminaries in the firmament, and they each have their own samvatsara.”

yah srjya-saktim urudhocchvasayan sva-saktya
pumso 'bhramaya divi dhavati bhuta-bhedah
kalakhyaya gunamayam kratubhir vitanvams
tasmai balim harata vatsara-pancakaya

“O Vidura, the sun enlivens all living entities with his unlimited heat and light. He diminishes the duration of life of all living entities in order to release them from their illusion of material attachment, and he enlarges the path of elevation to the heavenly kingdom. He thus moves in the firmament with great velocity, and therefore everyone should offer him respects once every five years with all ingredients of worship.”

vidura uvaca
pitr-deva-manusyanam ayuh param idam smrtam
paresam gatim acaksva ye syuh kalpad bahir vidah

“Vidura said: I now understand the life durations of the residents of the Pita planets and heavenly planets as well as that of the human beings. Now kindly inform me of the durations of life of those greatly learned living entities who are beyond the range of a kalpa.”

bhagavan veda kalasya gatim bhagavato nanu
visvam vicaksate dhira yoga-raddhena caksusa

“O spiritually powerful one, you can understand the movements of eternal time, which is the controlling form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because you are a self-realized person, you can see everything by the power of mystic vision.”
maitreya uvaca

krtam treta dvaparam ca kalis ceti catur-yugam
divyair dvadasabhir varsaih savadhanam nirupitam

“Maitreya said: O Vidura, the four millenniums are called the Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali yugas. The aggregate number of years of all of these combined is equal to twelve thousand years of the demigods.”

catvari trini dve caikam krtadisu yatha-kramam
sankhyatani sahasrani dvi-gunani satani ca

“The duration of the Satya millennium equals 4,800 years of the years of the demigods; the duration of the Treta millennium equals 3600 years of the demigods; the duration of the Dvapara millennium equals 2,400 years; and that of the Kali millennium is 1,200 years of the demigods.”

sandhya-sandhyamsayor antar yah kalah sata-sankhyayoh
tam evahur yugam taj-jna yatra dharmo vidhiyate

“The transitional periods before and after every millennium, which are a few hundred years as aforementioned, are known as yuga-sandhyas, or the conjunctions of two millenniums, according to the expert astronomers. In those periods all kinds of religious activities are performed.”

dharmas catus-pan manujan krte samanuvartate
sa evanyesv adharmena vyeti padena vardhata

“O Vidura, in the Satya millennium mankind properly and completely maintained the principles of religion, but in other millenniums religion gradually decreased by one part as irreligion was proportionately admitted.”

tri-lokya yuga-sahasram bahir abrahmano dinam
tavaty eva nisa tata yan nimilati visva-srk

“Outside of the three planetary systems [Svarga, Martya and Patala], the four yugas multiplied by one thousand comprise one day on the planet of Brahma. A similar period comprises a night of Brahma, in which the creator of the universe goes to sleep.”

nisavasana arabdho loka-kalpo 'nuvartate
yavad dinam bhagavato manun bhunjams catur-dasa

“After the end of Brahma's night, the creation of the three worlds begins again in the daytime of Brahma, and they continue to exist through the life durations of fourteen consecutive Manus, or fathers of mankind.”

svam svam kalam manur bhunkte sadhikam hy eka-saptatim

“Each and every Manu enjoys a life of a little more than seventy-one sets of four millenniums.”

manvantaresu manavas tad-vamsya rsayah surah
bhavanti caiva yugapat suresas canu ye ca tan

”After the dissolution of each and every Manu, the next Manu comes in order, along with his descendants, who rule over the different planets; but the seven famous sages, and demigods like Indra and their followers, such as the Gandharvas, all appear simultaneously with Manu.”

esa dainan-dinah sargo brahmas trailokya-vartanah
tiryan-nr-pitr-devanam sambhavo yatra karmabhih

“In the creation, during Brahma's day, the three planetary systems—Svarga, Martya and Patala—revolve, and the inhabitants, including the lower animals, human beings, demigods and Pitas, appear and disappear in terms of their fruitive activities.”

manvantaresu bhagavan bibhrat sattvam sva-murtibhih
manv-adibhir idam visvam avaty udita-paurusah

“In each and every change of Manu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears by manifesting His internal potency in different incarnations, as Manu and others. Thus He maintains the universe by discovered power.”

tamo-matram upadaya pratisamruddha-vikramah
kalenanugatasesa aste tusnim dinatyaye

“At the end of the day, under the insignificant portion of the mode of darkness, the powerful manifestation of the universe merges in the darkness of night. By the influence of eternal time, the innumerable living entities remain merged in that dissolution, and everything is silent.”

tam evanv api dhiyante loka bhur-adayas trayah
nisayam anuvrttayam nirmukta-sasi-bhaskaram

“When the night of Brahma ensues, all the three worlds are out of sight, and the sun and the moon are without glare, just as in the due course of an ordinary night.”

tri-lokyam dahyamanayam saktya sankarsanagnina
yanty usmana maharlokaj janam bhrgv-adayo 'rditah

“The devastation takes place due to the fire emanating from the mouth of Sankarsana, and thus great sages like Bhrgu and other inhabitants of Maharloka transport themselves to Janaloka, being distressed by the warmth of the blazing fire which rages through the three worlds below.”

tavat tri-bhuvanam sadyah kalpantaidhita-sindhavah
plavayanty utkatatopa-canda-vateritormayah

“At the beginning of the devastation all the seas overflow, and hurricane winds blow very violently. Thus the waves of the seas become ferocious, and in no time at all the three worlds are full of water.”

antah sa tasmin salila aste 'nantasano harih
yoga-nidra-nimilaksah stuyamano janalayaih

“The Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, lies down in the water on the seat of Ananta, with His eyes closed, and the inhabitants of the Janaloka planets offer their glorious prayers unto the Lord with folded hands.”

evam-vidhair aho-ratraih kala-gatyopalaksitaih
apaksitam ivasyapi paramayur vayah-satam

“Thus the process of the exhaustion of the duration of life exists for every one of the living beings, including Lord Brahma. One's life endures for only one hundred years, in terms of the times in the different planets.”

yad ardham ayusas tasya parardham abhidhiyate
purvah parardho 'pakranto hy aparo 'dya pravartate

“The one hundred years of Brahma's life are divided into two parts, the first half and the second half. The first half of the duration of Brahma's life is already over, and the second half is now current.”

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.”

tasyaiva cante kalpo 'bhud yam padmam abhicaksate
yad dharer nabhi-sarasa asil loka-saroruham

“The millennium which followed the first Brahma millennium is known as the Padma-kalpa because in that millennium the universal lotus flower grew out of the navel reservoir of water of the Personality of Godhead, Hari.”

ayam tu kathitah kalpo dvitiyasyapi bharata
varaha iti vikhyato yatrasic chukaro harih

“O descendant of Bharata, the first millennium in the second half of the life of Brahma is also known as the Varaha millennium because the Personality of Godhead appeared in that millennium as the hog incarnation.”

kalo 'yam dvi-parardhakhyo nimesa upacaryate
avyakrtasyanantasya hy anader jagad-atmanah

“The duration of the two parts of Brahma's life, as above mentioned, is calculated to be equal to one nimesa [less than a second] for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is unchanging and unlimited and is the cause of all causes of the universe.”

kalo 'yam paramanv-adir dvi-parardhanta isvarah
naivesitum prabhur bhumna isvaro dhama-maninam

“Eternal time is certainly the controller of different dimensions, from that of the atom up to the superdivisions of the duration of Brahma's life; but, nevertheless, it is controlled by the Supreme. Time can control only those who are body conscious, even up to the Satyaloka or the other higher planets of the universe.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Durga is the personified external energy of the Lord

The external potency of the Lord is called prakrti or bahiranga-sakti, the energy responsible for all the material manifestations. It is thus defined by the sastras:

satvadi-guna-trayasrayo dravyam prakrtir nitya ca sa
gaur anady-antavati sa janitri bhuta-bhavini
(Culika Upanisad; Govinda-bhasya, Introduction)

“Material nature is like a cow. She never had a beginning. She is the mother of all living entities. She is black, white, and red. She is a cow whose milk fulfills all of Lord Visnu’s desires.”

trigunam taj-jagad-yonir anadi-prabhavapyayam
acetana parartha ca nitya satata-vikriya
trigunam karminam ksetram prakrte rupam ucyate
(Visnu Purana, 1.2.21; Govinda-bhasya, 1.4.10)

“Material nature consists of the three modes. She is the mother of the material universes. She is never born and never dies. She is unconscious, meant for the Lord’s pleasure, eternal and unchanging. She is said to be field where the conditioned souls perform their actions under the spell of the modes.”

The mode of goodness is the cause of illumination, self-satisfaction, knowledge, etc. The mode of passion causes misery, sensual desires, fruitive work, attachment, greed, etc. The mode of ignorance causes negligence, laziness, sleep, madness, darkness, illusion, etc. The balance stage of these modes in the universe causes the universal devastation. Their misbalance produces the creation of all material elements and the material bodies of the conditioned souls. Thus, everything that exists inside the universe is composed of a certain combination of the modes, among which one is always predominant. For example, in the animals the mode of ignorance is prominent; in the human beings, the mode of passion; and in the demigods, the mode of goodness. By the interaction of the modes, the mahat-tattva emanates, which is the substance from which all the material elements will further appear. By the interaction of the mahat-tattva with the modes, the ahankara becomes manifested, which causes the living entities to falsely identify themselves with the material body. This is explained thus:

tebhyah samabhavat sutram mahan sutrena samyutah
tato vikurvato jato yo 'hankaro vimohanah
(Bhagavatam, 11.24.6; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.6)

“From these modes arose the primeval sutra, along with the mahat-tattva. By the transformation of the mahat-tattva was generated the false ego, the cause of the living entities' bewilderment.”

By the interaction of the ahankara with the mode of goodness, the mind and the presiding deities of the senses appear. By the interaction of the ahankara with the mode of passion, the five knowledge-acquiring senses and the five working senses appear. By the interaction of the ahankara with the mode of ignorance, the five sense objects become manifest, from which the five gross elements- ether, air, fire, water, earth- appear.

vaikarikas taijasas ca tamasas cety aham tri-vrt
tan-matrendriya-manasam karanam cid-acin-mayah
(Bhagavatam, 11.24.7; Govinda-bhasya, Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.Adhikarana 7, Intro.)

“False ego, which is the cause of physical sensation, the senses, and the mind, encompasses both spirit and matter and manifests, in three varieties: in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.”

arthas tan-matrikaj jajne tamasad indriyani ca
taijasad devata asann ekadasa ca vaikrtat
(Bhagavatam, 11.24.7-8)

“From false ego in the mode of ignorance came the subtle physical perceptions, from which the gross elements were generated. From false ego in the mode of passion came the senses, and from false ego in the mode of goodness arose the eleven demigods.”

mahat-tattvad vikurvanad bhagavad-virya-sambhavat
kriya-saktir ahankaras tri-vidhah samapadyata
vaikarikas taijasas ca tamasas ca yato bhavah
manasas cendriyanam ca bhutanam mahatam api
(Ibidem, 3.26.23-24; Govinda-bhasya, 2.4.6)

“The material ego springs up from the mahat-tattva, which evolved from the Lord's own energy. The material ego is endowed predominantly with active power of three kinds—good, passionate and ignorant. It is from these three types of material ego that the mind, the senses of perception, the organs of action, and the gross elements evolve.”

In summary, prakrti expands into mahat-tattva, false-ego, intelligence, mind, ether, air, fire, water, earth, the five knowledge-acquiring senses, the five working senses, and the five sense objects, thus totalizing twenty four material elements, which comprise the field of activities for the living entity.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The living entities are also part of the Lord’s internal energy, but due to their tendency to be situated either in the spiritual world or in the material world, they are called tatastha-sakti, the marginal potency. Lord Krsna explains:

bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me bhinna prakrtir astadha

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.”

apareyam itas tv anyam prakrtim viddhi me param
jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat

“Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.”
(Bhagavad-gita 7.4-5; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.2)

Being part and parcel of the Lord, the jivas also share some of His qualities in minute proportion, among which consciousness is the main one by which they are distinguished from inert matter. Though possessing spiritual nature and eternal existence, the sruti clearly makes distinction between the living entities and the Supreme Lord:

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

"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 fulfills their desires according to their merits.”
(Katha Upanisad, 2.2.13; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.16)

This statement also corroborates the fact that every jiva is a distinct being, endowed with consciousness limited to his particular body. His fragmental dimension and eternality are thus corroborated:

balagra-sata-bhagasya satadha kalpitasya ca
bhago jivah vijneyah sa canantyaya kalpate

“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of these parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is equal to the dimension of the spirit soul. This soul must be understood as fragmental and meant for eternal liberation.”
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 5.9; Govinda-bhasya, 1.3.25)

The living entities are often referred to in the scriptures as the amsas or vibhinnamsas of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as He declares:

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.”
(Bhagavad-gita, 15.7; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.43)

This is confirmed by the following statement:

etavann asya mahimato jyayams ca purusah
pado 'sya sarva-bhutani tri-pad asyamrtam divi

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of glory and opulence. His one foot is all material elements and all living entities, and His three feet are the eternal spiritual world."
(Chandogya Upanisad, 3.12.6; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.24)

The above quotes from the sruti suffice to refute the false theory that the living entities and the Supreme Lord are one and the same in the liberated stage by proving that the jivas are eternally His subordinate particles. By using the word ‘sanatana’, Lord Krsna refutes the idea that the soul remains as a separate unite as far as his material designations exist, after which he becomes one and the same as the Supreme, for ‘eternally’ obviously means either in the conditioned stage or in the liberated stage. This is further corroborated:

na hi vijnatur vijnanad viparilopo vidyate

“The soul is always conscious, and consciousness can never be separated from it, because the soul and its consciousness can never be destroyed.”
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.3.30; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.29)

Since the jiva is eternally conscious and can never be deprived of any of these two attributes, it is natural to conclude that in the liberated stage the living entity remains as a single conscious being eternally.

The consciousness pervades through the body just as the sun through the universe, and for this reason one is conscious of bodily perceptions in any limb. This perception, however, is limited to a single body, for whatever is experienced by one cannot be experienced by anyone else simultaneously, such as in the case of a headache. This common sense example proves that each jiva is unique in his identity, and his subjective experiences are restricted to his own perception. The same is not true regarding Paramatma, the Lord in the heart of everyone, for although He is one and the same, He can expand Himself unlimitedly as to observe everything that the living entities think, speak,
feel, desire or do. Both the sruti and the smrti give many evidences for this fact:

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

"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.”
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 4.6-7; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.2)

Lord Krsna says:

upadrastanumanta ca bharta bhokta mahesvarah
paramatmeti capy ukto dehe 'smin purusah parah

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.”
(Bhagavad-gita, 13.23; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.7)

The soul, being intrinsically a spiritual being, should never be identified with any material element, gross or subtle. It is only due to the illusory potency of the Lord that the soul identifies himself with a body composed of five gross elements and with a subtle body composed of mind, intelligence and false ego. In the liberated stage, however, the soul exists free from all these coverings in a spiritual body consisting in sac-cid-ananda.

Another feature the jivas share with the Supreme Lord is the desire to perform activities and the desire to enjoy. However, only in the original constitutional position can the jivas act in the pure spiritual platform and enjoy transcendental rasa, while in the material world, due to influence of the false ego and the consequent bodily identification, they assume the authorship of the activities that are indeed an interaction of the three modes of material nature. This is so explained by Lord Krsna:

prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah
ahankara-vimudhatma 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.”
( Bhagavad-gita, 3.27; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.Adhikarana 14, Introduction)

But all this cycle of material activities which the jiva is illusory claiming to perform have behind them a supervisor, as stated above, the Lord in heart, Who is inspiring, directing and reminding every living entity in the course of his respective karma. He guides the soul from within in the form of the Supersoul, and from without in the form of the holy scriptures and the spiritual master. It is said:

esa eva sadhu karma karayati

"The Lord engages the living entity in pious activities."
(Kausitaki Upanisad, 3.8; Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.41)

The Vedanta confirms:

parat tu tac-chruteh

“The doership of the jiva is indeed given to him by the Supreme doer.”

Then, which kind of activity would be performed by the liberated jiva in the spiritual world? By constitution, the jiva is an eternal servant of the Lord, therefore only when reinstated in that capacity one can attain full bliss. One of the pratipadya-vakyas of gaudiya vaisnavism is thus enunciated by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu:

jivera 'svarupa' haya—krsnera 'nitya-dasa'
krsnera 'tatastha-sakti' 'bhedabheda-prakasa
"It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna because he is the marginal energy of Krsna and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord.”
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 20.108; Govinda-bhasya, 3.4.43)

Even in the material world the jivas retain their status as servants, though in a perverted way. Thus, one becomes the servant of family or society, while the root purpose is to serve one’s own senses, either individually or collectively. Innumerable statements from the scriptures prove that even in the ultimate stage of liberation the living entities engage eternally in the devotional service of the Lord, thus refuting the theory that they merge in the Supreme and lose their identities, for it is not possible to speak of service without individual existence. This view is supported in this way:

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.”
(Srimad Bhagavatam , 3.29.13; Govinda-bhasya, 3.4.42)

For attainment of liberation, it is imperative that one receive instructions from a bona fide spiritual master and render service unto him. Although the guru is also a jiva, due to his elevated position in the path of bhakti-yoga, he is able to take the disciple to Lord Krsna. As Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti prays:

saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya vande guroh sri-caranaravindam

"The spiritual master is honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and is followed by all authorities. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master, who is a bona fide representative of Sri Hari."
(Gurvastakam, 7; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.45)

Here the word ‘kintu’ is very significant, for simply because the guru should be shown the same respect as God, one should not erroneously think that he is God. Therefore, our acarya says that the spiritual master is worshipped as God, ‘but’ he is not God, rather he is the beloved of God. Because he is so dear to the Lord, he has the power to deliver the Lord to whomever he wishes. His oneness with God consists in his spiritual quality, dovetailing his soul to God’s will, never in quantity or identity. The scriptural statements used by the advaitavadis are better understood from this angle of vision. For example:

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

"One who sees the 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."
(Mundaka Upanisad, 3.1.3; Govinda-bhasya, 1.2.23)

Here the word ‘samyam’ mean similarity, not oneness, thus implying that the jiva still remains an individual, but only his status in the liberated stage is different from that in the conditioned stage, otherwise by affirming that the living entity attains a different ontological state after liberation would contradict the sastric evidence that the soul is immutable, never undergoing any change . Even in the conditioned life, the soul is never touched by matter, and thus always keeps his own transcendental nature, though circumstantially covered. This difference and non-difference is also implied in the following statement:

brahmaiva san brahmapnoti

"After becoming Brahman, the individual spirit soul attains Brahman."
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.4.6; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.17)

Here it is clearly mentioned that the soul is Brahman and that he attains Brahman. Now, it is neither logical nor feasible to say that one attains something that he already is. Therefore, the simple conclusion is that we must qualify the terms in order to understand that the Brahman soul attains the Brahman abode where he enjoys a similar Brahman nature with the Parabrahma, Who is quantitatively and ontologically a being distinct from all the other beings. It is this disassociation from the Lord and His abode that makes the status of the conditioned entities different from that of the liberated ones, for under no condition the jiva ever loses his status as Brahman. When the scriptures speak of the Supreme Lord as the all in all, that refers to His all-pervasive feature that propels all the universal elements and the living beings to act, for none of them has any independent power apart from the will of God. This obviously does not support the pantheistic view that everything is God, as if He had become amalgamated or diluted in His creation. Certain statements from the sastra should be interpreted according to the philosophical context instead of the immediate literal meaning, for otherwise we would end up with innumerable contradictions and unable to draw any conclusion. For example, let us consider the following prayer:

yo 'yam tavagato deva samipam devata-ganah
sa tvam eva jagat-srasta yatah sarva-gato bhavan

"Whoever comes before You, be he a demigod, is part of You, since they are all created by You, Who is All-pervading, O Supreme Personality of Godhead."
(Visnu Purana, 1.9.69; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.30)

Here one should not hastily conclude that the demigods are also God, for this is not what it is meant. Moreover, it would be meaningless for the demigods to offer prayers to God unless they are distinct from one another. What is philosophically meant here is the fact that all souls and their material bodies are expansions of the energy of the Lord and are maintained by Him, therefore there is no possibility of their existence apart from Him, since He pervades all and everything. But at the same time there is no scope for stating that on this basis ontological diversity is not a reality, for the Lord is still clearly referred to as the Supreme All-pervasive. If instead of a Supreme Person, what pervades everything is the same common principle present everywhere, then there would be no need to glorify anyone, nor there would be any difference between the prowess of one being and another, nor any kind of dependence.

Then, again the monists may propose that the jiva is indeed Brahman covered by avidya, and once this ignorance is removed by the process of knowledge, the soul is reinstated as Brahman just like sky inside an earthen pot is again one with the outside sky once the pot is broken, or just like the same sun is reflected in innumerable reservoirs of water. These illustrations, however, are defective to describe the soul either in his conditioned or liberated phase. Since the impersonalists consider Brahman an undistinguished agglomerate of consciousness, how it could be possibly divided and covered by avidya? This would contradict both common sense and the scriptural descriptions of the soul’s indivisible nature and Brahman’s supremacy. And if Brahman is impersonal and formless, how could it be reflected at all? Otherwise, in the given illustration we could wonder why the wind and the directions-both formless- don’t display any reflection, though situated in the sky just like the sun. The fact here is that just like the sky, the soul’s nature does not change after liberation, but simply gets rid of its material designations. Moreover, no sane man would say that the sun in inside the glass of water, for anyone can understand that the reflection is due to a mere particle of its rays that are temporarily appearing on the surface of the water. Further evidence from the sruti confirms the eternal difference between the jiva and the Lord:

prthag-atmanam preritam ca matva justas tatas tenamrtatvam eti

"When one understands that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the individual spirit souls are eternally distinct entities, then he may become qualified for liberation, and live eternally in the spiritual world."
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 1.6; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.2)

By rejecting this siddhanta and accepting the monist one, several incongruities accrue. For example, it would not be possible to ascertain who is a bona fide spiritual master, for one who realized the same undivided spiritual nature in everyone would contradict his own philosophy by seeing someone as a different person to be accepted as a disciple. Thus, if one does accept a disciple, he is not a realized monist; and if he does not, nobody would be instructed. In any case there would be no possibility of a disciplic succession, what would violate the Vedic injunctions.

A doubt may be raised regarding the origin of the jivas: if everything is a creation of God, we may conclude that the souls are also made by Him. Some statements of the scriptures may apparently give this idea:

yatah prasuta jagatah prasuti toyena jivan vyasasarja bhumyam

"From the Supreme Personality of Godhead the universe was born. With water He created the living entities on the earth."
(Maha-Narayana Upanisad, 1.4; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.Adhikarana 11, Introduction)

san-mulah saumyemah sarvah prajah

"O gentle one, all living entities have their roots in the Supreme."
(Chandogya Upanisad, 6.8.6)

But we should understand that there is no contradiction in the sastra, therefore when it is mentioned that the souls are born, that is obviously referring to the material body accepted by the jiva, who is eternally unborn, as already stated:

na jayate mriyate va kadacin nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire
“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”
(Bhagavad-gita, 2.20; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.16)

That the individual spirit soul was never born is also declared in the sruti:

jnajnau dvav ajav isanisau

"Neither the Supreme Personality of Godhead nor the individual spirit souls were ever born."
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 1.9; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.16)

It is only a matter of worldly convention to say that such-and-such person was born or died, as well as holding ceremonies like jata-karma, for indeed all these usages are directly applied with reference to the body, not the soul. The individual spirit soul is different from the external material body and resides in it like a passenger:

sa va ayam puruso jayamanah sariram abhisampadyamanah sa utkraman mriyamanah

"At the moment of birth the spirit soul enters a material body and at the moment of death the soul leaves the body."
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.3.8; Govinda-bhasya, 1.3.43)

jivopetam vava kiledam mriyate na jivo mriyate

"The soul resides in the material body. When the body dies the soul does not die."
(Chandogya Upanisad, 6.11.3)

How is the nature of the soul to be understood? It is perceivable that the conscious living entities are cognizant of themselves (dharmi-jnana) and of the external world (dharma-bhuta-jnana), therefore endowed with knowledge. Some claim that the soul is knowledge itself, while the gaudiya siddhanta is that the jiva is the knower and has knowledge as his attribute, thus being both of them simultaneously. This is based on some particular passages from the sruti, like the following one:

esa hi drasta sprasta srota rasayita ghrata manta boddha karta vijnanatma purusah

"The individual spirit soul is the seer, the toucher, the hearer, the taster, the smeller, the thinker, the determiner, the doer, and the knower."
(Prasna Upanisad, 4.9)

In the Smrti-sastra it is said:

jnata jnana-svarupo 'yam

"The individual spirit soul is both knower and knowledge."
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.17)

Some consider the soul’s knowledge to be temporary, acquired under some specific circumstances, which once given up leave the jiva again in his original state characterized by unconsciousness. They believe that it is the mere contact of the living entity with the mind that produces the perception of knowledge, otherwise the soul is incapable of perception just like one in a state of dreamless sleep does not perceive anything. They claim that the mind brings about cognition to the soul just like an iron rod put in the fire acquires fiery attributes and that if knowledge were eternal it would not be possible for the soul to be unconscious at any stage like deep sleep. Moreover, if knowledge were an intrinsic attribute of the soul there would be no need of any sense organ such as the mind and the fire acquiring knowledge senses, for under any condition the soul would be able to experience cognition. The Vedic conclusion, however, refutes all these arguments in the following way:

avinasi va are ayam atmanucitti-dharma

"The soul's consciousness is never destroyed."
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.5.14; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.26)

Cognition cannot be produced by the contact of the soul with the mind, for none of them is constituted by parts nor is the soul ever subject to any factual interaction with any material element. The soul’s eternal knowledge is simply temporarily covered due to the influence of the Lord’s external illusory potency and again revived by the process of devotional service unto Him:

yatha na kriyate jyotsna mala-praksalanan maneh
dosa-prahanan na jnanam atmanah kriyate tatha

"As by washing away the dirt that covered a jewel, the jewel's splendor is not created but merely uncovered, so by removing the dirt of materialism that covered the soul, the soul's splendor is not created, but merely uncovered.

yathodapana-khananat kriyate na jalantaram
sad eva niyate vyaktim asatah sambhavah kutah

"As by digging a well, water is brought forth but not created, so by spiritual activities the nature of the soul is brought forth but not created. How would it be possible to create the soul's qualities from nothing?

tatha heya-guna-dhvamsad avarodhadayo gunah
prakasyante na janyante nitya evatmano hi te

"When material faults are destroyed, the soul's qualities become revealed. The soul's qualities are eternal, they are never created."
(Visnu smrti, 104. 55-57; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.26)

Knowledge exists eternally along with the spiritual soul and cannot be alienated in any circumstance, just like fire and its light exist concomitantly, therefore there is no contradiction in calling the soul knowledge itself or saying that it possesses knowledge as his attribute. However, it can be latent or dormant in specific conditions like under the material coverings. The example given is that in childhood one’s procreative power is in a latent phase to be manifested later. This is described in the following words:

yad vai tan na vijanati vijanan vaitad vijneyam na vijanati na hi vijnatur vijnanat viparilopo vidyate avinasitvan na tu tad dvitiyam asti tato 'nyad vibhaktam yad vijaniyat

"In the state of dreamless sleep the soul is both conscious and unconscious. The soul is always conscious, and consciousness can never be separated from it, because the soul and its consciousness can never be destroyed. Still, in the state of dreamless sleep no object is presented before the soul for it to be conscious of."
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad, 4.3.30; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.29)

If knowledge did not exist in the soul as an intrinsic attribute, then even in the awaken stage it would not be possible to apprehend anything, for the senses themselves are mere material elements which once left by the soul are simply dead matter. The soul’s spiritual senses, however, are also eternal and are also non-different from the soul. They can be fully manifested only in the spiritual world or in this world by those who are jivan-muktas, liberated even before leaving the material world.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Once His status was understood, the next inquiry should be regarding the relation between the Supreme Lord and His energies.

In the sruti it is said:

na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate
na tat-samas cabhyadhikas ca drsyate
parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate
svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 6.8; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.1)

“He does not possess bodily form like that of an ordinary living entity. There is no difference between His body and His soul. He is absolute. All His senses are transcendental. Any one of His senses can perform the action of any other sense. Therefore, no one is greater than Him or equal to Him. His potencies are multifarious, and thus His deeds are automatically performed as a natural sequence.”

His energies work as multifarious agents to his supreme will, manifesting anything material or spiritual. They are in no respect independent of Him, but rather work fully under His supervision. The different energies are thus classified:

visnu-saktih para prokta
ksetrajnakhya tatha para
trtiya saktir ucyate
(Visnu Purana, 6.7.61; Govinda-bhasya, 2.1.30)

"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 entitles, 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."

The Skanda Purana also clearly distinguishes the potencies of the Lord in this way:

aparam tv aksaram ya
sa prakrtir jada-rupini
srih para prakrtih prokta
cetana visnu-samsraya
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-syamantaka, 2.24)

“The Lord has a material potency and a spiritual potency. The material potency manifests an external form of dull matter. Goddess Sri is the Lord’s spiritual potency. She has a spiritual form. She takes shelter of Lord Visnu.”

Being the feminine counterpart of Lord Visnu, Laksmi shares His potencies and opulences:

nityaiva sa jagan-mata
visnoh srir anapayini
yatha sarva-gato visnus
tathaiveyam dvijottama
(Visnu Purana, 1.8.17; Govinda-bhasya,3.3.40)

"The goddess of fortune is the eternal companion of Lord Visnu. She is the mother of the universe. O best of the brahmanas, as Lord Visnu is all-pervading, so is she also."

atma-vidya ca devi tvam
ka tv anya tvam rte devi
sarvam yajna-mayam vapuh
(Ibidem, 1.9.118)

“O Goddess Laksmi, You are full of transcendental knowledge. You are the giver of liberation. Who is glorious like You? Your form is made of sacred yajnas.”

These statements defeat the wrong conception that Laksmi is a common living entity, for the jiva cannot at any stage be all-pervading nor the giver of liberation.

Being the eternal companion of Lord Visnu, Laksmi accompanies Him wherever and whenever He incarnates to display His pastimes, and for this purpose, She always assumes a compatible form. This fact is clearly explained thus:

devatve deva-deheyam
manusyatve ca manusi
visnor dehanurupam vai
karoty esatmanas tanum
(Visnu Purana, 1.9.143)

“When the Lord appears as a demigod, She (the Goddess of fortune) takes the form of a demigoddess, and when He appears as a human being, She takes a humanlike form. Thus She assumes a body corresponding to that accepted by Lord Visnu in order to assist in His pastimes.”

The internal energy of Krsna is called yoga-maya or antaranga-sakti. This is the energy that predominates in the spiritual world and the one that makes possible for the Lord to enjoy unlimited pastimes in the material world, and is known as His consort, as stated:

sris ca te laksmis ca patnyau
(Sukla Yajur-Veda, 31.22; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.18)

"O Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri and Laksmi are Your wives."

The internal energy is further classified into sandhini, samvit and hladini:

hladini sandhini samvit
tvayy eka sarva-samsthitau
hlada-tapakari misra
tvayi no guna-varjite
(Visnu Purana, 1.12.69; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.42)

“O Lord, You are the support of everything. The three attributes hladini, sandhini and samvit 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.”

Rupa Gosvami explains in the third wave of his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:

“From the existential aspect (sat) of the svarupa-sakti of the Lord, the sandhini potency is eternally extant. From the cognitive aspect (cit), the samvit potency is manifest and from the aspect of transcendental bliss (ananda), the hladini potency is present. These three aspects eternally permeate the specialized function (visesa- vrtti) of svarupa-sakti, or in other words visuddha sattva. However, sometimes the presence of the hladini aspect within visuddha-sattva becomes prominent, and the influence of the other two aspects is less. Sometimes the sandhini aspect becomes prominent, and samvit and hladini are less, and sometimes the samvit aspect becomes prominent, and hladini and sandhini are less.”

Gaudiya vaisnavism identifies Srimati Radharani as hladini sakti personified and the original source of all other incarnations of Krsna’s energy, just as He is the avatari (Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.45; 3.3.42). The Supreme Absolute Truth must necessarily comprise everything that might exist. Therefore, God would be incomplete if He were simply a male personality. Being eternally united and distinct simultaneously, Sri Radha and Sri Krsna are the fountainhead of all emanations. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, however, is the embodiment of both of Them in a unique mood, as Krsnadas Kaviraj Gosvami explains:

radha krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir asmad
ekatmanav api bhuvi pura deha-bhedam gatau tau
caitanyakhyam prakatam adhuna tad-dvayam caikyam aptam
radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi krsna-svarupam
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi 1.5)

“The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krsna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Radha and Krsna are one in Their identity, They separated Themselves eternally. Now these two transcendental identities have again united, in the form of Sri Krsna Caitanya. I bow down to Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Srimati Radharani although He is Krsna Himself.”

Srimati Radharani is described as being the original source of all sakti-tattva incarnations just as Govinda is the Avatari from Whom all Visnu-tattva incarnations emanate. To support this view, the gaudiya vaisnava acaryas give the following quotations:

dve parsve candravali radhika ca (…)
yasya amse laksmi-durgadika saktih
(Purusa-bodhini Upanisad, quoted in the Prameya-ratnavali, 1.15)

“In the land of Gokula in Mathura-mandala, Lord Krsna resides. At His two sides are Radha and Candravali. Laksmi, Durga, and the Lord’s potencies are expansions of Sri Radha.”

devi krsnamayi prokta
radhika para-devata
sarva-laksmimayi sarva-
kantih sammohini para
(Gautamiya Tantra, Ibidem)

“The transcendental goddess Srimati Radharani is the direct counterpart of Sri Krsna. She is the central figure for all the Goddesses of fortune. She possesses all the attractiveness to attract the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. She is the primeval internal potency of the Lord.”

The Supreme Lord along with His superior energy is the instrumental cause of the material world, while his external energy along with the marginal energy is the efficient cause.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lord Krsna's Svarupa

In the material world there is a clear distinction between the living entities and their bodies or between the field of activities and its knower. In the spiritual world, however, such a distinction does not exist, for there everything is composed of sat, cid and ananda. In this way, Lord Krsna’s body and His very self are one and the same, being transcendental. His spiritual body is described in these words:

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

“Lord Krsna’s eyes are like lotus flowers. His complexion is like a monsoon cloud. His garments are like lightning. He has two hands. He is rich with transcendental knowledge. He is adorned with a garland of forest flowers. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
(Gopala-tapani Upanisad, 1.10; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.38)

His presence in the material world does not affect His transcendental nature, for under any condition He remains the Supreme and any form He accepts for His pastimes is fully spiritual without any tinge of the modes of material nature:

ajo 'pi sann avyayatma bhutanam isvaro 'pi san
prakrtim svam adhisthaya sambhavamy atma-mayaya

“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.”
(Bhagavad-gita, 4.6; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.10)

By His omnipotence, He pervades the whole universe in His paramatma feature, and at the same time is one and the same Personality of Godhead:

gunesu guna-samye ca guna-vyatikare tatha
eka eva paro hy atma bhagavan isvaro 'vyayah
pratyag-atma-svarupena drsya-rupena ca svayam
vyapya-vyapaka-nirdesyo hy anirdesyo 'vikalpitah
kevalanubhavananda- svarupah paramesvarah
mayayantarhitaisvarya iyate guna-sargaya

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme controller, who is infallible and indefatigable, is present in different forms of life, from the inert living beings [sthavara], such as the plants, to Brahma, the foremost created living being. He is also present in the varieties of material creations and in the material elements, the total material energy and the modes of material nature [sattva-guna, rajo-guna and tamo-guna], as well as the unmanifested material nature and the false ego. Although He is one, He is present everywhere, and He is also the transcendental Supersoul, the cause of all causes, who is present as the observer in the cores of the hearts of all living entities. He is indicated as that which is pervaded and as the all-pervading Supersoul, but actually He cannot be indicated. He is changeless and undivided. He is simply perceived as the supreme sac-cid-ananda. Being covered by the curtain of the external energy, to the atheist He appears nonexistent.”
(Bhagavatam, 7.6.20-23; Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.38)

Lord Brahma states that Lord Krsna’s body is composed of transcendental elements:

tam ekam govindam sac-cid-ananda-vigraham panca-padam vrndavana-sura-bhuruha-talasinam satatam sa-marud-gano 'ham paramaya stutya tosayami

"With eloquent prayers, I and the Maruts please Lord Govinda, whose form is eternal and full of knowledge and bliss, who stays under a desire tree in Vrndavana, and who is this five-word mantra."
(Gopala-tapani Upanisad, 1.38; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.62)

The Lord may assume innumerable forms. One of the prominent ones is that of Lord Visnu with four arms, as the Bhagavatam describes:

tam adbhutam balakam ambujeksanam catur-bhujam sankha-gadady-udayudham
srivatsa-laksmam gala-sobhi-kaustubham pitambaram sandra-payoda-saubhagam
maharha-vaidurya-kirita-kundala- tvisa parisvakta-sahasra-kuntalam
uddama-kancy-angada-kankanadibhir virocamanam vasudeva aiksata

“Vasudeva then saw the newborn child, who had very wonderful lotuslike eyes and who bore in His four hands the four weapons sankha, cakra, gada and padma. On His chest was the mark of Srivatsa and on His neck the brilliant Kaustubha gem. Dressed in yellow, His body blackish like a dense cloud, His scattered hair fully grown, and His helmet and earrings sparkling uncommonly with the valuable gem Vaidurya, the child, decorated with a brilliant belt, armlets, bangles and other ornaments, appeared very wonderful.”
(Bhagavatam, 10.3.9-10)

In the battle of Kuruksetra, Arjuna requested Krsna to exhibit His four-armed feature:

kiritinam gadinam cakra-hastam
icchami tvam drastum aham tathaiva
tenaiva rupena catur-bhujena
sahasra-baho bhava visva-murte

“O universal form, O thousand-armed Lord, I wish to see You in Your four-armed form, with helmeted head and with club, wheel, conch and lotus flower in Your hands. I long to see You in that form.”
(Bhagavad-gita, 11.46)

It should not be considered that there is any ontological difference between the different incarnations of the Lord, but here the philosophical idea is diversity in oneness, therefore there is a gradation of display of potencies by which the avataras are distinctly classified as lila-avataras, guna-avataras, purusa-avataras, yuga-avataras, manvantara-avataras and saktyavesa-avataras. Due to His unique transcendental attributes, the two-armed form of Govinda is considered the utmost- the Avatari- and attractive to all, including His avataras.

The Lord expands Himself in quadruple forms, called catur-vyuhas (Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.15). They are further classified as pertaining to Dvarka when He manifests his bhauma-lila, or pastimes in the material world, and as pertaining to the spiritual world. The former ones are direct expansions of svayam bhagavan Sri Krsna, while the latter emanate from Narayana, Who is the Lord of the Vaikuntha planets. The first expansion of Narayana is called Vasudeva, the presiding deity of consciousness; from Vasudeva comes Sankarsana, the presiding deity of the living entities; from Him comes Pradyumna, the presiding deity of senses and the mind; and from Him comes Aniruddha, the presiding deity of the ahankara. Sankarsana is identified as the first purusa incarnation, Who enters the causal ocean to manifest the material creation, therefore called Karanodakasayi Visnu. At the end of the life span of each Brahma there is a total devastation of all the brahmandas and all the living entities who could not attain the ultimate liberation merge in the body of Lord Sankarsana. When again it is time to manifest the creation, it is He who glances at prakrti, and it is from Him that the jivas again emanate. This whole cycle is accomplished in a mere inhalation and exhalation of Sankarsana: when He exhales, all the brahmandas come out from His pores; when He inhales, all the universes are absorbed in His body. The second purusa-avatara is identified as Pradyumna, Who enters each brahmanda and is known as Garbhodakasayi Visnu. From Him comes the third purusa-avatara, Lord Brahma, and Lord Siva. Aniruddha is the third purusa-avatara and is known as Ksirodakasayi Visnu and Paramatma, the One Who enters everyone’s heart and every atom. He sustains the cosmos by His potencies and controls the movements of all beings.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Visnu-tattva (Isvara-tattva)

The existence (satta) and nature (svarupa) of God have been largely described in all sruti and smrti. Being so, the theistic philosophical systems that accept the authority of the Vedas are called ‘astika’ (asti-there is), referring to the open acceptance of a Supreme controller over all the other elements. On the other hand, those who deny the authority of the Vedas, and consequently the existence of God, are called ‘nastika’ (nasti- there is not).

Those who do not accept the existence of God argue that the concept of God as the creator of the universe is untenable, because God does not possess a body for the purpose of creating the universe. But such arguments are not valid because, as stated in the sruti, Isvara can create the universe by his will (sankalpa) without the aid of a body. Neither inference (anumana) nor the statements of the atheists can disprove the existence of God. Sruti or revealed scripture is the sole authority for knowing the existence of God.

The advaitavadis question the view that Brahman is to be known through the revealed scripture. They emphasise the point that Brahman, as the transcendental reality, is self established and is beyond all speech and thought. It cannot be grasped by the intellect. Thus the Upanisadic texts say that its reality is unperceivable and ungraspable:

yat tad adresyam agrahyam (Mundaka Upanisad, I.1.5)

Another text states-

yato vaco nivartante aprapya manasa saha (Taitiriya Upanisad, II.9.1l)

“From whom speech and mind turn away, because they are unable to reach him.” Brahman is therefore avedya - beyond all empirical pramanas and cognition.

The vaisnavas criticise this view. It is not correct to say Brahman cannot be known by means of scriptural texts. The very Upanisads say that Brahman is only knowable by sruti. Thus the sruti says-

sarve vedah yat padam amananti (Katha Upanisad, II-15)

"All Vedas speak of this nature". Several texts affirm that Brahman is describable by words and also knowable:

tasyoditi nama (Chandogya Upanisad, I.6.7)

The Upanisadic text which speaks of Brahman as beyond words and thought can only mean that Brahman which is infinite cannot be adequately described by words, and cannot be also known in all its fullness by our finite minds. If this interpretation were not accepted, there would be conflict with both the earlier and later statements made in the same Upanisadic passage.

Another impersonalist argument is that the terms Brahman, atma, etc. mentioned in the Upanisads do not have a primary import (mukhyartha) in respect of Brahman, but they only have a secondary meaning(laksana). That is, these words do not refer directly to Brahman, but indirectly. This is explained in the analogy of the moon seen through the branch of a tree (sakha-candra-nyaya). The moon visible as if close to the tree branch is made use of to identify the real moon which is far distant in the sky. Though there is no connection between the branch and the moon, the former serves the purpose of identifying the moon in the sky. In the same way, the term Brahman in the Upanisads serves to convey the knowledge of Brahman without having direct reference to Brahman.

According to the vaisnava schools, there is no difficulty at all in accepting the primary import in respect of Parabrahman, the higher reality postulated by the impersonalists. The word Brahman, atma, etc. and all the Upanisadic texts related to the discussion on the nature of Brahman refer directly to the higher Brahman. If it is argued that direct reference is only to the lower Brahman (apara-brahman), then the statements relating to the higher Brahman become invalid, and the very existence of such a Brahman would be questionable. It is impossible to maintain that Brahman is unknowable. Even if Brahman were the content of the indirect reference, it would become the object of knowledge to that extent. It is therefore more appropriate and logical to accept that Brahman is known through the scripture and that scripture is the sole authority for proving its existence.

After accepting the existence of God, one should appreciate the nature of His transcendental existence, Names, forms, attributes, activities, etc. It is said:

vijnanam anandam brahma ratir datuh parayanam
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (3.9.28); Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.40)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of knowledge and bliss. It is He Who gives the fruits of actions to those who perform yajnas."

This is confirmed by the following statements:

satyam jnanam anantam brahma (Taittiriya Upanisad (2.1.1); Govinda-bhasya, 1)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is limitless, eternal, and full of knowledge."

yah sarvajnah sarvavid
(Mundaka Upanisad (1.1.9); Govinda-bhasya, 1.2.21)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead knows everything."

These and so many other quotes prove that God’s body is not composed of material elements, but rather by spiritual knowledge, eternity and blissfulness, as confirmed:

om namah
sac-cid-ananda-rupaya krsnayaklista-karine
namo vedanta-vedyaya gurave buddhi-saksine
(Gopala-tapani Upanisad, 1.1; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.2)

“I offer my respectful obeisances to Sri Krsna, whose form is eternal and full of knowledge and bliss, Who is the rescuer from distress, Who is understood by Vedanta, Who is the supreme spiritual master, and Who is the witness in everyone's heart.”

isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam
(Brahma-samhita, 5.1; Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.17)

“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.”

His status among all the living entities and even among the greatest demigods is that of Supreme Controller unto Whose power all are subordinated.

tamisvaranam paramam mahesvaram tam devatanam paramam ca daivatam
patim patinam paramam parastad vidama devam bhuvanesamidyam
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 6.7; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.46)

“We meditate on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He 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 powers 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 karanam karanadhipadhipo na casya kascij janita na cadhipah
(Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.9); Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.8)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the cause of all causes. He is the king of all other causes. No one is His creator. No one is His king."

It should be understood that when the scriptures speak of the birth of the Lord, that simply refers to His appearance in the external world, since He has no material body. The appearance and disappearance of an avatara are fully under the will of the Lord, Who displays His eternal pastimes through the agency of His internal potency. So, under the light of this view, one should understand the meaning of the word ‘janma’ when applied to God, as stated:

ajayamano bahudha vijayate
(Purusa-sukta, Yajur Veda, 31.29; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.10)

"Although He is never born, the Lord takes birth again and again in many different forms."

And Lord Krsna Himself affirms:

ajo 'pi sann avyayatma bhutanam isvaro 'pi san
prakrtim svam adhisthaya sambhavamy atma-mayaya
(Bhagavad-gita, 4.6)

“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.”

And the very appreciation of this truth gives one liberation:

janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna
(Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)

“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.”

But still one may wonder about the relation between Lord Krsna and the demigods like Lord Siva, Lord Brahma and Indra, after all they also display great powers and are known as the lords of the universe. The answer is that just like a king conveys some power to his representatives, in the same way Lord Krsna empowers the demigods to rule the universe, but as the king still holds the supreme post in the kingdom, Lord Krsna stands as the Supreme under all circumstances, as stated above. Moreover, it is known that He existed before the appearance of Lord Brahma and Lord Siva:

atha puruso ha vai narayano 'kamayata prajah srjeti
narayanad brahma jayate narayanad prajapatih prajayate
narayanad indro jayate narayanad astau vasavo jayante
narayanad ekadasa rudra jayante narayanad dvadasadityah
(Govinda-bhasya, 1.3.30; Narayana Upanisad, 1)

"Then the Supreme Personality Narayana desired to manifest living entities. From Narayana, Brahma is born, and from Narayana, the patriarchs are also born. From Narayana, Indra is born, from Narayana, the eight Vasus are born, from Narayana the eleven Rudras are born, and from Narayana, the twelve Adityas are born."

eko ha vai puruso narayana asin na brahma na ca sankarah. sa munir bhutva samacintayat. tata ete tyajayantam visvo hiranyagarbho 'gnir varuna-rudrendrah
(Maha-Narayana Upanisad, 1.1)

"In the beginning only Lord Narayana, the Supreme Person, existed. Neither Brahma nor Siva existed then. Lord Narayana began to meditate, and from His meditation the material universe was manifested. From His meditation Brahma, Siva, Indra, Varuna, and Agni were born." Lord Brahma says:

yasya prasadad aham acyutasya bhutah praja-srsti-karo 'nta-kari
krodhac ca rudrah sthiti-hetu-bhuto yasmac ca madhye purusah purastat
(Visnu Purana, 3.19.85; Govinda-bhasya, 1.40.28)

“I, the creator of the living beings, was born from Lord Narayana’s happiness. Siva, the destroyer of the worlds, was born from Lord Narayana’s anger. From Lord Narayana was also born Lord Visnu, Who is greater than the greatest, and who is the maintainer of the worlds.”

Lord Krsna says:

prajapatim ca rudram capy aham eva srjami vai
tau hi mam na vijanito mama maya-vimohitau
(Moksa-dharma, quoted by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada in his commentary on Gita,10.8; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.41)

“The patriarchs, Siva and others are created by Me, though they do not know that they are created by Me because they are deluded by My illusory energy.”

narayanah paro devas tasmaj jatas caturmukhah
tasmad rudro bhaved devah sa ca sarvajnatangatah
(Varaha Purana, quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 1.3.30)

"Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the Supreme conscious Being. From Him the demigod Brahma was born, and due to Him Lord Siva became a demigod. "

And Lord Krsna Himself states in the Bhagavad-gita:

na me viduh sura-ganah prabhavam na maharsayah
aham adir hi devanam maharsinam ca sarvasah
(Bhagavad-gita, 10.2; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.18)

“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.”

aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah
(Bhagavad-gita, 10.8; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.14)

“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.”

Some may argue that Lord Siva is also called the Supreme Lord by names like Mahesa, Mahadeva, etc. But Lord Indra is also called Mahendra, and here the word ‘maha’ does not add anything to the meaning, for it is well known that Indra is not the Supreme, being dependent on the results of his previous sacrifices. Similarly, by adding ‘maha’ to Lord Siva’s names it does not mean he is the greatest of all beings. The Mahabharata corroborates Lord Brahma’s and Lord Siva’s subordinated position:

yuga-koti-sahasrani visnum aradhya padmabhuh
punas trailokyadhatrtvam praptavan iti susruma
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-syamantaka, 2.7)

“After worshipping Lord Visnu for a thousand yugas, a certain faithful devotee was born in a lotus flower and attained the post of Brahma, the creator of the worlds.”

Lord Krsna Himself explains:

maya srstah pura brahma mad-yajnam ajayat svayam
tatas tasya varan prito dadav aham anuttaman
mat-putratvam ca kalpadau lokadhyaksatvam eva ca

“In ancient times I created Brahma. When Brahma worshipped Me, I became pleased and offered him many boons. At the beginning of the kalpa I allowed him to become My son. Then I gave him mastery over the worlds.”

In consoling the grieving Yudhisthira, Lord Krsna also said:

visvarupo mahadevah sarvamedhe mahakratau
juhava sarvabhutani svayam atmanam atmana
mahadevah sarvamedhe mahatma hutvatmanam devadevo babhuva
visval lokan vyapya vistabhya kirtya virajate dyutiman krttivasa
(Ibidem; Govinda-bhasya, Introduction)

“Lord Siva performed a great sarvamedha-yajna where he offered all living entities, including himself.

“Lord Siva performed a great sarvamedha-yajna where he offered himself. As a result he became glorious and effulgent. His fame filled all the worlds.”
Lord Visnu arranged that invincible Lord Siva would kill the demon Tripura. In the Maha-bharata it is said:

visnur atma bhagavato bhavasyamita-tejasah
tasmad dhanur-jya-samsparsat sa visehe mahesvarah
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-symantaka, 2.10)

“The Supreme Lord Visnu touched limitlessly powerful Siva’s bowstring. That is how Siva became able to kill the Tripura demon.”

In the smrti it is said:

tripuram jaghnusah purvam brahmana visnupanjarah
samkarasya kurusrestha raksanaya nirupitah
(Visnu-dharma Purana, 69.15)

“O best of the Kurus, as Lord Siva prepared to kill the Tripura demon, Lord Brahma spoke a mystic amulet to protect Lord Siva, an amulet that was a description of Lord Visnu’s transcendental form.”

In Banasura’s battle, Lord Krsna attacked Lord Siva with a yawning weapon. This is described in the following words:

jrmbhanastrena govindo jrmbhayamasa sankaram
tatah pranesurdaiteyah pramathas ca samantatah
jrmbhabhibhutas ca haro rathopastham upavisat
na sasaka tada yoddhum krsnenaklista-karmana
(Brahma Purana, 206,14-15; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.9)

“Throwing His yawning weapon, Lord Krsna made Lord Siva yawn. Then all the demons were easily killed.

“Defeated by the yawning weapon, Lord Siva stepped down from the chariot. He had no power to fight. He was defeated by Lord Krsna, whose will is never thwarted.”

Lord Parasurama says:

tada tu devatah sarvah prcchanti sma pitamaham
sitikanthasya visnos ca balabalaniriksaya
abhiprayam tu vijnaya devatanam pitamahah
virodham janayam asa tayoh satyavatam varah
virodhe ca mahad yuddham abhavad romaharsanam
sitikanthasya visnos ca parasparajayaisinoh
tada taj jrmbhitam saivam dhanur bhimaparakramam
humkarena mahadevah stambhito 'tha trilocanah
devais tada samagamya sarsisamghaih sacaranaih
yacitau prasamam tatra jagmatus tau surottamau
jrmbhitam tad dhanur drstva saivam visnuparakramaih
adhikam menire visnum devah sarsiganas tada
(Ramayana, 1.74.14-19; Govinda-bhaya, 2.3.45)

“One day, after Lord Siva killed the demon, the demigods went to Lord Brahma and curiously inquired, ‘Who is more powerful, Lord Siva or Lord Visnu?’ To resolve their doubt, Lord Brahma arranged to create some conflict between the two. As a result, a fierce battle ensued. During the fight, Lord Visnu cut off Lord Siva’s bow string and then, simply by releasing a tumultuous roar, He stunned Lord Siva’s senses. At the behest of the demigods, the fighting was then stopped and everyone who witnessed the duel concluded that Lord Visnu is superior to Lord Siva in all respects.”

By chanting Lord Krsna’s holy names, Lord Siva was able to neutralise the kalakuta poison. This is described in the smrti :

acyutananta govinda mantram anustubham param
om namah samputikrtya japan visa-dharo harah
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-syamantaka, 2.11)

“Chanting the mantra ‘Acyuta ananta govinda om namah’, Lord Siva cupped his hands and drank the poison.”

After the cosmic devastation only Lord Narayana remains, and before the creation only Lord Narayana is present. It is said:

eko ha vai narayana asin na brahma na ca sankarah
(Maha-Narayana Upanisad, 1.1)

"In the beginning there was only Lord Narayana. There was no Brahma and no Siva."

In the Maha-bharata it is said:

brahmadisu pralinesu naste loke caracare
abhuta samplave prapte praline prakrtau mahan
ekas tisthati sarvatma sa tu narayanah prabhuh
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-symantaka, 2.12)

“When Brahma, the demigods, the moving and unmoving beings, and all the worlds are merged in the unmanifested material nature, only the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Narayana, the master of all, remains.”

In the Visnu-dharma Purana it is said:

brahma sambhus tathaivarkas candramas ca satakratuh
evam adyas tathaivanye yukta vaisnava-tejasa
jagat karyavasane tu viyujyante ca tejasa

“Brahma, Siva, Surya, Candra, Indra and all the demigods have power given by Lord Visnu. When the universe is destroyed, their powers are removed.”

The Bhagavatam confirms:

aham evasam evagre nanyad yat sad-asat param
pascad aham yad etac ca yo 'vasisyeta so 'smy aham
(Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)

“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.”

It is said:

prakrtir ya mayakhyata vyaktavyaktasvarupini
purusas capy ubhavetau liyete paramatmani
paramatma ca sarvesam adharah paramesvarah
visnu-namna sa vedesu vedantesu ca giyate
(Visnu Purana, 6.3.39-40)

“The individual spirit souls and the manifest and unmanifest material nature, which is called maya, all merge into the Supreme Personality of Godhead at the time of cosmic devastation. At that time everything rests in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose name is Visnu, and who is glorified in the Vedas and Vedanta.”

This prayer is offered to Lord Krsna:

naste loke dvi-parardhavasane maha-bhutesv adi-bhutam gatesu
vyakte 'vyaktam kala-vegena yate bhavan ekah sisyate 'sesa-samjnah
(Bhagavatam, 10.3.25)

“After millions of years, at the time of cosmic annihilation, when everything, manifested and unmanifested, is annihilated by the force of time, the five gross elements enter into the subtle conception, and the manifested categories enter into the unmanifested substance. At that time, You alone remain, and You are known as Ananta Sesa-naga.”

In this way, because Brahma and Siva are born from Lord Krsna and also enter into Him at the time of cosmic annihilation, it is proved that neither Brahma nor Siva can be considered the master of Lord Krsna.

Thus, it is seen that Brahma, Siva and the demigods are all devotees of Lord Krsna (Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.47). In the Bhagavatam it is said:

athapi yat-pada-nakhavasrstam jagad virincopahrtarhanambhah
sesam punaty anyatamo mukundat ko nama loke bhagavat-padarthah
(Bhagavatam, 1.18.21)

“Who can be worthy of the name of the Supreme Lord but the Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna? Brahmaji collected the water emanating from the nails of His feet in order to award it to Lord Siva as a worshipful welcome. This very water (the Ganges) is purifying the whole universe, including Lord Siva.”

tirthena murdhny adhikrtena sivah sivo 'bhut
dhyatur manah-samala-saila-nisrsta-vajram
dhyayec ciram bhagavatas caranaravindam
(Bhagavatam, 3.28.22)

“The blessed Lord Siva becomes all the more blessed by bearing on his head the holy waters of the Ganges, which has its source in the water that washed the Lord's lotus feet. The Lord's feet act like thunderbolts hurled to shatter the mountain of sin stored in the mind of the meditating devotee. One should therefore meditate on the lotus feet of the Lord for a long time.”

It is said:

brahmadayah surah sarve visnum aradhya te pura
svam svam padam anupraptah kesavasya prasadatah
(Nrsimha Purana, 32.16)

“In ancient times Brahma and all the demigods worshipped Lord Visnu. It is by Lord Visnu’s mercy that the demigods attained their posts.”

In the Narayaniya it is said:

te devah rsayas caiva nana-tanu-samasritah
bhaktya sampujayanty enam gatim caisam dadati sah
(Maha-bharata, santi-parva, 321.46; Govinda-bhasya, 1.4.28)

“Manifest in a great variety of forms, the demigods and sages worshipped Lord Visnu with devotion. Then Lord Visnu placed them in their respective posts.”

Here someone may protest: To rescue Samba, Lord Krsna worshipped Lord Siva, as described in the Maha-bharata. The reply is that Lord Krsna eventually also worshipped Narada and the sages. These actions are part of Lord Krsna’s pastimes and should also be considered from the viewpoint that he was playing the role of a king and was supposed to set the example to be followed by common men, as stated in the Gita:

yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate
(Bhagavad-gita, 3.21; Govinda-bhasya, 3.4.43)

“Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”

yadi hy aham na varteyam jatu karmany atandritah
mama vartmanuvartante manusyah partha sarvasah
(Bhagavad-gita, 3.23)

“For if I ever failed to engage in carefully performing prescribed duties, O Partha, certainly all men would follow My path.”

These quotes are sufficient to prove that Lord Krsna or Lord Visnu is the Supreme. When some Puranas refer to some demigod as the Supreme Lord, it should be understood that each Purana belongs to a particular mode of nature and is thus meant for people in the mode of goodness, passion or ignorance. In this way, for those in the mode of ignorance it is advised to worship Lord Siva as the supreme, for he is the controller of the mode of ignorance. It is so advised for tamasic people who due to their contaminations are unable to engage themselves in the whorship of Lord Visnu, which basically is in the mode of pure goodness.

It is said:

asankhyatas tatha kalpa brahma-visnu-sivatmakah
kathita hi puranesu munibhih kala-cintakaih
satttvikesu tu kalpesu mahatmyam adhikam hareh
tamasesu sivasyoktam rajasesu prajapater
(Kurma Purana, uttara, 43.48-49, Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.4)

“In the Puranas, the wise sages, considering the present time and circumstances, described numberless religious rituals for the worship of Brahma, Visnu and Siva. In the religious rituals meant for people in the mode of goodness, the sages said the worship of Lord Visnu is best. In the religious rituals meant for people in the mode of ignorance, they glorified the worship of Lord Siva. In the religious rituals meant for people in the mode of passion, they glorified Lord Brahma.”

Manu explains that any smrti-sastra that contradicts the four Vedas should be rejected. He says:

ya veda-bahyah smrtayo yas ca kas ca kudrstayah
sarvas ta nisphalah pretya tamo-nistha hi tah smrtah

“Any smrti-sastra that contradicts the four Vedas is wicked and useless. Anyone who follows such a sastra should be considered bewildered by the mode of ignorance.”
The supremacy of Lord Visnu is vastly praised in all the sattvic Puranas, therefore one should not be bewildered by apparent contradictions in the scriptures.