Sunday, July 12, 2020

Is sense control relevant in the path of bhakti?

Some so-called Vaiṣṇavas advocate that one can indulge in sense enjoyment, or in even sinful activities, and at the same time advance in devotional service, as if there were no relation between both things. In this regard, in his Nāmārtha-sudhā commentary on the Viṣṇu-sahasra-nāma (our upcoming publication), Gauḍīya-vedāntācārya Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa has the following to say:

viṣayāsaktān prati gūḍhatvāt saṁvṛtaḥ|
“Lord Viṣṇu is known as Saṁvṛta (concealed) because He is hidden from those attached to sense enjoyment.” (verse 38)

cakravartī san kāmaṁ bhogābhilāṣaṁ kṛntatīti kāma-kṛt|  
“Kāma-kṛt— He Who, while being emperor Ṛṣabhadeva, cuts off (kṛt) the desire (kāma) for sense enjoyment.”

mumukṣūṇāṁ kāmaṁ bhogābhilāṣaṁ pradyatīti kāma-pradaḥ|
“Kāma-prada— He Who destroys (pradyati) the desire (kāma) for sense enjoyment of those who aspire for liberation.” (verse 45)

adhaḥ-kṛtam akṣajam indriya-sukhaṁ yena sa tathety anye|
"Others say that Adhokṣaja means 'He by Whom sensual pleasure (akṣaja) is despised (adhaḥ-kṛta).'” (verse 57)

Some frantic proselytes even try to justify their claims by giving the pastimes of the Supreme Lord as examples of how sense indulgence is all right. Not to speak of Epicureans, centuries ago, some followers of Mīmāṁsā propounded similar hedonistic ideas to corroborate their view that sense enjoyment is the highest goal, since, according to them, even Lord Hari is attached to women and so on. In response, Śrī Vidyābhūṣaṇa speaks as follows:

ucyate — pāmaraṁ bravīṣi viṣaya-rasiko viśuddhānandānabhijñaḥ| asti hi vaiṣayikātirikta-sukha-sampat| sukham aham asvāpsaṁ na kiñcid avediṣam iti śruteḥ| iha hi suṣupti-sukhaṁ nirviṣayaṁ pratīyate sārva-laukikaṁ caitat| evaṁ ca jīvasyāṇu-bhūtasyājanya-sukha-rūpatve siddhe vibhor bhagavatas tu tādṛśa-vipula-sukha-rūpatvaṁ sidhyati| yo vai bhūmā tat-sukham iti, ānando brahmeti vyajānād iti ca śrutis tathāha| kiṁ ca vaiṣayikaṁ nāma sukham indriyair viṣaya-grahe’bhiniṣpadyate tad-agrahe vinaśyatīti sarvānubhūtam| bhagavad-rūpaṁ sukhaṁ tu viṣaya-tyāge’bhivyajyate tat-parigrahe tirobhavatīti| nāvirato duścaritān nāśānto nāsamāhitaḥ| nāśānta-mānaso vāpi prajñānenainam āpnuyād ity-ādi-śruteḥ| viṣayāviṣṭa-cittānāṁ viṣṇv-āveśaḥ sudūrataḥ| vāruṇī-dig-gataṁ vastu vrajann aindrīṁ kim āpnuyād ity-ādi-smṛteś ca|| (Siddhānta-ratnam, 1.56)
          “If someone says so, we reply that being ignorant of pure transcendental bliss and addicted to sense enjoyment, you are speaking foolishly. There is certainly higher happiness beyond sense enjoyment. As it is heard from the scriptures: sukham aham asvāpsaṁ na kiñcid avediṣam, [1] ‘I slept happily and was not aware of anything.’ Here it is acknowledged that during deep sleep there is indeed happiness without any sense object, and this is commonly known to everyone. Being proved in this way that the atomic living entity has causeless happiness, it is proved that the all-pervasive Supreme Lord has abundant causeless happiness. It is similarly stated by the śruti: yo vai bhūmā tat sukham (Chāndogya Upaniṣad, 7.23.1), ‘Bhūmā, the Supreme Lord, is happiness itself;’ ānando brahmeti vyajānāt (Taittirīya Upaniṣad, 3.6.1), ‘Bhṛgu realized that the Supreme Lord is bliss.’ Moreover, everyone has experience that sensual pleasure appears when the senses perceive the sense objects and disappears when there is no perception. However, the happiness in the form of the Supreme Lord becomes manifest when sense enjoyment is given up and disappears when sense enjoyment is taken up. As corroborated by the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.2.24): nāvirato duścaritān nāśānto nāsamāhitaḥ, nāśānta-mānaso vāpi prajñānenainam āpnuyāt, ‘One who does not refrain from forbidden activities, whose external senses are not controlled, who is not concentrated, or whose internal senses are not controlled, cannot attain the Supreme Soul by knowledge.’ The smṛti also confirms: viṣayāviṣṭa-cittānāṁ viṣṇv-āveśaḥ sudūrataḥ, vāruṇī-dig-gataṁ vastu vrajann aindrīṁ kim āpnuyāt,[2] ‘Absorption in Lord Viṣṇu is far away for those whose minds are absorbed in sense enjoyment. Can someone going towards the eastern side find something that was lost in the western side?’”

As for those who recklessly indulge and promote sexual indulgence and at the same time fancy themselves as Vaiṣṇavas, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.6.20) gives the final word on the matter:

pādās trayo bahiś cāsann aprajānāṁ ya āśramāḥ
antas tri-lokyās tv aparo gṛha-medho’bṛhad-vrataḥ

“The spiritual world, which consists of three fourths of the Lord's energy, is situated beyond this material world, and it is especially meant for those who will never be reborn. Others, who are attached to family life and who do not strictly follow celibacy vows, must live within the three material worlds.”

Purport by Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda

“The climax of the system of varṇāśrama-dharma, or sanātana-dharma, is clearly expressed here in this particular verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The highest benefit that can be awarded to a human being is to train him to be detached from sex life, particularly because it is only due to sex indulgence that the conditioned life of material existence continues birth after birth. Human civilization in which there is no control of sex life is a fourth-class civilization because in such an atmosphere there is no liberation of the soul encaged in the material body. Birth, death, old age and disease are related to the material body, and they have nothing to do with the spirit soul. But as long as the bodily attachment for sensual enjoyment is encouraged, the individual spirit soul is forced to continue the repetition of birth and death on account of the material body, which is compared to garments subjected to the law of deterioration.
(…) Any form of religious principles in which the followers are trained to pursue the vow of celibacy is good for the human being because only those who are trained in that way can end the miserable life of material existence. (…) For promotion to the highest status of perfection, namely freedom from birth and death, anxiety and fearfulness, not one of these processes allows the follower to break the vow of celibacy.
The householders and persons who have deliberately broken the vow of celibacy cannot enter into the kingdom of deathlessness. The pious householders or the fallen yogīs or the fallen transcendentalists can be promoted to the higher planets within the material world (one fourth of the energy of the Lord), but they will fail to enter into the kingdom of deathlessness. Abṛhad-vratas are those who have broken the vow of celibacy. (..)
For a transcendentalist, therefore, who at all wants to be promoted to the kingdom beyond material miseries, it is worse than suicide to deliberately indulge in sex life, especially in the renounced order of life.(…)”

"Spiritual life means sense control."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation -- October 21, 1977, Vrndavana

[1] This sentence is often seen in works on Vedānta, but its original source is unknown.
[2] Quoted by Jīva Gosvāmī in the Bhakti-sandarbha (147) and attributed to the Viṣṇu Purāṇa.