The Fundamental Question Evades the Erudite Scholar
In the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, in the very first verse of the first chapter, the highest truth has been propounded in these words:
janmādy asya yato ‘nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥ svarāṭ
tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ
tejo-vāri-mṛdāṁ yathā vinimayo yatra tri-sargo ‘mṛṣā
I meditate upon Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa because He is the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance, and destruction of the manifested universes. He is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations, and He is independent because there is no other cause beyond Him. It is He only who first imparted the Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahmājī, the original living being. By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion, as one is bewildered by the illusory representations of water seen in fire, or land seen on water. Only because of Him do the material universes, temporarily manifested by the reactions of the three modes of nature, appear factual, although they are unreal. I therefore meditate upon Him, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is eternally existent in the transcendental abode, which is forever free from the illusory representations of the material world. I meditate upon Him, for He is the Absolute Truth.
After defining the Absolute Truth and expanding upon it in the Vedas, Purāṇas, and vast corollary literatures, Śrīla Vyāsadeva still felt discontented. His spiritual master, Devarṣi Nārada, finding his disciple so dejected, inspired him to go inwards, into in deep meditation. In that state he perceived the highest Absolute Truth, who is free from the slightest illusion. The verse quoted above reflects Śrīla Vyāsadeva’s spiritual perception. Nārada instructed his disciple to reveal the nature of the Supreme Lord’s transcendental name, form, qualities, pastimes, paraphernalia, and associates. The result of Śrīla Vyāsadeva’s efforts is the spotless Purāṇa, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Śrīla Vyāsadeva went to Badarikāśrama, and in the nearby place called Śamyāprāsa, went into samādhi and saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He also saw māyā, the divine potency of the Lord that deludes the conditioned souls. In this realized consciousness Śrīla Vyāsadeva described the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as fully independent and transcendental. This implies that there is no one superior to Him or equal to Him. In the material world Lord Brahmā is accepted as the highest personality among the living entities. But even Lord Brahmā, who is described here as the ādi-kavi, the original intelligent being, is subservient to the fully independent Supreme Lord. Indeed, it was the Supreme Lord who first imparted the Vedic knowledge unto Lord Brahmā.
What to speak of the ordinary mortals, even great sages and powerful demigods become totally bewildered in their efforts to know the Supreme Lord. The purport of the word dhīmahi—”I meditate upon”—is that only those who have perfected the chanting of the Gāyatrī mantra can understand the supremely independent Lord. Who is eligible to chant the Gāyatrī mantra? Those who are controlled by the modes of ignorance and passion can never chant the Gāyatrī mantra, what to speak of attaining perfection in chanting it. Only those who possess the qualities of a brāhmaṇa and are situated in the mode of goodness are eligible to chant the Gāyatrī mantra. Gradually, by constant chanting, they come to realize Para-brahman (the Supreme Brahman), or the Absolute Truth. Only then can they perceive the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with His transcendental name, form, qualities, pastimes, and paraphernalia, as well as the Vaikuṇṭha planets and the Lord of the Vaikuṇṭha planets, Nārāyaṇa. And when one develops a taste for engaging properly in the Lord’s transcendental service and realizes the sublime mellows of devotion, one can see Lord Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa.
Mundane philosophers who try to attain the Supreme through the ascending process of knowledge can never achieve their goal. The only result of such an attempt, which naturally confuses them, is that they become rooted to the misunderstanding that man is God and vice versa, thus clearing their way to hell. A few among them may have a moment’s glimpse of transcendence, but end up concluding everything backwards. They fall prey to the erroneous impersonal principle.
To refute this impersonal conception of the Absolute, the previously quoted verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam unequivocally states that the Absolute Truth is a person. This transcendental personality is so powerful that He could impart the knowledge of the Vedas even to Lord Brahmā, who then went on to create the material universe. Lord Brahmā did not receive this extraordinary Vedic knowledge after creation but before he began the work of creation. The knowledge that existed before the mundane nature came into being is transcendental and is known as saṁvit. The Viṣṇu Purāṇa delves into the subjects of sandhinī, saṁvit, and hlādinī, the Lord’s potencies of existence, knowledge, and pleasure. All together, these are known as the Lord’s internal potency, or spiritual potency. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also discusses the subject of the Lord’s internal potency. This superior potency is quite different form the Lord’s inferior, external potency, which is qualified by the three material modes. An example of the Lord’s superior, spiritual potency is the jīvas. One who can understand that the jīvas are a product of the Lord’s internal potency, not His external potency, can immediately grasp the difference between these two potencies.
Delusion is the perverted image of reality and is the hallmark of māyā, the Lord’s external energy. This delusion is totally absent in His internal, spiritual potency. The jīva is a product of the Lord’s superior, transcendental energy, but he becomes deluded into identifying his body as his self. Once this ignorance is dissipated, he can immediately understand the actual nature of the body. Illusion is possible on the mundane plane but never in the spiritual energy.
The variety visible in material nature is due to the influence of the Lord’s spiritual energy. In other words, material nature is but a perverted reflection of spiritual energy. For example, sunlight is ever-existing, but when sunlight is reflected on water, there comes into being a new source of light that must accept the cycle of creation, maintenance, and annihilation. The original sun, of course, is not bound by such changes. This practical analogy helps us understand that the spiritual nature is transcendental to creation, maintenance, and annihilation, whereas the perverted reflection of the spiritual energy—the material nature—is bound by these three conditions. The material nature is illusory: sometimes it is there, and at other times it is not. When this illusory, temporary existence of “there and not there” is totally removed and in its place are manifested the name, form, qualities, associates, paraphernalia, and abode of the Lord, one is on the platform of satyaṁ param, the Absolute Truth, who is described here as nirasta-kuhakam, “forever free from the illusory representation of the material world.”
The jīva has been referred to as the Lord’s marginal potency. The jīva is unpredictable: sometimes he is under the material energy’s control, and at other times under the spiritual energy’s shelter. But the supreme, infallible Lord never comes under the sway of any of His energies: He forever remains the absolute autocrat, the master of all energies, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vāsudeva. All energies emanate from Him, and thus He is the supreme energetic principle. When the two words sva-rāṭ (“independent”) and param (“supreme”) are used to describe an entity, then He must be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the eternal cause of all causes. That the Supreme Lord never comes under the influence of māyā is confirmed elsewhere in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.11.38):
etad īśanam īśasya
prakṛti-stho ‘pi tad-guṇaiḥ
na yujyate sadātma-sthair
yathā buddhis tad-āśrayā
This is the divinity of the Personality of Godhead: He is not affected by the qualities of material nature, even though He is in contact with them. Similarly, the devotees who have taken shelter of the Lord do not become influenced by the material qualities.
It is the Supreme Lord’s special prerogative to descend to this material world and remain unaffected by it and detached from it. And like Him, His pure devotees also remain unattracted by the glare of the phenomenal world. As the Supreme Lord is eternal, liberated, and pure, so are His devotees, whatever situation they may be in. This can easily be understood through a simple example: technological advancement has added things like cinemas to the material attractions nature already has to offer, and yet, strangely, these illusory enticements have failed to attract genuine saints and hermits even to this day. And although we do see that some so-called modern saints and mendicants are addicted to cannabis and tobacco, even they are repulsed by many other modern sensual distractions. If the illusory material world holds little or no attraction for the Lord’s devotees, how much less must the Lord Himself be attracted to it! Therefore, although out of ignorance one might claim that mere mortals are God, that does not change the reality—that man is always man and God is always God, and never otherwise.
Once one of the brahmacārīs of our āśrama met Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, who is a spiritualist of sorts and an erudite scholar. Dr. Radhakrishnan is the vice-president of India as I write this essay. On meeting him, our brahmacārī received from him a copy of his Bhagavad-gītā as a gift. Dr. Radhakrishnan had translated this Gītā into English and written a commentary on it, and it sold well in the market for ten rupees in those days .
The brahmacārī read the book and came to us a little dissatisfied, though the book itself was deeply esoteric. The reason for his dissatisfaction was that Dr. Radhakrishnan’s writing lacked spiritual insight: in many places he had mishandled and misinterpreted the text, and thus he had made his book unacceptable to spiritualists in the line of pure devotion. This is a perfect example of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam’s statement (1.1.1) that “by Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion” (muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ). When the Lord so easily bewilders Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Lord Indra, and other great universal controllers, it is not at all surprising that Dr. Radhakrishnan is placed into illusion.
The brahmacārī was especially shocked and hurt by Dr. Radhakrishnan’s misinterpretation of Text 34 of Chapter 9, which appears in his book on page 254. He came to us very depressed, wanting to discuss this passage. The following words were found in the book:
It is not the personal Kṛṣṇa to whom we have to give ourselves up utterly but the Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal who speaks through Kṛṣṇa.
We have not the slightest intention of confronting a world-famous philosopher like Dr. Radhakrishnan with arguments, yet on the brahmacārī’s repeated request we have to scrutinize the text and point out the discrepancies. We have great respect for Dr. Radhakrishnan, not only because he is the vice-president of our country but also because of his scholarship and his position as an erudite master of Hindu philosophy. Furthermore, he is faithful to the brahminical tradition he hails from and is a follower of the Māyāvāda school. Going by the oft-quoted dictum that it is better to have a learned enemy than a foolish friend, I feel encouraged in this matter. An intelligent opponent will present reasonable rebuttals, but an ignorant friend may bring about disaster with his floundering. Therefore we feel no compunction about strongly arguing against the points Dr. Radhakrishnan makes in his Bhagavad-gītā commentary.
A well-known Bengali saying goes, “After reading the whole Rāmāyaṇa, you want to know whose father Sītā is?” This question is ludicrous, since Sītā is Lord Rāma’s wife, and thus such a query will naturally invite quips and laughter. We find the same absurdity in Dr. Radhakrishnan’s English commentary on the Gītā. He writes that we do not have to surrender to the person Kṛṣṇa but to “the Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal” within Kṛṣṇa. This implies that Lord Kṛṣṇa and His “inner self” are two separate identities. According to Dr. Radhakrishnan, since there is a difference between Kṛṣṇa’s body and His soul, we must surrender to Kṛṣṇa’s soul and not His body. This new discovery in the field of religious philosophy reminds us of the “paṇḍita” of the Rāmāyaṇa referred to above. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s sole purpose in speaking the Bhagavad-gītā is to convince us to surrender to His lotus feet. Yet right at the outset Dr. Radhakrishnan is unwilling to accept this point. Lord Kṛṣṇa gives the central instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.66):
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
Lord Kṛṣṇa spoke these words to Arjuna so that he would surrender to Him. The Sanskrit word śaraṇam in this Gītā text means “surrender.” On page 62 of his “Introductory Essay”, Dr. Radhakrishnan has also discussed the idea of surrender in some detail. He writes,
“Prapatti [surrender] has the following accessories—good will to all (ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ); (ii) absence of ill will (prātikūlyasya varjanam); (iii) faith that the Lord will protect (rakṣiṣyatīti viśvāsaḥ); (iv) resort to Him as savior (gopṛtve varanam); (v) a sense of utter helplessness (kārpaṇyam); (vi) complete surrender (ātma-nikṣepaḥ).”
These six limbs of surrender should be followed in relation to Kṛṣṇa, or Viṣṇu, because this instruction on the process of surrender appears in a Vaiṣṇava scripture. Dr. Radhakrishnan has translated the first limb (ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ) as “good will to all.” Question: Is it possible to surrender to everyone? Surrender should be directed toward the Supreme Lord alone. Dr. Radhakrishnan’s proposal is impractical, and indeed impossible. Long before Dr. Radhakrishnan wrote his commentary, many realized spiritual preceptors, including the famous Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, explained that the words ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ mean that one should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, favorably. No genuine scholar would be willing to disregard all other spiritual authorities and accept Dr. Radhakrishnan’s version.
When Dr. Radhakrishnan uses the words “faith in the Lord,” he definitely refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By what logic does he say “Lord” but mean the impersonal Brahman? Arjuna certainly means the person Kṛṣṇa when he says (Bg. 2.7), śiṣyas te ‘haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam: “Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” With these words he addresses Kṛṣṇa at the beginning of the Bhagavad-gītā. At this stage of the Gītā the impersonal Brahman is still to be discussed. When the subject of the impersonal Brahman is finally raised, Lord Kṛṣṇa unequivocally declares that He is the source of the impersonal Brahman. Sound logic says that one cannot surrender to something impersonal and formless. Those who are overly attached to the impersonal Brahman will find surrendering to this formless concept very painful and, indeed, impossible, and if they persist along this path they will end up surrendering to their wife, family, and relatives.
Transcendental Devotional Service Reveals the Real Form of the Lord
We learn from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that, due to māyā, which makes the living entity fall down from spiritual practice, certain obnoxious atheists try hard to create a smokescreen of philosophical jargon around the Supreme Lord to keep Him hidden from the general populace. The result of this effort is also described in the Bhāgavatam (12.3.43):
kalau na rājan jagatāṁ paraṁ guruṁ
prāyeṇa martyā bhagavantam acyutaṁ
O King! In the Age of Kali people’s intelligence will be diverted by atheism, and they will almost never offer sacrifice to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the supreme spiritual master of the universe. Although the great personalities who control the three worlds all bow down to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the petty and miserable human beings of this age will not do so.
A good example of such philosophical jargon meant to bewilder the public is Dr. Radhakrishnan’s translating ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ as “good will to all” instead of “surrendering to the Supreme Lord,” its proper meaning. Such an interpretation is what we can expect from a mundane scholar.
The first word in devotional service is surrender. The only meaning of surrender is to accept that one is a servant of God. Even great scholars and philosophers like Dr. Radhakrishnan will have to perform heaps of austerities and penances before they will yield to the process of surrender. This is the conclusion of Bhagavad-gītā. Dr. Radhakrishnan’s explanation of the six limbs of surrender is superficial. Originally defined in a Vaiṣṇava text, these six limbs of surrender pertain to Lord Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa. Ānukūlya means “loving devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa.” The Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu states, ānukūlyena-kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā: [Cc. Madhya 19.167] “One should render transcendental loving service to Lord Kṛṣṇa favorably. That is called pure devotional service.”
Everyone in the world is rendering service to Lord Kṛṣṇa in one way or another. Some are doing it favorably, and others antagonistically. Those who are serving unfavorably are inimical atheists, the foolish nondevotees, while those who do it with pleasure are truly intelligent. In other words, the devotees of Kṛṣṇa are very intelligent, while the mundane scholars are in the same category as the nondevotee atheists led by the demons Kaṁsa and Jarāsandha.
The main instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā is to take complete shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Yet this cardinal conclusion, which emanated from Lord Kṛṣṇa’s own lotus lips, is reversed by Dr. Radhakrishnan when he writes that one should surrender not to the person Kṛṣṇa but to the “Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal who speaks through Kṛṣṇa.” It is an exercise in futility to take up the Gītā for discussion only in order to ostentatiously display one’s erudition, and thus to foolishly misinterpret the text so much that one concludes that the speaker of the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa, is a mere mortal. This use of Vedic knowledge to pronounce that God does not exist is a clear example of serving Kṛṣṇa unfavorably.
How does Lord Kṛṣṇa describe sholars like Dr. Radhakrishnan, who have an atheistic understanding of the Vedas? In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.15) we find this statement:
na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ
Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me.
Enemies of the Lord like Kaṁsa and Jarāsandha always meditated on Kṛṣṇa, but unfavorably. Similar to these demons are the atheistic scholars who always challenge and misrepresent the real teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā. Though they think about the Lord, they do so with enmity because their intelligence has been covered by māyā. Kaṁsa and Jarāsandha were also erudite scholars, but because they were obsessed with Kṛṣṇa in enmity, they were demons.
We understand from Lord Caitanya’s teachings and exemplary actions that it is our duty to follow the instructions of the Bhagavad-gītā favorably. During Lord Caitanya’s tour of South India, when He entered the premises of the Śrī Raṅganātha temple, He came upon a simple brāhmaṇa engrossed in reading the Bhagavad-gītā. The Lord was overjoyed to see how attentively the brāhmaṇa was reading, and how tears were streaming down his cheeks. Other brāhmaṇas sitting nearby knew that he was illiterate, and so they wondered how he could possibly read the Gītā.
Lord Caitanya easily solved this problem. He said that even an uneducated person can understand transcendental words if he is a fully surrendered soul. But without that mood of surrender, Bhagavad-gītā remains incomprehensible.
When Lord Caitanya saw the brāhmaṇa in tears, He asked him what part of the Gītā moved him to cry. With proper Vaiṣṇava humility, the brāhmaṇa answered,
I am merely pretending to read the Gītā; in truth I am illiterate. But my guru instructed me to regularly read the entire Bhagavad-gītā, though I am unlettered. Not wanting to disobey my guru, I try to execute my duty, and so I make a show of reading the Gītā.
The Lord then asked him why he was crying. The brāhmaṇa replied,
Whenever I sit down to read the Gītā, the form of Lord Kṛṣṇa as Pārtha-sārathi [Arjuna’s chariot driver] appears in my heart. And as soon as I see this form I immediately remember how the Lord is bhakta-vatsala [especially kind to His devotees]. This thought makes me cry.
The Māyāvādīs are always eager to merge with the nondual Supreme Brahman and become God. But their small brains cannot understand how the Supreme Personality of Godhead can become the charioteer of His devotee and carry out his orders. In truth the Supreme Lord and the jīvas are eternally related, and because of this relationship many wonderful things are possible. But the Māyāvādīs cannot understand this truth, and many who have tried to make them understand have failed miserably. In the śruti (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.23) we find this statement:
yasya deve parā-bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed.
Upon seeing the devotion of the South Indian brāhmaṇa as he read the Gītā, Lord Caitanya embraced him and then told him that he had perfected the reading of the Gītā. What fool would deny that Lord Caitanya’s approval is far superior to millions of university doctorates? This accolade from the Lord proves that the Bhagavad-gītā cannot be studied with material intelligence. The knowledge of the Gītā must be received through the chain of ācāryas, or spiritual masters, coming down in disciplic succession. That is the only method; otherwise studying the Gītā is an exercise in futility. The scriptural conclusion is that since the Supreme Lord is transcendental, His words are also transcendental, and hence the esoteric subject matter of the Bhagavad-gītā can be received only through a disciplic succession that is equally transcendental. As the Padma Purāṇa states,
na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
[Cc. Madhya 17.136]
No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality, and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually situated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.
This is confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.38):
santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Śyāmasundara, Kṛṣṇa Himself with innumerable inconceivable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love.
Therefore, the scriptural conclusion is that mundane philosophers like Dr. Radhakrishnan are not qualified to delve into spiritual subjects. The devotees of the Lord alone are eligible to understand Lord Kṛṣṇa; no one else is qualified. As Kṛṣṇa Himself states in the Bhagavad-gītā, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ: [Bg. 18.55] “One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service.”
Scholars like Dr. Radhakrishnan should understand that within Lord Kṛṣṇa there is only Lord Kṛṣṇa and nothing else. Lord Kṛṣṇa’s body and soul are the same. The Gītā’s conclusion is that the nondual truth is Kṛṣṇa, the absolute Supreme Being. But Dr. Radhakrishnan has somehow discovered another, second being within Kṛṣṇa. This discovery then converts Dr. Radhakrishnan into a believer in dualism! The manifestation of the Absolute Truth who resiedes in every jīva’s heart is ludicly described by Lord Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā. In the Bhagavad-gītā (10.8), Lord Kṛṣṇa explains who the being residing in every jīva’s heart is:
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
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.
And later in the Gītā (15.15) He says,
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣto
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
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 Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.
The wise men with perfect knowledge—i.e., those who have purified their materialistic intelligence and are thus situated in spiritual knowledge—can understand Lord Kṛṣṇa as the source of everything. Unless the intellect is purified and spiritualized, even the most erudite philosopher and the greatest mystic yogī will become perplexed in trying to understand Lord Kṛṣṇa. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.3), yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ: “Of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.”
The Supreme Lord’s name, form, qualities, pastimes, associates, and paraphernalia are all of the same spiritual nature. In fact, anything in relation to Lord Kṛṣṇa is nondifferent from Him. As the Padma Purāṇa states,
nāma cintāmaṇiḥ kṛṣṇaś
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto
[Cc. Madhya 17.133]
The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benediction, for it is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Kṛṣṇa’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Kṛṣṇa Himself. Since Kṛṣṇa’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with māyā. Kṛṣṇa’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are identical.
Only saintly souls can perceive the truth of these statements; those whose intelligence has been corrupted by Māyāvāda philosophy cannot understand.
In general, the monists cannot grasp the intricate philosophy of nondualism. So Dr. Radhakrishnan has spun out of his imagination a theory by which he tries to establish dualism in nondualism. When Dr. Radhakrishnan writes that we must surrender to “the Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal who speaks through Kṛṣṇa,” he implies that it is the impersonal Brahman within Kṛṣṇa who is speaking about surrender. Once it is established that the impersonal Brahman can speak, then He must also possess the instrument of speech, namely the tongue. Thus we see that Dr. Radhakrishnan’s whole concept of impersonalism is immediately undermined. There is sufficient evidence in the scriptures to conclude that one who talks can also walk. And a being capable of speaking and walking must indeed be endowed with all the senses. Then He must also be able to perform other activities, such as eating and sleeping. So how can Dr. Radhakrishnan claim that his beginningless, eternal object is impersonal?
In his “Introductory Essay,” on page 62, Dr. Radhakrishnan writes,
When we are emptied of our self [?], God takes possession of us. The obstacles to this God-possession are our own virtues, pride, knowledge, our subtle demands, and our unconscious assumptions and prejudices.
From his own arguments we can safely surmise that Dr. Radhakrishnan, due to his carelessness and previous upbringing, is seeing a difference between Lord Kṛṣṇa’s body and His soul. He is still not free from false ego, that is, “emptied of self.” Therefore his “virtues, pride, knowledge, subtle demands, and unconscious assumptions and prejudices” are all preventing him from understanding the transcendental truth. He must have been brought up in an atmosphere of Māyāvāda thought; for this reason he was unable to grasp the truth.
Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya, the founder and propagator of Māyāvāda philosophy, proved that the material world was an illusion—mithyā—and so he diligently pursued the path of austerity and renunciation, and he stressed it in his teachings. He did not waste valuable time trying to lord it over this illusory material world. But if he were to see the present condition of the philosophy he propounded, perhaps he would be ashamed. We have no doubt that Dr. Radhakrishnan was influenced by him; this is evident from his writings. Yet in his “Introductory Essay,” page 25, he writes, “The emphasis of the Gītā is on the Supreme as the personal God who creates the perceptible world by His Nature (prakṛti). He resides within the heart of every being; He is the enjoyer and Lord of sacrifices. He stirs our heart to devotion and grants our prayers. He is the source and retainer of values. He enters into personal relations with us in worship and prayer.”
After writing this and thus accepting the real purport of the Gītā, how can Dr. Radhakrishnan later state that Lord Kṛṣṇa’s body and soul are different? Such an idea must be a result of his materialistic education. What a strange monism he propounds, in which the Absolute Truth, the nondual Supreme Being, is supposedly separate from His inner existence! Can Dr. Radhakrishnan explain these obvious flaws in his philosophy? When the Supreme Lord Himself is present in everyone’s heart as the omniscient Supersoul, then who else can sit in His heart? In the Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself speaks about His transcendental qualities, making statements that Dr. Radhakrishnan, armed with his material erudition, has made but a feeble attempt to contradict. Through such foolishness Dr. Radhakrishnan has made a show of spreading education, but in fact he has preached untruth.
Brahman, Paramātmā (the Supersoul), and Bhagavān (the Supreme Personality of Godhead)—all three are the same nondual Supreme Absolute. It would be riduculous to say that Dr. Radhakrishnan is ignorant of this subject, yet we fail to see the logic in his claim that when the Supreme Lord incarnates He comes under the sway of māyā. The Lord unequivocally states in the Gītā that when He appears, He does so in His original transcendental form. Hence there can be no difference between Him and His body. The Lord further states that His appearance, activities, and so on are all transcendental, beyond the realm of matter. He is eternal, supremely pure, the original Supreme Personality and Supreme Brahman. We all agree that the jīva is covered by māyā, but if the Supreme Brahman, or Para-brahman, is also covered by māyā, then is māyā superior to Para-brahman?
Lord Kṛṣṇa Is the Supreme Controller Godhead
Since Dr. Radhakrishnan implies that the impersonal Brahman alone possesses such transcendental qualities as being inexhaustible, imperishable, and unborn, we must turn to the Gītā for a proper reply. In truth, all the divine expansions of the nondual Supreme Being are endowed with these same superexcellent qualities. As Arjuna declares in the Bhagavad-gītā (11.18),
tvam akṣaraṁ paramaṁ veditavyaṁ
tvam asya viśvasya paraṁ nidhānam
tvam avyayaḥ śāśvata-dharma-goptā
sanātanas tvaṁ puruṣo mato me
You are the supreme primeval objective. You are the ultimate resting place of all this universe. You are inexhaustible, and You are the oldest. You are the maintainer of the eternal religion, the Personality of Godhead. This is my opinion.
We should understand that those passages in the Gītā which describe Para-brahman as akṣara (“indestructible”) are references to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Controller Godhead. Not once is Lord Kṛṣṇa equated with the kṣara, the conditioned jīvas. Not only big philosophers like Dr. Radhakrishnan, but even mighty demigods like Lord Brahmā and Lord Indra are in the category of kṣara. The Lord maintains the entire cosmic manifestation merely by His separated energy. Just as fire, though situated in one place, spreads its light and heat in all directions, so the unborn Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, while maintaining His full personality, eternality, and imperishability, expands Himself into countless Viṣṇu forms, jīvas, and internal and external potencies. Expanding Himself in this way never diminishes or in any way affects His status as the Absolute Whole. As the Īśopaniṣad, Invocation declares, pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate:
Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.
The Lord is the eternal Supreme Person, and therefore His name, form, qualities, pastimes, and so on are all eternal. The Sanskrit word puruṣa means “enjoyer.” An enjoyer can never be a formless, impersonal, impotent being. Certainly Lord Kṛṣṇa is without material qualities, yet He is the enjoyer and possessor of all spiritual qualities.
In the Bhagavad-gītā, Arjuna glorifies Lord Kṛṣṇa as akṣara, Para-brahman, and ādi-deva (the original Personality of Godhead). Dr. Radhakrishnan writes that the term akṣara, “inexhaustible,” is synonymous with the word avyaya, “without deterioration.” Therefore why does he conclude that Lord Kṛṣṇa and His body are different? This we fail to understand. On page 275, Dr. Radhakrishnan admits that Arjuna says Lord Kṛṣṇa is Para-brahman, Bhagavān, the Absolute Truth. In the same book and on the same page he writes something quite incoherent and fictitious and attributes it to Arjuna: “Arjuna states that the Supreme [Śrī Kṛṣṇa] is both Brahman and Īśvara, Absolute and God.” If Dr. Radhakrishnan possesses such a sketchy and incorrect perception of the Gītā that he thinks Bhagavān is different from Brahman then how can he claim to have read the Gītā? He argues that Bhagavān and Supersoul Kṛṣṇa are products of māyā, while Brahman is not! Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has severely criticized such speculative philosophy. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta he writes, “Not knowing that Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān are all features of Kṛṣṇa, foolish scholars speculate in various ways.”
We accept both Arjuna and Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī as greater authorities than Dr. Radhakrishnan. Arjuna directly heard the Bhagavad-gītā, and the President of India, Dr. Rajendraprasad, has accepted Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta as an authentic and authoritative scripture. Those who try to understand the Bhagavad-gītā by receiving it from one in the disciplic succession coming down from Arjuna can actually understand its esoteric knowledge; others fail miserably. It is imperative that one attentively hear what the Bhagavad-gītā and other authorized scriptures have to say about the impersonal Brahman. The scriptures amply prove that the impersonal Brahman is the Supreme Lord’s bodily effulgence, just as sunshine is the brilliant emanation from the sun. Furthermore, as the sun’s rays are dependent on and subservient to the sun, so the impersonal brahma-jyotir effulgence, Lord Kṛṣṇa’s bodily luster, is dependent on and subservient to the Lord. In the Gītā (14.27) He says,
brahmano hi pratiṣṭāham
śāśvatasya ca dharmasya
And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable, and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.
The Lord’s statements in the Gītā concerning the impersonal Brahman are unequivocal, yet Dr. Radhakrishnan seems unsatisfied with them. He grudgingly translates Text 27 of the Fourteenth Chapter, “For I am the abode of Brahman, the Immortal and the Imperishable, of eternal law and of absolute bliss.” Since Lord Kṛṣṇa is the basis of the impersonal, formless Brahman, He is certainly far superior it. The mosquito net is inside the house, not the other way around; the ink-pot is on the table, not vice versa. Even a small boy can grasp this. Then why does Dr. Radhakrishnan hesitate to accept this truth? There are countless proofs in the scripture of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s supreme absolute personality, but Dr. Radhakrishnan is like an owl in the daylight of truths. He tries to cover the sun of truth by creating a dark cloud of word jugglery. Thus instead of truth and knowledge, confusion is paraded before the world. We strongly condemn this sort of activity. Whether directly or indirectly, Dr. Radhakrishnan has tried to circumvent the truth—that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the basis of Brahman—and in the process he has been defeated. If Dr. Radhakrishnan really accepts Lord Kṛṣṇa as the absolute God, then what inspired him to see another being within Kṛṣṇa and to write, “It is not the personal Kṛṣṇa to whom we have to give ourselves up…”?
The truth is that only those who have been blessed by the Lord can fathom the spiritual science dealing with God. Dr. Radhakrishnan’s book irrefutably proves this. The Māyāvādī philosophers are big offenders to the Supreme Lord, and therefore He never manifests Himself to them. As the Lord Himself declares in the Gītā (7.25), nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā samāvṛtaḥ muḍhaḥ: “I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by my internal potency…” All previous spiritual authorities have condemned the Māyāvādīs, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu has directly censured them, calling them the greatest offenders against the Supreme Lord. He said that if a person simply hears philosophy from a Māyāvādī, his spiritual life is in jeopardy. As quoted in the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 17.129-132 and 134-135), the Lord speaks about the Māyāvādīs in this way:
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied, ‘Māyāvādī impersonalists are great offenders unto Lord Kṛṣṇa; therefore they simply utter the words brahman, ātmā, and caitanya. The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is not manifest in their mouths because they are offenders unto Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is identical with His holy name. The Lord’s holy name, His form, and His personality are all one and the same. There is no difference between them. Since all of them are absolute, they are transcendentally blissful. There is no difference between Kṛṣṇa’s body and Himself or between His name and Himself. As far as the conditioned soul is concerned, everything is different. One’s name is different from the body, from one’s original form and so on. The holy name of Kṛṣṇa, His body, and His pastimes cannot be understood by blunt material senses. They are manifest independently. The holy name of Kṛṣṇa, His transcendental qualities and pastimes, as well as Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself are all equal. They are all spiritual and full of bliss.
The Māyāvādīs try to imitate Śrīpād Śaṅkarācārya. Pretending to be orthodox, they reject the truth that the jīva is part and parcel of Para-brahman, the Supreme Lord. They also deny the fact that it is only the part and parcel aspect of Para-brahman (the jīva) and not Para-brahman Himself who falls under the spell of māyā. And worst of all, they deny that Para-brahman is none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead. According to their lop-sided argument, when the jīva attains mukti (liberation) he merges into the impersonal Brahman and loses his individual identity. By this logic, when the Supreme Lord, the Para-brahman, incarnates in this material world or appears in the Deity form, He becomes an ordinary jīva. Thus the foolish Māyāvādīs draw a distinction between the Lord and His form, and in this way they commit great offences against Him.
So, by knocking a wedge between Lord Kṛṣṇa and His form, Dr. Radhakrishnan has demonstrated his lack of intelligence; indeed, māyā has robbed him of intelligence, and according to Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu he is the worst offender. In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord describes such offenders as mūḍhās because they ascribe human frailties and faults to the Supreme Lord. Today the world has become a hell because of an excess of atheists, and this is due only to the preaching of Māyāvāda philosophy by enemies of the Supreme Lord. Lord Caitanya’s mission is to save the jīvas from the clutches of these offenders. Those who are unconcerned about this mission commit offences against Lord Caitanya.
The Māyāvādīs try hard to look like spiritualists, but in fact they are gross materialists. They may be able to confuse and mesmerize the public with word jugglery, but in truth their so-called renunciation is as false as the monkeys’, for they have become mere beggars looking for distinction, adoration, position, and wealth. They are busy only with worldly progress; forgotten are the spiritual message and spiritual goals and ideals. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.2) has defined such showbottle religion as kaitava-dharma, “cheating religion.” Those who are attracted to such cheating religious groups are themselves deceitful. Their show of spirituality is abominable; they have no desire for either liberation or devotion and surrender. They are addicted to speculation and can never understand Kṛṣṇa.
When the Māyāvādīs pretend to perform kīrtana or hold discourses on the Bhāgavatam for personal name and fame, they may sing and talk about Brahman, Caitanya, and Paramātmā, but they cannot utter Lord Kṛṣṇa’s name. Although the words śrī bhagavān uvāca (“the Supreme Personality of Godhead said”) appear throughout the Bhagavad-gītā, the Māyāvādīs are prepared to say everything else except the name of Kṛṣṇa. It is a well known scriptural truth that the words Brahman and Paramātmā refer ultimately to Lord Kṛṣṇa and that Kṛṣṇa is the principle name of the Supreme Absolute Person. But even when the Māyāvādīs chant such names of God as Kṛṣṇa, Govinda, or Hari, they do so not with the understanding and faith that these names are God’s principal names and that they are nondifferent from the Supreme Lord, but rather with the idea that chanting them is a temporary means of sādhana, or spiritual practice. They also do not admit that such chanting of the holy name is an offence. Of course, their biggest offence is to distinguish between Lord Kṛṣṇa and His form. Thus in the Gītā (9.11), Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself condemns these offenders:
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be.
Let us study how Dr. Radhakrishnan has translated this verse, which appears on page 242 of his book: “The deluded despise Me clad in human body, not knowing My higher nature as Lord of all existences.” In other words, when the person who is “Lord of all existences” is “clad in human body,” those who see from a materialistic perspective take Him for an ordinary mortal, while those who see from a spiritual perspective understand that He is the Supreme Being, the cause of all causes. So if it is the deluded who despise Lord Kṛṣṇa, then is it not time for Dr. Radhakrishnan himself to admit that he is guilty of this crime? Let him realize how he has abused the “Lord of all existences,” equating Him with a mere mortal. When we see how such big scholars are inimical toward Lord Kṛṣṇa, we can conclude, following the Gītā, that their intelligence has been stolen by māyā.
All the previous spiritual authorities have accepted Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya has accepted this truth. Yet Dr. Radhakrishnan is so deluded that he considers Lord Kṛṣṇa an ordinary jīva, or perhaps an extraordinary one.
There is no one who possesses more knowledge than Lord Caitanya. The knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is logical and scientific, must be received from Lord Caitanya. Has Dr. Radhakrishnan anywhere discussed Lord Kṛṣṇa on the basis of the precepts of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, who is in the direct spiritual line of Lord Caitanya? We request Dr. Radhakrishnan to study the Ṣaṭ-sandarbha of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. He was especially empowered by his spiritual masters to direct his writings toward the scholars and philosophers and make them understand this esoteric knowledge. Another philosopher of his stature is yet to be born; in fact, no one in the future will be able to surpass him in erudition. We hope that since Dr. Radhakrishnan is a philosopher, he will not reject Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s precepts.
From the writings of Dr. Radhakrishnan one can easily prove how he is perplexed in trying to fathom the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He tries to present Lord Kṛṣṇa as an extraordinary human being and a historical figure of India, but the Bhagavad-gītā makes such a task impossible. In his “Introductory Essay” (page 30) he writes:
In the Gītā Kṛṣṇa is identified with the Supreme Lord, the unity that lies behind the manifold universes, the changeless truth behind all appearances, transcendent over all and immanent in all. He is the manifested Lord, making it easy for mortals to know, for those who seek the Imperishable Brahman reach Him no doubt but after great toil. He is called Paramātmān.
How can we identify a historical individual with the Supreme God? The representation of an individual as identical with the universal Self is familiar to Hindu thought. In the Upaniṣads, we are informed that the fully awakened soul, which apprehends the true relation to the Absolute, sees that it is essentially one with the latter and declares itself to be so.
But the jīva’s becoming “essentially one” with the Lord is not the last word in spiritual life. Of course, Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya propagated this idea so that atheists could at least come to this level of realization. But beyond this is the realm of the Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead. Having entered the sphere of transcendence, if one does not perceive the supreme transcendental personality, one’s spiritual practice remains incomplete due to contaminated intelligence, and one has to return to the realm of materialism. Though claiming that the world is an illusion—jagan mithyā—such an unsuccessful transcendentalist then becomes entangled in political, social, and altruistic affairs.
Dr. Radhakrishnan has never directly perceived the supreme transcendental personality, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Although Lord Kṛṣṇa is right in front of him, he cannot see Him, and thus out of delusion he calls Him a historical person. Genuine Indian religious philosophy teaches that there are both oneness with God and difference from Him. This concept of simultaneous oneness and difference has been termed viśiṣṭādvaita, dvaitādvaita, śuddhādvaita, and acintya-bhedābheda-tattva. If this esoteric concept were false, then Kṛṣṇa would not be worshiped throughout India, practically in every home. He is worshiped not as a historical figure but as the Supreme Lord. Kṛṣṇa’s position as the Supreme Godhead is firmly established by the authoritative text Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is the natural commentary on and essence of the Vedānta-sūtra and the Gāyatrī mantra. Many scholarly Māyāvādīs far more erudite than Dr. Radhakrishnan have tried to shake the faith of the general populace, but since time immemorial Kṛṣṇa temples have mushroomed by the millions—a slap in the face for the Māyāvādīs and atheists, who claim the Lord Kṛṣṇa is an ordinary mortal. In the future also, more Kṛṣṇa temples will be built to frustrate the agnostics and nonbelievers. All Viṣṇu temples are authorized by the scriptures and ācāryas. It hardly seems likely that, just for the sake of Dr. Radhakrishnan, the entire Indian population is going to strike a compromise with Māyāvāda philosophy.
Indian history is filled with accounts of many brilliant heroes who lit up the heavens with their fame. Why have the many sages and philosophers left aside these brilliant suns and chosen only Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Śrī Rāma, and Their expansions to worship as the Supreme Godhead? The spiritual preceptors who have delved into the scriptures to make an unbiased study of this phenomenon are scholars far more advanced than Dr. Radhakrishnan. Yet it is quite understandable that an ordinary mortal like Dr. Radhakrishnan is illusioned about Lord Kṛṣṇa, since even the residents of the heavenly planets are illusioned about Him. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.2), muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ: “By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion.” The earth planet is way down in the seventh position among the fourteen planets in this cosmic system, so its residents are endowed only with meagre potency.
Among the countries of this meagre planet earth, Bhārata-varṣa, or India, is the best because since the dawn of creation Indian sages have exhibited the most exceptional skill in pursuing the esoteric spiritual science. In days of yore, these sages could communicate with the higher planetary systems. But today India is in such a bad condition that we are not willing to follow the instructions of previous sages. We are willing to accept Kṛṣṇa as a historical figure, but by devious means we try distort His instructions with confusing philosophical jargon. This is proof of India’s undesirable state. India now has become eager to do away with the real God and replace Him with many fake Gods. This is the greatest misfortune for India.
Lord Kṛṣṇa Is the Supreme Personality of Godhead
It is strange but true that political leaders can never understand that the Absolute Truth cannot be impersonal or formless but must be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The scriptures are filled with passages that describe incarnations such as the gigantic form of Lord Mahā-Viṣṇu lying on the Causal Ocean, but Lord Kṛṣṇa is the source of Mahā-Viṣṇu. Still the demented political leaders cannot comprehend the truth. But if out of His mercy Lord Kṛṣṇa wishes to bless such atheists, then their rocklike hearts will soften and they will see the two-handed form of Kṛṣṇa playing His flute in Vṛndāvana.
Those who try to understand Lord Kṛṣṇa without receiving His mercy, like Dr. Radhakrishnan, will certainly be deluded even if they are scholar—philosophers like him. The Brahma-saṁhitā says that Kṛṣṇa is easily manifest to the devotees but is beyond the reach of Vedic scholars. Śrīla Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya has proved this point by participating in a pastime of Lord Caitanya’s in which the Bhaṭṭācārya exhibited his Vedic learning. In recent times, paṇḍitas such as Śrī Bankim Chattopadhyaya and Dr. Bhandarkar became equally deluded trying to approach this subject.
One who really wants to know Kṛṣṇa must follow the path He prescribes in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.55): bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ. “One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service.” Except for devotional service, there is no way to understand Kṛṣṇa. When Lord Kṛṣṇa appeared in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, He gave the same instruction about attaining Kṛṣṇa through devotional service, so it is certain that Kṛṣṇa can be approached only in this manner. Following in the disciplic line of Lord Caitanya, the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana have written extensive literature with detailed explanations of Lord Kṛṣṇa. These confidential revelations are yet to be properly broadcast in the world. The Gosvāmīs’ esoteric logic and profound analytical philosophy have not yet caught the attention of modern thinkers, and the burden of guilt for this discrepancy must indeed fall on us. The Gauḍīya Maṭha mission was founded to propagate the words of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī.
The gigantic universal form that Lord Kṛṣṇa exhibited to Arjuna is certainly not the quintessence of the Lord’s divine mood. In fact, the two-handed human form of Kṛṣṇa playing the flute is the superexcellent manifestation of the Lord. But one must not make the mistake of thinking that because Lord Kṛṣṇa appears as a human, He is human. His form is eternal and full of knowledge and bliss, unlike an ordinary mortal’s. He is not even an extraordinary human being. The human form may be a facsimile of the Supreme Lord’s transcendental form, but that does not make God a man, or vice versa. The Bible and other scriptures state that man was made according to the form of God, but that does not imply that God is a man.
There is substantial proof in the Gītā that those who thoroughly grasp the truth about God will, upon leaving the material body, enter the spiritual realm and be with God. Only those who realize God as the eternal Supreme Personality can become immortal. This realization is the human being’s prerogative alone, and one who attains it reaches the highest perfection. Once achieving perfection, the jīva never returns to this temporary world of birth, death, old age, and disease. Only those who discipline their lives so as to attain this objective fulfill the purpose of their human birth; others plunge into oblivion.
Māyā induces one to make plans so that this temporary life of birth, death, old age, and disease can be permanent. The greatest delusion is to plan a life of nonstop bliss in this material world. Which is the better plan: the one that leads to birth in lower animal species like hogs and dogs, or the one that transports the jīva back to Godhead? The jīva’s spiritual existence in the abode of the Lord consists of service to Him in different mellows, such as servitude, friendship, parenthood, and conjugal love. Both Lord Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu mercifully enacted pastimes to attract the jīvas and to teach them the meaning of the following words in the Gītā:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
Who could be more deprived than those conditioned souls who do not try to understand this truth? In the words of Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, “One who has not tried to realize his relationship with the Lord has wasted his life; such a person is a miscreant and is worse than an animal.”
Wthout proper understanding, Dr. Radhakrishnan has given his opinion about the descent of the Lord’s incarnation. He writes, “An avatāra is a descent of God into man and not an ascent of a man into God.” What he means by “descent of God into man” is that the avatāras, or incarnations, possess physical bodies made up of the five gross elements. Of course, it remains to be clarified what he means by “not an ascent of man into God.” Nowadays it is very much in vogue to designate a man as God. And it is not just a few who are said to be avataras: many philosophers go as far as to say that every human being is God. For the present we do not wish to delve into this subject.
We would like to inform Dr. Radhakrishnan, however, that when the Supreme Lord empowers a jīva with His divine potency so that the jīva can carry out some specific work, then that jīva is known as a śaktyāveśa avatāra. But this is not the only type of incarnation. The scriptures describe innumerable incarnations of the Supreme Lord, such as svayaṁ-rūpa, svayaṁ-prakāśa, āveśa, vilāsa, prābhava, vaibhava, yuga-avatāra, puruṣa-avatāra, guṇa-avatāra, and manvantara-avatāra. If we calculate the duration of one manvantara-avātara’s life, it comes to an incredible number of years—more than three hundred million. And there are other incarnations who live longer. The scriptures give details of the Lord’s authorized incarnations—the purposes for their appearance, their forms, the places of appearance, their pastimes, etc. There is no room for the vox populi whimsically choosing an ordinary mortal as an incarnation. And if despite the scriptural injunctions some people still accept a human being as an incarnation, it is easy to surmise the extent of their scriptural knowledge.
The goddess of learning, Sarasvatī, inspired Dr. Radhakrishnan to say “Man cannot become God.” We would like to clarify this statement by saying “Even after becoming liberated, a man cannot become God.” A liberated person can become a pure devotee of God, but he cannot become God or merge into God and lose his identity. There are innumerable instances in which a liberated soul, failing to become God, also refused to become God’s devotee. The only option then open to him is aptly described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32):
ye ‘nye ‘ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas
tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ
patanty adho ‘nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.
Attracted by material nature’s external glare, such “liberated” souls have to come down to this earth and become wrapped up in some sociopolitical or altruistic work.
Besides the eternally conditioned jīvas, there are others, who are eternally liberated (nitya-mukta). They never come to this material world. Among the eternally conditioned jīvas (nitya-baddha) are those who make a big show of gaining liberation from this world. An analogy the Māyāvādīs often repeat is “All rivers flow into the ocean.” This means that all jīvas merge into Brahman. But the truth that escapes them is that many large aquatics are permanent residents of the ocean and are never attracted to go and live in the river. The eternally liberated souls need not strive for liberation.
Dr. Radhakrishnan has used the expression “self-conscious man.” We do not object to this term if it indicates a state of consciousness of the self in which a person realizes he is an eternal servant of God, Kṛṣṇa. Lord Caitanya came to teach this truth. Once the jīva realizes he is an eternal servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa, he ends his life of misery. He becomes liberated by that realization. And later he understands that liberation personified is standing nearby, waiting to serve him and all other eternal servitors of the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa.
The authorized scriptures have declared that Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Lord and the source of all incarnations. In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.7), He says in His own words, mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat: “O conqueror of wealth, there is no Truth superior to Me.” Lord Kṛṣṇa came personally to teach that the highest Absolute Truth is not an impotent material concept. He is the full manifestation of absolute spiritual potencies. Those who cannot grasp this profound truth are fools spinning out endless speculations. That person who, although one, desires to expand and thus becomes many—can such a person be a human being or a formless impersonal entity? When this person decides to expand Himself manyfold, is He doing so in order to destroy Himself? If the Lord were to lose His own identity by expanding Himself into many, that would mean destruction of Himself. Has the Supreme Lord committed such a foolish blunder? Or has the blunder been committed by those who misinterpret the Vedic statements and say that God expanded Himself into many entities and lost His identity? The Supreme Lord can do as He pleases: He can expand Himself as countless incarnations or as multifarious separated energies. And even after expanding Himself in this way, He remains complete and fully Himself, as He is. If this were not so, then how could He be the complete Absolute Whole?
Captivated by Māyā, the Jīva Has Forgotten Lord Kṛṣṇa
Lord Kṛṣṇa expands Himself into countless Viṣṇu forms as His svāṁśa-vaibhava, and He manifests Himself by His vibhinnāṁśa-prakāśa as countless billions of jīvas. All the Viṣṇu expansions are in the category of the Supreme Lord, but the jīvas are not: they are the Lord’s marginal potency. This marginal potency, comprising the eternal jīvas, is a manifestation of the Lord’s superior, spiritual energy, or parā-śakti. The conclusion of the Bhagavad-gītā is that the jīva is, was, and always will be eternally a manifestation of the Lord’s spiritual energy; he will never enter the category of the Supreme Lord or the Viṣṇu forms. This separated energy of Kṛṣṇa’s, known as vibhinnāṁśa or jīva, is an infinitesimal part of the Supreme Lord, much like the minute sparks of a large conflagration.
The fraction can never become the whole or equal to the whole. Thus the Māyāvādīs’ claim that the fraction can become the whole is mischievous, even nefarious. This is the Vedic verdict. After overcoming his conditioned state, the fractional jīva enters the spiritual sky and participates in the Supreme Lord’s transcendental, eternally blissful pastimes. The jīva permanently engages in the Lord’s service in one of the many spiritual mellows and enjoys divine ecstasy.
The scriptures have clearly indicated that the ecstasy of devotional service to the Supreme Lord is far superior to the bliss of impersonal liberation, brahmānanda. Indeed, the happiness of merging into the Lord’s existence (sāyujya-mukti) is like a puddle of water in a calf’s hoofprint compared with the ocean of bliss derived from devotional service. The devotee never prays for the jñānī’s sāyujya-mukti, for it is an impossible proposition. By sāyujya-mukti the impersonalists mean relinquishing one’s identity, or individuality. This is nothing less than spiritual suicide. In this regard, I reproduce Dr. Radhakrishnan’s comment on the Bible:
The doctrine of the Incarnation agitated the Christian world a great deal. Arioes maintained that the Son is not the equal of the Father but created by Him. The view that they are not distinct but only different aspects of one Being is the theory of Sabellius. The former emphasized the distinctness of the Father and the Son and the latter their oneness. The view that finally prevailed was that the Father and the Son were equal and of the same substance; they were, however, distinct persons. (“Introductory Essay,” p. 35).
These words vaguely describe the philosophy of “simultaneously one and different”; therefore we acknowledge it. Jesus, the son of God, is a jīva, a separated part of the Supreme Godhead. But the jīva is also spiritual, and hence Jesus is qualitatively the same as the Supreme Lord. But the son can never be equal to the Father in all respects; that is to say, the jīva is never on the same platform as the Supreme Lord. Also, all the jīvas are separate individuals. And just as each jīva is a unique personality, so God is also a unique personality, but the difference is that He is absolute. By describing the Lord as impersonal and formless, one loses sight of His perfect wholeness. We find the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.39) boldly declaring the Lord’s Supreme Personality:
rāmādi-mūrtiṣu kalā-niyamena tiṣṭhan
nānāvatāram akarod bhuvaneṣu kintu
kṛṣṇaḥ svayaṁ samabhavat paramaḥ pumān yo
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda the primeval Lord, who manifested Himself personally as Kṛṣṇa and the different avatāras in the world in the forms of Rāma, Nṛsiṁha, Vāmana, etc., as His subjective portions.
All these incarnations of the Supreme Lord are full-fledged divinities. They are not influenced by anyone’s whims; they do not become impersonal or formless upon someone saying so. They are eternally present. When They deem it necessary, They appear in their original transcendental forms, and then They disappear, just as the sun rises and sets. After Their appearance They perform manifest pastimes, and after Their disappearance They continue with Their unmanifest pastimes. According to the above-mentioned Brahma-saṁhitā text, Lord Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Personality and all the incarnations are His partial expansions. But the Lord’s incarnations are never in the category of the jīvas. Śrīla Vyāsadeva has also expounded this truth in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.3.28): ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam. “All the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead.” In other words, not only do the incarnations appear, but Lord Kṛṣṇa, the source of all incarnations, also appears, both as Himself and as an incarnation. These esoteric subjects are understood by the Lord’s devotees, not by others, even though they may be erudite sholars.
Therefore, when Dr. Radhakrishnan writes that Lord Kṛṣṇa is an ordinary mortal, or at best an extraordinary one, he is certainly confused. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the highest Absolute Truth, unsurpassable and perfectly divine. It is impossible to think of Him as impersonal and formless. He is indeed the transcendental, primeval Lord, the embodiment of eternity, absolute knowledge, and bliss. In the Bhagavad-gītā (10.12), Arjuna substantiates this truth about Lord Kṛṣṇa’s absolute, supreme divinity. How is Dr. Radhakrishnan to appreciate Lord Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental qualities and personality, since even the demigods fail to comprehend them? The word ādi-deva, meaning “the original, primeval Lord,” indicates that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the origin of all the Viṣṇu expansions. The Puruṣa-sūkta prayers in the Vedas glorify Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, yet Lord Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate source of even this Viṣṇu expansion. Indeed, the Brahma-saṁhitā expressly declares that Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is merely a partial expansion of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Thus the Absolute Truth Dr. Radhakrishnan accepts as eternal and beginningless is, in fact, Lord Kṛṣṇa, but somehow this escapes him.
That Lord Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead is accepted not only by Arjuna but by illustrious saints and sages like Vyāsadeva, Nārada, Devala, and Asita. All the previous spiritual preceptors, as well as present-day saints and countless millions of ordinary people, unanimously accept Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Godhead, but a famous paṇḍita like Dr. Radhakrishnan hesitates to accept Him as God! Why? Śrīla Yāmunācārya aptly explains in his Stotra-ratna:
tvāṁ śīla-rūpa-caritaiḥ parama-prakṛṣṭaiḥ
sattvena sāttvikatayā prabalaiś ca śāstraiḥ
prakhyāta-daiva-paramārtha-vidāṁ mataiś ca
naivāsura-prakṛtayaḥ prabhavanti boddhum
O my Lord, those influenced by demoniac principles cannot realize You, although You are clearly the Supreme by dint of Your exalted activities, forms, character, and uncommon power, which are confirmed by all the revealed scriptures in the quality of goodness and the celebrated transcendentalists in the divine nature.
In the Bhagavad-gītā (Chapter 4), Lord Kṛṣṇa speaks about the importance of receiving the transcendental knowledge of the Gītā in the proper disciplic succession. In this way one can avoid making the mistakes described above, which even powerful sages are prone to make. Yet there are those who still try to study the Gītā on their own and draw their own concocted conclusions, rejecting the authority and conclusions of the spiritual disciplic succession. We certainly commiserate with them, but at the same time it is hard not to laugh at them. From the Chapter 4 of the Bhagavad-gītā we learn that after an interval of several million years, Lord Kṛṣṇa re-established the spiritual link with the disciplic succession right in the middle of the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, explaining to Arjuna unequivocally and in detail the science of right action, knowledge, and devotional service. The Bhagavad-gītā is not a novel rendition of a new philosophy. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is eternally the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. Similarly, the Bhagavad-gītā is eternally present as His instructions propounding the absolute, undifferentiated truth. The Supreme Lord is eternal, perennially young, and so are His immortal words: they are ever-fresh. Mundane scholars can always discover novel meanings in the Bhagavad-gītā, and in this way they may certainly exhibit their mundane erudition—but this is all just the play of māyā. The real essence of Bhagavad-gītā cannot be transmitted through such persons. The transcendental knowledge of the Gītā is available only through the transparent medium of the authorized disciplic succession. The devotees and saints are solely concerned with receiving the Lord’s message in the Gītā as it is, while the mundane scholars fond of word jugglery look for secondary meanings.
To educate those who are enamored by empirical arguments and who do not receive transcendental knowledge through any bona fide disciplic succession—and who are thus going astray—we have compiled the essential knowledge of the Bhagavad-gītā in a nutshell:
1) Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes. The definition of God is given in this aphorism from the Vedas: “By Him and from Him is manifest this universe, and He controls its creation, sustenance, and annihilation.” He is the mainstay of both this unlimited variegated cosmic manifestation and the immeasurable spiritual sky, the Vaikuṇṭhas. He is the eternally existing, transcendental Supreme Being with a spiritual form. The impersonal Brahman is but His bodily effulgence; He is the nondual Truth. The Supersoul (Paramātmā) is His plenary expansion who resides in everyone’s heart and pervades the entire creation as well.
2) The jīvas, the living entities, are Lord Kṛṣṇa’s minute parts. Although the jīva is qualitatively nondifferent from the Lord, he is quantitatively different from Him, since the Lord is infinite and jīva is infinitesimal. The jīva is situated in the Lord’s marginal potency, which, inconceivably, is simultaneously one with and different from the Lord.
3) The jīvas,—the marginal energy of the Lord, have the ability to reside eternally either in Vaikuṇṭha or in this material world. A jīva falls down to material nescience because of countless sinful activities, and in these alien surroundings he goes up and down, traveling through all the planetary systems, from Lord Brahmā’s planet down to Pātālaloka. In the material world the jīva experiences birth, disease, old age, and death and is forced to accept three types of suffering, namely: those miseries stemming from his own mind and body, those inflicted by other living entities, and those hurled at him by the demigods.
4) The conditioned living entities are encaged in this many-faceted prison-house called the material world. The nature of this world is creation, sustenance, and destruction. During creation and sustenance this material nature is in a manifest state, and with destruction it again becomes unmanifest. Thus this mundane, illusory realm is the Lord’s inferior energy because it is sometimes manifest and at other times unmanifest.
5) Beyond this manifest and unmanifest external energy of the Lord exists another realm, which is transcendental and spiritually variegated. This is the unlimited spiritual sky, known as Vaikuṇṭha, which is everlasting. This realm is always manifest; it is never unmanifest. Thus it is not subject to creation and annihilation.
6) Those conditioned souls who identify with this illusory material nature and are proud of it, and who do not care to know about the Supreme Lord, are subjugated by the Lord’s illusory potency, who is known variously as Mahā Kālī, Cāṇḍī, and Durgā, and who pierces them with her trident of the threefold miseries. These demoniac jīvas are forced into slavery by the illusory potency—Kālī, or Mahāmāyā. The Bhagavad-gītā, which is the essence of all the Vedic scriptures, was compiled for the deliverance of the conditioned souls. By studying the Gītā carefully, a jīva takes shelter of the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet and attains liberation from the merry-go-round of repeated suffering in the material world.
7) The conditioned jīva suffers from the material disease—the miseries of birth, death, old age and disease. When this suffering becomes unbearable, he looks for help. Those who are less intelligent embrace the path of impersonal liberation and undertake severe austerities to achieve their goal. More elevated than these salvationists are the devotees of the Lord, who realize that their eternal nature is to be His servants. They do not try to extinguish this nature but rather practice and preach the eternal process of devotion so they can enter the Lord’s eternal spiritual abode. All living entities have a right to practice this eternal process of devotional service.
8) The mahat-tattva, the material nature, manifests itself in twenty-four ingredients: 1) the unmanifest principle, 2) false ego, 3) intelligence, 4) mind, 5) ether, 6) air, 7) fire, 8) water, 9) earth, 10) sound, 11) touch, 12) form, 13) taste, 14) smell, 15) ears, 16) skin, 17) eyes, 18) tongue, 19) nose, 20) mouth, 21) hands, 22) feet, 23) anus, 24) genitals.
9) The undifferentiated Absolute Truth, the original Supreme Personality, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, incarnates in this material world once in every day of Lord Brahmā—that is once every 8,640,000,000 solar years—to shower His mercy upon both His surrendered devotees and the atheistic nondevotees. He protects His devotees and slays the atheistic demons, thus giving the latter troublesome release, so to speak, in impersonal liberation. The Bhagavad-gītā, on the other hand, teaches liberation through devotional service to the Supreme Lord. The only way to obtain this devotional service is to take full shelter of the spiritual authority, the guru, who is coming in the line of a proper disciplic succession. Those who toil without worshiping the spiritual master will find that all their endeavors are futile.
10) Those foolish souls who refuse to take shelter of a bona fide guru are truly shelterless. Without the guidance of a guru, these rascals consider themselves knowledgeable, and on the basis of this misconception they make the mistake of worshiping God as a man and a mere mortal as God.
11) The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full in six opulences and is not the property of any particular sect, group, or country. He is available to everyone. He is the deliverer of all and the Supreme Father of all. He appears in this material world to liberate every living entity, and His message, the Bhagavad-gītā, is therefore applicable to every land and to all people. It is meant to be preached everywhere. Therefore those fortunate souls who are spreading the message of the Lord are most dear to Him.
12) Foolish, demoniac rascals in the grip of the Lord’s illusory energy loudly brag about their materialistic plans. The Bhagavad-gītā alone can penetrate their hard shell of ignorance and awaken them to the truth.
13) With concerted, strong preaching, the devotees of the Lord must inform such foolish men that their so-called plans will surely be undermined because the platform they have chosen to build their dream houses on is factually a mirage—a movie only. Reality is elsewhere. The information needed to transport one to that realm of reality and truth is available in the magazine called Back to Godhead.
14) Therefore, the real symptom of a true civilization is that its citizens are inspired by Back to Godhead to take up the process of devotion and go back to Godhead, where they will eternally reside in their actual home. Only in this way can they end all futile labor.
15) Just as the most sinful wretch lives in a ghostly body after death and moves about in the ether, having been denied a gross body, so the impersonalist, although rising to the point of liberation in the transcendental position, falls back down to the material world because of not having developed the mood of loving service to the Supreme Lord. Therefore the severe austerities and penances the impersonalist performs are not equivalent to the eternal religion of devotional service.
16) When monists are so attached to the formless, impersonal aspect of the Lord that they distinguish between Him and His transcendental body, their consciousness becomes contaminated by this blasphemy, and thus they are deprived of a place in the Lord’s eternal abode. But if by some good fortune they come in touch with a pure devotee and hear from him with faith about the Lord’s transcendental name, qualities, pastimes, and so on, then they will certainly be cleansed of their contamination and become inspired and attracted by the Lord’s glorious character, and finally they will surrender to Him fully. Thus the Bhagavad-gītā is such an instructive text that for those who want to enter into the eternal pastimes of the Supreme Lord, its unequivocal message teaches the first stages of surrender, and this surrender is absolutely essential for reaching the ultimate destination. It is to be understood that the pure devotees have successfully passed this test of surrender according to the tenets of Bhagavad-gītā.
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