THE CONCLUSION OF VEDANTA
Compiled by Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp)
From Jaiva-dharma by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur
I am one who likes to be very clear on the conclusion of any philosophy that I am studying, which may include knowledge about where I am, where I have come from, and where I am going, what is the goal of the process, and what to do to reach the goal. The following is a collection of verses that brings us to the conclusion of all Vedic thought, and comes from the book Jaiva-dharma, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
“The Vedas are said to be like a cow, and Sri Nandanandana Krishna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, is the milkman who milks her. The following statement of Sri Krishna is an absolute conclusion and found in the Bhagavad-gita (6.46-47):
“A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist, and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi.
“And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.”
The Svetashvatara Upanishad (6.23) declares:
“Only unto those great souls who have implicit devotional faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.”
In the Gopala-tapani Upanishad, Parva-vibhaga 15, we find:
“Bhakti to the Supreme Lord, Sri Govinda, is real bhajana. Curbing the desires for earthly as well as heavenly sense enjoyment, absorbing the consciousness purely in Sri Krishna, the Supreme Brahman, with love is indeed unmotivated bhakti and is known as complete surrender.”
Further, in the Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad (1.4.8) we find:
“One must worship the atma, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, knowing Him to be very near and dear.”
In the Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad (4.5.6) it is said:
“O Maitreya! Always hear and think about, meditate upon, and see all objects related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul, Sri Hari.”
Therefore, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur begins to determine in this way: “Any person who scrutinizes these Vedic postulations will automatically draw the obvious conclusion: The path of bhakti is the real sadhana (spiritual practice).” (Jaiva-dharma, page 189)
“It is absolutely correct that in the karma-kanda chapter, bhakti is used as a means to obtain bhukti (sense gratification) and in the jnana-kanda chapter, bhakti is employed to offer mukti (liberation). To understand this employment of bhakti, one fact must be clearly understood: No goals or results can be achieved if the Supreme Lord, the fountainhead of all energies, is not satisfied. Whatever volume of energy is found in the jiva or in matter is merely a fractional display of the potency of the Supreme Lord. Essentially, neither karma nor jnana is able to satisfy the Supreme Lord properly and attract His mercy—only bhakti is able to attract His mercy. Therefore, only when bhakti is applied as a part of the karma or jnana processes do these ultimately bhakti dependent processes offer their specific results. Thus, the paths of karma and jnana harbor bhakti-abhasa, a mere semblance of bhakti, and not shuddha-bhakti (pure loving devotional service).” (Jaiva-dharma page 189)
In this way, “We have simply presented the conclusion of all the shastras. Shastra is one. Even if you do not accept the Bhagavatam, then the other scriptures will harass you with the same conclusion. We do not need to refer to many shastras, simply consider what the Gita and the Bhagavatam explain…
“The purport of this is that a devotee who engages in bhakti, hearing the topics of Krishna consciousness, chanting harinama, singing His glories with ananya-bhak, single-mindedness, even if he is addicted to many abominable, illicit activities, which go against the scriptural injunctions, must be considered a sadhu, because he is on the righteous path being situated in bhakti.
“Three processes are mentioned in the scriptures: karma-kanda, fruitive activities within the varnashrama system; jnana-kanda, empirical philosophy and renunciation; and bhakti-yoga, devotional cultivation, comprising of hearing narrations about the Supreme Lord in saintly association, and chanting harinama with sincere faith. Sometimes these three methods can be channeled into one application known as yoga, at which time they generally become termed as karma-yoga, jnana-yoga or bhakti-yoga, depending on the stress and slant of the practice. When any of these forms of yoga is practiced exclusively, their acolytes are called karma-yogis, jnana-yogis or bhakti-yogis. A bhakti-yogi is the best of the three because bhakti-yoga is able to reward the yogi with unlimited benediction by itself. You can understand this point as cited in the Bhagavad-gita 6.46-6 (listed above).” (Jaiva-dharma pages 72-3)
In this way we can understand that of the three main forms of yoga, as outlined in the Vedic scripture, bhakti is the system that best pleases the Lord. Without assistance from the Supreme, it is not easy to make progress on the spiritual path that ultimately delivers you to the door of the spiritual world. Otherwise, if you reach the door without the key, it is not possible to enter. And the key is the means to please the Supreme Being who will open the door for you, which can only be accomplished through loving devotion, or bhakti, which is all that fills the spiritual world. As Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur continues to explain:
“Dharma meekly follows bhakti everywhere. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the source of dharma, and He allows Himself to be easily conquered by bhakti. Maya who enslaves the jiva, is immediately dispelled when the Supreme Lord is invited to occupy the throne in the heart of the jiva. No other method of sadhana is needed or is as effective. As soon as the spiritual aspirant becomes a bhakta, dharmic fervor suffuses his heart and steadily manifests all virtues. When kama, lust for sense enjoyment, is uprooted, then peace and tranquility enter the heart. Therefore, the Lord boldly declares:
…na me bhaktah pranashyati…
‘My devotee will never be vanquished.’” (Jaiva-dharma page 73)
In this way, it is advised that everyone, in order to attain and follow the conclusion of all Vedic knowledge, accept the path of bhakti-yoga: “This is confirmed in the Skanda Purana, Kashi-khanda (21.63), which is quoted in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa (10.106): ‘Whether one is a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, sudra or an outcaste, if he has taken shelter of vishnu-bhakti, he is considered superior to all.’” (Jaiva-dharma, page 67)
Therefore, to rise to the superior position to fulfill the purpose of human existence, a person should take up bhakti-yoga, or at least add it to whatever path they follow. This will take one to the position of overcoming all other obstacles on the path to spiritual success, as explained:
“The misfortune of low birth results from prarabdha-karma, current sinful reactions from the activities of previous births. Such reactions are eliminated by the chanting of harinama (the Lord’s holy names). The Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.16.44) declares: ‘Merely by hearing harinama just once, even chandalas, men of the lowest class, can be freed from all material contamination.’
“Furthermore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.2.46) states: ‘Therefore, one who desires freedom from material bondage should adopt the process of chanting and glorifying the name, fame, form and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, at whose feet all the holy places stand. One cannot derive the proper benefit from other methods, such as pious atonement, speculative knowledge, and meditation in mystic yoga, because even after following such methods one takes to fruitive activities again, unable to control his mind, which is contaminated by the base qualities of nature, namely passion and ignorance [which keeps one bound in the repetitious cycle of birth and death].’”
The Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.33.7) concludes this line of thinking by describing the glorious position of one who has accepted the path of bhakti-yoga: “Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting harinama! Even if born in the families of dog-eaters [not that they continue with such behavior], such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant harinama must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans. To be chanting harinama they must have bathed at the holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas, and fulfilled everything required.’” (Jaiva-dharma, pages 68-9)
Thus, the superior activities that complete the mission of human life is found in the practice of bhakti-yoga, the loving devotional service to the Supreme Being, which is all that can please the Lord and bring the jiva to the attainment of spiritual success.
To provide further relevance and verification to the above verses and information, they can be combined with the conclusions found in the Dasa-mula, the ten most essential spiritual truths which also make up the essence of the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They have been further explained in Jaiva-dharma, but what follows is a summary of these truths. This starts in the Thirteenth Chapter of Jaiva-dharma with the summary of the Dasa-mula in the introductory verse as follows:
“The Vedic knowledge is received through the system of guru-parampara (disciplic succession) and is known as amnaya, the most authoritative and exhaustive wisdom. The Vedas, known as the shruti, and the smriti scriptures, for example the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which are fully in line with the shruti, are essentially transcendental and are thus presented as the pramana, proof and evidence. The directly perceivable truths propounded and evidenced by the pramana are designated as the prameya. They are nine in number: (1) parama-tattva: Sri Hari is the Supreme Absolute Truth; (2) sarva-shaktiman: Sri Hari is omnipotent; (3) akila-rasamrita-sindhu: Sri Hari is the shoreless ocean of unlimited nectarean mellows; (4) vibhinnamsha-tattva: The entire range of liberated and conditioned jivas are Sri Hari’s eternally separated parts and parcels and comprise His jiva-shakti; (5) baddha-jiva: the conditioned jiva is infected by maya; (6) mukta-jiva: the liberated jiva is free from maya; (7) achintya-bhedabheda-tattva: all creation either material or spiritual is a manifestation of Sri Hari’s inconceivable potency, which is simultaneously different and non-different from the Lord Himself; (8) shuddha-bhakti: bhakti is the only sadhana; and (9) Krishna-priti: Krishna-prema (ecstatic devotion to the Lord) alone is the ultimate sadya. These nine items of prameya plus the first item of pramana, the Vedas, collectively comprise the ten items known as the Dasa-mula, the ten root truths expounded by Sri Krishna Caitanya.”
As Srila Bhaktivinoda further explains in Jaiva-dharma: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Gauracandra has personally given these ten doctrines of Dasa-mula to the faithful jiva. The first of these ten doctrines enunciated in the above introductory verse is the pramana-tattva, and the following nine doctrines are the prameya-tattva. Therefore, the nine items of knowledge that are proven by the presentation of pramana are known as prameya. And the evidence upon which the prameya is authoritatively established is known as pramana.
“After this verse, the first verse of the actual Dasa-mula begins and describes the pramana. The seven following verses, that is verses second to eighth, delineate the sambandha-tattva, or the principle of eternal interrelationships between Ishvara, the multifarious energies of Ishvara, and the jiva. The ninth verse discusses the abhidheya-tattva, the principle of absolute compulsory spiritual duties and the practice of those duties on the basis of sambandha-tattva. The tenth and final verse establishes the prayojana-tattva, the principle of indispensable necessity, which is the goal of spiritual practice, which is (attaining) krishna-prema.”
“The Vedic knowledge that Lord Brahma and his disciplic succession received by the mercy of the Supreme Lord, Sri Hari, is self-evidently perfect. This absolutely authoritative and exhaustive knowledge establishes, with the help of its self-effulgent and directly perceivable truths, the nine principles of prameya-tattva. The methods of logical debate and speculation are incapable of correctly ascertaining the inconceivable spiritual subject matter.” (page 194)
“The Supreme Lord, Sri Hari, who is worshipped by Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Lord Indra and other great personalities, is alone the One Absolute Truth. The Brahman is impotent and impersonal, and is the bodily effulgence of Sri Hari. Paramatma, the Supersoul, the Universal Controller, who is omnipresent throughout the material creation, is merely the partial expansion of Sri Hari. The Supreme Personality of Sri Hari is our dearest Lord, the most beloved of Srimati Radhika, the embodiment of spiritual ecstasy with a complexion that flouts the beauty of fresh monsoon clouds.” (page 200)
“The Supreme Lord is non-different and inseparable from His inconceivable absolute potencies, and yet He is totally independent. He eternally embodies unlimited, majestic grandeur. He always inspires His divine potencies, known as the para-shakti, consisting of the jiva-shakti, the marginal potency; the chit-shakti, the internal spiritual potency; and the maya-shakti, the external illusory potency, to engage in worthwhile activities. Yet, He, the Highest Absolute Truth, eternally existent with full divinity, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, remains unaffected and unchanged.” (page 213)
“Svarupa-shakti possesses three properties: hladini, samvit and sandhini. The transcendental loving exchanges created by the hladini-shakti keep Sri Krishna captivated in bliss. The sublime amorous desires flowing out of the samvit-shakti fan the erotic rasa [eternal loving exchanges] of Sri Krishna. The spiritual realm of Vrindavana-dhama, brilliant and pure, has been manifested by the sandhini-shakti, as the arena for the eternal loving pastimes. In Sri Vrindavana, the self-willed Supreme Lover of Vraja, Sri Krishna, remains immersed in the eternal nectar of rasa, the pastimes of divine loving mellows.” (page 218)
‘Out of the flames of a fire fall innumerable tiny sparks, similarly, from the rays of the transcendental sun, Sri Hari, emanate millions of minute particles of consciousness, the infinitesimal spirit souls, the jivas. The jiva is non-different from the Supreme, Sri Hari, and yet simultaneously he is distinct from Sri Hari. The eternal difference between the Supreme Lord, Sri Hari, and the jiva is that the Lord is always the master and controller of the maya-shakti, whereas the jiva by his very constitutional nature is vulnerable to come under the sway of the maya-shakti, even in his liberated state.” (page 231)
“By his svarupa, or eternal constitution, the jiva is the surrendered servitor of Sri Krishna and is meant to serve the Lord eternally. The conditioned souls, who are alienated from their svarupa, are wallowing in the illusion of false pride and material enjoyment. They have rejected Sri Krishna; therefore, they are being penalized by the maya-shakti, who binds them with three chains in the form of the three material modes, namely [the tendencies to act in] sattva [goodness], raja [passion], and tama [ignorance]. Furthermore, she [maya-shakti] covers the svarupa of the jiva with the subtle body and then the gross [material] body, thus imprisoning the jiva in the excruciating cycle of karmic reactions [enduring the consequences of all material actions], which at times heaves him up to Heaven, or pushes him down to Hell.” (page 248)
As Srila Bhaktinoda further explains in Jaiva-dharma: “In Goloka Vrindavana, Sri Balarama manifests unlimited nityya-parsadas, or eternal associates, belonging to the jiva category for the service of Sri Krishna. Similarly, in Vaikuntha, Lord Sankarshana manifests unlimited nitya-parsadas also of the jiva category for the service of Sri Narayana. These nitya-parsadas are eternally engaged in serving their object of worship, the Supreme Godhead, who is absorbed in rasa. They are eternally situated in their svarupa [natural constitutional position and nature], remain constantly engrossed in satisfying their beloved Lordship, and ever possess enthusiasm and affection for the Lord that never diminishes. They are forever extremely spiritually potent, being imbued with the chit-shakti of the Lord. They have no connection with maya—they are even unmindful of her existence. They are permanent residents of the spiritual world and are very far away from maya. They are fully absorbed in simply relishing the bliss of devotional service to their beloved Lord. Selfish material joys and sorrows are totally alien to these eternally liberated souls. Prema [ecstatic love of God] being their life and soul, they do not even know that lamentation, death, or fear actually exist [in the temporary material creation].
“Also, countless, infinitesimal jivas emanate from Karanodakashayi Maha Vishnu, lying within the Causal Ocean [of the material creation], whose glance impregnates the maya-shakti. As these jivas are the neighbors of maya, they witness her variegatedness. The symptoms of the general mass of jivas, as discussed earlier, are also present in these jivas. However, because they are miniscule in size and situated at the margin [between the material and spiritual], their constitutional nature is to look at both the material world and the spiritual sky. Their marginal condition makes them vulnerable because—up to this point in time—they have not been reinforced with chit-bala, the strength of spiritual potency, by the mercy of the Supreme Lord, their worshipable object. Those among them who desire to enjoy material nature become absorbed in matter and are thus eternally enthralled by her, while those endeavoring to serve the Divine Worshipable Object, upon receiving His mercy, are elevated to the spiritual world. Therefore, [being in this temporary material creation] we are in a most wretched state. Having forgotten our devotion and service to Sri Krishna, we are held as captives of maya, and thus, in lieu of our original transcendental status, we are in this miserable situation.”
“The transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna are also present in the jiva, but up to a very small degree. The quality of free will, natural to Sri Krishna, is therefore also innate to the constitution of the jiva and microscopic in content. When the jiva makes proper use of his independence, he remains connected with Sri Krishna, but by misusing his independence, he dissociates himself from the Lord and is attracted to exploiting and enjoying material nature. Developing the despicable quality of false pride, he thinks, ‘I am the enjoyer of everything I survey.’ Thus, the five levels of nescience—tamisra, rebellious rejection of the Lord’s service; andha-tamisra, considering death to be the ultimate conclusion; tamas, ignorance of one’s position as a jiva; moha, the illusory bodily conception of life; maha-moha, attachment for material enjoyment—cloud the pure spiritual consciousness of the jiva. The sole cause of why the jiva becomes either liberated or conditioned lies in the proper or improper use of his minute independence.” (pages 248-49)
The conditioned jiva [the soul who is attached to material existence] travels high and low throughout the material universe from one species of life to another. When he associates with a Vaishnava saint, who is saturated in the flowing rasa of devotion to Sri Hari, he gradually develops ruchi [a taste and attraction] for serving the Lord and following the Vaishnava way of life. By chanting krsna-nama [the holy names of Lord Krishna], the jiva becomes purified of his material contamination, thus his svarupa [his natural spiritual form and identity] begins to manifest more and more, and he gradually attains eligibility to relish the nectarous rasa of shuddha-bhakti [pure devotional service] to Sri Krishna.” (page 265)
“In their entirety, the material and spiritual worlds are the transformations of the energies of Sri Krishna. Vivarta-vada, or the impersonal theory of illusory transformation of Brahman [that everything comes from the great, white, impersonal effulgence known as the Brahman], is false. It is a noxious pollution of Kali-yuga and contradictory to the conclusions of the Vedas. The philosophy of achintya-bhedabheda tattva, the inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference, is the true pure essence of the Vedic Truth. The practice of this philosophy elevates a person to the perfection of developing divine transcendental love for the Eternal Absolute Truth, Sri Krishna.” (page 280)
“One attains pure love and attachment for the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, by daily and faithfully executing the process of regulative devotional service, which consists of the following nine limbs: hearing the glories of the Lord, chanting the glories of the Lord, remembering the Lord, serving His lotus feet, worshipping the Lord, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming a servitor of the Lord, considering the Lord one’s friend, and surrendering oneself completely to the Lord.” (page 310)
“The jiva attains his svarupa [pure spiritual form] when his sadhana-bhakti [spiritual practice in bhakti-yoga] matures. At this stage, the hladini-shakti endows him with bhava in madhura-rasa, the honey-like nectarine mellows, as he aspires to become a servant of one of the eternal associates of Sri Radha Krishna in Vraja. Even whilst in this world, he is employed in the unalloyed service of the supreme embodiment of sublime bliss and experience ineffable exultation. To attain this transcendental treasure is of unsurpassable value for the jiva [in other words, it is the ultimate goal of life].” (page 352)
Jaiva-dharma, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, translated by Sriman Sarvabhavana dasa, edited by Keshidamana dasa, Brihat Mrdunga Press, Vrindavana, India, 2004.