Bhagavān, Grace and Material Suffering – Part 3

By Satyanarayana Dasa

Continuation from Paramātmā  Sandarbha, Anuccheda 93.5

Bhagavān Has No Experience of Material Misery


With regard to the second objection [that Bhagavān is subject to favoritism], we say the following: One engages in giving delight to others for two possible reasons: to attain what one desires from the other, or sometimes just to fulfill the other’s desire. The first option is not relevant to the objection raised here because when one acts for one’s own interest alone, there is no question of partiality whatsoever [toward others, since one’s concern would then be only with oneself]. In the second case, the desire to engage in acts favorable to another arises only after experiencing first hand their happiness and misery, not merely by some general awareness of it. This is because there is no possibility of the heart undergoing a transformation in the form of compassion without having been touched by another’s pain. As is said:

One whose foot has been pricked by a thorn would not desire others to suffer such agony, having understood the sameness of all living beings [in regard to the experience of pain] through external signs, but not a person who has never been so pricked. (SB 10.10.14)

Therefore, for Bhagavān who has an eternal form of supreme bliss and is ever free from sin, there is no experience of the material misery called “pleasure,” what to speak of what is commonly known as misery, just as there is a complete absence of darkness in light or of an owl’s capacity to see the sun.

Some, although desiring to deny the relation with misery in Bhagavān, speak in the following way: There is knowledge of the experience of misery in the Lord, yet that knowledge is of the misery experienced by others and not His own misery. Such an explanation, however, is like finding oneself face to face with the toll man at the river crossing in the morning after taking a roundabout path throughout the night to avoid him [i.e., the very same problem still exists]. The experience of misery verily means that such misery touches the heart, whether such contact comes from one’s own misery or from that of another, because there is no distinction as to whether the heart’s relation with misery arises from one’s own suffering or that of another.

The flaw [posited by some] of the Bhagavān not being omniscient [because of His absence of awareness of misery] is also negated by the very same example of the sun [indicating that Bhagavān’s non-awareness of misery in no way contradicts His omniscience, just as the absence of darkness in the sun does not obstruct the all-pervasiveness of its radiance]. On the contrary, the Lord’s non-awareness of misery has been shown to be an attribute. Therefore, let it be admitted that there is knowledge of some misery in general in Bhagavān, though He certainly has no direct experience of misery. It is specifically for this reason that the flaw of cruelty in Bhagavān is denied, even though the jīvas are suffering from material miseries even at present, and this too in spite of the fact that Bhagavān is utterly capable of all action, all inaction and all contrary action whatsoever, and moreover, He being the crest jewel among all those who are benevolently disposed to others to the supreme extent. The happiness of devotees, however, is indeed a form of Bhagavān’s devotion, and their misery too is simply a consequence of obstacles in attaining Him. By this the melting of the heart for Bhagavān is greatly increased, and this is nothing other than bhakti. Sometimes, as in the case of Gajendra, where the misery experienced is purely of the material variety, bhakti becomes manifest in the same way, through the utterance of expressions such as, “He alone is my refuge”.

Sometimes, as in the case of the twin Arjuna trees, the devotion of devotees like Śrī Nārada becomes manifest. Thus, it is exclusively the experience of a devotee’s devotion in the form of humility that impels Bhagavān to compassion, and not material misery, because it is wrong to assume an inappropriate cause when an appropriate one is available. Moreover, if the existence of misery were the sole cause behind His compassion then the sufferings of worldly existence would have been completely uprooted.

If, however, one argues that material misery is undeniably an indirect cause, then let it be so, there is no harm. Therefore, it is established that in either case, it is only the experience of the devotee’s bhakti that impels Bhagavān to bestow delight upon the devotee.

Thereafter this is to be said – if in spite of experiencing directly the happiness and misery of others, Bhagavān were to abandon them and grant happiness to or redress the misery of others instead, then only would He be subject to the charge of being biased. But Śrī Bhagavān, like a wish-fulfilling tree, is not liable to such accusation because there is no experience of material happiness or misery in Him. This is stated by Śrī Akrura:

No one is dear to Him, nor is anyone a bosom friend. There is no one who is not dear to Him, nor anyone who is an object of hate or even indifference. Nevertheless, He loves and serves His devotees exactly as they love Him, just as a tree from the heavenly realm rewards those who approach it with the specific objects they seek. (SB 10.38.22)

In this verse, the phrase, na kaścit, “no one”, means someone other than the devotees, because according to the following statement, Bhagavān considers His devotees to be dear to Himself:

What learned person would approach anyone for shelter other than You, who are filled with love for Your devotees, truthful, a well-wisher to all, and grateful? (SB 10.48.26)

Śrī Mahādeva also said:

No one is dear to Him and nobody is undear, no one is His own and nobody is a stranger to Him either. Because He, Bhagavān Hari, is the very Self of all living beings, He is the beloved of all creatures. And this greatly fortunate Citraketu is His dear servant, being of equal vision towards all and established in perfect peace. Indeed, I too am a beloved devotee of the infallible Bhagavān. (SB 6.17.33-34)

Śrī Prahlāda too expressed the same sentiment:

How wonderful are Your acts, O Lord! You have created the worlds through the cosmic play of Your immeasurable Yogamāyā. You are omniscient, the Self of all beings, and of equal vision. So, although You are naturally without bias, You hold Your devotees dear, simply because it is Your nature to respond [in perfect uniformity with the core disposition of the supplicant] in the manner of a wish-fulfilling tree. (SB 8.23.8)

The meaning is as follows: Since You hold Your devotees dear, and moreover are of equal vision, it is Your nature to be without bias (aviṣama); there is no favoritism [in Your character]. This idea is expressed by the adjectival compound kalpa-taru-svabhāvaḥ that implies the reason why He is to be understood as unbiased [in spite of the special dearness of His devotees]: “Because it is Your nature to respond [in perfect uniformity] in the manner of a wish-fulfilling tree.” Therefore, You do not have a biased nature though You appear to, and this is extraordinarily wonderful.

Alternatively, it may have to be concluded that because of the partiality observed in Him in the form of siding with His devotees, and this too in an entity characterized as a wish-fulfilling tree, mentioned in the latter verse (SB 8.23.8), and thus equally approachable by everyone whosoever, partiality of this kind is simply inevitable, being the nature of one who is equal to all (samasya). Thus [in accordance with this alternative explanation], the words aviṣama-svabhāva should be read and explained as viṣama-svabhāva, namely that He is biased.

Similarly, in the verse previously quoted [where the example of a “tree from the heavenly realm” is given, SB 10.38.22], in the statement, “He loves and serves His devotees” (bhaktān bhajate), there is indeed bias applicable to Him. In reality, however, the transrational opulence in Śrī Bhagavān is the primary reason for there not being any contradiction in Him.

While commenting upon the following verse, “Obeisances to You again and again who foster Your devotees” (SB 2.4.14), Śrīdhara Svāmī says, “[Śukadeva] now speaks of the Bhagavān’s transrational majestic power to explain how His apparent favoritism is not a flaw.”

The same idea is expressed by Śrī Bhīṣma:

In Him, who is the Self of everyone, who has equal vision, is devoid of duality, and altogether free from egotism and vice, there is no partiality whatsoever in regard to the fitness or unfitness of so-called higher or lower actions. Yet, O King, just behold His compassion for those who are exclusively devoted to Him! For Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself has come before me just when I am about to breathe my last. (SB 1.9.21-22)

And Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa Himself says:

I am equally disposed to all living beings, and so there is no one whom I despise or favor. But those who worship Me with devotion are situated in Me, and I too am established in them. (Gītā 9.29)

In this way, the Bhagavān is free from these blemishes, and it has been shown that favoring His devotees is an act of the essence of the intrinsic potency. So Bhagavān personally performs all those līlās in various avatāras only through His intrinsic potency and only to give delight to His devotees, whereas the maintenance of the universe is thereby accomplished of its own accord. This being established, Vidura’s question [as to how Bhagavān can become involved with the guṇas and activities of prakṛti, even as a matter of divine play (līlā), SB 3.7.2] does not stand.

In this regard, the flaw of the Bhagavān not being self-satisfied because He performs līlā with the devas, who are material beings, will be cleared later on [in Śrī Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, Anuccheda 43] by accepting that the Lord partially enters the devas with His potency.




2 thoughts on “Bhagavān, Grace and Material Suffering – Part 3”

  1. Hare Krsna

    How might one explain this conception in relation to Krsna’s external considerations for appearing as Sri Mahaprabhu as delineated in the Cc adi-lila ch. 3? Krsna’s thought process appears concern about the residents of the world not having vraja-prema, although as I write this, the concern seems less about the plight of the condition soul and more about the necessity for vraja-prema. I seek clarification.

    thank you

    1. Babaji’s reply:
      What I can say is that Mahaprabhu appeared on the plea of Advaitacarya, who besides being Mahavishnu is also Brahma (if i am not mistaken). So Mahaprabhu’s appearance does not go against Jiva Gosvami’s conclusion.

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