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Vaikuṇṭha Is Part of the Lord’s Svarūpa (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 49 – Part 2)

Sri Jiva Gosvami

(Continuation of translation and commentary on Bhagavat Sandarbha, Anuccheda, 49 by Satyanarayana Dasa)

In this section, Jīva Gosvāmī first explains that Vaikuṇṭha cannot be attained by dualistic action, or in other words, by result-oriented action of any kind. This is to say that it cannot be attained by any method other than nondual devotion, which is not a method in the sense of generating any extraneous effect. It is immediate and direct centering of awareness in the nondual complete whole, facilitated through the agency of His own internal potency.

All dualistic actions, performed with the body, mind or speech, directly or indirectly tend toward producing particular effects. The kāraṇa-guṇa-prakrama-nyāya explains that every effect of an action necessarily reflects the qualities inherent in its cause. Thus, the result of all material action will be material. After death, a person attains a destination befitting the karma accrued in the previous life or lives. This formula is briefly stated by Lord Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad Gītā:

Those situated in sattva-guṇa ascend to the higher planets; those in rajo-guṇa remain in the middle region; and those in tamo-guṇa, who engage in detrimental action, go downward.

When the seer observes that there is no performer at work other than these guṇas, and knows himself to be beyond them, then he attains to My nature. (Gītā 14.18-19)

Kṛṣṇa describes this same principle in greater detail in the three verses from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.24.12-14) quoted here by Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. In this context the word siddha, lit., “perfected being,” refers to those who have attained mastery in yoga and who have thus perfected the paranormal abilities, such as aṇimā (atomization). It does not refer to the perfection of liberation or devotion. Analysis of these verses clearly shows that every planet, except for the nondual abode of the Lord, is attained as an effect of dualistic action, including even austerity and yoga. Karma, yoga, austerities and renunciation are dualistic in the sense of being enacted from the perspective of being a separated or isolated self, and aiming at producing particular effects extraneous to the self. Such endeavors are tainted by the guṇas of material nature and lead to different destinations within the material world.

Vaikuṇṭha, however, is attained by nondual devotion. Although nondual devotion makes use of the mind and physical senses, which is to say that it manifests through these agencies, it is not mental or physical action. This means that it is not dualistic action performed by an apparent isolated doer, through instruments (the mind and senses) that are distinct from the doer, and generating an effect that is again distinct from both the doer and its instruments. Nondual devotion, rather, is directly the potency of the nondual Absolute. It is not an event generated or performed by an isolated doer, nor through material instruments. Being conscious by nature and beyond the guṇas, It flows vehemently and of Its own will, toward the ātmā that is first offered to the nondual whole, pervading the ātmā as well as its instruments (the mind and senses). Thus, the ātmā, the physical instruments, the act of worship and the Entity toward whom such devotion is directed, all become of the same identical nature, that of conscious, blissful, nondual being.

It was shown in Anuccheda 34 that the Lord’s name is not capable of being grasped by the tongue or material senses. Rather, when the ātmā is first offered in devotion, the name makes its appearance, by Its own will, on the tongue and other senses. That nondual devotion or worship is not a material action is discussed at greater length in Bhakti-sandarbha (234).

The word karma in these verses refers to those who follow the duties associated with a God-centered household life. This does not refer merely to conventional married life, rooted in satisfaction of ego drives. Rather, in the broad sense it is action in harmony with God’s creation, and one that honors the entire interconnected network of relations that make life possible on earth. In the Vedic context this refers to the actions of religious householders, who uphold the worship of various deities who maintain the cosmic order. Such householders perform the pañca-mahā-yajñas according to Smṛti injunctions.

Tapas, which means austerity, refers to those who adhere to the rules of either vānaprastha or brahmacarya. In both of these āśramas, austerity is a prominent requirement. Brahmacarya does not, however, exclusively mean unmarried individuals or lifelong celibates. Brahma means the Veda, and one who studies the Vedas under a spiritual teacher while adhering to the foundational training that alone makes possible the reception of his wisdom, as described in the Purāṇas and Smṛtis, is called a brahmacārī.

There are two types of brahmacārīs. Lord Kūrma describes them as follows:

A student who properly studies the Vedas, remaining fixed in the Absolute Reality until the end of his life, is called a naiṣṭhika brahmacārī. A student who enters household life after completing his studies is called upakurvāṇa brahmacārī. (KūrmaP 2.77-78)

Nyāsa refers to the renounced order of life, sannyāsa. None of these people can attain Vaikuṇṭha because their actions are under the guṇas of nature, and Vaikuṇṭha is not attained as an effect of dualistic action.

The yan na vrajanti verse (SB 3.15.23), which will be discussed more fully in Section 57, explains that those whose consciousness is locked-in to topics unrelated to the pastimes of the Supreme Lord cannot reach Vaikuṇṭha. In the verse from the same chapter quoted here (SB 3.15.20), Brahmā states that Vaikuṇṭha abounds with air-ships, which have become available to the devotees simply by offering obeisances to the Lord, indicating that Vaikuṇṭha is beyond karma. Offering obeisances here is indicative of all other categories or methods of worship. The word mātra, meaning “only or exclusively,” indicates that such bhakti is not mixed or supported by any other process, such as jñāna or karma.

Śrī Jīva Prabhu further cites the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad in order to confirm his point through Śruti. Here the word akṛta, or “prior and transcendental to dualistic action,” is an adjective qualifying the Vaikuṇṭha world. This can be inferred from the preceding part of the verse in which all material destinations were called karma-jita, or attained as an effect of action. Since lokas are the topic under discussion, the word akṛta could not have another referent.

In some editions of this Upaniṣad, the word parīkṣya (after inspecting) is used in place of parītya (after passing through). This would then mean that a learned brāhmaṇa, after scrutinizing the various planets that can be obtained by karma, loses interest in them. He realizes that Vaikuṇṭha is beyond karma. Then, to understand Vaikuṇṭha, he approaches an authentic spiritual teacher, as is stated in the second half of the above-quoted lines:

tam-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet
samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyam brahma-niṣṭham

In order to realize this truth, one should go, bearing fuel for the sacrificial fire, to a spiritual teacher who is thoroughly acquainted with scriptural truth and firmly grounded in the truth of Ultimate Being. (MuU 1.2.12)

The only means by which the Lord or His abode becomes available is through His mercy and that of His devotees. Jaḍa Bharata confirmed this while instructing King Rahūgaṇa:

O King Rahūgaṇa, one does not attain the Absolute Truth through asceticism, rituals, renunciation, nor by following household life, the study of the Vedas, nor through the worship of water, fire or sun, but only by smearing one’s body with the dust of the feet of pure devotees. (SB 5.12.12)

In Section 46 it was shown that the Lord’s body cannot be categorized as one of the fourfold results of action. The same analysis can also be applied to the abode of the Lord. Eternal, self-effulgent entities cannot be achieved as an effect of any dualistic or result-oriented action. Therefore, Lord Kṛṣṇa advises Arjuna (Gītā 18.62) that one can attain the eternal abode, Vaikuṇṭha only by submission of inherent being, consciousness and all forms of attention unto Him.

Apparent Contradictions in Shastra

Question: Srila Jiva Gosvami’s Bhakti Sandarbha, anuccheda 286 says :

“The asuras, or demons, however, who participated in the Lord’s pastimes in this world, are not present as conscious entities in the Lord’s abode. Rather, they are felt to be there in a figurative sense as representations of the same forms witnessed in this world. In the Bhagavata Sandarbha and elsewhere, it was logically shown that Krsna and His friends regularly enact the pastimes of His various incarnations [including the battles with various demons] in a spirit of pure enjoyment, as expressed by Sri Suka: ‘Thus, Krsna and Balarama passed their childhood in Vraja performing childlike pastimes, such as hide-and-seek, building bridges [in imitation of Lord Rama] and jumping like monkeys [who crossed the ocean to assist Rama in His battle against the demon Ravana].’ (SB. 10.14.61)”

However,  in Srila Sanatana Gosvami’s Brhad Bhagavatamrtam 2.6.354 we read that Krishna in Goloka kills Kamsa, Aghasura, Bakasura repeatedly.

So if Krishna goes away to Mathura to kill Kamsa who is not there but just some rumour or representation of him, then He has to put up a big show of illusion for the Vrajavasi’s and Mathura inhabitants; e.g. He can’t take any gopa to the Aghasura killing because it is all fake, Krishna can’t take the gopi’s on a ride of Kaliya because Kaliya is not real.

How to harmonize Brhad Bhagavatamrtam and Bhakti Sandarbha?

This Brhad Bhagavatamrtam section seems to well fit with SB 3.15.25 Sarartha Darsini-commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravartipada:

‘In some Puranas it is seen that even demons may briefly enter Vaikuntha. That is, however, without them experiencing the transcendental bliss that normally goes with residing there. Just as in a jewelled royal palace, which may be endowed with many attributes like fragrance, bears and tigers may be allowed in on the order of the king for the entertainment of the inhabitants, similarly the Lord may occasionally amuse His devotees, who reside in His transcendental abode, by freely showing them mundane phenomena, which may sometimes be horrid creatures like demons, sometimes persons in the mode of goodness like Bhrigu Muni and others, or persons who transcend the three modes of nature, like the four Kumaras, and then again He may quickly eject them again as He sees fit.”

“In Puranas and other scriptures, one sometimes hears that there is some momentary appearance of demons in the spiritual world, but this should not be considered actually entrance into the spiritual world, since they lack realization of spiritual happiness. However, an example may be given. Sometimes tigers or bears enter into the jewel-covered palace of the king endowed with various fragrances, since for amusement, the king desires that the populace see those animals. Similarly, the Supreme Lord, for fun, by his will brings material objects, ferocious demons, saintly persons like Bhrgu, or persons beyond the three gunas such as the Kumaras to Vaikuntha, to show to them the inhabitants of the spiritual world, and then quickly takes them away as is suitable for his purpose.”

How is it that He imports Kamsa, Aghasura, Bakasura and puts them out of the spiritual world and  in which sastra it is written that Krishna’s killing a demon in the spiritual world is only a rumor?

Final question: When Krishna empties Mathura, all the inhabitants of it go to Dwaraka with Him. In the spiritual world there is Mathura and Dwaraka as well. Are the inhabitants of these two places same or different souls?

Jiva Gosvami celebrationAnswer: To answer your questions there has to be a basic understanding of the principles behind bhakti sastras which I cannot just give in an email. These books need to be studied properly from the beginning because they build the Gaudiya theology gradually. Both Sri Jiva Gosvami and Srila Sanatan Gosvami are right. The fact is that there is no difference between pastimes here and there.

As is avesha so is pravesha. [Yatha avesha tatha pravesha: Whatever is the absorption while living as a sadhaka, that is what you enter into.] But this principle is not easy to grasp. I am sorry that I can not give you any satisfactory reply thru email. Some of these issues are too comlex, like the issue of svakiya and parakiya. You will find both type of statements in the writings of Gosvamis. It is not a matter of debate but understanding the siddhanta.