Tag Archives: Jiva Gosvami

Śrīmad Bhāgavata Is Equivalent to the Veda

The following article is a further part of the introduction to our forthcoming translation of the first canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavata.

All the Vedānta schools accept prasthāna-trayī i.e., the ten principal Upaniṣads, Vedānta Sutra and Bhagavad Gītā as pramāna and base their specific vāda on them. Śri Vallabhācārya adds Śrīmad Bhāgavata to the list of the three pramānas. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī goes a step further and calls Śrīmad Bhāgavata as the supreme pramāṇa, pramāna-śiromaṇi. 

Although Śrīmad Bhagāvata belongs to the class of the Purāṇas, it is equated to the Vedas in authority. In Bhagavad Gītā, Kṛṣṇa declares, “By all the Vedas, I alone am to be known” (Gītā 15.15). Śrīmad Bhāgavata is unquestionably the Purāṇa that directly discloses the ontological truth pertaining to Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śukadeva Gosvāmī affirmed this very point in the conclusion of his teachings to King Parīkṣit: “Bhagavān Hari [Kṛṣṇa], the Immanent Self of the cosmos, is repeatedly described in this book [Śrīmad Bhāgavata]” (SB 12.5.1).

Accordingly, in the penultimate chapter of the Bhāgavata, Sūta Gosvāmī sums up the entire discussion in the following words: “Here [in Śrīmad Bhāgavata], Hari, the dispeller of all sins, who is Nārāyaṇa, Hṛṣīkeśa, and Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa, the Guardian and Master of the Sātvatas, has been directly described” (SB 12.12.3).

Śrīmad Bhāgavata’s status as equivalent to the Vedas is also directly affirmed in the book itself in statements such as the following: “This Purāṇa, called the Bhāgavata, is equal (sammitam) to the Vedas” (SB 1.3.40). The word sammitam can mean “equal,” “similar,” “resembling,” “like,” “comparable,” or “of identical value.” Thus, here it signifies that the Bhāgavata is equal to the Vedas or is esteemed on a par with the Vedas. The intended sense is that Śrīmad Bhāgavata’s authority is equivalent to that of the Vedas, and it conveys the essential import of the Vedas in the form of transcendental knowledge regarding Śrī Kṛṣṇa. 

While questioning Sūta Gosvāmī, sage Śaunaka directly refers to Śrīmad Bhāgavata as a Śruti, a word that is synonymous with the Vedas: 

“My dear [Sūta], how, moreover, did the conversation occur between the sage-like king [Parīkṣit], who appeared in the Pāṇḍu dynasty, and the introverted sage [Śuka], in the course of which this Vaiṣṇava Śruti was disclosed?” (SB 1.4.7)

Śrī Śukadeva also refers to the Bhāgavata as equal to the Vedas while informing King Parīkṣit about his own study: “This Purāṇā, called the Bhāgavata, is equal to the Vedas. I studied it from my father Dvaipāyana Vyāsa at the end of Dvāparayuga” (SB 2.1.8).  Here also, the word sammitam is used to point out the Bhāgavata’s equivalence to the Vedas. The compound dvāpara-adau, which would normally be interpreted to mean, “at the beginning of Dvāpara,” is of the bahuvrihi, or “exocentric,” classification, meaning that its referent is external to, yet qualified by, its component members. The compound thus comes to mean “at that period of time the beginning of which corresponded to Dvāpara’s end.” Here, “at that period of time” is the external referent, while the remainder of the phrase, drawn from the words adau and dvāpara, is its qualifier.

Sūta Gosvāmī also refers to the Bhāgavata as equal to the Vedas while describing the dialogue between King Parīkṣit and Śukadeva: “He recited the Purāṇa called the Bhāgavata, which is equal to the Vedas and was spoken by Bhagavān to Brahmā at the beginning of the Brahma-kalpa” (SB 2.8.28).

From the above citations, it is clear that Śrīmad Bhāgavata has a distinct place among the Purāṇas because of being equated to or esteemed on a par with the Vedas. Indeed, its importance exceeds even that of the Vedas because it is determined as the ripened fruit of the tree of all the Vedas. The fruit is indeed the most highly valued product of a tree and more delectable than any other part. The author himself praises it as follows:

“O you devotees, who are connoisseurs of the aesthetic experience (rasa) [of divine love for Bhagavān] and who are highly skilled in the art of contemplation on particular aesthetic modes of being (bhāvukas), drink again and again up to liberation and beyond the divine rasa known as Śrīmad Bhāgavata, the ripened fruit of the wish-fulfilling tree of all the Vedas. Abounding with the fluid essence of immortal nectar, it has descended upon the earth [unbroken, out of the utter fullness of its taste] from the mouth of Śrī Śuka.” (SB 1.1.3)


Where Does the Drive for Happiness Come From?

Every living being, not just human beings, has a drive for happiness. It is a natural tendency from birth and is not something acquired by training. Whether someone is learned or illiterate, cultured or uncultured, rich or poor, theist or an atheist—everyone hankers to be happy.  The nonhumans such as birds, animals, and aquatics avoid pain and prefer to be in a comfortable environment. Like human beings, they may not make big plans for enjoyment but certainly, they avoid misery by all possible means. Even plants have the intelligence to avoid obstruction to their growth. Thus, based on our own experience and logic, we could hypothesize that the drive for happiness is inherent in the ātmā. Let us examine if this hypothesis is supported by śāstra.

In Paramātma Sandarbha (Anuccheda 19–46), Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī does an exhaustive analysis of the svarūpa of the jīva or ātmā. In Anuccheda 19, he first cites verses from Padma Puṛānā delineating the svarūpa of the jīva: 

The letter m [in Oṁ] signifies the jīva, “the witness of the presentational field of the body” (kṣetrajña), who is always dependent upon and subservient to the Supreme Self, Paramātmā. He is [constitutionally] a servant of Bhagavān Hari only and never of anyone else. He is the conscious substratum, endowed with the attribute of knowledge. He is conscious and beyond matter. He is never born, undergoes no modification, is of one [unchanging] form, and situated in his own essential identity (svarūpa). He is atomic [i.e., the smallest particle without any parts], eternal, pervasive of the body, and intrinsically of the nature of consciousness and bliss. He is the referent of the pronoun “I,” imperishable, the proprietor of the body, distinct from all other jīvas, and never-ending. The jīva cannot be burnt, cut, wetted, or dried, and is not subject to decay. He is endowed with these and other attributes. He is indeed the irreducible remainder (śeṣa) [i.e., the integrated part] of the Complete Whole. (Padma Purāṇa, Uttara-khaṇḍa 226.34–37) 

Next, he cites some verses from a work of Jamātṛ Muni of Śrī Sampradāya:

The ātmā is neither god, nor human, nor subhuman, nor is it an immovable being [a tree, mountain, and so on]. It is not the body, nor the senses, mind, vital force, or the intellect. It is not inert, not mutable, nor mere consciousness. It is conscious of itself and self-luminous; it is of one form and is situated in its own essential nature.

It is conscious, pervades the body, and is intrinsically of the nature of consciousness and bliss. It is the direct referent of the pronoun “I,” is distinct [from other individual selves] in each body, atomic [i.e., the smallest particle without further parts], eternal, and unblemished.

It is intrinsically endowed with the characteristics of knowership [cognition], agency [conation], and experiential capacity [affectivity]. Its nature by its own inner constitution is to be always the unitary, irreducible remainder [i.e., the integrated part] of the Complete Whole, Paramātmā.

There are about 21 characteristics of the jīva mentioned in these verses. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī elaborates on each of them in the following anucchedas. There is no mention of a “drive for happiness” in this list, nor does Śrī Jīva Gosvāmi mention it while elaborating on these characteristics. He does not mention it anywhere in his entire analysis of the intrinsic nature of the jīva.

Then how can we account for the constant desire and endeavor to be happy, which we all experience? It is certainly not something that we have acquired, because even animals and birds have it. The clue to the answer is found in the twelfth characteristic, cid-ānanda-ātmaka, “intrinsically of the nature of consciousness and bliss.” This sounds perplexing since it seems contrary to our experience of having a constant drive for bliss or happiness. It is as absurd as seeing a person desperately looking for food after stuffing himself with his favorite meal. If the jīva or self is intrinsically blissful, then why should it search for happiness outside? This is explained by Śri Jīva Gosvāmī in Anuccheda 28 while commenting on this quality, i.e., cid-ānanda-ātmaka, as follows—tatra tasya jaḍa-pratiyogitvena jñānatvaṁ, duḥkha-pratiyogitvena tu jñānatvam ānandatvañ ca—“Because the self is not inert [lit., because of its being the counter positive of inertness], it is of the nature of consciousness, and because of its being the counter positive of misery, it is of the nature of consciousness and bliss.” The meaning is that a jīva is intrinsically conscious and devoid of any misery. Just as not being inert is equated to consciousness, so also freedom from misery is equated to happiness or ānanda. In other words, not being miserable is also a type of ānanda or happiness. The other types of happiness are material happiness—martyānanada; the happiness of experiencing the qualityless Absolute —brahmānanda; and the happiness of devotional love—bhaktyānanda or premānanada.  

Most of the happiness that we experience is nothing but the cessation of suffering or discomfort. When we have discomfort, we feel happy when it is removed. Almost all the happiness that we experience in our material lives is preceded by discomfort. We enjoy food because we feel the discomfort of hunger. If we suffer from heat, we enjoy a cool place. Every desire that we have is a disturbance because it takes us away from our svarūpa, or our natural position. When a desire is fulfilled, we feel happy—not because the object of desire gave us happiness, but because the disturbance caused by the desire disappeared. Because of focusing on the object of our desire, we mistakenly think that the acquired object is the source of our happiness. If the object of desire was the source of happiness, we should always attain happiness from it. But such is not the case. We have all experienced that the very object, position, or action that we intensely hankered for does not give us the same amount of happiness that it gave when we first achieved it. The level of happiness that it gives diminishes over time, and after some time, it may not give any happiness at all. Rather, it may become a source of trouble or discomfort. There are people in the world who possess the object or position for which we hanker but if you observe them, they may not be that blissful. This is because they have their own list of desirable objects or positions. Thus, Kṛṣṇa says that the objects of sense enjoyment are verily the source of misery (Gītā 5.22).

In our svarūpa, there is neither misery nor a drive to attain happiness. The drive for happiness is a thought, feeling, or emotion in the mind, which is external to the ātmā. It manifests only when we are connected to the mind. We experience this every night. When we are in a state of dreamless sleep, we have no thoughts, feelings, or emotions. We have no experience of misery, even if we are suffering from an intense disease or pain. This is because in dreamless sleep, we are disconnected from the mind. This freedom from suffering is experienced as a type of happiness. Thus, upon awakening, we have the experience, “I slept deeply and happily. I did not know anything.” No one says, “I slept deeply and miserably. I did not know anything.” If the drive for happiness was in the svarūpa of the jīva, then we should also experience it in dreamless sleep. Upon waking, we should say, “I slept very deeply and was hankering for happiness.” No one has such an experience. 

The conclusion is that neither śāstra nor our experience supports the idea that we have an intrinsic drive for happiness. The drive for happiness comes only when we identify with the material mind-body complex because in this state, we are not situated in our svarūpa. Not being situated in our svarūpa creates a state of disturbance. Thus, a drive emerges in us to dispel this sense of disturbance. This drive is mistakenly understood to be rooted in the ātmā. 

The fact is that we have the drive to be situated in our svarūpa. Our svarūpa is devoid of misery, and thus we strive to remove misery. In the conditioned state, we identify with the mind-body complex and consider it to be our svarūpa. But this is only an illusion. Our mind and body are always in a state of flux. Our system functions to remain balanced. We also work to remain balanced—free from all mental and physical disturbances. We feel that something is missing in us and therefore think that if we can acquire what is missing, then we will be happy. This is a natural drive that we all have. Whenever we feel happy, we are closer to our self. Suffering means going away from our self. Self-realized people do not experience this drive for happiness because they do not identify with their mind-body complex. They experience a state free from misery. Kṛṣṇa defines this as yoga (Gītā 6.23)—taṁ vidyād duḥkha-saṁyoga-viyogaṁ yoga-saṁjñitam—“Know that state which is devoid of any contact with pain to be yoga.” 

Thus, mukti is defined as giving up the identification with that which is not one’s self and becoming situated in our self—muktir hitvānyathā-rūpaṁ svarupeṇa vyavasthitih (SB 2.10.6). The word mukti means to be free [from misery]. It does not mean happiness. Becoming free from misery is a type of happiness. When we move away from our self, we suffer. Thus, Patañjali defines yoga as disassociation from mental modifications—yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (Yoga Sūtra 1.2). This results in being situated in one’s self—tadā draṣṭuḥ svarupe ’vasthānam (Yoga Sūtra 1.3). In this way, we see that mukti and yoga as defined by Kṛṣṇa, as well as by Patañjali, are the same. 

Because our self is devoid of misery, it is called the object of love, prīti-āspada. Having attained it, one is never disturbed by anything. It is considered the supreme attainment (Gītā 6.22). Even in the material world, we love everything that we think is ours. The body and things related to the body appear as objects of love only when we consider them as related to our self. When we stop considering things or persons as belonging to us, we become indifferent to them. We enjoy material objects only as long as we consider them ours. In other words, we put ourselves into something and then derive pleasure from it. Truly we relish our self in external objects, relationships, and positions. By relating with them, we erroneously think that we are situated in our self. This is a mistaken state of mukti and is an outcome of ignorance about our true self. Real happiness, however, comes only from bhakti because Bhagavān is the Self of our self, as said by Śukadeva, “Know Kṛṣṇa to be the Self of everyone’s self” (SB 10.14.55). 

Satyanarayana Dasa

Nāma-aparādha: The Second Offense

To Regard the Names and Qualities of Śiva as Independent of Viṣṇu

Among the devotees of Kṛṣṇa, Śiva has a very special place. Moreover, Śiva is also one of the guṇa-avatāras. In the Purāṇas, he is often portrayed as the Supreme Lord, Īśvara. There is also a large community of Hindus who accept Śiva as the Supreme Lord. If you read the second offense against the name, it appears very ambiguous. It seems to forbid any distinction between the names of Viṣṇu and Śiva. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī clarifies the true meaning of the second offense in the following anuccheda.

Anuccheda 265.4

[In connection with the second offense,] the following conclusion is also heard:

Whatsoever in existence is glorious, opulent, or powerful, know that indeed to be manifested from but a portion of My splendor. (Gītā 10.41)

As Śrī Balarāma said: “Brahmā, Śiva, and even I Myself are but portions of His [Kṛṣṇa’s] portions” (SB 10.68.37).

Bhagavān Kapila also said:

Śiva became śiva, or “auspicious,” by accepting upon his head the sacred water of the Gaṅgā, which is the best of rivers, because it issued forth from the water that washed the feet of Bhagavān. (SB 3.28.22)

And as Brahmā said:

I evolve the universe as appointed by Him, and Śiva dissolves it under His supervision, while He Himself [Bhagavān Hari], endowed with the three potencies, preserves it in His form as the Puruṣa. (SB 2.6.32)

Similarly, we find these statements from the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, cited in Madhva’s commentary on Vedānta-sūtra (1.3.3):

Bhagavān Janārdana is called Rudra, because He dispels the disease of material existence (rujam), Īśāna, because He rules over all (īśana), and Mahādeva (the Great God), because of His supreme glory (mahattva). Bhagavān Viṣṇu is called Pinākī, because He is the support of those who drink (pibanti) the bliss of the transcendental abode (nāka), having become liberated from the ocean of material existence. He is called Śiva (benevolent), because He is the very embodiment of beatitude (sukhātmakatva), and Hara (the destroyer), because He is the annihilator of all. He is called Kṛttivāsa (He who is adorned with a garment of skin), because as the Immanent Self, He dwells in and impels the body, which is covered with skin (kṛtti). Viṣṇu Deva is called Viriñci, because He sets loose the creative energy (recana) in a most unique manner (vi, i.e., viśeṣa-prakāra). He is designated as Brahman (the Infinitely Expansive), because He is the source of all expansion (bṛṁhaṇa), and as Indra (the lord of heaven), because of His supreme majesty (aiśvarya). In this manner, only one Supreme Being (Puruṣottama), who performs extraordinary deeds, is glorified in the Vedas and the Purāṇas by many different names.

And in the Vāmana Purāṇa:

There is no doubt that Nārāyaṇa and other names are used for others as well, yet Bhagavān Viṣṇu alone is proclaimed as the one and only refuge of all other names.

And in the Skanda Purāṇa:

With the exception of the names that are unique to Him, such as Nārāyaṇa, Bhagavān Puruṣottama bestowed other names upon the devas, just as a king invests his ministers with administrative authority over his entire kingdom, excluding his private quarters.

And in the Brahma Purāṇa:

Bhagavān Keśava awarded even some of His own particular names to others. To Brahmā He gave the names Caturmukha (the four-headed one), Śatānanda (the delight of hundreds), and Padmabhu (the lotus-born); and to Śiva He gave the names Ugra (the fierce one), Bhasmadhara (he whose body is smeared with ashes), Nagna (the naked one), and Kapālī (he who wears a garland of skulls).

In this manner, it is well-known [from scriptures] that Bhagavān Viṣṇu is the Immanent Self of all the devas and of all living beings (sarvātmakatva). For this reason, if a person even thinks, or perceives, that the name, qualities, and other attributes of Śiva are distinct from those of Viṣṇu—in other words, that they are manifested by Śiva’s own independent potency—he is an offender.

If the sixth grammatical case [the genitive case] had been used in the verse with the intent to point out the nondistinction (abheda) between Śiva and Viṣṇu, then the word ca, “also,” should have been inserted after viṣṇoḥ. [If the word ca, “and,” had been placed after viṣṇoḥ, it would have given the exact opposite meaning. The translation would then have been as follows: “One who considers the name, qualities, and other attributes of Śiva ‘and’ Śrī Viṣṇu as different (bhinnam) displeases the name.” Śrī Jīva’s point here is that since the word ca is omitted from the statement, the verse’s intent is not to advocate absolute nondistinction (abheda) between Śiva and Viṣṇu.] To show the supremacy of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, the honorific śrī has been used only before the word Viṣṇu. Therefore, even in the compound śiva-nāmāparādhaḥ, “an offense to the auspicious name,” which appears in the statement of the ninth offense, the word śiva primarily indicates Śrī Viṣṇu. Accordingly, in the list of the 1000 names of Viṣṇu, the names Sthāṇu (the immovable one) and Śiva also refer to Viṣṇu.

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa

The basic principle of all śāstra is that there is only one Absolute Truth. This is stated in the very beginning of Bhāgavata Purāṇa (1.2.11), which has been established by Jīva Gosvāmī in Tattva Sandarbha as the supreme authority in the matter of the ascertainment of the Absolute. This Absolute Truth is identified as Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is designated as SvayaBhagavān, or God in His ownmost original and essential being (SB 1.3.28). No one is independent of Him (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.1, Gītā 10.8). This fact has been demonstrated in Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha (Anucchedas 1–29). This implies that no one is equal to Him, and thus there is no possibility of anyone being superior to Him. Arjuna confirms this in his prayers (Gītā 11.43). Kṛṣṇa Himself says that there is nothing superior to Him (Gītā 7.7).

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī cites various verses to show that the original meaning of all names, such as Śiva, is Viṣṇu. This is also confirmed from the use of the word śiva for Viṣṇu in the description of the offenses (Padma PurāṇaBrahma-khaṇḍa 25.17), cited in this anuccheda. Thus, to consider the name and qualities of Śiva as equal to or independent of Kṛṣṇa is ignorance and also an insult to Kṛṣṇa. Being displeasing to the name, it is therefore an offense. This is analogous to addressing and respecting a minister as the emperor in the latter’s presence while disregarding the actual emperor and calling him a minister.

As regards the second offense, one should not misconstrue the meaning of the statement śivasya śrī viṣṇor ya iha guṇa-nāmādi sakalaṁ dhiyā bhinnaṁ paśyet sa khalu harināmāhitakaraḥ to mean “One who considers the name, qualities, and other attributes of Śiva as different (bhinnam) from the name, qualities, and other attributes of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, displeases the name.” Such a meaning could be expressed if the word viṣṇoḥ were understood to be in the sixth case. In such instance, the word “ca” should have been used in place of yaḥ. But according to the meaning given by Jīva Gosvāmī, the word viṣṇoḥ is in the fifth case, and this understanding is in harmony with the fact that Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate manifestation of Absolute Reality.

(to be continued)

Hearing and Singing about Kṛṣṇa Is Supreme

Bhagavān has innumerable names, which all have inherent potency in them. Yet not all names have equal potency. The Name of Kṛṣṇa is supreme. Therefore, hearing and singing Kṛṣṇa’s names is most beneficial and effective, and thus constitutes one of the most important parts of bhakti in Gaudīya sampradāya. Moreover, hearing from the mouth of a great devotee is most powerful. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains this in Anuccheda 262 of Bhakti Sandarbha. He also stresses the importance of hearing Śrimad Bhagavata Purāṇa. Below I render the original text and my comments on it.


The Hierarchy of Importance in regard to Hearing

Regarding hearing, the following [hierarchy of importance] should be considered: To hear about the names, forms, qualities, līlās, and associates of Bhagavān to any extent is supremely beneficial. Superior to this is to hear the sacred works brought forth (āvirbhāvita) by mahat devotees. When these compositions are then sung by a realized devotee (mahat-kīrtyamānam), the benefit is greater still. To hear Śrīmad Bhāgavata is superior even to this, and better yet when sung by a mahat devotee.

In addition, the prescription to hear repeatedly is to be enacted specifically in regard to the names, forms, qualities, and līlās of one’s own cherished form of Bhagavān (nījābhīṣṭa), as indicated in this verse: “One should worship the Supreme Puruṣa [Bhagavān] in the form that is according to one’s longing” (SB 11.3.48). Furthermore, such hearing should be received from the mouth of a greatly realized devotee (mahānubhāva) who shares the same internal devotional predilection (savāsanā).

To hear specifically about the names, forms, qualities, and līlās of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, out of all the various manifestations of Bhagavān, occurs only by supreme fortune because He is Bhagavān in His most original complete essential being. The same conclusion applies in regard to other sādhanas of bhakti, such as singing and remembering. Among the narrations of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, whichever ones a practitioner personally sings at present should be sung as mahat devotees, such as Śrī Śukadeva, previously did, by adopting the manner and devotional mood established by them.

We have thus explained the practice of hearing (śravaṇam). This precedes the practices of singing and remembering because without first hearing, one cannot have knowledge of these other practices. In particular, if the fortune to hear directly the narrations sung by a mahat devotee has not yet presented itself, then only should one personally sing them on one’s own (pṛthak), because hearing [the names and so on of Śrī Kṛṣṇa] is the primary process. Consequently, the following statement and comment are relevant in this regard:

tad-vāg-visargo janatāgha-viplavo yasmin prati-ślokam abaddhavaty api
nāmāny anantasya yaśo’ṅkitāni yat śṛṇvanti gāyanti gṛṇanti sādhavaḥ

[On the other hand,] that linguistic composition, in which each verse, even though grammatically or poetically defective, contains the names that are imprinted with the glory of the limitless One [Bhagavān], destroys the sins of humanity, since these are the names that saintly devotees hear, recite, and sing. (SB 1.5.11)

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “The pronoun yat, ‘which,’means ‘which names’ (yāni nāmāni). If a speaker is present, the sādhus will hear the names of Bhagavān uttered by him; if an audience is present, they will recite these names for the benefit of the listeners; and if neither speaker nor audience is present, they will sing by themselves.”


Kīrtanam Is the Best Form of Atonement

We will now discuss the practice of kīrtana, or singing the glories of Bhagavān. In this regard, the order in which the names, forms, and so on are to be sung is understood to be the same as previously delineated in the case of hearing [i.e. name, form, qualities and pastimes]. An example of singing the names of Bhagavān is found in this statement of the Viṣṇudūtas to the Yamadūtas:

sarveṣām apy aghavatām idam eva suniṣkṛtam
nāma-vyāharaṇaṁ viṣṇor yatas tad-viṣayā matiḥ

For sinners of all types, uttering the name of Bhagavān Viṣṇu is indeed the only perfect means of atonement, because Viṣṇu’s attention (mati) is thereby drawn toward the utterer. (SB 6.2.10)

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “The words idam eva suniṣkṛtam mean ‘this alone [i.e., the utterance of the name] is the best form of atonement’ (śreṣṭhaṁ prāyaścitam). The reason for this is that when a person utters Viṣṇu’s name, Viṣṇu’s attention (mati) is drawn toward him (tad-viṣayā), the utterer of the name (nāmoccāraka-puruṣa), and Viṣṇu thinks, ‘This person is My very own (madīya), and as such, he is to be protected by Me in every way.’”

Therefore, because Bhagavān’s name belongs to His constitutional nature (svarūpa), it is naturally the cause of absorption in Him (tadīya-āveṣa). As such, hearing even a single part [or syllable] of Bhagavān’s name induces love (prīti) in the foremost devotees of Bhagavān (parama-bhāgavatas), as confirmed by Śrī Śiva in the Rāmāṣṭottara-śata-nāma-stotra from the Uttara-khaṇḍa of Padma Purāṇa:

rakārādīni nāmāni śṛṇvato devi jāyate
prītir me manaso nityaṁ rāma-nāma-viśaṅkyā

O Goddess [Pārvatī], whenever I hear any name beginning with the letter ‘r’, love is awakened in my heart every single time, because I suspect that it may be the name of Rāma. (PP 6.254.21)

Such being the case, to characterize the name merely as something that destroys sins does not at all touch its true significance.


Commentary by Satytanarayana Dasa

Hearing Bhāgavata Purāṇa from the mouth of a great devotee is supremely beneficial. This is confirmed by the Bhāgavata-mahātmya from the Uttara-khaṇḍa of Padma Purāṇa (chapters 193-198). There, the story is told of a ghost who was released from his spectral body after hearing the Purāṇa for seven days. At the end of the week’s recitation, Kṛṣṇa appeared and carried the Purāṇa’s reciter to His abode along with the entire audience. A materialistic individual is comparable to a person possessed by the ghost of material desires, kāma. The verses of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa act like a magical incantation to exorcise this ghost and lead the person to the healthy life of prema.

The names of Bhagavān are innumerable. The practitioner should regularly hear and sing the specific name of his or her own cherished form of Bhagavān (nījābhīṣṭa). Of all the names of Bhagavān, “Kṛṣṇa” is the most potent, because He is Bhagavān in His most original and complete form. Kṛṣṇa Himself proclaims, “O Arjuna, of all My names, ‘Kṛṣṇa’ is preeminent” (Prabhāsa Purāṇa, cited in Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha 82). And as Kṛṣṇa includes and contains all other forms of Bhagavān within His essential being, so too does His name embody the power of all other names of Bhagavān. This is implied in the following statement from Brahmāṇda Purāṇa:

The benefit awarded by thrice reciting the divine thousand names of Viṣṇu is attained simply by uttering Kṛṣṇa’s name just once. (Brahmāṇda Purāṇa 236.19)

As in the case of hearing (śravaṇa), the sequence to be followed in the practice of kīrtana is to first sing Bhagavān’s name, followed in order by His form, qualities, associates, and līlās. Furthermore, it is recommended that kīrtana should be of those devotional songs or verses that were composed and sung by mahat devotees. At present, there are many devotional songs written by professional poets and singers. Listening to them or singing them is not recommended, because the sentiments they contain are tainted with the poet’s own subjective projections.

Of all the names of Bhagavān, kīrtana of Kṛṣṇa’s name is supremely beneficial. And kīrtana of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra is most highly esteemed because it was chanted by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya and His mahat devotees. If the opportunity to hear from a great devotee has not yet presented itself, one should perform kīrtana on one’s own. In this case, the practice should be undertaken with the awareness that kīrtana of these names was enacted in the past by great devotees. One should perform kīrtana as a follower of one’s guru-paramparā and not independently.

If one is in love with a boy or girl and sees another person on the street who resembles them in gait, hairstyle, or other physical features, then at once, one becomes naturally absorbed in thoughts of the beloved. Accordingly, if one hears someone calling another person whose name begins with the same letters as one’s lover’s name, one would be reminded of her or him. Great devotees such as Śiva become absorbed in contemplation of Bhagavān even if they hear just the first syllable of His name. Indeed, Bhagavān’s attention is also drawn to the utterer of His name, even if it is sounded incidentally.

A glaring example of the power of the name is found in the story of Draupadī from Mahābhārata. When Duḥśāsana tried to strip her naked by pulling off her sārī, she pleaded to Bhīṣma and other leaders of the Kauravas to put an end to this grave injustice. But nobody came to her rescue. Finally, in desperation, she called out the name of Kṛṣṇa, who immediately appeared there in the form of an inexhaustible garment to keep her covered and foil Duḥśāsana’s evil attempt. Later on, Kṛṣṇa said:

govinda iti cukrośa kṛṣṇā māṁ dūravāsinam
ṛṇam etata pravṛddhaṁ me hṛdayāṇ nāpasarpati

While I was far away in Dvārakā, Draupadī cried My name, “O Govinda.” I am thereby deeply indebted to her, who never strays from My heart. (Mahābhārata)

Such is the power of the name. If you come across a famous person but do not recognize him, you would not even take notice of him. But if someone tells you his name or who he is, you would immediately become attentive. This means that the name is more influential than the person himself.

Because the name has such potency to draw the attention of great devotees and even of Bhagavān Himself, then to describe the name merely as that which removes the sins of a chanter does not at all do justice to its glory. Removal of sins can be accomplished even by a mere semblance of the name, nāmābhāsa, as is known from the story of Ajāmila (SB 6.2.14, 18).

Importance of Sādhu Seva

In Anuccheda 238 of Bhakti Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī describes the importance of service and association with Vaiṣṇavas. Citing the statements of Śrī Kṛṣṇa to Uddhava, he shows how sādhu-saṅga captures the heart of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Incidentally he also talks about how to deal with a situation if one has accepted an unqualified guru. Below I present the translation of the beginning part of this Anuccheda and my commentary on it.


Translation of Anuccheda 238

Guidelines for Associating with Vaiṣṇavas

With the permission of one’s guru, it is beneficial (śreya) to render service to other Vaiṣṇavas as well, provided it doesn’t conflict with the service to one’s own guru. Otherwise [if undertaken without the consent of one’s guru], such service will be flawed, as confirmed by Śrī Nārada:

gurau sannihite yas tu pūjayed anyam agrataḥ
sa durgatim avāpnoti pūjanaṁ tasya niṣphalam

“One who worships someone else first in the presence of one’s guru attains an unfavorable result, and his worship of Bhagavān is rendered futile.”

The characteristics of an authentic guru have already been discussed [in Anuccheda 202] in verses such as this:

tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam

Therefore, a person who is profoundly inquisitive about the ultimate good should take shelter of a preceptor who is deeply versed in the sound form of Brahman [the Vedas], who has directly realized the transcendental Brahman, and who has thus become a veritable abode of inner tranquility. (SB 11.3.21)

A person who, in the beginning, fails to accept a guru of this caliber and whose guru, out of envy, does not permit him to honor and serve highly realized devotees of Bhagavān, has disregarded śāstra from the very outset [by accepting an unqualified guru], and hence śāstra doesn’t even consider his case. Calamity certainly befalls such a person on both accounts [because if he follows the order of his guru, he fails to honor the great devotees, and if he honors the devotees, he disobeys his guru]. With this in mind, the Nārada-Pāñcarātra states:

yo vakti nyāya-rahitam anyāyena śṛṇoti yaḥ
tāv ubhau narakaṁ ghoraṁ vrajataḥ kālam akṣayam

“Both the person whose instructions are not in resonance with scripture and the one who hears such illegitimate teachings proceed to a dreadful hell for an unlimited period of time.”

Therefore, such a guru should be respected only from a distance. And if he is inimical toward Vaiṣṇavas, he should certainly be given up, as stated:

guror apy avaliptasya kāryākāryamajānataḥ
utpatha-pratipannasya parityāgo vidhīyate

“It is ordained that a guru who is self-conceited, who does not know what is to be done and what is to be avoided, and who has stumbled down the wrong path is to be given up.” (MB, Udyoga Parva 179.25)

Furthermore, such a guru cannot be considered a Vaiṣṇava, because he lacks the character of a Vaiṣṇava, and thus the following admonition is given with such a guru in mind:

avaiṣṇavopadiṣṭena mantreṇa nirayaṁ vrajet
punaś ca vidhinā samyag grāhayed vaiṣṇavād guroḥ

“One goes to hell by receiving a mantra from a guru who is not a Vaiṣṇava. Such a person should again accept a mantra from a Vaiṣṇava guru, in conformity with the prescribed principles.”

If, however, an authentic guru endowed with the characteristics described earlier is no longer present, then regular service to a highly realized devotee (mahā-bhāgavata) is most beneficial. Furthermore, the mahā-bhāgavata whose association one partakes of should have the same devotional regard (sama-vāsanā) as that of his guru, and he should be compassionately disposed toward oneself. This principle is enunciated in Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya:

yasya yat-saṅgatiḥ puṁso maṇi-vat syāt sa tad-guṇaḥ
sva-kularddhyai tato dhīmān sva-yūthyān eva saṁśrayet

“As the qualities of a proximate object are reflected in a crystal, so too the qualities of the person with whom one associates are reflected in one’s own being. Therefore, for the progress of one’s lineage, a person of discernment should associate with those belonging to his own community.” (HBS 8.52)

It is essential to accept the association of a mahā-bhāgavata who is compassionate toward oneself, because if he is not compassionate, one will not develop affection for him in one’s heart.

Two Kinds of Service to Mahā-bhāgavatas

Therefore, one should render suitable service (sevā) to all those endowed with the true insignia of a bhāgavata. Service (sevā) to highly realized devotees (mahā­-bhāgavatas) is of two types—in the form of association (prasaga) and in the form of personal attendance (paricaryā).

Of these two, service in the form of association (prasaga) is as spoken of by Śrī Kṛṣṇa: 

na rodhayati māṁ yogo na sāṅkhyaṁ dharma eva ca
na svādhyāyas tapas tyāgo neṣṭā-pūrtaṁ na dakṣiṇā
vratāni yajñaś chandāṁsi tīrthāni niyamā yamāḥ
yathāvarundhe sat-saṅgaḥ sarva-saṅgāpaho hi mām

“Neither [aṣṭāṅga] yoga, nor sāṅkhya [i.e., the discernment of the self (ātmā) from all the empirical categories of nonself (anātmā)], nor dharma [i.e., universal morality, such as the attitude of nonviolence and so on], nor study of the Vedas (svādhyāya), nor voluntary penance (tapa) and the life of renunciation (tyāga, i.e., sannyāsa), nor fire sacrifices (iṣṭa, i.e., agni-hotra)  and works of social welfare, such as excavating wells and ponds (pūrta), nor charity (dakṣiṇā, i.e., dāna), fasts (vratāni), worship of the devas in ritual ceremonies (yajña), uttering secret mantras (chandāṁsi), visiting holy places (tīrthāni), nor observing ethical codes (niyama) and moral restraints (yama) can bring Me under control (avarundhe, i.e., vaśī-karoti) in the same manner as does the association of true devotees (sat-saṅga), which dispels all other attachments.” (SB 11.12.1-2)


In the previous anuccheda, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explained the importance of service to one’s guru to attain success on the path of bhakti. Now he stresses the importance of service to the devotees of Bhagavān, especially service to highly realized devotees, the mahā-bhāgavatas. He advises, however, that service to other devotees should be undertaken with the permission of one’s guru. Moreover, service to another devotee should not conflict with the service to one’s own guru. If one neglects his guru and serves another great devotee, it will not be beneficial to his spiritual progress. Rather, it will become an obstacle. The essential point is that one should never disregard or neglect one’s guru, even to serve another great devotee. Serving a great devotee without the permission of one’s guru is tantamount to disregard for the guru. If other devotees are present along with one’s guru, one must first offer respect to one’s guru and afterwards to the other devotees.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī raises an important point about the qualification of a guru. He says that the guru must embody the characteristics that are approved by the śāstra. If a disciple has accepted an unqualified guru, there is every possibility that he will end up committing offenses to other devotees. The unqualified guru, for example, may be envious of other elevated devotees and may prohibit his disciples from offering respect or service to them. What should a disciple do if faced with such a quandary? If he offers respect to the elevated devotees, he disobeys his own guru, and if he does not offer respect to such devotees, he commits an offense toward them. This is like having to choose between jumping into either a pit of snakes or a ring of fire.

Śrī Jīva says that the śāstra does not even consider such a situation as worthy of discussion. This is due to the fact that the disciple has transgressed the śāstra from the very outset by accepting a guru who is not approved by śāstra. This can be compared to two thieves who steal from a house and then have a disagreement over the division of the stolen goods. To help them settle the dispute in an egalitarian manner, they then approach a judge. But what sort of legal settlement could the judge possibly propose to those who have broken the law in the first place?

Out of compassion, however, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī offers a solution to such a disciple. He advises that one should not associate with such a guru. The disciple can offer respect to the guru from afar and may continue to accept him as his guru. If, however, the guru is envious of other devotees, then he must be rejected, and the disciple must accept another qualified guru. Śrī Jīva cites a verse from Mahābhārata to support his conclusion.

Normally in śāstra, we find statements that praise the guru and that instruct the disciple to honor the guru as Bhagavān Himself. These verses are aimed at a genuine, qualified guru. But if the guru is unqualified, he will not serve the purpose of uplifting the disciple. For this reason, he must be rejected in favor of a qualified, genuine guru. Śrī Jīva is also very clear in stating that only a Vaiṣṇava can be a guru, not a Śaivite or a Śākta. By Vaiṣṇava he means one who has vaiṣṇava-bhāva, otherwise he deems a so-called Vaiṣṇava devoid of vaiṣnava-bhāva as avaiṣṇava—tasya vaiṣnava-bhāva-rāhityena avaiṣṇavatayā

What should a student do if the guru leaves his body and the student is not advanced enough to continue on his own? Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī replies that such a student should seek a qualified Vaiṣṇava for guidance. There is no need to take mantra-dīkṣā again. The student can learn philosophy and the practical details of practice from such a Vaiṣṇava. Śrī Jīva recommends that the Vaiṣṇava with whom one chooses to associate should have the same philosophical understanding and devotional mood as one’s guru. Otherwise, there will be confusion in the mind of the student, who may commit an offense to his guru by going against his teachings and mode of practice. In this context, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī also makes the following recommendation:

One should associate with a Vaiṣṇava sādhu who belongs to the same spiritual lineage, who is sympathetically disposed, and who is more advanced in realization. (sajātīyāśaye snigdhe sādhau saṅgaḥ svato vare, BRS 1.2.91)

Moreover, the Vaiṣṇava teacher must be compassionate toward the student. If he is not compassionate, he would not bother to teach, nor would the student be able to develop affection for him.

As far as service is concerned, it can be rendered to any Vaiṣṇava. A student should imbibe the mood of service. Service should be carried out in correspondence to the status of the Vaiṣṇava. Service does not always mean to engage in acts of personal benefit to the Vaiṣṇavas. Even to greet a person appropriately is service. After all, students have their own regular duties and spiritual practice to attend to. They are not free to offer personal service to every Vaiṣṇava they encounter. But the idea is to satisfy everyone by the nobility of one’s behavior. As far as possible, highly realized devotees (mahā-bhāgavatas) should be served either through physical presence, by hearing and taking instruction from them (prasaṅga), or by rendering some personal service to them (paricaryā).

Service to Vaiṣṇavas gives Kṛṣṇa the greatest pleasure, so much so that it brings Him under control, which means that the devotee directly attains Him. This message is the essence of this anuccheda concerning sat-saṅga. Moreover, this is the supremely confidential truth (parama-guhya-tattva) that Kṛṣṇa promised to disclose to Uddhava (SB 11.11.49). The two verses quoted here (SB 11.12.1-2) contain the secret that Kṛṣṇa just previously referred to. As the 12th chapter of the Eleventh Canto proceeds, Kṛṣṇa elaborates many different grades of living beings who attained perfection merely through the association of Vaiṣṇavas. This is just to emphasize the power of sat-saṅga, testifying further to its supreme confidentiality.

Different Kinds of Bhakti and Karma

Question: Could you specify the difference between āropa-siddhā-bhakti and karma-miśrā-bhakti as defined by Srīla Jīva Gosvami in Bhakti Sandarbha?

Answer: Āropa-siddhā-bhakti consists of activities that are not devotional in themselves but become part of devotion because of their contact with bhakti. Primarily it includes offering your actions to Kṛṣṇa, karmārpaṇam. These actions themselves are not devotional but by offering them to Kṛṣṇa, they become part of bhakti.  

Karma-miśra-bhakti is when you perform bhakti activities along with karma, or prescribed duties, while desiring the result of the karma. In other words, you mix the two. You perform agnihotra because you are a dvija, and you also engage in bhakti. In āropa-siddhā there is no bhakti activity except the offering of results.

Question: Also what is the difference between dharma, vaidika-karma and laukika-karma?

Answer: Dharma is one’s prescribed duties, e.g., the dharma of a student is to study and serve the guru. Vaidika-karma are of three types: nitya-karma such as agnihotra, kāmya-karma—done for a specific desire such as putreṣti yajña to get a son, and naimittika-karma, those done on special occasions such as birth of a child or death of a relative. Vaidika karmas are dharma. Thers is no difference between them.

Laukika-karma comprises of secular activities like taking bath etc.  

Question: Thank you for your answer Babaji, but could you clarify the following: In karma-miśra-bhakti, the word karma indicates dharma (i.e. āśrama dharma and varṇa dharma) but Srīla Jīva Gosvami also defines karma in the same section as “devatoddeśena dravya tyāgaḥ” (which seems to be dravya-yajña, a nitya-karma). So how to reconcile these two definitions of karma?

Answer: This is no contradiction. Karma also means dharma, and dharma according to Mīmāṁsā means doing yajña, which is “devatoddeśena dravya tyāgaḥ.

Question: And does it also mean that gṛhasthas always have to engage in karma-miśra-bhakti? 

Answer: No.

Question: Because they have to perform varṇa-dharma to maintain their families and as devotees they would like to offer those activities to the Lord?

Answer: If they take shelter of Kṛṣṇa, then their performance of varṇāśrama duties are done only out of social convention and not to get some gain. So they are not mixing karma with bhakti. They do not perform varṇāśrama duties out of obligation to dharma.

Question: In Sārārtha Darśinī, Śrīla Viśvanātha Chakravartī talks about vaidika, laukika and daihika karma. Could you define them by giving pramānas?

Answer: Vaidika means action injuncted by the Vedas, such as ahar ahar sandhyam upāsīta—one should do sandhyā-vandanam every day.

Laukika means activities such as farming or cow protection by a vaiśya, or giving protection to people by a kṣatriya. Manu-smṛti describes such duties.

Daihika means action to take care of one’s body, such as bathing, eating and sleeping.

Jiva Students Enact Sanskrit Drama about Jiva Gosvami

Vrindavan Today, 2019.01.10 (VT): The 508th disappearance day of Srila Jiva Goswami was celebrated at the Jiva Institute with a short play in the Sanskrit language depicting a portion of his life. The students studying Sanskrit at the Institute were the main actors. The play was called “Jīve Dāya Nāṭtkam”, a play on the words “Compassion to Jiva” and “Compassion to all living beings.”

The first of the five acts depicts Jiva’s leaving the family home in Bengal after a dream vision of Chaitanya and Nityananda, who pacify his mind of any doubts that he was being called to serve Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis in Vrindavan. The second act shows his arrival in Vrindavan and entry into the service of Rupa Goswami as the editor of his books.

P.C. Gregor Schaller

Gaur-Nitai appear before Jiva Goswami

The second act shows his arrival in Vrindavan and entry into the service of Rupa Goswami as the editor of his books. In the third act, there is an encounter with the arrogant Digvijayi Brahmin, whom he felt had shown disrespect to Rupa Goswami. Rupa is not pleased with Jiva’s behaviour, which he feels is unbecoming of a Vaishnava in the Holy Dham and banishes him from his service.

The fourth act shows Sanatana Goswami, Rupa’s older brother and guru, chastising him for being so hard on Jiva. If they are writing books to show compassion on all the lost souls of this world, then how can they not show compassion on Jiva? Rupa admits that his work on the Bhakti-rasamrita sindhu has slowed to a halt in Jiva’s absence and that he feels great separation from his dear disciple. The two brothers set out to look for their nephew.

Sanatana Goswami begging

The final act shows Sanatana arriving in the village of Nandaghat, where Nanda Maharaja was stolen away by Varuna. Begging a roti from a Vrajavasi woman, he learns of the young sadhu practicing difficult tapasya in a nearby gopha. Sanatana goes there and finds that it is indeed Jiva. Rupa appears on the scene and the play finishes with Rupa giving Jiva a blessing, and then Jiva asking them to bless the entire audience that they will get Radharani’s mercy.

Ananda Gopal Dasji Shastri, Vedanta-Nyaya Tirtha, one of the teachers in the Chaitanya Sanskirt Shiksha Sansthan in Radha Kund, graced the performance. Speaking in Sanskrit, Shastriji Maharaj said that he was very pleased that this had been attempted as one rarely, if ever, sees such plays being written or performed anywhere. “It was very impressive to see that the students, many of whom were foreigners and only new to the language, were still able to pronounce so clearly and with such good intonation.”

The author of the play, Jagadananda Das, who also played the role of the Sutradhara and the Digvijayi Brahmin, said:

“The play was written in easy Sanskrit so that the students could learn a more conversational and practical use of the language. It was also important that the audience should understand what was being said. Many of the people in the audience were Bengali Sanskrit students from Radha Kund and Vrindavan also.”

Digvijayi Brahmin after reading Jiva Goswami’s manuscript.

The actors were Malati Manjari Dasi (Germany), Jamie Lessard and Alanah Correia (Canada), Bharat Das and Marky Perez (USA), Maria Christanell (Italy), Willi Müller (Germany), Sujani Dasi (Spain), Jagadananda Das (Canada), Ananda Mohan Das, Rasamrita Dasi, Raghava and Neel Madhava (India).

Malati Manjari Dasi played a dramatic role as Jiva Goswami’s mother crying over her son leaving home after becoming lost in to the renounced life of a sadhu.

Jiva Goswami’s mother talks to her friends about her son leaving.

Jagadananda Prabhu delighted the audience with his portrayal of the Digvijayi Brahmin who emphatically tells Jiva Goswami that he has insulted the Vedas by ignoring karma kanda rituals. Sujani Dasi was convincing as a modest yet upfront Brajwasi woman who gives madhukari to Sanatan Goswami, then directs him to Jiva Goswami, who was living in a cave.

In the lead up to the presentation, the Mahant of Jiva Institute, Shri Satyanarayana Babaji, addressed the audience. There were several musical interludes, including kirtan at the beginning and end. Afterwards, the guests and actors sat together for a feast.

The drama was well attended by both locals and foreign guests and was filmed by local TV stations.

Translation and Transliteration here.

The complete Video