Tag Archives: Vaikuntha

Beyond Matter and a Place of No Falldown (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 52)

In the following verse, Śrī Sūta Gosvāmī simultaneously describes both qualities of Vaikuṇṭha [discussed in the two previous sections]: It is beyond the visible or manifest world and is a place from which no one falls down:

ātapatraṁ tu vaikuṇṭhaṁ
dvijā dhāmākuto-bhayam

O twice-born, the Lord’s umbrella is His spiritual abode, Vaikuṇṭha, where there is no fear. (SB 12.11.19)

From the context in which this verse is found [i.e., within a description of the Lord’s form within the cosmos], it is understood that the umbrella referred to in the verse belongs to His form as seen in the material world. [Though appearing in the material world, even that umbrella is Vaikuṇṭha, which is to say that it is beyond matter.] Dvijāḥ, “twice-born,” is an address (“O brāhmaṇas”).

Commentary

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī again discusses the characteristics of Vaikuṇṭha mentioned in the previous two anucchedas. Akuto-bhayam (where there is no fear) is a characteristic of Vaikuṇṭha. The term literally means, “where there is no fear from any direction, or from any cause.” Time is the most feared thing, as it devours everything; in the material world time ultimately means death and the fall from acquired status. As there is no such fear in Vaikuṇṭha, it is qualified by the word akuto-bhayam. Therefore, this word suggests two of Vaikuṇṭha’s qualities—it is beyond the material world and no one falls from there.

Again, it should be noted here that this second quality of Vaikuṇṭha is not restricted purely to those devotees who go to Vaikuṇṭha from the material world. Neither Sūta Gosvāmī nor Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī make any such distinction. The Lord’s umbrella is described as Vaikuṇṭha, for it protects the living beings from all kinds of suffering. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura comments that when one experiences fearlessness in the material world, it is an effect of this umbrella of the Lord.

The Vaikuṇṭha described in this verse appears within the material world. This is understood from Śaunaka’s questions to Sūta Gosvāmī:

While serving (paricaryāyāṁ) the unique Lord, husband of the Goddess of Fortune, those following the tāntrika path conceive of Him with limbs, associates, weapons and ornaments. Could you explain to us, who are eager to know, how they do so, and in relation to which material elements, and how mortals can attain immortality through mastery of such practices (kriyā-yoga)? (SB 12.11.2-3)

Kriyā-yoga here refers to deity worship. Śaunaka Ṛṣi wants to know how devotees meditate on the limbs, ornaments, dress and so on, of the Deity in relation to the material elements. The umbrella mentioned in the verse under discussion is the one that is used in the deity worship of Lord Viṣṇu.

In the Krama-sandarbha commentary to these verses, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī writes that the Vaikuṇṭha referred to here is situated above Brahma-loka and was manifested by the son of Vikuṇṭhā. It is to be thought of as the umbrella of Lord Nārāyaṇa. This was manifest during the reign of Raivata Manu, as Śrīla Śuka describes:

Vikuṇṭhā was the wife of the sage Śubhra. From them the Lord Himself appeared as Vaikuṇṭha, a partial manifestation, along with gods who were also known as Vaikuṇṭhas. Being requested by the goddess Ramā (Lakṣmī), in order to please her, the Lord manifested a planet named Vaikuṇṭha, to which all the universes bow down. (SB 8.5.4-5)

This verse will be discussed in greater detail in Section 63.

End of commentary

Gahvarvana

 

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No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 9 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Continuation of the commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa:

Our disputant may set forth yet another objection: If this section is properly analyzed, we can conclude that it refers only to those devotees who reach Vaikuṇṭha from the material world. This can be ascertained by studying the six items that determine the import of a text, such as its opening and closing statements. These are described in the following verse:

The true import of a text can be decided by these six criteria: (1) that which is stated at the beginning and the end; (2) that which is repeated throughout the text; (3) that which is unique to it; (4) that which is stated to be the result; (5) that which is praised; and (6) that which is established by logical argument.

The disputant may argue that the opening verse, concluding verse and the Upaniṣad mantra quoted in the section currently under discussion, all refer to the jīva who attains Vaikuṇṭha from the material world.

Answer: This type of analysis is applied only when ambiguity exists about the subject of a book, chapter or essay. But such is not the case here. It is clearly evident that Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī is discussing the qualities of Vaikuṇṭha. He listed nine characteristics of Vaikuṇṭha in Section 49, and is now explaining them in detail. In this present section, he is arguing that one of Vaikuṇṭha’s divine characteristics and proofs of its transcendental nature is that no one falls from there (tato’skhalanam).

Moreover, even if one follows the method of analysis recommended above and concludes that the subject of the section is that those who attain Vaikuṇṭha from the material world never again fall, this does not prove that eternal associates fall. This section makes no such statements, directly or indirectly, and to form such a conclusion is highly improper. On the contrary, the second verse spoken by Lord Kapila (SB 3.25.38), clearly states that Kṛṣṇa’s devotees are never bereft of opulence. Jīva’s intention in quoting it is to say that they never fall.

Krishna, Balaram and gopas on Govardhan Hill / Vrindavan Art

Yet another objection may be raised: The cycle of creation and destruction of the material world is beginningless and has thus occurred innumerable times. During the maintenance period, some jīvas occasionally attain liberation. If living beings continue to exit the material world and no new souls enter by falling from Vaikuṇṭha, then the universe should have been empty by now. Thus, according to this reasoning, it would be logical to assume that an equal number of souls fall from Vaikuṇṭha to replace those who achieve liberation from the material world.

Answer: Such a concept results from ignorance of the unlimited nature of the Lord. There are unlimited material universes, and each contains unlimited living beings. Unlimited means that when some are removed, an unlimited number still remain. Even in mathematics, infinity minus infinity equals infinity. There are an infinite number of points existing in a line that extends from point A to point B. If this line is divided into two parts, say AC and CB, each line still contains an infinite number of points.

Moreover, the logic of the objection ultimately backfires. If nitya-siddhas fall to replace the jīvas who achieve liberation, and those who go to Vaikuṇṭha from the material world never come back, then, as time is beginningless (anādi), by now all the nitya-siddhas would have fallen into the material world and returned to Vaikuṇṭha, and there would be no virgin nitya-siddhas left to fall. Thus, the material world would be empty. Obviously this imagined state is far from the truth, otherwise I would not be here writing this commentary.

The prayers of the personified Śrutis (SB 10.87.30) acknowledge that there are unlimited or countless living beings (aparimita). In commenting on this verse, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī quotes Vajra Mahārāja’s question to the sage Mārkaṇḍeya from the Viṣṇu-dharmottara Purāṇa (1.81.12):

O brāhmaṇa, because time has no beginning, therefore even if only one person achieved liberation in each of the bygone kalpas, wouldn’t the world be empty by now?

Mārkaṇḍeya’s answer is as follows:

When someone is liberated, the Supreme Lord, who possesses unlimited potency, brings forth (sargeṇa) another jīva and thus always keeps the world full. Those people who achieve brahma-loka become liberated along with Brahmā. Then in the next cycle of creation (mahā-kalpa), the Lord emits (sṛjyante) similar beings. Material nature and the living beings should be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the guṇas of matter are products of material nature.

Therefore, there is no need to assume that living beings fall from Vaikuṇṭha to replace the liberated souls. The important word in Markaṇḍeya’s reply is acintya-śakti, or inconceivable power. This has been discussed in greater detail in earlier sections of this book. Without accepting the existence of this astonishing potency of the Lord, one can never hope to understand Him in truth.

A doubt may be raised, however, in regard to Mārkaṇḍeya’s statement. Living beings are said to be beginningless (anādi). Why then does Mārkaṇḍeya say that the Lord brings forth (sargeṇa) other jīvas?

Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī answers that there are unlimited dormant living beings, which the Lord activates as He desires. This is what is meant by the term “brings forth” in the above verse. The word sarga, or creation, does not mean producing new living beings. This siddhānta is accepted by all Vaiṣṇavas.

Actually, the verb sṛjyante (He creates) is used here to mean “emits.” It comes from the root √sṛj visarge, which can be used to mean either “to create” or “to emit.” Since the first meaning would contradict many other statements asserting that the jīva is never created, we must take the second meaning here. Sṛjyante then means to release the jīva from the dormant state into the active condition.

Continue reading part 10

No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 7 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Continuation of the commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa:

It has been shown logically that falling from Vaikuṇṭha is not possible under any circumstances. Nor is there any scriptural evidence to support such an event. However, there are many scriptural texts to the effect that it is impossible to fall down from the spiritual world, regardless of whether one has resided there eternally or has attained it after many lifetimes in the mundane world.

Still, to address any possible remaining doubt, we ask, “Have the nitya-siddhas attained Vaikuṇṭha or not?” If the answer is in the affirmative, then they cannot fall down. If they have not, where are they? They must be in Vaikuṇṭha, otherwise they are not nitya-siddhas. So how is it that they exist in Vaikuṇṭha, but have not attained it? Or is it that they are not in Vaikuṇṭha? If yes, then there is no falldown; and if no, then there is no falldown.

The reason most verses dealing with this subject use verbs like “having attained,” or “after reaching,” is because these instructions are meant for the conditioned souls. The Lord has no need to say this to the nitya-siddhas. First, the nitya-siddhas are not in ignorance of this knowledge. Second, when something is denied, it indicates the possibility of opposite action. If the Lord were to tell a nitya-siddha, “You will never fall because you are my devotee,” this would imply the possibility of falldown, otherwise why the reassurance? But the Lord never says that one can fall from Vaikuṇṭha (nor do they have any experience of this), and thus there is no need to reassure the nitya-siddhas. But the Lord does assure the conditioned souls that His abode is distinct in nature—it is a place of no return. He does this because conditioned souls know from scriptures that one can and does fall from the heavenly planets.

Scriptures inform us about subjects that are unknown to us and which we are unable to know by ourselves—śāstro’jñāta-jñāpakaḥ. Scriptural instructions are meant for the conditioned souls. Perfected souls are called nirgrantha (SB 1.7.10) and dūre-yamā (SB 3.15.25), “beyond the rules and regulations of scripture.” Lord Kṛṣṇa says, “You will step beyond everything that has been heard or is to be heard” (Gītā 2.52).  Pure devotees hear scriptures to relish the Lord’s pastimes, not to be given assurance that they will not fall. For them there is no difference between heaven and hell (SB 6.17.28).

Therefore, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says tato’skhalanam—Vaikuṇṭha is a place of no falldown. He did not say “a place of no return,” otherwise he could have said tato’nāvartanam. He knows very well the difference between the two statements. Vaikuṇṭha is called acyuta-padam (SB 4.12.37). This can either mean the place of Lord Acyuta, or the place from where no one falls. Acyuta is a name of the Lord which means, “one who never falls,” and also, “one whose devotees never fall” (na cyavati cyāvayati vā ity acyutaḥ). This is confirmed in Skanda Purāṇa:

His devotees do not fall down even during the great dissolution; therefore, He is supreme, imperishable and omnipresent in all the planetary systems. (SkandaP 4.20.10)

Thus, Kṛṣṇa’s abode is here referred to as acyuta-padam—the place of no falldown. Lord Kṛṣṇa says:

No effort on the yoga path is ever lost, nor can any obstacle ever hold one back forever. Just a little progress on this path can protect one from the greatest fear. (Gītā 2.40)

(to be continued)

Gopal / Vrindavan Art

 

No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 6 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Continuation of the commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa:

No one can enter or remain in Vaikuṇṭha unless he has attained devotion for the Lord. Lord Ṛṣabhadeva confirms this:

When the living being is covered by tamo-guṇa, his mind is subject to result-oriented action. Therefore, the jīva cannot be released from attachment to the body until love dawns for Me, Lord Vāsudeva. (SB 5.5.6)

In the principal verse (SB 3.25.38) of this anuccheda, spoken by Lord Kapila, it is said that devotees have different relationships with the Lord. According to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, there are five basic rasas, or aesthetic experiences, that the Lord enjoys with His devotees. These varieties of aesthetic experience are rooted in, and arise out of, five foundational moods of loving devotion. Out of these five, the devotees immersed in peaceful devotion, or śānta-rasa, have the least intensity of love for the Lord. Nonetheless, they are completely devoid of material desires and have strong faith in Him. Śānta-bhaktas cannot be considered non-devotees, nor is there any possibility of their falling down.

In commenting on this verse (yeṣām ahaṁ priya ātmā sutaś ca sakhā guruḥ suhṛdo daivam iṣṭam), Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī says that those who consider the Lord as priya, or the beloved, refers to devotees in amorous devotion; similarly, those who consider Him as ātmā, the Self, refers to those in peaceful devotion; suta, or son, to those in parental devotion (vātsalya rasa); and sakhā, friend, to those in devotional friendship (sakhya-rasa). Those who consider Him as guru, in this case a respectful elder, refers to devotees with a specific type of respectful devotion (dāsya-rasa); suhṛda, bosom friend, to devotees in a specific type of devotional friendship (sakhya-rasa); and the words iṣṭam, the worshipful Deity, and daivam, the Lord, to those in different kinds of respectful devotion (dāsya-rasa).

The words śānta-rupe, the abode of unalterable peace, in the same verse, mean that Vaikuṇṭha is beyond the material guṇas (viśuddha-sattva.) Although Vaikuṇṭha is a place, its nature is identical to that of the Lord—eternal, conscious and blissful—and it is thus unlike any material place. The opulence of the devotees in Vaikuṇṭha never perishes. That is to say, they never descend to the material dimension. This is confirmed by hundreds of verses both in Śruti and Smṛti. The Chāndogya Upaniṣad states:

Drawing his senses within, he does not cause violence to any being, other than in circumstances of mortal danger where scripture may call for appropriate aggression. Remaining in this condition till the moment of death, he attains the spiritual abode. He does not return. He does not return. (ChU 8.15.1)

Śrīla Vyāsa Muni concludes the Vedānta-sūtra by repeating the words: “There is no return (from Vaikuṇṭha) because the scriptures declare this as truth” (anāvṛttiḥ sabdād anāvṛttih śabdāt, VS. 4.4.22).

Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, while commenting on this sūtra, confirms the same by quoting the following mantra from Chāndogya Upaniṣad:

He leads them to Brahman. This is the path of the godly (devas) that leads to the Lord. Those who walk on this path do not return to this human life. Surely they do not come back. (ChU 4.15.5)

Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa says that the Lord is determined not to abandon His devotees, and His devotees are equally determined to love Him. Thus, they can never leave Him. One should never doubt this.

While instructing Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja in the Āraṇya-dvādasī-vrata, Lord Kṛṣṇa says:

Therefore, they attain the auspicious and blissful abode of liberation. Having attained it, they neither lament for anything nor return to the cycle of birth and death. (Bhaviṣya-purāṇa, Uttara-parva 66.26)

In Bhagavad Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa says:

Not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire, such is My supreme abode, attaining which one never returns to this material world. (Gītā 15.6)

And there are many other such verses in the Gītā.

Despite the clarity of this evidence, one might claim that the above verses mean that those who reach Vaikuṇṭha from this material world never return, and that only those who have never been to this material world can fall down. In other words, those who achieve Vaikuṇṭha have experienced the miseries of the material world, but the nitya-siddhas are ignorant of these and are subject to falldown. The logic is that a person who has burned his tongue with hot milk is so careful that he even blows on buttermilk before drinking it.

This is an inconsistent argument. Before reaching Vaikuṇṭha, the devotee casts off his gross and subtle bodies. The experience of the material world remains in the subtle body, so the devotee does not carry it with him. In the material world we carry a stock of impressions in our subtle body, but how much of it do we remember? Indeed, we cannot recollect most of the things we have done even in this lifetime. How then is it to be expected that a liberated soul would remember the miseries of the material world? And why would he? What is the gain? Is the remembrance of past material miseries more captivating than the immediate and present ecstasy of service to the Lord? Whenever sustained joy fills a person’s life, memories of past pain or suffering fade into the background.

Moreover, even if the devotee, after attaining Vaikuṇṭha, wanted to recall his former material experience, he no longer has a subtle body in which all the impressions would be stored. Those memories are wiped clean without a trace. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.23), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī writes that bhakti destroys all varieties of karma.

Continue reading part 7

No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 5 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Continuation of the commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa:

(4 and 5) A perfected devotee never commits an offense. Offenses are committed due to ignorance, resulting from forgetfulness of the Lord. Offense (aparādha) means an act that causes displeasure. A siddha devotee never forgets the Lord, and he never desires to displease the Lord; he thus never commits offenses, knowingly or unknowingly. He is guided by the internal potency of the Lord, just as a conditioned soul is always under the influence of the external energy. The internal energy is always favorable to the Lord.

In Mādhurya-kādambinī, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has made a minute analysis of offenses while describing a devotee’s progress from śraddhā to prema. In the third chapter, he explains that when a devotee has attained prema, he is completely free from all types of offenses, and that when he attains the lotus feet of the Lord there is not even the slightest possibility of committing an offense.

For the enlightenment of those who think Mahārāja Citraketu offended Lord Śiva after having attained the darśana of Lord Śaṅkarṣaṇa, Viśvanātha writes that the king did not really offend Lord Śiva. He gives more details on this in his commentary on the 17th chapter of the Sixth Canto. The effect of an offense is that one’s affection for the Lord diminishes, but we see that even after King Citraketu took birth as Vṛtrāsura, he retained his love for the Lord.

According to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī (BRS 1.3.54), an offense committed to the Lord’s dear devotee can cause one’s bhāva, or permanent devotional disposition of being, to be lost altogether, transmuted into a mere semblance (bhāvābhāsa), or downgraded to a lower bhāva, depending on the gravity of the offense. But none of these things can happen once a devotee has attained the platform of prema. The conclusion is that a perfected devotee who has attained the Lord is free from all offenses. Readers can also refer to Prīti-sandarbha, Section 7, for more details.

(6) The last possibility is that the Lord Himself sends a devotee away. This is also impossible, except in cases where He deliberately sends one of His eternal companions to the material world for the purpose of assisting Him in His pastimes. The Lord positively told Durvāsā Muni:

O brāhmaṇa, I am completely under the control of My devotees, as if I had no independence at all. My heart has been fully captivated by My virtuous devotees, for I am their only beloved.

O brāhmaṇa, I have no desire to delight in My own Being, nor to enjoy My eternal opulences, separate from my virtuous devotees, to whom I am the supreme goal of life.

How could I possibly abandon those sādhus who, for My sake, have given up home, wife, children, family members, wealth, life and all hopes for happiness in this world and the next?

I am conquered by the virtuous whose hearts are tied to Me while showing equanimity to all beings, just as a virtuous wife wins over her pious husband’s love.

My devotees are completely satisfied by their service to Me. They have not even the slightest interest in the four kinds of liberation (sālokya, sārupya, sāmīpya and sārṣṭī) automatically available to them as a mere side-effect of their service. How could they yearn for anything that is destroyed by time?

I am the heart of the devotees and they are Mine. They know nothing other than Me, and I, nothing other than them. (SB 9.4.63-68)

These verses lucidly describe the Lord’s intense affection for His devotees. They were spoken with respect to Ambarīṣa Mahārāja, who was in the material world, so imagine how much more they must apply to devotees who are supremely perfect and have been eternally rendering service to the Supreme Lord in transcendental bodies, within the spiritual domain. Kṛṣṇa assured Arjuna in similar fashion:

O son of Kunti! Such a devotee very quickly becomes righteous and attains eternal peace. Therefore, declare it loudly: My devotee will never perish. (Gītā 9.31)

This verse is spoken in reference to devotees in the material world who accidentally engage in abominable action, sudurācāra. Even they do not fall into the material conception of life. Inauspiciousness does not exist for devotees of the Lord (MB 13.149.131).

It has thus been shown that none of the above conditions that could hypothetically lead to a devotee’s falldown exist even as possibilities in Vaikuṇṭha, for it is the place free from all such fear. One may still, however, suspect that there may be non-devotees in Vaikuṇṭha to whom such arguments do not apply. Such persons could fall down due to any of the six aforementioned possibilities, could they not?

We reply that there are no non-devotees in Vaikuṇṭha. As stated earlier, mukti means being free from foreign elements and being situated in one’s own svarūpa. The nature of the living being is spiritual—he is a part of Kṛṣṇa. This means he is a servant of the Being who is his Source. As stated in the Padma Purāṇa, “The living being is exclusively a servant of Lord Hari and nothing else” (PP 6.226.37).

Continue reading Part 6

No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 3 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Continuation of the commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa:

Transcendental entities do not get converted from spiritual to material. Moreover, Vaikuṇṭha is unlimited—it has no bounds. It is anantam, as stated in the Bhāgavatam:

This abode is truth, consciousness, the unlimited, the indestructible spiritual effulgence that silent sages witness in their trance of spiritual absorption after the material qualities have been effaced. (SB 10.28.15)

Vaikuṇṭha is all-pervading, just like the Supreme Lord, who exists everywhere and never leaves His abode. This means that His abode exists everywhere. The material world cannot contain the extent of His being. Thus, the Śruti asks, “Where is the Lord situated?” and answers, “in His own glory,” meaning in His own abode (ChU 7.24.1).

Objection: But if Vaikuṇṭha is unlimited, how is it that we do not see it or exist in it? And why is it said that when a devotee is liberated, he leaves the material world and enters into the spiritual world?

Answer: We do not experience Vaikuṇṭha because our consciousness is absorbed in and identified with matter. Going to Vaikuṇṭha actually means becoming of the nature of Vaikuṇṭha (sat-cit-ānanda), or in other words, to exist exclusively in and for Kṛṣṇa, to be fully conscious of Him in every arising moment, to radiate His own potency of bliss in order to expand His personal bliss. A television has many channels, yet while tuned to a particular channel, we cannot see programs shown on other channels. Transmission waves of numerous channels are broadcast into the atmosphere and are received by the television; we then choose which one to view, and it appears on the screen. Similarly, there are basically two channels in existence, Vaikuṇṭha and māyā, and a person views one or the other according to his or her particular state of consciousness.

Everything exists in the Lord and the Lord exists everywhere. The Lord is always situated in His own abode, and so His abode exists everywhere. since matter does not exist there.

If we accept that the jīva falls from Vaikuṇṭha, we must admit it is a material event from beginning to end. Although a material act cannot occur in Vaikuṇṭha, let us assume for the sake of argument that it could somehow happen. Falling can have either a material or a spiritual cause. Below are six conditions often thought to precede a falldown. Following the list, we will discuss each of the conditions in greater detail.

1. The jīva wishes to come to the material world, inspired by his free will;
2. He commits sin;
3. He is cursed by a devotee or the Lord;
4. He offends a devotee;
5. He offends the Lord; or
6. The Lord decides to make him fall, as He is free to do as He likes.

It is not possible for a devotee to fall from Vaikuṇṭha for any of these reasons. Here is why:

(1) The devotee’s very nature, svarūpa, is to be in undiminishing, unbreakable, all-consuming love for God, to long only for His bliss through naturally arising service in devotion. Such devotees do not desire material or spiritual opulence without devotional service, because, in fact, they desire nothing independent of the Lord. Their will, too, being of the same transcendental nature, exists simply for the pleasure of the Lord. This is the import of Lord Kapila’s statement, quoted above, “They do not hanker even for the transcendental glory of God” (śrīyaṁ bhāgavatiṁ vāspṛhayanti). Furthermore, spiritual opulences, and for that matter, even material opulences, are fully available to them as experiential possibilities at every moment, by the mercy of the Lord (mama māyayācitam, SB 3.25.37). So why yearn for that which eternally sits in the palm of one’s own hand?

Elsewhere, Lord Kapila states:

Without being assured of My service, a pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation, whether it be residence on the same planet with Me (sālokya), opulence equal to Mine (sārṣṭi), proximity to Me (sāmīpya), endowment with a form identical to Mine (sārūpya) or becoming one with Me (ekatvam), even though I may offer these to him. (SB 3.29.13)

Vinā mat-sevanam here means, “without My service.” This means that a devotee would accept one or more of these different types of liberation only if they prove conducive for his service to the Lord, but not for independent enjoyment. A devotee certainly has no desire to come to the material world. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says that devotees have no interest in material enjoyment because they consider it completely devoid of significance or substantiality—tasyātitucchatvena. Why should a discerning person abandon a touchstone to acquire a piece of glass (kāca-maṇi)? On the contrary, a devotee never conceives, even for a moment, of leaving Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. Everything else is simply of no interest. King Parīkṣit confirms this while speaking to his wisdom teacher:

A person whose heart has been washed clean never abandons Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. Like a traveler who has arrived home, he is relieved of all distress. (SB 2.8.6)

In Section 7 of Prīti-sandarbha, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī writes that one should not think that Jaya and Vijaya chose to become enemies of the Lord in order to quickly relieve themselves from the curse of the Kumāras—na ca tayor eva svāparādha-bhoga-śīghra-nistārārtham api tādṛśīcchā jāteti vācyam. Pure devotees of the Lord do not accept even sālokya-mukti if it is bereft of bhakti, and are prepared even to go to hell for the sake of bhakti. Indeed, Jaya and Vijaya’s only request was, “But we pray that Your compassion be invoked on seeing our penitence, so that as we descend ever downward, we will not be overtaken by the bewilderment that causes forgetfulness of the Lord” (SB 3.15.36).

Thus, for a Vaikuṇṭha resident to give up the Lord’s service and voluntarily come to the material world is highly illogical and against scriptural conclusions.

The Lord has endowed the devotees with freedom of will for the purpose of serving Him, not for leaving Him. Lord Kṛṣṇa says that everyone follows his own nature, and that it is very difficult to give it up (Gītā 3.33). This is also commonly experienced by everyone. So, if abandoning one’s acquired, and hence spurious, material nature is so difficult, how much more difficult would it be for a resident of Vaikuṇṭha to give up his eternal, and hence true, nature—the nature to love and serve the all-conscious, all-blissful, all-encompassing Being to whom we eternally belong! Just as fire cannot exist without heat, a pure devotee in Vaikuṇṭha cannot exist without service.

Freedom of will does not mean acting frivolously, nor does it imply having the power to manifest whatever it is one may desire (i.e., omnipotence). We have freedom of will, but even if we desire to do so, we haven’t the power or capacity to stand on our own shoulders. Moreover, the mere fact that drinking poison is within the range of decision making possibilities doesn’t mean that a person would likely choose to do so. How then would a Vaikuṇṭha resident choose something that is altogether outside their range of experience and interest?

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No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 1 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Srila Jiva Gosvami
Srila Jiva Gosvami

Continuation from Bhagavat Sandarbha, Anuccheda 51:

(3) No one falls down from that abode (tato’skhalanam). Śrī Kapiladeva says:

atho vibhūtiṁ mama māyayācitām
aiśvaryam aṣṭāṅgam anupravṛttam
śriyaṁ bhāgavatīṁ vāspṛhayanti bhadrāṁ
parasya me te’śnuvate tu loke

Thereafter, they do not hanker after any opulence stored for them by My māyā, nor for the eight ensuing yogic paranormal powers, nor even for the transcendental glory of God, and yet these benign gifts become effortlessly available to them in My supreme abode. (SB 3.25.37)

“Thereafter” (atho) means, “after the removal of ignorance.” “By My māyā” (mama māyayā) means, “by My mercy upon the devotee.” “Stored” (ācitām) means, made manifest or available for the sake of those devotees. “Opulence” (vibhūti) refers to paraphernalia appropriate for enjoyment, and aiśvarya, to the eight yogic paranormal powers (aṣṭāṅgaiśvaryam), such as aṇimā (atomization). These powers systematically ensue” (anupravṛttam), i.e., it is their very nature to be made available [as a consequence of pure devotion]. The devotees do not desire any of the above, nor even “the transcendental glory of God” (bhāgavatīṁ śriyaṁ), which here refers to the majesty known as sārṣṭi, or in other words, those divine opulences that are particular to the Lord Himself. The reason why they don’t desire any such opulence is that they yearn only to expand God’s own bliss through abandonment to all-consuming devotional love and service. Even though they have no desire for any of the above-stated gifts, they certainly enjoy (aśnuvate) them, meaning that they become fully available to them, in My supreme abode (loke) known as Vaikuṇṭha.

This shows the Lord’s special affection for His devotees, which is also exemplified in the benediction given to Sudāmā, the florist in Mathurā:

Sudāmā entreated the Lord that he may be blessed with unflinching devotion for Him, the Soul of all existence, with heart-felt friendship toward His devotees, and with the broadest and highest compassion for all living beings. The Lord not only granted Sudāmā all these, but also awarded him ever-increasing prosperity for his family [as well as strength, longevity, fame and beauty].  (SB 10.41.51-52)

Kapiladeva’s verse also shows the devotees’ disinterest in these opulences. The phrases, “after the removal of ignorance” (atho), and, “stored for them by My mercy” (mama māyayācitam), indicate that such opulences are in no way detrimental to them. Furthermore, by saying, “stored by My māyā” (māyayācitām), Kapiladeva indicates that all opulences, including those of the highest realms like Brahma-loka, are fully available to such devotees, as experiential possibilities, yet they make no use of them, considering them completely devoid of significance or substantiality and thus unsuitable for their use.

Śruti also states: “Just as the enjoyment earned by karma in this world perishes in due course, so does heavenly pleasure, attained by pious deeds.” (ChU 8.1.6)  And thereafter, “Those who leave their bodies after continuous recognition of the Lord, and of the realities truly worthy of desire, can freely travel in all the worlds.”

Here a doubt is raised: If Vaikuṇṭha is just another planet (loka), undistinguished from other planets [like Siddha-loka, and so on.], then sooner or later the experiencer’s enjoyment [of this realm] will come to an end. In response, the following verse is spoken:

na karhicin mat-parāḥ śānta-rūpe
naṅkṣyanti no me’nimiṣo leḍhi hetiḥ
yeṣām ahaṁ priya ātmā sutaś ca
sakhā guruḥ suhṛdo daivam iṣṭam

In that abode of unalterable peace, are found only those who know themselves and feel themselves to belong to Me entirely. They will never meet with destruction; My unblinking wheel never devours those for whom I am the total Beloved, their very Self, son, friend, preceptor, relative, benefactor and worshipable Lord. (SB 3.25.38)

“Of unalterable peace” (śānta-rūpe) refers to the supreme abode, Vaikuṇṭha [mentioned in the previous verse], which is peaceful by nature, meaning that it is free from all change or alteration that could disrupt the continuity of peace. All those who reside there know themselves and feel themselves to belong to Me entirely (mat-parāḥ). They are never destroyed (no naṅkṣyanti), which means they are never bereft of the [aforementioned] experiential possibilities. “My unblinking wheel” (animiṣo me hetiḥ), i.e., My discus in the form of time, does not devour them (no leḍhi). As stated in the Śruti, “He does not return” (ChU 8.15.1).  The Gītopaniṣad also declares:

O Arjuna, all planets up to the highest planet, Brahma-loka, are places of return, but one who attains to My abode never takes birth again. (Gītā 8.16)

In commenting on the name Parāyaṇa in his Sahasra-nāma-bhāṣya (75), Śaṅkarācārya writes, “That abode is supreme (param), or in other words, most excellent, from which there is no going (ayana), meaning, wherein there is no fear of return (punar-āvṛtti-śaṅkā-rahitam), and so it is called Parāyana. If the term appears in the masculine gender, then it should be taken as a bahuvrīhi compound, i.e., as an epithet of the Lord [rendering this sense, “the Lord, whose supreme abode is free from return”].

Freedom from the fear of fall or destruction is not the full extent of the devotees’ glories. Lord Kapila elucidates further in the second half of the verse: “those for whom I am the total Beloved, their very Self, son, friend, preceptor, relative, benefactor and worshipable Lord.” This means that for such devotees there is no Entity other than Me [the Lord], for whom their love exists. Alternatively, the statement can be taken as a reference to Goloka [instead of Vaikuṇṭha], because only there do the gopas, endowed with the full range of such attitudes, eternally reside.

Then again, the last two lines of the verse can be taken as a reply to the question, “What kind of people attain that abode after being freed from ignorance?” The idea is this: Some people, like the sages described in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa, desire Me as their beloved husband (priyaḥ), while others, like the four Kumāras, consider Me as “their very Self” (ātmā), i.e., directly as Brahman; yet others relate to Me in the other ways mentioned; only such persons [who know themselves as belonging to Me entirely, through any of these dispositions] can attain Vaikuṇṭha. The word suhṛdaḥ, “bosom friend,” is in the plural, because such friends are of various kinds.

Śrī Nārada speaks in a similar vein in the Fourth Canto:

Those established in unalterable peace, who are equanimous, pure and who please all other living beings, effortlessly go to that abode from which no one falls down (acyuta-padam), for they keep friendship with the dear devotees of the infallible Lord. (SB 4.12.37)

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