Yamadutas cooking sinners

Temporary or Eternal Hell for Asuras?

Question: In BG 16.20, Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa presents a concept of “eternal hell” for some jīvas, with no possibility of deliverance. Even after many births, Bhagavān does not deliver them. He explains how Bhagavān only kills a specific type of asura who is not internally opposed to the Vedas. Even in Govinda-bhāṣya, Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa quotes a verse from Mahābhārata which mentions the names of temporary as well as permanent hells.

How is this to be reconciled with Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s comments on BG 16.20, where he explains that Svayaṁ Bhagavān delivers such jīvas?

Answer: It is not easy to reconcile their explanation, yet I give it a try. To reconcile, we need to deliberate on the meaning of the words “certainly not having attained Me”, mām aprāpyaiva, given by the two commentators. Śrī Viśvanātha takes it to mean that such asuras also get liberated if they get the opportunity to meet Kṛṣṇa and get killed by Him when He is manifest on earth. Such a meaning is easy to understand. Śrī Rāmānujācārya gives a similar explanation. Śrī Baladeva, however, interprets it differently. He makes two divisions of asuras. The first division of asuras are atheists, or non-believers in Vedas and Vedic literature. The second division of asuras are those who became asuras by the curse of some sage. These asuras are against Viṣṇu but they believe in God. They are not non-believers. An example of such an asuras is Hiraṇyalaśipu, who did austerities to please Brahmā. If he had no faith in God, he engaged in austerity, like the modern-day non-believers. According to Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, in verse 16.20, Kṛṣṇa is referring to the first type of asuras. Such people have no hope unless they change their views by the grace of a sadhu like Nārada. They will continue to suffer because of their evil deeds. This is the sense of being thrown into hell. It is not that Kṛṣṇa is throwing them into hell but their own evil deeds. This does not contradict the explanation of Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī.

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Hindu Textbook

Question: Most religions have directives or commandments that they follow. These are objective and in written form, and anyone can read them. The problem I have being a Hindu is that it doesn’t have a proper rulebook. Whether someone follows them or not is a different topic, but religion needs rules. Do Hindus or Vaiṣṇavas, in particular, have a rule book? Please suggest, or if possible, write a rulebook for Hindus based on the available scriptures.

Answer: I am amazed at your observation that Hindus have no rulebook. There are plenty of books on Hindu rules. They are called smṛtis, such as Manu-smṛti, Yājñavalkya-smṛti, etc. At least 20 smṛtis are available in print form. There are also significant works based on the smṛtis, such as Caturvarga Cintāmaṇi. Smṛtis have rules for everything beginning from when to wake up, how to get out of bed, which foot to first put on the ground, what mantra to chant, and so on. There are rules on how to brush your teeth, which twigs to use, how to pass stool, how to bathe, how many times, and which mantra to chant.  There are rules related to the time of the day, the day of the week, and the month in a year. There are rules related to birth, one’s stage in life, and death. Actually, your question should have been that Hindus have too many books and it is difficult to decide which one to follow.

The difficulty is that at present, India has adopted secularism (read “atheism”), and thus there is no education in the smṛtis. They would also need to be interpreted in a modern context. In the past, it was the king’s duty to see that people knew the smṛtis and followed them. Now there is no such authority. So even if I were to write such a book, why should people follow it? 

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Rāma-tāpanīya Upaniṣad 

Question: We have the Rāma-tāpanīya Upaniṣad, which is in the same format as the Nṛsiṁha-tāpanīya Upaniṣad (considered the oldest of the Tāpanīya Upaniṣads). Rāma-tāpanīya is quoted first by our ācāryas like Sanātana Gosvāmī. After this, Vijayīndra Tīrtha from the Madhva- sampradāya quoted this in his work, Śaiva-sarvasva-khaṇḍanam. But none of the commentators on the Vālmiki Rāmāyaṇa has referred to this Upaniṣad. The format of this Upaniṣad suggests it is mainly in the Purāṇic and Pāñcarātra style. My question is: was this Upaniṣad a later human composition? If it was in the oral tradition for a long time, then why was it not quoted by any of the earlier ācāryas before Gauḍīyas?

Answer: It is difficult to say how old is the Rāma-tāpanīya Upaniṣad. It is a subject to be researched. Furthermore, if commentators do not cite it, then there are two possibilities: 

1. It did not exist and is a later creation, or 

2. It existed but was not available to the commentator, or the commentator did not feel the need to cite it.