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

Sri Jiva Gosvami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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