1960 Back to Godhead vol 3 part 18 - Relevant Enquiries
(Athato Brahma Jijnasa)
A small child walking with his father goes on enquiring constantly. He asks his father so many odd things and the father has to satisfy him with proper answers. When I was a young father in my householder life I was overflooded with hundreds of questions from the then second son who was my constant companion. One day it so happened that a bridegroom party was passing our tram car and the four year old boy as usual enquired what was the big procession. He was given all the possible answers of his thousand and one question regarding the marriage party and at last the question came from him whether his father was married! This queer question gave rise to a loud laughter for all the elderly gentlemen present there but the boy was astounded as to why we were laughing. Anyway the boy was somehow satisfied by the married father. And the lesson from this incidence is that a human being, as he is a rational animal, is born to make enquiries and questions. The greater the number of questions, the greater is the advancement of knowledge and science. The whole material civilization is based on this originally volume of questions by the man asking from the elderly persons. The elderly persons give away the proper answers to the questions of the youngsters and thus the progress of civilization is made one step after another. And the highest intelligent man makes enquiries in what is next after death. Less intelligent persons make less enquiries but in the case of higher intelligence the questionnaires are still higher and higher.
Maharaj Parikshit the great Emperor of the whole world was accidentally cursed by a Brahmin to meet death within seven days and that being bitten by a serpent. The cursing Brahmin was a boy only and yet he was so powerful but still without knowing the importance of the great king the boy foolishly cursed him to meet death within seven days. The incidence was later on lamented by his father whom the king had offended. When the king was informed of the unfortunate occurrence, he at once left his palace home and went to the bank of the Ganges near his capital for being prepared for the impending death. And because he was a great king almost all the sages and learned scholars assembled there where the king was fasting prior to his leaving mortal body. At last Sukhdev Goswami the youngest contemporary saint also arrived on the spot and he was unanimously accepted for the chair of the meeting even though his great father was also present in that meeting. The king respectfully offered him the chair and asked him relevant questions in the matter of his passing away from the mortal world which was to take place on the seventh day thenceforward. The great king as the worthy descendant of the devotee Pandavas made the following relevant enquiries from the great sage Sukhdeva. He asked, "My dear Sir, you are the greatest of the great transcendentalists and therefore I beg to ask you submissively about my duties at this moment. I am just on the verge of my death and as such what should be done by me at this critical hour. Please let me know my Lord also what shall I hear now, what shall I worship or whom shall I remember now. A great sage like you does not stay at the house of a householder more than necessity and it is my good fortune that you have kindly come here at the time of my death. Please therefore give me your direction at this critical hour and oblige."
The great sage thus being pleasingly asked by the king answered his questions authoritatively as he was not only a great transcendental scholar but also he was well equipped with the qualities of God as he was the worthy son of Vadrayana or Vyasdeva. He said:—
"My dear King, your enquiry is very much relevant and it is also beneficial for all the people for all the time. It is relevant because such enquiries are the topmost of all other enquiries on account of being confirmed by the teaching of the Vedanta Darshan. It is atmabit sammta i.e., those who are liberated soul with full knowledge of spiritual identity—do put forward such relevant enquiries in order to elucidate further informations in the matter of Transcendence."
"Srimad Bhagwatam" is the natural commentation of the great Vedanta or Sarirak Sutras compiled by Srila Vyasdeva. The topmost Vedic literature with nucleus of basic enquiries on the transcendental subject of spiritual knowledge,—is the Vedanta Sutra. Srila Vyasdeva compiled this great treatise but still he was not satisfied in his mind. He happened to meet at that time Sri Narada his spiritual master who advised him to describe the identity of the Personality of Godhead and upon this advice only he meditated on the principle of Bhakti Yoga which showed him distinctly what is the Absolute and what is the relativity or Maya. On perfect realisation of these facts only he compiled the great narration of the beautiful Srimad Bhagwatam which begins from the practical and contemporary historical facts in the life of Maharaj Parikshit.
The Vedanta Sutra begins with the key enquiry in Transcendence. It is said there as Athato Brahman Jijnasa i.e., one should now enquire about Brahman or the Transcendence.
So long a man is in the full vigour of life he forgets the naked truth of death which he has to meet and still the foolish man does not make any relevant enquiry in the real problems of life. Everyone thinks he will never die although he sees in every second the evidences of death before his eyes. Animalism and humanity is distinguished here. An animal like a goat does not understand about his imminent death although just before it another brother goat is being slaughtered. It will stand peacefully just before it being allured by a bunch of green grass offered to it for awaiting the next chance of being slaughtered at the same place. The animal has no sense of this impending death. But a human being if he sees that his fellow brother is being killed by an enemy either he fights to save his brother or he quits the place, if possible, to save his own life. That is the difference between a man and a goat.
An intelligent man knows that death is born along with his own birth. He knows that he is dying every second and the final touch will be given as soon as his term of life is finished. He, therefore, prepares himself for the next life or liberation from the disease of repeated birth and death.
Foolish man does not know that this human form of life is obtained after a series of birth and death in the past by the law of nature. He does not know that a living entity is an eternal being and he has no birth and death. Birth, death, old age and diseases are external impositions on a living entity on account of his contact with the material nature. It is due to his forgetfulness of eternal godly nature or being qualitatively one with the Absolute Whole.
Human life is the opportunity to know this eternal fact or truth of life and as such the Vedanta Sutra advises in the very beginning of the book that because we have got this valuable form of human life it is our duty to enquire, now, what is Brahman or the Absolute Truth.
A man who is not intelligent enough does not enquire about this transcendental life but he enquires on many irrelevant matters which does not concern to his eternal existence of life. From the very beginning of his life he enquires from his mother, father, teacher, professors, books and so many other sources but he has no right type of informations about his real life.
Parikshit Moharaj was given a warning notice, as mentioned before, of his meeting death within seven days and he at once left his palace to prepare himself for the next stage. The king had at least seven days at his disposal for being prepared for the incidence. But so far we are concerned, we know at least that death is as sure as anything but we have no information of the fixed date. I do not know whether I am going to meet death in the next moment. Even a great man like Mahatma Gandhi could not calculate that he was going to meet with death in the next five minutes neither his great associates also could guess about his impending death and still all these gentlemen of repute pose to hold themselves as the great leaders of the people.
This ignorance of death and life distinguishes an animal from a man. A man in the real sense of the term enquires about himself or what he is. Wherefrom he has come into this life and where he is going after death. Why he is put under the troubles of threefold miseries although he does not want them. He goes on enquiring so many things on his life beginning from his childhood but he never enquires about the real fact of life. This is animalism. There is no difference between a man and an animal so far the four principles of animal life is concerned. A living being exists by eating, sleeping, fearing and mating. Except the human being no other life is meant for relevant enquiries in the fact of eternal life or about the transcendence. Human life is therefore meant for making research in the matter of eternal life and the Vedanta Sutra advises him to do so now or never. If he therefore fails to enquire relevantly in the matters of life now, he is sure to go back to the kingdom of the animals again by the laws of nature. The foolish man therefore even if he appears to be advanced in the material science i.e., in the matters of eating, sleeping, fearing and mating, etc., he cannot get rid from the cruel hands of death by the law of nature. The law of nature is working under three modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Those who are living under the conditions of goodness are being promoted to the higher status of life (spiritually). Those who are living under the conditions of passion are being stationed in the same place (materially). But those who are living under the conditions of ignorance are sure to be degraded into the lower species of life.
The modern setup of human civilization is a risky one because there is no education in the matter of relevant enquiries in the principles of life. Like animals only they do not know how they are going to be slaughtered by the laws of nature. They are satisfied with a bunch of green grass or so-called jolly life like the waiting goat in the slaughterhouse. In such a condition of human life, we are just trying to make a humble attempt to save the human being by propaganda of Back to Godhead. This propaganda is not fictitious. If there is any reality at all this propaganda of Back to Godhead is the beginning of that era-of-reality.
According to Shri Sukhdeva Goswami, the real fact is that a Grihamedhi or a person who has just tied up himself, like the would be slaughtered goat, in the business of family, society, community, nation, or humanity at large in respect of the animal necessities of life namely eating, sleeping, fearing and mating problems and without any knowledge in the transcendence,-is as good as an animal. He might have enquired in the matter of physical, political, economical, cultural, educational or similar other material matters which is temporarily concerned with the material life but if he had had no enquiries in the matter of principles of life transcendental, he should be taken as the blind man going to fall down in the ditch while running ahead driven by the uncontrolled senses. That is the description of a Grihamedhi. But contrary to this, there is another word called by the name Grihastha.
A Grihastha Ashram or the shelter of life in the family encirclement is as good as that of a Sannyasi. The important point is that about the relevant enquiries made by the person. A Sannyasi may be a bogus person if he is not interested in the matters of relevant enquiries. And a Grihastha or a householder may be a bonafide person if he is inclined to make such relevant enquiries. But the Grihamedhi is simply interested in the matters of animal necessities of life. The Grihamedhi's life is full of calamities by the laws of nature, while the life of a Grihastha is full of happiness. In the modern setup of human civilization, the Grihamedhis are passing on as the Grihasthas. We should therefore know who is what. A Grihamedhi's life is full of vices because he does not know how to live a family life. He does not know that there is power beyond his control who looks and controls in his activities and he has no conception of his future life. He is blind to see his future and has no aptitude for making the relevant enquiries. His only qualification is being tied up by the shackles of attachment in the false things which he has contacted in his temporary existence.
Such Grihamedhis waste valuable time at night by sleeping or in the engagements of different varieties of sex urge. Such sex urges are satisfied by visiting the cinema shows, attending clubs and gambling houses where women and drinking are indulged in lavishly. And during the day time the valuable life is wasted in accumulating mass of money or if there is sufficient money to spend the time is wasted in the matters of adjusting the comforts of family members. The standard of family life and personal needs increases with the increase of monetary income and there is no limit of satiation. There is no limit of standard life and the limit of expenses. There is therefore an unlimited competition in the field of so-called economic development and therefore there is no peace in any society of the human world. Everybody is perplexed with the same question of earning and spending although at the end one has to depend on the mercy of the mother nature. When there is scarcity in production or there is disturbance from higher godly agents, the poor plan-making politician accuses the cruel nature but carefully avoids to study the laws of nature as how and by whom she is controlled. In the Bhagwat Geeta the answer is that the laws of nature is controlled by the Absolute Personality of Godhead. God is alone the controller of nature and the natural laws. Sometimes they pick up a fragment of the law of nature but never care to know the maker of these laws. Most of them do not believe in the existence of an Absolute Person like God Who controls the laws of nature and they simply stick to the principles of interaction of different elements without any reference to the direction which makes such interaction possible at all. They have no relevant questions or answers in this regard. But the Vedanta Sutra answers the question of Brahman in the next Sutra asserting that the Supreme Brahman is He from whom everything is generated and He is a person in the last issue.
Foolish Grihamedhi does not only know the temporary nature of a particular type of body obtained by him but also he does not see the actual position of things which are happening before him in the daily affairs of his life. He sees before him that his father dies, his mother dies, or a relative or neighbour dies and yet he does not make the relevant enquiries whether the other existing members will go or they will not die at all. Sometimes he thinks and knows that all members will die today or the day after and so also he will die. He knows that the whole family show or for the matter of that the whole show of community, society or nationality and all such temporary things are temporary bubbles in the air without any permanent value and yet he is mad after this temporary arrangements only without any relevant enquiry. He has no knowledge as where he has to go after his death. He works very hard for the temporary arrangement of the family, society or nationality but never makes any arrangement either for himself or for others who will pass this present phase of life.
In a public vehicle like the railway carriage we meet and sit down together with some unknown friends and become practically members of the same vehicle for a short time. But in due course every one of us separate never to meet again in life. Similarly in the long sojourn of life we get a temporary sitting accommodation in the so-called family, country or society etc., but when the time is up we unwillingly separate from one another never to meet again. There are so many relevant questions and enquiries in this regard of temporary arrangements of life or meeting our friends in the temporary arrangements but nobody of the Grihamedhi class of men does enquire in the permanent nature of things. We are all busy in making permanent plans in various degrees of leadership without knowing the permanent nature of things as they are. Sripad Samkaracharya who specially made propaganda work to remove this ignorance of the society and advocated for culture of spiritual knowledge at large in the matter of all pervading impersonal Brahman said in despair as follows:—"The boys are engaged in playful things, the youngsters are engaged in the so-called love affairs with girls and the old is seriously thoughtful for adjusting a baffled struggle in life. But alas nobody is prepared to enquire relevantly in the science of Brahman."
Shri Sukhdeva Goswami who was asked for direction by the Maharaja Parikshit advised the king as follows in response to his relevant enquiries.
"Oh the descendant of Bharata, it is the duty of the mortal men to enquire, hear, glorify and meditate upon the Personality of Godhead who is the most attractive Person on account of His fullness of opulence etc. He is called Hari because He alone can undo the conditional existence of a living being. If we at all want to be free from the conditional existence we must make relevant enquiries about the Absolute Truth so that He may be pleased to bestow upon us perfect freedom of life."
Shri Sukhdeva Goswami has particularly used four words in this connection in respect of the Absolute Personality of Godhead. The Absolute Person is called Param Brahma in distinction with other persons who are also qualitatively one with Him. The Absolute Personality of Godhead is addressed as Sarbatma or all pervading. Nobody is aloof from Him but not all of them have the realisation. The Personality of Godhead by His plenary representation reside in everyone's heart as Paramatma or Super Soul along with all the individual souls. Therefore every individual soul has intimate relation with Him and forgetfulness of this intimate relation with Him—which exists eternally, is the cause of an immemorial conditional life. But because He is Bhagwan or the Supreme Personality, He can at once reciprocate the responsive call of a devotee. Not only that but also because He is the Perfect Person His beauty and opulence, Fame, Strength, Knowledge, etc. are all unlimited source of transcendental bliss for the individual soul. The individual soul becomes attracted by all these different opulences imperfectly represented by other conditioned souls. And therefore the individual soul is not satisfied by such imperfect representation and perpetually seeks for the perfect one. The Personality of Godhead's beauty has no comparison so also are His knowledge and renunciation. And above all He is the Iswara or the Supreme Controller. We are at present being controlled by the police action of the great King. The police action is imposed upon us on account of our disobedience of law. But because He is Hari, He is able to cause disappearance of all our conditional life by giving us full freedom in spiritual existence. It is therefore the duty of every man to make relevant enquiries about Him and thus go Back to Godhead.