RTW 3.3

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


The Mind Is Purified of Its Attachment to Matter

To shed more light on the meaning of the Upaniṣadic aphorism sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma, we cite a verse from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (1.22.56):

eka-deśa-sthitasyāgner
jyotsnā vistārinī yathā
parasya brahmaṇaḥ śaktis
tathedam akhilaṁ jagat

A fire radiates light all around although remaining in one spot. Similarly, the Supreme Brahman radiates energy everywhere, which is manifested as this material world.

In their philosophical discussions the Māyāvādīs deny the existence of the Supreme Lord's multifarious energies. Such sub-standard debates are indeed on the kindergarten level. According to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, the Māyāvādīs have a poor fund of knowledge and are thus prevented from understanding that the Supreme Brahman is full with six opulences. To save these poor Māyāvādī impersonalists from philosophical impoverishment, Lord Kṛṣṇa has mercifully instructed them in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.19),

bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.

As the saying goes, "A tethered cow goes as far as the rope." Similarly, one who uses the inductive method to search for ultimate knowledge will fail. His attempt is futile because one cannot know the supramundane with a mundane mind. Complete comprehension of the Absolute Truth is impossible with an unholy, demoniac mind. When one is possessed of a demoniac mentality that tries to reduce the supremely omnipotent Personality of Godhead to impersonal Brahman, all so-called philosophical debates will fail to discover the realm of absolute knowledge or the truth about the nondual substance. Vaiṣṇavas alone are eligible to cultivate such knowledge.

Of course, not all impersonalists are demoniac. As soon as an impersonalist realizes that the Absolute Truth is a person endowed with all transcendental qualities, he immediately begins to serve Him. This is confirmed in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.7.10) which states,

ātmārāmāś ca munayo
nirgranthā apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukīṁ bhaktim
ittham-bhūto-guṇo hariḥ

All different varieties of ātmārāmas [those who take pleasure in the ātmā, or spirit self], especially those established on the path of self-realization, though freed from all kinds of material bondage, desire to render unalloyed devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead. This means that the Lord possesses transcendental qualities and therefore can attract everyone, including liberated souls.

It is rare to find that great soul who is attracted by the Lord's transcendental qualities and thus surrenders to Him. The only person who can surrender to the Supreme Lord is one who does not attempt to rob Him of His personality but who views the material nature as a transformation of His multifarious energies. Thus the Māyāvādīs can never be called mahātmās, or "great souls." Only when they realize that the nondual Absolute Truth is none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead, full with six opulences, can they be called mahātmās.

Vaiṣṇava mahātmās have explained the aphorism sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma in this manner: The philosophical school known as Viśiṣṭādvaita propounds the idea that the Supreme Lord eternally exists with His two principal potencies: the cit-śakti, or spiritual potency, and the acit-śakti, or material potency. Though the Lord is one nondual entity, He exists dynamically, manifesting His multifarious energies under the main headings of the cit and acit potencies, which He absolutely controls. Although He is the source of unlimited potencies, He eternally exists in His transcendental, personal form. This form manifests in three aspects, namely, as He sees Himself, as a loving devotee sees Him, and as He is seen by His competitors and enemies. The Śrī Vaiṣṇava disciplic succession, headed by Śrī Rāmānujācārya, cites the same text we have cited above to explain the situation of the Lord and His energies:

A fire radiates light all around although remaining in one spot. Similarly, the Supreme Brahman radiates energy everywhere, which is manifested as this material world.

Thus the entire creation is proof of the existence of the Lord. One who is in complete knowledge understands that the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who exists eternally as the source and controller of all energies. The mahātmās fully realize this knowledge, and having taken shelter of the Lord's transcendental energy (cit-śakti), they eternally render loving devotional service to Him. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.13-14):

mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha
daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
bhajanty ananya-manaso
jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
nitya-yuktā upāsate

O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible. Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.

The mental speculators and logicians, as well as the Māyāvādīs - who are neophytes depending on the empirical, inductive process - should properly understand the position of the pure devotees of the Lord, who have realized the Absolute truth. In the Bhagavad-gītā (4.23) Lord Kṛṣṇa gives this explanation of the activities of the devotees:

gata-saṅgasya muktasya
jñānāvasthita-cetasaḥ
yajñāyācarataḥ karma
samagraṁ pravilīyate

The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge merges entirely into transcendence.

The activities of performed as sacrifices are all devotional service. The Sanskrit word yajña means "sacrifice," but it can also mean Lord Viṣṇu Himself. To perform one's activities as transcendental devotional service is possible only for those advanced souls who are fully situated in the Absolute Truth. Again, Kṛṣṇa describes His devotees in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.17):

teṣāṁ jñānī nitya-yukta
eka-bhaktir viśiṣyate
priyo hi jñānino 'tyartham
ahaṁ sa ca mama priyaḥ

Of these, the one who is in full knowledge and is always engaged in pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.

If an impersonalist philosopher, due to some piety, engages in devotional service to the Supreme Lord, then only does he become dear to the Lord. But as long as the impersonalists try to rob the Supreme Lord of His divine potencies, they can never be dear to Him, nor can they be called mahātmās. They will continue to be counted among the demoniac atheists deluded by the Lord's illusory potency. These atheists are not wise men: they are simply ordinary mortals who are offenders against the Lord.

Wherever the word jñāna appears in the Vedic literature, it should be understood to mean sambandha-jñāna, knowledge of the relationship between the Lord and His energies. It does not refer to the impersonalist concept of the Supreme. After a person understands sambandha-jñāna, he comes to the stage of abhidheya-jñāna, knowledge of how to act in his relationship with the Supreme Lord. This is devotional service, practiced by liberated souls. The mature stage of abhidheya-jñāna leads one to love of Godhead, the ultimate goal of all living entities.

It is the general opinion that among modern-day spiritualists who have tried to know the Supreme through their own puny efforts, Śrī Aurobindo has attained some degree of realization. The reason for his success, it is claimed, is that the object of his search was not material knowledge. The Māyāvādīs attempt to know the oneness of everything, but their search takes them only up to realization of the impersonal, nondual Brahman. They do not know that becoming free from disease is not perfection, that after the diseased material condition comes the healthy state of spiritual existence, wherein a liberated soul is still an individual with personality. This fact is incomprehensible to them.

Śrī Aurobindo rose beyond this limited sphere of thinking and talked about "supramental consciousness" in such books as Life Divine. We consider this book a hazy attempt to present the Supreme Lord's transcendental potencies. He accepted that the Supreme Lord is endowed with transcendental potency, and therefore we have some appreciation for him, but we feel that many persons cannot understand Śrī Aurobindo's explanation of transcendence in his books. Although he uses fairly simple English, the reader remains puzzled. Those who are unacquainted with such Vaiṣṇava philosophies as Viśiṣṭādvaita, Śuddhādvaita, Dvaitādvaita, and finally Lord Caitanya's acintya-bhedābheda-tattva, cannot understand Śrī Aurobindo. And those who are learned only in impersonal philosophy, who are searching for the nondual Brahman, have even less access to Śrī Aurobindo's works.

Much of Śrī Aurobindo's stream of thinking has been borrowed from Vaiṣṇava philosophy. In Light on Yoga and in an essay entitled "The Goal," we find the following passages:

In order to get dynamic realization, it is not enough to rescue the Puruṣa from the subjugation of Prakṛti. One must transfer the allegiance of the Puruṣa from the lower Prakṛti, with its play of ignorant forces, to the supreme Divine Śakti - the Mother.

It is a mistake to identify the Mother with the lower Prakṛti and its mechanism of forces. Prakṛti here is a mechanism only, which has been formed for the evolution of ignorance. As the ignorant mental, vital, or physical being is not itself the Divine, although it comes from the Divine, so the mechanism of Prakṛti is not the Divine Mother. No doubt something of her is there in and behind this mechanism, maintaining it for the evolutionary purpose, but she in herself is not the Śakti of Avidya but the Divine consciousness, the Power, Light, and Para-prakṛti, to whom we turn for release and divine fulflllment...

If the supermind could not give us a greater and more complete truth than any of the lower planes, it would not be worthwhile trying to reach it. Each plane has its own truth. Some of these truths are no longer needed as we rise to higher planes. For example, desire and ego are truths of the mental, vital, and physical plane, as a man on that plane without ego or desire would be a mere automaton. As we rise higher, ego and desire appear no longer as truths: they are falsehoods disfiguring the true person and the true will. The struggle between the powers of light and the powers of darkness is a truth here, but it becomes less and less of a truth as one rises higher, and in the supermind it has no truth at all. Other truths remain, but change their character, importance, and place in the whole. The contrast between the Personal and the Impersonal is a truth of the overmind; there is no separate truth of them in the supermind: they are inseparably one. But one who has not mastered the lower planes cannot reach the supramental truth. The incompetent pride of man's mind makes a sharp distinction and wants to call all else untruth and leap at once to the highest truth, whatever it may be. But that is an ambitious and arrogant error. One has to climb the stairs and rest ones feet firmly on each step in order to reach the summit.

If one is serious about the real meaning of life, then simple endeavoring to escape the crippling clutches of māyā is not the only undertaking. The ultimate goal is to liberate ourselves from the enthrallment of the illusory energy and become wholly subservient to the transcendental, spiritual energy.

In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 20.108-09, 111, 117-8, 120, and 122), Lord Caitanya gives some illuminating advice to Sanātana Gosvāmī:

It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa because he is the marginal energy of Kṛṣṇa and a manifestation simultaneously one with and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire.

Lord Kṛṣṇa naturally has three energetic transformations, and these are known as the spiritual potency, the living entity potency, and the illusory potency... Forgetting Kṛṣṇa, the living entity has been attracted by the external feature from time immemorial. Therefore the illusory energy (māyā) gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence. In the material condition, the living entity is sometimes raised to higher planetary systems and material prosperity and sometimes drowned in a hellish situation. His state is exactly that of a criminal whom a king punishes by submerging him in water and then raising him again from the water.... If the conditioned soul becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious by the mercy of saintly persons who voluntarily preach scriptural injunctions and help him to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, the conditioned soul is liberated from the clutches of māyā, who gives him up. The conditioned soul cannot revive his Kṛṣṇa consciousness by his own effort. But out of causeless mercy, Lord Kṛṣṇa compiled the Vedic literature and its supplements, the Purāṇas.