The Means to Liberation
Nowhere do the Vedic scriptures say that one has to annihilate desire in order to comprehend the Upaniṣadic statement sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. But there are many statements recommending that the character of desire should be transformed. It is because of the force of desire that all activities in the world are carried out, and in the Bhagavad-gītā (10.4-11) Lord Kṛṣṇa discusses the multifarious ways in which desire influences these activities:
Intelligence, knowledge, freedom from doubt and delusion, forgiveness, truthfulness, control of the senses, control of the mind, happiness and distress, birth, death, fear, fearlessness, nonviolence, equanimity, satisfaction, austerity, charity, fame, and infamy - all these various qualities of living beings are created by Me alone.
The seven great sages and before them the four other great sages and the Manus (progenitors of mankind) come from Me, born from My mind, and all the living beings populating the various planets descend from them.
One who is factually convinced of this opulence and mystic power of Mine engages in unalloyed devotional service; of this there is no doubt.
I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts. The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me. To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me. To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.
Those who understand that the multifarious human desires are a reflection of the Supreme Brahman's desires are careful not to discard them but to use them in the Lord's service. Long ago, the seven great sages and the Manus all used their God-given desires in the Lord's service, and anyone today who emulates the example of these illustrious ancestors will never see desire as mundane or as an impediment to spiritual progress. If Ramana Mahārṣi advises us to negate desire, then we must conclude that he misunderstands the Vedic statement sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. Those who have realized that all desires and feelings are Brahman by nature, and who thus engage them in the Supreme Lord's service, should be considered perfected souls. They are totally free from nescience. The desires of these self-realized, elevated, blissful devotees become purified to such an extent that not an iota of ignorance can influence their consciousness, for the Lord Himself destroys the nescience in their hearts.
The Māyāvādīs are hard pressed to understand that there is a wide gulf of difference between their individual efforts to nullify nescience and the Supreme Lord's mercifully enlightening His devotees. The Māyāvādīs are always eager to deny the Supreme Energetic His potencies. They are no better than demons like Rāvaṇa, who tried to usurp the Lord's potency, and Kaṁsa, who tried to kill Him outright. This sort of behavior is expected of demons. Aspiring for evil powers, they abandon devotional service to the Lord and take to sinful activities. In this way they forfeit all knowledge. Lord Kṛṣṇa aptly describes them in the Gītā (7.15) as māyayāpahṛta-jñānā, "those whose knowledge is stolen by illusion." Many, many philosophers, scholars, and so-called invincible heroes have tried to make the Supreme Lord impotent, formless, and impersonal, but in the end they always suffered terribly.
Thus in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.4) we find this statement by Lord Brahmā:
- śreyaḥ-sṛtiṁ bhaktim udasya te vibho
- kliśyanti ye kevala-bodha-labdhaye
- teṣām asau kleśala eva śiṣyate
- nānyad yathā sthūla-tuṣāvaghātinām
My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.
Where can one see qualities such as intelligence, knowledge, freedom from doubt, joy, sorrow, fear, fearlessness, nonviolence, equanimity, contentment, austerity, charity, fame, and infamy? These qualities are indicative of consciousness, so they are present wherever consciousness is present. The Supreme Lord has declared that these qualities are His, that they have sprung from Him. And the Kaṭha Upaniṣad states, nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān: "Among all the eternal, conscious living entities, there is one supreme conscious being who supplies all others with their necessities." Therefore, to deny that these qualities are inherent in all conscious beings, and in this way to equate both the minute living entities and the Supreme Soul with dead matter, results in complete confusion and certainly demonstrates a severe lack of insight. The Māyāvādīs are confused as to whether refuting the existence of consciousness or accepting it will give them contentment. The conscious beings always control inert matter. A simple example proves this point: we see how a puny conscious being like a crow defecates fearlessly on the head of a stone statue of some hero, thus demonstrating the conquest of dynamic spirit over dead matter. Only those with stonelike intelligence will try to make the supreme conscious being into an unfeeling, formless object. Such an attempt is utter foolishness.
Śrī Aurobindo has accomplished something commendable by presenting today's learned circles with a "new" concept: instead of trying to deny the inherent qualities of consciousness, one should transform one's mundane consciousness into supramental consciousness by engaging in service of the Supreme Lord under the direction of His divine potency. Of course, those who prefer to emulate the modern philosophers rather than the realized souls of bygone ages will find Śrī Aurobindo's presentation novel. But those who follow in the footsteps of pure, loving devotees of the Lord linked to an authorized disciplic succession know that Śrī Aurobindo's words echo the annals of age - old wisdom. Indeed, they sound close to the essence of the Vedas.
The six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana excavated this extraordinary esoteric essence of the Vedas and described the workings of the internal potency of the Lord. Before the advent of Lord Caitanya, subjects of this nature had never been discussed in such detail by any spiritual authority. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, in his play Vidagdha-mādhava, glorifies Lord Caitanya's unique contribution to mankind:
- anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
- samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śrīyam
- hariḥ puraṭa-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandīpitaḥ
- sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ
May that Lord who is known as the son of Śrīmatī Śacīdevī be transcendentally situated in the innermost core of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has descended in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most elevated mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.
In an essay entitled "Surrender and Opening," Śrī Aurobindo writes:
The whole principle of this yoga is to give oneself entirely to the Divine alone and to nobody and nothing else, and to bring down to ourselves, by union with the Divine Mother, all transcendent light, power, breadth, place, purity, truth, consciousness, and Ananda of the Supramental Divine.
Rādhā is the personification of absolute love for the Divine, total and integral in all parts of Her being, from the highest spiritual to the physical, bringing the absolute self-going and total consecration of all being and calling down into the body and the most material nature the supreme Ananda.
Although there are disparities in conclusions in the above statements, still on his own Śrī Aurobindo has pointed in the right direction. It is impossible to comprehend the conjugal mellow, which is the most elevated and brilliant of spiritual mellows, without the mood of surrender. The Māyāvādīs are totally bereft of this attitude of surrender; hence when they try to understand the nondual concept on their own, they end up becoming impersonalists. Let us read what Śrī Aurobindo has to say about these Māyāvādīs:
To seek after the impersonal is the way of those who want to withdraw from life. Usually such impersonalists try by their own effort and not by opening themselves to the superior power, or by the way of surrender, for the impersonal is not something that guides or helps but something to be attained, and it leaves each man to attain it according to the way and capacity of his nature. On the other hand, by opening and surrendering to the Mother, one can realize the Impersonal and every other aspect of truth also.
The Māyāvādīs are never successful in their efforts to attain liberation on their own merit. The only way to conquer illusion and achieve liberation is to surrender to the Supreme Lord, who is complete with six absolute opulences. As Lord Kṛṣṇa clearly states in the Gītā (7.14), mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etān taranti te: "Those who surrender unto Me can easily cross beyond it [the modes of material nature]."
- sādhu-śāstra-kṛpāya yadi kṛṣṇonmukha haya
- sei jīva nistare, māyā tāhāre chāḍaya
- māyā-mugdha jīvera nāhi svataḥ kṛṣṇa-jñānaA
- jīvere kṛpāya kailā kṛṣṇa veda-purāṇa
If the conditioned soul becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious by the mercy of saintly persons who voluntarily preach scriptural injunctions, he 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.
All the Vedas and Purāṇas deal with the subject of Lord Kṛṣṇa. In the Lord's own words in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15), vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo: "By all the Vedas, I am to be known."