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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Transcendental Devotional Service Reveals the Real Form of the Lord

We learn from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that, due to māyā, which makes the living entity fall down from spiritual practice, certain obnoxious atheists try hard to create a smokescreen of philosophical jargon around the Supreme Lord to keep Him hidden from the general populace. The result of this effort is also described in the Bhāgavatam (12.3.43):

kalau na rājan jagatāṁ paraṁ guruṁ
prāyeṇa martyā bhagavantam acyutaṁ
yakṣyanti pāṣaṇḍa-vibhinna-cetasaḥ

O King! In the Age of Kali people's intelligence will be diverted by atheism, and they will almost never offer sacrifice to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the supreme spiritual master of the universe. Although the great personalities who control the three worlds all bow down to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the petty and miserable human beings of this age will not do so.

A good example of such philosophical jargon meant to bewilder the public is Dr. Radhakrishnan's translating ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ as "good will to all" instead of "surrendering to the Supreme Lord," its proper meaning. Such an interpretation is what we can expect from a mundane scholar.

The first word in devotional service is surrender. The only meaning of surrender is to accept that one is a servant of God. Even great scholars and philosophers like Dr. Radhakrishnan will have to perform heaps of austerities and penances before they will yield to the process of surrender. This is the conclusion of Bhagavad-gītā. Dr. Radhakrishnan's explanation of the six limbs of surrender is superficial. Originally defined in a Vaiṣṇava text, these six limbs of surrender pertain to Lord Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa. Ānukūlya means "loving devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa." The Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu states, ānukūlyena-kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā: (CC Madhya 19.167) "One should render transcendental loving service to Lord Kṛṣṇa favorably. That is called pure devotional service."

Everyone in the world is rendering service to Lord Kṛṣṇa in one way or another. Some are doing it favorably, and others antagonistically. Those who are serving unfavorably are inimical atheists, the foolish nondevotees, while those who do it with pleasure are truly intelligent. In other words, the devotees of Kṛṣṇa are very intelligent, while the mundane scholars are in the same category as the nondevotee atheists led by the demons Kaṁsa and Jarāsandha.

The main instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā is to take complete shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Yet this cardinal conclusion, which emanated from Lord Kṛṣṇa's own lotus lips, is reversed by Dr. Radhakrishnan when he writes that one should surrender not to the person Kṛṣṇa but to the "Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal who speaks through Kṛṣṇa." It is an exercise in futility to take up the Gītā for discussion only in order to ostentatiously display one's erudition, and thus to foolishly misinterpret the text so much that one concludes that the speaker of the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa, is a mere mortal. This use of Vedic knowledge to pronounce that God does not exist is a clear example of serving Kṛṣṇa unfavorably.

How does Lord Kṛṣṇa describe sholars like Dr. Radhakrishnan, who have an atheistic understanding of the Vedas? In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.15) we find this statement:

na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ
prapadyante narādhamāḥ
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ

Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me.

Enemies of the Lord like Kaṁsa and Jarāsandha always meditated on Kṛṣṇa, but unfavorably. Similar to these demons are the atheistic scholars who always challenge and misrepresent the real teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā. Though they think about the Lord, they do so with enmity because their intelligence has been covered by māyā. Kaṁsa and Jarāsandha were also erudite scholars, but because they were obsessed with Kṛṣṇa in enmity, they were demons.

We understand from Lord Caitanya's teachings and exemplary actions that it is our duty to follow the instructions of the Bhagavad-gītā favorably. During Lord Caitanya's tour of South India, when He entered the premises of the Śrī Raṅganātha temple, He came upon a simple brāhmaṇa engrossed in reading the Bhagavad-gītā. The Lord was overjoyed to see how attentively the brāhmaṇa was reading, and how tears were streaming down his cheeks. Other brāhmaṇas sitting nearby knew that he was illiterate, and so they wondered how he could possibly read the Gītā.

Lord Caitanya easily solved this problem. He said that even an uneducated person can understand transcendental words if he is a fully surrendered soul. But without that mood of surrender, Bhagavad-gītā remains incomprehensible.

When Lord Caitanya saw the brāhmaṇa in tears, He asked him what part of the Gītā moved him to cry. With proper Vaiṣṇava humility, the brāhmaṇa answered,

I am merely pretending to read the Gītā; in truth I am illiterate. But my guru instructed me to regularly read the entire Bhagavad-gītā, though I am unlettered. Not wanting to disobey my guru, I try to execute my duty, and so I make a show of reading the Gītā.

The Lord then asked him why he was crying. The brāhmaṇa replied,

Whenever I sit down to read the Gītā, the form of Lord Kṛṣṇa as Pārtha-sārathi [Arjuna's chariot driver] appears in my heart. And as soon as I see this form I immediately remember how the Lord is bhakta-vatsala [especially kind to His devotees]. This thought makes me cry.

The Māyāvādīs are always eager to merge with the nondual Supreme Brahman and become God. But their small brains cannot understand how the Supreme Personality of Godhead can become the charioteer of His devotee and carry out his orders. In truth the Supreme Lord and the jīvas are eternally related, and because of this relationship many wonderful things are possible. But the Māyāvādīs cannot understand this truth, and many who have tried to make them understand have failed miserably. In the śruti (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.23) we find this statement:

yasya deve parā-bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
(ŚU 6.23)

Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed.

Upon seeing the devotion of the South Indian brāhmaṇa as he read the Gītā, Lord Caitanya embraced him and then told him that he had perfected the reading of the Gītā. What fool would deny that Lord Caitanya's approval is far superior to millions of university doctorates? This accolade from the Lord proves that the Bhagavad-gītā cannot be studied with material intelligence. The knowledge of the Gītā must be received through the chain of ācāryas, or spiritual masters, coming down in disciplic succession. That is the only method; otherwise studying the Gītā is an exercise in futility. The scriptural conclusion is that since the Supreme Lord is transcendental, His words are also transcendental, and hence the esoteric subject matter of the Bhagavad-gītā can be received only through a disciplic succession that is equally transcendental. As the Padma Purāṇa states,

atah śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi
na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
(CC Madhya 17.136)

No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality, and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually situated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality, and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.

This is confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.38):

santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi

I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is Śyāmasundara, Kṛṣṇa Himself with innumerable inconceivable attributes, whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love.

Therefore, the scriptural conclusion is that mundane philosophers like Dr. Radhakrishnan are not qualified to delve into spiritual subjects. The devotees of the Lord alone are eligible to understand Lord Kṛṣṇa; no one else is qualified. As Kṛṣṇa Himself states in the Bhagavad-gītā, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ: (BG 18.55) "One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service."

Scholars like Dr. Radhakrishnan should understand that within Lord Kṛṣṇa there is only Lord Kṛṣṇa and nothing else. Lord Kṛṣṇa's body and soul are the same. The Gītā's conclusion is that the nondual truth is Kṛṣṇa, the absolute Supreme Being. But Dr. Radhakrishnan has somehow discovered another, second being within Kṛṣṇa. This discovery then converts Dr. Radhakrishnan into a believer in dualism! The manifestation of the Absolute Truth who resiedes in every jīva's heart is ludicly described by Lord Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā. In the Bhagavad-gītā (10.8), Lord Kṛṣṇa explains who the being residing in every jīva's heart is:

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

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.

And later in the Gītā (15.15) He says,

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣto
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.

The wise men with perfect knowledge - i.e., those who have purified their materialistic intelligence and are thus situated in spiritual knowledge - can understand Lord Kṛṣṇa as the source of everything. Unless the intellect is purified and spiritualized, even the most erudite philosopher and the greatest mystic yogī will become perplexed in trying to understand Lord Kṛṣṇa. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.3), yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ: "Of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth."

The Supreme Lord's name, form, qualities, pastimes, associates, and paraphernalia are all of the same spiritual nature. In fact, anything in relation to Lord Kṛṣṇa is nondifferent from Him. As the Padma Purāṇa states,

nāma cintāmaṇiḥ kṛṣṇaś
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto
'bhinnatvān nāma-nāminoḥ
(CC Madhya 17.133)

The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benediction, for it is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Kṛṣṇa's name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Kṛṣṇa Himself. Since Kṛṣṇa's name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with māyā. Kṛṣṇa's name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are identical.

Only saintly souls can perceive the truth of these statements; those whose intelligence has been corrupted by Māyāvāda philosophy cannot understand.

In general, the monists cannot grasp the intricate philosophy of nondualism. So Dr. Radhakrishnan has spun out of his imagination a theory by which he tries to establish dualism in nondualism. When Dr. Radhakrishnan writes that we must surrender to "the Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal who speaks through Kṛṣṇa," he implies that it is the impersonal Brahman within Kṛṣṇa who is speaking about surrender. Once it is established that the impersonal Brahman can speak, then He must also possess the instrument of speech, namely the tongue. Thus we see that Dr. Radhakrishnan's whole concept of impersonalism is immediately undermined. There is sufficient evidence in the scriptures to conclude that one who talks can also walk. And a being capable of speaking and walking must indeed be endowed with all the senses. Then He must also be able to perform other activities, such as eating and sleeping. So how can Dr. Radhakrishnan claim that his beginningless, eternal object is impersonal?

In his "Introductory Essay," on page 62, Dr. Radhakrishnan writes,

When we are emptied of our self [?], God takes possession of us. The obstacles to this God-possession are our own virtues, pride, knowledge, our subtle demands, and our unconscious assumptions and prejudices.

From his own arguments we can safely surmise that Dr. Radhakrishnan, due to his carelessness and previous upbringing, is seeing a difference between Lord Kṛṣṇa's body and His soul. He is still not free from false ego, that is, "emptied of self." Therefore his "virtues, pride, knowledge, subtle demands, and unconscious assumptions and prejudices" are all preventing him from understanding the transcendental truth. He must have been brought up in an atmosphere of Māyāvāda thought; for this reason he was unable to grasp the truth.

Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya, the founder and propagator of Māyāvāda philosophy, proved that the material world was an illusion - mithyā - and so he diligently pursued the path of austerity and renunciation, and he stressed it in his teachings. He did not waste valuable time trying to lord it over this illusory material world. But if he were to see the present condition of the philosophy he propounded, perhaps he would be ashamed. We have no doubt that Dr. Radhakrishnan was influenced by him; this is evident from his writings. Yet in his "Introductory Essay," page 25, he writes, "The emphasis of the Gītā is on the Supreme as the personal God who creates the perceptible world by His Nature (prakṛti). He resides within the heart of every being; He is the enjoyer and Lord of sacrifices. He stirs our heart to devotion and grants our prayers. He is the source and retainer of values. He enters into personal relations with us in worship and prayer."

After writing this and thus accepting the real purport of the Gītā, how can Dr. Radhakrishnan later state that Lord Kṛṣṇa's body and soul are different? Such an idea must be a result of his materialistic education. What a strange monism he propounds, in which the Absolute Truth, the nondual Supreme Being, is supposedly separate from His inner existence! Can Dr. Radhakrishnan explain these obvious flaws in his philosophy? When the Supreme Lord Himself is present in everyone's heart as the omniscient Supersoul, then who else can sit in His heart? In the Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself speaks about His transcendental qualities, making statements that Dr. Radhakrishnan, armed with his material erudition, has made but a feeble attempt to contradict. Through such foolishness Dr. Radhakrishnan has made a show of spreading education, but in fact he has preached untruth.

Brahman, Paramātmā (the Supersoul), and Bhagavān (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) - all three are the same nondual Supreme Absolute. It would be riduculous to say that Dr. Radhakrishnan is ignorant of this subject, yet we fail to see the logic in his claim that when the Supreme Lord incarnates He comes under the sway of māyā. The Lord unequivocally states in the Gītā that when He appears, He does so in His original transcendental form. Hence there can be no difference between Him and His body. The Lord further states that His appearance, activities, and so on are all transcendental, beyond the realm of matter. He is eternal, supremely pure, the original Supreme Personality and Supreme Brahman. We all agree that the jīva is covered by māyā, but if the Supreme Brahman, or Parabrahman, is also covered by māyā, then is māyā superior to Parabrahman?