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TLC 15 (1968)

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Lord Chaitanya

Explanation of the Atmarama Verse in Srimad Bhagwatam

Lord Chaitanya next explained a verse, appearing in Srimad Bhagwatam, which is very famous and known as the Atmarama verse: It runs as follows: Atmaramas cha munayanirg rantha apiurukrame, Kurvanti ahaituki bhaktim ittlhvambhuta guna harih. The general meaning is that those who are liberated souls and fully satisfied within themselves will later become devotees of the Lord. This is especially meant for the impersonalist class, because the impersonalist souls have no information of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They try to be satisfied in the impersonal Brahman, but Krishna is so attractive and so strong that He attracts even the minds of such impersonalists. That is the purport of the verse.

This verse had been explained previously to a great Vedantist, known as Sarvabhouma Bhattacharya. Sanatan Goswami, after taking his lessons from Lord Chaitanya, referred the incident to the Lord and prayed again for His explanation of the Atmarama verse. The author of Chaitanya Charitamrita, appreciating this explanation of the Atmarama verse, has glorified Lord Chaitanya by his prayer. Sanatan Goswami fell flat at the Feet of Lord Chaitanya, and requested Him to explain the Atmarama verse as He formerly had explained it to Sarvabhouma Bhattacharya. He explained his eagerness to hear the same explanation again, so that he might be enlightened.

When the Lord was thus requested by Sanatan Goswami He replied: "I do not understand why Sarvabhouma Bhattacharya has so much appreciated my explanation. As far as I am concerned I don't remember what I said to him. But because you are asking, I shall try to explain whatever I can remember, by your association." The speaker and the audience are very intimately connected; the speaker is enlightened by the presence of the audience. In transcendental subject matters the speaker or the Master can speak very nicely in relationship with the understanding of the audience. Therefore, Lord Chaitanya said, "Generally I do not know how to explain a Sanskrit verse, but I shall try to explain whatever I can by your association only."

He then said that there are 11 different items in the Atmarama verse. They are as follows: 1. Atmarama, 2. Cha, 3. Munayah, 4. Nirgrantha, 5. Api, 6. Urukrame, 7. Kurvanti, 8. Ahaituki, 9. Bhaktim, 10. Itthvambhuta, 11. Harih. The Lord then began to explain each and every items as mentioned above:

So far as Atmarama is concerned, He said that the word Atma is used to mean: 1. the Supreme Absolute Truth, 2. the body, 3. the mind, 4. endeavor, 5. intelligence, 6. conviction, and 7. nature. Therefore, anyone who takes pleasure in the cultivation of the knowledge of these items, is called Atmarama. (The Lord explained hereinafter about the different kinds of Atmarama, or transcendentalists).

The next item is Muni. Persons who are very great thinkers are called Muni. Sometimes this Muni is also used for persons who are very grave. Muni is also used for great sages, great austere persons, great mystics and learned scholars.

The fourth item, Nirgrantha, means freed from the bondage of illusion. Another meaning of Nirgrantha is "one who has no connection with spiritual injunctions." Grantha means revealed Scriptures. There are many instructions for spiritual realization, but persons who have no connection with such Scriptural injunctions are also known as Nirgrantha. Nir is an affix which is used with three meanings: it is used to mean no connection, and to mean constructing, and also prohibiting. There are many persons who are foolish, low-born and misbehaved, and they have no entrance into the revealed Scriptures and injunctions. Therefore, they are also called Nirgrantha. Because Grantha is also used for the purpose of riches, and for the purpose of collection, therefore Nirgrantha, in other words, means one who is after collecting riches and who is bereft of all riches.

The word Urukrama is used in the sense of a highly powerful person. Krama is also used in the sense of stepping: one who can step very far forward is also called Urukrama. The greatest stepping forward was shown by Lord Vamanadev: by stepping forward with His Foot, He covered the whole Universe. Therefore, Urukrama means the Supreme Lord Vamanadev. This extraordinary feature of Lord Vamanadev is explained in the Srimad Bhagwatam as follows: "Nobody can estimate the inconceivable potencies of Lord Vishnu. Even if one can count the number of the atomic combinations of this material world, still he is not able to count the different energies of the Supreme Lord. The Lord, Vamanadev, was so powerful that by stepping forward with His foot He covered the whole Universe, beginning from the Brahmaloka down to the Patalaloka."

The inconceivable energies of the Lord are spread all over the Creation of the Supreme Lord. He is All-pervading, and by His energy He sustains all planetary systems. And, by His display of pleasure potency, He is situated in His personal Abode, known as Goloka. By His expansion of opulence He is situated all over the Vaikuntha Planets as Narayan. By expanding His material energy, He has created innumerable Universes with innumerable planets within them. Therefore, no one can estimate the wonderful activities of the Supreme Lord. As such, the Supreme Lord is known as Urukrama, or the wonderful Actor.

In the Visvaprakash Dictionary, the meaning of the word Krama is described as an expert display of energies, as well as stepping forward very quickly, and the word Kurvanti is used for working for others. There is another word similar to this, used when the activities are done for one's personal sense gratification. But the word Kurvanti is used when activities are performed for the satisfaction of the Supreme. Therefore this word can be used only for the purpose of rendering transcendental service to the Lord.

The word Hetu is used as the reason, or the cause. People are engaged generally in transcendental activities for three causes: namely, some of them want material happiness, some of them want mystic perfection, and some of them want liberation from this material bondage. So far as material enjoyment is concerned, there are varieties; nobody can ennumerate how many kinds of material enjoyments there are. So far as perfections in mystic powers are concerned, there are eighteen. So far as kinds of liberation from the material bondage are concerned, there are five. The state of being where all these different kinds of enjoyment are conspicuous by their absence is called Ahaituki. The qualification Ahaituki is especially mentioned because by Ahaituki service of the Lord one can achieve the favor of the Lord.

The word Bhakti is taken in ten different ways. Out of the ten, one is called Sadhan Bhakti, occupational devotional service. The other nine are called Prema Bhakti, love of Godhead. Those who are situated in the neutral position attain the development of perfection up to love of Godhead. Similarly, those who are situated in the relationship of master and servant attain love of Godhead up to the stage of attachment. Those who are in the relationship of friends attain their love of Godhead up to the point of fraternity. Those who are in love of Godhead as parents are elevated up to the point of emotion. But only those who are in conjugal love with the Supreme have ecstasy elevated to the highest of ecstasies. These are the different meanings of the term Bhakti.

The Lord then explained the different meanings of itthambhutagunah. He also explained the word Guna in its different meanings. Ittham bhuta means full transcendental, before which even the transcendental pleasure known as Brahmananda becomes like straw. In the Hari Bhakti Sudhodaya it is said by the devotee: "My Lord, O Supreme, simply by understanding You or seeing You, the pleasure which we derive is so great that the pleasure in Brahmananda becomes insignificant." In other words, the pleasure derived by understanding Krishna as He is, the All-attractive Reservoir of all pleasures, and. the Reservoir of all pleasure-giving tastes, with all transcendental qualifications, attracts one to become His devotee. By such attraction one can give up fruitive activities, endeavoring for liberation, or the intense desire to achieve success in Yoga mystic power. The attractive power of Krishna is so intense, that without any respect for any other means of self-realization, one surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead—simply by that attraction.

Guna means the unlimited transcendental qualities of Krishna, primarily His Sat-Chit-Ananda Form. In His transcendental blissful knowledge and eternity He is fully perfect; and, therefore, such perfection becomes more manifest when He becomes controlled by the attention of the devotee. God is so kind and merciful that He can give Himself in exchange for the devotional service of a devotee. His transcendental qualities are such that His perfection in His beauty, His perfect reciprocation of love between Himself and His devotees, and His flavor of all transcendental qualities attract different kinds of transcendentalists and liberated souls, by different manifestations of these qualities.

For example, He attracted the mind of one of the Kumaras, Sanaka, simply by the flavor of the flowers offered to Him. And the mind of Sukadeva Goswami was attracted by the transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krishna. He attracted by His Personal Beauty the minds of the damsels of Vrindaban, and He attracted the attention of Rukmini by His bodily feature and transcendental qualities. He attracts the mind of the Goddess of Fortune by playing the flute and by different other features of transcendental attraction. He attracts the minds of all young girls; He attracts the minds of elderly ladies by His childlike activities; and He attracts the minds of His friends by His friendly activities. When He appeared in Vrindaban, He attracted even the birds and beasts and the trees and the plants. Everyone became attracted in love and affection for Krishna.

The word Hari has different meanings, of which two are principals. Hari means that He takes away all inauspicious things from the devotee's life, and that He attracts the mind of the devotee by awarding him transcendental love of Godhead. He is so attractive that anybody remembering Krishna in some way or other becomes free from the four kinds of material miseries. With special attention for His devotee, the Lord banishes the devotee's different forms of sinful activities, which arc a stumbling block for the advancement of devotional service. This is called routing the influence of ignorance. And, by hearing alone, one develops love for Him. That is the gift of the Lord. On one side He takes away our inauspicious things, and on the other side He awards the most auspicious things. That is the meaning of Hari.

When a person becomes developed in love of Godhead, then by His attractive power of transcendental qualities, He attracts the devotees body, mind and everything for the Lord. Such are the merciful activities of Krishna and such are His transcendental qualities. He is so attractive that, out of transcendental attachment for Him, a devotee will give up all the four principles of spiritual life: namely religiousness, economic development, regulation of sense gratification, and salvation. The words Api and Cha are adverbs. They can be utilized for virtually any purpose, but still the purpose of Cha, or "and," means that the whole construction may have seven different readings.

The Lord established the import of eleven items in the verse of Atma rama. Then He began to explain the imports of each item as follows: the word Brahman means the greatest in all respects. He is the greatest in all opulences. Nobody can excel over His richness, nobody can excel over His strength, nobody can excel over His fame, nobody can excel over His beauty, nobody can excel over His knowledge, and nobody can excel over His renunciation. Therefore, the real meaning of Brahman is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.

In the Vishnu Purana the meaning of Brahman is given: He is the greatest and there is no limit to His expanding as the greatest. One may conceive of Brahman's greatness, yet it is growing in such a way that nobody can estimate how far or how great He actually is.

That Supreme Personality of Godhead is realized in three aspects, but they are all one and the same. The Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality, Krishna, is everlasting. In the Srimad Bhagwatam it is said that He exists before the manifestation of this cosmic world, and He exists during its continuance, and He will continue to exist after the annihilation of this cosmic manifestation. Therefore, He is the Soul of everything great. He is All-pervading, He is All-witnessing, and He is the Supreme Form of everything.

To understand and achieve that Supreme perfection of the Absolute Truth, there are three different kinds of transcendental processes mentioned in the Vedic literature. They are called: the process of knowledge, the process of mystic Yoga, and the process of devotional service. The followers of different processes realize the Supreme Truth in different aspects; namely, those who are following the process of knowledge realize Him as impersonal Brahman; those who are following the process of Yoga realize Him as the localized Supersoul; and those who are following the process of devotional service realize Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. In other words, although Brahman means Krishna and nothing else, still, according to the process followed by different transcendentalists, He is realized in three different aspects.

So far as devotional service is concerned, it is divided into two processes. In the beginning, it is called Bidhibhakti, or devotional service with regulated principles. And in the highest stage it is called Raga bhakti, or devotional service in pure love.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the Absolute Truth, but He is manifested by expansions of different energies also. Those who are following the principles of devotional service in regulative forms ultimately achieve the Vaikunthas in the Spiritual World. Whereas one who is following the principles of love in devotional service reaches to the Supreme Abode, Krishna Loka or Goloka.

The transcendentalists can also be divided into three: namely the Akama, or one who does not have any material desires; the Moksa kama, or persons who seek liberation from the material miseries; and Sarva kama, or persons who have material desires to enjoy. The most intelligent transcendentalist gives up all other processes and engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord, even though he may have many desires. Not by any kind of transcendental activities, either in fruitive action or the cultivation of knowledge, nor by mystic yogic cultivation, can a person achieve the highest perfection, without adding a tinge of devotional service to them.

Except for devotional service, all other forms of transcendental processes are just like nipples on the neck of a goat. There are some nipples hanging on the neck of a goat, but they do not supply milk. If one is to derive, therefore, the actual perfection of his process he must take to the devotional service of Krishna.

In Bhagavad Gita it is stated, in the Seventh Chapter, 16th verse, that there are four kinds of beginners in devotional service whose backgrounds are very righteous. They are the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of material profit, and the Jnani, or the wise man. These four kinds of people, when they are coated by previous righteous activities, come to the devotional service of the Lord. Out of these four, those who are distressed and those who are in need of material possessions are called devotees with desires, whereas the other two, the inquisitive and the wise, are under the heading of seeking liberation. But, because they worship Krishna, they are considered to be very fortunate. In due course of time, if they give up all their desires and become pure devotees of the Supreme Lord, they are called the most fortunate.

Such fortunate beginners can develop only in the association of pure devotees of Lord Krishna. When one is associated with such pure devotees, one becomes a pure devotee himself. This is confirmed in the Srimad Bhagwatam in the First Canto, Tenth Chapter, as follows: "A person who is actually intelligent is able, by association with pure devotees, to hear about Lord Krishna and His activities." These-activities are very attractive, and he does not give up such association with the Lord.

Except for the association of pure devotees, any association is called Kaitava, or cheating. This is also confirmed in Srimad Bhagwatam, First Canto; where it is stated that any cheating process which obstructs transcendental realization is to be thrown off. By the Srimad Bhagwatam one can understand reality as it is, and that becomes auspicious in helping one to transcend the three kinds of material miseries. Srimad Bhagwatam is compiled by the greatest sage, Vyasadeva, as a work of his mature experience; and therefore, by understanding Srimad Bhagwatam, one can immediately capture the Supreme Lord within his heart, by devotional service.

Lord Chaitanya then explained that the word Projjhitta means desire for liberation, which is explained by one great commentator as the most obstructive stumbling block for realization of the Supreme Lord. But, somehow or other, if somebody comes to Krishna and begins to hear about Him, Krishna is so kind that He awards him His Lotus Feet as a center for the devotee. Such a devotee or transcendentalist forgets everything and engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord.

For anyone who comes to the Lord in devotional service, or in full Krishna Consciousness, the reward is the Supreme. Once engaged for the Supreme, he will no longer ask for anything, as does the distressed man and he who desires material possessions. The method of devotional service, the service itself, association with pure devotees in the causeless mercy of the Lord—these three things can act so wonderfully that, whether the devotee is a distressed soul or in want of material possessions or inquisitive—or even if he is a wise man cultivating knowledge—he can give up all activities, and his mind becomes absorbed in Krishna.

The summary is that, henceforward, whatever meaning would apply for all the words in the Atmarama verse will be meant only for Krishna.

So far, Lord Chaitanya has spoken only of the introduction to the Atmarama verse. Now he will explain its real position:

In the cultivation of knowledge there are two kinds of transcendentalists. One of them is the worshipper of the impersonal Brahman, and the other is the desirer of liberation. Monists worship the impersonal feature of Brahman, and therefore they are called the worshippers of Brahman. The worshippers of Brahman are divided into three further stages: the neophyte practitioner, one who is absorbed in Brahman realization, and one who has actually realized himself as Brahman. If devotional service is added, the knower of Brahman can then become liberated. Otherwise, there is no possibility.

Anyone who is fully engaged in devotional service in Krishna Consciousness is understood to be already a soul realized in Brahman. Devotional service is so strong that one is attracted to Krishna even from the process of Brahman worship. The Lord awards such a devotee the perfection of a spiritual body, and he is eternally engaged in the transcendental quality of Krishna. When he understands and becomes attracted by transcendental qualities, he wholeheartedly becomes engaged in devotional service. For example, the four Kumaras and Sukadeva Goswami were liberated souls from the very beginning, and still, later in life, they became attracted to the Pastimes of Krishna—and they became devotees. Devotees like the four Kumaras-one of whom, Sanaka Kumara, was attracted by the flavor of the flowers offered to Krishna—were all attracted by the transcendental qualities of the Lord, and thus became engaged in His devotional service. The nine mystics mentioned in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad Bhagwatam are understood to have been transcendentalists from birth by hearing the transcendental qualities of Krishna from Brahma and Lord Shiva and Narada.

Sometimes one becomes attracted to Krishna and His transcendental qualities simply by looking upon the beautiful features of His transcendental Body, and in that case also one gives up the desire for liberation and becomes engaged in the devotional service of the Lord. The devotee repents his loss of time in the so-called cultivation of knowledge, and becomes a pure devotee of the Lord. There are two kinds of liberated souls even in this material body: the soul liberated by devotional service, and the soul liberated by the cultivation of knowledge. The difference is that the liberated soul in devotional service becomes more and more elevated, being attracted by the transcendental qualities of Krishna, whereas the dry speculators who simply cultivate knowledge without any connection with devotional service become fallen on account of their many offences.

This is confirmed in the Srimad Bhagwatam, Tenth Canto, Second Chapter. It is said there, "O my Lord, the intelligence of those who think themselves liberated without a touch of devotional service is not pure, because, even though they rise to the highest point of liberation by severe penances and austerity, still, with no center at Your Lotus Feet, they are sure to fall down again into this material existence." Bhagavad Gita also confirms this, in the Eighteenth Chapter, 54th verse—one who is actually situated in the Brahman realization has nothing to lament for and nothing to desire. He is equipoised toward everyone, and thus is eligible for being situated in devotional service.

This same thing is accepted by Bilvamongal Thakur. In his later life, he lamented that, "I was situated as a monist, to become One with the Supreme Lord, but somehow or other, I contacted a Naughty Boy, and I became His eternal servitor." In other words, those who become self-realized souls by executing devotional service can achieve a transcendental body, and by being attracted to the transcendental qualities of Krishna, they become engaged fully in pure devotional service.

Anyone who is not attracted to Krishna is understood to be still under the spell of Maya. Therefore, one who is trying to be liberated by devotional service is actually liberated from the spell of Maya. In the Eleventh Canto of Srimad Bhagwatam there are many instances of devotees who became liberated in this life simply by their engagement in devotional service.