Tag Archives: supreme person

Within & Beyond this World

Srimad Bhagavatam 2.6.17

Nārada: It seems unusual that an entity so essential and fundamental to this world should have its true, original position beyond it.

Brahmā: It is not unusual. Take life-air (prāṇa) for example. It has its own energy, but it also lends its energy to other things. Another example is the Sun, it shines by its own power, but lends its radiance to all things. In a similar way, the Supreme Person is situated apart, within his own power, but lends his power to all things. Thus he is both within and beyond everything.

18-20

Nārada: I really want to know how the Supreme Person exists beyond this world. Please explain this to me!

Brahmā: He is the perfection of fearless nectar, far exceeding any mortal happiness! My dear spiritually inspired child, we cannot find any limit on his excellence!

Please understand that the place in which we all dwell reflects merely one-fourth of the Supreme Person. His true abode is beyond even what is beyond the three worlds – a place of nectar, security, and fearlessness.

That place beyond our world represents three-fourths of the Supreme Person. It is the abode of those who are not forced into rebirth. Those who instead take birth within our three worlds do so because they have a selfish bent, being without very strong convictions toward that Supreme Person.

21

Nārada: What happens to those souls?

Brahmā: They roam far and wide within our worlds.

Nārada: In what directions?

Brahmā: Those with some knowledge move towards emancipation. Those without knowledge move towards accumulation. In truth, the Supreme Person is the shelter for both of them.

22

Nārada: I can see why he would be the shelter of those striving towards enlightenment, but how is he also the shelter of those striving to accumulate material objects?

Brahmā: What are they searching for except him!? The egg of the universe comes from him. It produces elements, senses, and powers that allow the two to interact – everything they desire.

Nārada: Then, since they both seek the Supreme Person, are the those who strive for material objects on an equal footing with those who strive for emancipation?

Brahmā: No. Those who seek enlightenment are more evolved.

Nārada: Why?

Brahmā: Their outlook is more like the divine outlook of the Supreme Person.

Nārada: How so?

Brahmā: The Supreme Person is uninterested in the material objects he manifests in this world.

Nārada: Why?

Brahmā: All these things are simply like sunshine, but he is the brilliant sun!


On God and Gods

 Thus far, Suta has explained to the sages that:

  • Devotion to the Supreme Entity is the most beneficial human goal
  • It completely liberates a person from all troubles and fates, and delivers complete satisfaction and joy.
  • It revolves around the service of loving discussion about the divine beloved
  • Such loving discussion destroys all troubles and delivers supreme bliss in progressive stages beginning with interest in the topic and culminating in direct personal relationship with the divine beloved.

Suta concludes this section by saying:

[22] “That is why wise people always want to busy themselves in the extraordinarily delightful and soul-satisfying affairs of devotion to the all-attractive son of Vasudeva, Krishna.”

Now some of the sages listening to Suta pose a question, “Why is all this only about Krishna and other incarnations of Vishnu? Why don’t you mention devotion to other divinities?”

[23] Suta answers with a quote: “The Supreme Person, though beyond the world and singular, takes three forms that operate within the three energies of the world – clarity, ambition, and rest – and perform tasks like creation. They are known as Hari, Viriñci, and Hara. Humanity derives the highest benefit, as expected, from the form operating in the energy of clarity.”

There is one supreme deity just beyond the world, overseeing its existence. That one deity does not directly touch the world and become involved in its complications. But he creates expansions of himself to do so, for it is necessary. These expansions are “the gods” and similar powerful creatures. Primary among all of them are three gods, who take charge of the three fundamental natural energies for the sake of performing three tasks crucial to the unfolding of the universe.

  • Creation is one such task. It is accomplished through the energy of ambition (rajo-guṇa) by the deity who is the embodiment of that creative energy, Brahmā (“Viriñci”).
  • Destruction is another essential task. This is accomplished via the energy of rest (tamo-guṇa) by the deity who embodies that energy, Śiva (“Hara”).
  • Maintenance of things between their creation and destruction is the third essential task. It is accomplished through the energy of clarity (sattva-guṇa) by the deity of clarity, Viṣṇu (“Hari”).

In quoting this, Suta recognizes and affirms a plurality of deities and gods worthy of respect and all linked to the Original Person. But in the final line of the quote he explains why devotion to these many gods does not have the same significance and effect as devotion to Krishna and the forms of Vishnu. The logic in this line is that since the mode of clarity is the most beneficial form of nature, it makes perfect sense that Vishnu, who is the embodiment of that clarity, is the most beneficial form of divinity. The divine loving devotion Suta speaks of in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is directed towards Krishna and the forms of Vishnu, and not to other less beneficial divinities.

Suta proceeds to explain why the energy of clarity is supremely beneficial:

[24] “From earth grows wood, which creates smoke and fire. But it is only fire which is most beneficial to humanity. Similarly there is rest, ambition and clarity but only clarity grants direct spiritual perception.”

Here Suta references a very sophisticated analogy. The earth is similar to the One Great Person. The earth is the root source of wood (trees), smoke and fire – just as the One Great Person is the root source of the three main gods. But this does not indicate that all three gods are of equal importance and relevance to humanity’s ultimate good. Fire is the most important thing for humanity, more important than wood or smoke. Wood is analogous to the solidifying and strengthening mode of rest (tamas), smoke to the dust-raising mode of creative ambition (rajas), and fire to the illuminating mode of clarity (sattva). The mode of clarity alone has the power to illuminate the human mind and grant it direct spiritual perception and joyful self-realization. Thus, sensibly, the deity of clarity – Vishnu – is more beneficial to humanity than any other form of divinity, because Vishnu most powerfully possess the powers of clarity (sattva) and therefore can deliver the most important, joyful, and real benedictions.

[25] “That is why,” Suta continues, “sages have always engaged themselves in devotions for the all-attractive one beyond contamination of the material energies. Thus they attained absolutely undistorted spiritual clarity, as will any of you who follow them.”

The word adhokṣaja (“beyond contamination of material energies”), deserves at least a short comment. If Vishnu is the deity of the material energy of clarity, how can he be worthy of this name, Adhokṣaja? The word sattvaṁ viśuddhaṁ (“absolutely undistorted clarity of existence”) answers. It says that the mode of clarity, unmixed with the other two: ambition or rest, is the state of being in the pure reality which exists transcendentally to the material creation. Within the material creation we experience clarity as a material phenomenon because it is always mixed with some amounts of the need to create or destroy some condition, and is therefore never experienced in its pure state, unadulterated by the energies of ambition and rest. But in the transcendental manifestation pure clarity exists as the underlying foundation of transcendent reality. Vishnu is pure clarity, and is therefore a transcendent divinity: Adhokṣaja. Thus, other divinities – though certainly worthy of deep respect – are categorically inferior to Vishnu and his expansions.

At this point, some of the sages presented Suta with another question, “Why then do many people worship non-transcendent gods?”

[26] “Those who want a permanent solution to their troubles seek liberation. They are always respectful and never spiteful of anyone, much less any powerful divinity, but they certainly reject the often horrific forms of such material gods and are exclusively devoted to the peaceful and pleasant expansions of the Supreme Personality.”

Because material nature, with constant creation and destruction, is often horrific and ghastly, the deities of this world are often grotesque and frightening beings. Transcendence, however, is joyful and peaceful. Transcendental deities, the expansions of the Original Person Nārāyaṇa, are thus always blissful and pleasant to see.

[27] “Others have more base desires, requiring creation or destruction of various practical goal or obstacles. Naturally they are devoted to deities connected to creation and destruction, and thus worship their ancestors, powerful spirits, and superhuman universal forefathers due to their hunger for power and wealth.”

Suta has explained the reasonable cause for worshiping inferior powers. But now wants to make a powerful statement dissuading such:

[28-29]

Krishna is paramount education

Krishna is paramount ritualism

Krishna is paramount mysticism

Krishna is paramount duty

Krishna is paramount knowledge

Krishna is paramount sacrifice

Krishna is paramount religion

Krishna is the paramount objective

This resoundingly powerful statement surely set the hairs of the sages bristling with joy and excitement. In it, Suta mentioned the main components of human culture, the main paths through which human beings try to obtain their objectives: education, rituals, mystic power, dutiful righteousness, comprehension and knowledge, self-sacrifice, & religious morality. For each he says that the son of Vasudeva, Krishna is the paramount finish line.

What Suta says here is that the ultimate aim of every human desire is joy, satisfaction, & happiness. Such cannot be had in the constantly shifting environment of creation and destruction. It can only be had in the beginningless and endless transcendence. Thus the ultimate goal of any person – be he spiritually minded or not – can only be satisfied perfectly by Vishnu and Vishnu’s expansions, the deity of transcendent clarity.

Therefore everyone, regardless of their immediate proclivities or interests, should turn their devotions towards topics of Śrī Krishna – the topics we are about to enjoy in this Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

 


How to Acquire Divine Love

We pick up the story just after Suta explained why devotion to the Supreme Person, which is developed through hearing about and discussing him, is the most beneficial thing for humanity and brings complete joy to the soul. Suta’s conclusion [1.2.14] was, “one should therefore always hear about, glorify, remember and worship that Supreme Person.”

Some sages, who follow much more arduous and difficult paths for purification, must have felt incredulous towards Suta’s declaration that the supreme welfare can be achieved simply by loving discussion of the Supreme Person. “How could emotion and discussion alone liberate a person from the complex clutches of miserable karmic action and reaction?” They might have asked.

Suta replies [15]: “The meditation which arises spontaneously with a person who hears and discusses Godhead in a loving manner becomes like a sword, with which that wise soul slices to pieces all the hard knots of karmic bondage.”

Some of the sages expected some sort of difficult meditation and yoga and austerity to be required for liberation. Suta explained that by loving devotion, powerful meditation, intimate connection, and willingness to forego anything and everything for the sake of the beloved naturally and automatically arises. Therefore one need not cultivate such things individually. Merely by cultivating love of Godhead through hearing and chanting, such things automatically manifest in an uncommonly powerful form.

The vast majority of Suta’s audience is now back on board and ready to pursue the concept further. They are all agreeable that devotion to Godhead is the most beneficial and valuable thing for a human being. Now they would like to know how to do it; How does one acquire the yoga of devotion?

Suta begins with a rhetorical question: “So who would not be attracted and interested in such discussions about the Supreme?”

This is a reference to the first stage of developing devotion, bhakti-yoga. Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī divides the progress of a bhakti-yogi into nine stages. The first is śraddhā – which means that your heart naturally becomes interested in the topic. Suta enumerates this stage here in the 15th verse, with the words tasya ko na kuryāt kathā-ratim, “[Since the process of devotion, encapsulated succinctly in hearing and chanting about the beloved, is so delightful and efficacious] who in their right mind would not develop some interest in it?”

[16] “A person who does have significant interest in deeply hearing about Vasudeva’s Son (Krishna) is a great soul – a mahātmā. We should purify ourselves by pilgrimage to such purified persons, and should do whatever we can to care for and assist them.”

This is now a reference especially to the second stage of bhakti-yoga: Keeping the company of excellent devotees, sādhu-sanga. The summary of this stage is that, once we have some interest in divine devotion (śraddha) we would then naturally seek out those who have more experience with and accomplishment in it. Seeking such persons, who have more interest in divine love of Krishna than we do, is the second step in bhakti-yoga. How shall we associate with them? We must try to be helpful in a humble manner and assist and serve them in whatever capacity they might want or need. That will quickly make us as pure as they are.

[17] “When you yourself begin to feel the urge to hear Krishna’s words and virtues, you will become even more purified. Such words will carry Krishna, your dear friend, into the core of your heart, which will therefore become cleansed of all impurities, illusions, and inauspiciousness.”

Here Suta refers to the third and fourth stages of bhakti-yoga. The third stage is to execute devotional practices (bhajana-kriyā). The fourth is to become purified of all inauspicious undesirable impurities (anārtha-nivṛtti). The way to actually practice bhakti-yoga is to eagerly hear and discuss Krishna’s own words and words about him. Purification takes place next, on a more profound scale than before. One becomes pure from the inside out, because those words of Krishna carry him into the heart, and all inauspicious and undesirable things flee therefrom.

[18] “When almost all impurities have been cast out from your being, you will become very firmly fixed in bhāgavata-seva – hearing the messages about the all-fortunate and all-attractive Krishna, and humbly serving those who hear such messages. The beautiful poetry describing all-attractive Krishna will then cause very extreme devotion to manifest in you.”

Now Suta refers to the fifth and sixth/seventh stages of bhakti-yoga. The fifth stage is niṣṭhā, “fixation on bhāgavata-seva.” This steady engagement in hearing about Krishna and serving those discussions comes about my way of being purified via more occasional engagement in the same. Once we attain steady engagement in bhāgavata-seva we begin to experience serious glimpses of extreme bhāgavata-bhakti, devotion. These initial extreme stages of bhakti-yoga as a practice are the sixth and seventh stages according to Śrī Rūpa’s way of looking at it: ruci (taste) and āsakti (addiction).

[19] “As a result of extreme devotion to poetic descriptions of Krishna, the contaminating facets of material illusion – ignorance and ambition and their concomitant anger and greed will be unable to affect your mind. Instead only the pure facet of existence will caress your being.”

Existence has three facets: tama, rajas, and sattva – darkness of ignorance, coloration of passionate ambition, and the crystal purity of awareness. Extreme devotion to hearing and chanting about Krishna form an impenetrable shield around one’s mind and perception. One can no longer perceive a situation in a way that gives rise to anger or greedy desires, because the selflessness and understanding of pure loving devotion encapsulates and caresses him. Therefore only the sattva facet of existence continues to affect the bhakta-yogi at this level.

Here, Suta has described the eighth stage of devotional yoga: bhāva. At this stage only pure sattva affects our existence and in that crystal clarity our true nature as a spiritual individual in relationship to the all-attractive Godhead begins to become tangible and empirically real.

[20] “Your being thus caressed by this pure energy of existence manifest due to your union with pure and selfless love for the all-attractive Krishna, the next development is that you become emancipated entirely from all material bondage and directly experience, face-to-face, your divine all-attractive beloved.”

Now Suta comes to the ninth and final stage of progress in bhakti-yoga. It is called prema. The characteristic of Prema is direct tangible perception of Godhead via the delightful bond of love, which of course cannot be had without incidentally destroying all bonds to selfishness and illusion.

[21] “The knots tied around your pure heart are no now sliced to shreds and you are free from all confusions and misgiving. The chain of your destiny has come to an end, completely fulfilled as karma terminates once and for all. Your self is now directly seen with your master.”

Here glorious Suta completes his explanation of how hearing and discussing Krishna causes the most desirable and auspicious outcome and destroys the knots of inauspiciousness. He now describes what occurs after the nine stages of development in bhakti-yoga. The fulfillment of bhakti yoga occurs after it destroys all the ropes binding our inner soul, blows away the haze and thick fog of all our confusions and delusions, and terminates the cycle of destiny we have created by selfish actions and their inescapable reactions. The fulfillment of bhakti yoga is to attain direct interactive relationship with the beloved, Krishna. “The self is seen now only in terms of the beloved master. The self exists to be seen nowhere else.”