A Critique of the Book: A Virtuous Treasury of Proper Conduct (Samālocana: Guṇa-nidhi Sadācara)

A Critique of the Book: A Virtuous Treasury of Proper Conduct (Samālocana: Guṇa-nidhi Sadācara)

Vairāgya (Renunciation)Vairāgya (Renunciation)
Jagannatha Dasa BabajiA New Year (Nava-varṣa)

Overview

A Critique of the Book: A Virtuous Treasury of Proper Conduct (Samālocana: Guṇa-nidhi Sadācara) was first published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī, Vol.5 issue 9 in 1893. In this review, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura shows an eclectic and encouraging mood in dealing with the worshipers of Demigods, in particular the Śaivites. He briefly discusses the topics of accepting a sad-guru, animal sacrifice, śālagrāma worship and chanting the name of Śiva.

(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)

Reading the Sanskrit prose book, Guṇa-nidhi Sadācāra (‘A Virtuous Treasury of Proper Conduct’) composed by Śrīyuta Viśveśara Bhāgavata-Śiromaṇi brought us joy. The Sanskrit composition is clear and charming. Even those who are not accustomed to reading Sanskrit can also find joy by reading this book. The main purpose of this book is to describe the glories of worshiping Mṛtyunjaya, the most revered husband of Pārvatī. Smārta practices are also described throughout the text. Among the various teachings given, the advice given by Vivekānanda *(1) on page 29 regarding taking shelter at the feet of a guru (guru-pādāśraya) is considered the best.

A person named Mahāyama who is a baka-vratī *(2) and has accepted the external signs of a Vaiṣṇava asks the following question:

mama tu haṭād bhakti-bhūṣaṇo gurur asti, tena dīkṣitaḥ śikṣitaḥ śāsitaś ca sa kim samān bhava pārāvāraṁ netuṁ na śaknuyāt? (“But if indeed there is a guru who is adorned with the ornaments of bhakti from his very birth, and one has been initiated, taught, and disciplined by him, then can he not lead one across the ocean of material existence?”)

Vivekānanda’s answer to Mahāyama is:

na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇuṁ
durāśayā ye bahir-artha-māninaḥ
andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānās
te ’pīśa-tantryām uru-dāmni baddhāḥ
.

(Possessing wicked desires and considering external things to be valuable, they do not know that Viṣṇu is their ultimate goal and destination. Like the blind leading the blind, they are bound by the strong ropes of the laws of the Vedic karma-kaṇḍa. – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.5.31)

And also:

guravo bahavaḥ santi śiṣya-vittāpa hārakāḥ
durlabhaḥ sad-gurur devī śiṣya-santāpa hārakaḥ

(O Goddess, there are many gurus who will take the wealth of their disciples, but it is rare to find a true guru who will remove the ignorance and miseries of a disciple. – Padma Purāṇa)

ete svayam evāsiddhā guruvaḥ kathaṁ parān sādhayati. ete carvita carvaṇā śothattamāḥ patitā nitarāmanyān api pātayanti. (How do these self-proclaimed gurus help the spiritual welfare of others? They themselves are fallen, having chewed what should not be chewed, and they also cause others to fall down.)

There is no doubt that pure Vaiṣṇavas will be extremely happy to see our Śaiva and Śākta brethren also discussing the need for such guru-pādāśraya. The conclusions made by Vivekānanda on pages 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34 in regards to violence to animals is also appropriate:

mā hiṁysāt sarvāni bhūtāni

(No creature should be harmed.)

vāyavyaṁ śveta-chāgala mālabheta

(One should only sacrifice a white goat.)

devebhyaḥ paśūn hanyāt

(One should only kill in sacrifice to the Devas.)

yajñārthe paśavaḥ srṣṭhāḥ svayam eva svayambhuvā

(Animals have been created by the Self-born Supreme Himself for the purpose of sacrifice.)

atas tvāṁ ghātayiśyāmi tasmād yajñe vadho’vadhaḥ

(Therefore, I will kill you in this sacrifice, since killing in sacrifice is not a sin.)

This is the conclusion of the śāstra as it is. If our Vāmācārī brothers respect Śiromaṇi Mahāśaya’s conclusions, then it will make us happy.*(3)

On pages 48, 49, 50 and 51 of the book, questions about the eligibility of the śūdra caste to worship śālagrāma, the conduct of money-loving smārtas and Vivekānanda’s conclusions on this have been written about, although a complete consideration of the subject matter has not been clearly presented therein. It would have been better not to raise this subject at all, since Bhāgavat Śiromaṇi Mahāśaya is well aware of all the conclusive statements presented in Śrī Hari-Bhakti-Vilāsa. When the questioner belongs to the śūdra caste, but is not a pure devotee of Bhagavān, then the provisions that the ṛṣis have written about in the śāstra in regards to pure devotees should not be overlooked.

By the end of the book, pure Vaiṣṇavas may think that Bhāgavata-Śiromaṇi Mahāśaya, although identifying himself as a servant of the servant of the Vaiṣṇavas who are dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, is actually like the selfish scholars who are averse to the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa. If the conclusion is not clear in such an ambiguous situation, then raising such big topics can become problematic.

In the last part of Guṇa-nidhi, the glories of śrī-śiva-nāma and the Śiva-Caturdaśī observance have been described. Pure Vaiṣṇavas will surely attain supreme joy by reading that. Such is the greatness of nāmābhasa. By chanting the name of Śiva without offence, one may abandon the joy of liberation and soon, the rasa of Bhagavān’s Name, which is full of supreme bliss, will completely manifest. Then the jīva can achieve the highest pleasure which arises from the statement, sve mahimni mahīyate (‘one becomes situated in the glories of the true self’).

*****

Translators Notes:

(1) Here, Vivekānanda does not refer to the famous Swami Vivekananda who founded the Ramakrishna Mission. The Vivekānanda in this book is a fictional character with the same name.

(2) A baka-vratī (one who takes the vow of a crane) is a person who always looks down to make a show of humility, but who is actually very cruel.

(3) Vāmācārīs refers to those who follow vāmācāra, or ‘left-handed Tantra.’ They follow heterodox forms of sādhana to please Goddess Kālī, including unnecessary animal sacrifices. Oftentimes, in the name of worshipping Kālī, they sacrifice goats and buffaloes in order to eat her ‘prasāda.’

(‘Samālocana – Guṇa-nidhi Sadācara’  was first published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī, Vol.5 issue 9 in 1893 and translated into English by Swami B.V. Giri)
Vairāgya (Renunciation)Vairāgya (Renunciation)
Jagannatha Dasa BabajiA New Year (Nava-varṣa)

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