Nitya-dharma: Sādhana, the Means of Attainment, and Sādhya, the Ultimate Goal
by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
(translated by Śrī Sarvabhāvana Prabhu)
Śrī Navadvīpa-maṇḍala, consisting of nine transcendental islands, is the foremost place of pilgrimage in the entire universe. Like Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma, it is spread over an area of thirty-two square miles. The maṇḍala is compared to an eight-petal lotus flower with each of the eight petals representing one of the transcendental islands. The ninth island is represented by the central seed-vessel, which is the island of Antardvīpa, in the centre of which is Śrī Māyāpura. North of Śrī Māyāpura lies the island of Sīmantadvīpa with an impressively tall temple dedicated to Śrī Sīmantinī devī. The Bilva-puṣkariṇī Lake spreads itself over an area on the northern side of this temple, while the Brāhmaṇa-puṣkariṇī Lake is found on the southern side. Lying there on the northern periphery of Navadvīpa-maṇḍala, these lakes with their adjourning areas are popularly known as Simuliyā.
At the time of Śrī Caitanya, the hamlet of Simuliyā was the seat of many erudite scholars. One most learned resident of Simuliyā was Śrī Nīlāmbara Cakravartī, the father of Śrī Śacī Mātā, and close to his old house now lived a Vedic brāhmaṇa named Śrī Vrajanātha Bhaṭṭācārya. Vrajanātha had attended the village Sanskrit tola on the banks of Bilva-puṣkariṇī Lake, mastering in a short time nyāya, the philosophy of logic and rhetoric. Even very famous and respected paṇḍitas from all around and as far away as Māyāpura, Godruma, Madhyadvīpa, Āmraghāṭā, Samudragadh, Kuliyā, and Pūrvasthalī were intimidated by the novel arguments and rhetoric of Śrī Vrajanātha Bhaṭṭācārya. In public debates and large gatherings of paṇḍitas, the innovative and piercing arguments of Śrī Vrajanātha Nyāya-pañcānana were like incendiary arrows burning to ashes every proposal of his opponents. Of these paṇḍitas, an especially malicious one, Naiyāyika Cūḍāmaṇi, was particularly envious of Vrajanātha’s brilliance and had decided to murder him. Deciding to do this by certain black rites from the tantra-śāstra, he went to the śmaśāna, crematorium, in Rudradvīpa. There amongst the ashes, he began to utter sinister mantras, throughout long days and nights, calling forth the black powers of Death.
At midnight, the dark moon of Amāvāsya having spread a cover over the śmaśāna, the brāhmaṇa invoked his worshipable and chosen goddess, Kālī, with powerful mantras, entreating her as follows, “Dear Mā! In Kali-yuga, you are the only deity worthy of worship. People say you are easily satisfied with just a few incantations of mantra and thus readily offer to your supplicant his desired boons. O noble and most formidable Goddess! Your humble servant has undertaken gruelling pains for many days and nights in chanting your mantras. Kindly show me your mercy just this one time. Oh Devī, I know I am riddled with wrongs, but you are my mother, please overlook and excuse them. And now, kindly manifest yourself to me!”
Crying out repeatedly in this manner, the incantations were chanted and a life hung in the balance as Naiyāyika Cūḍāmaṇi offered oblations into the sacrificial fire for the death of Vrajanātha Nyāya-pañcānana. Soon the powers of the mantras began to manifest themselves: The sky became overcast, the winds howled, and ear-shattering thunder crashed down. Momentary lightning flashes pierced the eerie pall, revealing the ghastly forms of ghosts and demons. At first, the paṇḍita was mortally afraid, but soon, bravely exerting his powers of reasoning with the help of the sacrificial wine, he pulled himself together, steeled his nerves, and pleaded, “O dear Mā! Kindly, do not delay any further!”
Just then, an ethereal voice from the sky echoed the words, “Give up your worries. Vrajanātha will soon discontinue his rhetorical debates, renounce that path, and become silent. You will no longer have to face him as an opponent. Calm yourself and return home.” The divine prophecy thrilled Cūḍāmaṇi and he repeatedly bowed down before the image of Lord Śiva, the Lord of tantric rites, returning home with a sprightly gait.
At twenty-one, Vrajanātha Nyāya-pañcānana had been crowned the unconquerable regent of debate and scholasticism—the dig-vijayī paṇḍita, one who has conquered all four directions. Voraciously, he had read the complete works of Śrī Gaṅgeśopādhyāya, who had initiated a new system of logic known as navya-nyāya. In addition, he had picked out many logical fallacies in Raghunātha (Kāṇābhaṭṭa) Śiromaṇi’s Dīdhiti, which was a famous commentary on Gaṅgeśopādhyāya’s dissertation on nyāya, the Tattva-cintāmaṇi. Thereafter, he had started writing his own independent purports. Material life had no attraction for him and he spent no time in its contemplation; instead, the subjects of nyāya: semantics, rhetoric, sophism, devising new counter-arguments, and so on, filled his world. Using the logical tools of ghaṭa, a clay pot; paṭa, a piece of cloth; avaccheda, the distinguishing property of an object; and vyavaccheda, the separation of one object from another, he constantly considered the nature of objects, the nature of time, and the peculiarities of liquids and solids, even while eating, sleeping and walking. Still, he had never even heard of paramārtha, the ultimate spiritual destination—pure devotion to the Supreme Lord.
One evening, while sitting on the bank of the Gaṅgā, Vrajanātha was deeply contemplating the enumeration of the sixteen elements of nyāya by the sage Gautama. All at once, a young student of nyāya-śāstra came up to him and enquired as follows, “Dear Nyāya-pañcānana Mahāśaya, are you familiar with the aphorisms of Nimāi Paṇḍita that repudiate the theory of paramāṇu, the theory of creation based upon the material atom?”
Vrajanātha’s immediate response boomed out like the roar of a lion, “Who is this Nimāi Paṇḍita? Are you referring to the son of Śrī Jagannātha Miśra? Tell me about His subtle arguments.”
The student replied, “Not so long ago, here in Navadvīpa, an extraordinary personality named Nimāi Paṇḍita composed a myriad of aphorisms on nyāya and with them He succeeded in unsettling even the famous Raghunātha Śiromaṇi. Since then Nimāi Paṇḍita has ruled the roost as the undisputed Master amongst all stalwart scholars of nyāya-śāstra. Yet, despite His great command of nyāya, eventually He came to view it with contempt, in fact becoming derisive of material existence as a whole. He embraced the renounced order as a sannyāsī mendicant and roamed far and wide, propagating the congregational chanting of harināma. Present-day Vaiṣṇavas worship Him as the Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Personality of Godhead, and thus dedicatedly chant His Śrī Gaurahari mantra. Śrī Nyāya-pañcānana Mahāśaya, kindly go through his aphorisms and see what you think.”
Impressed and enticed by this unreserved eulogy of Nimāi Paṇḍita’s aphorisms, Vrajanātha began to search for them and within a short time discovered a number of Nimāi Paṇḍita’s aphorisms from different scholarly sources. Out of human nature, one automatically venerates the pre-eminent teachers of the subjects in which one is interested. Moreover, for various reasons people generally tend to have more esteem for great personalities after their death and, in contrast, be even neglectful of such personalities whilst they live. Thus, it was only natural for Vrajanātha after delving into Nimāi Paṇḍita’s aphorisms to develop great deference for Him.
Acutely feeling the absence of Nimāi Paṇḍita, Vrajanātha would express his feelings in prayer, “O Nimāi Paṇḍita! If only I had been there when you were present, perhaps I could have gained great knowledge from you. Dear Nimāi Paṇḍita! Kindly enthrone yourself in my heart. Truly, you must be the Absolute Supreme Brahman, otherwise how could your intellect construct such extraordinary rhetorical aphorisms? You are indeed the Golden Avatāra, Śrī Gaurahari! Your philosophy and profound insight has given vision to persons blinded by nescience. Ignorance is black and dark, which Your brilliant golden hue as Śrī Gaura Gaurāṅga has dissipated. You are the Supreme Lord, Śrī Hari, because you are able to steal the heart of everyone. In truth, I have lost my heart to Your wonderful aphorisms.”
In this manner, devotional feelings were gathering momentum within Vrajanātha’s heart. Afflicted at times to frenzy with deeply felt emotion, he would cry out aloud, “Hey Nimāi Paṇḍita! O Gaurahari! Please be merciful to me. When will I be capable of composing aphorisms such as Yours? With a little grace from You, I would be sure to make huge strides in my study of nyāya and become a great scholar!”
One day, Vrajanātha mused, “In all probability those devotees who worship Śrī Gaurahari, they, like me, must have been attracted to Nimāi Paṇḍita because of His unsurpassable erudition in the logic and rhetoric of the nyāya philosophy. Let me find out what books written by Nimāi Paṇḍita they study.” With this mood, Vrajanātha desired to seek the association of the devotees of Śrī Gaurahari.
Repeated utterance of “Nimāi Paṇḍita” “Gaurahari” and other transcendental names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the yearning to associate with Śrī Gaurāṅga’s followers, these two activities turned out to be extremely spiritually fortuitous, accruing for Vrajanātha immense sukṛti. One afternoon, while sitting down to eat lunch at his grandmother’s place, Vrajanātha asked her, “Grandma, did you ever see Śrī Gaurahari?” His grandmother immediately joyfully reminisced over her early childhood days and said, “Aha! Will I evermore behold that nectarean golden personality, the embodiment of the most exquisite beauty? How can anybody remain immersed in householder family life after seeing that charming form? When He performed harināma-saṅkīrtana immersed in ecstasy, even Navadvīpa’s animal population, including the birds, trees and creepers were paralysed, overwhelmed with prema. Even now, remembering those days and feelings, my eyes fill with tears and soak my breast.”
Vrajanātha asked, “Grandma, do you have any stories about Him?” Grandmother replied, “Yes, when He accompanied His mother Śrī Śacī Devī to her father’s house, just nearby here, the older ladies of our families would cook many different preparations of spinach, rice, and so on, to feed Him. He especially relished every morsel of spinach, heaping praise upon the cooks.” Just at that moment, Vrajanātha was served spinach upon his plate and thought to himself, “Aha! The favourite spinach preparation of logician par excellence, Śrī Nimāi Paṇḍita,” and relished the spinach with great affection.
It is hard to describe how greatly attached Vrajanātha was now becoming to Nimāi Paṇḍita on matters concerning the logic and rhetoric of the nyāya philosophy even though Vrajanātha was, as of yet, still oblivious to pure spiritualism.
Nevertheless, Vrajanātha had become enraptured in thought of Śrī Nimāi Paṇḍita. He felt pleased when anyone uttered the name Nimāi and if anyone came for alms at Vrajanātha’s door and chanted, “Jai Śacīnandana!” he would be given special care. Sometimes, Vrajanātha would visit learned Bābājī devotees in Māyāpura to hear Śrī Gaurāṅga’s name being chanted and humbly enquire from the Bābājīs about the pastimes of the Lord as the most erudite scholar.
Several months passed in this manner and gradually a certain and sure change was coming over Vrajanātha. Vrajanātha had always been attracted to Nimāi Paṇḍita as an extraordinary logician, but nowadays everything about Nimāi was of keen interest. Vrajanātha now felt a growing ennui towards logic and rhetoric, and very soon Nimāi the pure devotee dethroned Nimāi the logician par excellence from Vrajanātha’s heart. At the rhythmic sounds of the kohl and karatālas, Vrajanātha’s heart now leapt and danced in joy. Each time he saw a devotee, he would offer obeisances very respectfully to the devotee within his mind, and he felt increasing devotion to Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma as the birthplace of Śrī Gaurāṅga. Steadily Vrajanātha was maturing into a spiritual and saintly person. His competitor scholars of nyāya noticed the change and saw that Vrajanātha had grown quiet and pensive, so they heaved a sigh of relief knowing they would be spared harassment by his sharp arrows of logic and rhetoric. Naiyāyika Cūḍāmaṇi thought that his worshipful Deity had successfully disabled Vrajanātha and that now he had finally rid himself of the last impediment to his own ascension.
One day Vrajanātha sat upon the bank of the Gaṅgā and soliloquised, “If a great nyāya philosopher of the stature of Śrī Nimāi Paṇḍita could turn His back on nyāya and take up bhakti, then why should I not do the same? My entire life I have been caught up in the vortex of nyāya and have never cared for bhakti; therefore, I have been a stranger to spiritual life and Śrī Gaurāṅga’s sacred name. Nyāya took complete control of my life, so much so that my eating, sleeping, and thinking were completely stolen. Nevertheless, now things have reversed, I have forgotten nyāya and think only of Śrī Gaurāṅga.
“When I see the Vaiṣṇavas dancing, my mind is enchanted. Yet, how can I forget that I am the torchbearer of a prominent aristocratic and well-respected Vedic brāhmaṇa family? I admire the demeanour of the Vaiṣṇavas, but I think I should not adopt their conduct outwardly—to worship Śrī Gaurāṅga in the calmness of my heart would be better. The countenances of the Vaiṣṇavas living in Khola-bhāṅga-ḍāṅgā where the Kāzī broke the mṛdaṅga drum and in Vairāgī-ḍāṅgā of Māyāpura exhilarate me. Especially the magnetic effect of Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī makes me wish to stay beside him permanently and become his pupil in the study of the bhakti-śāstras.
“In the Vedas, the Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.5.6, declares:
ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo mantavyo nididhyāsitavyaḥ
“‘O Maitreya! Always hear about, think about, meditate upon, and see all objects as they are related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul, Śrī Hari.’
“In this verse when the word mantavya is analysed on the basis of nyāya philosophy, the pursuit and enquiry into Brahman realization is advised. Yet, the word srotavyah implies striving after a goal that goes beyond Brahman realization by hearing from a realized teacher, a clear signal of the limitations of Brahman realization. I have spent too much time in contentious empirical speculations. Now being tired of them, I simply want to take shelter of the lotus feet of Śrī Gaurahari. Without delay I must go and take darśana of Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī.”
The setting sun ignited the western sky immersing the scene in orange hues and a southerly breeze stirred up the dry foliage. Flocks of birds homeward bound flew by in formation and the stars were gradually becoming visible in the evening sky. At this moment the Vaiṣṇavas of the Śrīvāsāṅgana temple in Māyāpura started their sandhyā–āratī, evening worship, and kīrtana, congregational chanting. Vrajanātha, arriving at the temple, went directly to the Khola-bhāṅga-ḍāṅgā area within the temple complex and sat down on the circular raised platform around the bakula tree, where he allowed the evening kīrtana to Śrī Gaurahari soothe his heart.
After kīrtana and āratī, the Vaiṣṇavas assembled under the bakula tree, coming in twos and threes. Soon the elderly Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī walked slowly over to the bakula tree uttering aloud, “Jaya Śacīnandana, Jaya Nityānanda, Jaya Rūpa-Sanātana, Jaya Dāsa Gosvāmī!” As he approached the platform and sat down, all the Vaiṣṇavas offered him obeisances. Spontaneously Vrajanātha felt compelled to prostrate himself in reverence before the aged Vaiṣṇava. The elderly Bābājī looked down at Vrajanātha’s expressive and sincere face, embraced him, and made him sit next to him. He asked Vrajanātha, “Who are you, my son?”
Vrajanātha replied, “I am a seeker of truth, I desire to learn from you.”
A Vaiṣṇava sitting close to them already knew Vrajanātha and spoke up, “This is Vrajanātha Nyāya-pañcānana, the most learned paṇḍita of nyāya in Navadvīpa. Lately he has developed some faith in Śacīnandana, Śrī Gaurahari.”
The aged Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, turning back to Vrajanātha, said with humility, “You are a learned paṇḍita and we are a poor wretched fool. Further, you are a resident of this holiest of holy lands, the birthplace of our beloved Śrī Śacīnandana, so we are dependent upon your mercy. What instruction and knowledge could we possibly impart unto you? Kindly be gracious and teach us about the pastimes of your Śrī Gaurāṅga and in this way satiate our parched heart, which is yearning for the nectar of Śrī Gaurahari.”
As Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī and Vrajanātha conversed in this way, the other Vaiṣṇavas gradually dispersed and went to perform their particular services. Soon only Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī and Vrajanātha remained seated under the bakula tree. Vrajanātha said, “Respected Holiness, by birth we are brāhmaṇas and are very proud of our pedantry. High birth and education have made us insolent and so we look down upon the world with snobbish disdain. We do not know how to respect spiritual preceptors and saintly persons. It is beyond me how and by what good fortune I have learned to admire and respect your personage and activities. Kindly answer a few queries of mine. I have come not to challenge, but to submit and become enlightened.”
Vrajanātha then asked with deep sincerity, “Kindly tell me what is the highest sādhya, ultimate goal, and sādhana, means to attain that ultimate goal, for the jīva. As a student of the nyāya philosophy, I have scrutinized the nyāya–śāstras and concluded that by constitution the jīva is eternally different and separate from Īśvara. Further, the mercy of Īśvara is the sole means by which the jīva may attain mukti. The means of obtaining this mercy is sādhana and the ultimate reward of sādhana is called sādhya. On numerous occasions I have searched the nyāya scriptures for a clue on these two matters and have drawn a blank. Kindly communicate to me your understanding of these two concepts—sādhana and sādhya.”
Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī was a generous and noble-minded saint. He had lived for a long time in Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Vṛndāvana, as a pupil of the illustrious Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, who was also known as the Dāsa Gosvāmī. Every afternoon he had listened to the transcendental pastimes of Śrī Gaurāṅga narrated by the Dāsa Gosvāmī himself to a small enrapt audience. There in Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī would regularly discuss transcendental topics with Śrīla Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Mahāśaya and when they were impeded by doubts on a difficult esoteric point, they would go to Dāsa Gosvāmī for clarification. At the present time Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī was the most learned scholar in all Gauḍa-maṇḍala, having come here after the disappearance of Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Mahāśaya. The nectarean discussions between him and Paramahaṁsa Premadāsa Bābājī of Godruma on the topic of kṛṣṇa-prema were well known.
Vrajanātha’s question evoked an immediate response in Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī who with great pleasure began to speak, “My dear Śrī Nyāya-pañcānana, any person enquiring about sādhana and sādhya after the study of the nyāya philosophical treatises is truly a fortunate soul, because the prime purpose of the nyāya-śāstra is to prepare the seeker of truth to analyse and compile the knowledge of sādhana and sādhya objectively and without prejudice. On the other hand, those who study nyāya simply to become great controversial argumentators have unfortunately succeeded in missing this central point and have thereby acquired negative results. Their efforts are misapplied and their lives are an exercise in futility.
“Sādhya is the tattva attained through the practice of sādhana; thus, the method for realising sādhya is sādhana. Each jīva entrapped by māyā sees the sādhya objective differently—each according to his particular penchant and degree of realization. Factually sādhya is one, not numerous, but because of variation in the tendency and adhikāra of the conditioned jīvas, sādhya has been divided into three types: bhukti, sense enjoyment; mukti, salvation; and bhakti, devotional service.
“Persons who are engrossed in materialistic activities, solely yearning for the material pleasures, consider bhukti as their sādhya, their goal of life. The Vedic śāstras are compared to a kāma-dhenu, wish-fulfilling cow, for a soul may obtain his desired object by following their respective prescriptions. Moreover, with whatever motive a man turns to the scriptures, he finds his desires sanctioned. For the materialistic person, the karma-kāṇḍa section of the Vedas promulgates bhukti as the sādhya. The complete range of imaginable physical pleasures is delineated in the karma-kāṇḍa scriptures. The bewildered jīva engaged within the tabernacle of the material body craves especially for the delights of the flesh and the material world has been created to facilitate this desired sense gratification.
“The sensual pleasures a man experiences from the birth ‘till the death of this body are known as aihika–sukha, the worldly pleasures of this present life. When referring to the pleasures of the next life, after death, the enjoyment is called āmutrika–sukha, of which there are many kinds: In the heavenly abodes of Lord Indra one sees the dancing of the beautiful Apsarās, courtesans; drinks the nectar of immortality; smells the fragrance of celestial flowers in the Nandana-kānana gardens; beholds the splendour of the Indrapurī palaces and landscapes; listens to the scintillating singing and music of the Gandharvas; cohabits with the damsels called Vidyādharī; and so on. These are the pleasures in the paradise of Indraloka.
“Ascending above Indraloka are the even higher planetary systems known as Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, and Brahmaloka. Corresponding to this ascension, the śāstric descriptions of sensual pleasure similar to that of Indraloka in these planetary systems become scantier. In contrast to those heavenly planets, here on earth, known as Bhūrloka, sense enjoyment is on an extremely gross level, for the higher one rises into the different celestial realms, the subtler are the senses and their objects, the sensual pleasures. That is the only distinction between all these realms; otherwise, throughout all the planetary systems, the varieties of pleasure are ultimately just material sensuality. None of them can offer actual cit–sukha, transcendental bliss, but only material happiness, which is experienced on the mental platform by the subtle body of mind, intelligence, and false ego as an ephemeral exultation. Bhukti comprises of these mental and physical forms of titillation.
“Caught in the intricate maze of karmic reactions, the karmic activities adopted by a sensual person are his sādhana to fulfil his desire for bhukti. The Yajur Veda, 2.5.5, states:
svarga-kāmo ‘śvamedhaṁ yajeta
“‘Persons who desire to enjoy the sensual pleasures of the heavenly planets must perform the aśvamedha-yajña, horse sacrifice.’
“The karma-kāṇḍa section of the Vedas recommends many other sādhanas catering to the cravings of man for bhukti; for example: agniṣṭoma, oblations offered to a class of Devatās known as viñvadeva–bali; iṣṭāpūrta, the digging of wells, construction of temples, and performing similar works for the benefit of society in general; darśa–paurṇamāsī, rituals performed on the days of the new and full moon. All these rites and ceremonies aim at attaining benedictions from the devas for the sādhya of sensual enjoyment either in this life or the next.
“For the person with strong sensual desires, sense gratification is his sādhya. However, there is a smaller population who feel plagued and punished by the miseries of material existence and thus consider the fourteen planetary systems of the material creation as insignificant and merely an arena for insignificant transitory sensual pleasures. These souls desire to break free from karmic entanglement. In their opinion mukti alone is the sādhya. Further, they see bhukti as an unwanted material enthralment and bhukti-sādhana as a process aimed at those who, being incapable of giving up their self-indulgent sensual proclivities, seek misguided solace and approval for their materialistic desires in the karma-kāṇḍa section of the Vedic scriptures.
“On this point the principal scriptures like the Bhagavad-gītā, 9.21, agree, stating:
te taṁ bhuktvā svarga-lokaṁ viśālaṁ
kṣīṇe puṇye martya-lokaṁ viśanti
“‘When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again.’
“From this verse, we understand unequivocally that bhukti is not permanent, but transitory. The fruits of bhukti–sādhana are destined to be depleted and are therefore indeed mundane and not spiritual. Of course, the actual sādhana of Man, his real responsibility, is to pursue the permanent. Mukti is eternal, hence the seeker of liberation sees mukti as unquestionably the true sādhya of Man. In order to achieve this goal of mukti, the salvationist considers the four sādhanas enumerated in the scriptures for this particular sādhya as the only real and desirable sādhanas. Known as the sādhana-catuṣṭaya, the four are nitya-anitya-vastu viveka, discriminating between eternal and temporary objects; iha–amutra–phala–bhoga virāga, renouncing enjoyment of the fruits of this world and the next; śama-damādi ṣaṭ-guṇa, developing six qualities, such as control of the mind and senses; and mumukṣa, cultivating the desire for liberation.
“The Vedas, like the wish-fulfilling kāmadhenu cow, provide various and appropriate arrangements for the jīvas to perform activities suitable to their desires and particular level of consciousness. Thus, the jñāna–kāṇḍa section of the Vedas has postulated the sādhya–sādhana theory in terms attractive to the salvationist. In the view of the salvationist, if after attaining liberation, the jīva still maintains his individual identity and separate existence, then, so say the jñānīs, this form of mukti cannot be the ultimate sādhya, which in their opinion is to merge eternally into the existence of the Brahman. Therefore, in the eyes of the salvationist, the highest limits of liberation extend to nirvāṇa, merging eternally into Brahman. However, in actual fact the truth is that the jīvas are eternally individuals, so an option such as nirvāṇa is thoroughly impossible for them to attain. The Svetāśvatara Upaniṣad, 6.13, states:
nityo nityānām cetanaś cetanānām
“‘He, the Supreme Brahman, is the Supreme Eternal amongst all eternal beings, and He is the Supreme Conscious Being amongst all conscious beings.’
“Vedic verses such as these firmly confirm the eternality of the individual existence of the unlimited number of jīvas. An eternal being can neither forgo his identity nor terminate his existence as is proposed in the concept of nirvāṇa. Those jīvas who believe that even after mukti the jīva certainly maintains his individual identity and existence reject the proposition that bhukti or the above concept of mukti are the ultimate sādhya. They see both of these sādhyas as imperfect and extraneous to the true nature of the jīva.
“Every human action includes both sādhya and sādhana as well as other ingredients. Whatever goal a jīva sets for himself is sādhya, and the means used to achieve such is known as sādhana. A little pondering over this matter will show that the concepts of sādhya and sādhana are interrelated like the successive links in a chain. What is now sādhya later becomes the sādhana for the next successive goal. The ultimate link at the end of this chain is the final sādhya, which therefore never proceeds to another sādhana. Beyond this systematic arrangement of sādhya and sādhana as preparatory links lies the ultimate link, bhakti.
“The highest, final and absolute sādhya is bhakti, because bhakti is the nitya-siddha-bhāva, eternal state of perfection, of the jīva. Every human action is a link in the long chain of the sādhya and sādhana paradigm. Many of the links in this chain make up the chapter known as karma, which is then followed by another set of links comprising the chapter of jñāna, after which the chapter of bhakti begins.
“The chapter of karma claims that bhukti is the prime purpose of life, the jñāna chapter upholds mukti as the highest, and bhakti proposes prema-bhakti. Nevertheless, a thorough investigation into the perfected eternal state of the jīva, reveals the irrefutable conclusion that bhakti is the ultimate sādhya and sādhana. In the systems of karma and jñāna, sādhya and sādhana are transitory and non-ultimate. Therefore, in the final analysis, karma and jñāna are irrelevant and should only be accorded an intermediary status on the path leading ultimately to the eternality of bhakti.”
Vrajanātha, “Why is bhakti not accorded everywhere in the Vedic scriptures a pre-eminent position in spiritual science? For instance, in the Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.5.15, and 2.4.24:
kena kaṁ paśyet
“‘Who will perceive whom with the help of what?’
“Also, in the Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 1.4.10:
“‘I, jīva soul, am of the same nature as Brahman.’
“In the Aitareya Upaniṣad, 3.1.3, we find:
“‘Prajñā, consciousness, is transcendental, steeped in the supramundane nature of Brahman.’
“Further, in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, 6.8.7:
tat tvam asi śvetaketo
“‘O Śvetaketu, you are that Brahman.’
“Therefore, where is the mistake if mukti is presented as the highest sādhya?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “I have already explained that there are different sādhya proposed in the Vedas according to the variety of human predispositions. As long as the yearning for bhukti is strongly alive in a person, he cannot acknowledge even the existence of mukti. For such sensually minded persons, there are also sufficient supportive statements in scriptures. For example the Āpastamba Śrauta-sūtra, 2.1.1, declares:
akṣayaṁ ha vai cāturmāsya-yājinaḥ
“‘Those who observe the vow of cāturmāsya obtain perpetual residence in heaven.’
“Does this then imply that the desire for mukti is reprehensible? Simply because the bhukti obsessed karmis are unable to find any clue of mukti in the Vedas, should it then be concluded that the Vedas are silent about mukti? In fact, the truth is that some ṛṣis in the subject of karma have advised those who are obsessed with bhukti to take up the karma-kāṇḍa performances of the Vedas, seeing that such sensually minded persons are uninterested in and incapable of cultivating the vairāgya necessary to achieve mukti. These instructions were compiled to help these neophytes in spiritual life to develop faith in the Vedic prescriptions and thus the Vedas corresponding to their lower level of consciousness.
“Certainly, it is unproductive for the jīva, if he slides down from his present level of consciousness. By performing Vedic duties and activities in harmony with his particular level, he gradually and comfortably ascends to the next higher state of consciousness. Thus the Vedas do not repudiate those instructions that motivate persons to commit themselves even to bhukti and mukti because such criticism would confuse and discourage the aspirants after these lower goals and thus possibly lead them into degradation. Everyone who has attained perfection has gone through the discipline of this gradual process of elevation by adhering to the particular Vedic prescriptions for which he was qualified.
“Jñāna is superior to karma as it bestows mukti. Nevertheless, the karma-kāṇḍa section of the Vedas extensively praises the performance of karma and refrains from admitting the superiority of jñāna and thus the superiority of mukti over bhukti. In the jñāna-kāṇḍa chapter of the Vedas, knowledge of mukti has been praised as shown by the verses already quoted.
Therefore, jñāna appears there as superior to karma. Similarly, in the relevant sections of the Vedas, bhakti is expounded as clearly excelling jñāna and karma.
“Statements such as tattvam asi and aham brahmāsmi eulogise brahma–nirvāṇa, thus urging the salvationists to fully pledge themselves to the pursuit of brahma-nirvāṇa. That is not negative, but rather meritorious. Yet, this does not make brahma–nirvāṇa the ultimate perfection. The ultimate Vedic conclusion asserts that bhakti is the purest sādhana and prema–bhakti is the highest sādhya.”
Vrajanātha, “Is it actually possible that the mahā-vākya, pre-eminent aphorisms, of the Vedas, that I have just quoted, present an ultimately false sādhya and sādhana concept?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Are these Vedic edicts that you call the mahā-vākyas really so excellent? And do they actually predominate over other Vedic testimonies? No. Where is such an opinion upheld? Certainly, within the Vedas themselves, these aphorisms have not been designated as mahā-vākyas. Clearly then, the ācāryas of the path of jñāna have inventively designated these statements as mahā–vākyas for the sole purpose of lending weight to their own philosophy. Factually, the praṇava, the seed vibration auṁ, is the only and actual mahā–vākya to which all other Vedic statements are related.
“Also however it would not be exaggerated to say that every statement of the Vedas is a mahā-vākya. To discriminate and designate one Vedic aphorism as a mahā-vākya and the others as sāmānya-vākya, ordinary, is simply mental speculation.
This bigoted provincialism is surely an offence against the Vedas. Actually, in the relevant khaṇḍas, the Vedas praise karma as well as mukti and give suitable versions of the sādhya and sādhana practice for the respective attainment of both these goals. Yet, when the final analysis is drawn, all arbitrations are harmonized in the conclusion that only bhakti is the true and actual sādhya and sādhana.
“The Vedas are said to be like a cow and Śrī Nanda-nandana, the son of Nanda Mahārāja, is the milkman who milks her. The following statement, made by Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is an absolute conclusion, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, 6.46-47:
tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogī jñānibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikaḥ
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī tasmād yogī bhavārjuna
“‘A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist, and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi.’
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ mad-gatenāntarātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
“‘And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.’
“The Svetāśvatara Upaniṣad, 6.23, declares:
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
“‘Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of the Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.’
“In the Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad, Pūrva-vibhāga 15, we find:
bhaktir asya bhajanaṁ tad ihāmutropādhi
nairasyenaivāmuṣmin manasaḥ kalpanam
etad eva ca naiṣkarmyam
“‘Devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Śrī Govinda, is real bhajana. Curbing the desires for earthly as well as heavenly sense enjoyment, absorbing the consciousness purely in Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Brahman, with love is indeed unmotivated devotional service and is known as complete surrender.’
“Further, in the Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 1.4.8, we find:
ātmānam eva priyam upāsīta
“‘One must worship the Ātmā, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, knowing Him to be very near and dear.’
“In the Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 4.5.6, it is said:
ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo
“‘O Maitreya! Always hear and think about, meditate upon, and see all objects related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul, Śrī Hari.’
“Any person who scrutinizes these Vedic postulations will automatically draw the obvious conclusion: The path of bhakti is the real sādhana.”
Vrajanātha, “The karma-kāṇḍa instructs its adherents to perform bhakti with faith to Īśvara, who bestows the results of all action. In the jñāna-kāṇḍa, there are the sādhana–catuṣṭaya, one of which is bhakti, which strives after hari-toṣaṇa, satisfying Śrī Hari. If bhakti is thus apparently employed in the achievement of bhukti and mukti, how does bhakti then uphold its claim of being the ultimate eternal goal, the highest sādhya? It is naturally assumed that bhakti first acting as the sādhana offers bhukti and mukti and thereafter losing its utility is abandoned. Kindly shed light upon this topic.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “It is absolutely correct that in the karma-kāṇḍa chapter bhakti is used as a means to obtain bhukti and in the jñāna–kāṇḍa chapter bhakti is employed to offer mukti. To understand this employment of bhakti, one fact must be clearly understood: No goals or results can be achieved if the Supreme Lord, the fountainhead of all energies, is not satisfied. Whatever volume of energy is found in the jīva or in matter is merely a fractional display of the potency of the Supreme Lord. Essentially neither karma nor jñāna is able to satisfy the Supreme Lord properly and attract His mercy—only bhakti is able to attract His mercy. Therefore, only when bhakti is applied as a part of the karma or jñāna processes do these ultimately bhakti dependent processes offer their specific results. Thus, the paths of karma and jñāna harbour bhakty-ābhāsa, a mere semblance of bhakti, and not śuddha-bhakti.
“In fact, there are two varieties of bhakty-ābhāsa: śuddha-bhakty-ābhāsa, a semblance of pure bhakti; and viddha-bhakty-ābhāsa, a semblance of mixed bhakti. I will describe śuddha-bhakti-ābhāsa later, but for now understand that viddha-bhakty-ābhāsa is further subdivided into three variations: (1) karma–viddha-bhakty-ābhāsa, a semblance of bhakti mixed with fruitive action; (2) jñāna-viddha-bhakty-ābhāsa, a semblance of bhakti mixed with monistic knowledge; and (3) karma-jñāna-ubhaya-viddha-bhakty-ābhāsa, a semblance of bhakti mixed with both fruitive action and monistic knowledge.
“A yajña—during which invocatory prayers are made, such as, ‘O Lord Indra! O Pūṣana, the sun god! Kindly grant me the results of this yajña!’—is a bhakty–ābhāsa performance constituted of karma–viddha-bhakty-ābhāsa. Some spiritual authorities have termed this type of adulterated bhakti as karma–miśra-bhakti; still others have called it āropa-siddha-bhakti, seeking achievement through the artificial interpolation of devotion.
“Outbursts in an emotional state such as, ‘O Yadunandana, Kṛṣṇa! I turn to you, driven by fears of this fierce material existence! I am constantly chanting your sacred names—Hare Kṛṣṇa. Kindly deliver me! Give me mukti!’ or ‘O Supreme Controller, you are the Brahman! I have fallen into this deep well of illusion, please pick me up and allow me to merge with you!’ are examples of jñāna-viddha-bhakti-ābhāsa. Again, some spiritual authorities have called this type of adulterated bhakti jñāna-miśra-bhakti, devotion mixed with empirical knowledge, or āropa-siddha-bhakti, seeking achievement through the artificial interpolation of devotion.
“All such apparently devotional activities are very distinct from śuddha-bhakti. The quality of bhakti described by the Supreme Lord in the śloka of the Bhagavad-gītā, 6.47, which we have previously quoted is śuddha-bhakti:
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ mad-gatenāntarātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
“‘Of all yogis, the one who with great faith always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.’
“This śuddha-bhakti is our sādhana; and in the perfected stage śuddha–bhakti is transformed into prema. The two paths described as karma and jñāna are simply related to bhukti and mukti respectively. They do not constitute the means to guide the jīva to his highest eternal perfection, prema-bhakti.”
At this point of the question-and-answer session, Vrajanātha seemed to have run out of further questions. He thought within, “To faithfully examine and ponder over these profound and subtle topics is better than subjecting them to the tricky rhetorical analysis of nyāya dialecticism. Also, Bābājī Mahārāja is obviously so proficient in all these subjects that I am sure my quest for spiritual knowledge will be gradually satisfied by further enquiry in the future. As the late night has now arrived, I should return home.”
Aloud Vrajanātha then said, “Respected Bābājī Mahārāja, I have learnt such wonderful truths from you today. I would very much like to visit you from time to time and receive instructions and knowledge from you. You are a vastly learned scholar, please be compassionate with me! Yet, kindly answer just one more question before I leave: Has Śrī Gaurāṅga compiled his instructions in any book? I would like to get a copy.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu has not personally written down any of His instructions. His followers however have written volumes upon His order. The Lord has personally given eight verses, known as the Śikṣāṣṭaka; the devotees cherish them as a necklace of priceless gems. They contain all His instructions in condensed form. The advanced devotees have probed deeply into these esoteric dictums, mining out ten fundamental eternal truths, known as the Daśa–mūla. In the form of aphorisms, these ten truths wonderfully encompass and expound the philosophy of sādhya and sādhana in the three divisions of (1) sambandha, the philosophy of the eternal interrelationships between the Supreme Creator and His various energies; (2) abhidheya, the means of attaining the eternal goal; and (3) prayojana, the nature of the eternal goal itself. In the beginning, it is best that you to comprehend these truths.”
Vrajanātha replied, “As you desire. Tomorrow night, I will come and learn from you the Daśa-mūla. You are my śikṣā–guru, I offer my daṇḍavat–praṇāmas unto you.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī firmly embraced Vrajanātha and said, “My dear son, you have sanctified the brāhmaṇa class. Come tomorrow and bring joy to my heart.”
Thus ends the twelfth chapter of Jaiva-dharma, entitled: Nitya-dharma: Sādhana, the Means of Attainment, and Sādhya, the Ultimate Goal