The next morning, Sannyāsī Ṭhākura found Śrī Paramahaṁsa Premadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja internally absorbed in relishing the spiritual mellows of Vraja Vṛndāvana, so Sannyāsī Ṭhākura did not approach him with his queries. Later that afternoon, having finished their meal of begged food, the master and disciple were sitting in the shady bowers of Śrī Mādhavī-mālatī Maṇḍapa. In his benign manner, Bābājī Mahārāja addressed Ṭhākura, “O best of devotees! What is your conclusion after hearing our deliberation upon dharma, natural function?”
Sannyāsī Ṭhākura was instantly joyful and immediately enquired, “Dear master! If the jīva, as you have said, is infinitesimal, then how can his dharma be absolute, complete and pure? Secondly, if the dharma of the jīva is created simultaneously with formation of his minute constitution, then how can that dharma be considered ever-existent and eternal?”
Bābājī Mahārāja listened silently to the two questions, meditating upon the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. Then, with a gentle smile on his lips, he began to speak, “Dear sir, even though the jīva is infinitesimal, his dharma is certainly absolute, complete and pure, and also surely ever-existent and eternal. Tiny stature is the innate characteristic of the jīva, but only has reference to his size and not his function. The only bṛhad–vastu, infinite entity, is the Supreme Brahman, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, of whom the countless jīvas are minute parts. Just as tiny sparks burst from a big, undivided fire, the jīvas emanate from the indivisible, Absolute Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the supreme conscious being. In addition, just as each spark possesses the fiery attributes of the big fire, so every jīva can manifest the absolute excellences of the Supreme Brahman. A single spark in contact with a flammable object can ignite a raging conflagration capable of consuming the entire world. Similarly, a jīva who attains the ultimate objective—kṛṣṇa-prema, divine love of Śrī Kṛṣṇa—can inundate the entire universe with kṛṣṇa–prema! However, as long as the infinitesimal jīva is out of touch with the true objective of his original spiritual nature, Śrī Kṛṣṇa—and thereby his true dharma—he appears debilitated.
“The truth is that nitya-dharma comes to light only by contact with its ultimate source, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Try to thoroughly research and understand the truth about the nitya–dharma of the jīva. The jīva is constituted of transcendental, spiritual consciousness and kṛṣṇa-prema is his intrinsic attribute and thus his nitya-dharma. Kṛṣṇa-prema is non-material, being of transcendental substance, and the purest manifestation of kṛṣṇa-prema is unalloyed servitorship to Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, the constant and constitutional nitya-dharma of the jīva is rendering loving devotional service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
“The jīva experiences two conditions—śuddhāvasthā, the state of pure consciousness, and baddhāvasthā, the state of conditioned, material consciousness, which is to be imprisoned by māyā. In śuddhavasthā the jīva is wholly spiritual and thus free from all material attachments and contact. Nevertheless, even in his pure state, the jīva remains infinitesimal, and this minute stature makes it possible for him to change his station.
“By contrast, the infinite and absolute Supreme Person, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, by His very nature never changes His divine position. Indeed, by constitution, Kṛṣṇa is always infinite, complete, pure and eternal; whereas, the jīva by constitution is infinitesimal, partial, susceptible to material contamination, and thus subject to change. Yet, the inherent dharma of the jīva is the same as that of the Supreme, namely infinite, complete, pure, and eternal. If the jīva remains uncontaminated, he can maintain and perfectly manifest his intrinsic qualities and original nature. However, when he conjoins with the illusory energy, māyā, his true constitutional nature is distorted, contaminated and eclipsed. In this pathetic position, he has to suffer the wrath of the dualities of material nature, happiness and distress. The jīva is thus entangled in material life as soon as he forgets his position as a servant of Kṛṣṇa.
“As long as the jīva remains pure, he can take pride in his inherent self-conception as an eternal servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. If, however, through contact with māyā, this sense of spiritual egotism is contaminated and thus recedes, the egotism of the jīva then takes on many different false manifestations. Now in contact with māyā, his original spiritual identity and function is shrouded by a sthūla-śarīra, gross body, and a liṇga-śarīra, subtle body. Through this contact with māyā, a new material egoism arises in the liṇga–śarīra, which then amalgamates with the sthūla-śarīra, thus generating a third variety of egoism. The jīva in his pure state possesses a primal identity: servant of Kṛṣṇa. Nevertheless, in his fallen subtle-body state, the jīva egotistically claims to be the enjoyer of the results of his actions. At this juncture, original pure ego of the jīva, as the servant of Kṛṣṇa, is covered by the false ego of his subtle body. Then, when the jīva acquires a gross body, a further illusory egotism is assumed by identifying with the bodily situation: ‘I am a brāhmaṇa,’ ‘I am a king,’ ‘I am rich,’ I am poor,’ ‘I am sick,’ ‘I am healthy,’ ‘I am suffering, or enjoying,’ ‘I am a wife,’ ‘I am a husband,’ and so on.
“These false identities distort the original consciousness of the jīva. Unalloyed kṛṣṇa–prema is the pure, true, and original dharma of the jīva. When perverted, this spiritual love manifests in the subtle body as the mundane emotions of happiness and sorrow, love and hate, and so on. In the gross body, the perversion intensifies even more and displays itself in the shape of material sense gratification and other activities for bodily preservation and enjoyment, such as eating, drinking, and sensuality.
“The nitya-dharma of the jīva finds expression only in his pure state of consciousness and is by nature complete, pure and eternal. The temporary dharmas that assert themselves from the contaminated state of the jīva are naimittika-dharmas, which we will explain in detail another day.
“The pure vaiṣṇava–dharma presented in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is nitya–dharma. All the religions of the world may be broadly grouped into three categories: (1) nitya-dharma, (2) naimittika-dharma, and (3) anitya-dharma.
“A religion that denies the existence of Īśvara, the Supreme Controller, refusing to discuss Him, and that does not accept that the soul is eternal is anitya–dharma, false dharma contradictory to eternal dharma.
“A religion that believes in the eternality of both the Supreme Controller and the jīva souls, but prescribes mundane, transient methods such as karma, jñāna, and yoga for attaining the grace of Īśvara is naimittika–dharma.
“Religions which prescribe pure, unmotivated, eternal, devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead on the platform of prema are nitya-dharma.
“Nitya–dharma may be given various names, depending on country, race, language, and so on, yet, it is one in essence, excels all mundane preconditions, and is supremely beneficial for the jīva. The best example of nitya–dharma is Vaiṣṇavism, which is widely practiced in India, the purest state of which is the spiritual teachings propagated to the entire world by our beloved Śrī Śacīnandana. Therefore, the pure devotees, who steep themselves in rasa, the spiritual mellows of transcendental love, embrace the instructions of Śrī Caitanya whole-heartedly.”
At this juncture, Sannyāsī Ṭhākura said with folded hands, “Dear master, at every moment, I am realising the incomparable excellence of the pure Vaiṣṇavism that Śrī Śacīnandana has preached. I also perceive the deficiency of the monistic philosophy propounded by Śrī Śaṅkarācārya. Yet, I cannot refrain from asking you this question, which keeps vexing me, “Is advaita–siddhi, the state of oneness attained by merging with the impersonal Supreme, any different from the mahābhāva, the pinnacle of spiritual love, that Śrī Caitanya embodied and exhibited?”
Paramahaṁsa Premadāsa Bābājī prostrated himself respectfully upon hearing the name of Śrī Śaṅkarācārya. He said, “My dear sir, always remember this: …śaṅkaraḥ śaṅkaraḥ sākṣād… ‘Śrī Śaṅkarācārya is Lord Śiva himself.’ Śrī Śaṅkarācārya is the spiritual preceptor of all the Vaiṣṇavas and for this reason Śrī Caitanya has acclaimed him as an ācārya, great preceptor. Śrī Śaṅkarācārya is a perfect Vaiṣṇava.
“At the time of his appearance, India urgently required a guṇa-avatāra, an incarnation who presides over the material nature, because the spread of the voidistic philosophy of Buddhism had caused India to practically give up the cultivation and study of the Vedas, as well as the practice of varṇāśrama–dharma, the Vedic social system. Nihilistic Buddhism, known as śūnyavāda, directly denies the existence of a personal God and although hinting at the principle of the jīvātmā, the eternal spirit soul, Buddhism remains in essence anitya–dharma. In those days, the brāhmaṇas had all but forsaken the Vedic religion and converted to Buddhism.
“At this historic moment, the extraordinarily powerful Lord Śiva appeared as Śrī Śaṅkarācārya and reinstated the pristine glory of the Vedas by transforming nihilistic Voidism into monistic Brahmanism. This was a spectacular achievement, for which India will always remain indebted to Śrī Śaṅkarācārya. Works in the world may be judged by two standards. Some works are tat–kālika, specific to a particular time, and others are sarva–kālika, for all time. Śrī Śaṅkarācārya’s achievement, which resulted in great good for human society, belongs to the former category. He laid a firm foundation, upon which Śrī Rāmānujācārya and Śrī Madhvācārya later constructed the grand edifice of pure Vaiṣṇava philosophy. Therefore, he is one of the greatest benefactors and historic torchbearers of the Vaiṣṇava religion.
“The spiritual guidelines Śrī Śaṅkarācārya laid down act as beacons to the Vaiṣṇavas on their path of spiritual progress. For instance, sambandha–jñāna—knowledge of the eternal relationships between the jīva, prakṛti, and Bhagavān—is absolutely essential for the conditioned jīvas. The Vaiṣṇavas and Śrī Śaṅkarācārya share the understanding that the cit-vastu, spiritual existence, is supramundane and transcendental to the subtle and gross material bodies of the external material nature. They are also of the same opinion regarding the spiritual nature of the jīva. They agree, too, that liberation means giving up one’s attachment to the material world. Up to the stage of mukti, the Vaiṣṇavas concur with Śrī Śaṅkarācārya on many philosophical points. Śrī Śaṅkarācārya also taught that a soul purifies his consciousness by worshiping the Supreme Lord, Śrī Hari, after which he attains mukti.
“What Śrī Śaṅkarācārya remains silent about, however, are the wonderful realizations the jīva experiences after attaining mukti. Śrī Śaṅkarācārya was confident that once the jīvas were set on the path of liberation attainable by worshiping the Supreme Lord, Śrī Hari, they would gradually develop a taste and an attachment for devotional service and ultimately become pure devotees of the Lord. Hence, Śrī Śaṅkarācārya—after plainly indicating the proper way—did not delve further into the esoteric aspects of Vaiṣṇava philosophy. Those who scrutinizingly study Śrī Śaṅkarācārya’s commentaries can comprehend his underlying intention, but those who ponder only the external and superficial aspects of his teachings are diverted from the Vaiṣṇava path.
“From a certain viewpoint, advaita–siddhi and the mahābhāva of prema may seem identical. However, the narrow understanding of spiritual oneness in advaita–siddhi is certainly different from the devotional ecstasy of prema. A brief explanation should suffice to highlight their differences.
“First, we must properly analyse the subject of prema. Prema can be simply defined as that tattva, principle, and rasa, spiritual mellow, which evokes spontaneous, mutual attraction between spiritual entities. The sentiment, which eternally draws all the spiritual entities to Kṛṣṇa, is called kṛṣṇa–prema. In the union of prema, it is imperative that the two spiritual entities retain separate, individual identities. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is eternally situated in His unique position and all the jīvas retain their individual identities in an eternal mood of loving devotional service towards Him. This is the absolute, axiomatic principle in the philosophy of prema.
“Inherent in prema are three things: the āsvādaka, the relisher; āsvādya, the object being relished; and āsvādana, the act of relishing. If the relisher and the relished were to merge into absolute oneness through the exchanges of prema, then prema could not be nitya–siddha, eternally self-perfected truth. If, however, advaita–siddhi is defined as the pure state of the spiritual living entity—in union with his natural original spiritual nature and thus untainted by any material contact—then prema and advaita–siddhi indicate the same region of transcendental existence.
“However, the contemporary scholars of the Śaṅkarācārya school are not content with simply accepting advaita–siddhi as a specific stage on the path of spiritual perfection. Rather, they stubbornly claim advaita-siddhi to be itself the absolute ultimate goal of spiritual realization wherein the living entities become indistinguishably ‘one’ with Brahman. In this way, such contemporary Śankarite scholars misconstrue the actual Vedic truth. Their philosophical aberration extirpates the quality of eternality in prema; hence, the Vaiṣṇavas have concluded that such philosophy is non-Vedic.
“Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya described the concept of advaita, non-dualism, as the pure, transcendental state of the Absolute Truth. Unfortunately, his confused followers are unable to grasp the esoteric import of this philosophy and in the process they are denigrating his good reputation by ascribing an incorrect interpretation to his statements. They describe the transcendental conditions of prema as māyā, material illusion, and thus the doctrine they preach is known as māyāvāda philosophy. It is most degraded.
“The followers of this philosophy, the māyāvādīs, categorically deny the existence of more than one spiritual entity, the Brahman. They even refuse to accept that the element of prema is intrinsic to the spiritual substance. Their theory is that as long as Brahman, the non-dual transcendental truth, remains singular, He is transcendental to māyā. They propose that when He accepts form and becomes the jīva, He acquires diverse shapes and is thus afflicted by māyā. Therefore, they consider the eternal, pure and absolutely spiritual body of the Deity as an illusion of māyā. They even insist that the jīva’s separate and individual identity is illusory and thus prema and the transcendental transformations of prema are also ultimately illusory. With the help of this logic, and as an obvious consequence, they establish that advaita–jñāna, monistic realization, is free of illusion. Their misinterpreted version of advaita–siddhi and the Vaiṣṇava acceptance of prema are philosophically poles apart.
“Śrī Caitanya’s instructions on the process of relishing prema and His teachings in general, as exemplified by His character and pastimes, are all absolute and transcendental. They embody the acme of perfection, the highest stage of advaita-siddhi. Mahā-bhāva, the pinnacle of bhāva—loving spiritual emotion—is an ecstatic transformation of unalloyed prema. One experiences extreme divine exultation in loving Kṛṣṇa, relationship with whom produces an individual and intrinsic effusion of sublime ecstatic emotion, both in the relisher and in the object relished. The intimate relationship between these two acquires an extraordinary and wonderful presence. In contrast, the inconsistent māyāvāda philosophy is unable to make any contribution in the actual true understanding of prema.”
At this point, Sannyāsī Ṭhākura, speaking very respectfully, said, “Dear master! Now I am fully convinced that this māyāvāda philosophy is indeed false and inept. By your mercy, all my doubts have been dissipated and I am feeling a strong urge to instantly discard my māyāvādī sannyāsī apparel.”
Bābājī Mahārāja, “Dear sir! My advice in this regard is that one should be dispassionate about one’s outer dress—towards it practice neither attachment, nor hate. When the heart and consciousness become purified from within, the outer garments are also automatically rectified. When too much stress is laid on dress codes and grooming external looks, then disciplining the consciousness within is neglected. My opinion is that after inner cleansing, one is naturally inspired to conduct oneself in accordance with the behaviour of saintly devotees, and thus one’s outward appearance—dress and so on—will be freed from blemishes in the natural course of events. Just surrender completely to the ideals of Śrī Caitanya and then whatever external activities are inspired in you will be executed with proper consciousness. Always remember the following instruction of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, 16.238–9:
markaṭa-vairāgya nā kara loka dekhāñā
yathā-yogya viṣaya bhuñja’ anāsakta hañā
antare niṣṭhā kara, bāhye loka-vyavahāra
acirāt kṛṣṇa tomāya karibe uddhāra
“‘You should not make yourself into a show-bottle devotee and become a false renunciant. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way, but do not become attached to such enjoyment. Within your heart, you should keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man. Then soon Kṛṣṇa will be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of māyā.’”
Sannyāsī Ṭhākura understood the importance of Bābājī Mahārāja’s words and refrained from further mention of the subject of dress. With folded hands, he addressed Bābājī Mahārāja, “Dear Master, I have surrendered to your lotus feet as your disciple, therefore whatever instructions you give me I will accept without argument. After listening to your teachings, I have realized that in vaiṣṇava–dharma pure love of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is alone considered love and this indeed is the nitya–dharma of the jīva. Nevertheless, different countries practice different religions, how should I think about them?”
Bābājī Mahārāja, “My dear sir, dharma is one and not many. Actually, the jīva has but one dharma, known as the vaiṣṇava-dharma. Dharma may appear to be different according to the various languages, countries, and races, and this one jaiva-dharma, constitutional eternal function of the soul, may be referred to by the various peoples by many different names, but no one can artificially create a new jaiva-dharma. The unblemished pristine love for the Supreme Absolute Whole experienced by the minute particle of spiritual substance—the jīva—is defined as jaiva–dharma.”
“However, the jīva possesses a variety of cultural habits and natural traits which binds his religious practices to certain material conformities, thus making his true dharma appear refracted. Therefore, to free jaiva–dharma from misconception and bring into focus the pristine standards of actual dharma, the jīva’s true religion has been named vaiṣṇava-dharma. To the same degree that vaiṣṇava-dharma practices are present in other religious systems, those religions are to be considered pure.
“A few days ago in Vṛndāvana, I humbly placed a question to Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, who is an eternal and confidential associate of the Supreme Lord. My query was, ‘Is the concept of iśhqh, an Arabic word used in Islam, the same as prema, or is there a difference?’
“Śrīla Gosvāmī is an erudite scholar, well versed in all scriptures, and especially his proficiency in Arabic is astounding. Many other accomplished scholars such as Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī were also present in that assembly. I shall now report Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s words:
“‘Yes, the word iśhqh indeed means prema. The Muslims use this term even to describe the worship of God, however, in common terminology, it has now come to imply mundane love affairs. The mundane emotion that the word iśhqh indicates in the story of the committed lovers, Lailā and Majnūn, and in the writing of the famous poet, Hāfiz, demonstrates that the Muslim religious scholars were unable to understand accurately śuddha-cit-vastu, pure transcendence. As a result, they now refer to the emotions of the subtle body and the physical urges of the gross body as iśhqh—their misconception of prema. Further, they have failed to perceive not only the pure spiritual nature, but also the truth about the jīva’s spontaneous and spotless love of Kṛṣṇa. In all their religious texts, I have never come across discussions upon divine, transcendental love. Conspicuously, the spiritual emotion of prema is present and thoroughly elucidated in vaiṣṇava–dharma alone.
“‘The Muslim concept of rūh is not the same as the śuddha–jīva, pure spirit soul, mentioned in the Vedas. In fact, one gets the impression that rūh more closely describes the baddha–jīva, conditioned soul. Knowledge of pure love of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is missing in all the other religious literatures. Pure love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa is described in these words of Śrīmad–Bhāgavatam 1.1.2: …dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo… “Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhāgavata Purāṇa propounds the highest truth.”
“‘The Vaiṣṇava text, Śrīmad–Bhāgavatam, delineates, in detail, this pure, sublime love of Kṛṣṇa, a love without deceit or caprice. I am very sure that before Śrī Caitanya no one had ever taught the science of pure love of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, as exhaustively as He. If my words inspire faith and devotion in you, then subscribe whole-heartedly to this philosophy.’ After hearing the instructions of Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, I repeatedly offered him my obeisances.”
Truly moved by these instructions, Sannyāsī Ṭhākura immediately fell at the feet of Bābājī Mahārāja in humble gratitude.
Paramahaṁsa Premadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja continued, “My dear devotee, I am about to reply to your second question about how the dharma of the jīva can be eternal, if it is intrinsic to his created constitution. Please listen attentively.
“Sanskrit terms such as: jīva–sṛṣṭi, creation and birth of the jīva; and jīva–gāthām, the formation of the jīva; etc., are used in a mundane sense. Material word meanings evoke mundane feelings and impressions. Material time, within this illusory energy field, has three conditions—past, present and future. Time in the spiritual world has a singular aspect; it is always in the present, whereas past and future are absent. The jīva and the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, exist in that spiritual time. Hence, the jīva is eternal and indestructible and his dharma, kṛṣṇa–prema, is also always eternally present. The mundane conditions of birth, growth, decay, etc., as brought about by the influence of material time have been applied to jīva only since his incarceration in this material world, but the eternal rūpa, form, and dharma, of the jīva have already been determined before his entrance into this material energy. The minute size of the jīva does not in any way divest him of the indestructible, transcendental nature that is his intrinsic, eternal dharma. Whatever exists in the spiritual world ever remains the same because the divisions of past and future are absent.
“The jīva and his dharma are therefore both eternally present and indestructible. Although I am elucidating these topics, you can fathom their meanings only to degree of your realization of the spiritual nature. I am giving just indications; you must perceive their purport in deep meditation. Only to the extent that one can extricate one’s understanding from the perplexities of material enthrallment can one become enlightened about the spiritual world. Mundane logic and argument will not enable one to properly comprehend these subjects.
“First, one must repeatedly endeavour to perceive one’s śuddha-svarūpa, pure spiritual identity, and chant Kṛṣṇa’s name purely, then one’s true nature—one’s jaiva-dharma—will begin to gradually assert itself. Neither aṣṭāṅga–yoga, mystic yoga, nor brahma–jñāna, empirical knowledge of the featureless all-pervasive Brahman, can hone one’s spiritual perception; direct devotional service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa can alone reawaken the self-perfected jaiva–dharma inherent within oneself. Simply chant harināma with full enthusiasm—this in itself is considered pure devotional service. After chanting regularly and offenselessly for even just a short time, one will experience a wonderful attraction to harināma. Along with increasing attraction, realization of one’s spiritual nature will be gradually attained. Of all the different practices of devotion, chanting is pre-eminent, and offers quick results. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja has written a wonderful book recording Śrī Caitanya’s instructions named the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta; there in the Antya-līlā, 4.70–71, we find stated:
bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha nava-vidhā bhakti
‘kṛṣṇa-prema,’ ‘kṛṣṇa’ dite dhare mahā-śakti
“‘Amongst all the ways of executing devotional service, the nine prescribed methods are the best, for these processes have great potency to deliver Kṛṣṇa and ecstatic love for Him.’
tāra madhye sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana
“‘Of the nine processes of devotional service, the most important is to always chant harināma. If one does so, avoiding the ten kinds of offences, one very easily obtains the most valuable jewel of prema.’
“O learned one, if you were to ask me, ‘Who is a Vaiṣṇava?’ my answer would be simply, ‘One who chants the names of Kṛṣṇa purely.’ There are three types of Vaiṣṇavas: kaniṣṭha, neophyte, madhyama, intermediate, and uttama, most advanced. One who occasionally chants Kṛṣṇa’s names is a kaniṣṭha Vaiṣṇava. One who constantly chants Kṛṣṇa’s names is a madhyama Vaiṣṇava. An uttama Vaiṣṇava spontaneously inspires others to chant Kṛṣṇa’s names by his very presence. According to the teachings of Śrī Caitanya, one must strictly go by these symptoms to categorize Vaiṣṇavas.”
Inebriated by Bābājī’s nectarean instructions, Sannyāsī Ṭhākura began to sing:
Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare
He gently swayed to and fro in a stately dance and immediately realized that he was acquiring ruci, a sublime taste, for chanting harināma. Falling at his guru’s lotus feet, he prayed, “O divine master! Please be merciful unto this lowly wretch.”
Thus ends the Second Chapter of the Jaiva-dharma entitled: The Nitya-dharma of the Living Entity Is Pure and Everlasting