‘Tattva Sāra’ is a book review first published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī Vol.2 issue 6 in 1885. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura critiques a book by Rāma Candra Datta who was a follower of the famous Ramakrishna Paramahaṁsa. In this article, Bhaktivinoda is ambivalent in regards to Ramakrishna, who at this time, was just gaining a name for himself, but in his review, the Ṭhākura discusses the topic of bhāva.
(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)
Tattva Sāra by Śrī Rāma Candra Datta F.C.M – there are five chapters in this book. The first chapter deals with the ascertainment of Īśvara, the second chapter deals with a discussion on sākāra and nirākāra (personal and impersonal), the third chapter deals with the reality of brahma-śakti, the fourth chapter deals with the method of sādhana, and the fifth chapter deals with the attainment of Īśvara. In brief, it must be said that this book is only for the Brahmo impersonalists.
The author has written this book on the advice of an advisor named Ramakrishna Paramahaṁsa. We have carefully read the advice of Paramahaṁsa bābājī. Much of it is good advice.
We do not know Paramahaṁsa bābājī very well. By the kindness of the author, I know from his introduction that he lives in the Rāsmaṇi temple in Dakṣiṇeśvara. By the author’s grace, we have come to know that the heart becomes joyous when we hear the message of sādhus belonging to our own country!
The author writes in praise of the Paramahaṁsa that he is a staunch opponent of communal religion and that he enjoys being associated with all religious communities. From this introduction, we think that Paramahaṁsa Mahāśaya is a jñānī, yet his bhakti has no special characteristics. At the time of attainment, the intrinsic nature of jñāna is that it makes the sādhaka lonely and indifferent. The intrinsic nature of bhakti is that, at the time when it awards results, it makes the sādhaka greedy for the association of devotees and exclusively dedicated to the Object of one’s desire. When asked which one is best, Śrī Śrī Mahāprabhu Caitanyadeva tells us that exclusive dedication and greed for bhakti is infinitely better than renunciation and indifference.
There are many considerations and examples regarding this. The conclusion is that there is nothing more auspicious for a jīva than dedication to the eternal Reality. If dedication to everything is considered to be the best, then what else remains in the world which is not best? Whoever dedicates themselves to whatever is good! Then how do we judge good and evil? Then muḍi (puffed-rice) and micri (rock candy) are the same. There is no need for any more sādhana-bhajana. If that’s the case, then what is the difference between a debauchee devoted to prostitutes and a detached paramahaṁsa? Both atat (unreal) and tat (real) are one. Therefore, dedication to the sad-vastu (Supreme Reality) is beneficial, and dedication to that which is asat (unreal) is wrong – thus indifference towards all things cannot be considered to be good. Rather, it is obligatory to be dependent on sat (reality) and give up indifference. We would like to say, for example, that one who does not have exclusive dedication has never seen the excellence of pati-vrata dharma (devotion to the husband by a chaste wife). A chaste wife is revered in this world due to her dedication to her husband. A woman who adopts a neutral mentality is designated as a prostitute. We know that one who does not become detached from all things that are atat by attaining dedication to that which is tat, never advances in dharma. Especially in a life centered around the principle of prīti (divine love), there is only dedication????. Therefore, knowing that Rāma and Kṛṣna are non-different, Hanumān, the best of devotees, has said:
śrī-nāthe jānakī-nāthe abhedaḥ paramātmani
tathāpi mama sarvasva rāmaḥ kamala-locanaḥ
(“Both the husband of Lakṣmī, and the husband of Sītā are the same Supreme Ātmā, yet the lotus-eyed Rāma is everything to me.” – Prema Bhakti Candrikā)
The most worshippable maids of Vṛndāvana are so fascinated by Kṛṣṇa’s sweetness that if Kṛṣṇa Himself manifests four arms, they will express their indifference towards Him.
The final word is that although knowledge determines the Supreme to be omnipresent, still it is better to observe His līlā everywhere and respect all religions in a neutral way. However, those who are expert in bhajana, even though they see everything equally, cultivate devotional love towards their desired Object.
At some point, the author mentions Paramahaṁsa bābājī’s bhāvāveśa (immersion in divine ecstasy). There maybe a certain amount of bliss there. Yet one who is indifferent is always engaged in a bitter struggle for jñāna. Otherwise, if they become partial to something, their bhāvāveśa will not occur. If Paramahaṁsa bābājī has both indifference and divine ecstasy, then he is certainly blessed. However, upon deliberation, if we acknowledge all the characteristics of bhāva, then that is not real bhāva. This is what the pure premācārya Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī has said about bhāva:
kintu bāla-camatkāra-kārī tac-cihna-vīkṣayā
abhijñena subodho ‘yaṁ raty-ābhāsaḥ prakīrtitaḥ
pratibimbas tathā cchāyā raty-ābhāso dvidhā mataḥ
There are two types of ratyābhāsa (a semblance of rati, or divine attraction) – pratibimba-ratyābhāsa (a reflection of a semblance of rati) and chāyā-ratyābhāsa (a shadow of a semblance of rati). When there is ratyābhāsa, all kinds of symptoms of ‘rati’ are observed. Foolish people are amazed at that. However, those who are relishers of rati can recognise it.
We do not know Paramahaṁsa Mahāśaya personally. Not knowing this principle, if the author has tried to categorize him as belonging to a slightly neutral group, then we are not guilty of anything we say about him. We are expressing our opinion based upon seeing his picture in this book.* If indeed he is a true sādhu, we offer millions of daṇḍavats at his feet. It is not possible for a jīva to commit a worse crime than insulting a Vaiṣṇava.
* Translators Note: This may refer to a famous photograph of Rramakrishna in ‘bhāva.’ The line may also be translated as “We are expressing this kind of opinion based upon what we have seen in the book.”
With folded hands we say to the world, “Oh brothers, let there be indifference only in regards to material objects, but with regards to our relationship with Bhagavāṇ, please drive it away from your mind. By following Bhagavān’s nitya-līlā, you will attain His eternal intrinsic form. Even in this māyika-līlā you will be able to recognise His nitya-līlā. Abandon any mundane argument whether or not He is with or without a form, and take darśana of Bhagavān’s beauty through acintya-bhedābheda-tattva. Brahma-śakti is identical with Brahman and eternal. Through sādhana-bhakti, attain bhāva-bhakti, and through that attain prema-bhakti! Transcend those forms related to Īśvara, Paramātmā etc. and attain divine love for that eternal form of Bhagavān.”
I admire Rāma Candra Bābū very much, because he is engaged in a search for the ultimate dharma beyond the moral and dry religions of these times. Surely he will attain refuge at the feet of Śrī Śrī Caitanyadeva very soon.