Lahiri Mahasaya had a residence in Santipura. His two sons were both highly educated. The elder, Candranatha, who was thirty five years old, was a zamindar, and managed all the household affairs. He was also a scholar in medical science. Candranatha never underwent any hardship for the sake of spiritual progress, but he commanded tremendous respect in the brahmana community. He employed servants, maids, doorkeepers, and other workers, and he managed all the household affairs with comfort and prestige.
From childhood, the younger son, Devidasa, had studied the sastras dealing with logic (nyaya-sastra) and that presents the codes of religious ritual (smrti-sastra). Across the road from the family residence, he had opened a patha-sala, a school dedicated to the study of the four Vedas and four subjects: Sanskrit grammar, rhetoric, logic, and philosophy. There he taught a group of ten to fifteen students and had the title Vidyaratna (jewel of learning).
One day a rumor circulated in Santipura that Kalidasa Lahiri Mahasaya had put on the dress of an ascetic and had become a Vaisnava. The news spread everywhere – at the bathing ghatas, in the market-place, and on the streets.
Someone said, “The old man has become senile. He was a man of ideal character for so long, but now he has gone mad.”
Someone else said, “What kind of disease is this? All kinds of happiness is there in his home; he is a brahmana by birth, and his sons and family members are all obedient to him. What suffering could drive such a man to adopt the life of a mendicant?”
Another person said, “This is the ill fate of those who wander here and there, shouting, “This is dharma! This is dharma!”
A virtuous man said, “Kalidasa Lahiri Mahasaya is a very pious soul. He is materially prosperous, and now in his maturity he has developed love for hari-nama.”
As different people gossiped and spread various rumours, someone went to Devidasa Vidyaratna and reported what he had heard.
Vidyaratna became quite anxious and went to his elder brother. “Brother,” he said, “it looks as if we have to face great difficulty because of Father. He is staying at Godruma in Nadiya on the plea of maintaining good health, but he has fallen into bad company there. It is impossible to ignore the outcry in the village about this.”
Candranatha said, “Brother, I have also heard some rumours. Our family is highly respected, but now we can no longer show our faces because of our father’s activities. We have always belittled the descendants of Advaita Prabhu, but now what has become of our own house? Come, let’s go inside. We shall discuss this matter with Mother and decide what should be done.”
Soon afterwards, Candranatha and Devidasa were seated on the second-floor veranda taking their meal, which was served by a brahmani widow. Their mother sat with them. Candranatha said,
“Mother, have you heard any news of Father?” Mother said, “Why, he’s well, isn’t he? He is staying in Sri Navadvipa, and he has become mad after hari-nama. Why don’t you bring him here?”
Devidasa said, “Mother, Father is quite well, but according to the reports we have been hearing, we can no longer rely on him.On the contrary, if we brought him here, we would become a social disgrace.”
Mother became somewhat perturbed and asked, “What has happened to him? Just recently I went to the bank of the Ganga and had a long talk with the wife of one of the leading Gosvamis. She told me, ‘Your husband has met with great auspiciousness. He has
earned tremendous respect among the Vaisnavas.’ ”
Devidasa raised his voice slightly and said, “He has certainlygained respect, but at the cost of our heads! Would he have remained at home in his old age, and accepted our service? No. But see now! He’s bent on defaming our prestigious family by subsisting on the remnants of ragged mendicants of different castes. Alas! This is the tragic effect of the age of Kali. He was such an experienced man, but what has become of his intelligence?”
Mother said, “Bring him here now and keep him hidden until you can persuade him to change his mind.”
Candranatha said, “What other alternative do we have? Devi, go to Godruma secretly with two or three men and bring Father here.”
Devidasa said, “You both know very well that Father has no regard for me because he considers me to be an atheist. I am afraid that he may not even speak to me if I go there.”
Devidasa had a maternal cousin called Sambhunatha, who was very dear to Lahiri Mahasaya. He had stayed with him for a long time, and had rendered much service to him. It was decided that Devidasa and Sambhunatha would go together to Godruma so a servant was sent that very day to a brahmana’s house in Godruma, to arrange for their residential quarters.
The next day, when Devidasa and Sambhunatha had finished their meal, they set out for Godruma. Having reached their appointed lodging, they got down from their palanquins and gave the bearers permission to depart. A brahmana cook and two servants had arrived there in advance.
At dusk, Devidasa and Sambhunatha made their way towards Sri Pradyumna-kunja. On their arrival, they saw Lahiri Mahasaya sitting on a mat of leaves on Surabhi Terrace with his eyes closed. He was chanting hari-nama on his tulasi-mala and his body was decorated in twelve places with tilaka. Devidasa and Sambhunatha slowly climbed up onto the terrace and offered pranama at his feet.
On hearing footsteps, Lahiri Mahasaya opened his eyes and was astonished to see the two men. “Sambhu!” he exclaimed, “What brings you here? How are you?”
“By your blessings we are quite well,” they replied politely.
“Will you take your meal here?” asked Lahiri Mahasaya.
“We have already arranged for a place to stay,” they replied. “You need not worry about us.”
At that moment, loud chanting of Sri Hari’s name was heard from Sri Premadasa Babaji’s madhavi-malati bower. Vaisnava dasa Babaji came out of his kutira and asked Lahiri Mahasaya, “Why was there such a loud sound of hari-nama from Paramahamsa Babaji’s
Lahiri Mahasaya and Vaisnava dasa Babaji went ahead to investigate, and found many Vaisnavas circumambulating Babaji Mahasaya and chanting Sri Hari’s name. The two of them also joined in the assembly. Everyone offered dandavat-pranama to Paramahamsa Babaji Maharaja and sat down on the terrace. Devidasa and Sambhunatha were also seated on one side of the terrace, like crows in an assembly of swans.
In the meantime, one of the Vaisnavas said, “We have come from Kantaka-nagara (Kattwa). Our main purpose is to take darsana of Sri Navadvipa-Mayapura and to obtain the dust of the lotus feet of Paramahamsa Babaji Maharaja.”
Paramahamsa Babaji Maharaja felt embarrassed and said, “I am a great sinner. You have simply come to purify me.” After a short time it was discovered that these Vaisnavas were all expert in singing bhajanas (devotional songs) glorifying Sri Hari. Mrdanga and karatalas were brought at once, and a senior member of the assembly began to sing a bhajana from Prarthana.
“sri krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda
gadai advaita-candra gaura-bhakta-vrnda
O Sri Krsna Caitanyacandra! O Prabhu Nityananda! O Gadadhara! O Advaitacandra! O Gaura’s bhaktas.
apara karuna-sindhu vaisnava thakura
mo hena pamara daya karaha pracura
O Vaisnava Thakura, you are a boundless ocean of mercy. Please bestow your profuse mercy on a sinful creature like me.
jati-vidya-dhana-jana-made matta jane
uddhara kara he natha, krpa-vitarane
O master, please be merciful and deliver this person intoxicated with the pride of high birth, education, wealth and attachment to wife, children and family members.
chadaiya sodha more, e mora prarthana
Please purify me of my lust for women and wealth and the desire for prestige. This is my prayer.
name ruci, jive daya, vaisnave ullasa
daya kari’ deha more, ohe krsna-dasa
O servant of Sri Krsna, please be merciful and give me a taste for sri-nama and compassion for all jivas – and let me delight in the association of Vaisnavas.
tomara carana-chaya eka-matra asa
jivane marane matra amara bharasa
The shade of your lotus feet is my only hope, my sole refuge in life and in death.”
When this bhajana came to an end, the Vaisnavas sang a prayer
composed by Kalidasa Lahiri Mahasaya, which was charming and
full of poetic sentiment.
miche maya-vase, samsara-sagare, padiya chilama ami
karuna kariya, diya pada-chaya, amare tarila tumi
I fell into the ocean of samsara and became enslaved in futile activities by the influence of maya. You were merciful and delivered me by giving me the shade of your lotus feet.
suna suna vaisnava thakura
tomara carane, sampiyachi matha, mora duhkha kara dura
O Vaisnava Thakura, please hear me. I have surrendered my head at your feet. Please dispel my misery.
jatira gaurava, kevala raurava, vidya se avidya-kala
sodhiya amaya, nitai-carane, sampahe – jauka jvala
Pride of caste is a terrible hell. Material learning is but an aspect of ignorance. Please purify me and deliver me to the feet of Nitai. Please extinguish my blazing agony.
tomara krpaya, amara jihvaya, sphuruka yugala-nama
kahe kalidasa, amara hrdaye, jaguka sri-radha-syama
By your mercy, may the holy names of Sri Yugala appear on my tongue, and may Sri Radha-Syama appear in my heart. This is the prayer of Kalidasa.
Singing this bhajana together, all of them became maddened with joy. At the end, they repeated the line, jaguka sri-radha-syama. “May Sri Radha-Syama appear in my heart,” again and again, and began to dance exuberantly. As they continued to dance, a few bhavuka Vaisnavas fell unconscious. An extraordinary atmosphere developed, and as Devidasa witnessed all this, he began to think that his father was deeply immersed in the pursuit of spiritual truth, and that it would be difficult to take him home.
It was about midnight when the meeting broke up. Everyone exchanged dandavat-pranama, and returned to their respective places. Devidasa and Sambhunatha took permission from their father and returned to their lodgings.
The following day when they had finished their meal, Devi and Sambhu went to the kutira of Lahiri Mahasaya. Devidasa Vidyaratna offered pranama to Lahiri Mahasaya and said, “Dear Father, I have one request to make of you. Please come and reside in our house at Santipura. We will all be very happy to serve you at home. We can also arrange for a solitary kutira for you, if you give your permission.”
Lahiri Mahasaya replied, “It is a good idea, but I would not get the type of sadhu-sanga in Santipura that I get here. Devi, you know the people of Santipura; they are so godless and so fond of slandering others that a man can hardly be satisfied to live there. Granted, there are many brahmanas there, but their intelligence has become crooked by their association with shallow-minded materialists like the weavers. Fine garments, grandiose words, and blasphemy of Vaisnavas are the three characteristics of the people of Santipura. The descendants of Advaita Prabhu have undergone so much trouble there that they have become almost inimical to Mahaprabhu by such negative association. You should therefore grant that I may stay here in Godruma. That is my desire.”
Devidasa said, “Dear Father, what you say is true. But why must you have anything to do with the people of Santipura? Stay in a solitary place and spend your days cultivating your religious practices, such as sandhya-vandana. A brahmana’s daily work is also his nitya-dharma and it is the duty of a great soul like yourself to be absorbed in that way.”
Becoming somewhat grave Lahiri Mahasaya said, “My dear son, those days are no more. Now that I have lived for a few months in the association of sadhus and have heard Sri Gurudeva’s instructions, my understanding has changed dramatically. I understand now that what you refer to as nitya-dharma is really naimittika- dharma. The only nitya-dharma is hari-bhakti. Sandhya-vandana and other such practices are in reality naimittika-dharma.”
Devidasa said, “Father, I have never seen or heard of such an explanation in any sastra. Is sandhya-vandana not hari-bhajana? If it is hari-bhajana, then it is also nitya-dharma. Is there any difference between sandhya-vandana and the practices that constitute vaidhi-bhakti, such as sravana and kirtana?”
Lahiri Mahasaya said, “The sandhya-vandana that is included in karma-kanda is significantly different from vaidhi-bhakti. Sandhya-vandana and other such activities are performed in the karma-kanda system in order to obtain liberation. However, activities of hari-bhajana, such as sravana and kirtana, have no ulterior motive. The sastras describe the results of hearing, chanting, and the other limbs of vaidhi-bhakti, but this is just to interest people who would otherwise not be inclined to perform those activities. The worship of Sri Hari has no fruit other than the service of Sri Hari. The principal fruit of the practice of vaidhi-bhakti is to bring about the awakening of prema in hari-bhajana.”
Devidasa: Then you do admit that the divisions or angas of haribhajana have some secondary results.
Lahiri: Yes, but the results depend on the different types of practitioner (sadhaka). The Vaisnavas perform sadhana-bhakti for the sole purpose of coming to the perfectional stage of devotion known as siddha-bhakti. When non-Vaisnavas perform the very same divisions or angas of bhakti, they have two principal motives: the desire for material enjoyment (bhoga) and the desire for liberation (moksa). Externally, there is no apparent difference between the
sadhana practices of the Vaisnavas and those of non-Vaisnavas, but there is a fundamental difference in nistha.
When one worships Krsna through the path of karma, the mind is purified, and one may obtain material fruits, freedom from disease, or liberation. But the same worship of Krsna through the path of bhakti produces only prema for krsna-nama. When karmis, those who follow the path of karma, observe Ekadasi, it eradicates their sins; whereas when bhaktas observe Ekadasi, it enhances their haribhakti. Just see what a world of difference there is!
The subtle difference between sadhana performed as an aspect of karma, and sadhana performed as an aspect of bhakti may be known only by the mercy of Bhagavan. The bhaktas obtain the primary result, whereas the karmis are caught up in the secondary results, which may be broadly divided into two categories, namely, bhukti (material sense enjoyment) and mukti (liberation).
Devidasa: Then why do the sastras extol the virtues of the secondary results?
Lahiri: There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are spiritually awake and those who are spiritually unconscious. The sastras have praised secondary results for the benefit of those who are spiritually unconscious, and who do not perform any pious activity unless they can visualize a forthcoming result. However, the sastras do not intend such people to remain satisfied with secondary results; rather, their attraction to secondary results should induce them to perform virtuous acts, which will hasten their contact with sadhus. Then, by the mercy of the sadhus, they will come to know of the primary results of hari-bhajana, and taste for those results will awaken within them.
Devidasa: Then are we to understand that Raghunandana and the other authors of the smrti-sastras are spiritually unconscious?
Lahiri: No, but the system that they have prescribed is for the spiritually unconscious. However, they themselves seek the primary result.
Devidasa: Some sastras only describe the secondary results and do not mention the primary results at all. Why is this?
Lahiri: There are three types of sastra, corresponding to the varieties of adhikara (eligibility) among human beings: sattvika, of the nature of goodness; rajasika, of the nature of passion; and tamasika, of the nature of ignorance. The sattvika-sastras are for people who are imbued with the nature of goodness (sattva-guna); the rajasika- sastras are for those enveloped by the nature of passion (rajo-guna); and the tamasika-sastras are for those engrossed in the nature of
Devidasa: If that is the case, how should one know which directives of the sastra to have faith in? And how may those of lower adhikara (eligibility) attain a higher destination?
Lahiri: Human beings have different natures and faiths according to their different levels of adhikara. People who are impelled primarily by the mode of ignorance have natural faith in the tamasikasastras. Those affected primarily by the mode of passion have natural faith in the rajasika-sastras, and those in the mode of goodness naturally have faith in the sattvika-sastras. One’s belief in a particular conclusion of the sastra is naturally in accordance with
As one faithfully carries out the duties for which one has the adhikara, he may come into contact with sadhus and develop a higher adhikara through their association. As soon as a higher adhikara is awakened, one’s nature is elevated, and one’s faith in a more elevated sastra will follow accordingly. The authors of the sastras were infallible in their wisdom and composed the sastras in such a way that one will gradually develop higher adhikara by carrying out the duties for which one is eligible and in which one naturally has faith. It is for this reason that different directives have been given in different sastras. Faith in the sastra is the root of all auspiciousness.
Srimad Bhagavad-Gita is the mimamsa-sastra of all the sastras. This siddhanta is clearly stated there.
Devidasa: I have studied many sastras since my childhood, but today, by your grace, I have understood their purpose in an entirely new light.
Lahiri: It is written in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.8.10):
anubhyas ca mahadbhyas ca sastrebhyah kusalo narah
sarvatah saram adadyat puspebhya iva satpadah
An intelligent person will take the essence of all the sastras,
whether they are great or small, just as a bumblebee gathers
honey from many different types of flowers.
My dear son, I used to call you an atheist. Now I don’t criticize anyone, because faith depends on adhikara. There is no question of criticism in this regard. Everyone is working according to their own adhikara, and they will advance gradually when the time is appropriate. You are a scholar of the sastras dealing with logic and fruitive action, and since your statements are in accordance with your adhikara, there is no fault in them.
Devidasa: Until now, I believed that there were no scholars in the Vaisnava sampradaya. I thought that the Vaisnavas were merely fanatics who concerned themselves solely with one part of the sastra, but what you have explained today has completely dispelled my misconceptions. Now I have faith that some of the Vaisnavas have truly understood the essence of the sastra. Are you studying the sastras from any great soul these days?
Lahiri: My son, you may now call me a fanatical Vaisnava or whatever you like. My Gurudeva performs bhajana in the kutira next to mine. He has instructed me in the essential conclusion of all the sastras, and I have just expressed the same thing to you. If you would like to receive instruction at his lotus feet, you may inquire from him in a devotional mood. Come, I will introduce you to him.
Lahiri Mahasaya took Devidasa Vidyaratna to the kutira of Sri Vaisnava dasa Babaji Maharaja and introduced him to his Gurudeva. He then left Devidasa with Babaji Maharaja and returned to his kutira to chant hari-nama.
Vaisnava dasa: My dear son, what is the extent of your education?
Devidasa: I have studied up to muktipada and siddhantakusumanjali in the nyaya-sastra, and all the books of the smrtisastra.
Vaisnava dasa: Then you have laboured diligently in your study of the sastra. Please give me a sample of what you have learned.
atyanta-duhkha-nivrttir eva muktih
The cessation of all material miseries is known as mukti.
One should always endeavor to obtain mukti, which is defined in this statement from Sankhya-darsana (1.1 and 6.5). I am seeking that liberation through faithful adherence to my prescribed duties, known as sva-dharma.
Vaisnava dasa: Yes, I too, like yourself, once aspired for mukti after having studied all those books.
Devidasa: Have you now given up the pursuit of mukti?
Vaisnava dasa: My dear son, tell me, what is the meaning of mukti?
Devidasa: According to the nyaya-sastra, the jiva and brahma are eternally distinct from each other, so it is not clear from the point of view of nyaya how the cessation of all miseries can take place. According to the Vedanta, however, mukti refers to the attainmen of non-differentiated brahma, or in other words, the jiva’s attainment of the state of oneness with brahma. This is clear from one point of view.
Vaisnava dasa: My dear son, I studied Sankara’s Vedanta commentary for fifteen years, and I also remained a sannyasi for several years. I endeavored strenuously to attain mukti. I spent a long time deeply meditating upon what Sankara considered to be the four principal statements of the sruti (maha-vakyas). Finally, I understood that the religious system that Sankara advocated was newly fashioned, so I gave it up.
Devidasa: Why did you consider it to be a recent and antagonistic view?
Vaisnava dasa: An experienced man cannot easily convey to others what he has realized through practical examination. How will those who have not experienced it be able to understand it?
Devidasa could see that Vaisnava dasa was a learned scholar, and that he was straightforward and deeply realized. Devidasa had not studied Vedanta, and he began to think that he could do so if Vaisnava dasa were merciful to him, so he inquired, “Am I fit to study Vedanta?”
Vaisnava dasa: With the level of competence you have achieved in the Sanskrit language, you can easily learn Vedanta if you get a qualified instructor.”
Devidasa: If you will kindly teach me, I will study under you.
Vaisnava dasa: The fact is that I am a servant of the Vaisnavas; there is nothing for me besides this. Paramahamsa Babaji Maharaja has mercifully instructed me to chant hari-nama constantly, and I am doing just that. I have so little time. Besides, jagad-guru Sri Rupa Gosvami has specifically forbidden the Vaisnavas to read or hear Sankara’s Sariraka-bhasya commentary on Vedanta, so I no longer read it myself or teach it to others. However, Sri Sacinandana, who is the original preceptor of the entire world, explained the true commentary on Vedanta-sutra to Sri Sarvabhauma. Many Vaisnavas still have hand-written copies of that commentary. If you want to study it, you can make a copy and I can help you understand it. You may ask for a copy from the house of Srimad Kavi Karnapura in the village of Kancana-palli.
Devidasa: I will try. You are a great scholar of Vedanta. Please tell me frankly, will I be able to ascertain the true meaning of Vedanta by studying the Vaisnava commentary?
Vaisnava dasa: I have studied and taught the commentary of Sankara, and I have also studied Sri Ramanuja’s Sri Bhasya, and other commentaries as well. However, I have not seen any explanation of the sutras that is superior to Mahaprabhu’s. This commentary was recorded by Gopinatha Acarya and it is studied by the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. There can be no doctrinal dispute in Bhagavan’s own explanation of the sutras, for His commentary accurately represents the full import of the Upanisads. If one presents this explanation of the sutras in proper sequence, it is certain that his explanation will be respected in any assembly of learned scholars.
Devidasa Vidyaratna became very pleased to hear this. He faithfully offered dandavat-pranama to Sri Vaisnava dasa Babaji and returned to his father’s kutira, where he related to his father what he had heard.
Lahiri Mahasaya was delighted and replied, “Devi, you have acquired a great deal of education, but now you can try to attain the highest destination, which is the ultimate benefit for all living beings.”
Devidasa: Actually, my sole purpose in coming was to take you home. Please return to our house just once and everyone will become satisfied. Mother is particularly anxious to have darsana of your feet once more.
Lahiri: I have taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Vaisnavas, and I have pledged that I will never enter any house that is opposed to bhakti. First you will have to become Vaisnavas, and then you can take me home.
Devidasa: Father! How can you say that? We worship the Lord every day at home. We don’t disrespect the chanting of hari-nama, and we receive guests and Vaisnavas cordially. Aren’t we to be regarded as Vaisnavas?
Lahiri: Your activities are very similar to those of the Vaisnavas, but you are not actually Vaisnavas.
Devidasa: Then how can one become a Vaisnava?
Lahiri: You can become a Vaisnava by giving up your temporary, naimittika duties, and adopting your eternal, spiritual dharma.
Devidasa: I have one doubt that I would ask you to resolve decisively. The activities of the Vaisnavas consist of sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, pada-sevanam, arcanam, vandanam, dasyam, sakhyam, and atma-nivedanam, and they are significantly connected with matter,
so why aren’t they also referred to as temporary, naimittika? I perceive some partiality in this. Activities such as the service of the Deity, fasting, and worship with material ingredients are all connected with gross matter, so how can they be eternal?
Lahiri: My son, I also needed a long time to understand this point. Try to understand this very carefully. There are two types of human beings: those whose interests are connected with this material world (aihika); and those who aspire for superior attainments in the future (paramarthika). Those in the first category only strive for material happiness, reputation and material prosperity. Those in the second category are of three types: those who are devoted
to the Isvara (isanugata), those who are fixed in the pursuit of monistic knowledge aiming at liberation (jnana-nistha), and those who covet mystic powers (siddhi-kami).
The siddhi-kamis are attached to the fruits of karma-kanda, and they desire to obtain supernatural powers by their performance of karma. The methods which they adopt to obtain such unearthly powers are yaga (offering oblations), yajna (performing sacrifices), and astanga-yoga (the eightfold yoga system). They accept the existence of Isvara, but they believe that He is subordinate to the laws of karma. This category includes the material scientists.
The jnana-nisthas try to awaken their identity with brahma by cultivating impersonal monistic knowledge. They don’t know or care whether Isvara exists or not, but they fabricate an imaginary form of Isvara anyway for the purpose of practicing sadhana. The fruit of monistic knowledge is realizing one’s identity with brahma, and the monists aspire to attain this eventually by constantly engaging in the practices of bhakti directed towards their imaginary form of Isvara. When they obtain the result of jnana, they have no more use for the Isvara that they have merely imagined as a means to achieve their end. When their bhakti towards Isvara bears its desired fruit, it is converted into jnana. According to this doctrine, neither Bhagavan nor bhakti to Bhagavan is eternal.
The isanugatas, those who are devoted to Isvara, are the third category of those who seek higher attainments in the future (paramarthikas). Factually speaking, they are the only ones who strive for paramartha, the highest goal of life. In their opinion, there is only one Isvara, who is without beginning or end, and who manifests the jivas and the material world by His own potencies. The jivas are His eternal servants, and remain so, even after liberation.
The eternal dharma of the jiva is to remain eternally under the guidance of Isvara, for he can do nothing by his own strength. The jiva cannot obtain any eternal benefit by the performance
of karma; however, when he submits himself to Sri Krsna’s shelter, he obtains all perfection by His grace.
Those who covet mystic powers (siddhi-kamis) follow karmakanda, and those who cultivate monistic knowledge (jnananisthas) follow jnana-kanda. The isanugatas are the only devotees of Isvara. The jnana-kandis and karma-kandis pride themselves on being interested in higher attainment (paramarthika), but in reality they are not pursuing the highest goal but seeking temporary material gain; and whatever they say about dharma is naimittika.
The present-day worshipers of Siva, Durga, Ganesa, and Surya are known respectively as Saivas, Saktas, Ganapatyas, and Sauras, and they all follow jnana-kanda. They adopt the angas of Bhakti such as sravana and kirtana only to attain mukti, and ultimately the undifferentiated, impersonal nirvisesa-brahma. Those who engage in sravana and kirtana without any desire for bhukti or mukti are engaged in the service of Sri Visnu. Among these five deities, the sri-murti of Bhagavan Sri Visnu is eternal, transcendental, and full of all potencies. Those who do not accept Bhagavan as the object of worship are merely worshiping temporary objects.
My son, the service that all of you render at home to the Deity of Bhagavan is not paramarthika because you do not accept the eternality of Bhagavan’s form. That is why you cannot be among the isanugatas. Now I hope that you have understood the difference between nitya and naimittika upasana (worship).
Devidasa: Yes. If one worships the sri-vigraha (Deity) of Bhagavan, but does not accept that vigraha as eternal, then it is not worship of an eternal object. However, can’t one adopt a temporary means of worship to attain the eternal truth, which is ultimately distinct from any such temporary forms?
Lahiri: Even if that were the case, such temporary worship cannot be called eternal dharma. The worship of the eternal vigraha as performed in vaisnava-dharma is nitya-dharma.
Devidasa: But sri-vigraha that is worshiped is fashioned by a human being, so how can it be eternal?
Lahiri: The vigraha worshiped by the Vaisnavas is not like that. Bhagavan is not formless like brahma. On the contrary, He is the all-powerful, concentrated embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. It is that sac-cid-ananda-ghana-vigraha that is the worshipable Deity of the Vaisnavas. Bhagavan’s transcendental form of eternity, bliss, and knowledge is first revealed in the pure consciousness of the jiva, and then it is reflected in the mind. The external form of the Deity is fashioned according to this transcendental form revealed in the mind, and by the power of bhakti-yoga, the sac-cid-ananda form of Bhagavan then manifests in the Deity. When the devotee takes darsana of the Deity, that Deity unites with the transcendental form of Bhagavan that the devotee sees in his heart.
The Deity that the jnanis worship, however, is not like that. They think that the Deity is a statue made of material elements, but that the state of brahma is present in it while they are conducting their worship, and that it becomes a mere material statue again after they have finished their worship. Now you should consider the difference between these two conceptions of the Deity and their respective methods of worship. When you obtain Vaisnava diksa by the mercy of a genuine guru, you will be able to correctly understand this difference by observing the results of both.
Devidasa: Yes, now this all makes more sense to me. Now I see that the Vaisnavas are not just fanatics driven by blind faith; rather, they are endowed with subtle and discriminating insight. There is a major difference between the worship of the sri-murti and the temporary worship of an imaginary form of the Lord that has been imposed on a material object. There is no difference in the external procedures of worship, but there is a vast difference in the faith of the two worshipers. I will think about this for some days. Father, today my greatest doubt has been dispelled. Now I can say emphatically that the jnanis’ worship is merely an attempt to cheat Sri Bhagavan. I will submit this topic at your feet again at a later time.
After saying this, Devi Vidyaratna and Sambhu departed for their residential quarters. They returned to Lahiri Mahasaya’s kutira in the late afternoon, but there was no opportunity to discuss these topics further, for at that time everyone was immersed in hari-nama-sankirtana.
The following afternoon, everyone seated themselves in Paramahamsa Babaji’s bower, Devi Vidyaratna and Sambhu sat next to Lahiri Mahasaya. Just then, the Kazi from the village of Brahmana-Puskarini arrived. When the Vaisnavas saw him, they all stood up to offer him respect, and the Kazi also greeted the Vaisnavas with great pleasure and then sat in the assembly.
Paramahamsa Babaji said, “You are blessed, for you are a descendant of Chand Kazi‚ who was an object of the mercy of Sri Mahaprabhu. Please kindly bestow your mercy upon us.”
The Kazi said, “By the mercy of Sri Mahaprabhu, we have become the objects of mercy of the Vaisnavas. Gauranga is the Lord of our life. We do not do anything without first offering our dandavat-pranama to Him.”
Lahiri Mahasaya was a learned scholar of the Farsi language, and he had studied the thirty sepharas of the Qur’an, and many books of the Sufis. He asked the Kazi, “According to your ideology, what is meant by mukti?”
The Kazi replied, “What you refer to as the jiva, individual soul, we call ruh. This ruh is found in two conditions: ruh-mujarrad, the conscious or liberated soul; and ruh-tarkibi, the conditioned soul. What you refer to as spirit (cit) we call mujarrad, and what you refer to as matter (acit) we call jism. Mujarrad is beyond the limitations of time and space, whereas jism is subordinate to time and space. The ruh-tarkibi, or baddha-jiva, has a material mind and is full of ignorance (malphut) and desires. The ruh-mujarrad are pure and aloof from all these contaminations, and they reside in the spiritual abode, which is known as alam al-mashal.
“The ruh becomes pure through the gradual development of ishqh or prema. There is no influence of jism, or matter, in that abode where Khoda (God) brought the prophet Paigambar Sahib. Yet even there, the ruh remains as a servitor (banda), and the Lord is the master. Therefore the relationship between the banda and Khoda is eternal, and mukti is actually the attainment of this relationship in its pure form. The Qur’an and the literature of the Sufis explain these conclusions, but not everyone can understand them. Gauranga Mahaprabhu mercifully taught Chand Kazi all these points, and since that time we have become His unalloyed bhaktas.”
Lahiri: What is the primary teaching of the Qur’an?
Kazi: According to the Qur’an, the Lord’s personal abode, which is the highest attainment in the spiritual world, is known as behesht. It is a fact that there is no formal worship there, yet life itself is worship (ibada). The residents of that abode are immersed in transcendental bliss simply by seeing the Lord. This is the very same teaching that has been presented by Sri Gaurangadeva.
Lahiri: Does the Qur’an accept that the Lord has a transcendental form?
Kazi: The Qur’an states that the Lord has no form. But Sri Gaurangadeva told Chand Kazi that this teaching of the Qur’an means that the Lord cannot have a material form. It does not preclude the existence of His pure spiritual form. Paigambar Sahib saw the divine loving form of the Lord in accordance with his level of eligibility. The transcendental moods and sentiments that are characteristic of the other rasas remained hidden from him.
Lahiri: What is the opinion of the Sufis in this regard?
Kazi: They adhere to the doctrine of ana al-haqq, which means “I am Khoda.” The Sufi (aswaph) doctrine of Islam is exactly the same as the advaita-vada doctrine.
Lahiri: Are you a Sufi?
Kazi: No, we are unadulterated devotees. Gauranga is our very life.
The discussion went on for a long time, and finally Kazi Sahib offered his respects to the Vaisnavas and departed. Hari-namasankirtana followed, after which the assembly dispersed.
THUS ENDS THE FIFTH CHAPTER OF JAIVA-DHARMA,
“VAIDHI-BHAKTI IS NITYA NOT NAIMITTIKA”