Sri Harihara Bhattacarya was a professor residing in Agradvipa. He had accepted initiation into vaisnava-dharma, and was engaged in the worship of Bhagavan Sri Krsna in his home. But a doubt arose in his mind about Vaisnavism which he could not dispel even after speaking to many people about it. In fact, such talk only agitated his mind further. One day, Harihara went to the village of Arkatila, and enquired from Sri Caturbhuja Nyayaratna, “Bhattacarya Mahasaya, can you tell me how long ago vaisnavadharma appeared?”
For nearly twenty years Nyayaratna Mahasaya had laboriously studied the nyaya-sastra. Consequently, he had become quite indifferent to religion, and did not like to be bothered with religious discussions. He only displayed any devotional tendency when he was performing sakti-puja (worshiping Goddess Durga).
When Nyayaratna heard this question, he thought that Harihara, being partial to the Vaisnava religion, intended to embroil him in a dispute, and that it would be best to avoid such a conflict. Thinking like this, Nyayaratna Mahasaya said, “Harihara, what kind of question are you asking me today? You have studied the nyaya-sastra all the way up to the muktipada section. Look, you know that there is no mention of vaisnava-dharma anywhere in the nyaya-sastra, so why are you burdening me with such a strange question?”
Harihara, now slightly aggravated, replied, “Bhattacarya Mahasaya, my forefathers have been Vaisnavas for many generations.I am also initiated with a Vaisnava mantra, and I have never had any doubt about vaisnava-dharma. However, you may have heard that Tarka-cudamani of Vikramapura intends to uproot the Vaisnava religion, and as a result he is preaching against it at the moment, both locally and abroad, and earning a good deal of wealth by so doing. In a meeting that was attended mostly by worshipers of Durga, he proclaimed that the Vaisnava religion is very recent and has no philosophical substance. He said that only low-class people become Vaisnavas; high-class people do not respect vaisnava-dharma.
“When I first heard such conclusions from a scholar of his stature, it somewhat pained my heart, but when I thought it over, it occurred to me that no vaisnava-dharma existed anywhere in Bengal prior to the appearance of Sri Caitanyadeva. Before that, everyone worshiped Goddess Durga and recited the sakti-mantras. Granted, there were a few Vaisnavas like ourselves, who worshiped by reciting Vaisnava mantras, but everyone’s goal was ultimately to attain brahma and mukti, and to this end they diligently applied themselves.
“In the type of vaisnava-dharma into which we were initiated, everyone approved of the pancopasana system, but after Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s time, vaisnava-dharma assumed a new outlook, and now Vaisnavas cannot even bear to hear the words mukti and brahma. I cannot even say what they think bhakti is. Well, as they say, “A one-eyed cow often strays from the herd.” That applies perfectly to modern Vaisnavas. So my question is, did this type of vaisnava-dharma exist previously, or has it only appeared since the time of Caitanyadeva?”
Seeing that Harihara was not as orthodox a Vaisnava as he had feared, Nyayaratna Mahasaya’s face blossomed with happiness. “Harihara,” he said, “you are a true scholar of the nyaya-sastra. You have just expressed exactly what I believe. These days there is a new upsurge of vaisnava-dharma, and I am afraid to say anything against it. We must be a little cautious, because it is the age of Kali. Many wealthy and respectable gentlemen have now accepted Caitanya’s doctrine. They completely disregard us, and even think that we are their enemies. I am afraid that our profession will become obsolete within a short time. Why, even the inferior castes of oil-sellers, betel-leaf vendors and gold-traders have taken to studying the sastra, and that pains us.
“Look, for a long time the brahmanas had arranged things so that no other caste could study the sastra, even the kayasthas, who are just below the brahmana caste. Everyone was obliged to honor our words. Now people of all castes have become Vaisnavas and deliberate on philosophical truths, and this has greatly damaged the reputation of the brahmana caste. Nimai Pandita is responsible for the destruction of brahmana-dharma. Harihara, Tarkacudamani has spoken correctly, whether he has done so out of greed for wealth, or after careful analysis of the situation.
“When I hear the words of the Vaisnavas, my body burns with anger. Now they go as far as to say that Sankaracarya established Mayavada sastra on the order of Bhagavan Himself, and that the Vaisnava religion is eternal. The religion that sprung up not even a hundred years ago has now become beginningless! How amazing! It is said, “The benefit which is meant for one man is enjoyed by another.”
“Whatever glory Navadvipa attained formerly has now been laid to waste. In particular, there are some Vaisnavas who now live at Gadigacha in Navadvipa, who look upon the world as a shallow earthen plate. A few good scholars among them have stirred up such a great commotion that it has ruined the entire country. Now the occupational duties of the four castes, the eternal truth of the doctrine of Mayavada, and the worship of the devatas and devis are all fading into oblivion. People seldom perform the sraddha ceremony for the benefit of their deceased relatives any more. How are we teachers to survive?”
Harihara said, “Mahatma! Is there no remedy for this? In Mayapura there are still six or seven brahmana scholars of great repute. Across the Ganga in Kuliya-grama, there are also numerous scholars who are well versed in the smrti and nyaya-sastras. If they all combine together and attack Gadigacha, will it not bear fruit?”
Nyayaratna said, “Why not? It’s possible if the brahmana-panditas can unite, but there are differences among them these days. I heard that a few panditas headed by Krsna Cudamani went to Gadigacha and initiated a debate, but they came back to their schools defeated, after which they spoke no more about it than was absolutely required.”
Harihara said, “Bhattacarya Mahasaya, you are not only our teacher, but the teacher of many teachers. Your commentary on the nyaya-sastra has taught many scholars the art of reasoning by analyzing fallacious arguments. If you so desire, you can defeat these Vaisnava scholars once and for all. Establish that the Vaisnava religion is a modern invention that the Vedas do not support. This will be a great act of mercy on the brahmanas, and it will reinstate our long-established pancopasana worship, which is on the point of vanishing.”
Caturbhuja Nyayaratna was inwardly afraid to debate with the Vaisnavas, thinking that they might defeat him as they had Krsna Cudamani and others. He said, “Harihara, I will go in disguise. You should pose yourself as a teacher and ignite the fire of debate in Gadigacha. After that, I will take over and assume responsibility.”
Harihara said happily, “I will certainly carry out your order. Next Monday we will cross the Ganga and attack them, invoking the name of Mahadeva for auspiciousness.”
Monday arrived while they were still pondering over this matter. Three professors, Harihara, Kamalakanta and Sadasiva, met Sri Caturbhuja Nyayaratna at his home in Arkatila, and escorted him across the Ganga to Godruma. At four in the afternoon they arrived at the madhavi grove exclaiming “Haribol! Haribol!” having a mood like Durvasa Muni surrounded by his followers.
Advaita dasa was at that time chanting hari-nama in his kutira. Seeing them, he came out and affectionately offered them each a seat. He then enquired, “How may I be of service to you?”
Harihara said, “We have come to discuss some matters with the Vaisnavas.”
Advaita dasa said, “The Vaisnavas of this place do not debate on any topic. However, it is all right if you have come to enquire submissively about something. The other day, a few professors initiated a full-scale debate on the pretext of making some enquiries, and in the end, they left greatly disturbed. I will ask Paramahamsa Babaji Mahasaya and then give you an answer.” Saying this, he entered Babaji Mahasaya’s kutira.
A few moments later, Advaita dasa returned and arranged more mats for sitting. Then Paramahamsa Babaji Mahasaya came into the grove and offered dandavat-pranama to Vrnda-devi and then to the cultured brahmana visitors. With folded hands, he enquired humbly, “O great souls, please order us. What service can we do for you?”
Nyayaratna said, “We have one or two questions to ask, and we would like you to answer them.”
When Paramahamsa Babaji Mahasaya heard this request, he summoned Sri Vaisnava dasa Babaji Mahasaya to join them. When Vaisnava dasa Babaji arrived, he offered pranama to Paramahamsa Babaji and sat next to him. Within a short while, a small group of Vaisnavas had gathered.
Nyayaratna Mahasaya then asked his question: “Please tell us whether the Vaisnava religion is ancient or modern.”
Paramahamsa Babaji Mahasaya requested Vaisnava dasa to respond. In a peaceful, yet grave tone of voice, Vaisnava dasa said, “The vaisnava-dharma is sanatana, everlasting, and nitya, eternal.”
Nyayaratna: I see that there are two types of vaisnava-dharma. One maintains that the para-tattva known as brahma is formless and devoid of qualities. However, since there is no question of worshiping a formless object, sadhakas first imagine brahma to have some form, and then they worship that. This worship is only needed to purify the heart, and when the heart is purified, knowledge of the formless brahma arises. At that point, there is no longer any need to continue the worship of forms. The forms of Radha-Krsna, Rama, or Nrsimha are all imaginary, and are by-products of maya. When one worships these imaginary forms, knowledge of brahma gradually awakens. Among worshipers of the five Deities (pancopasakas), those who worship the Deity of Visnu and recite visnu-mantras with this attitude consider themselves Vaisnavas.
In the second type of vaisnava-dharma, Bhagavan Visnu, Rama, or Krsna are accepted as para-brahma, possessing eternal forms. When the sadhaka worships one of these particular forms with the corresponding mantras, he obtains eternal knowledge of the specific Deity whom he worships and receives the mercy of that Deity. According to this view, the doctrine of impersonalism is Mayavada, which is a misconception that Sankara has propagated. Now tell us, which of these two types of Vaisnavism is everlasting and eternal?
Vaisnava dasa: The second of these is the real vaisnava-dharma, and it is eternal. The other is vaisnava-dharma in name only. In reality, this pseudo vaisnava-dharma is opposed to real vaisnavadharma. It is temporary and has originated from Mayavada doctrine.
Nyayaratna: I understand that in your opinion, the only true vaisnava-dharma is the doctrine that you have received from Caitanyadeva. You do not accept that the worship of Radha-Krsna, Rama, or Nrsimha constitutes vaisnava-dharma in and of itself. You only accept the worship of Radha-Krsna or other Deities as vaisnava-dharma if it is conducted in accordance with the ideology of Caitanya. Is this not so? It is a fine idea, but how can you claim that this type of vaisnava-dharma is eternal?
Vaisnava dasa: This type of vaisnava-dharma is taught throughout the Vedic sastras, and is instructed in all the smrti-sastras. All the Vedic histories sing the glories of this vaisnava-dharma.
Nyayaratna: It is obvious that Caitanyadeva is the pioneer of this doctrine, but He appeared less than one hundred and fifty years ago, so how can it be eternal?
Vaisnava dasa: This vaisnava-dharma has been in existence from the very moment of the jivas’ appearance. The jivas are anadi because they have no beginning in material time. Therefore, the
constitutional function of the jivas, known as jaiva-dharma or vaisnava-dharma, is also anadi. Brahma is the first jiva to take birth in the universe. As soon as he appeared, the Vedic sound vibration, which is the basis of vaisnava-dharma, also became manifest. This is recorded in the four essential slokas of Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.9.33-36), known as the catuh-sloki. It is also mentioned in the Mundaka Upanisad (1.1.1):
devanam prathamah sambabhuva
visvasya kartta bhuvanasya gopta
sa brahma-vidyam sarva-vidya-pratistham
atharvaya jyestha-putraya praha
Brahma, who is the first of all the devas, and who appeared from the lotus that sprouted from the navel of Bhagavan, is the creator of the universe and the maintainer of all living entities. He imparted brahma-vidya, which is the basis for all other knowledge, unto his eldest son, Atharva.
The Rg Veda-samhita mentions the instructions of this brahmavidya (1.22.20):
tad visnoh paramam padam
sada pasyanti surayah
diviva caksur atatam
The jnani-janas (pure Vaisnavas) always behold the supreme abode of Bhagavan Sri Visnu, just as the unobstructed eye sees the sun within the sky.
It is said in the Katha Upanisad (1.3.9):
tad visnoh paramam padam / visnor yat paramam padam
That supreme abode of Bhagavan Sri Visnu is the highest attainment.
The Svetasvatara Upanisad (5.4) says:
sarva disa urddhvam adhas ca tiryak
prakasayan bhrajate yad vanadvan
evam sa devo bhagavan varenyo
yoni-svabhavan adhitisthaty ekah
Bhagavan is the Supreme Person and the original source of
all the devas. He is the supreme object of worship and is
without a second. Just as the sun shines radiantly,
illuminating all directions, upwards, downwards, and on all
sides, so Bhagavan regulates material nature, which is the
origin of all different species of life.
It is said in the Taittiriya Upanisad (2.1.2):
satyam jnanam anantam brahma
yo veda nihitam guhayam parame vyoman
so ‘snute sarvan kaman saha brahmana vipascita
Para-tattva brahma is the embodiment of truth, knowledge, and eternity. Although /that para-brahma is situated in the spiritual sky, He is hidden in the sky of the hearts of all living entities. One who knows Isvara, who is situated within as the indwelling Supersoul, attains the consummation of all his desires in contact with that all-knowing Isvara.
Nyayaratna: The Rg Veda states, tad visnoh paramam padam: “They see the supreme abode of Visnu.” How can you say that this doesn’t refer to the vaisnava-dharma that is included in the Mayavada doctrine?
Vaisnava dasa: The vaisnava-dharma that is included within the scope of Mayavada rejects the conception of eternal servitorship to Bhagavan. The Mayavadis believe that when the sadhaka acquires knowledge, he attains the status of brahma. However, where is the question of service if one becomes brahma? It is said in the Katha Upanisad (1.2.23):
nayam atma pravacanena labhyona medhaya na bahuna srutena
yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas /tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam
That Paramatma Parabrahma cannot be attained by delivering learned discourses, by applying one’s intelligence, or even by hearing the Vedas extensively. That Paramatma is attainable only by one upon whom He bestows His mercy. Since the Paramatma is very close by, He reveals His own form.
The only true religion is the constitutional function of service and surrender. There is no other means to attain Bhagavan’s mercy and thus see His eternal form. Knowledge of brahma will not enable one to attain darsana of Bhagavan’s eternal form. We can understand from this categorical Vedic statement that pure vaisnava-dharma is founded upon the Vedas. All the Vedas sanction the vaisnava-dharma that Sriman Mahaprabhu taught. There is no room for doubt in this regard.
Nyayaratna: Is there any statement in the Vedas to the effect that krsna-bhajana, and not realization of brahma-jnana, is the highest attainment?
Vaisnava dasa: It is said in the Taittiriya Upanisad (2.7.1), raso vai sah: “Krsna is the embodiment of rasa.” Besides, the Chandogya Upanisad (8.13.1) states:
syamac chabalam prapadye sabalac chyamam prapadye
By service to Krsna, one attains the transcendental abode of divine bliss, which is full of wonderful pastimes, and by reaching that transcendental abode of wonders, one attains Krsna.
There are many similar statements in the Vedas which declare that krsna-bhajana is the highest attainment.
Nyayaratna: Is the name Krsna anywhere to be found in the Vedas?
Vaisnava dasa: Does the word Syama not refer to Krsna? It is said in the Rg Veda (18.104.22.168):
apasyam gopam anipadyama nama
I saw Sri Krsna who is born in a dynasty of gopas and who is imperishable.
There are many statements in the Vedas that refer specifically to Krsna, who appeared as the son of a gopa (cowherd).
Nyayaratna: Krsna’s name is not clearly mentioned in any of these statements; this is simply your contrived interpretation.
Vaisnava dasa: If you study the Vedas carefully, you will see that they have used these types of indirect statements in relation to every topic. The sages of old have explained the meaning of all these statements, and we should have the highest regard for their opinions.
Nyayaratna: Please tell me the history of vaisnava-dharma.
Vaisnava dasa: I have already said that the appearance of vaisnavadharma is concurrent with the origin of the jiva. Brahma was the first Vaisnava. Sriman Mahadeva is also a Vaisnava, as are all the progenitors of mankind. Sri Narada Gosvami, who was born from the mind of Brahma, is a Vaisnava. This clearly verifies that vaisnava-dharma is not a recent development, but has been prevalent from the very beginning of creation.
Not all living entities are free from the influence of the three modes of nature, and the superiority of a high Vaisnava will depend on the degree to which he is free from the modes. The Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas are the histories of the Aryan race, and they have all described the excellence of vaisnava-dharma. We have already seen that vaisnava-dharma was present at the beginning of creation. Prahlada and Dhruva were both pure Vaisnavas. During their time, there were many thousands of other Vaisnavas whose names are not given anywhere in history because only the most prominent have been mentioned. Dhruva was the grandson of Manu, and Prahlada was the grandson of Prajapati Kasyapa, and they both lived close to the beginning of creation; of this there is no doubt. You can therefore observe that pure vaisnava-dharma was active from the beginning of history.
Later, the kings of the solar and lunar dynasties, as well as the great munis and rsis, were all intently devoted to Sri Visnu. There is extensive mention of vaisnava-dharma in the three previous ages, known as Satya, Treta, and Dvapara. Even in the present age of Kali, Sri Ramanuja, Sri Madhvacarya and Sri Visnusvami in Southern India, and Sri Nimbaditya Svami in Western India initiated many thousands of disciples into pure vaisnava-dharma. By their mercy, perhaps half the population of India crossed the ocean of maya and attained shelter at the lotus feet of Bhagavan. Also, just consider how many downtrodden and degraded people Sri Sacinandana, who is the master of my heart and soul, delivered in this land of Bengal. Can you still not perceive the greatness of vaisnava-dharma in spite of witnessing all this?
Nyayaratna: Yes, but on what basis do you call Prahlada and the others Vaisnavas?
Vaisnava dasa: They can be known as Vaisnavas on the basis of sastra. Prahlada’s teachers, Sanda and Amarka, wanted to instruct him in brahma-jnana contaminated with the doctrine of Mayavada, but he rejected their teaching, realizing that hari-nama is the essence of all education, and he constantly chanted the name of Bhagavan with great love and affection. Under such circumstances, there can be no doubt that Prahlada was a pure Vaisnava. The truth is that one cannot understand the underlying essence of the sastras without impartial and minute investigation.
Nyayaratna: If, as you say, vaisnava-dharma has been in perpetual existence, what new insight did Caitanya Mahaprabhu reveal for which He should be given such special regard?
Vaisnava dasa: Vaisnava-dharma is like a lotus flower which gradually comes into bloom when the time is ripe. First it appears as a bud, and then it slowly begins to blossom. In its maturity, it is fully blossomed and attracts all jivas by diffusing its sweet fragrance in every direction. At the beginning of creation, four aspects of knowledge were expressed to Brahma through the medium of the catuh-sloki Bhagavatam. These were bhagavat-jnana, transcendental knowledge of the Absolute as Bhagavan; maya-vijnana, analytical knowledge of Ísvara’s external potency; sadhana-bhakti, the means of attaining the goal; and prema, which is the object of attainment. These four elements were manifested in the jivas’ hearts as the sprout of the lotus flower of vaisnava-dharma.
At the time of Prahlada, this sprout took shape as a bud, which gradually began to blossom in the period of Veda-vyasa Muni, and developed into a flower at the time of Ramanuja, Madhva, and the other sampradaya-acaryas. Upon the appearance of Sriman Mahaprabhu, vaisnava-dharma became the fully blossomed flower of prema and began to attract the hearts of all jivas by spreading its enchantingly sweet fragrance.
The supremely confidential essence of vaisnava-dharma is the awakening of prema. Sriman Mahaprabhu created the good fortune for all jivas by distributing this prema through the chanting of srihari-nama. Sri-nama-sankirtana is a priceless possession, worthy of the highest regard. Did anyone reveal this teaching prior to Mahaprabhu? Although this truth existed in the sastras, there was no radiant example of it that could inspire the ordinary jivas to practice it in their own lives. Indeed, before Sriman Mahaprabhu, had anyone ever plundered the storehouse of prema-rasa and distributed it in this way, even to common men?
Nyayaratna: All right, but if kirtana is so beneficial, why do learned panditas not hold it in high esteem?
Vaisnava dasa: The meaning of the word pandita has become perverted in the present age of Kali. Panda means ‘the intelligence of one who is enlightened by knowledge of the sastra’, and the word pandita really refers to one who has such intelligence. These days, however, people are known as panditas if they can show off their vain sophistry in the nyaya-sastra, or explain the meaning of the smrti-sastra in novel ways that appeal to people in general. How can such panditas understand or explain the meaning of dharma and the true purport of the sastras? That can only be realized by impartial analysis of all the sastras, so how can anyone obtain it through the intellectual wrangling of nyaya?
The truth is that in Kali-yuga, those who are known as panditas are expert at deceiving themselves and others by arguing uselessly. Assemblies of such panditas engage in heated debates over inconsequential matters, but they never discuss knowledge of ultimate reality; knowledge of the jivas’s relationship with the Absolute Truth, the supreme goal for the jivas; or the method for attaining that goal. One can only understand the real nature of prema and kirtana when he discerns the truth of these matters.
Nyayaratna: All right, I admit that there are no qualified panditas these days, but why don’t high-class brahmanas accept your vaisnava-dharma? Brahmanas are situated in the mode of goodness, and they are naturally inclined to the path of truthfulness and exalted religious principles, so why is it that almost all brahmanas are opposed to vaisnava-dharma?
Vaisnava dasa: You are asking the question, so I am compelled to answer, although Vaisnavas are naturally opposed to criticizing others. I will try to answer your last question if you will not feel pain and anger at heart, and if you sincerely desire to know the truth.
Nyayaratna: Come what may, our study of the sastra has imbued us with a fondness for tranquility, self-control and tolerance. There is no question of not being able to tolerate your words. Please speak openly and without hesitation, and I will certainly respect whatever is reasonable and good.
Vaisnava dasa: Please consider that Ramanuja, Madhva, Visnusvami, and Nimbaditya were all brahmanas, and that they each had thousands of brahmana disciples. In Bengal, our Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a Vedic brahmana, our Nityananda Prabhu was a Radhiya brahmana, and our Advaita Prabhu was a Varendra brahmana. Our gosvamis and mahajanas were almost all brahmanas. Thousands of brahmanas who are the very pinnacle of the brahminical lineage have taken refuge of vaisnava-dharma and are propagating this spotless religion in the world. So how can you claim that high-class brahmanas have no regard for vaisnava-dharma? We know that those brahmanas who honor vaisnava-dharma are all high-class brahmanas. However, some people who have taken birth in brahmana families have become inimical toward vaisnava-dharma and are propagating this spotless religion in the world. So how can you claim that high-class brahmanas have no regard for vaisnava-dharma?
We know that those brahmanas who honor vaisnava-dharma are all high-class brahmanas. However, some people who have taken birth in brahmana families have become inimical toward vaisnavadharma a because they are marred by the faults of degraded family lineage, undesirable association, and false education. Such behavior only demonstrates their misfortune and fallen condition. This is no evidence that they are actually brahmanas. It is to be especially noted that, according to sastra, the number of true brahmanas in Kali-yuga is exceedingly small, and these few are Vaisnavas. When a brahmana receives the vaisnava-gayatri-mantra, which is the mother of the Vedas, he becomes an initiated Vaisnava. However, due to the contamination of Kali-yuga, some of these brahmanas accept another non-Vedic initiation and abandon their Vaisnavism. Granted, the number of Vaisnava brahmanas is very small, but that is still no reason to manufacture a conclusion that is opposed to the tenets of sastra.
Vaisnava dasa: This should not be a cause for doubt. Most low-class people consider themselves quite wretched and downtrodden, and thus they are eligible for the mercy of the Vaisnavas, without which one cannot become a Vaisnava. Humility cannot touch the heart of one who is intoxicated with the pride of high birth and wealth, and consequently it is very rare for such people to obtain the mercy of the Vaisnavas.
Nyayaratna: I don’t care to discuss this subject any further. I can see that you will inevitably quote the harsh descriptions from sastra of the brahmanas of Kali-yuga. I feel greatly pained when I hear particular statements from the sastra such as this one from the Varaha Purana:
raksasah kalim asritya jayante brahma-yonisu
Taking refuge of the age of Kali, demons are born in the families of brahmanas.
Let us not pursue this topic any further. Now, please tell me why you don’t respect Sri Sankaracarya, who is a limitless ocean of knowledge.
Vaisnava dasa: Why do you say that? We consider Sri Sankaracarya to be an incarnation of Sri Mahadeva. Sriman Mahaprabhu instructed us to honor him by addressing him as acarya. We only reject his Mayavada doctrine, because it is a covered form of Buddhism, which the Vedas do not support. On Bhagavan’s order, Sankaracarya distorted the meaning of the Vedas, Vedanta, and the Gita, and he broadcast the false doctrine of impersonal monism known as advaita-vada to convert those men who had a demonic nature. What fault is there in this for which Sankaracarya should be condemned?
Buddhadeva is an avatara of Bhagavan who also established and preached a doctrine that is opposed to the Vedas. But do descendants of the Aryans condemn him for this? Someone may disagree with such activities of Sri Bhagavan and Mahadeva, and claim that they are unjust, but we say that Bhagavan is the protector of the universe, and Sri Mahadeva is His representative, and they are both all-knowing and all-auspicious. Bhagavan and Mahadeva cannot possibly be guilty of injustice. Those who blame them are ignorant and narrow-minded, and cannot understand the deeper significance of their activities.
Bhagavan and His activities are beyond human reasoning, so intelligent people should never think, “Isvara should not have done that; it would have been better for Him to do this.” Isvara is the director of all jivas, and only He knows the necessity for binding men of ungodly nature with the doctrine of illusion. We have no means of understanding Isvara’s purpose for manifesting the jivas at the time of creation, and then destroying their forms at the time of the cosmic annihilation. This is all Bhagavan’s lila. Those who are intently devoted to Bhagavan experience great delight in hearing His pastimes; they don’t like to engage in intellectual debates about these matters.
Nyayaratna: That is all right, but why do you say that the Mayavada doctrine is opposed to the Vedas, Vedanta, and the Gita?
Vaisnava dasa: If you have carefully examined the Upanisads and the Vedanta-sutra, kindly tell me which mantras and sutras support the doctrine of Mayavada? I will then explain the true meaning of those statements, and prove that they do not support Mayavada at all. Some Vedic mantras may appear to contain a faint trace of Mayavada philosophy, but if one examines the mantras that come before and after, that interpretation will be instantly dispelled.
Nyayaratna: Brother, I have not studied the Upanisads and the Vedanta-sutra. When it comes to a discussion of the nyaya-sastra, I am ready to discourse on any topic. Through logic I can turn a clay pot into a piece of cloth, and a piece of cloth into a clay pot. I have read a little of the Gita, but I have not entered into it deeply, so I cannot say any more on this point. Instead, let me ask you one more question on another topic. You are a learned scholar, so please properly explain to me why Vaisnavas don’t have faith in the remnants of food offered to the devas and devis, although they have great faith in visnu-prasada.
Vaisnava dasa: I am not a scholar; I am a great fool. You should know that whatever I am speaking is only by the mercy of my Gurudeva, Paramahamsa Babaji Maharaja. No one can know all the sastras, for they are a limitless ocean, but my Gurudeva has churned that ocean and delivered the essence of the sastras to me. I have accepted that very essence as the conclusion that all the sastras have established.
The answer to your question is that Vaisnavas do not disrespect the prasada of the devas and devis. Sri Krsna is the Supreme controller of all controllers; therefore, He alone is known as Paramesvara. All the devas and devis are His devotees, and they are appointed to positions in the administration of universal affairs. Vaisnavas can never disrespect the prasada of bhaktas because one obtains suddha-bhakti by honoring their remnants. The dust from bhaktas’ feet, the nectar-like water that has washed bhaktas’ feet, and the nectar-like food that has touched bhaktas’ lips are three types of prasada that are supremely beneficial. They are the medicine that destroys the disease of material existence.
The fact is that when Mayavadis worship the devatas and offer food to them, the devatas do not accept it because the worshipers are contaminated with attachment to the doctrine of illusion. There is ample evidence of this in the sastra, and if you ask me, I can supply the quotations. The worshipers of the devas are mostly Mayavadis, and it is detrimental to one’s bhakti and an offense to Bhakti-devi to accept the prasada of the devas when such people have offered it. If a pure Vaisnava offers the prasada of Krsna to the devas and devis, they accept it with great love and begin to dance, and if a Vaisnava then takes that prasada, he experiences tremendous happiness.
Another point to consider is that the instruction of the sastra is all-powerful, and the yoga-sastras direct practitioners of the yoga system not to accept the prasada of any devata. This does not mean that those who practice yoga disrespect the prasada of the devatas. It simply means that giving up prasada helps those who are practicing yoga-sadhana to attain one-pointedness in meditation. Similarly, in bhakti-sadhana, a bhakta cannot attain exclusive devotion to Bhagavan, who is the object of his worship, if he accepts the prasada of any other deva. It is therefore a mistake to think that Vaisnavas are averse to the prasada of other devas and devis. The various practitioners only behave in that way to try to attain perfection in their respective goals, as the sastras recommend.
Nyayaratna: All right, that is clear, but why do you oppose the killing of animals in sacrifice, when the sastras support it?
Vaisnava dasa: It is not the intention of sastra that animals should be killed. The Vedas declare, ma himsyat sarvani bhutani: “One should not commit violence to any living entity.” This statement forbids violence to animals. As long as human nature is strongly influenced by the modes of passion and ignorance, people will be spontaneously driven to illicit connection with the opposite sex, meat-eating, and intoxication. Such people do not ask the Vedas to sanction their activities. The purpose of the Vedas is not to promote such activities, but rather to curb them. When human beings are situated in the mode of goodness, they can naturally refrain from animal slaughter, sexual indulgence, and intoxication.Until that point, the Vedas prescribe various means to control such tendencies. For this reason, they sanction association with the opposite sex through marriage (vivaha-yajna), the killing of animals in sacrifice, and the drinking of wine in particular ceremonies. By practicing in this way, these tendencies will gradually wane in a person, and he will eventually be able to give them up. This is the true purpose of the Vedas. They do not recommend the killing of animals; their intention is expressed in these words of Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.11):
nityas tu jantor na hi tatra codana
vyavasthitis tesu vivaha-yajnasura-
grahair asu nivrttir ista
It is observed that people in this world have a natural tendency toward intoxication, meat-eating, and sexual enjoyment, but sastra cannot sanction their engagement in such activities. Therefore, special provisions have been given whereby some association with the opposite sex is permitted through marriage, some eating of flesh is permitted through performance of sacrifice, and the drinking of wine is permitted through the ritual known as sautramaniyajna. The purpose of such injunctions is to restrain the licentious tendencies of the general populace, and to establish them in moral conduct. The intrinsic purpose of the Vedas in making such provisions is to draw people away from such activities altogether.
The Vaisnava conclusion in this regard is that there is no objection if a person whose nature is ruled by passion and ignorance kills animals. However, a person who is situated in the mode
of goodness should not do so, because causing harm to other jives is an animalistic propensity.
Sri Narada has explained this in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.13.47):
ahastani sa-hastanam apadani catus-padam
phalguni tatra mahatam jivo jivasya jivanam
Living entities without hands are prey for those with hands. Life-forms without legs are food for the four-legged. Small creatures are subsistence for large ones. In this way, one living entity is the means of existence for another.
The verdict of Manu-smrti (5.56) is also very clear:
na mamsa-bhaksane dose na madye na ca maithune
pravrttir esa bhutanam nivrttis tu maha-phala
Abstinence from activities such as sexual indulgence, meat eating, and intoxication yields highly beneficial results, although a human being is naturally inclined to them.
Nyayaratna: Yes, but why do the Vaisnavas object to the sraddha ceremony and other activities that are meant to repay one’s debt to the forefathers?
Vaisnava dasa: People who are intent on carrying out prescribed pious duties perform the sraddha ceremony in accordance with the karma-kanda division of the Vedas. Vaisnavas have no objection to this, but sastra declares:
na kinkaro nayam rni ca rajan
sarvatmana yah saranam saranyam
gato mukundam parihrtya kartam
O King, when a human being gives up the ego of independence from Bhagavan and takes full shelter of Sri Mukunda as the supreme refuge, he is released from his debts to the devas, the sages, the general living entities, family members, mankind, and to the forefathers. Such a devotee no longer remains subordinate to such personalities, nor is he bound to their service.
Consequently, bhaktas who have taken shelter of Bhagavan are not required to perform the sraddha ceremony and other karmakanda activities meant for gaining release from the debt to one’s forefathers. They are instructed to worship Bhagavan, to offer bhagavat-prasada to the forefathers, and to honor bhagavat-prasada with their friends and relatives.
Nyayaratna: At what point does one obtain the position and eligibility to act in this way?
Vaisnava dasa: It is the prerogative of a Vaisnava to act in this way, and one becomes eligible from the time that one awakens faith in hari-katha and hari-nama. It is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.9):
tavat karmani kurvita na nirvidyeta yavata
mat-katha-sravanadau va sraddha yavan na jayate
One is obliged to engage in karma and to follow the rules and prohibitions associated with that path as long as one has not awakened detachment from fruitive activities and the results of such activities (such as promotion to the celestial planets), or as long as one has not awakened faith in hearing and chanting My lila-katha.
Nyayaratna: I am delighted to hear your explanations. Seeing your scholarship and fine discrimination, my faith has now been awakened in vaisnava-dharma. My brother, Harihara, there is no profit in debating a”ny further. These Vaisnavas are great teachers among panditas. They are exceedingly expert in extracting the conclusions of all the sastras. We may say whatever we like to preserve our occupation, but it is highly doubtful whether anyone has ever appeared in the land of Bengal, or in all of India for that matter, who can compare with such a renowned scholar and exalted Vaisnava as Nimai Pandita. Let us go. The day is waning and it will be difficult to cross the Ganga after dark.
Nyayaratna and his group of teachers departed, calling out, “Haribol! Haribol!” The Vaisnavas then began to dance and chant, “Jaya Sacinandana!
“NITYA-DHARMA & HISTORY”