Sanga: Karma and the Lila of Creation

gmraga1Q & A with Swami Tripurari

Q. Can you tell me something about the mantra om tat sat?

A. Although the sacred mantra om tat sat is one, it consists of three aspects. Om is well known as the name or sound of God. Tat is also a name of God, as we find in the Upanishads: tat tvam asi. Sat is God as the cause of the world. From sat, the real world and the unreal world of illusion (asat) arise. Thus om, tat, and sat are names of God, the chanting of which ensures all success in any endeavor.

Both religious and transcendent life are included within the scope of om. It is integral to Vedic utterances in pursuit of both ideals, for it signifies the supreme reality, that which all the gods and goddesses represent and that which liberated life thrives in service to. Its full realization gives rise to the supreme act of surrender to God, which converts religious life under the jurisdiction of the mode of goodness (sattva-guna) into perpetual adoration of God as the transcendent (nirguna) reality. These two aspects of the syllable om—religiosity and transcendence—are individually represented in the syllables sat and tat.

The syllable tat is invoked for liberation. While om is uttered before all acts, be they religious in nature or aimed at liberation, tat is uttered exclusively with regard to liberation. The syllable sat represents God’s presence in pious acts of this world. It represents goodness itself and auspicious acts of a religious and philanthropic nature. It also represents the virtue of one’s conviction in acts of sacrifice, austerity, and charity, as well as activities meant for assisting one in these acts. Thus its utterance in remembrance of God removes all discrepancy in the performance of pious acts.

Q. In a previous Sanga you mentioned that the Bhagavatam has over the years been changed or interpolated, and you refer to but a single reference to Krishna in Chandogya Upanisad (3.17.6). How can one build a Truth on the basis of an interpolated Purana and a single Upanishadic verse when the entire sruti sastras are largely silent about Krishna?

See Sanga: Interpolation in Scripture

A. You did not read my answer carefully. In that Sanga I did not say that the Bhagavatam has been interpolated. What I explained was the nature of the difference between sruti and smrti, in terms of the latter being an ongoing and thereby dynamic explanation of the essence of the sruti, which is comparatively static in nature. Because the smrti constitutes an explanation of the essence of the sruti, the fact that sruti references to Krishna are limited is of little consequence. The point is that we can understand the significance of the sruti through the medium of the smrti and especially through the Puranas, which the sruti itself refers to as the fifth Veda. Of all the Puranas, the Bhagavatam is indisputably the most refined.

Although Krishna is hardly mentioned in the sruti, there is considerable mention of Vishnu. It is true that Indra is mentioned more than Vishnu in the sruti texts, but that does not mean that Indra is more important than Vishnu. Indeed, if we study the context of the sruti references to Indra and Vishnu, we will see that they are qualitatively different, and thus everyone understands Vishnu to be the Godhead and not Indra. This is why when we turn to the Puranas we find much more discussion of Vishnu than Indra. In the midst of that discussion, we find Krishna identified with Vishnu. Therefore, the conclusion that Krishna is the Godhead is not based on merely one verse found in the Rg Veda.

Q. In the same Sanga you said that Sankaracarya considered Krishna the Supreme Deity, which creates the false impression that his philosophy of Advaita Vedanta is in agreement with Vaishnavism. How can you justify this sort of misrepresentation?

A. The point under discussion was the extent to which the Godhood of Krishna could be established on the basis of scripture. In this regard Sankaracarya is in complete agreement with Vaishnava siddhanta when he says that Krishna is the purna avatara, isvara in his most complete and thus most charming manifestation.

Although Sankara relegates Krishna to his own conception of saguna Brahman, in doing so he acknowledges Sri Krishna as the most complete manifestation of Brahman the world has ever known, and he reaches this conclusion based on his analysis of scripture. Thus in the context of that particular discussion, it is of no consequence that Sankara’s personal ideal involves an attributeless, formless absolute—his so-called nirguna Brahman—and that in this sense he differs from the Vaishnava siddhanta.

Otherwise, considering all that I have written on Sankara and Advaita Vedanta, it is ludicrous to say that I am trying to misrepresent his philosophical position as being in complete agreement with Vaishnavism.

See Sangas:
Gaudiya Vedanta and Saguna Brahman
The Brahma Sutras of Badarayana

Q. It has been said that the yuga avatara of the Dvapara age was within Krishna when he appeared. If this is so, why is he coming at the end of the age?

A. In Srimad Bhagavatam we find the following verse glorifying the yuga avatara of Dvapara-yuga:

namas te vasudevaya namah sankarsanaya ca
pradyumnayaniruddhaya satvatam pataye namah

“Obeisances to you, Vasudeva, and to your forms of Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. O Bhagavan, obeisances unto you.”

This verse is a pranama to the famed catur-vyuha of Krishna-lila in Mathura and Dvaraka. The doctrine of the catur-vyuha is found in a pancaratra text, along with the mantras and procedures for Deity worship, which is the yuga-dharma of Dvapara-yuga. Sri Jiva Goswami comments that although this fourfold appearance of God occurred at the end of Dvapara-yuga, great sages chanted this verse from the beginning of that age in expectation of their appearance.

In Dvapara-yuga monarchies prevailed and the king of the land was considered the representative of God and thereby venerable. The system of honoring the king was in place from the beginning of the yuga and the ideal of royalty appeared as the catur-vyuha near the end of the yuga. This is clear from Srimad Bhagavatam. However, the most recent Dvapara-yuga is peculiar, in that it occurs out of order and hosts svayam bhagavan Sri Krishna. When svayam bhagavan appears in this world he has a special purpose in mind, an ambition that requires him to appear in sequence in the subsequent Kali-yuga as Sri Caitanya in order to realize his ambition. Thus he appears at the end of the Dvapara-yuga as Krishna and the beginning of the Kali-yuga as Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Given the nature of his ambition, how could he have appeared at the beginning of the Dvapara-yuga, since this would have meant that he would have had to wait for the entire yuga to pass to realize his ambition?

Q. In discussing the concept of karma, we came across a passage in the book Subjective Evolution of Consciousness where B. R. Sridhara Maharaja says, “In the primitive state when the individual souls are massed together as a common whole, the conglomerate false-ego, or ahankara, is known as mahat-tattva….” Can you explain this passage as well as give us some insight on where or when our individual karmic paths began?

A. Throughout scripture karma is described as being anadi, or beginningless. This is because God’s (Maha-Visnu’s) pastime of creation (srsti-lila) also has no beginning, although it manifests and becomes unmanifest in beginningless and endless cycles. The individual souls (jivas) who participate in this lila have been doing so from time without beginning, and their beginningless interaction with material nature (maya-sakti) has the consequence of karma, the just rule of nature. While karma has no beginning, it can come to an end through Maha-Visnu’s mercy, which enables these jivas to become free from the bondage of karma.

Caitanya-caritamrta explains that the form of God known as Maha Sankarsana of Vaikuntha is the origin of all jivas: ‘jiva’-nama tatasthakhya eka sakti haya maha-sankarsana—saba jivera asraya. The eternally liberated (nitya-siddha) jivas that populate the spiritual sky expand from him like sparks from a fire. His incarnation, one aspect of the Paramatma (Maha-Visnu), presides over the material world (maya-sakti). Thus Maha Sankarsana is also the shelter of this first purusa, Maha Visnu: sei purusera sankarsana samasraya. As an avatara of Maha Sankarsana, this purusa, Maha-Visnu, is the shelter of the jivas who populate the material world.

Scripture says that Maha-Visnu glances at maya and lights up the world with jiva-sakti: adya-avatara kare mayaya iksana. This is called srsti-lila, or the lila of creation, in which Maha-Visnu, although setting it into motion as the Paramatma, is not a principal player. He expands into every universe and every atom, and through him Bhagavan also incarnates for various lilas of his own. These lilas are aloof from the world other than to uplift the nitya baddha-jivas (eternally conditioned souls), who are under the influence of anadi karma.

The section of Subjective Evolution of Consciousness that you have cited is referring to the condition of the nitya-baddha jivas when the material world is in an unmanifest condition between creations. In this interim condition, karma is suspended and the individual jivas tend towards homogeneity. When Maha-Visnu desires out of his own joy to become many, the jivas begin their march towards heterogeneity and the material individuality that is demarcated by their karma. This coming and going of the nitya-baddha jivas has no beginning any more than Maha-Visnu himself does. This is his lila, in which we play a significant role. In his srsti-lila, we eternally have the opportunity to choose to leave through the grace that Maha-Visnu showers on the world by facilitating Bhagavan Narayana’s lilas of incarnation. His grace comes in the form of both lila and yuga avataras, as well as though his devotees in guru-parampara. Leaving the srsti-lila, one enters the nitya-lila of Bhagavan in Vaikuntha, where Bhagavan plays the principal role.

This is the normal course of events. We, however, are more fortunate in that we have been graced by an exception to this norm. We have the opportunity to rise from the srsti-lila to beyond Vaikuntha, for Vrajendranandana Krishna has appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in place of the Kali-yuga avatara. In doing so, he has shown the way to enter the Vraja-lila, unknown as it is even to the inhabitants of Vaikuntha, by following in the footsteps of his eternal associates.

See also Sanga:
Beginningless Karma

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29 Responses to Sanga: Karma and the Lila of Creation

  1. The first portion of this topic reminded me of a question I have never found the answer for that maybe Tripurari Maharaja knows the answer to.

    I would like to know exactly who formulated the Panca-tattva Maha-mantra.
    This mantra of course was formulated by some Vrindavan Goswami or direct follower of Mahaprabhu, but I have never really heard anyone explain exactly where the Panca-tattva Maha-mantra first appears and who appears to be the original composer or maybe we should say who first revealed the eternal Panca-tattva Maha-mantra in the Gaudiya Sampradaya.

    • The basis for it appears and is explained at some length in Sri Krsnadas Kaviraja’s mangalacaran to Cc and the 7th chapter of his treatise respectively. Here I am referring to the pancatattvatmakam krsnam . . . This verse, however, was composed earlier by Kavi Karnapur and appears in one of his important works, the name of which escapes me at the moment. Otherwise the origin of nama mantra itself, sri Krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda . . ., in unknown to me. Good question though.

      There is also another Orrian notion of the pancatattva that is different than the one discussed above. I think Satyaraja wrote a book about the pancatattva. So that might be a good place to look. Anyone have it?

  2. Maharaja

    You state that sastra says that karma for baddha-jivas and srsti-lila is beginningless. Isn’t that logically impossible? You mention Kurt Godel’s idea that there are truths that cannot be proven mathematically, and therefore there are truths beyond reason. That is a bit of a stretch isn’t it? Just because you can’t prove some truth by mathematics doesn’t make that truth beyond reason, mathematics isn’t the only means to determine reason.

    Just because sastra says that something like srsti-lila or the karma of the baddha-jiva is anadi, that doesn’t mean we have to leave our common sense behind. If something sastra says is obviously impossible or reasonably unlikely, wouldn’t it be better to accept the non-literalness of those ideas? It is easy to prove through the most simple logic that srsti-lila had a literal beginning, to wit:

    In order for an object created by an intelligence to exist, it first needs to be conceived of, designed, and than created. For example: Human forms couldn’t have existed since beginningless time because they are clearly a design. The genders were designed with each other in mind since the body parts are meant to be used together. There had to be a point in time when human forms were first thought of, designed and then created. It is impossible for a designed and created object to exist without first being designed and created.

    Srsti-lila, as all lila, involves countless millions of designed objects, none of which could exist without first being conceived of, designed, and then created at some point. The only things which can exist without a beginning to them are naturally occurring things which are not the product of design, such as God.

    Still, even God as well had a beginning of sorts, in that because knowledge is something which can only be acquired, and God has an immense amount of knowledge, we have to conclude that at some point God had to acquire all that knowledge. Which means there was a time before God had any knowledge.

    The Bible says

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came to be; not one thing had its being but through him. All that came to be had its life in him and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the darkness, a light that the darkness could not overpower”

    In other words the first things God had to do in order to acquire the massive amount of knowledge God has today, is to design and create a system of communication for God’s own use in God’s own mind. Without a language of sorts one can never systematize knowledge and develop into a highly intelligent knowledgeable being. The “word” or a way to systematically identify ideas conceptions and transform that into a language through words, is what all of needed to experience, God was first at it and needed to do it in order to harness the omnipotent power that God is and has. That had to have a beginning. Language is a created thing. God’s knowledge cannot have always existed. God as an intelligent knowledgeable being had to have a beginning. God had to have started out like a newborn baby. It is impossible for anything else to be true.

    Anadi must mean something else when used to describe what is clearly and logically and unassailably not possible. For me the term anadi is either being used to express a very long time — for srsti-lila, or it’s being used to express a conception that the jiva’s karma is not it’s fault. A jiva when first coming into conscious existence needs to be educated before it can make a decision which can be said to cause karma. Newborn infants cannot create karma. Karma is not an automaton, it is intelligently controlled. Karma had to have a beginning because otherwise karma makes no sense. The real question is why the jivas end up in the mahat-tattva under the grip of maya and karma in the first place?

    I believe that there are no jivas who are born into the “spiritual world,” that all jivas are born into illusion, and it takes them time for their consciousness to develop into a perfected state. That makes more sense than just random cruelty by God.

    • Nothing is “logically impossible” for Krishna.
      Only a buffoon would say that anything is impossible for the Supreme Godhead.

      The Bible is a false authority on God.
      It was written by fallible men with an insufficient knowledge base.
      The Vedas were compiled by God himself, not by conditioned souls on the the mental platform.

    • Love transcends reason. This is the teaching of Sri Caitanya and a good number of other spiritual experiencers agree to a lesser degree. Sristi lila is generated out of love as well, lokavat tu lila kaivalyam. Love knows no reason. “Maya” means to “measure.” Reason is a measurement.

      You ideas may be of interest to some, but they do not represent the siksa of Sri Caitanya, and thus they will not give us access to the the prema he embodies.

      • Where does Sri Caitanys teach different from what I said? I’ve never seen it from him. I searched nitya-siddha in Vedabase and saw nothing to that effect. Plus, where does logic and common sense enter into theology? Should it be disregarded in favor of literalism when it posits something impossible like “God and the spiritual world has always existed exactly like it is?” How can designed things have always existed? How can a chair or a house or an apple or a body have always existed? They are designs and need a beginning, don’t they?

        From the acaryas I have heard speak on this they simply say it is a mystery, acintya, not able to be understood, the will of Krishna etc. None of that is satisfying philosophically speaking. Prabhupada probably saw that it would be a problem and that is probably why he chose to teach the concept of “Back to Godhead,” that jivas became envious of Krishna and fell from lila. Sridhara Maharaja put forth the conception that when the jiva is activated into a conscious state from some type of unconscious Brahman existence that at that time he chooses either the land of dedication or the land of exploitation, then is sent either to be with Krishna or to the material world.

        Either conception seems philosophically problematic to me. Krishna states in the Gita that no one leaves his abode. And, how can someone who is just awakened to consciousness be able to understand something like dedication or exploitation?

        Isn’t it true that many people either disregard Vaisnavism or lose faith because of these logical problems?

        You said

        “You ideas may be of interest to some, but they do not represent the siksa of Sri Caitanya, and thus they will not give us access to the the prema he embodies”

        I thought prema was based upon developing love of God by realizing our position in relation to God. By coming to a state of pure consciousness and knowledge of our relationship with God naturally love will arise. Why does not believing everything in sastra literally, a thing which will “not give us access to prema?”

        • It is not that a specific chair or house or body has always existed, of course this is not the vedantic perspective. But the jiva and maya saktis are themselves eternal. The concept of eternity itself is incomprehensible, so why should eternal souls and lilas be more easily understandable?

          Regarding the Gita, Krishna does not say that “no one leaves his abode.” He says (8.21) that having attained (prapya) his abode, one never returns(na nivartante), clearly that is not the same thing.

          I think the fundamental issue is that we are actually spirit, not matter. It is not that we at some point “awaken to consciousness,” that is what we fundamentally are, conscious entities. If we identify our material mind and senses as same with that consciousness, then things get jumbled up quickly, because they are actually two very different realms, and we must work to make the former subordinate to the good of the latter.

        • Eternity is understandable to me, what is the difficulty? What is impossible to accept is that something which had to have been designed in order to exist had no beginning, or that someone who has knowledge didn’t have to acquire it.

          If chairs or houses haven’t always existed without being designed or created — than that proves my point about sristi-lila, that it had to have a beginning. Why? Because sristi-lila or any lila is comprised of things like chairs and houses.

          As for your other point about Gita 8.21, you are right, but that is what I said — all jivas begin as baddha-jivas. Gita 8.15 says that one who has commenced a relationship with Krishna , the word used is upetya which means “commenced” or “set about,” never returns to a place of misery. Therefore how is it possible for anyone to leave Krishna’s association in Vaikuntha since they all have a relationship with him?

          As for your other point — when you are asleep your are a conscious being, but at some point you awaken to full awareness. It is pretty well established by sastra and logic that the jiva cannot have always existed as a fully conscious being because of the simple fact that knowledge is not naturally or inherently present in consciousness. Knowledge is the result of a person’s experience, there is no other way for knowledge to be in the possession of a conscious being. Knowledge isn’t a thing like a leg or awareness, it is the recognition and understanding of various objects within the reality of your awareness. The only way for a person to have knowledge is to go through a process of acquiring knowledge. Therefore there had to be a time before that being, any being, had any knowledge. This is simple logic and cannot be avoided no matter how much one resorts to magical thinking.

        • There is so much you have said that is misrepresentative of Sri Caitanya that I am surprised to know that you thought you were accurately representing his precepts. The points in the article you disagree with are well supported by sastra and sastra-yukti. You have differed from them with not very well thought out kevala yukti. Sri Caitanya rejects kevala yukti as a means of comprehensive knowing. And I have already explained that the world arises out of love and that its source transcends reason. Reason proves nothing, tarko pratistanat. Philosophical arguments regarding metaphysical issues are extraordinary claims, and they require extraordinary evidences which cannot be found in the ordinary nature of objective arguments.

        • I don’t know about that, many things in sastra are not literally true, they can be either metaphoric, or be using literary devices to accentuate a point or enhance a story, or they are simply not true at all but have been created for some reason or other. A good example of the latter is the description of Earth in the Bhagavatam where at the center is Mt. Meru, which is said to be thousands of miles high and where devas reside. That is sastra, but is it true?

          Kevala yukti is not what I am proposing at all. I am trying to reconcile literalism vs metaphoric understanding with logic. Mahaprabhu said

          krsna-tulya bhagavata — vibhu, sarvasraya
          prati-sloke prati-aksare nana artha kaya

          Srimad-Bhagavatam is as great as Krsna, the Supreme Lord and shelter of everything. In each and every verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam and in each and every syllable, there are various meanings.

    • I think this is some really twisted logic. To say that God had to acquire knowledge at some point is to say that something exists outside of God. Since you do not seem to be challenging the notion of God itself, this is “logically not possible.” What is there to know outside of God?

      You cannot subscribe to the philosophy of acintya(inconceivable) bhedabheda and simultaneously maintain that logic provides absolute knowledge. Logic is best used to instill faith in bhakti, which is a process that will give absolute knowledge. Jiva Goswami’s Tattva Sandarbha for example gives very good logic as to why we should listen to scripture.

      But overall you are trying to impose your experience in this world on the world of spirit. To say God had to acquire knowledge is to simply push the issue one step back. Where did knowable things come from?! Everything that you have known has come from something outside yourself, but alas, you are not God. Your logic really leaves no room for transcendence at all, yet you seem to have some faith nonetheless.

      Your last sentence indicates that material experience is a “cruel” act on behalf of God, and at least if, as you claim, all jivas have to undergo it, then at least God is equally cruel to all. This may satisfy you on some level, but clearly the deeper problem is you think that God is cruel.

      As an aside, Prabhupada once said to an inquirer that “we worship Krishna because we do not know of anyone or thing before Krishna, but if you can find us who existed before Krishna, we will worship them.” I think that is a rather charming way to put it.

      • To say that God didn’t have to acquire knowledge because that would mean that there is something outside of God is faulty reasoning. God had to acquire knowledge of his own being, had to acquire knowledge of his own potential, and of every created thing in existence. It is simple logic. God has a massive amount of knowledge, knowledge about everything in existence. But where did all these things in existence come from? They had to be created by God. God didn’t always have knowledge of houses, houses had to be conceived, designed, and created. Before houses were conceived of God had no knowledge of houses simply because they didn’t exist. Does that mean houses were outside of God? No, they simply hadn’t been conceived of and didn’t exist until God conceived of and created houses.

        As for you second point, I never said logic “provides absolute knowledge.” My point is that if sastra says something which is totally illogical, that it is wrong to relegate that to acintya, rather we should seek a metaphoric or other interpretations. Even for preaching that is the intelligent way to proceed, otherwise so many people will see you lacking and your theology lacking in common sense. B

        As for you third point — what is knowledge? It is comprehension of some aspect of reality. How does comprehension of anything experienced? There is always a point where you learn, without learning there is no comprehension and it is impossible to have knowledge of anything. Magical thinking is lazy thinking.

        Your next point is curious to me. I said that if you subscribe to the belief that some jivas when born into the world are sent to Vaikuntha and that others are sent to the world of karma, that theology makes God out to be capricious and lacking empathy. I reject that ideology because it simply makes no sense that a jiva can decide to go to Vaikuntha or reject Vaikuntha without being educated. Once being educated why would any jiva choose the world of karma? It makes no sense. A more sensible interpretation of sastra is that all jivas are born into illusion because we are all immature and ignorant at birth. From there we advance towards Vaikuntha. In fact that is exactly what Krishna says

        dvandva-mohena bharata
        sarva-bhutani sammoham
        sarge yanti parantapa

        O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.

        As for your last point, I never said that someone existed before Krishna. My point was that Krishna has knowledge, knowledge is only possible to possess by acquiring it through some type of experience. Whatever knowledge anyone has had to acquired, there is no possibility of anyone to have always had knowledge. Krishna, like any other conscious being, had to acquire whatever knowledge (which is knowledge of everything) he had. You cannot have knowledge of something that has never existed, everything in existence except for Krishna was created by Krishna. Therefore Krishna had no knowledge of anything until he conceived of and created whatever exists. The only thing Krishna didn’t create was himself. Before Krishna created anything only he existed, without knowledge of anything, just potential, that is what is taught in the Rig Veda 10.29

        At that time there was neither
        existence nor non-existence,
        neither the worlds nor the sky.
        There was nothing that was beyond.
        There was no death, nor immortality.
        There was no knowledge of the day and night.
        That one alone breathed, without air, by itself.
        Besides that there was nothing.
        Darkness there was enveloped by darkness.
        All this was one water, without any distinction.
        It was inactive, covered by void.
        That one became active by the power of its own thought.
        There came upon it at first desire,
        which was the first seed of the mind.
        Men of vision found in their meditative state,
        the connection between the Being and the Non-Being.
        All gods were subsequent to this creative activity.
        Then who knows from where this came into existence!
        Where this creation came from ,
        whether He supported it or not,
        He who is controlling it from the highest of the heavens,
        He perhaps knows it or He knows it not !


        If we negate what Krishna had to do to acquire knowledge and create everything in existence, we diminish his glory, we diminish his greatness.

        • If we negate what Krishna had to do to acquire knowledge and create everything in existence, we diminish his glory, we diminish his greatness.

          I think this is backwards; if we assert that God had to do something then that diminishes his greatness. One of the things that makes God great is that he is sarvajna, and always has been so. There was not a point at which he had to acquire knowledge; if there were, how could he be God? As Nitaisundara pointed out, you seem to be conflating the position of Bhagavan with that of the jiva.

        • Krishna is not like Samantha from “Bewitched” or Jeannie from “I Dream of Jeannie.” All they do is fold their arms or wiggle their nose and magic happens. Magic has been described as an effect without a cause, or at least a competent cause.

          What Krishna does is not magic, there is a very competent cause for the effects. To believe that God makes no effort and has never had to make any effort, that everything always came easy, is simply not the truth. God is a person, not a magical conception. God had to go through a great deal to get where he is today. Krishna made a great sacrifice so that we can enjoy the results of his labors. To deny what he had to go through means you don’t really know God. It’s like saying to someone who spent a very long time alone, working very hard, just so that you can enjoy your life, that it was really nothing at all. That all the work they did and they do 24 hours a day, is really nothing much.

          Krishna and his energies, which do the work of the world, are non-different. It’s not that Krishna’s energy is working and Krishna is not. In “Jaiva Dharma” Bhaktivinoda compares Krishna’s maya-saktis to a person and his arm. You don’t say the arm is doing the work, it’s the person moving the arm who is doing the work.

          If we want to know Krishna, really know Krishna, we should realize that there is an amazing and triumphant story on how he developed into what he is today, from scratch, all alone, for a very long time. It happened a very very long time ago, but the truth of what he had to go through is something which shouldn’t be denied or dismissed as nothing in the spirit of “God is God, so he doesn’t have to do anything.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

        • You have no idea how dogmatic this recent post is. Now as for scripture’s opinion, Krishna is said to be staya sankalpa. Whatever he wills effortlessly, is. Sound magical? Anyway, I hope you write the book.

        • And Srila Sridhara Maharaja said Krsna is the greatest magician; what he wants us to see we see. Krsna can do the impossible. I would say it’s magical thinking to think otherwise.

        • I wasn’t questioning the meaning of the word anadi, I was questioning it’s interpretation in a few specific usages. Clearly something cannot be without a beginning if it surely cannot exist unless it was designed and created. Like a tree or a book. A book on the life of Gandhi cannot have always existed because it is a document of a person’s life which occurred over a specific period of time.Likewise a tree cannot exist unless a very intelligent person created the supremely complex DNA and all of the rest of the bio-tech involved in producing a tree. Trees cannot have “always existed” anymore than a biography of Gandhi could have.

          Yet when it comes to anything that sastra says is anadi, than devotees oftenm throw common sense out the window and claim that the impossible is possible — that something which is clearly the product of an intelligent design and creation, somehow, has always existed without beginning.

          What can be done? We are at the mercy of Krishna’s maya, either mahamaya or yogamaya. If we are controlled by mahamaya we will not understand the obviousness of our delusion, and if we are controlled by yogamaya — we will be amused by how we were ever deluded into thinking such obvious impossibility was ever possible. We will see how we are at the mercy of Krishna for even the most simple of understandings. We will see how we are always at the mercy of Krishna for all and any permutations that our mind will lead us to as being representative of truth or falsehood.

        • To help you understand that anadi karma means beginningless karma and not that one’s karma and the world began a long time ago, as misunderstood in your “esoteric rational understanding of a scriptural term that otherwise does not make sense and so called unassailable logic,” I suggest the following reading:

          Classical indian Philosophy of Mind: the Nyāya dualist Tradition By Kisor Kumar Chakrabarti

          And the following articles of Stayanarayan and Kundali on the subject.

    • Dear Theal,

      I read your points raised.

      If I had to make an interpolation between what you are saying and what Swami Tripurari is saying in His Question and Answers, I think the God You are referring to is Lord Brahma.

      Hare Krishna

  3. Maharaja, your Q & A mail-outs are always so fascinating to read. I’ve really enjoyed learning from them over the years. Your answer to the last question here was especially informative and well-written/condensed for such a complicated topic!

  4. You write,

    I don’t know about that, many things in sastra are not literally true, they can be either metaphoric, or be using literary devices to accentuate a point or enhance a story, or they are simply not true at all but have been created for some reason or other. A good example of the latter is the description of Earth in the Bhagavatam where at the center is Mt. Meru, which is said to be thousands of miles high and where devas reside. That is sastra, but is it true?

    That may be but the philosophy is not a metaphor. You are distorting the philosophy, not interpreting a verse or section in a non-literal manner such that it conforms dynamically with the underlying philosophy. In fact your distortion renders the philosophy something other than any form of Vedanta, not only acintya bhedabheda. Without addressing the poor logic you espouse in any detail, basically you are saying that all questions can be comprehensively answered by reason—that comprehensive and conclusive knowledge can be arrived at by reason. I have already shown that this is not the case nor is it the teaching of any system of Vedanta, least of all that of Sri Caitanya.

    Krishna is moving from the Yamuna to Govardhana and yet he is everywhere at the same time—maya tatam idam sarvam . . . pasya me yogam aisvaryam. Such are the philosophical implications of the Damodara-lila. You want to do away with yogam aisvaryam, or acintya-sakti, calling it magical thinking an lazy thinking. Your thinking is boring.

    acintyah khalu ye bhava
    na tams tarkena yojayet
    prakrtibhyah param yac ca
    tad acintyasya laksanam

    “Certainly inconceivable subjects are not understandable by reason and logic and transcendence is characterized by its inconceivability.”

    This premise is fundamental to all forms of Vedanta. If God is understandable by reason, who needs him? Reason, however, has its place in theology where it is employed to faithfully yet dynamically represent revelation. That is not what you are doing. You would be better off in a Whitehead forum discussing process theology.

    You also misunderstand what scripture is speaking about when it says that the jiva is consciousness. This does not mean merely that the jiva has awareness, but rather that it is a particle of eternal knowledge, of knowing—cit kana. And God is eternal being, knowledge, and ecstasy.

    • It seems to my reading that you have just said I am wrong in a variety of different ways, and that your position, or rather the “correct” position is that spiritually and transcendence is inherently incomprehensible and or illogical.

      Philosophy actually can be esoteric or metaphoric, for example Lord Kapila’s sankhya in the Bhagavatam. I can understand that my points can seem logically unassailable yet at the same time foreign to literalistic ingrained viewpoints. Some people may at first react to an esoteric interpretation with “different than what I believe is wrong.”

      I didn’t say that “reason” is how you understand God. I said that if something is clearly unreasonable in sastra, that there is probably deep metaphoric or esoteric meaning there. God can only be understood through revelation, but that doesn’t mean that God’s existence and our relationship with him necessitates our ignorance and lack of rationality and knowledge. How can God reveal more and more intimate details if we fight against that, not recognizing how that is done?

      sarva-bhuta-stham atmanam
      sarva-bhutani catmani
      iksate yoga-yuktatma
      sarvatra sama-darsanah

      A true yogi observes Me in all beings, and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized man sees Me everywhere.

      yo mam pasyati sarvatra
      sarvam ca mayi pasyati
      tasyaham na pranasyami
      sa ca me na pranasyati

      For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.

      • No, I have not just said you are wrong, I have pointed out what Vedanta says with regard to transcendence being inaccessible by reason. It is trans-rational. That does not mean it is illogical. It is logical to conclude that reason has its limitations, and therefore that which which transcends it does not answer to it. That philosophy can be esoteric does not mean that an esoteric philosophy that posits beginningless samsara needs to be interpreted such that beginningless is made to have a beginning in order to make anadi rational. Esoteric truths are often trans-rational. Still, beginingless samsara is not “clearly unreasonable,” and therefore scripture refers to the seed and the tree and the question of which comes first to help us understand that beginningless-ness is not something that is entirely outside of our experience.

        I have also pointed out that you have misunderstood what scripture means when it says that God and the jiva are eternally cit (consciousness/knowledge).

        I am representing the teaching of Sri Caitanya with regard to the concept of anadi as explained by the most revered Baladeva Vidyabhusana in his Govinda-bhasyam. He has used reason in writing this seminal Gaudiya commentary. You have some very different ideas from his that are not representative of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. You state that your ideas and logic are unassailable and imply that your ideas represent cutting edge, dynamic insight into the real meaning of scripture that has been misunderstood by Sri Baladeva and others for centuries. Or perhaps you are saying that I have misunderstood Sri Baladeva and others. After all, you have characterized my understandings and disagreements with you as being a result of my suffering from “literalistic ingrained viewpoints.” However, I would characterize my understanding as orthodox Gaudiya philosophy and your as heterodox and more heretical Gaudiya philosophy at best.

        I suggest you write your ideas of what you think Gaudiya Vaisnavim really says on this and all other issues in a book. This is what Sri Baladeva and others have done. Then they can be subjected to critical analysis with regard to their overall coherence as well as the extent to which they actually represent the Gaudiya siddhanta. Of course Sri Baladeva has also exhibited a high standard of spiritual realization that lends to the credibility of his arguments and I think that to the extent that spiritual realization is lacking, one’s independent theory maybe as well. Please note that for my part I have taken the time to write a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita in which these issues have been addressed and well referenced from the entire corpus of Gaudiya scripture. As for any realization I may have, let others judge for themselves, but I do know that my gurus have ben very merciful to me.

        At any rate, for now I am satisfied to leave it to others to decide if you or I have better represented Gaudiya-siddhanta on this issue and the other somewhat related issues you have brought up.

        • I didn’t say that transcendence is “accessible by reason,” I said it is only through revelation that transcendence is accessible and understood. But also revelation is reasonable, logical and transcendental. And it comes from different places in different forms. It isn’t logical or rational or transcendental when we take some parts of sastra too literally in the name of acintya when there is a far more reasonable and understandable explanation.

          But that doesn’t mean that I’m saying reason or logic is our means of accessing transcendence. Just like in order to understand what each other is saying, first we needed to understand the logic and reason of the English language so that we can go through the mechanics of communicating in a common language. That doesn’t mean that our ability to communicate is limited to the logic of the English language. What we are saying isn’t inherently non-transcendent because we use the logic and reason of communication tools. Reason and logic are tools to help us understand transcendental revelation. Should we teach that Bhagavat philosophy is unreasonable and illogical, that only blind faith and literalism can lead us to God realization?

          For example, the concept of anadi and the jiva’s karma. It isn’t necessary to interpret that literally, and in fact it causes more harm than good from my observation on how it affects people’s faith in sastra. In fact it does no good to present an illogical idea as absolute truth, it can only lead to either loss of faith or confusion or the conception that “absolute truth” is somehow without reason or logic, and therefore we need to accept our own ignorance as somehow an essential aspect or part of enlightenment. In reality it isn’t. Absolute truth is perfectly logical and understandable by us. Why wouldn’t it be? Krishna is not illogical, taking some of what he teaches too literally can make what he says seem illogical or unknowable or acintya.

          You say it is illogical to make an esoteric interpretation of anadi in relation to samsara. Why? Taken literally it is factually illogical, taken esoterically or metaphorically it is reasonable and logical. How can anyone deny that in order for a jiva to have karma, to go through samsara, that the jiva needs at the least a body of some type? You don’t go through samsara as an inanimate energy field, you take on different bodies. How can anyone deny (excluding evolutionists) that all bodily forms are first conceived of, then designed, and then created by God? They cannot have always existed, it is simply impossible. You might as well say that televisions had no beginning. Since bodies had to have a beginning, samsara had to have a beginning because you cannot have samsara with a body of some type.

          That is what I mean by unassailable logic. That forces us to conclude that anadi cannot literally mean beginningless in relation to samsara because there absolutely was a time before Krishna conceived of, designed, and then created bodily forms. No bodily forms means no samsara. Samsara could not exist for anyone until Krishna created bodies. Therefore the absolute truth is that samsara had to have a beginning for all jivas.

          Also, all lila had to have a beginning because lila does not take place in a vacuum. All lila takes place in “nature,” with human bodies, vegetation, animals, human technology of various types such as houses, clothes, furniture, musical instrument, cooking tools, transportation, etc. All of those things had to have been created otherwise they would not exist. They are all designed and therefore created things. Therefore all lila had a beginning. Lila began after those things were created, and it didn’t exist before than.

          You can say that I am being unreasonable, but what I have said is in fact unassailable transcendental logic. Just because it doesn’t agree with someone’s literal understanding, that doesn’t mean that the obviousness of what I have said should be discounted as mundane or heresy. It should be obvious absolute truth to anyone who has faith in Krishna.

        • I did not say that it is illogical to make an esoteric interpretation of anandi in relation to samsara. I said,

          That philosophy can be esoteric (your point) does not mean that an esoteric philosophy that posits beginningless samsara needs to be interpreted such that beginningless is made to have a beginning in order to make anadi rational.

          The Sanskrit term anadi is explained at length in Indian Nyaya, and if you take the time to study the meaning of the word and its logical implications therein you will find that it speaks of beginningless-ness. Now, when the term and the logic supporting it is explained at length in the discipline it originates in to mean beginningless and not something that began a long time ago at some point in time, you have no need to interpret it to fit your logic that mandates nothing can be beginningless. I suggest you study the term anadi as it is explained in Nyaya because your need to interpret it to mean the opposite of what it means in Nyaya belongs only to you.

          The things of the world are appearances constituted of the matter. They come and go but the stuff that they are constituted of remains. The maya-sakti and jiva-sakti are not created things, but in connection with one another things appear and disappear. And the jiva and maya saktis become manifest and become unmanifest with the exhalation and inhalation of God, who did not start breathing at any given time. If God has no beginning, neither does the world poetically represented as his outgoing breath. It has been coming and going forever.

          Your idea of lila being dependent upon things is mistaken because lila is constituted of prema, not things, and prema is not a causal event, nitya siddha krsna prema sadhya kabhu nay. It takes place under the jurisdiction of Krishna’s svarupa sakti and the apparent things you mention are manifestations of his sandhini-sakti, all of which exist eternally outside of the jurisdiction of time.

          You positions are that
          1. The nitya-lila of Krishna has a beginning in time
          2. The material world has a beginning in time
          You scriptural support for these positions is non existent, and with regard to the material world involves interpreting a scriptural term that has been explained to mean exactly what it literally says such that it says the opposite.
          You logical support for your positions displays ignorance of the nature of transcendence. It is a logic in which logic applicable to material things is forced upon things not material.

        • I think mathematics has tried it best to quantify logic to the maximum extent possible dealing with things like infinity etc and finding difficulties there. Even in nature things do not exactly fit human logic, what to speak of transcendence. Do you think all natural phenomenon are accessible to human logic? Not really. Many time empirical data has made human logic adjust itself and open itself to new possibilities: wave particle duality or multiverse universe.
          Anyway you have the freedom to have faith in your logic.
          The difference in the idea of circular time and linear time. If life is a circle where exactly does the circle begin? The line does have a beginning.

        • I made a big typo in my last post.

          “Since bodies had to have a beginning, samsara had to have a beginning because you cannot have samsara WITH a body of some type”

          was supposed to be

          “Since bodies had to have a beginning, samsara had to have a beginning because you cannot have samsara WITHOUT a body of some type”

  5. I have never had any problem with accepting the eternality (beginninglessness as well as endlessness) of the spiritual and the material world. I never felt I had to blindly swallow an unreasonable concept.

    If God would have to have thought of something and then create it, where would that thought come from? Original ideas have to be eternal. Plato has spoken about that.

    Anyway this has already been said by Maharaj and Nitaisundara. I’m sorry if I continue a discussion that is maybe already ended, but I wanted to express my honest feeling about this. It’s one of my favorite topics.

  6. Tripurai Swami, thank you for putting it in these words:

    “If God has no beginning, neither does the world poetically represented as his outgoing breath. It has been coming and going forever.

    Your idea of lila being dependent upon things is mistaken because lila is constituted of prema, not things, and prema is not a causal event, nitya siddha krsna prema sadhya kabhu nay. It takes place under the jurisdiction of Krishna’s svarupa sakti and the apparent things you mention are manifestations of his sandhini-sakti, all of which exist eternally outside of the jurisdiction of time.”

    The key to understanding existence is in understaning lila. It seems Theal Mytee argues from a Christian taking on the Absolute, which levels Divinity with creation. The Vedic taking on God is not about design but about experience. The insistence with the idea of beginning, of creation, misses the point that being is synonymous with perpetuality, and perpetuality can only be due to lila. As a certain guru puts it in this sort of situation, he says, “The question is wrong”. In this case, Theal Mytee shouldn’t insistently ask, ‘How can there be lila if there are no created things?’. She might like to ask instead , ‘How can there be manifested things such as books and chairs if there isn’t lila to give them a meaning?'”

    Prema is not a causal event. Very well said.

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