Doubt and Sacrifice

By B. R. Sridhara Deva Goswami

We find that certain scriptures such as the Upanisads give mere statements with no rhyme or reason—with no explanation or qualification attached. This is because such knowledge is meant for the higher level where there is no possibility of any deception. whatever is said there is taken by the listeners as complete truth. There is no room for doubt because in that higher civilized plane there is no possibility of any deception.

The Upanisads say, “This means so and so,” and the natural response comes: “Yes, it is so.” There is no tarka (reasoning), and no doubt or anything of the kind because the very plane itself is such that deception is unknown. So, in the case of the Veda and Upanisads we are cautioned: acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet: “Don’t take your reasoning and doubt into that higher stage. It is unnecessary in that place where there is only plain speaking and fair dealing with no trouble from anyone wanting to deceive another. Deception and unfair dealings are unknown there.” This is the level of the Vedas and Upanisads where rhyme and reason are unnecessary. But in a lower stage, the smrti and Puranas come to give their advice in another mood. The Puranas are like friends, advising, “Do this and you will be benefitted.” They give examples: “This person acted in such a way and received a good result; but this other did bad things and a bad result followed. So, my friend, please learn from this.” Then, the sruti comes to our help by showing us how to apply these truths in our everyday life.

The kavya also approaches us and comes in a very sweet manner, like an affectionate wife to advise: “Do this, it will be very good for you..” But the Vedas take another approach: acintyah khalu ye bhava nastam tarkena yojayet. “This subject matter does not come within the jurisdiction of doubt, reasoning, and so on. Don’t drag all these worthy things into such a sphere.”

In a lecture I once gave an example to illustrate this. A mother gives a sweet to her son, she puts it in his hand but he says, “Oh, it may be poisoned! I must go to the laboratory and examine it.” It is a deplorable thing and a very low type of civilization where such an attitude prevails. But in such a plane where affectionate and fair dealing is unknown, tarka, vicara, and yukti; doubt, examination, and inspection are all present. But that is really a filthy life. There is Krishna smrti and its opposite, deha-smrti.

deha-smrti nahi yara, samsara-kupa kahan tara, taha haite na cahe uddhara

One who is unconscious of his material body has no worldly material connection. We are conscious of our material body and therefore have come in connection with the atmosphere of the material world. If we are independent of this material body then we have no connection with the mortal world. This is the medium between the material world and the atma, the soul. The mental system makes the first connection, then comes this body consciousness.1

After Sukadeva Goswami finished giving his Bhagavata discourse, in his conclusion he gave warning to the audience, especially Pariksit Maharaja—tvam tu rajan marisyeti, pasu-buddhim imam jahi, “Oh King, do not think you will die—give up this animal consciousness. Eliminate it fully from your thought and do not allow your attention to come down to any material conception. Remain in your own soul conception. Take your stand firmly there. Why do you allow yourself to come down to the conception of this matter: the world, your body and all these things? It is unnecessary. Don’t allow your attention to come down to material consciousness, you are independent of that. Think of your soul, its higher achievement and prospect. Your transaction must be all upwards; stick to that. You, the soul, are independent of these. Free from matter you can live and move very happily. To think it not possible to stay without a body is animal consciousness, pasu-buddhi. What is this! Why do you allow yourself to come into this consciousness of matter which is mortal? Don’t allow yourself to come down, to have experience of this material world. This is animal consciousness. You must kill it, butcher it! Tvam turdjan marisyeti, pasu-buddhim imam jahi. To think ‘I shall die’ is animal consciousness. Just kill it once and for all. At the same time try to soar up from soul to over-soul, and beyond to the Narayana conception and onwards to the Krishna conception. Try to live in the connection of Vraja and the divine damsels there who are all serving Krishna. Consider how they are so recklessly engaged in serving the sweet will of their Lord. Each one of them is always prepared and is the emblem of sacrifice.”

  1. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 13.142 []


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4 Responses to Doubt and Sacrifice

  1. Great article. Two most striking things for me are where he says “There is no room for doubt because in that higher civilized plane there is no possibility of any deception.”, and the other one “Deception and unfair dealings are unknown there.”

    Even devotees, and people who believe in God in higher forces than the plain matter, often have some faith crisis which can last only for a few seconds sometimes. This is caused by some statement of some materialists – scientists, philosophers, or some journalist, politician – on TV, radio, internet in some book etc.

    While hearing or reading such thing – like for example: “How you can believe in what you do not see? When the body is dead the life of the person is finished. Where is the person? He is gone. Gone forever. He does not exist any longer. And how also you can speak of some infinite Absolute? Infinite does not exist. Everything has it’s beginning and it’s end….. etc, etc…”

    So while hearing such statements the faith may be shaken. The faith of those firmly established in their spiritual realization will not be shaken for even a milimeter, but the faith of neophyte devotee will be definitevely disturbed. The result of this disturbance is that he will try to confront these arguments in his own head by using spiritual arguments that he have heard so far. The problem is that even the best spiritual arguments if they are not rooted in the persons thinking system, will be of little help. Person will strugle end sometimes even leave the spiritual mission or spiritual practice in general.

    Faith is essential. For that you need “sukriti” (spiritual credit from past lives) and you need new spritual strenght which is new fuel for your boat which is supposed to cross over materialistic way of doubt, examination, and inspection.

    Of course, it is said that doubt is the sign of inteligence, but after hearing and realizing so many arguments and sentiments regarding spiritual supremacy over dead matter, if one is still uncertain on the spiritual subjectmatter, the only help for him is to beg his guru to help him (as the disciple should do all the time for spiritual advancement).

    Even if somebody thinks that he is already above materialistic doubt, examination, and inspection, still he has to be cautious because material energy is divine in it’s origin and therefore extremely powerfull. Noone can overcome it by one’s own endevour. It is not possible. If one thinks that his arguments in his head are enough to fight materialistic way of thinking, still he will eventualy fall prey of this that he thought that he has already overcome.

    So, how to save ourselves? We are supposed to be saved and not to save ourselves. We should put ourselves in the position where we will be noticed by God who will in turn inspire his representative to help us. Then, since God’s representative (guru) is even more merciful then God himself, we will become fully dependent on guru’s mercy.

    Surrendered disciple will gradually become free of all materialistic doubts, and attain higher stages of consciousness, and after that (again with the mercy of the guru) attain the eternal service of Krsna in Krsna lila, where there are no doubts, and where is everybody and everything happy in ecstasy and soaked in Love Divine.

  2. Lovely words, if only I had not been born in the West where doubt and suspicion are a birthright, a way of life. I cannot help but think of the various and wide-ranging interpretation of the Christian scripture, and the changing of this word or that to suit one’s agenda or preconceived notion about what Christianity “should mean” that I have a hard time checking that at the door when dealing with Gaudiya Vaishnavism’s scriptures. Since we here in the West were really spoon-fed a very narrow set of commentaries and points of view regarding these ancient texts, who’s to say that the same sort of political, moral and ethical back-and-forth didn’t also go on in India when these texts were being hammered out. Such a vast tradition, I would have a hard time believing this did not go on.
    Yet, here I am, like the child with the sweet, wanting to scientifically analyze everything instead of just taking the grace that is given to me, being thankful for it and allowing it to flow through me to others, isn’t that really the essence of it anyway? It reminds me of the articles debating literalism on here from time to time, I still come up with the same uneasy feeling whenever anyone challenges me to take something literally, like I’m selling out or shutting off my brain. I just really want a loophole, I guess, to be able to do what I want, when I want, and I don’t want anyone to tell me I can’t do something because some dusty old book from thousands of years ago said it was a bad idea. This is something that I am working on, and this article really helped me out in that regard.

    • and I don’t want anyone to tell me I can’t do something because some dusty old book from thousands of years ago said it was a bad idea.

      I think to feel this way is completely normal, at least until we get some experience from our practice that validates the books for us. Luckily, until that happens there is a solution, i.e., sadhu sanga. It’s essential to be around someone who embodies the teachings found in the books and brings them to life in the here and now. Such an example will be compelling and make the ancient statements relevant to where we are in our spiritual sojourn.

  3. What inspiring words, “To think ‘I shall die’ is animal consciousness. Just kill it once and for all. At the same time try to soar up from soul to over-soul, and beyond to the Narayana conception and onwards to the Krishna conception.” I love the expression “soul to over-soul”. Gaudiya vaisnavaism’s ideal is so deep and specific.

    Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja is beckoning us to reach for the stars. He gives such a simple example of the son doubting the mother to reveal the conditioned soul’s sad predicament. It seems impossible if not utterly artificial to subdue intellect and at certain stages of development in bhakti it can beneficial not to do so. The intellect cultured under the guidance of a sad-guru makes all the difference in our progress. Swami Tripurari often uses the language, “Using the head to soften the heart”, to explain how the intellect may be utilized to progress in bhakti. In my experience, doubt seems to melt away in the presence of someone with realization and by such affection of a true guardian we can be lifted up and beyond to reach these charming planes of truth described in this article.

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