Maya: The Paradoxical Potency of Bhagavan

By Satyanarayana Dasa, excerpt from the commentary on Tattva Sandarbha, Anuccheda 33.1, originally published at the Jiva Institute.

Srila Jiva Gosvami has explained that Bhagavan is not contented that Maya has to delude the jivas; therefore Maya feels ashamed to face the Lord. One may ask, “If the Lord is all-powerful, why does He not intervene?” From scripture it is understood that Bhagavan empowers Maya as the agent of the material creation, and she has been performing this service faithfully without a beginning point in time. Because she is a devotee of Bhagavan, He respectfully does not interfere with her service.

But this reply may lead to a further doubt: Besides being all-powerful, the Supreme Lord is said to be unlimitedly merciful, always disposed to everyone’s welfare. Why then does He fail to intercede in Maya’s apparent harassment of the jivas? The deeper implications of this question involve the existential issues of freedom and choice, and hence of the inevitability of conditional life as the play of finite existence. Suffice to say here that for the Absolute to be truly complete, finitude must be accommodated no less than infinity, relativity no less than absoluteness, samsara no less than moksa. Yet, Jiva Gosvami points out that even though Bhagavan does not prevent Maya from fulfilling her role within the divine plan, He compassionately instructs the jivas how to get free from her clutches by withdrawing attention from phenomenal appearance and returning it in devotional surrender to Him. Maya no longer has the power to influence any jiva who has reposed consciousness fully in Bhagavan.

Still a puzzle remains: Why does Bhagavan allow Maya to create obstacles even for a jiva in whom the desire to surrender to Him has been born? Why does He allow her to repeatedly present various allurements that prevent the jiva from discriminating between proper and improper action and in this way baffle his attempts to surrender?

Srila Jiva Gosvami answers this question by citing the verse beginning satam prasangan mama virya-samvido, which was spoken by Sri Kapila in SB 3.25.25. This verse explains that devotees of Bhagavan associate favorably with one another and always relish talking about the Lord’s pastimes, which are a tonic for the hearts and ears of the sick and weak jivas. This tonic immunizes them against the disease of material illusion and gradually brings them back to a healthy condition of life, namely establishment in their constitutional identity of service to Bhagavan.

Bhagavan’s only occupation in the spiritual world is relishing pure loving exchanges with His unconditional devotees, and this enjoyment would be subject to disruption by the intrusion of unhealthy jivas—i.e., living beings still caught in egoic self-reference and pursuit of self-serving desire, and consequently in whom the pervasion of transegoic love for Bhagavan has not yet occurred. Maya therefore employs stringent means to ensure that no unfit beings are allotted even the possibility of intrusion upon the Lord. Because this is her assigned service, He does not interfere. On the other hand, because of the obstacles she presents, the jiva becomes reflective, attentive, and insightful, and this supports the fervent turning of attention toward Bhagavan. In this way one quickly attains the Lord’s feet. Obstacles make one strong, although they seem unpalatable when faced. Obstacles develop one’s character and sharpen intelligence.

Bhagavan has not, however, employed Maya just to inflict miseries on the jivas. She does that, but as mentioned earlier, her real purpose is to chasten the jivas, to encourage them to turn to Bhagavan. The punishment she metes out serves three purposes: to administer reactions to the living beings for their unwholesome deeds, to deter them from further transgressions, and to impel them to seek a solution to this world of suffering. Since this punishment ultimately benefits the jivas by uniting them with God, He generally does not choose to come between the jiva and Maya. The governor of a state will usually not interfere when the court system sends a criminal to prison. On the contrary, he may commend the policemen who captured the wrong-doer. People do not think the governor is cruel to employ such able policemen, and in the end, if the criminal is truly rehabilitated and then freed on parole, the former lawbreaker himself may thank the governor.

So, misery is in the very nature of material existence, and its inevitability is meant to induce the jivas to seek out their source, Bhagavan, and direct attention skillfully in His loving service. Only in this way can they gain liberation from Maya’s clutches. In Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Sukadeva Gosvami confirms that this is the purpose of the creation:

buddhindriya-manah-pranan jananam asrjat prabhuh
matrartham ca bhavartham ca atmane’kalpanaya ca

“The Lord created the intellect, the senses, the mind and the vital force of the living beings for the purpose of apprehending sense objects (matra), for taking birth (bhava), for providing a range of experience for the self (atmane), and [ultimately] for transcending the act of filtering experience through the screen of prior assumptions (akalpanaya, i.e., for liberation).” (SB 10.87.2)

One may still object that even if the Supreme Lord is not intentionally cruel, He is yet indifferent to the plight of the jivas. This is another mistaken notion. Far from being indifferent to the jivas’ suffering, Bhagavan provided Vedic knowledge at the very beginning of the creation cycle. Moreover, He frequently appears in this world to enlighten the fallen populace on the pretext of educating His intimate associates, such as Arjuna and Uddhava. Sometimes He descends as Vedavyasa or as another enlightened instructor to make available the message of bhakti and uplift the suffering jivas. All this He does out of His causeless mercy, because, as we have learned from the pramana portion of Sri Tattva Sandarbha, the jivas can never directly know anything beyond the empiric range of experience merely by their own self-referencing endeavors. He alone is instrumental in the direct descent of His own intrinsic potency into the atma that is devotionally turned toward Him, making possible His own self-revelation as Bhagavan and the pervasion of unprecedented love for Him. In His appearance as Sri Caitanya He delivers krsna-prema, which is not available even to the residents of Vaikuntha.

The miseries of the material world are meant to prompt the jivas to direct their consciousness toward their supreme source, and therefore suffering is recognized as bearing intrinsic value by the far-sighted. It is like a wake-up call for the sleeping self. In this sense, misery can be seen as an aspect of Bhagavan’s inconceivable mercy. Out of His causeless mercy, the Supreme Lord offers the entrapped jivas access to spiritual knowledge through the Vedas. As Kaliyuga began and the jivas all but lost their ability to comprehend spiritual knowledge, He further helped them by explaining the same message in the Itihasas and Puranas. Finally, He revealed the essence of all knowledge in the form of Srimad Bhagavatam. So it can hardly be said that Bhagavan is indifferent to the plight of the jivas.

Once a jiva takes advantage of Bhagavan’s arrangement for spiritual education and comes to the point of transcendental realization, he need not fear any punishment for his previous misdeeds, no matter how dreadful they were. As Sri Krsna says in Bhagavad Gita:

yathaidhamsi samiddho’gnir bhasma-sat kurute’rjuna
jnanagnih sarva-karmani bhasma-sat kurute tatha

As a blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities. (Gita 4.37)

Thus, Bhagavan confirms that the jivas’ punishment is meant not for inflicting suffering on them, but for awakening them to the knowledge that will lead them to freedom from all suffering and eternal life in the spiritual world.

Yet another doubt may be raised: If the punishment inflicted on the jivas is for their ultimate good, why are they also allowed to enjoy in this world? If they were simply thrown into an ocean of ceaseless misery, they would have no choice but to quickly take complete shelter of God.

This may be answered as follows: First, ceaseless misery is not possible. Material misery and material pleasure are correlative conditions. If one suffers continuously, any decrease in pain will be experienced as pleasure. Moreover, ceaseless misery is not conducive to development of transcendental awareness, because the mind then becomes too disturbed to contemplate scriptural truths. Second, ceaseless misery is not necessary because any jiva with even a little rudimentary transcendental insight will realize that there is no real happiness in this material world. Without such knowledge, misery alone is insufficient to awaken a person to reality. Without knowledge one simply becomes acclimatized to misery. Such knowledge is available from Sastra. In the Yoga-sutra (YS 2.15), Patanjali says that every phenomenal experience is miserable to a wise person.

In Gita 9.33, Sri Krsna characterizes this world as temporary and devoid of real happiness: anityam asukham lokam. The so-called happiness one experiences here is nothing but a temporary cessation or diminution of misery. It is like the pleasure felt by a man who is repeatedly dunked in water and then brought to the surface just before drowning. Upon taking in the life-giving air, he feels great relief and joy, but such happiness is really only the temporary absence of continual misery. Sri Krsna, therefore, advises us not to strive for the so-called happiness of this material world: sama-duhkha-sukham dhiram so’mrtatvaya kalpate. “A wise person who remains equipoised in both misery and happiness, considering them to be of the same nature, is eligible for liberation” (Gita 2.15). Only such a person can taste real happiness; others experience only the illusion of happiness.

In conclusion, therefore, Bhagavan has designed a two-part program for both chastening and rehabilitating the jivas: On the one hand, Maya punishes them, and on the other, the Lord instructs them through various avataras, the Vedic scriptures and His pure devotees. Thus, Maya’s and Bhagavan’s actions perfectly complement each other.

Although Maya is Bhagavan’s material energy, she also exists in her personal form. All the energies of Bhagavan have their personal forms with corresponding identity, will, affect and sphere of action. (Srila Jiva Gosvami will discuss this point in greater detail in Sri Bhagavat Sandarbha, Anuccheda 99.) That Maya has a personal form is evident from a dialogue between Lord Indra and Mayadevi narrated in the Third Chapter of the Kena Upanisad:

Once there was a war between the devas and the asuras. After a long struggle, the devas prevailed by the Supreme Lord’s mercy, but they mistakenly ascribed their victory to their own valor and became proud. To humble them, the Lord appeared before them in the guise of a yaksa. Unable to identify the yaksa, they appointed Agni, the fire god, to find out who He was. When Agni asked the yaksa to identify Himself, He placed a straw in front of Agni and said, “Burn it.” With all his power Agni could not burn the straw. Then Vayu, the air god, was sent to identify the yaksa, but he could not blow the straw away. Next, Lord Indra approached the yaksa, but the mysterious personality disappeared. Finally, Mayadevi appeared to Indra in the form of Uma and told him that the yaksa was in fact Bhagavan.

Many similar accounts in the Vedas and Puranas demonstrate that maya and other energies of Bhagavan have their own personal forms. Thus, the description of how Vyasa saw Maya standing behind the Lord out of embarrassment is not figurative. Maya experienced shame before Bhagavan due to the nature of her actions.

Yet, another question might be asked: “If Maya, the predominating deity of the material energy, can manage all her affairs, what need is there for Paramatma to regulate this world? Sri Krsna answers this in Bhagavad Gita:

sarva-yonisu kaunteya murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir aham bija-pradah pita

O son of Kunti, whatever forms appear in the various species of life, primordial nature (mahad brahma) is their womb and I am the seed giving father. (Gita 14.4)

Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without the help of a potent man, Maya cannot manage the material world without the help of Paramatma. Maya has her innate potencies for serving the Supreme Lord, but still she needs His help in carrying out her duties. For this reason Vyasa saw that she was dependent on Bhagavan, a fact Krsna confirms in Gita 9.10 when He says that this material nature, which is one of His energies, is ultimately working under His direction.

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22 Responses to Maya: The Paradoxical Potency of Bhagavan

  1. Krishna Nama Dasa

    We can learn the real reasoning behind the suffering of living entities in this material world:
    “The punishment she metes out serves three purposes: to administer reactions to the living beings for their unwholesome deeds, to deter them from further transgressions, and to impel them to seek a solution to this world of suffering.” And that: “Bhagavan has not, however, employed Maya just to inflict miseries on the jivas.”
    My question is why do we experience suffering for our actions from previous lifetimes with a delay? It seems like more efficient way of accomplishing those goals will be if reactions are implemented immediately. How having particular birth, beauty, wealth or education helps me to “deter from further transgressions” if I don’t have any memory what did I do wrong to deserve it?

    • If reactions were immediate, there would be no illusion and no need for a saviour, leaving Narayana with no one to deliver and no scope for experiencing compassion. And we learn not merely from karmic reactions, but in conjunction with knowledge from sastra, which is manifest in the world, as is bhakti. One can’t be in ignorance and in knowledge at the same time. The fact that we can’t remember (ignorance) is compensated for by sastra (knowledge). Through knowledge we learn to see material circumstances for what they are in the bigger picture.

  2. sastra-vani dasa

    Good article. Many nice points.

    I had some problem with this part though. The author poses the question:

    Still a puzzle remains: Why does Bhagavan allow Maya to create obstacles even for a jiva in whom the desire to surrender to Him has been born? Why does He allow her to repeatedly present various allurements that prevent the jiva from discriminating between proper and improper action and in this way baffle his attempts to surrender?

    And then he answers as follows:

    Srila Jiva Gosvami answers this question by citing the verse beginning satam prasangan mama virya-samvido, which was spoken by Sri Kapila in SB 3.25.25. This verse explains that devotees of Bhagavan associate favorably with one another and always relish talking about the Lord’s pastimes, which are a tonic for the hearts and ears of the sick and weak jivas. This tonic immunizes them against the disease of material illusion and gradually brings them back to a healthy condition of life, namely establishment in their constitutional identity of service to Bhagavan.

    This is not Jiva Goswami’s answer to the question posed. How does mentioning that “by association with devotees one advances in bhakti…topics of the Lord are a tonic for the sick jivas…” address the question put forward as to why the Lord allows maya to create obstacles even for a jiva in whom the desire to surrender to Him has been born?
    According to Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s commentary on this section of Tattva-sandarbha, Jiva Goswami quotes these two verses: daivi hy esa guna-mayi… (Bg 7.14) and satam prasangan… (SB 3.25.25) to show how the Lord instructs the jivas so that they turn toward him. This has nothing to do with the question put forward.

    With all respects to the author, i submit this comment.

    • Astonishingly arrogant for neophyte neo-Gaudiyas to find “errors” in.the Shastric explanations of Mahants like Srila Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj. Babaji Maharaj is the greatest living exponent of the Shat Sandarbhas of Jiva Goswami besides being a disciple of the greatest Gaudiya Vaishnava scholar of modern times, Haridas Shastri Maharaj. If you find an error in his exegesis, the problem probably lies in your own understanding of scripture & the asampradayika nature of the diksha that you’ve received.Those who belong to the Bhaktisiddhanta Sampradaya would do well to look within to discover errors of which there are plenty. From your unique concoction of a siksha sampradaya to your quasi-sahajiya notion that Prema is intrinsic to the Jiva, there are uncountable errors in the Bhaktisiddhanta apasampradaya that should keep you busy enough without trying to discover imaginary “errors” in the writings of those who truly represent the Chaitanyite Tradition both in Siddhanta as well as the pristine continuity of diksha.

      • Better to address the actual points of concern regarding the article respectfully raised by Sastra-vani than to attack him and what you think is his lineage and what you think are it’s errors.

        • Swamiji,

          I wish that I’d listened to your sound advice before intiating this unpleasant thread. Please do accept my unreserved apology for that. Please forgive my rudeness & belligerence. Sincerely.

        • Thank you for your apology. They are rare these days, especially on the internet.

          Regarding so called “traditional Gaudiya Vaisnavism” there really is no such monolith, in that there are many Gaudiya lineages and they more often than not have different approaches to practice and even different ideals in some cases. Here is a striking example of a difference between Haridas Sastri and what often takes place at Radha Kunda. Since you cited Radha Kunda and Sastriji almost as if they were in agreement on what constitutes diksa and practice, and as if both in this regard differed from Bhaktisiddhanta. I’ll just cite Sastriji.
          Haridas Shastri:

          “The original acaryas and the Gosvamis were not given siddha-pranali by anybody. Everything was revealed by the name. If we do not have faith in that, we make the Name secondary and something else prominent. Then one cannot realize the Name, form, etc., of Bhagavan. The Name itself is fully potent, and if one chants without an offensive mentality, one will realize everything, because it is Bhagavan Himself.” (Babaji Maharaja Srila Haridas Sastri – Sri Guru Darsanam pg 101)

          “Theoretically such meditation exists, but the way it is practiced now is not the way it was practiced in the past. The reason is that unqualified people are misusing it. They have made a business out of it. Originally it was not given by the Gosvamis for the sake of making money or attracting followers. But now that has become the purpose. The modern gurus print it on a piece of paper and give it to the disciple at the time of initiation. That was not done before. The svarupa is something that is revealed when a person becomes qualified. “(Babaji Maharaja Srila Haridas Sastri – Sri Guru Darsanam pg 249)

          “Manjari-bhava means the ultimate limit of surrender. It is another word for dasya-bhava. It is the highest level of dasya-bhava (the mood of servitorship), and Sri Krsna reveals it. No one else has the power to give you a transcendental body. Giving manjari-bhava means engaging you in Krsna’s service. There is no human being who can do that. Therefore, God Himself gives it. If a person is completely surrendered to the guru and serves him, then the guru is inspired by Krsna to reveal this fact.” “(Babaji Maharaja Srila Haridas Sastri – Sri Guru Darsanam pg 249)

          “When someone has a genuine guru and is completely surrendered, which means that he does not identify with his birth, country, family, sex, and so forth, but has developed the ego of a servant of Bhagavan, at that time, Bhagavan inspires the guru to reveal this information so that the disciple can meditate in the prescribed manner.” (Babaji Maharaja Srila Haridas Sastri – Sri Guru Darsanam)

          “This is all cheating. Uttama-bhakti, however, is free from all cheating. This type of procedure or practice of which you may have heard has nothing to do with the real thing. It is all cheating in the name of bhakti. One should not become influenced by it because it sounds very appealing. It is appealing because we have the experience of sex life. (Babaji Maharaja Srila Haridas Sastri – Sri Guru Darsanam)

          “Instead of calling it manjari-bhava, name it asurika-bhava, because it will turn a person completely against God. If he is a sadhu to begin with, and then he is given this meditation, although he is not qualified, the practice of this meditation will naturally agitate his mind. Externally he will make a show of being a sadhu, but internally his mind will be completely full of the desire for sex. Then he has to become a hypocrite here, in the land of Sri Krsna. In the name of doing the highest sadhana, he will become a debauchee. He will be forced to engage in illicit sex life. Therefore this is asurika-bhava. Who has authorized these gurus to give this bhava to neophytes? What is their qualification? I do not know.” (Babaji Maharaja Srila Haridas Sastri – Sri Guru Darsanam)


      • sastra-vani dasa

        This is a totally unreasonable response, to put it in most polite terms.
        Regarding your imagined problems with the lineage of Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, we can answer all of them provided you are prepared to listen to it with an objective or unbiased mind. It has been answered earlier by many saints in the Bhaktisiddhanta lineage, including my Gurudeva Srila B.V. Tripurari Swami Maharaja. Regarding some points you raise about it, you can read the small booklet ‘Sri Guru Parampara’ by Srila Tripurari Maharaja.

        Indeed, by speaking in such a way that you have, you have demonstrated your own lack of Vaishnava sadachara/etiquette. And, never forget that the whole Western world, and most of the Eastern world as well, is indebted to the efforts of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and the followers of his linage for getting the contact with Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It is not a good idea to blaspheme the people from whom one has received one’s initial sraddha for bhakti.

        Regarding your points about how exalted Satyanarayana Babaji and his guru are, I have not questioned that. But I have a problem with your statement:

        If you find an error in his exegesis, the problem probably lies in your own understanding of scripture

        This demonstrates your sentimental nature. Scriptural discussion should proceed by referencing an defending one’s points from the scriptures, not by sentimental outburst.

        If you are not willing to discuss with a sane mind then I will not want to engage with any debate with you, lest I will waste my time and energy.

        I hope that you think sensibly.

        • Sastra Vani prabhu,

          You are absolutely right that my post demonstrated a lack of Sadachara. As I reread that post, I can only wince with embarrassment. It was rude, unnecessarily beligerant, impertinent to the topic being discussed & unphilosophical. I’m unreservedly sorry for posting that reply to you. I wish that I’d not done so but now all I can do is apologize for it. Sorry sir.

      • For the record, I am a member and founder of one of the branches of the Bhaktivinoda Parivara. The Thakura comes to the world through the lineage of Sri Jahnava-devi. When they saw the extent of his devotion and knowledge, the Goswamis of Sripat Baghnapara were very pleased and gave him the title “Bhaktivinoda” along with the following statement:

        zrī-paṭṭa-baghnāpāḍā-nivāsibhir gosvāmibhiḥ śrī-kedāranātha-dattāya bhaktāya śiṣyāya kṛpayā bhaktivinodopādhiḥ pradattā |
        śiṣyasya śrīmataḥ sādhor govinda-caraṇaiṣiṇaḥ |
        kedāranātha-dattasya jayo bhavatu sarvadā ||1||
        prabhoś caitanya-candrasya matasya cānuvartinaḥ |
        pracārakasya śāstrāṇāṁ bhakti-mārga-pravartinām ||2||
        śrī-rādhā-kṛṣṇa-viṣayāṁ tava bhaktim anuttamām |
        dṛṣṭvā ko na vimuhyeta loke’smin vaiṣṇava-priya ||3||
        yāṁ bhaktiṁ labhituṁ śaśvad vāñcanti bhagavat-priyāḥ |
        tāṁ bhaktiṁ hṛdaye dhṛtvā dhanyo’si priya-sevaka ||4||
        jīvasya jīvanopāya ekā bhaktir garīyasī |
        ato bhaktivinodākhya upādhiḥ pratigṛhyatām ||5||

        “The Goswamis residing in the holy site of Baghna Para mercifully bestow the title of Bhaktivinoda on the devotee and disciple Kedarnath Datta.

        1. May you, our pious disciple Kedarnath Datta, who desire nothing but the lotus feet of Govinda, be ever glorious.

        2. You faithfully follow the doctrines taught by our Master, Chaitanya Chandra, and you actively preach the scriptures that establish the path of devotional service.

        3. Seeing your unequalled devotion for Radha and Krishna, O you who are dear to the Vaishnavas, what person in this world would not be enchanted?

        4. The kind of devotion that the Lord’s dearest associates ever desire to attain is held in your heart, so you are most fortunate, O beloved servant.

        5. The supreme and only benefit for the living beings is devotion to Krishna. Therefore, please accept this title of Bhaktivinoda.

        The Goswamis of Baghnapara joyfully gave this honor to him in the month of Magh in the 400th year after the birth of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.”

        Bhaktivinoda Thakura in turn gave Harinama to his son and successor on the world stage, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, and also encouraged him to accept diksa from Gaura Kishore dasa Babaji of the Advaita parivara. Having done that, Saraswati Thakura began preaching and initiating disciples in the presence of Bhaktivinoda and Gaura Kishore with their blessing.

        In the following letter Bhaktivinoda addresses Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati as “Saraswati” and encourages him to continue the preaching through the mission he had started:

        People of this world who are proud of their own aristocratic birth attack the pure vaisnava Thus they commit offences. The solution to the problem is to establish the order of daiva-varnasrama-dharma—something you started doing; you should know that to be the real service to the Vaisnava. Because pure devotional conclusions are not being preached, all kinds of superstition and bad concepts are being called devotion by such pseudo sampradayas as sahajiya and ativadi.

        Please always crush these ant-devotional concepts by preaching pure devotional conclusion and by setting an example. Please try very hard to make sure that the service to sri mayapur will become a permanent thing. The real service to Sri Mayapur can be done by acquiring printing presses, distributing devotional books, and sankirtana – preaching. Please do not neglect to serve Sri Mayapur or to preach for the sake of your own reclusive bhajana. When I am not present any more, please take care to serve Sri Mayapur dhama which is so dear to you. This is my special instruction to you.
        I had a special desire to preach the significance of such books as Srimad-Bhagavatyam, Sat-Sandarbha, and Vedanta Darshana. You have to accept that responsibility. Sri Mayapur will prosper if you will establish an educational institution there. Never make any effort to collect knowledge or money for your own enjoyment. Only to serve Lord will you collect these things.

        Kedarnatha Datta Bhaktivinoda”

        Note that above “daiva varnasrama” refers to the fact that Vaisnavism is above Brahmanism or Varnasrama.

        Our lineage stems from the stream of two parivaras that meet in the person of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. He in turn referred to his lineage as the “Bhaktivinoda Parivara,” owing to the significance of Bhaktivinoda’s contribution of innovative and far reaching dissemination of Mahaprabhu’s precepts. Such recognition and renaming of a parivara is not unprecedented. The Syamananda and Narottama parivaras are prominent examples.

        The current of Bhaktivinoda is unique and all modern Gaudiya’s today are indebted to him. In his parivara we find great enthusiasm for propagating the teaching of Gaurasundara and that in relation to the modern world. Great persons can do great things and in doing so they may also take liberties that others cannot. The innovations of Bhaktivinoda and Bhaktisiddhanta following in his footsteps for the most part constitute altering details to better deliver the principle. However, they have also spoken at times in ways that appear to take liberty with a point or two of Gaudiya siddhanta. Their infinite wisdom should not be questioned in this regard now a century later, in that in doing so they achieved their desired result in their own time. Now times are quite different and neither are members of their parivara empowered to the extent that they were. Thus we do not take such liberties with the siddhanta but do not hesitate to adjust details to deliver the principle in dealing with the world today.

        • Swamiji,

          If you were to visit the Bhaktivinode Gosthi in Birnagar, West Bengal, you’d get a completely different idea of the relationship between Kedarnath Bhaktivinoda & his son Bimal Prasad than what you’ve just presented to us. Bhaktivinode Thakura gave Harinam samskar to all of his children including Bimal Prasad but did NOT give diksha to Bimal while giving it to the rest of his children. The history of this lies in the fact that Bimal prasad committed a grave Vaishnava aparadh at the lotus feet of Kedarnath Bhaktivinoda’s Guru, the pure devotee Bipin Bihari Goswami Maharaj. Bhaktivinoda did not feel able to transfer the diksha mantras that he’d received from his Guru to his son Bimal after this grave infraction & told him to seek diksha elsewhere.

          It is also highly doubtful that Gaura Kishora Dasa Babaji Maharaj ever gave diksha to Bimal as Bimal was unable to even provide his guru pranali details (not Siddha pranali) to those who requested verification. Diksha is always accompanied by the Guru revealing to the sishya his Guru pranali or stream of unbroken initiating spiritual Masters stretching back all the way to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Also, Bimal was prone to receiving mantras “in the dream state” as can be seen from his “Brahmana Diksha” & “sanyas dikshas” respectively.

          In order to cover-up this lack of receiving diksha, it is indeed conceivable that Bimal as Bhaktisiddhanta concocted the whole notion of a *siksha Sampradaya” which is against all Vaishnava & Vedic Siddhanta & is unique to neo-gaudiyaism alone.

          As for the so-called “daivi Varnashrama” Dharma that you mentioned, there is absolutely no Shastric proof for any sort of Varnashrama Dharma that is not based on the principle of Birth alone. The miserable failure of the “daivi Varnashrama” experiment in all neo-Gaudiya communities can be seen as evidence that this idea had no spiritual inspiration behind it but was probably concocted in an idealistic but misinformed young mind. Who has ever heard of a Varnashrama society with ONLY BRAHMANAS in it??? And yet, that is exactly what we see in all neo-gaudiya societies today. Moreover, the standard of Brahminhood espoused by neo-gaudiyas is so far below the Shastric requirements as to be tragically laughable. A Brahmins sole purpose is to study & perpetuate the Vedas (shruti) and I’ve seen no one in your neo-Gaudiya communities with any Vedic knowledge whatsoever.

          The solution to Varnashrama Dharma was given to us by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself & requires no modernist innovators to actualize. Mahaprabhu descended to earth to bring the Fire of Raganuga Bhakti to this planet. Raganuga Bhakti requires no Varnashrama Dharma qualifications whatsoever & is thus eminently suitable for ALL Souls in all places at all times. The only reason that “daivi Varnashrama” was even invented was to reduce Mahaprabhu’s transcendental Raganuga Sampradaya to a faux vaidhi Bhakti one. There is no need for another Vaidhi Bhakti Sampradaya on this planet. The Sri & Madhva Sampradayas practice Vaidhi Bhakti to perfection already.

          I’m sorry that this all sounds a bit harsh. I was under the impression from reading your books that you Swamiji were different from your fellow neo-Gaudiyas & I hope I’m not wrong about that! Its likely that you won’t publish this reply of mine as I doubt that you have a reply to it & it might not be good “for business” to let the students be exposed to this level of Truth. No one who discovers Traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism ever returns to neo-gaudiyaism but many sincere seekers from the neo-Gaudiya camp are now finding their True Path in the nectarean aura of Radhakunda.

          Yours sincerely.

        • The above post of Aryan has been approved for the purpose of teaching. He suggests that if devotees were to visit Birnagar they would get a different idea of the relationship between Bhaktivinoda and Bhaktisiddhanta than the one I presented in an earlier post. However, Aryan’s post, unlike mine, contains nothing but hearsay, and I dare say that I very much doubt that he himself has ever been to Birnagar. Nonetheless it is not unlikely that there is some criticism of Bhaktisiddhanta in Birnagar, but neither is there any real spiritual vitality there now nor has there been for decades.

          Even when Lalita Prasada, the younger brother of Bhaktisiddhanta, resided there the place was deteriorating, and my Guru Maharaja had a number of cordial discussions with Lalita Prasada concerning the possibility of Iskcon taking over the management there for the sake of preserving it. Lalita Prasada agreed to give my Guru Maharaja a 99-year lease to develop the Gosthi of Bhaktivinoda. Here is an example of the nature of their relationship at that time:

          “Ulla-Bimagar, Nadia dist., W. Bengal.

          My dear Uncle Prabhupada Lalita Prasada Thakura, kindly accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet. The whole day spent at your temple on Thursday was so pleasant and happy that all my disciples felt celestial blessings in your association. Personally, I am so much encouraged by you that I appreciate this as the blessing of Bhaktivinoda Thakura through his living representative. Now you can expedite the lease agreement immediately so that before returning to USA in about three weeks’ time I may advise my assistants to take up the work seriously and begin construction and other things. Next time when I go to you I shall stay not less than one week.
          Hoping this will meet you in the very best health and happy mood.

          Yours affectionately
          A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami”

          At the same time my Guru Maharaja had plans to publish some of the song books and tapes of Lalita Prasada: “I am pleased to hear that the song books and tapes of Lalita Prasada Thakura are in New York for being edited and distributed.”

          However, unfortunately some of the other Bengalis on the Trust of the property opposed the desire of Lalita Prasada and criticism of Bhaktisiddhanta also surfaced and the proposed lease was never executed. And it is indeed unfortunate because now the place is in even greater jeopardy of being preserved.

          Yes, Lalita Prasada had differences with his brother Bimal Prasada—Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati—but after the passing of Bhaktivinoda Lalita Prasada continued to assist Bhaktisiddhanta until their differences made it impossible for them to work conjointly.
          Yes, Bhaktisiddhanta did not have the highest regard for Bhaktivinoda diksa guru, Bipin Behari Goswami, but the Goswami himself disowned Bhaktivinoda for his claim to having discovered the birth place of Mahaprabhu, despite the fact that Jagannatha dasa babaji confirmed it. And Bhaktivinoda encouraged Bhaktisiddhanta to accept diksa from Gaura Kishore dasa babaji. The idea that this initiation never took place is merely hearsay. The fact that certain conventions regarding diksa prominent at the time were not invoked does not serve as proof that he was not initiated. Gaura Kishore was very unconventional. Furthermore, those details are not even mentioned in Hari-bhakti-vilasa, where a number of alternative procedures for diksa are cited that one can choose from and Santana Goswami concludes the section on diksa by stating that in essence it involves imparting the mantra and nothing more.

          Bhaktisiddhanta did receive the sanyasa mantra cited in Hari-bhakti-vilasa in a dream and the idea that mantras can be imparted in dreams is supported in the Govinda-bhasya of Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Otherwise he passed on to his disciples the appropriate diksa mantras of our sampradaya and he also included along with them the Brahma Gayatri, which the Srimad Bhagavata is said to be a commentary on.

          As for the claim that there is absolutely no sastric proof that caste is determined by anything other than birth, I refer the readers to Srimad Bhagavatam:

          yasya yal lakṣaṇaṁ proktaṁ
          puṁso varṇābhivyañjakam
          yad anyatrāpi dṛśyeta
          tat tenaiva vinirdiśet

          “If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya or sudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification.”

          Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comments:

          “However, if a man designated by a particular varna shows the qualities of another varna, he should be classified according that other varna, and should be called by that name, such as brahmana. What is meant by “showing qualities” is showing general qualities like control of the sense and mind (for the brahmana for instance), not particular actions like performing sandhya rites. This means he should be given the respect like a brahmana.”

          The fact that the scope of our parivara’s preaching was so wide that it sought, if at all possible, to establish varnasrama dharma as the dominant socico-religious structure of the world along with teaching the ideal of Vraja-bhakti is certainly not a fault. In an effort to do so the thought was to first establish a brahminical sector of Vaisnavas. To use the term of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, such Vaisnavas would be largely parinistha bhaktas, who followed varnasrama to set an example for the masses. Of course, this strategy arose in India at a time when varnasrama was much more in place although corrupted. But at any rate, the idea surfaced in Bhaktivinoda, whom Aryan on the one hand praises and on the other vilifies. After all, Lalita Prasada was also a disciple of Bhaktivinoda. Again, Bhaktivinoda clearly supported the preaching of Bhaktisiddhanta as demonstrated from the letter I cited in my previous post, as did Gaura Kishore das Babaji. Those who question the authenticity of Bhaktisiddhanta should take it up with his gurus, who did not.

          The term “siksa sampradaya” refers in essence merely to the fact that a siksa guru may take precedence over one’s diksa guru, and thus one may draw one’s line with this in mind.

          As for Radha Kunda, it is indeed an auspicious place, but unfortunately not everyone living there and dressed as a renunciate is very renounced, pious, or learned. I doubt Aryan has ever been there nor to Birnagar, and it does not appear that he/she is even an initiated member of the Gaudiya sampradaya and barely an adult. I find his points sophomoric at best and overall uninformed. And his interpretation of the import of the few facts he does have a grip on is generally offensive.

          This all began with his fanatical claims as to the more or less infallibility of Satyanaraya das babaji and Haridasa Sastri in response to one of my students, Sastra-vani dasa, pointing out a paragraph of Satyanarayana’s article we published that Sastra-vani found inconsistent. The reasons for his concern were pointed out for further discussion.

          I doubt Aryan has ever met Satyanarayana or the other two editors, Jagadnanda and Navadvipa/Bruce Martin, working with Satyanarayana to bring out the Sandarbhas in English. All of them are friends of mine with whom I correspond. Sastra-vani has also corresponded with Satyanarayana and has a cordial relationship with him. The posts of Aryan “defending” him would never meet with the approval of Satyanarayana or his editors.

          I will not continue to approve any posts of Aryan short of an apology to all concerned.

        • For those interested, here is a recent report on the present condition of Bhaktivinoda’s birthplace in Birnagar:

  3. sastra-vani dasa

    And also, i think that to always blame maya for the suffering as if maya is some cruel force and we, the jivas, are some noble entites is not quite appropriate. Maya is not unleashing suffering for no reason. We jivas suffer because of our own activites; maya is not to blame as the sole cause for it. Maya is simply giving us the reactions which are due to come upon us. It is we who have implicated ourselves in the cycle of suffering repeatedly, not maya.

    And regarding the question:

    Still a puzzle remains: Why does Bhagavan allow Maya to create obstacles even for a jiva in whom the desire to surrender to Him has been born? Why does He allow her to repeatedly present various allurements that prevent the jiva from discriminating between proper and improper action and in this way baffle his attempts to surrender?

    i think that there is a difference between just desiring to surrender to the Lord and actually taking up the practical work to surrender oneself to the Lord. Anyone who has taken up to the path of sadhana-bhakti in all sincerity knows that the latter is much more difficult than the former. One may have a desire to surrender, and that is good and that’s wanted, but that desire should go more deeper within the heart; from theory it should turn into practice. This practice will reinforce that desire deeper within the heart, as the material samskaras are cleared and spiritual samskaras of bhakti take root within the heart.
    Thus, one who has a desire to surrender still experiences obstacles because one is not fully convinced of surrendering and has not surrendered yet. To the extent one is surrendered one does not experience obstacles in bhakti. Surrender in bhakti implies the stage of ruci (taste) for bhakti; it means one has no other desire than to serve Krishna. But this does not mean that a devotee who is surrendered does not experience suffering, although there will be no obstacles in his/her bhakti.
    Srila Tripurari Maharaja recently wrote something regarding suffering in the life of a devotee:

    Nescience, ego, attachment, aversion, and clinging to material life, these are the klesas that give rise to suffering. They arise in the mind from the breeding ground of ignorance and trigger and perpetuate samsara. Thus when ignorance is dispelled, the klesas disappear. That is yoga siddhanta.

    This also holds true in bhakti, but in bhakti one gets a sadhaka deha with a spiritual ego, spiritual attachment, aversion to asat sanga, and so on, including spiritual suffering. In the least, para dukha dukhi— the Vaisnava feels the suffering of others on the low end and separation from Krsna on the high end.

    Also, regarding the material happiness and distress experienced by a devotee, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says in his commentary to BRS 1.1.22:

    Now, happiness and distress also befall the devotees, even when their prārabdha-karma has been destroyed in general. That happiness though is one of the side benefits of practicing bhakti, as it is said in Nārada Pañcarātra :
    hari-bhakti-mahā-devyāḥ sarvā mukty-ādi-siddhayaḥ |
    bhuktayaś cādbhutās tasyāś ceṭikāvad anudrutāḥ ||
    All the perfections such as liberation and wondrous material enjoyments run after the great goddess of devotion to Lord Hari like her maidservants.
    Distress experienced by the devotee is sometimes given by the Lord, as Bhāgavatam 10.88.8 states:
    yasyāham anugṛhṇāmi hariṣye tad-dhanaṁśanaiḥ
    tato ’dhanaṁ tyajanty asya svajanā duḥkha-duḥkhitam
    If I especially favor someone, I gradually deprive him of his wealth. Then the relatives and friends of such a poverty-stricken man abandon him. In this way he suffers one distress after another.
    It should also be understood that sometimes suffering of a devotee is a result of acts such as offense to the Vaiṣṇavas.

  4. Dandavats Shastra-vani,

    You wrote:

    We jivas suffer because of our own activites; maya is not to blame as the sole cause for it. Maya is simply giving us the reactions which are due to come upon us. It is we who have implicated ourselves in the cycle of suffering repeatedly, not maya.

    But it seems to me like putting the blame fully on the jivas is not reasonable either, since we have been in the material world forever. That of course means that we have been under the influence of Maya forever without us ever making the initial decision to “fall down” etc.

    And then once we are under the influence of Maya, our consequent decisions are informed by that illusion and we keep repeating our mistakes. And without the intervention of bhakti-devi, which also comes from outside of us, there’s no hope of putting an end to the bad decisions of the jivas.

    So both in terms of initial implication as wells as the initial impulse towards real liberation it seems like the jivas cannot be held accountable.

    • I think the idea is that the jivas are accountable on an ongoing basis and no one is accountable in terms of origins because there are no such origins. “Anadi” is the nature of real entities, of God and his saktis. And regarding bhakti, it is initiated by bhakti but the jivas could offend bhakti instead of accepting bhakti. And all along the course of bhakti the jiva’s will or effort is required.

    • sastra-vani dasa

      Thank you Guru-Maharaja for explaining it nicely.

      And thank you Gurunistha for taking the conversation forward. I wrote that because from this article I got kind of a sense that the jivas are being cast in somewhat of a light of righteousness; “I am good, why should I suffer?”
      The answer is simple, “we suffer because of our own activities”, and that is called as karma. We take from the world and so we owe, and thus to face the consequences. The jivas’ own karma is the sole cause for their suffering in this world. Thus the Vedanta-sutra 2.1.35 says that God is not responsible for the jivas’ suffering, it is their own activies, karma. And Guru-Maharaja has just explained it nicely that this is not in terms of origins because there are no such origins. The jiva is implicated in maya beginninglessly, and the principle/force by which they interact with maya is karma, which is also beginningless.

      You wrote:

      And then once we are under the influence of Maya, our consequent decisions are informed by that illusion and we keep repeating our mistakes. And without the intervention of bhakti-devi, which also comes from outside of us, there’s no hope of putting an end to the bad decisions of the jivas.

      Yes, our decisions are informed by the illusion, as well as previous samskaras of making the wrong choices, but that doesn’t mean that we do not have any choice to act in the right way. In the human form of life, one can exercize one’s choice of acting properly or improperly. This is the blessing of human life; the animals and other lower species are not held responsible for their activities, but human beings are. Why? Because they have the power to choose whether to act according to the illusory influence or not. Although it makes it difficult to choose to act in the right way if we are influenced by tons of coverings of previous conditionings, still, it is not impossible to choose to act in the right way even in that condition. And of course, the reactions for acting in a wrong way for a totally ignorant person are much lesser than the reactions for a person who is in some knowledge. “Same punishment for all” is not the way of the karmic arrangement, because everyone is not the same.

      And you wrote:

      And without the intervention of bhakti-devi, which also comes from outside of us, there’s no hope of putting an end to the bad decisions of the jivas.

      Yes, if you consider that every act in this material world, whether pious or impious, is bad, being not in the real interest of the jivas.
      But, as Guru-Maharaja has explained, once the jivas are presented with the opportunity for bhakti (in any form) it is the jivas’ choice to engage in that bhakti or offend it. Ofcourse, the ajnata bhakti-sukrti, engaging in bhakti unknowingly, predisposes one to make the right choice to participate in bhakti at a later time, but one still has to make the conscious choice of engaging in bhakti at that time. So jivas’ own choice cannot be done away with in any situation, whether materially conditioned or under the influence of bhakti.
      Thank you Gurunistha Prabhu for your nice questions.

      • Is this an accurate summary of the siddhanta?

        Neither bhagavan nor the jivas themselves are responsible for the jivas being under the influence of maya, since all three exist without beginning (anadi). The avidya that causes the jiva to act in a way that perpetuates karma is also anadi.

        However, the kripa that dispells avidya is always available to the jiva in various forms, including sastra, guru, sanga, etc. Even thoughtfulness or reflection on the nature of the world (sattva) could help, but arguably, even this requires some sadhu sanga.

        Therefore, the unwillingness of the jiva to take advantage of kripa and act with vidya is what places responsibility for perpetuating karma on the jiva. Even though the jiva acts under avidya, there is always an opportunity to act otherwise, and that opportunity is always available in some form or another because kripa is causeless and eternal.

        Is that accurate?

        • sastra-vani dasa

          Pranaams Gauravani,
          As you have mentioned, neither Bhagavan nor the jivas are responsible for the jivas’ being under the influence of maya, since there was no beginning/origin to the jivas’ being in maya. No one can be held accountable for originating the jivas’ mayic predicament, because there are no origins to it; it is simply beginning-less.
          But from the perspective of the ongoing suffering of the jivas at the hands of maya, the jivas alone are responsible. That’s what the Vedanta-sutra says, as well as its commentary Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Gita, etc. say, and that’s what our acharyas have said.
          We should never forget this point, that we are actually responsible for our material suffering and mayic predicament. The concept of anadi karma does not transfer the blame of the jivas’ suffering on someone or something else. Anadi karma simply means that God is not responsible for our activities, or karma, that’s all. Our own activities, karma, is the cause of our suffering, and this karma did not begin off unevenly for different beings resulting into different material conditions for different living beings. No. How come? Because karma is beginning-less; it is literally a perpetual cycle. Of course it can come to an end, and that is only by the merciful ingress of bhakti in one’s life.
          You mention the point that the avidya that perpetuates karma is also anadi. Of course. Here we should also understand that karma is not separate from avidya. Avidya and karma are inter-related. Although avidya (ignorance) causes one to perform karma (material activities), avidya cannot exist without karma, in as much as a seed cannot exist without a tree. It is our activities that feed the ignorance, and this ignorance then gives rise to more material actions, both of which do not have any beginning.

          You wrote:

          Therefore, the unwillingness of the jiva to take advantage of kripa and act with vidya is what places responsibility for perpetuating karma on the jiva

          In this statement if you consider karma to be any material act, pious or impious, then it is valid. Without sadhu-sanga one cannot get freed from the grip of material conditionings.
          But if you consider karma in that statement to mean impious acts that create material suffering, then it is incorrect. It does not take into account the ability of the jivas in the human form to choose to act in the right way, materially speaking. One who is committing a materially wrong act knows that it is wrong. And that’s why one has guilt when one commits such an act. So some basic knowledge/understanding is there in any sensible human being, I believe, even without sadhu-sanga. And thus humans are held responsible for their actions. And if one is not sensible in this matter then he/she is just a two-legged animal. dharmeṇa hīnāḥ paśubhiḥ samānāḥ: Devoid of dharma, or basic righteousness, humans beings are just like animals.

        • sastra-vani dasa

          On thinking more about your statement:

          Therefore, the unwillingness of the jiva to take advantage of kripa and act with vidya is what places responsibility for perpetuating karma on the jiva.

          the jiva is always responsible for perpetuating karma, whether unwilling to take advantage of kripa or willing to take advantage.
          Although in conditioned life one is simply acting out of avidya, that does not undo one’s being responsible for one’s acts. One willfully chooses, although under avidya’s influence, to commit a sinful or pious act, irrespective of one’s knowing of sadhu-sanga or not. And thus one is responsible for the consequences.
          The jivas (humans) being responsible for their own acts has nothing to do with their being aware or not being aware of sadhu-sanga or kripa.

          The responsibility comes with the human form of life. So anyone who is a human being is definitely responsible for his/her own activities/karma.

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