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Home » philosophy

On the Lotus of the Heart

Submitted by on April 12, 2018 – 12:33 am14 Comments

Q& A with Swami B. V. Tripurari

Q. How did Krishna come into existence?

A. Brahman (God) has no cause. Why must it have one? We know that the universe has a cause, but this does not mandate that its cause must have a cause. The scriptures say that the world comes from Brahman and that Sri Krishna is Para Brahman—the Supreme Brahman. The scriptures also say that Krishna is sarva karana karanam–the cause of all causes, which makes Krishna the final word on causality.

From another perspective, existence is the result of movement. In Vaishnavism, movement is equated with shakti (divine energy). Without Radha, the supreme shakti, there is no Krishna. Therefore it has been said that Radha’s love brought Krishna to life; her love made Brahman dance. That love knows no reason, has no cause, is without beginning, and has no law that governs it.

You ask how Krishna came into existence. Better to try to love him for by doing so you will become fulfilled and thus relieved of the burden of trying to find a reason for everything. Reason leaves off where love begins.

Q. Could you tell me something about Sankhya philosophy; a philosophy said by some to be atheistic and by others to be theistic?

A. The word sankhya means to count, to calculate, or discriminate. The Sankhya darsana or philosophy/doctrine is perhaps the oldest of the six principal darsanas of ancient India. The other schools of thought, of which Vedanta darsana and Yoga darsana are prominent today, adopted Sankhya’s basic analysis of nature and her constituents. India’s Buddhism also embraced Sankhya’s analysis of nature.

Sankhya as a stand-alone philosophy, unlike Vedanta and Yoga, does not acknowledge isvara (God). Thus it is sometimes referred to as being atheistic, but its atheism posits an ontological distinction between purusa (consciousness) and prakriti (matter), and Sankhya teaches how consciousness can be liberated from its identification with matter. Furthermore, its doctrine is derived in part from revelation such as the Upanisads, so it is not atheistic as we think of atheism today.

It is questionable how much essential Vedanta is dependent on the detailed Sankhya explanation of nature. While Vedanta must embrace its distinction between consciousness (the observer/subjective reality) and matter (the observed/objective reality), other details of Sankhya’s analysis of nature’s constituents are lacking in comparison to that of modern science.

Q. In your commentary on Bhagavad-gita (8.26) you write that jnana-yogis, who know Brahman, take the path of light and attain Brahman and do not return. However, Srila Prabhupada has said that impersonalists who attain Brahman by merging with the Supreme will sooner or later long for love and again return to this material world. How can we harmonize these positions?

A. This is the verse Srila Prabhupada often cites regarding falling from Brahman:

ye ‘nye ‘ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ‘nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah

O lotus-eyed Lord! Those who proudly think that they are liberated but do not render devotional service unto you certainly have impure intelligence. Although they perform severe austerities and penance and rise up to a high spiritual position, they fall down again because they have no respect for devotional service to your lotus feet.1

This verse speaks of those who think they are liberated and do not render devotional service. Their attainment–“a high spiritual position”– does not speak explicitly of sayujya-mukti, or impersonal Brahman realization. But even if we take it to be speaking about Brahman realization, its point is that without bhakti there is no possibility of attaining complete liberation in any of its five forms.

Krsnadasa Kaviraja explains this Bhagavatam verse to be referring to jnanis who have no regard for bhakti but have attained jivan mukti, liberation while still within the body. He says they fall down. This means they never attain complete mukti, videha mukti. They fall from an incomplete form of mukti in which their prarabdha karma is still operative.

So the idea is that so-called liberation attained without bhakti is a fallible position. There are, however, others who engage in bhakti mixed with jnana. They attain their desired form of mukti–Brahman realization–from which there is no return.

Q. Your Sanga, “God Plays,” contains a discussion about Paramatma, the all-pervading Supersoul said to reside in the heart of every living being. My question is how literally should we take the idea of Paramatma in the heart? Is there actually an infinitesimal form of Narayana sitting there within everyone’s heart? Does this idea apply to the jiva (individual soul) merged in Brahman after attaining sayujiya-mukti?

A. The idea that the Paramatma (Ksirodaksayi Vishnu) is actually sitting in the small space of the heart of every jiva need not be taken literally. Neither does the jivatma literally have a heart. Of course, Paramatma (God) is always with us as he is all-pervasive in knowledge and thus present within everyone in terms of awareness of all their thoughts and deeds. Baladeva Vidyabhusana comments in his Govinda Bhasya that the contradictory statements about God being all-pervasive/infinite and localized/infinitesimal in the heart of the jiva are to be harmonized by the idea that the localized/infinitesimal sense of the all-pervading Paramatma is spoken of merely for the sake of conceptualization in sadhana or meditation. When one meditates on God being the soul of one’s own soul or the knower of one’s own heart and witness of all one does, one is encouraged to conceive of him as four-armed, the size of one’s thumb, residing on the lotus of one’s heart, and so on.

Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana also writes that aside from this figurative sense in which the Godhead is within the heart of the jiva, out of affection God may appear to his devotees in different forms as their ista-deva, such as Rama or Krishna, within their hearts. Sri Brahma-samhita mentions that God is literally experienced in his devotees’ hearts on the basis of their mutual love for one another and by the power of God’s inconceivable potency, premanjana churita bhakti vilocanena santa sadiava hrdayesu vilokayanti yam saymasundaram actintya gunua svarupam. As this verse says, seeing Krishna-Syamasundara within the heart requires eyes anointed with divine love (prema), for wherever there is prema, God is present. The two are one and different at the same time.

With regard to jivas that have attained sayujya mukti, or Brahman realization, God is present in their hearts in terms of his being fully aware of their liberated status in Brahman, a status they cannot attain without his grace. Note that according to Gaudiya siddhanta, the jiva is eternally an individual atomic particle of consciousness even when apparently merged in Brahman. Indeed, in rare cases owing to the mercy of the Godhead, it is said that such souls can leave their Brahman realized status and attain a place in God’s lila. They can be blessed, that is, with bhakti. Thus in sayujya mukti they are not off the radar of the Supreme Soul, Paramatma, who knows their hearts. Indeed, Sukadeva Goswami was absorbed in Brahman and yet by God’s grace he was drawn to the post-liberated status of bhakti. As Sri Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita about those in brahma-bhuta (transcendence), mad bhaktim labhate param–they attain pure devotional service to me.

  1. SB 10.2.32-33, Srila Prabhupada’s translation. []



  • Ishan das

    Respectful obeisances,

    “darsanas”: I have not heard this word before. Is it the same/derived, as the word “darshan”, as in having the association of the Guru or Deities?

    “The Sankhya darsana or philosophy/doctrine is perhaps the oldest of the six principal darsanas of ancient India.”

    Although I understand that to have a conceptual framework of the six principal “darsanas” is not neccessary for my advancement in Krishna consciousness, my mind is drawn to the subject of what they were, who introduced them, how did they evolve/interact, over what time periods, in written/non-written modes of teaching, and what is the vaishnava appraisal of these various approaches to knowledge. Is there any literature/discussion of these subject matters that is relatively concise and accurate? Are there active/practicing schools of all six of these approaches today? Are they all considered to be revealed scripture, or are some simply the product of speculation/introspection?

    “Baladeva Vidyabhusana comments in his Govinda Bhasya that the contradictory statements about God being all pervasive/infinite and localized/infinitesimal in the heart of the jiva are to be harmonized by the idea that the localized/infinitesimal sense of the all-pervading Paramatma is spoken of merely for the sake of conceptualization in sadhana or meditation”.

    Although this explanation still keeps me in a context of consideration of the inconceivable, it is helpful and appreciated. Thank you.

    • Citta Hari dasa

      Dandavats Ishan: You’re right about darsana; it’s the same word, which literally means “to see” (or be seen), as in to see the Deity or be seen by the Deity. In this context however it refers to a particular world view, a way of seeing reality. Any system of thought that stands alone unto itself which seeks to explain how things are is a darsana. Of the six major darsanas of India Gaudiyas follow Vedanta-darsana (Vedanta as viewed by the Goswamis, of course). Regarding your questions about the others I’m unfortunately not a pandita, but there may be someone out there who does know.

  • Ishan das


    Another question that has long been on my mind.

    I can understand (somewhat) that the experience of impersonal brahman is a kind of merging into a great all-pervasive light, in which the sense of being an individual self is “dissloved”, and in which one simply experiences a sense of all-pervading peacefulness.

    Question: When the yogis of this world enter into this experience, are they capable of interacting with the world of variegatedness simultaneously, or do they have to “come down” in order to do this?

    Question: What is the subjective experience of one who has paramatma realization? Do they sense the presence of an all-pervasive spiritual quality in all of matter and space? Are they struck with a sense of reverance when looking at/handling any object? Sometimes I try to remember that Vishnu is present in everything/everyone and try to relate in this way? Is this kind of practice bonafide? Is it secondary to hard core bhakti in 9 forms? Does the advanced bhakta automatically have this kind of realization (as opposed to the kanistha)?

    • Citta Hari dasa

      In full-on Brahman realization (videh-mukti)there is no possibility of interacting with the plane of duality because material desire has been extinguished, and there is of course no possibility of interacting with the plane of spiritual variety because they did not desire to.

      I would say your description of one who has Paramatma realization is pretty accurate. Remembering that God is present everywhere is part of bhakti; I believe that the Bhagavatam (11th Canto) gives such as part of the description of an uttama-bhakta.

      • Ishan das

        “In full-on Brahman realization (videh-mukti)there is no possibility of interacting with the plane of duality because material desire has been extinguished,…”

        Perhaps I am not understanding. A pure devotee has no material desire, but still he/she interacts with the plane of duality…. What I am trying to ask is, when a monist reaches the experience of no more sense of self, are they simultaneously capable of relating to anything that has shape, form,functional definition? Or are they confined to a meditational state of absorption in inactivity in one-ness? In order to interact with the “things” of this mundane realm, do they have to abandon that anihilation-of-self context of experience, or can they interact while “feeling” that there is no individual self?

        I know that there is perhaps not great value in this mode of inquiry. But I am curious to understand how their experience manifests. I have been suspecting that when they “merge” they cannot interact during the merging experience, because there is nobody home, so to speak. What do you understand about this?

        Re: the paramatma realization, what I am wondering is whether the way in which they percieve physical objects and space is different from the way we see it. Do they see a kind of light that pervades everything, or do they see everything the way we see it, but hold it in a different context conceptually? Is their veneration based on an internal conception, or does everything appear to them (effortlessly) as filled with a divine presence that fills them with awe? Again, this may not be so important for me to know, but still, I can’t help but wonder about the experience that accompanies
        their “realization”. When they say, “namaste”, is it because they actually percieve the light of God in everyone, energetically present?

        • Citta Hari dasa

          My understanding of the monists’ experience is as you put it, that no one is home. There is no sense of self based on the identification with matter (ahankara) while they fully identify with Brahman. They think they are not different from Brahman but we know from the Bhagavatam that this is not actually the case, avisuddha buddhaya. For more on this see this Sanga: http://swami.org/pages/sanga/2004/2004_8.php

          I’m inclined to think that one with realization of the Paramatma sees in terms of their conception and not so much seeing things glowing with light. I would also say that their veneration is in terms of their internal conception which then leads them to have a natural perception of the divinity of things. In other words the devotee will interact with the material nature with great reverence by dint of the realization that it is one of the saktis of Bhagavan. They no longer see the world in terms of what they can get out of it but in terms of how it can be used in service.

          Regarding your “namaste” example, my experience is that when I am perceiving myself from a more spiritual perspective then I tend to see everything and everyone similarly. On the other side, when the mind holds sway it tends to make everything appear lifeless.

          • Thare are two types of Paramatma realization, Paramatma sayujya and santa rasa. The latter is by far superior. This is the realization discussed in the sixth chapter of the Gita, where yoga misra bhakti is discussed. Such realization is preoccupied with the form of God but not his qualities an lilas. Interestingly, from this santa rasa one can progress to dasya, or other rasas by sadhu sanga. This is because of its neutrality, rather than bias. So it’s sthayi bhava is flexible, unlike others. At any rate, a person in santa rasa or contemplative life does not for the most part mix it up with the world. But to the extent he or she does, the would is seen as the sakti of God and related to accordingly.

  • Ishan das

    ” As Sri Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita about those in brahma-bhuta (transcendence), mad bhaktim labhate param–they attain pure devotional service to me.”

    Question: As we advance is Krishna consciousness, will we come to a brahma-bhuta stage, in which we perceive that we are not this body, prior to attaining the status of pure devotional service? If so, is there any danger of being distracted from the ultimate goal, by virtue of enjoying the liberated status?

    • Citta Hari dasa

      Yes indeed we will come to the stage of self-realization prior to attaining bhakti proper. Self-realization as you have defined it is included within bhakti, while its full expression is svarupa-siddhi, muktir hitvanyatha svarupena vyavasthitih. For those of us whose goal is Vraja bhakti I would say the possibility of being distracted by brahma-bhuta is very, very small because for bhaktas it arises as a by-product of doing bhakti. Our goal is Krsna-lila from the get-go, not merely realizing the distinction between consciousness and matter. Brahma-bhuta is the realization of advaya-jnana-tattva–that reality is fundamentally non-dual–and this positions one to realize the Bhagavan expression in its fullness.

      • Ishan das

        Citta Hari Prabhu!

        My obeisances! Thank you for your definitive samurai words of Krishna consciousness. Prabhu, Swami Tripurari’s students startle me, in how well versed they are in vaishnav siddhanta. Srila Prabhupada wanted this. And Maharaja has done it, for all of us. It is very wonderful.

        One day I will get the chance to ask you once again for an assignment. Please save some firewood for me to split.


  • Ishan das

    Dear Shyamananda Prabhu,

    Hare Krishna! Please accept my humble obeisances. Thank you so much for the referral to the web site of Srila Sridhara Mahraja’s writings. That is a great gift.

    Your servant,

    Ishan das

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