Published on May 7th, 2018 | by Harmonist staff1
By Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Goswami, from Art of Sadhana.
The fourth chapter of the Vedanta Sutra is called “the results.” The first section (adhikarana) of this chapter is called avrtty-adhikarana, or “repetition.” The sutra after which this section is named is avrttir asakrd upadesat:
“One must engage in the repeated practice of hearing and chanting, or the uninterrupted meditation on the Supreme, for this instruction has been given again and again.”
Baladeva Vidyabhusana understands this instruction to be contained in the words repeated nine times to Svetaketu in the Chandogya Upanishad: sa ya eso’nimaitad-atmyam idam sarvam tat satyam sa atma tat tvam asi svetaketo. “That which is the smallest of the small is that of which all that exists is made, O Svetaketu. It is the truth and it is the Self. You are that, O Svetaketu.” The Self here means the Supreme Brahman. The words tat tvam asi can also be understood as “you are his.”
Thus it is quite logical that the emphasis on sound is found again at the end of the Vedanta Sutra in its final aphorism: anavrttih sabdad anavrttih sabdat—”Revelation tells us that we never come back. Revelation tells us that we never come back” (4.4.22).
The purport is that when one knows the Lord’s true identity, one attains his abode of Goloka by the influence of his devotional service. Once he is so liberated, he never again returns to this world of repeated birth and death. The proof of this is found in “sound” or revelation (sabda).
The relevant passages Baladeva cites from the revealed scriptures are:
etena pratipadyamana imam manavam avartam navartante
“Those who have taken shelter of Brahman and are thus liberated never return to this mortal world of repeated birth and death.”
sa khalv eva vartayan yavad ayusam brahma-lokam abhisampadyate
na ca punar avartate na ca punar avartate
“The liberated person remains as such throughout his life and then after death goes to the Brahmaloka, whence he never returns, whence he never returns.”
(Chandogya Upanishad, 8.15.1)
Krishna confirms this statement in the Gita with two important verses:
mam upetya punar janma, dukhalayam asasvatam
napnuvanti mahatmanau, samsiddhim paramam gatah
abrahma-bhuvanal lokah, punar avartino r’juna
mam upetya tu kaunteya, punar janma na vidyate
“The great devotees who attain the status of participating in my divine pastimes, once having reached Me, never again accept a transitory birth, which is the dwelling house of agony. O Arjuna, from the planet of Lord Brahma downwards, the residents of all planets are naturally subjected to repeated birth and death. But upon reaching me, O Kaunteya, there is no rebirth.”
The repetition of the phrase anavrittih sabdat is an indication that the Vedanta Sutra ends with these words.
Of course, for the devotees, prema, which is bhakti in its purest form, is its own reward. Devotees are therefore ready to take birth in any lowly species as long as they can be assured of some service to the Lord, which is the highest good as far as they are concerned. This attitude is exemplified by Lord Brahma in his prayers to Gopala Krishna:
tad astu me natha sa bhuri-bhago, bhave’tra vanyatra tu va tirascam
yenaham eko’pi bhavaj-jananam, bhutva niseve tava pada-pallavam
“O my lord, allow me to have that great fortune, either in this life or in another, even if it be in a body of a lower creature, whereby I can live among your intimate devotees and serve your lotus feet.”
(Srimad Bhagavatam, 10.14.30)
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura repeats the same sentiment in one of the songs in his Gitavali:
janmaobi moe iccha jadi tora, bhakta-grhe jani janma ha-u mora
kita janma hau jatha tuwa dasa, bahirmukha brahma nahi asa
“O Lord if it is your wish that I should take birth again, grant me birth in the house of a devotee. I will even gladly become a worm or an insect as long as I can be Your servant, but I have no interest in becoming a Brahma who has no interest in your service.”