A serial presentation of thirty-six questions and answers on spiritual life, published in 'The Harmonist'.
1. Q. I have come to you to enquire about the Truth. I do not know what is the goal of my life or the means to my goal. I am not in a position to put my questions in the proper form. Kindly tell me what you consider to be necessary for me to know for this purpose. May I be permitted to ask any questions that may also occur to me?
Ans. Krishna is Merciful to you. The Truth is not unknown to you. It is the nature of a pure soul who is willing to serve Godhead to ask these questions for strengthening his faith. As you are willing to learn the Truth for the purpose of serving Him in your life, Krishna will be pleased if I try to serve you in this matter.
2. Q. You have mercifully drawn me to your feet for my good. I, indeed, possess a measure of such so-called wisdom that is necessary for living among the people of this world. I hold such wisdom to be the Truth. I now find that I have wasted my life in the pursuit of such evil objects. I feel that I am wholly ignorant of my duty. I submit myself to your feet and prey to be instructed about my real duty.
Ans. The Mercy of Krishna will suggest to you the proper line of enquiry and also the answers to your questions.
3. Q. May I ask a few questions as I wish to receive their real answers from you? Who am I? Why am I afflicted with the threefold misery from accidents, from other sentient beings and from myself? In what way I can be really benefited?
Ans. I shall try to answer your questions one by one. You are a soul (jiva).
4. Q. What is a soul?
Ans. You will be able to avoid misunderstanding if I tell you in the first place what the soul is not. The soul is not this physical body which is constituted of insentient matter. He is also not the subtle material body that you possess, consisting of your mind, faculty of judgment (buddhi) and your present egoistic consciousness (ahamkara).
5. Q. Is my soul wholly unconnected with these two bodies?
Ans. Your soul does not consist of your material bodies. They bind your soul to this mortal existence. You are also not the Absolute, but a subservient of the Absolute Person Krishna. Your present material bodies prevent your soul from all access to the Presence of Krishna.
6. Q. Am I separate from Krishna?
Ans. You are related to Krishna as a ray emanating from a portion of the sun is related to the undivided entity of the sun. Or, you may be compared to one of the infinity of sparks sent up by the countless tongues of a blazing fire, while Krishna may be compared to the undivided substratum of fire whose power is manifested in the form of the vast conflagration.
10. Q. Why am I afflicted with the three miseries?
Ans. The jiva, due to his intermediate position, is liable to forget Krishna. This happens when he turns his face towards the external power of Krishna. The tendency of this aversion to or turning way from Krishna is inherent in the jiva in his eternal position. When the jiva turns his face towards the external power he finds himself in this mundane realm. His miseries are due to his submission to the external power who makes him totally forget his own nature and to entertain the delusion that he, and not Krishna, is the master of the external power.
11. Q. Is fear of punishment helpful to the soul of the jiva?'
Ans. The sense of fear comes upon the jiva only when he turns his face towards the external power. It is due to the reversal of his relationship with Krishna. It is this fear of punishment that finds its appropriate plane in this worldly sojourn. The external power playing upon the fears and hopes of the jiva sometimes elevates her victim to heaven and sometimes hurls him headlong into the lowest abyss of hell.
The jiva is not allowed to have a moment's safe and secure position. His condition has very aptly been compared to that of criminals in ancient times who were punished by being held forcibly under water and brought up to the surface for short intervals to prevent death by suffocation. But the jiva does not suspect that the external power is deluding him in this manner. On the contrary, he trusts in her promises to give him domination over the world.
12. Q. How can the jiva get rid of delusion?
Ans. The jiva can be relieved of the miseries of his worldly sojourn only if his mind is turned towards Krishna by the mercy of sadhus and the Shastras. As soon as the jiva turns his face towards Krishna, the external power ceases to have any control over him. So longs as the jiva agrees to be deluded by the external power he remains without any recollection of Krishna. Krishna out of His Mercy manifests Himself to jivas in His three forms of (1) the Veda fully explained in the Srimad Bhagavata, (2) the spiritual preceptor who is the best-beloved of His servitors, and (3) as the Internal Divine Guide. The jiva is enabled with the help of these Divine agencies to realise the fact that Krishna is his Lord and Saviour.
13. Q. In what way does the Veda enable us to recollect Krishna?
Ans. The Veda tells us (1) about Krishna as the object of our relationships, (2) about the natural function of our souls and (3) also about the final desideratum. Krishna is the Object of all our relationships. Bhakti or spiritual service of Krishna is the means of realising this eternal relationship. Prema or love for Krishna is the desired object to be gained by the realised service of Krishna. The treasure of love for Krishna is the summum bonum. By tasting love for Krishna we realise our highest bliss, and incidentally get rid of the miseries of our worldly sojourn for good.
14. Q. Is Krishna apart and different from all other entities?
Ans. This phenomenal world as well as the transcendental world are the transformations of the Power of Krishna.
15. Q. What is Krishna Himself?
Ans. Krishna is the Ultimate Reality. He is non-bifurcate Knowledge. He is the Son of the Chief of the Realm of Braja, His Eternal Abode. He is the beginning of all things, the Integer of Whom everything else is only a fractional part, the Rarest of all rare jewels of a Budding Youth. Krishna has a Body of pure consciousness and perfect bliss. He is the Support of everything and the Lord of all entities. Krishna is Godhead Himself. He is the same as Govinda Whose Eternal Realm of Goloka is full of all Beauty.
16. Q. Why is Godhead not realised as Krishna by all seekers of the Absolute?
Ans. There are three possible methods of approaching the Absolute viz. those of undifferentiated knowledge, artificial concentration of consciousness and unalloyed service. Godhead manifests Himself as Brahman, Paramatman, and Bhagawan respectively to the followers of the above methods of search.
17. Q. Are the three manifestations of the Divinity distinct from one another?
Ans. The manifestation of Godhead as Brahman is non-designative. Brahman has no distinctive features. Brahman is really the majestic Glow of the Body of Godhead, even as the Sun appears to be a ball of light to the eye of flesh. Those who seek for the Absolute Reality through knowledge devoid of all distinctive realisation, target Him as Brahman devoid of all distinctive features. While to those who seek for the Ultimate Principle by the progress of astanga yoga (artificial inhibition of activities) realise Him in their hearts as the Supreme Soul indwelling in the souls of all entities of this world. Those who seek Him by the method of unalloyed spiritual service realise Him as Bhagawan i.e. the Divine Person in Whom the six Divine Prerogatives have their perfect existence. Paramatman is only a Divine Portion of Krishna.
18. Q. What is the complete realisation of Bhagawan?
Ans. The full realisation of Godhead is attained through spiritual service. His Body is One. But there is an infinity of Divine Forms that are also His Own Bodies. The Forms of Krishna are broadly divisible into three categories viz., (1) Swayamrupa i.e. the Form that is Himself, (2) those Forms that are different from the Form in Himself, but are identical with Him in essence (tadek-atmarupa), and (3) those Forms that are permeated with Divine Power (avesharupa). The Form, Who is the expansion of the activity of Swayamrupa is known as Sree Balarama. The same Balarama has his fourfold forms of Majestic manifestation. These in their turn have also their respective forms of expanded activity. There is a derivative series of the fourfold covering forms for secondary Divine activity with their respective forms for the expanded activities of each of them.
There are also other forms that are known as Swamsha or Portions of the Divinity's Own form. The Swamsha Forms are again of two kinds viz. (1) transcendental Support and Ruler of phenomenal Nature, and (2) various Descents (avataras) as Protectors of the sadhus and Destroyers of the wicked. Among the Avataras the foremost are the three Purusha Avataras. Sankarshana-Balarama, the second Person of the fourfold primary expansion, is the direct wielder of power for the creation of the spiritual and mundane world. He makes manifest the spiritual realm, which is uncreated and eternal, through the Spiritual Divine Power. He creates the order of mundane worlds by the external power. Forms permeated with Divine Power are again divisible into primary and secondary forms. Such is the brief outline of the scriptural account of Krishna as the Object of all relationship.
19. Q. Are there other worlds besides the world that we experience?
Ans. Material space has its spiritual counterpart in the Realm of the Absolute. That space is called Parabyoma. In the Parabyoma the innermost sphere is Goloka-Vrindavana. Goloka-Vrindavana is the Eternal Abode of Sree Krishna. Within Parabyoma, below the Realm of Krishna is the Realm of Vishnu. In this lower sphere of Parabyoma there are an infinity of Vaikunthas each of which is the realm of one of the infinity of Divine Forms of Sree Narayana, the Lord of Parabyoma.
Outside Parabyoma is the realm of Maya or this mundane world. The spiritual stream of the Biraja flows between the Realm of the Absolute and this mundane world. The mundane realm is also infinite and passes the conception of jiva. The Realm of the Absolute is the manifestation of three quarters of the Glories of Krishna and the infinitude of this phenomenal world displays only a quarter of His Glories.
20. Q. How are we to practise our relationships with Krishna?
20. Q. How are we to practise our relationships with Krishna?
Ans. Krishna is one without a second. He is non-bifurcate Knowledge. He is served by His Power, although the two are also really one. For the purpose of His Activities, in reciprocity with His Power, Krishna expands Himself into His Own Plenary and His dissociated portions. His Divine Portions have already been mentioned. They are distinct from the jivas who are His dissociated portions. The Divine Portions are Possessors of power. Jivas belong to the category of power. Jivas are again divided into those that are eternally fettered. The eternally fettered are afflicted with the triple misery on account of their aversion to Krishna which is ingrained in their nature. These fettered souls can be rescued from the grip of the deluding power by the mercy of sadhus. By the influence of the instructions of the sadhus the fettered souls may obtain inclination for the pure service of Krishna and is thereby enabled to come to the presence of Krishna where the power of delusion can never abide.
The practice of the willing service of Krishna can alone enable us to realise our relationships with Krishna. Good works, seeking communion by inhibition of activities, cultivation of undifferentiated knowledge have their values as auxiliaries of the willing service of Krishna. The efficacy of these other methods in themselves is very slight. They cannot yield any real benefit independently of the service of Krishna. It is never possible to get rid of delusion except by the service of Krishna. One's judgment cannot be really be pure unless it is purified by the relationship of service with Krishna. Krishna is like the Sun. The deluding power is like darkness. Wherever there is Krishna there is no jurisdiction of the deluding power. If the fettered soul sincerely approaches Krishna, even only once, with the prayer to be His, Krishna forthwith delivers him from the bondage of the deluding power.
21. Q. Can also those, who serve Krishna for gaining some worldly object, be delivered from the bondage of Maya by such service?
Ans. Krishna takes pity on those who serve Him for gaining any worldly purpose. Krishna, by the power of His service, redeems such persons from their addiction to worldliness and enables them to taste the superior excellence of His service.
22. Q. Why does not every person pray for the service of Krishna as it appears to be so very easy to gain and so desirable in every way?
Ans. It is very rarely, indeed, that a person is redeemed from the bondage of the world. Such chance is like that of a log of wood, floating down a mighty stream, being washed up on the dry bank. It is only when through some rare good fortune one's addiction to worldliness is wearing off that a person has a chance of being attracted towards Krishna by association with His pure devotees. Association with sadhus thus offers the only chance for the redemption of conditioned souls.
23. Q. Are there grades among the devotees of Krishna?
Ans. Any person, in whom the settled conviction of the all-sufficiency of the service of Krishna has been aroused, becomes thereby eligible for the attainment of His service. The servants of Krishna are graded into the best, the superior and the junior servitors in accordance with the quality of one's faith. The best are those who possess firm faith and are adepts in scriptural knowledge and argument. Such a person is the saviour of conditioned souls. The superior grade of devotees are not aware of scriptural arguments that are possessed of firmness of faith. Such persons are most fortunate. In the junior grade of devotees faith is still tender. But they also will gradually become the best.
24. Q. Are the devotees of Krishna virtuous?
Ans. All the excellences of Krishna Himself are to be found in His devotees. The quality representing the distinctive nature of the devotee is, of course, his exclusive reliance upon Krishna. His other virtues are external in comparison with it. The best of these are kindness, absence of enmity, regard for the essence of truth, equal regard for everything, absence of vice, magnanimity, gentleness, moral purity, freedom from want, willingness to do good to all, possession of the peace of the soul, exclusive reliance on Krishna, freedom from worldly activity, steadiness, mastery over passions, temperance in diet, absence of excitement, readiness to honour others, absence of any dersie [desire?] for one's own honour, gravity, tenderness, friendliness, the possession of poetic genius, skill, taciturnity.
25. Q. What is the first step in the attainment of a life of spiritual service?
Ans. As soon as a person surrenders himself to Krishna with perfect reliance, Krishna makes him at once similar to Himself. This is spiritual proselytisation.
26. Q. How should a person himself after proselytisation, for perfecting his devotion?
Ans. The object of practising the service of Krishna as means to the end is the attainment of love for Krishna. During the period of novitiate the process which appears as means is the end in the stage of realisation. During the period of endeavour such prescribed activity as listening, chanting, recollection, etc., of Krishna are the proper forms of the process. In respect of means love for Krishna is an accompanying manifestation.
27. Q. Is the process of service the means by which love for Krishna is realised?
Ans. Love for Krishna cannot be realised by any other means than itself. It is eternally self-realised. The means in this case, such as the acts of listening, etc., are also eternally self-realised processes that appear in the pure spiritual essence of the soul in the form of means to the end.
28. Q. Are there varieties of the practice of Bhakti as means?
Ans. The practice of Bhakti as means is of two kinds viz. (1) practice of service by the method of obedience to the injunctions of the Shastras and (2) practice of Bhakti in pursuance of spontaneous liking.
29. Q. What is the nature of the practice of Bhakti in obedience to the rules of the Shastras?
Ans. This course is followed by persons who have no spontaneous liking for the service of Krishna. They do so through their sense of duty. The forms of such regulated service of Krishna are numerous. I shall briefly indicate them. Taking refuge at the feet of the Guru, initiation, service of Guru, learning from him about the real function of the soul and practising loyal enquiry about the same, to follow the path of the sadhus, to give up one's own enjoyments for pleasing Krishna, to reside in a place sanctified by its association with Krishna, to accept the minimum that is necessary for maintenance of life, to observe the fast on the eleventh day of the lunar month which is the Lord's day, to reverence holy trees e.g., emblic myrobalan the cow, the Brahmanas and the Vaishnavas. These ten constitute the first steps on the path of the practice of Bhakti as means.
In addition to these the following are negative helps. To avoid offences in regard to service and also those regarding the Name, to avoid spiritual communion with those who are opposed to the service of the Absolute, not to entertain numerous disciples, to avoid partial study and exposition of many books, not to be elated or depressed by profit or gain, not to be subject to grief, etc., not to condemn other gods or Shastras, not to listen to calumnies against Vishnu and Vaishnavas, not to listen to talks bearing on domestic life for the gratification of the sexual appetites of man and woman, not to cause any anxiety to any living thing.
To the above twenty are to be added forty-four more varieties of service which are as follows. Listening, chanting, recollecting, worshipping, praising, obeying, serving, practising, friendship, surrendering oneself, dancing before the Sree Vigraha, singing, confessing, prostrating oneself, standing up to meet Godhead and His devotees when they are found coming towards oneself, to follow Godhead and His devotees when they move away from oneself, to frequent holy places and temples of Godhead, to perform circumambulation, to recite hymns of praise, to practise mental recital, to perform the congregation chant, to accept the odour of incense and garlands offered to Godhead, to honour the great favour in the form of the remains of the Lord's food, to witness the light-waving service, to view the Sree Murti, to offer objects loved by oneself to Godhead, to meditate, to serve His Own (which includes serving the tulasi etc., serving the Vaishnavas, residing at Mathura and tasting the sweetness of the narrative of the Bhagavata), to exert oneself without stint for the sake of Krishna, to expect His Mercy, to perform the festivities of His Nativity, etc., in the company of the devotees, to practise submission in every way, to observe the prescribed vows in regard to the month of Kartika and on other similar occasions, to wear the symbols of a Vaishnava, to wear the Letters of the Name of Hari, to wear the remains of the Lord's offerings, to drink the nectar touched by the Lord's Feet.
The greatest emphasis is laid upon the following five practices which are repeated for this purpose, viz. association with sadhus, chanting of the name, listening to the Bhagavata, residing at Mathura and worshipping Sree Murti with faith.