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Fall Down for Whom and from Where?
Gaudiya Philosophy Questions & Answers

Fall Down for Whom and from Where?

Jiva-Falls

There were some questions in the comment section of Babaji’s interview with Namarasa Prabhu posted on YouTube. Below is Babaji’s reply to some of them.

Question: If even a kaniṣṭha-adhikarī cannot fall down, then why do the stages like viṣaya-saṅgara, etc., as explained in the Madhurya Kaḍambinī, happen between bhajana-kriyā and anartha-nivṛtti? In these stages, one may fall down and rise again.

Answer: The stage of viṣaya-saṅgara as part of anartha-nivṛtti does not mean “fall down.” It means battling with the sense objects. Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti says that sometimes the devotee wins and sometimes loses the battle. But he does not say that devotee falls down from bhakti and rises again, as you seem to understand. Falling down means leaving the path of bhakti and becoming a materialist. If you are driving on a road and are not a good driver, sometimes you may drive improperly. You continue your journey if you do not leave the road. But if you leave the road and get absorbed in something else, your journey will stop. That would be called a fall down.

Question: As far as the fall down of Junior Haridāsa, did he engage in sense gratification? Did he give up the path of bhakti and become a materialist?

Answer: Caitanya Caritāmṛta  describes the fall down of Junior Haridāsa. Our ācāryas comment that Śrī Caitanya used His eternal associate to warn sannyasis on the path of bhakti not to associate with women intimately. Junior Haridāsa is an eternal associate of Śrī Caitanya and cannot fall down.

Question: Kṛṣṇa says that even if My devotee commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination (Gītā 9.30). This means that while falling down is temporary, it is still a fall down. So how can you say there is no fall down in bhakti?

Answer: I said that a devotee never falls down unless he commits an offense. Even a neophyte devotee does not fall down. In this regard, one should study the instruction of Śrī Kṛṣṇa to Arjuna (Gītā 9.30, 31):

api cet su-durācāro   bhajate mām ananya-bhāk

sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ   samyag vyavasito hi saḥ

“Even if a very ill-behaved person worships Me with exclusive devotion, he should indeed be regarded as holy, for he has made the right resolution.”

kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā   śaśvac-chāntiṁ nigacchati

kaunteya pratijānīhi   na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati

“Very quickly, he becomes righteous-minded and attains eternal peace. O son of Kuntī, proclaim it boldly that My devotee never perishes.”

Here Kṛṣṇa does not consider even a sudurācāra (ill-behaved or immoral) person as fallen if he is engaged in “exclusive devotion” (ananya-bhāk) and is resolved to remain on the path of devotion (samyag vyavasita). Rather, He emphatically forbids one to think of such a person as fallen. The indeclinable eva (only) in verse 9.30 also forbids us to think of such a person as “fallen” and a “devotee” simultaneously. The word eva here is used in the sense of anya-yoga-vyavaccheda or “excluding any other possibility.”

If this was not clear enough, Śri Kṛṣṇa asks Arjuna to proclaim that His devotee never falls. The devotee He is referring to is not some siddha bhakta but the one described in the previous verse.

Further, in the Bhāgavata, it is said that not even a beginning devotee is overwhelmed by sense objects, even though sometimes his attention is diverted from Bhagavān:

bādhyamāno ’pi mad-bhakto viṣayair ajitendriyaḥ

prāyaḥ pragalbhayā bhaktyā viṣayair nābhibhūyate

“Although still attracted to the sense objects, a devotee of Mine who has not yet attained mastery over the senses is generally not overwhelmed by them because of bhakti’s inherently powerful capability.” (SB 11.14.18)

This verse demonstrates the power of bhakti.

I did not say anything different in my interview. However, I added that a devotee can only fall due to offenses. If even a neophyte cannot fall down from the path of bhakti, then how did Bharata Maharāja fall down from the level of bhāva because of his affection for a baby deer? This comes from the Bhagāvatam, which Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says is the king of all evidence. The fall down may be the līlā of Bhagavān, but the point remains. Through this līlā, Bhagavān instructs practitioners on the path of bhakti that fall down can take place even from the level of bhava. The so-called fall down of King Bharata is explained, therefore, as the outcome of some offense from his previous life by Jīva Gosvāmī in Bhakti Sandarbha (Anuccheda 157). Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti, however, explains that it was a special grace of Kṛṣṇa to make the king more eager to attain Kṛṣṇa.

Question: In Śikṣāṣṭaka 5, it is said: patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau—“I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death.” Why didn’t Mahāprabhu say that we’ve always been in the cycle of birth and death for all of eternity by no fault of our own, if that was the case? You claim that the soul didn’t fall into the material world from Vaikuṇṭha, but Mahāprabhu is saying the soul fell.

Answer: The defect in this argument is the assumption that the fallen condition follows a non-fallen state.  Conditioned souls are anādi-patita, fallen without any beginning.  The adjective anādi is not always used but it is assumed.  Sometimes the jīva is called nitya-baddha or anādi-baddha and sometimes only baddha  or patita.  When called baddha, it is understood he is nitya or anādi-baddha.  Similarly patita means nitya or anādi-patita.  If one’s fall-down has no beginning (anādi), for this is the version of the śāstra, then that person also has to be called patita, fallen, as there is no other word to describe his condition.  

Being fallen was and is the conditioned jīva’s perpetual condition until achieving perfection in devotional service, and this fallen state does not in any way imply a previously elevated state such as being in Vaikuṇṭha prior to the fall. A good example of how it is possible to be fallen without being previously elevated is that of hell, which is a fallen place.  No one thinks hell was elevated and then became fallen.  Being fallen is the perpetual condition of hell; it is fallen, was always fallen, and always will be fallen. 

So hell is nitya-patita.  Similarly, being fallen is the perpetual status of conditioned beings, whose fallen, conditioned state is described in the śāstras as anādi, beginningless.

8 Comments

  • Vraja Kishor December 12, 2022

    My observation reading these questions is that people mistake “troubles” with “failure.”

    Also they mix up “falling from absolute perfection” and “sliding backwards on the way to perfection.”

    The real point is that ISKCON believes it is possible for perfection to become imperfect (which is illogical). Specifically the believe it is possible to develop a flaw while directly in the association of Bhagavan, in prema.

    THAT is impossible.

    It is certainly possible for new sadhakas to fall back (as in anartha-nivritti stages). It is even possible for things antithetical to bhakti (aparaadhaa) to push bhakti’s progress back (as in Bharata or Chota Haridas)

    And it is certainly possible to FEEL lowly or debased (“patitam mam”) and obsessed with sensuality (“vishame bhavaambudhau”)

    But what is NOT possible is for perfection to become imperfect. In other words, prema-bhakti cannot be lost.

    • Malatimanjari December 12, 2022

      Well said!

    • परीक्षित् | Parīkṣit December 15, 2022

      I think falling back even in sādhaka stage is impossible. Progress made in bhakti is irreversible. What is seen as a fallback from a vantage point other than that of Bhagavān is subject to perceptual flaw.

  • Hari December 12, 2022

    Namaste
    When terms like nitya-patita and nitya-baddha are used, do they mean only anādi-patita and anādi-baddha. Or is there a different category altogether like in the Tattvavada philosophy?

    • Babaji December 13, 2022

      When these two terms are used in the Gaudiya school, they always mean anadi because the Gaudiya school does not believe in eternal bondage.
      In these two terms, the word “nitya” means “always”. It refers to the past and not to the future because anyone can get liberated.

    • Hari December 14, 2022

      Namaste.
      Thank you for the reply. How should Baladeva’s bhasya on Gītā 16.19-20 be understood as? The English translation that I consulted seems to say that some asuri Jivas donot attain liberation at all. Could you please provide the proper translations of the commentary to these two verses?
      Thank you

    • Babaji December 15, 2022

      What he comments on these verses is different than what SVCT Thakur comments. His comment does not match with mainstream Gaudiya siddhanta.

    • Sridhar December 15, 2022

      Pranam.
      Is there a way, his comment can be reconciled with the “mainstream”? Only thing that seems apparently different is that he says that those killed by Bhagavan’s various forms who get higher birth or liberation(by being killed in the Krishna form), are “internally followers of the Vedas who had attained those forms due to a curse etc.” and “internally consider Him as the Supreme Lord” as per the English translation I referred to.

Comments are closed.