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Prīti Sandarbha (continued) - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
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No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 10 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)
Articles by Satyanarayana Dasa Gaudiya Vaishnavas Shastra

No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 10 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Continuation of the commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa:

So the conclusion is that nobody, whether nitya-siddha or sādhana-siddha, ever falls from Vaikuṇṭha. The question that naturally follows is, “So then, where do we come from?” or, “How did we come to be in this bound condition?” The simple answer is that we are nitya-baddha (perpetually bound), which is to say that till now, and indefinitely onwards till the moment of liberation, we have always been bound by the material energy, due to ignorance of who we are and what God is. There was never a time when we were not involved with material nature. Material nature as well as the living beings are anādi, or beginningless, as Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Gītā:

Know that prakṛti, or the material energy, and puruṣa, or the conscious being, are both without beginning. Know, however, that the modifications and the guṇas are produced from prakṛti. (Gītā 13.20)

The word “beginningless” (anādi) is very important in this verse. Not only are the living beings and material nature beginningless, but so also is their correlation. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura and Śrīpāda Baladeva Vidyābhuṣaṇa confirm this fact in their commentaries, tayoḥ saṁśleṣo’py anādir iti bhāvaḥ. More details on this subject will be presented in Paramātma-sandarbha.

Objection: But there are verses in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam which clearly state that the living being was with the Lord and then fell down, such as:

Do you remember your self from your previous state, when you were with your friend named “Unknown”? You left Me, seeking material acquisition, being attached to worldly sense pleasures. O noble one, you and I are two swans, two friends, who have been living together in the Mānasa Lake for many thousands of years (sahasra-parivatsarān) far from our original home. (SB 4.28.53-54)

First of all, there is no mention of falling down from Vaikuṇṭha in these verses. The commentaries of previous ācāryas clearly indicate that these verses refer to the jīva residing with Mahā Viṣṇu during the total annihilation. The words sahasra-parivatsarān (SB 4.24.54), “for a thousand cycles,” confirms this fact, since the period of annihilation is equal to a thousand cycles of the four yugas. “Giving up My company,” means taking birth in the next cycle of creation. Nārada Muni told the story of Purañjana to King Prācīnabarhi explicitly as an allegory, so it should not be taken literally. It is indirect expression (parokṣya), as stated by Nārada himself:

O King Barhiṣman! I have shown you these spiritual truths in an indirect manner, through allegory, because the Lord, the Source of the cosmos, is fond of indirect expression. (SB 4.28.65)

From the above, the words pārokṣyeṇa (in an indirect manner) and parokṣa-priyaḥ (fond of indirect expression) must be noted.

From the above analysis, based on the authority of śāstra, it is concluded without doubt that the living being does not fall from Vaikuṇṭha. Yet for the benefit of those who have not been exposed to the full breadth of the Bhāgavata’s view, as revealed to us by Jīva Gosvāmī, here is a fresh analysis of this topic from yet another angle.

In Tattva-sandarbha, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī accepted three pramāṇas, evidence or valid means of knowing, while establishing the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava epistemology. These are śabda (revealed sound), anumāna (inference), and pratyakṣa (direct perception). All evidence from śabda clearly indicates that the jīva does not fall. Pratyakṣa and anumāna shed no light on this topic. Pratyakṣa, or sense perception, has no validity in the ascertainment of transcendental matters, which by definition lie beyond the purview of the senses. Logic, on the other hand, which is part of anumāna, can be used in analyzing scripture. Logic that conforms to śāstra is acceptable as a valid means of knowing.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, in defining the characteristics of an uttama adhikārī, writes:

One who is expert in logic, argument and the revealed scriptures, who has unflinching determination and firm faith in Kṛṣṇa, is the person most eligible to achieve bhakti:

śāstre yuktau ca nipuṇaḥ sarvathā dṛḍha-niścayaḥ
prauḍha-śraddho’dhikārī yaḥ sa bhaktāv uttamo mataḥ
(BRS 1.2.17)

Here, yukti means logic and argument. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī comments that the logic referred to here is that which conforms to scripture. To clarify, he quotes a verse from a Vaiṣṇava tantra:

Appropriate logic is that which is used to reach the proper conclusion on the strength of understanding prior and subsequent statements of śāstra. Dry logic [or in other words logic devoid of such truth-visioning] should be rejected.

Thus, logic and argument are not bereft of value. They can assist us to understand the conclusion of scriptures and to resolve apparent contradictions. It is not uncommon to find contradictory statements in scriptures. For example, the Vedas state, “One who observes the vow of cāturmāsya attains imperishable merit.”  Yet, in another place it is stated, “Just as the results of material action do not endure, so are the results attained in heaven by the performance of good deeds” (ChU 8.1.6).

Naturally, both statements cannot be absolute. In other words, the observation of cāturmāsya does not directly lead to imperishable merit, but only to the indirect possibility of such. So the statement is neither false nor true in its primary sense. A secondary meaning must be applied to one of the statements in order to reconcile them. By understanding the speaker’s intention, deliberating on the results of sakāma-karma, and studying the many statements indicating the temporary nature of heavenly existence, one can understand that the first statement is not absolute. It is meant to inspire those who are materially identified and attached to fruits to observe the religious ceremony of cāturmāsya. In the course of such religious observances, they may contact a living sage and be graced with pure knowledge, and thus attain liberation. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this principle in the Gītā:

O chastiser of the enemy! Better than the sacrifice of material possessions is the sacrifice of knowledge. O Pārtha! All action attains completion in transcendental knowledge. (Gītā 4.33)

 People in general are attached to the fruits of their actions. So, if scriptures were to categorically reject all karma and its fruit, and make allowance for pure devotion alone, the religiously inclined, yet materially driven, who cannot yet adhere to pure devotion, may lose faith even in karma-yoga. So, Lord Kṛṣṇa advises:

Do not unsettle the minds of the spiritually unaware who are attached to fruitive action. A person of wisdom, while attentively engaged in action, should engage the materially attached in all manner of action. (Gītā 3.26)

Continue reading part 11

Krishna and Balarama Milking Cows / Vrindavan Art
Krishna and Balarama Milking Cows / Vrindavan Art