October 19, 1934
Thakur Bhaktivinode as an Author
It is very difficult to understand the nature of Thakur Bhaktivinode's contribution to the world's literature of the Absolute Truth. The path of devotion is liable to be confounded with a surrender to the guidance of the emotional side of one's mundane nature. There are also the familiar arguments in support of persons who choose to follow the guidance of their emotions. This unwarrantable view is responsible for that undue under-valuation of the two other sides of human nature which has produced disastrous moral consequences in the ranks of the votaries of such emotionalism.
The writings of Thakur Bhaktivinode offer a perfectly clear exposition of the spiritual principle of bhakti. From the stand-point of art, his writings are distinguished by the qualities of simplicity of style and precision, richness, and naturalness of vocabulary. He is a wonderfully well-informed writer. Almost every sentence that He has penned is reminiscent of some well-known text of the vast Shastric literature. Those who are acquainted with the philosophical and theological portions of the Sanskrit literature, would appreciate the classic quality of His writings. But Thakur Bhaktivinode is no less fully acquainted with the modern thought of the world. This combination of the old and new produces a never-failing impression of freshness and a keen expectation of real enlightenment. No person with any taste for the truth can refuse to be attracted by His illuminating pages. He is always almost severely condensed both in His thought and expression. But it never produces any sense of fatigue or loss of interest in the reader. It is possible to read His Jaiva Dharma almost with as much ease and interest as a high class modern novel. This is no mean praise for the charm and lightness of his style if we remember that the subject treated in that work is the whole field of religious enquiry by the comparative method.
But unequalled as the style of Jaiva Dharma must certainly appear to all lovers of art, its thought is nothing short of a revelation. The Shastras are literally made to live and talk to us on a footing of unreserved familiarity. I can do no better than let the author speak for Himself by offering a few passages from His wonderful 'manual of the religion of all souls'. I take the passages from different parts of the book quite at random.
Jaiva Dharma Excerpt 1
Brajanath--By the term 'Vaishnava' am I to understand a Vaishnava who has renounced the world?
Babaji--every pure devotee of Krishna is a Vaishnava, whether he is a Grihastha or Griha-tyagi, a Brahmana or a Chandala, whether he is a rich and honoured person or neglected and poor. One is a Vaishnava to the extent that he possesses pure devotion to the Feet of Krishna.
Brajanath--You have said that jeevas in the grip of Maya are of five kinds. You have included sadhana-bhaktas and bhava-bhaktas also among fettered souls? At what stage of their spiritual progress are devotees counted among unfettered souls?
Babaji--The jeeva is declared to be unfettered (Maya-mukta) as soon as his life of devotion begins. But the unfettered state that is identical with one's spiritual entity is realised only when one's spiritual novitiate is completed. Before spiritual maturity the unfettered state that is realised by the devotee consists only in the attainment of the function of one's proper self. It is only after the gross and subtle material bodies of the jeeva are completely detached from his entity that he attains the unfettered state that is identical with his spiritual ego. Bhava-bhakti manifests itself in due course through practice of Sadhana-bhakti. The jeeva being firmly established in bhava-bhakti attains his spiritual body after giving up his subtle material and gross physical bodies. Therefore, the material or fettered state persists during the stages of sadhana-bhakti. The fettered state does not also fully disappear at the commencement of bhava-bhakti. These considerations explain why sadhan-bhaktas and bhava-bhaktas have been classed among the five kinds of fettered souls. Persons who are addicted to worldly life and those who desire for liberation are certainly among the five kinds of fettered souls. The emancipation, from the power of Maya, of unfettered soul is effected only by the service of Hari. The jeeva is put in fetters by Maya for the commission of offence. The fundamental offence of the jeeva is committed when he chooses to forget the fact that he is the servant of Krishna. He cannot be absolved from this offence without the mercy of Krishna. Therefore, there is no possibility of the attainment of the unfettered state without the mercy of Krishna. The school of the Jnanins cherishes the belief that liberation is effected by the purification of one's cognitive essence. But such belief is unfounded. There can never be emancipation from the power of Maya except by the mercy of Krishna. This is supported by the two following slokas of Srimad Bhagabatam which give the conclusions of the Devatas (Bhagabat 10/2/33-34).
"Madhava, Thy devotees are firmly encompassed by the bonds of thy affection. Therefore, there is no fear of their losing their foot-hold on the path of Bhakti and falling from their high state, the danger to which persons, who are votaries of liberation, are unavoidably exposed. Lord, Thy devotees, being fully protected by Thyself, walk fearlessly in the path of Thy service by making the destroyers of worldly dangers their foot-stools".
Jaiva Dharma Excerpt 2
Brajanath-- Which kinds of devotees of Krishna are eligible for realising the service of Rasa?
Goswami-- To begin with they may be divided into the two orders of the sadhakas and siddhas.
Brajanath-- Who are the sadhakas?
Goswami -- The sadhakas are those in whom the disposition to serve Krishna has manifested itself but yet in whom all adverse tendencies have not yet been fully neutralised. Devotees exhibiting these characteristics are also eligible for obtaining the sight of Krishna. They are, therefore, eligible to serve Him as sadhakas. Devotees in the intermediate position (madhyama bhaktas), referred to in the sloka of the Bhagabata, “An intermediate or second-class devotee, called madhyama-adhikari, offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bhag. 11/2/46), are such sadhakas.
Brajanath-- Master, may not those devotees who are referred to in the sloka of Bhagabata A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called a prakrta-bhakta, a materialistic devotee, and is considered to be in the lowest position. (11/2/47) be eligible for the service of Rasa?
Goswami--They are not eligible to be sadhakas of rasa till they become pure devotees by the mercy of suddha bhaktas. Persons like Bilvamangal alone can really be sadhakas of Rasa.
Jaiva Dharma Excerpt 3
Brajanath-- You have said that Brahma has taught the word through the succession of his disciples. Is it supported by the evidence of the Veda?
Babaji--Yes, it is. We find it in the Mundaka (Mundaka. 1/1/1) that "Brahma was the first of the devas to appear (from the naval lotus of Vishnu) as creator and protector of the world. He declared the Brahmavidya, which is the basis of all vidyas, to Atharva, his eldest-born". Also in Mundaka 1-13, "He instructed him in the principle of the Brahmavidya by means of which one can know the Eternal, Immutable Person".
Brajanath-- the Rishis have explained in the Smriti shastra the real meaning of the statements of the veda. Is there any evidence in support of this view?
Babaji-- We find the following in Srimad Bhagabata (11/14-3), the crest-jewel of all the Shastras : (Sree Bhagawan said ) "O Uddhaba, that by which attachment to Me is produced, which contains instruction in this natural function of the soul, which I declared to Brahma at the beginning of Brahma Kalpa, the self-same Word, in the form of the Veda, has been hidden by time on the occasion of the Cataclysm. It is this which was told by yourself to your first-born son, Manu".
Brajanath-- Why was the sampradaya system instituted?
Babaji-- In this world most persons walk in the path of evil through the offence of professing the cult of illusionism (Mayavada). If there is no sampradaya (organised society) of those devotees who are free from the offence of mayavada it is hardly possible for a person to find the society of really good people. It is for this reason that it is recorded in the Padma Purana that "no mantras become efficacious unless they are imparted by the order of the Acharyas who are recognised by the spiritual sampradayas: Sree (Ramanuja), Brahma (Madhva), Rudra (Vishnuswami), Chatuhsana (Nimbarka) are the originators of the four spiritual sampradayas. Vaishnavas, belonging to these sampradayas, are the saviours of the world".
Among these sampradayas the Brahma Sampradaya is the oldest. From Brahma the sampradaya has continued intact to this day. There is no possibility of interpolation in the spiritual Shastra such as the Veda, Vedanga, Vedanta, etc., that have been handed down by the order of the Gurus within the sampradaya. Therefore, there can be no doubt in regard to the Mantras of the Veda that are found in the books recognised by the sampradaya. The sampradaya arrangement is absolutely necessary. It is for this reason that from the beginning of time organised spiritual association has been continuing intact among the sadhus.
Brajanath--Has the sampradaya succession been fully preserved?
Babaji-- The names of the principal Acharyas who have appeared from time to time have been preserved in the order of the succession of the teachers of the sampradaya.
Jaiva Dharma Excerpt 4
Kalidas Lahiri--Devi, you have read a good deal and have received a high education. But that is not enough. You should now seek the real good of your soul.
Devi Vidyaratna-- Dear father, it is with great hopes that I have come here with the object of including you to return home with me from Sree Godruma. All of us would be very glad if you could kindly visit home for a time. It is particularly the wish of my mother to greet your feet.
Lahiri-- I have thrown myself on the protection of feet of the Vaishnavas. I have resolved not to go back to the home that is opposed to the practice of bhakti. It is not proper that you should turn Vaishnava before you expect to take me home?
Devi-- Dear father, how may you command in this manner? There is regular worship of God in our home. We do not disesteem the name of Hari. We always serve chance guests and Vaishnavas if they avail our hospitality. How then are we not Vaishnavas?
Lahiri-- Although there is similarity between your activities and those of the Vaishnavas, yet you are not Vaishnavas.
Devi-- dear father, how can we then become Vaishnavas?
Lahiri-- You may become Vaishnavas if you accept the eternal function of the soul by giving up all conditional activity.
Devi-- I have a doubt. Be pleased to solve it. The functions of listening, chanting, recollecting, tending the Feet, worshipping Sree Murti, prostrating oneself, performing manual service, practising friendship and self-surrender, in short, those functions that are performed by the Vaishnavas also contain much activity that is mixed up with mundane elements. Why are not such functions also conditional? I detect a certain degree of partiality in making such distinction in favour of the Vaishnavas. The worship of Sree Murti, fasting, worship by means of material things, are material activities. How can they be eternal?
Lahiri-- My dear, it took also me a long time to understand this thing. Try to understand fully what I am going to tell you. There are two classes of men viz., those that do not look beyond this world and those who seek for the highest good. The former devote all their effort in search of worldly happiness, worldly honour and worldly prosperity. The latter consist of three distinct groups viz., those who obey God, those who seek for knowledge and those who seek for the fulfilment of their desires. The last group are addicted to the enjoyment of the fruits of their good works. This class expect to secure super-natural results by their good works. The means for attainment of this end are sacrifice and yoga. According to this view if Iswara (God as Master) is admitted to exist, he is conceived as subject to good works. All scientific persons belong to this class. Those who are given to abstract speculations employ the process for the purpose of attaining the nature of the Brahman. These people do not trouble about the existence of any Iswara. Yet they also postulate an Iswara as a means. They expect to obtain the fruit of knowledge by practising devotion to such Iswara. On the attainment of knowledge there is no further necessity for continuing to worship Iswara. Worship of Iswara in this system is also a means and is practised before the attainment of knowledge. Devotion to Iswara is transformed into knowledge at the time of fruition. According to this view Iswara and devotion to Iswara are not eternal. Those persons who obey God from the third class of seekers of the highest good. As a matter of fact this group alone really seek for the highest good. According to these there is one beginningless, endless Iswara. He has created individual souls and matter by His own energy. All individual souls are His eternal servants. The activity of rendering Him eternal obedience is also the eternal function of all individual souls. But the individual soul can do nothing by his own power. Good works do not yield eternal result to the soul. By the practice of abstract speculations the conception of the eternal objective of the soul undergoes perversion. All natural requirements of the soul are realised by the mercy of Iswara only if one serves Iswara by the method of unconditional obedience. The other two groups are designated Karmakandins and Jnanakandins. The third group are exclusive devotees of Iswara. The Karmakandins and the Jnanakandins vainly think that they are seekers of highest good. As a matter of fact their vision is limited to this world. They are, therefore, seekers of temporary results. All the different modes of religious endeavour which they practise are also for the purpose of gaining temporary objects of desire.
Now-a-days the Saivas, Shaktas, Ganapatayas and Shauras follow jnanakanda. The listening to and chanting of Keertan are performed by them for obtaining merely liberation and finally identification of the Brahman. Those who do not seek for enjoyment or liberation by the practice of listening to and chanting the Keertan really worship Vishnu in those different images. The Form of God is eternally of the essence of chit (absolute cognition) and possessed of all powers. If the Object of worship is not the possessor of all excellence, such worship is rendered to temporal entities. My dear, the image of Bhagawan that is worshipped by you is also not the Bhagawan Who is worshipped by seekers of the highest good. It is so because you do not admit the Eternal Form of Bhagawan. And, therefore, you do not obey Iswara. You have now probably been able to grasp the difference between the eternal and temporary worship.
Devi-- Yes, if the Image of Bhagawan is not admitted to be eternal and if nevertheless an image is worshipped such worship cannot be the worship of any eternal entity. Is not some other form of eternal entity sought to be realised by temporary worship?
Lahiri-- Even supposing that to be possible, your mode of worship cannot be regarded as eternal function. The worship of the eternal Image in the Vaishnava religion is, however, the eternal function.