Ārohavāda – The Ascending Process



śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year-2, Issue 10
Posted: 7 November 2009


Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja


Inspired by and under the guidance of

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja


Ārohavāda – The Ascending Process

by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda

(Portrait of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada)

Editor’s note: The words ārohavāda and avarohavāda literally mean the ascending (āroha) path and the descending (avaroha) path. The former refers to depending on one’s own abilities to elevate oneself to a higher stage of existence, while the latter refers to depending on help from above to become elevated.


Question 1: What is ārohavāda, or the ascending process?

Answer: The policy of ārohavāda is, like Rāvana, to attempt to construct a stairway to reach Heaven. That kind of uphill work is most puzzling.* In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, it has been prescribed that this ‘uphill work’ – namely trying to construct a stairway to heaven – be abandoned.

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* The underlined phrase appeared in English in the original article.

On one end of the spectrum is attempting to force the sun to become visible at night by using lanterns, and on the other end is prayerfully waiting for sunrise and then viewing the sun by way of its own rays of light. If we hanker for temporary objects of enjoyment we are bound to become followers of the path of ārohavāda, compelled to endeavour to acquire jñāna, or perform karma or yoga.

But endeavours on the path of ārohavāda will always remain incomplete. A twenty year-old civilization shall surely prove to be deficient and fault-ridden in comparison to a one hundred year-old civilization, and the knowledge and culture of a two-hundred year old civilization shall at once be rejected in favour of the knowledge and culture of a one-thousand year old civilization. In fact intelligent men do not pursue the ascending path (ārohavāda) in any of their activities; rather they are avaroha-panthi, followers of the descending process.


Question 2: Can the mentality of inductive reasoning (ārohavāda) be permanently relinquished?

Answer: As long as someone maintains the mentality that he can fully depend on his own strength and abilities, his own self-confidence and his own understanding, he will be unable to surrender unto the lotus feet of Śrī Bhagavān. And he will have great regard for the notion of argument and reasoning (ārohavāda) as long as the notion of surrender has not manifested in his heart.

Only when someone realizes the insignificance of his own ability to support himself, the worthlessness of his proud self-conception and the ineffectiveness of his own endeavours, can he surrender himself and accept the path of receiving help from above (avarohavāda).

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam recounts the history of Gajendra, the king of the elephants. Once, Gajendra was passionately engaging in water sports within a lake, along with all his wives. Due to his wild stamping, he was a threat to all the other living beings in the lake who lived in constant fear of being trampled to death by him.

But then, a very powerful crocodile suddenly appeared from within the lake and caught hold of the leg of the intoxicated Gajendra. A fierce fight ensued between the elephant and the crocodile. It was so severe that it continued to rage even after a thousand years had passed, since they were both trying to display their might by overpowering the other. Gradually, however, Gajendra’s strength began to diminish. As he lost his power his madness, bravado and self pride also began to wane. When Gajendra, who was hopelessly trapped by the crocodile, saw that there was no way for him to escape, he realized that the most beneficial course of action for him was to accept the shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord.

Like the proud elephant, as long as the jīva considers his insignificant existence to be important, he follows the path of ārohavāda, but when the glories of surrendering unto the lotus feet of Śrī Bhagavān manifest within his heart, he accepts the path of surrender, or avarohavāda. All the sādhus preach only the path of surrender. They never instruct us to adopt ārohavāda (the ascending process). However great a person may be, if he follows the path of ārohavāda, considering it to be auspicious, he is bound to fall down. Kṛṣṇa is the sole shelter of all. The belief that anyone else can provide us shelter can never protect us.

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā
kartāham iti manyate

Bhagavad-gītā (3.27)

All aspects of material activity are performed by the modes of material nature, yet he whose intelligence has become bewildered by false ego considers himself to be the doer.

Due solely to their false ego, the intelligence of dull-minded people is inclined towards mundane goal-oriented activities. These elevationists are of course followers of ārohavāda.

Likewise, the jñānīs, who seek emancipation, want to attain greatness solely by their own endeavours: “jñānī jīvan-mukta-daśā pāinu kari’ mane – the jñānīs falsely consider that they have attained the stage of liberation” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, 22.29). The jñānīs wish to become brahma (the Supreme Absolute). This longing of one who is utterly insignificant to become the most prominent of all is called ārohavāda. The yogīs wish to become only a litte greater than they already are by acquiring some supernatural power and opulence, or else they desire liberation by merging with the existence of brahma. All these endeavours are nothing but ārohavāda.

We should simply remain in our own station, whatever it may be. We should never become a jñānī and follow the path of ārohavāda, nor should we engage in the ill-minded endeavours of a karmī or yogī on the path of ārohavāda. We should not be influenced by the desire for the attainment of monistic emancipation (mokṣa) or enjoyment (bhoga). Rather, surrendering our body, mind and words , we should hear hari-kathā from the mouths of sādhus. Then, only, shall the unconquerable and unattainable Śrī Bhagavān be conquered by us.


* * *

It does not matter whether one is a scholar or a fool. Whatever and wherever someone is, from his own position, it is essential that he simply engage in hearing transcendental hari-kathā from the lips of the sādhus. That hari-kathā has descended from Vaikuṇṭha. At present we remain in a veiled condition within this realm of kuṇṭha, or anxiety. Therefore, if we start analyzing the scriptures through mental speculation, we will be deprived. When our deliberation on the scriptures is motivated by the desire to enjoy or the desire to attain liberation, it is tantamount to attempting to make the scriptures subordinate to ourselves, but the scriptures are the direct, non-different manifestation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Kṛṣṇa has said:

tad viddhi praṇipātena
paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
jñānīnas tattva-darśinaḥ

Bhagavad-gītā (4.34)

Acquire this knowledge by offering prostrated obeisances to a guru who imparts transcendental knowledge, by asking relevant questions from him and by rendering service to him. Those who have seen the truth, the tattva darśīs, who are expert in the imports of śāstra, and the jñānīs, who have realized Absolute Reality, will enlighten you with that knowledge.

Endeavours to become the Lord are actually just karma-khaṇḍa. When someone is overpowered with the intoxicating desire to become the Lord, his pretentious display of accepting the instructions of the scriptures leaves him deprived of their actual import, which never manifest for him. The real meaning of the scriptures only manifests for surrendered souls. It is written in the Vedic literature:

yasya deve parā bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
prakāśante mahātmanaḥ

Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (6.23)

The meaning of this verse is that all the deepest meanings of the scriptures become manifest for those who have, equally, the same implicit faith in and devotion for the spiritual master as they do for the Lord.

Śrīman Mahaprabhu has given the instruction, tṛṇādapi sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ. In other words, hari-kīrtana is only possible when one considers oneself to be lower than a blade of grass. If one harbours the desire to become even slightly distinguished, his desire will compel him to bid his performance of kīrtana farewell.

Translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation


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Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.


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