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śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!
Year 6, Issue 10
Posted: 23 November 2013
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Inspired by and under the guidance of
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Thākura Bhaktivinoda - Part I
by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda
We avail of the opportunity offered by the anniversary celebrations of the advent of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda to reflect on the right method of obtaining those benefits that have been made accessible to humanity by the grace of this great devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda has been specifically kind to those unfortunate persons who are engrossed in mental speculation of all kinds. This is the prevalent malady of the present age. The other ācāryas who appeared before Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda did not address their discourses so directly to the empiric thinkers. They had been more merciful to those who are naturally disposed to listen to discourses on the Absolute without being dissuaded by the specious arguments of avowed opponents of Godhead.
Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda has taken the trouble of meeting the perverse arguments of mental speculationists by the superior transcendental logic of the Absolute Truth. It is thus possible for the average modern readers to profit by the perusal of his writings. That day is not far distant when the priceless volumes penned by Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda will be reverently translated, by the recipients of his grace, into all the languages of the world.
The writings of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda provide the golden bridge by which the mental speculationist can safely cross the raging waters of fruitless empiric controversies that trouble the peace of those who choose to trust in their guidance for finding the Truth. As soon as the sympathetic reader is in a position to appreciate the sterling quality of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s philosophy the entire vista of the revealed literatures of the world will automatically open out to his reclaimed vision.
There have, however, already arisen serious misunderstandings regarding the proper interpretation of the life and teachings of Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda. Those who suppose they understand the meaning of his message without securing the guiding grace of the ācārya are disposed to unduly favour the methods of empiric study of his writings. There are persons who have got by heart almost everything that he wrote without being able to catch the least particle of his meaning. Such study cannot benefit those who are not prepared to act up to the instructions lucidly conveyed by his words. There is no honest chance of missing the warnings of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda. Those, therefore, who are misled by the perusal of his writings, are led astray by their own obstinate perversity in sticking to the empiric course which they prefer to cherish against his explicit warnings. Let these unfortunate persons look more carefully into their own hearts for the cause of their misfortunes.
The personal service of the pure devotee is essential for understanding the spiritual meaning of the words of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda. The editor of this journal, originally started by Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda, has been trying to draw the attention of all followers of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda to this all-important point of his teachings. It is not necessary to try to place ourselves on a footing of equality with Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda. We are not likely to benefit by any mechanical imitation of any practices of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda on the opportunist principle that they may be convenient for us to adopt. The guru is not an erring mortal whose activities can be understood by the fallible reason of un-reclaimed humanity. There is an eternally impassable line of demarcation between the saviour and the saved. Those who are really saved can alone know this. Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda belongs to the category of the spiritual world-teachers who eternally occupy the superior position.
The present editor has all along felt it his paramount duty to try to clear up the meaning of the life and teachings of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda by the method of submissive listening to the transcendental sound from the lips of the pure devotee. The guru who realizes the transcendental meaning of all sounds, is in a position to serve the Absolute by the direction of the Absolute conveyed through every sound. The transcendental sound is Godhead, the mundane sound is non-Godhead. All sound has got these opposite aptitudes. All sound reveals its divine face to the devotee and only presents its deluding aspect to the empiric pedant. The devotee talks apparently the same language as the deluded empiric pedant who had got by heart the vocabulary of the scriptures. But notwithstanding apparent identity of performance, one has no access to the reality while the other is absolutely free from all delusion.
Those who repeat the teachings of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda from memory do not necessarily understand the meaning of the words they mechanically repeat. Those who can pass an empiric examination regarding the contents of his writings are not necessarily also self-realised souls. They may not at all know the real meaning of the words they have learnt by the method of empiric study. Take for example the name “Kṛṣṇa”. Every reader of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s works must be aware that the name manifests Himself on the lips of His serving devotees although He is inaccessible to our mundane senses. It is one thing to pass the examination by reproducing this true conclusion from the writings of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and quite another matter to realise the nature of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa by the process conveyed by the words.
Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda did not want us to go to the clever mechanical reciter of the mundane sound for obtaining access to the transcendental name of Kṛṣṇa. Such a person may be fully equipped with all the written arguments in explanation of the nature of the divine name. But if we listen to all these arguments from the dead source the words will only increase our delusion. The very same words coming from the lips of the devotee will have the diametrically opposite effect. Our empiric judgment can never grasp the difference between the two performances. The devotee is always right. The non-devotee in the shape of the empiric pedant is always and necessarily wrong. In the one case there is always present the substantive truth and nothing but the substantive truth. In the other case there is present the apparent or misleading hypothesis and nothing but un-truth. The wording may have the same external appearance in both cases. The identical verses of the scriptures may be recited by the devotee and the non-devotee, may be apparently misquoted by the non-devotee but the corresponding values of the two processes remain always categorically different. The devotee is right even when he apparently misquotes, the non-devotee is wrong even when he quotes correctly the very words, chapter and verse of the scriptures.
It is not empiric wisdom that is the object of quest of the devotee. Those who read the scriptures for gathering empiric wisdom will be pursuing the wild goose chase. There are not a few dupes of their empiric scriptural erudition. These dupes have their admiring under-dupes. But the mutual admiration society of dupes does not escape, by the mere weight of their number, the misfortunes due to the deliberate pursuit of the wrong course in accordance with the suggestions of our lower selves.
What are the scriptures? They are nothing but the record by the pure devotees of the divine message appearing on the lips of the pure devotees. The message conveyed by the devotees is the same in all ages. The words of the devotees are ever identical with the scriptures. Any meaning of the scriptures that belittles the function of the devotee who is the original communicant of the divine message contradicts its own claim to be heard. Those who think that the Sanskrit language in its lexicographical sense is the language of the divinity are as deluded as those who hold that the divine message is communicable through any other spoken dialects. All languages simultaneously express and hide the Absolute. The mundane face of all languages hides the truth. The transcendental face of all sound expresses nothing but the Absolute. The pure devotee is the speaker of the transcendental language. The transcendental sound makes His appearance on the lips of His pure devotee. This is the direct, unambiguous appearance of divinity. On the lips of non-devotees the Absolute always appears in His deluding aspect. To the pure devotee the Absolute reveals Himself under all circumstances. To the conditioned soul, if he is disposed to listen in a truly submissive spirit, the language of the pure devotee can alone impart the knowledge of the Absolute. The conditioned soul mistakes the deluding for the real aspect when he chooses to lend his ear to the non-devotee. This is the reason why the conditioned soul is warned to avoid all association with non-devotees.
To be continued...
From The Harmonist, December 1931, Volume 29, Number 6
Published in Rays of The Harmonist,
Volume 1, Number 2, Kartika 1997