Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
[This year, 2009, the divine disappearance day of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's intimate associate, Srila Ramananda Raya, is May 13th (in America). On this auspicious day we are happy to offer our respected readers Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja's lecture, given in his honor in Murwillumbuh, Australia, on April 30, 2005. This nectar is always new and ever-fresh. The transcription of this lecture is as follows:]
We have been discussing the conversation between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Raya Ramananda. In this regard I want to explain the subject of varnasrama *[see endnote 1], and especially the difference between daiva-varnasrama dharma (the transcendental system of four social orders and four spiritual orders) and adaiva-varnasrama (the mundane system - by birth).
When Srila Raya Ramananda offered the varsnasrama system as the goal of life, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied that it is external. Varnasrama-dharma is of two types: one is daiva (divine) and another is adaiva (mundane). Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not reject daiva-varnasrama-dharma. He only rejected adaiva-varnasrama-dharma. Daiva-varnasrama-dharma was created by Sri Krsna Himself. Sri Krsna told Arjuna:
catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasahtasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram avyayam
["According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable." (Bhagavad-gita 4.13)]
In adaiva-varnasrama-dharma, the son of a brahmana (priestly class) will be a brahmana, whether he has the qualities of a brahmana or not. The father of King Ravana was a brahmana and sage named Pulastya Rsi. He was among the seven great sages of the universe. *[See endnote 2] Pulastya Rsi's son Ravana was a demon. He cannot be called a brahmana merely because his father was a brahmana. Rather, he was known as "Ravana Raksasa - demon Ravana."
King Hiranyakasipu was a demon, but his son Prahlada Maharaja was not a demon. Rather, Prahlada is the guru of all brahmanas and sannyasis (renunciates). This is daiva-varnasrama. This is the backbone of our society, and this is also the platform of bhakti. Without daiva-varnasrama, on what platform will everything stand? Try to follow daivi-varnasrama.
Sri Ramacandra came to establish this principle. He even banished His wife Sita for Her entire life, but did Sita-devi reject Him, divorce Him, and take another husband? No. For a certain reason the king (Ramacandra) rejected the queen, but Ramacandra never personally rejected Sita-devi.
If for some reasons someone is divorcing, this is not good. If you want to establish a background or platform for the development of your bhakti, you will have to accept daiva-varnasrama. Husband and wife should stay together - not divorcing daily. In western countries divorce has become a fashion, and in India this idea is also coming - but not more than five percent. Those who are my age have seen that there was no divorce in India in the previous generation; it is being introduced in the new generation, and things are now changing very rapidly.
My request is that you do not divorce each other. If there is a problem, discuss it; and if you cannot solve it yourselves, you can discuss it with any Vaisnava as a mediator. You can also write to me, and I will try my best to help solve the problem.
What is the duty of one Vaisnava to another? We are god-brothers, so we should not quarrel. There were many reasons for potential friction between the Pandavas - Bhima, Yudhisthira, and the others - but they never fought. There may have been some reason for Rama, Bharata, Laksmana and Satrugna to quarrel, but They also never did so.
We are god-brothers, which means that we are more than brothers - and yet we fight with each other. So where is our varnasrama-dharma? I request that you do not try to change your husbands or and wives for any small reason. If you do, your children will become like orphans.
Sri Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita:
sarva-dharman parityajyamam ekam saranam vrajaaham tvam sarva-papebhyomoksayisyami ma sucah
["Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear. (Bhagavad-gita 18.66)]
Mahaprabhu rejected the idea that saranagati (surrender to the Lord) is the means to perfection, so what should we do? Should we reject saranagati, or not?
We must know that there are two kinds of saranagati: one is worldly and the second is the door to bhakti. In this above-mentioned verse, Lord Krsna is referring to His previously telling Arjuna to fight and kill his grandfather Bhisma, his teacher Drona, and all others on the opposite side of the war. Arjuna had objected and asked, "This is a very great sin. How can I kill them?" Krsna had replied, "Don't worry about that. Do your duty - for Me. Take My shelter, and I will excuse you from the sinful reaction to all these activities." This is worldly surrender. It is not transcendental. Transcendental surrender is described in the following verse:
anukulyasya sankalpapratikulyasya varjanamraksisyatiti visvasogoptrtve varanam tathaatma-niksepa-karpanyesad-vidha saranagatih
["There are six symptoms of self-surrender (saranagati). The first two are anukulyasya sankalpa and pratikulyasya varjanam: 'I will only do that which is favorable for unalloyed bhakti, and I will reject all that is unfavorable.' This is called a solemn vow. The third symptom is raksisyatiti visvaso, faith in the Supreme Lord as one's protector: 'The Lord is my only protector. I can derive absolutely no benefit from jnana, yoga, and other such practices.' This is an expression of trust (visvasa). The fourth symptom is goptrtve varanam, deliberate acceptance of the Supreme Lord as one's maintainer: 'I cannot obtain anything, or even maintain myself, by my own endeavor. I will serve the Lord as far as I am able, and He will take care of me.' This is what is meant by dependence (nirbhara). The fifth symptom is atma-niksepa, surrender: 'Who am I? I am His. My duty is to fulfill His desire.' This is submission of the self (atma-nivedana). The sixth symptom is karpanye, meekness: 'I am wretched, insignificant, and materially destitute.' This is what is meant by humility (karpanya or dainya)." (Bhakti-sandarbha-A-236)]
This type of sarangati is the doorway to bhakti, but Arjuna's surrender was based on fear. Therefore Krsna told him, "Do not fear. I will excuse you from the reactions to killing in this war." It is this worldly saranagati that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu rejected as the goal of life. He has not rejected the saranagati which is the doorway to enter the realm of bhakti.
[Question:] How should we consider what is being described by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his book called Saranagati?
[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] That is transcendental saranagati. It has not been written anywhere in the scriptures that we should reject transcendental saranangati. It has been told in all scriptures that we should accept it. Without it, we cannot advance. Depending on the grade of one's saranagati, one's bhakti develops.
It has been told in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:
tavat karmani kurvita na nirvidyeta yavata mat-katha-sravanadau va sraddha yavan na jayate
["'As long as one is not satiated by fruitive activity and has not awakened his taste for devotional service by sravanam kirtanam visnoh (the nine processes of devotional service beginning with hearing and chanting about Krsna), one has to act according to the regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions.'" (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 9.266)]
In this world there are three kinds of people. One kind consists of those who are ignorant. They don't know right or wrong, so they can easily give up all kinds of dharma, such as varnasrama-dharma and sva-dharma (devotional service). The second kind is the atheist. Atheists, like Buddhists, don't believe in the Vedic scriptures and don't follow regulative principles. The third kind is described as expressed in the verse above: tavat karmani - varnasrama-dharma may only be given up on the condition that real detachment from the world has come. Detachment comes after tasting the fruits of the world, seeing that nobody is happy, and with that, seeing that all the things of this world are temporary.
There was once a very qualified and beautiful young king named Bhartrihari, who was expert in all the arts. King Bhartrihari married at the age of twenty-five years, and he adored his beautiful, newly-wedded wife. Eager to please her, he presented her with a jeweled necklace, the value of which would be over a million dollars by today's standards. He placed the necklace around her neck with his own hands, embraced her, and said, "Most dearly beloved, this necklace is very precious. Please always keep it with you."
King Bhartrihari was greatly attracted to his wife, but she had no such attraction for him. Rather, she was attracted to her husband's commander-in-chief, who was also extremely handsome. Therefore, a few days after receiving the excellent necklace, she gave it to the commander-in-chief, desiring to please him.
Although the queen was very attached to the commander-in-chief, he did not feel the same way about her. He was attached to a prostitute. A few days after receiving the necklace, he presented it to that prostitute, desiring to please her. The prostitute did not feel the same way about the commander-in-chief, however, for she was attached to the king. One day she presented that very necklace to the king, desiring to please him.
Seeing the necklace, the king became distressed and asked her from where she had gotten it. Frightened, she did not reply. The incensed king then said, "If you don't tell me the truth, I will cut off your head." The prostitute then revealed the truth of the matter to the king, who left her and took the necklace to the commander-in chief.
King Bhartrihari asked his commander-in-chief, "Where did you get this? If you tell me the truth I will not harm you, but if you try to conceal it from me I will have your head removed." The commander-in-chief revealed the truth to him, and at that moment the king realized that there is no true love in this world. He at once made up his mind to give up all his worldly attachments. He left his palace, his kingdom, and his opulent attire, and he became a very famous renunciant and spiritualist.
If that kind of detachment has come, then one can give up one's worldly duties and become a sannyasi. A qualified devotee will come and at that time. When there is actual detachment, that person will hear hari-katha from the devotee, and by that, sraddha (faith) in krsna-bhakti will come. He will then be qualified to think, "If I simply engage in bhakti, devotion to Lord Krsna, everything is complete and my life will be successful." This is the right way to give up varnasrama-dharma.
It may be that by hearing hari-katha, a transcendental greed will come:
krsnah bhakti rasa bhavita matihkriyatam yadi kuto 'pi labhyatetatra laulyam api mulyam ekalamjanma-koti-sukrtair na labhyate ["Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activities in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be obtained only by paying one price; that is, intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 8.70)]
Thus, those who are ignorant, who do not know anything, can give up the duties of varnasrama; and those who are atheists, like Buddhists, can give up all religious duties; and who are qualified and detached by hearing hari-katha and have some taste for it, will certainly give up their worldly religious duties.
[Question:] If the first two give up varnasrama, do they get sinful reactions for giving it up?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] They don't know what the result of giving it up will be, so they can give it up.
[Question:] Whether they know or don't know, will sin come to them?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Yes, they will certainly have to taste the result. On the other hand, the person who gives up his material duties in order to serve Krsna, who is also known as Mukunda (the giver of liberation), will not have to experience any sinful reactions.
devarsi-bhutapta-nrnam pitrnam na kinkaro nayam rni ca rajan sarvatmana yah saranam saranyam gato mukundam parihrtya kartam
["Anyone who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, the giver of liberation, giving up all kinds of obligation, and has taken to the path in all seriousness, owes neither duties nor obligations to the demigods, sages, general living entities, family members, humankind or forefathers." Such obligations are automatically fulfilled by performance of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (Bhagavad-gita, 1.41)]
If one gives up his duties in real knowledge and has some taste in serving Krsna, then, even if he has given up his wife, children, and all his possessions, he will not incur sinful reactions. Krsna is the root of everything. He is the original father. He is everything. Thus, sin will not come.
Having heard from Raya Ramananda about giving up ones duties in varnasrama, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "Iho bahya - This is external. Say something more." Raya Ramananda had offered karma-misra-bhakti (bhakti that is adulterated with a desire for fruitive results) and now he will suggest jnana-misra bhakti (bhakti adulterated with knowledge leading to impersonal liberation):
brahma-bhuta prasannatmana socati na kanksatisamah sarvesu bhutesumad-bhaktim labhate param
["A person thus situated in brahma becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires anything. Being equally disposed to all beings, he attains bhakti to Me, blessed with the symptoms of prema." (B.G.18.54)] This is somewhat higher.
There are two kinds of brahmavadis, and both want to be brahma, or the impersonal God. But one kind is living in Vrndavana. Those persons do not commit any offenses to Sri Krsna, to the scriptures, or to devotees. They have some respect. The persons in the other group live in Hardwar, Kasi, and other such holy places, and they are dead-against bhakti. They do not accept the transcendental body of Krsna, and they do not accept Srimad-Bhagavatam or any Vedic scriptures that describe the pastimes of Sri Krsna. They are actually offenders.
Those offenders will go to hell, and after a long time they may attain brahmapad, meaning impersonal liberation in the brahmajyoti. Their mood and activity like a sin, because it is against bhakti. They will not be able to attain bhakti in their entire life. Those who live in Vrndavana generally do not criticize the Bhagavatam, Lord Krsna, or the Vaisnavas. Therefore, Krsna will arrange that elevated devotees will give them association. What happens by that association? Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has explained that these exalted devotees give them the desire to serve Krsna in very small quantities - a little at a time.
Consider this analogy: someone may gather a heap of very small, round yellow mustard seeds. Then, in the midst of that heap, he may place a tiny piece of gold. Both the gold and the mustard seeds look practically the same because both are yellow. However, if the heap is set on fire, all the mustard seeds will burn and the ashes will blow away, and then only that gold will remain.
Similarly, in good association, that brahmavadi attains a desire to serve Krsna, even if that desire is small. Then, in that elevated Vaisnava association, that desire develops and turns into prema-bhakti. In other words, the brahmavadi is surrounded by unfavorable circumstances, but his small appreciation for bhakti, which is like gold, will become evident in the fire of sadhu-sanga. Without sadhu-sanga, this is not possible.
["A person thus situated in brahma becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires anything. Being equally disposed to all beings, he attains bhakti to Me, blessed with the symptoms of prema." (Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)] So, as stated in the verse beginning brahma-bhuta prasannatma, the brahmavadi will attain bhakti, but not directly. He will attain it by the above-mentioned process.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu rejected this proposal of Srila Raya Ramananda as well, because He does not want any kind of jnana to be mixed with bhakti. There are three types of jnana (knowledge): tad-padartha-jnana, tvam-padartha-jnana, and jiva-brahma-aikya-jnana. *[See endnote 3]
Bhakti is fully independent. Even a man who is lusty and a great sinner is qualified for bhakti - even at that time. Ajamila was a great sinner. He was a drunkard, a cheater, a prostitute hunter and a rogue; still, bhakti came to him. The holy name of Krsna and His manifestations is so powerful. Valmiki had killed so many people in the first stage of his life, but he also attained bhakti by chanting the holy name and by good association.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu rejected this proposal of Srila Raya Ramananda. Bhakti must always be present.
Srila Ramananda Raya then proposed jnana-sunya bhakti (bhakti that is not tinged by philosophical speculation leading to impersonal knowledge).
jnane prayasam udapasya namanta evajivanti san-mukharitam bhavadiya-vartamsthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhirye prayaso 'jita jito 'py asi tais tri-lokyami
[Ramananda Raya continued, "Lord Brahma said, 'My dear Lord, those devotees who have thrown away the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth and have therefore abandoned discussing empiric philosophical truths, should hear from self-realized devotees about Your holy name, form, pastimes and qualities. They should completely follow the principles of devotional service and remain free from illicit sex, gambling, intoxication and animal slaughter. Surrendering themselves fully with body, words and mind, they can live in any asrama or social status. Indeed, You are conquered by such persons, although You are always unconquerable.'" (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 8.68)
The import of the verse is this: Be situated where you are - in any varna or asrama - and go to a place where hari-katha is being spoken and heard. Offer obeisances to the person who is telling hari-katha, to the person who is arranging the hari-katha, and to the place where hari-katha is taking place, by your body, mind and speech. Think in this way: "Very good hari-katha. This speaker is a very good speaker." In this way, you will attain sadhana-bhakti, then bhava-bhakti, and finally prema-bhakti.
Mahaprabhu told Raya Ramananda to speak further, and Raya Ramananda then uttered two verses:
nanopacara-krta-pujanam arta-bandhoh premnaiva bhakta-hrdayam sukha-vidrutam syat yavat ksud asti jathare jaratha pipasa tavat sukhaya bhavato nanu bhaksya-peye
[Ramananda Raya continued, "As long as there is hunger and thirst within the stomach, varieties of food and drink make one feel very happy. Similarly, when the Lord is worshiped with pure love, the various activities performed in the course of that worship awaken transcendental bliss in the heart of the devotee." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 8.69)]
If you have appetite and thirst, you can feel happy and satisfied simply by drinking water and eating some spinach and only a dry chappati. However, if you have no hunger or thirst, there is no use to sit in front of a plate of even the most opulent foodstuff. Similarly, we should be full with love and affection in our offering to Lord Sri Krsna. Then He will be hungry and accept that offering. There are so many points in this. Then Raya Ramananda said:
If you can somehow attain greed to serve Krsna in the mood of a ragatmika-bhakta (a pure devotee established in his relationship with Krsna in dasya (servitorship), sakya (friendship), vatsalya (parental love), or madhurya (amorous love), you must purchase that greed at once. It cannot be purchased by millions of births of sukriti (spiritual pious activities). By sukriti you will attain the association of the pure devotee and by that association you will have bhakti - general vaidhi-bhatki. For raganuga-bhakti, however, this alone will not do.
Mahaprabhu said, "Yes, continue," and Raya Ramananda then told Him about dasya-rasa (servitude). Mahaprabhu was satisfied by hearing that, but not fully satisfied; and that is why He again told him to speak further. Then Raya Ramananda told the Lord about sakhya (friendship), and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu again said, "Very good, but go on," and therefore Raya Ramananda told Him about vatsalya (parental love).
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu now said, "Oh, very good, very good. Very sweet." Vatsalysa-rasa has all the qualities of santa (neutral relationship, thinking, "God is great"), dasya, and sakhya - and one more. Santa-rasa embodies the quality of one-pointed faith in Lord Krsna (nistha); dasya-rasa embodies service to Krsna and also includes the quality contained in santa-rasa; sakhya-rasa is characterized by its being devoid of the hesitation caused by the mood of awe and reverence, and it also contains the qualities of santa- and dasa-rasa; and the mood of a parent includes the three preceding moods plus its own mood of maintaining the Lord. Higher still is gopi-bhava, which has the four qualities present in the other rasas and one more.
Lord Krsna's associates in madhurya-rasa (the mellow of amorous love) serve Him by all the limbs of their body. Not even Yasoda-gopi can do this. Only the gopis who are in parakiya-bhava - the vraja-ramanis - can do this. Mahaprabhu now told Raya Ramananda to speak still further. Raya Ramananda replied, "No one in this world has ever asked for more than this before." He then discussed the exalted nature of Srimati Radhika and explained how Her moods are the highest.
Sri Caitanaya Mahapabhu then asked four questions, regarding krsna-tattva, radha-tattva, rasa-tattva and vilasa-tattva (the established truths of Krsna's pastimes). When Raya Ramananda was giving an example of vilasa-tattva, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stopped him and said, "Don't say anything more about this. First of all there is no qualified person in this world to hear it. Secondly, My Krsna mood will come if you speak about this. Thus everyone will know that I am Krsna Himself, and I will not be able to fulfill My desire to taste the three moods of Srimati Radhika."
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has told us that in this world there are very few qualified persons, and therefore this topic should not be discussed openly. If one has some real transcendental greed and also realization, only then can he discuss this - and only with other qualified and like-minded persons. For example, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was relishing these topics with Raya Ramananda and Svarupa Damodara, and sometimes with Sikhi Mahiti and Madhavi-devi.
Raya Ramananda then told Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu his own poetry:
pahilehi raga nayana-bhange bhela anudina badhala, avadhi na gela na so ramana, na hama ramani dunhu-mana manobhava pesala jani' e sakhi, se-saba prema-kahini kanu-thame kahabi vichurala jani' na khonjalun duti, na khonjalun an dunhukeri milane madhya ta panca-bana ab sohi viraga, tunhu bheli duti su-purukha-premaki aichana riti ["Alas, before We met there was an initial attachment between Us brought about by an exchange of glances. In this way attachment evolved. That attachment has gradually grown, and there is no limit to it. Now that attachment has become a natural sequence between Ourselves. It is not that it is due to Krsna, the enjoyer, nor is it due to Me, for I am the enjoyed. It is not like that. This attachment was made possible by mutual meeting. This mutual exchange of attraction is known as manobhava, or Cupid. Krsna's mind and My mind have merged together. Now, during this time of separation, it is very difficult to explain these loving affairs. My dear friend, though Krsna might have forgotten all these things, you can understand and bring this message to Him. But during Our first meeting there was no messenger between Us, nor did I request anyone to see Him. Indeed, Cupid's five arrows were Our via media. Now, during this separation, that attraction has increased to another ecstatic state. My dear friend, please act as a messenger on My behalf, because if one is in love with a beautiful person, this is the consequence." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.194)]
"Without any mediator, when Our eyes met each other - in a moment our attraction manifested. Now, in the mood of separation, I am requesting you to give My message to Krsna. Tell him how cruel He has been. He has totally forgotten everything about Our mutual love. Please go and remind Him."
There are so many divine truths that Raya Ramananda told Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and the Lord became very satisfied. In the mood of Srimati Radharani, Raya Ramananda continued, "Now you should be my messenger and remind Him of everything."
This lamentation of Srimati Radharani is very pathetic and most elevated, and it is found in no other scriptures in the entire world - or even in the heavenly planetary system. It is only found in Srimad-Bhagavatam. If Srimad-Bhagavatam is present with us, nothing is lost; but without Srimad-Bhagavatam, everything is lost.
[*Endnote 1: [Srila Narayana Maharaja:] I want that we follow varnasrama-dharma. Varnasrama dharma is of two kinds: daiva-varnasrama and smarta (adaiva)-varnasrama. We reject smarta, but we follow daiva-varnasrama - especially as established by Srila Sanatana Gosvami in his Hari-bhakti-vilasa. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada also established it, as did our Gurudeva Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja and Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja.
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura would become very angry when he spoke about the smarta presentation of varnasrama. He declared, "We should follow daiva-varnasrama, but smarta varnasrama-dharma should be destroyed at once."
Are you in daiva-varnasrama-dharma or are you out of it?
I don't know the difference between the first and second one. I thought we are supposed to be trying to get out of varnasrama-dharma.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] All brahmacaris (celibate students), grhasthas (householders), vanaprasthas (renounced householders) and sannyasis (renunciates) are within varnasrama. The asramas are brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. We are all naturally part of varnasrama, and we should therefore try to accept and very strongly follow its principles. Those who are married should be ideal grhasthas, following the instructions in Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa. It is not that one may have two, three, four, or five marriages. Be satisfied with one wife or husband, and don't divorce. Remain together for your entire life Then afterwards, in old age, if you have life - if you have inspiration to practice bhakti and steadiness in the bhakti process - give up all entanglements and become absorbed in bhajana.
If brahmacaris and sannyasis hear hari-katha, they will automatically become detached. Why should a sannyasi marry? He should never marry. And why should a vanaprastha marry again? Varnaprasthas should be very strict. They should try to gradually progress, not to go down. If a brahmacari is going to marry, or if a vanaprastha gives up his old wife and wants a new one, it simply means that lust and so many anarthas (mentalities and habits that are unfavorable to bhakti) are present in his heart and his activities.
So try to advance. If you are grhastha, remain in that position and be ideal, like Srivasa Pandita, Sri Advaita Acarya, the Pandavas, and many others like them. Be ideal; follow Hari-bhakti-vilasa. Varnasrama-dharma is favorable when it assists in worshipping Sri Krsna and Sri Guru, and when it assists in developing bhakti; otherwise it is unfavorable.
[Devotee:] Varnasrama dharma is not the goal, because Mahaprabhu rejected it as such. He said it is only like a platform.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] But the platform must come first. If a sannyasi is marrying, where is his platform for developing bhakti? If a brahmacari is always independently going here and there, and a grhastha is remarrying and again remarrying, and within his marriage he does not follow the scriptural principles of household life, this will not do. There should be a ground, a foundation, and that foundation should be very strong.
[Devotee:] Isn't it also that the varnas (occupational duties), which include ksatriya, vaisya, brahmana, and sudra also part of varnasrama dharma?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] This is not daiva-varnasrama. Any sudra, any person who eats cow meat and other forbidden things, any Mohammedan, Christian, or Buddhist, can come and follow daiva-varnasrama-dharma. At first, in the Sankara-sampradaya and even in the Ramanuja and Madhava sampradayas, only a born-brahmana could be given sannyasa. But Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura introduced the understanding, and also the practice, that anyone can be given sannyasa - not ladies, but all males can - whether they are sudras, Mohammedans, outcasts, Christians, or persons of any other religious faith, position, cultural or family background. They can all take sannyasa.
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami established this, and his followers have also established it. The members of society were not accepting his understanding at all; but still he was very bold, and he boldly taught and acted according to the principles of daiva-varnasrama. Thus, many smarta-brahmanas (caste brahmanas, or those who considered themselves brahmanas because their fathers were brahmanas) opposed him.
[Devotee:] Srila Gurudeva, after Mahaprabhu and before Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, was there no varnasrama in the Gaudiya line?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] They used to wear the dress of the paramahamsa. Paramahamsa is more than sannyasa, but these people also rejected daiva-varnasrama and its principles and became so-called paramahamsas. We are sannyasis. Even if we give someone babaji-vesa (the dress and station of a Babaji), he is still in varnasrama. An ordinary person cannot be a paramahamsa. Only transcendental personalities, like Lord Nityananda Prabhu and Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, who are real paramahamsas, are allowed even to be naked. Such pure devotees are beyond all rules and regulations, and they are even beyond the control of the Vedas.
[Devotee:] If babaji-vesa is still within varnasrama, why are some persons given babaji-vesa instead of sannyasa?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Only because they cannot preach. Babaji-vesa is allowed for those who cannot preach, and for those who are not in knowledge of siddhanta (established philosophical conclusions). Sannyasis should know all siddhanta and preach throughout the world. Regarding avadhuta-vesa, this is not given at all. Rather, it comes automatically. The pure devotee avadhuta may be naked or he may marry - whatever he does or doesn't do, there is no harm for him. Nityananda Prabhu was a paramahamsa avadhuta. He married after His renunciation, and there was no harm for Him in that. Sri Krsna married thousands upon thousands of wives, and at the same time He is the topmost paramahamsa. (Morning walk, Hawaii 2005)]
[*Endnote 2: The seven stars revolving around the polestar at the zenith are called saptarsi-mandala. On these seven stars, which form the topmost part of our planetary system, reside seven sages: Kasyapa, Atri, Vasistha, Visvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bharadvaja.]
[*Endnote 3: There are three divisions of jnana (knowledge): (a) tad-padartha-jnana, (b) tvam-padartha-jnana, and (c) jiva-brahma-aikya-jnana.
(a) Tad-padartha-jnana - knowledge of the constitutional identity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead:
Sri Krsna is the absolute truth, parama-tattva. He is the nondual Parabrahma. He is the origin of all, and He is without origin. He is the cause of all causes. He is the supreme repository of all the qualities of aisvarya (majesty) and madhurya (sweetness). He is completely bereft of inferior material qualities. He is replete with all transcendental qualities. He is the embodiment of existence, cognizance and bliss. He is the inconceivable possessor of all potencies. He is the very identity of both rasa and rasika. In other words He is the abode of all rasa, and He Himself is fully adept in enjoying such rasa in the company of His devotees. He is the ultimate object to be ascertained by the Vedas and all sastras. He alone is the person to be designated by the term Svayam Bhagavan (the original Personality of Godhead). This kind of knowledge is called tad-padartha-jnana.
(b) Tvam-padartha-jnana - knowledge of the constitutional identity of the jiva and his relationship with the Supreme Lord:
The jivas, as atomic particles of living spirit (cit-paramanu-svarupa), are but infinitesimal rays of the supreme existential spirit, Sri Krsna. Although non-different from Lord Hari, they are eternally distinct from Him. The jivas are infinitesimal consciousness (anu-caitanya), whereas the Lord is the all-pervading consciousness (vibhu-caitanya). The jivas are subjugated by maya, while the Lord is the controller of maya. Even in the liberated condition, the jiva, in accordance with his nature as the marginal potency (tatastha-sakti), is capable of falling under the sway of material nature (maya-prakrti). The jiva is represented both as knowledge and as the knower. Although the potentiality for action is present in him, he nonetheless remains atomic spirit.
He has minute independence; therefore he is by nature the eternal servant of the supreme Absolute Truth, Sri Krsna. He also possesses eternal separate existence. In other words he is both independent and dependent. On account of being a product of the tatastha-sakti of Sri Krsna, the jiva's relationship with Sri Krsna is one of inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference (acintya-bheda-abheda). Apart from this, because he is a portion of the Lord and because the tendency to serve the Lord is inherent in his nature, the jiva's relationship with Sri Krsna is that of the eternal servant and the served. This type of knowledge is called tvam-padartha-jnana.
(c) Jiva-brahma-aikya-jnana - knowledge of the oneness of the jiva and Brahman:
There is no difference between the jiva and Brahman (God). When ignorance is dissipated the jiva becomes identical with the form and nature of Brahman. At that time the jiva has no separate existence. This kind of knowledge is called jiva-brahma-aikya-jnana.
The word jnana, which is used in the verse under discussion, refers only to this knowledge of the oneness of the jivas and Brahman. This knowledge is called nirvisesa-jnana, knowledge of non-distinction, or impersonalism. Nirvisesa-jnana is opposed to bhakti. But the other two forms of knowledge mentioned before - tad-padartha-jnana and tvam-padartha-jnana - are not opposed to bhakti. When one adopts the path of bhakti, these two types of knowledge are essential. But upon entering the path of bhakti, devotion mixed with empiric speculative knowledge (jnana-misrabhakti) is labeled as external. This type of knowledge must be given up.
There is no possibility that the jiva's natural relationship with the Supreme Lord as servant and served could ever arise in jiva-brahma-aikya-jnana. This attitude of servant and served is the very life of bhakti. Therefore, to remain fully purified of any taint of nirvisesa-jnana is part of the second extrinsic characteristic of uttama-bhakti." (Bhakti-rasamrtita-sindu-bindu, Verse 1 page 12-13)]
-- Harikatha Team, May 2009