sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!

Special On-line Edition for the disappearance day
of Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja
Posted: Kartik 2008 & 28 May 2024

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

The Most Compassionate Avatara - Part 3
Karuṇaya-avatīrṇaḥ kalau

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja

Only the servants of Bhagavān can accept all things on His behalf

The tendency to live an unrestrained lifestyle is opposed to the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma. A person thus inclined, in the course of his life, will not accept the necessity of completely surrendering the results of his actions to Bhagavān.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī donated half of his acquired wealth to the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas.1 Śāstra repeatedly emphasizes service to the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas, because only those who are servants of Bhagavān, that is, His devotees, are able to accept all things on His behalf.

Mlecchas and yavanas, who are outside the varṇāśrama system, can also accumulate sukṛti (spiritual merit) by giving in charity to the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas. In other words, the Lord actually extends His own hands to accept every offering made to Him through the medium of serving the brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas. Yet the members of modern civilized society, who are prone to pampering their own whims, cannot accept this fact. Now they have become accustomed to seeing the Lord as impoverished.

1 A brief description of this is found in the beginning of Chapter 19 of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā.

Śrī Bhagavān is never impoverished

The greatest downfall of a nirviśeṣa-vādi is that he considers himself and everyone else to be the Lord, and consequently he ultimately maintains the concocted idea that everyone is the poverty-stricken Lord – daridra-bhagavān or daridra-nārāyaṇa. Therefore, when such nirviśeṣa-vādis have themselves eaten, they say, “Now the Lord has eaten.”

And they support this by quoting Bhagavad-gītā (15.14):

ahaṁ vaiśvānara bhutvā
prāṇināṁ deham āśritaḥ
prāṇa-āpāna samāyuktaḥ
pacāmy annaṁ catur-viddhaṁ

As the fire of digestion in the bodies of the living entities, I combine with the out-going and in-coming airs to digest the four types of foodstuffs

“When the Lord is sitting in people’s stomachs, what need is there to feed Him elsewhere? And furthermore, does a God made of wood or stone have the ability to eat?”

Driven by such demoniac tendencies, these atheists have gradually diminished the royal standard of service in many ancient temples. It is said that even in Śrī Puri-dhāma, the excellent standard of service to Śrī Jagannātha-deva has drastically deteriorated. It is sheer madness to think that such an atheistic world would consent to offering everything into the hands of the Lord. For this reason, Śrī Gaurasundara rejected this injunction as external.⁠2

2 Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “Recite a śloka revealing the ultimate aim of life.” Rāmānanda Rāyā answered, “Performing one’s own occupational duties, or sva-dharma, is viṣṇu-bhakti.” He then quoted a verse from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa: “The Supreme Person, Śrī Viṣṇu, is worshipped by properly executing one’s duties in the system of varṇa and āśrama. There is no other way to please Him” – Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā (8.57–9), Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Qualification for sannyāsa

Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya then mentioned the next topic: the renunciation of fruitive action, or karma-sannyāsa. In Kali-yuga, sannyāsa has come to mean the mere acceptance of sannyāsa garb, but the actual prerequisite for sannyāsa is a purified heart. When one becomes detached from the fruits of action by performing selfless work (niṣkāma-karma), one’s renunciation is perfect. On the other hand, if anyone accepts sannyāsa while his heart is still impure, then the thirst for enjoyment will fully remain. His sannyāsa is not a means to achieve love for Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-prema).

First of all, in Kali-yuga, it is not possible for everyone to accept karma-sannyāsa. Moreover, even for those who can accept it, such sannyāsa, which is a way of living above karma, is simply a state of harmony with the three modes of material nature. It cannot help one attain love of God (bhagavat-prema).

The reason for this is that the Virajā River (the dividing line between the material and spiritual natures) is the very place where the three modes of material nature exist in a state of harmony, and although the predominance of the three modes is not perceived in the Virajā River, the internal potency of Bhagavān is still not active there.

Bhagavad-bhakti, loving devotion to the Supreme Lord, is possible when one is in the shelter of His internal potency known as yoga-māyā: “mahātmanas tu – the great souls always remain in the shelter of My divine energy”3. A person may achieve deliverance from the illusory potency, or mahā-māyā, but unless he receives the shelter of the internal potency, or yoga-māyā, it is impossible for him to grasp the message of Vaikuṇṭha.

The prime reason that Śrī Gaurasundara advented in this world was to deliver to its inhabitants the message of Vaikuṇṭha and to bestow upon them immaculate, transcendental and spontaneous love of God: bhagavata-prema. This prema is devoid of any scent of awe and reverence and issues from the ocean of bhāva (transcendental emotions) in the incomparable realm of Goloka Vṛndāvana – the topmost place in Vaikuṇṭha. What, therefore, can renunciants (sannyāsīs) understand about the Unparalleled Entity, regardless of whether their hearts are pure or impure? Understanding that those renunciants lack eligibility to receive kṛṣṇa-tattva-rasa4, Śrī Gaurasundara also rejected the acceptance of such sannyāsa, regarding it as external.

3 C.f. Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (9.13)
4 Kṛṣṇa-tattva-rasa is the ambrosia of kṛṣṇa-tattva, or the ambrosia of the reality of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

Devotion mixed with empiric knowledge

Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya then spoke about jñāna-miśra-bhakti, or devotion that is mixed with a desire for liberation. On this path, after a person finally attains the stage of self-realization called brahma-bhūta and subsequently becomes full of bliss (brahma-bhūta-prasannātmā), he may then perceive the path of devotion to the Lord. However, until he actually sees it, the prospect of merging with the impersonal aspect of the Supreme (nirviśeṣa-sāyujya-mukti) blinds him. For a pure devotee of Bhagavān, this sāyujya-mukti is no better than hell. He refuses any kind of salvation other than loving service to Bhagavān even though the Lord is eager to award him various other kinds of mukti like attainment of a form similar to His own (sarūpya-mukti) and residence on the same planet as Him (salokya-mukti).

Thus, in jñāna-miśra-bhakti there is no hope of ever attaining pure love. A person with the egotism that he is already liberated can have no realization of the variegated features of Absolute Reality – He who casts away all delusion. Therefore such egotism reflects the tendency to be antagonistic to Bhagavān.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu imparted to the world the eternal object of the eternally pure living entity’s worship (the nitya sevya-vastu of the nitya śuddha-jīva). The worship of the nitya sevya-vastu is not a concocted religion that has arisen from someone’s imagination; it is the soul’s intrinsic function. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu descended to personally give this. He thus embodies the statement “karuṇayā-avatīrṇaḥ-kalau – the most compassionate incarnation, who has descended in this age of Kali”.

Devotion devoid of empiric knowledge

Ordered by Śrīman Mahāprabhu, Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya then introduced the transcendental, natural religion –
the path of devotion to Bhagavān devoid of empiric knowledge (jñāna-miśra-bhakti). This can be pursued by everyone, and it is the only universal path that is suitable for all living entities the young and the old, women, scholars, wretches, fools, yavanas (those from tribal castes like the Kirāta and Hūnāndhra), brāhmaṇas, Hindus and Muslims, natives and foreigners, and all societies of humans. Indeed, it is even suitable for souls in every species of life, such as animals, birds, insects and worms, in whatever species they appear. For the first time in their conversation, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu responded by saying, “This is all right.”

In order to express the process for attaining jñāna-śunya-bhakti, Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya quoted the prayers that Brahmā offered after he stole Kṛṣṇa’s cows and calves:

jñāne prayāsam-udapāsya namanta eva
jīvanti sanmukharitāṁ bhavadiya vārtāṁ
sthāne sthitāḥ sruti gatam tanu vāṅmanobhir
ye prāyaśo’jita-jito’pyasi tais-trailokyām

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.3)

O Lord, in all the three worlds You are unconquerable, yet You are easily defeated by those devotees who shun the endeavour to acquire knowledge empirically by meditating on undifferentiated brahma; who hear about You through the narrations emanating from the mouths of sādhus; and who thus carry out their life following the path of the saints with their body, mind and words.

This, indeed, is the first and quintessential explanation of the means to attain Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s gift: the form of kṛṣṇa-prema indicated by the statement anarpita-carīṁ carat.

Upon hearing about this process from Śrī Rāmānanda Raya’s lotus mouth, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu immediately accepted it. “This is all right,” He said, “but speak further.” Until this point, they had discussed topics that related to observing the duties of one’s caste and social order (varṇāśrama-dharma); offering the results of one’s actions to the Lord (niṣkāma karma-yoga); ceasing all action performed for a fruitive reward and thus renouncing action (karma-sannyāsa): and engaging in devotion that is mixed with dry, speculative knowledge (jñāna-miśra-bhakti), with the desire to attain liberation. The entire world has taken these topics and changed and twisted them to concoct innumerable philosophies. However, it is imperative to carefully consider how all of these philosophies are unable to give premā-pumārtho-mahān, the fifth and ultimate goal of human life, kṛṣṇa-prema.

Bhakti herself destroys the three-fold miseries

The greatest obstacle to achieving love for Kṛṣṇa is the effort to search out the impersonal aspect of the Supreme (brahma-anusandhāna).

tāra madhye mokṣa vāñchā kaitava pradhāna
jāhā haite kṛṣṇa-bhakti haya antardhāna

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 1.92)

Among all types of deception, hankering for impersonal salvation is more full of conceit than any other. In its presence, loving devotion to Kṛṣṇa vanishes.

Those who secretly hanker for liberation should not try to understand Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s teachings. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu propagated bhagavat-dharma5, and in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the hankering for liberation has been thoroughly denounced.

Bhagavad-bhakti is herself the destroyer of suffering and the eradicator of the three-fold miseries. If those who hanker for mukti with the hope of becoming free from the three-fold miseries take shelter of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet and become initiated into the harer-nāma-mantra6 which He propagated, then as soon as they bear the victory flag of śrī kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, the mirror of their heart will be cleansed and the blazing forest fire of their material existence will be extinguished. Indeed, by this, one becomes acquainted with Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s compassion.

5 Bhagavat-dharma refers to eternal and pure loving service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa as revealed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
6 This refers to “harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam, kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā
In the age of Kali, hari nāma, hari nāma, hari nāma is the only way; there is no other way, no other way, no other way.” Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 17.21)

The fruit of Śrī Kṛṣṇa saṅkīrtana

As a result of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mercy, a heart that would ordinarily have to be purified by the performance of many sacrifices, charitable acts, and austerities, can be cleansed even by just the initial result of inoffensive kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. Liberation from the three kinds of suffering or from the mundane realm, which is governed by the three modes of material nature, is but the secondary result of kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, yet those in the impersonalist school (jñānī-sampradāya) undergo painstaking austerities birth after birth just to achieve it.

After liberation from matter, along with the blossoming of the supremely beneficial bhagavad-bhakti, the very life of the goddess of transcendental knowledge is revived, the ocean of bliss swells, the soul achieves complete good fortune, and all other fruits of bhagavad-bhakti are realized in a natural sequence. Those who search after these fruits through awareness of non-differentiation cannot find them. Therefore, from the very beginning, it is proper to abandon endeavours to find undifferentiated brahma through knowledge.

The snare of impersonalism

This search for undifferentiated brahma is merely an artificial, wicked endeavour. Every human being naturally accepts that Bhagavān is beyond compare. Those on a lower level of God-realization admire His potencies, and those on a higher platform acknowledge the Lord Himself as sarva-śaktimān, the possessor of all potencies. As a matter of misfortune, people have fallen into the clutches of the wicked, impersonalist
non-devotees and have gradually undertaken the pursuit of the impersonal aspect of reality. The last trap of māyā is the endeavour to gain knowledge about undifferentiated brahma. When human society displays its erudition, its intelligence is stolen by illusion in this way.

Otherwise, everyone generally accepts that the Lord has no equal and it is their position to serve Him. For this reason, the common men who have not associated with the impersonalists, are qualified to hear Mahāprabhu’s message. However, by the influence of Kali, this destructive doctrine of impersonalism has cast its net in various ways and is ensnaring innocent people.

The duty of those who introduce themselves as the servants of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is to instruct these innocent people about Kṛṣṇa and protect them from the clutches of impersonalism. If we are to protect people from the clutches of unauthorized sects, who are malicious towards the Lord, then it is necessary to firmly preach the conceptions of the bhagavata-sampradāya (the lineage of the highest order of exalted gurus).

All are qualified to hear about Kṛṣṇa

The second proposal made in the jñāne prayāsam verse formerly cited is to hear bhagavat-kīrtana (the singing of Bhagavān’s glories) from the mouths of sādhus. Everyone has the qualification for this. The high-born as well as the low, scholars and the uneducated, natives and foreigners, adherents of one religion or of another, animals and birds, worms and insects all have the eligibility to hear kṛṣṇa-kīrtana from the mouths of sādhus. Qualifications like high birth, wealth, scholarship or beauty are not required for this.

Mahārāja Parikṣit achieved the mercy of Bhagavān simply by hearing (śravaṇa) and Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī by chanting (kīrtana). Thus, everyone can hear kṛṣṇa-kīrtana from the mouths of sādhus and carry out their lives in a humble manner. Kṛṣṇa-kīrtana refers to that kīrtana which Kṛṣṇa Himself has sung, as well as kīrtana that describes everything related to His name, form, qualities, pastimes and the specialities of His associates. Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa personally spoke the Bhagavad-gītā. He instructed it to the sun-god, who in turn imparted it to Manu and Manu then told it to Ikṣvāku. In this way, through the disciplic succession, the saintly kings became acquainted with the yoga system propounded in Bhagavad-gītā.

The importance of hearing from the right source

The secret of Bhagavad-gītā cannot be discovered without accepting the shelter of a bona fide paramparā, nor can it be unravelled by the tedious wrangling of the Māyāvādīs. The manner in which the devotees of Bhagavān explain Bhagavad-gītā is the only manner of explanation worth hearing. “Māyāvādīr bhāṣya śunile haya sarva-nāśa – one’s spiritual life will be completely destroyed if one hears the commentary of the Māyāvādīs.”

The paramparā resumed with Arjuna, a most glorious devotee of the Lord. Arjuna accepted the Lord as the Eternal Personality, the Unborn, the Indivisible, the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Shelter and the Complete Whole. His words concur with the opinion of various ṛṣīs, such as Devarṣī Nārada, Vyāsa, Devala, Asita and other exalted mahājanas. In Bhagavad-gītā, even the Lord Himself declares His unprecedented Supreme Personhood.

If someone rejects all these conclusions and instead hears the impersonalist commentaries of the Māyāvādīs, which present the conception that the Absolute Truth is devoid of attributes (nirveśesa-vāda) or if he listens to those who maintain the conception that one should identify one’s own self as the object of worship (ahaṁ-grahopāsanā), then he will surely go to the darkest regions of hell.

As a matter of fact, for the devotee, every form of mundane enjoyment, from the happiness found in the lower planets all the way up to the happiness of being one with the Absolute (kaivalya-sukha), is the darkest hell.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the immaculate Purāṇa, which describes the names, qualities and pastimes of the Lord and His devotees. It is proper to hear these descriptions from the paramparā: “jāho, bhagavata paḍo vaisnavera sthāne – one must study the Bhāgavatam by approaching a Vaiṣṇava and accepting his shelter” (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 5.131). Except for the bhakta-bhāgavata, who never explains Bhāgavatam to earn a living, no one can explain the grantha-bhāgavata. The word sādhu implies the bhakta-bhāgavata.

Those who exclusively perform bhagavad-bhajana are indeed sādhus. If one can hear powerful narrations about Bhagavān from the mouths of such sādhus and apply the instructions within these narrations to one’s own life, then Ajita, the unconquerable Lord, will become jita, conquered. To do this, one will have to establish oneself in brahmaṇya-dharma, in which one acquires the nature and qualities of a brāhmaṇa. By the mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, all human beings have the qualification to situate themselves in brahmaṇya-dharma. Furthermore, according to the verse, “kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya” (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 8.128), anyone established in brahmaṇya-dharma has the qualification to continuously perform kīrtana of the narrations about Kṛṣṇa.

If one is to establish himself in brahmaṇya-dharma, one must become endowed with such qualities as truthfulness, control over the mind, control over the senses, tolerance, simplicity, knowledge, practical realization, belief in the Lord, and cleanliness. Only those who live their lives, keeping deceit, cunning, untruthfulness, deception, cheating, theft and abominable desires at a distance, and who hear hari-kathā from sādhus who are expert in bhajana, can completely drive away the tendency to collect knowledge, which takes the form of searching for the undifferentiated aspect of the Absolute. On the strength of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mercy, such people are qualified to achieve the fifth goal of human life, bhagavat-prema.

This indeed is the greatly generous gift of the most compassionate avatāra, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It is thus shown conclusively that He gives full meaning to the statement “karuṇayā-avaṭīrṇaḥ-kalau – the most compassionate avatāra, who descends in this Kali-yuga.”

Thus concludes the third and final part of the series of articles entitled Kāruṇayā-avatīrṇaḥ-kalau, The Most Compassionate Avatāra.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Translated from Śrī Gauḍīya Patrikā, Year 7, Issue 3, 1956
by the Rays of The Harmonist team
CC-BY-SA Rays of The Harmonist, No.18 (Karttika 2008)

Rays of The Harmonist On-line, “The Compassionate Avatāra of Kali-yuga – Karuṇaya-avatīrṇaḥ Kalau – Part 3” by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available. You may redistribute this article if you include this license and attribute it to Rays of The Harmonist. Please ask for permission before using the Rays of The Harmonist banner-logo.