śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year-4, Special On-line Edition
Posted: 29 October 2011

Dedicated to
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


Prajāpati Brahmā, Indra and Virocana

by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja



The guru of the universe, Prajāpati Brahmā, once said:

“The ātma, or soul, is beyond piety and impiety, old age and death, lamentation, hunger and thirst, and acceptance and rejection. Only he who searches for this ātma according to the instructions of the scriptures and the guru can realise it. Moreover, all the opulence of the world falls at the feet of a person who does so.”

Ulterior Motives

These instructions of Lord Brahmā descended through the succession of generations and were heard by the demigods and demons. They began to discuss among themselves: “We will seek out that ātma, having attained which one can master all realms and obtain all desirable things.”

Indra, the king of the demigods, and Virocana, the king of the demons, approached Lord Brahmā to receive knowledge of the soul (ātma-vidyā). They did not approach in a mood of friendship for each other, but in a mood of competition for knowledge. They presented themselves before Lord Brahmā with sacrificial firewood in their hands.

For thirty-two years they stayed at the house of their guru, Prajāpati Brahmā, while observing a vow of celibacy (brahmacarya). At the end of that time, Lord Brahmā asked them why they had come. They replied, “You once said that for one who knows the ātma – who is beyond piety and impiety, who is ever youthful, who is not subject to death, and whose vows and words always comes to pass (satya-saṅkalpa) – all the opulence of the universe comes in his possession. We have stayed with you in order to realise that imperishable soul.”

Lord Brahmā told them, “The personality whom great yogīs, who are free from the desire to enjoy sense objects, see with their eyes, is that very ātma. He is fearless and an immortal spiritual entity.”

Unable to understand the meaning of this statement, Indra and Virocana inquired, “O Lord, where in our bodies, as seen reflected in water or a mirror, is the ātma?”

Lord Brahmā said, “The soul is indeed visible in the whole substance (the body). Go and look at your ātmas in vessels of water, and then come and tell me whatever you don’t understand about them.”

When they had both looked at their reflections in vessels of water, Lord Brahmā questioned them, “What did you see?”

In response they said, “O Lord, we saw the complete image of the ātma from the hair on his head to his toenails.”

Lord Brahmā told them, “Cut your hair and nails, dress in beautiful clothes and ornaments, and again look at yourselves in the pots of water.” When they did so, Brahmā asked them, “What did you see?”

Indra and Virocana replied, “O all-powerful one, we saw the reflections of our bodies just as they are, cleaned and decorated with beautiful clothes and ornaments.”

Brahmā understood, “They still have not been able to fully grasp the import of my statement. Perhaps in the future they will fully realise this fundamental truth in their hearts.” Thinking like this, he said to Indra and Virocana, “The personality reflected in the water is the ātma. He alone is fearless and imperishable; he is the transcendental  brahma.”

Improper Hearing

After hearing this, Indra and Virocana immediately set out for their residences. As Lord Brahmā watched them returning to their homes he mused, “Without realising the soul and without being acquainted with it, they are leaving. Anyone who hears this false ātma-tattva from them, be he demigod or demon, will pursue the wrong path and meet with destruction.”

The king of the demons, Virocana, who followed the path of materialism, had only understood that the body is the soul. He began to propagate the theory of dehātmavāda, which declares the body itself to be the ātma and bodily comfort as the goal. With a content heart he came before the demons and instructed them about ‘ātma-tattva’. “This body is itself the soul. On earth, the body alone shall be worshipped and served. Simply by serving and attending to the body, one achieves both this world and the next.”

Virocana’s abominable theory of dehātmavāda is opposed to the conclusion of the scriptures. As a result of its propagation, people with a demoniac mentality, being subject to such erroneous conceptions, think, “A deceased person who is decorated with perfume, garlands, clothes and ornaments becomes happy in the next world.”

Proper Deliberation

Indra, however, on the way back to heaven, contemplated Lord Brahmā’s instructions again and again. He thought, “Is one’s bodily reflection, or in other words, the body itself, actually the soul?” Thinking that this must be wrong, he returned to Lord Brahmā and, with sacrificial firewood in hand, submitted himself before him. Lord Brahmā said: “O Indra, after hearing about ātma-tattva, both of you left for your abodes feeling satisfied. With what intention have you returned?”

Indra said, “O Lord, the reflection depends on how the body is decorated. If the body is deformed, its reflection will also be deformed. And if the body is destroyed, then the reflected image will also be destroyed. What, then, will be the value of my knowing the reflection?”

Then Lord Brahmā said, “The reflection of the body is not the soul; this indeed is the import of my instructions. Since you cannot understand this due to your own inadequate intelligence, you should dwell for another thirty-two years in the house of the guru, observing a vow of celibacy.”

When another thirty-two years had passed, Lord Brahmā instructed him, “The person seen in dreams is the soul. He is free from all sorrow, fearless and immortal; he alone is  brahma.”

After receiving Lord Brahmā’s instructions, Indra departed with a contented heart. On his way home, before he reached the other demigods, he began to think, “Someone, although blind in the waking state, may be able to see in the dreaming state. Therefore, the perception of the body in a dream is never realistic. Consequently, the person seen in dreams, who is harassed by imaginary happiness and distress, can never be the ātma.”

With this doubt, Indra again approached Lord Brahmā who told him to stay with him as before, observing celibacy for thirty-two years. When he had obeyed this order, Lord Brahmā said, “The serene personality that manifests in deep sleep is ever-existent and grants fearlessness; he is the soul and he alone is brahma.”

This time also, when Indra was on his way back to heaven, a doubt entered his mind. He thought, “The ‘soul’ that is revealed in deep sleep is not conscious of who he is, either in his waking or dreaming state. The soul’s nature, however, is eternal and indestructible.”

Becoming Qualified to Hear

When Indra came to Lord Brahmā this time, Lord Brahmā told him to stay with him for another five years and hear from him. In this way, after Indra had resided with him for 101 years while observing a vow of celibacy, Lord Brahmā imparted to him the supreme instruction. He said, “This body is mortal and within the grips of death. In reality, the soul is śarīrī, the embodied. The gross body of five elements and the subtle body, composed of the mind, intelligence and false ego, are merely two coverings of the ātma. When the soul attains his constitutional position, and thus becomes pure, whatever he hears or sees is all blissful. He is the topmost person. Eternally in union with the Supreme Soul, he resides in the spiritual realm immersed in the bliss of divine play.”

From the above story, we receive the following teachings:

1. Separate desires are an impediment

If extraneous, separate desires (anyābhilāṣa) remain even after a person approaches someone like Lord Brahmā, who is the grandfather of the universe and guru of the whole world, he cannot realise the instructions of the ācārya, or genuine guru, within his heart.

2. Surrender to sad-guru is essential

Only those who surrender to the ācārya with a submissive attitude (praṇipāta), earnest inquisitiveness (paripraśna) and a tendency to serve (sevāvṛtti), are capable of thoroughly grasping the true conception of reality (tattva-vastu). A human being who desires to attain knowledge of Bhagavān can only become qualified to receive knowledge of the Absolute Truth (bhagavat-tattva) if he offers his very self, with the sacrificial firewood of his  śraddhā in hand, to the ācārya, who knows kṛṣṇa-tattva and who is conversant with the Vedas.

By the mercy of Śrī Guru and Śrī Bhagavān, the meaning of all the scriptures is realized by one who strictly cultivates one-pointed bhakti for viṣaya-vigraha Śrī Bhagavān (who is the object of bhakti) and āśraya-vigraha Śrī Gurudeva (who is the abode of bhakti).

The king of the demigods, Indra, was not impatient, and thus he became acquainted with the factual truth of the soul through proper means beginning with surrender. Only a disciple who is exclusively surrendered at the lotus feet of Śrī Guru can realise ātma-tattva.

3. Realisation is a descending process

The jīva can never realize the tattva of Bhagavān and His devotees unless they mercifully impart it to Him. He can never do so by the self-ascending empirical process. “Īśvarera kṛpā-leśa haya ta’ yāhāre, sei ta’ īśvara-tattva jānivāre pāre – only that person upon whom Īśvara bestows just a particle of mercy can realise īśvara-tattva.” Neither argument, nor intellect, nor scholarship are means to achieve the Truth. Śrī Bhagavān, who is especially affectionate to His devotees (bhakta-vatsala), can only be controlled by an attitude of service.

4. Śāstra cannot be self-taught

Those who do not acknowledge any necessity of an instructor in spiritual matters, but who instead harbour the conception that by their own studies of the scriptures they will understand them, or who, on the other hand, hold the dedication of Ekalavya in high esteem, will, without a doubt, be failures in all regards – material and spiritual. The scriptures say, “āśraya laiyā bhaje, tāre kṛṣṇā nāhi tyaje, āra saba mare akāraṇa – Kṛṣṇa never abandons those who perform their worship under guidance; all others die in vain.”

Those who want to know everything, both social and spiritual, by reading the scriptures, are cheated of the ācārya’s actual instructions. Bereft of the ability to discriminate between real and unreal, they try to comprehend the meanings of the scriptures by their own endeavours, and are most usually misled. These people, unable to accept the meanings of the Śrutis, Smṛtis, and other śāstras, try to devise a new path to achieve  hari-bhakti, or establish a unique speciality. Thus they create turmoil in the world. Neglecting the injunctions of the scriptures they cling to the logic of, “The more laws, the more flaws” and thus end up rejecting the very Fundamental Entity.

Finally, upon failing to reconcile the apparent contradictions in the scriptures, they do not hesitate to violate the scriptural injunctions that obstruct their sense gratification. These people will never be able to obtain perfection in their practices. It is far beyond their ability to obtain peace and the supreme goal. Therefore, since nothing is perfect other than the words of sādhu, śāstra and guru, Bhagavān Himself has said, “Know the ācārya to be Me. Never disobey the guru or regard him as an ordinary mortal, because he is the embodiment of all the demigods.”

Whenever there is a lack of direct orders and instructions from the spiritual master, śāstra  is one’s only authority concerning what should and should not be done. If all duties are performed according to the authority of the scriptures, there is no possibility of committing sins or offences.

5. Demons cannot come to the truth

The king of the demons, Virocana, unable to deliberate upon the true meaning of Brahmā’s teachings, propagated a theory that completely opposed them, and then declared it to be the doctrine of guru and śāstra. In this way, he implicated his instructor. As a result, many demons became adherents of his conception and even today, demoniac people accept this theory.

When most comfort-prone people adopt the path of falsehood and irreligion, they think, “This is correct.” This is the demoniac mentality. There is an eternal conflict between falsity, or irreligion, and actual truth, or true religion. One is a dark hell of degradation and the other is the immaculate sun. The actual truth can never be ascertained by the opinion of the people, or by the process of voting. The mentality of self-ruled people and the actual truth are rigidly opposed to each other.

The demons, who rely on their sense perception, are of two types depending on gross and subtle inclinations. Those who have gross intelligence are attached to the gross body. By their so-called welfare work (jīva-dayā) in the form of serving the perishable gross body, a bag of bone and flesh, they are more or less engaged in tending to a lifeless body. They cannot conceive of performing any activity in this world besides feeding and dressing it. Whatever they do and whatever they possess is centred around their body and those related with it, their so-called relatives. This class of people are deeply engrossed in fruitive activities and are included among the smārtas. The scriptures indicate these people with the words, “sthūle paśyanti varvarāḥ – uncivilised, low class persons see the gross aspect of everything.” Cārvāka, a pratyakṣa-darśī (one who relies on one’s direct sense perception of objects) is a supporter of this theory.

The second type of demon – one who entertains subtle hankerings – is intent on searching out the undifferentiated brahma. Such persons are followers of the Advaita doctrine; in other words, they are Māyāvādīs. They do not directly desire gross sense enjoyment, but are obsessed with indirectly amassing an enjoyment that is in fact thousands of times greater than gross gratification. They themselves want to become brahma (the Supreme Entity)! By declaring the supreme controller of this world, Bhagavān, to be powerless, they try to fulfil their purpose. Thus they want to bring everything under their control for personal enjoyment. The Gītā has indicated these people:

asatyam-apratiṣṭham te jagad-āhur-anīśvaram
aparaspara-sambhūtaṁ kim anyat kāma-haitukam

Asuras describe the world as unreal, without basis, and godless. They say it is the product of sexual union, or that it is self-generated. Not only this, they say that it is the result of selfish desires. (Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā 16.8)

6. Sincerity is the key

Many have the idea that they can obtain perfection without performing sādhana. If the disciple does not make any advancement in bhajana even after residing with the guru for a very long time, then he will become suspicious of the guru’s qualification. He will declare that sad-guru, who is in fact genuine, has no potency. He does not understand that the obstacles that have arisen in his sādhana-bhajana are due to his lack of one-pointed concentration, resulting from his previous desires (anyābhilāṣa).

There is certainly a reason why a magnet placed between two pieces of iron attracts one and not the other. [In the same way one disciple advances as a result of the training he has received from a bona fide guru, and another does not.] The reason is that one is a devotee of Bhagavān, free from all selfish desires, and the other is contaminated like rusty iron because he is addicted to gratifying his senses and desirous of extraneous things. One is a servant and the other is a mere imitator of a servant. Even though both a mango tree and a neem tree grow on the bank of the Gaṅgā and take the same water, the mango tree satisfies everyone with its deliciously sweet fruits, whereas the neem tree bears bitter fruit, thus displaying its inborn ungentle nature.

There is no miserliness in Śrī Guru and Vaiṣṇavas’ distribution of mercy. Different results are reaped according to the qualification of the recipients. By taking shelter of the same  guru, one person can become acquainted with kṛṣṇa-tattva, whereas another can demolish the conclusions of bhakti.

Translated from Śrī Gauḍīya Patrikā, Year 7, Issues 5 (August 1956)
by the Rays of The Harmonist team
CC-BY-SA Rays of The Harmonist No.16 (Kartik 2006)

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