śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year-5, Issue 7
Posted: 7 August, 2012

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


Līlā is Beyond the Material Mind and Senses

by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda


Question 1: What is the difference between karma and līlā?

Answer: Karma and līlā are as different as heaven and hell. Karma is performed with material senses, which are bahirmukha, or directed away from service to Kṛṣṇa, whereas līlā is realized through transcendental senses, which are perfectly suited for serving Kṛṣṇa.

The material world is the place of karma, and our gross and subtle designations are its basis. Karma is temporary, while līlā is eternal. Karma is the suffering we undergo on account of the three forms of misery, or the punishment given to the conditioned souls, but līlā is the blissful pastimes manifest by the completely independent sweet will of the supremely autocratic Personality of Godhead, Puruṣottama.

The realm for līlā, however, is Vaikuṇṭha, or Goloka, which is beyond the fourteen planetary systems of this material universe, beyond the Virajā, and even beyond brahma-loka. By the desire of the Supreme Lord, who is līlā-maya, or richly imbued with pastimes, līlā manifests within this world through His līlā potency. However, by its very nature, līlā is beyond the reach of the material senses (atindriya) and even beyond anything the material mind can conceive (avicintya). It is never tainted by anything mundane, nor is it subordinate to anything mundane. This is the sole verdict of gauḍīya darśana (the philosophical revelations of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, who are the followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu).

Question 2: Kindly explain the purport of the verse from Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā beginning sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja.

Answer: In Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, the Supreme Personality of Godhead has spoken about abandoning all types of dharma (occupational duties) and completely surrendering at His lotus feet. Yet in another part of the Gītā, He also personally gave the instruction that there is nothing auspicious in giving up our own specific duty (sva-dharma) in favour of accepting someone else’s specific duty (para-dharma). He explains that it is better to be killed while performing one’s sva-dharma than to engage in para-dharma, for following another’s path is dangerous.

Yet, as already stated, the same Supreme Lord has said that one should desert all types of dharma. How should we reconcile these two statements?

You see, one cannot understand Puruṣottama – the Supreme Personality of Godhead Śrī Bhagavān – through one’s own learning, intelligence and competence. One can only know Him through His mercy. Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the manifestation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s most magnanimous pastimes. If we discuss Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s words, if we attentively hear the teachings of He who appeared in this world just to speak about Śrī Kṛṣṇa although He is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, only then can we effectively find the proper reconciliation between these two ideas.

After accepting sannyāsa, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu stayed at Śrī Candra-śekhara’s home in Kāśī for some time. Śrī Sanātana Prabhu, who was prime minister to King Hussain Shah in Bengal under the name Sākara Mallika, had also arrived there. He asked Śrīman Mahāprabhu:

‘ke āmi’, ‘kene āmāya jāre tāpa-traya’
ihā nāhi jāni – ‘kemane hita haya’

Who am I? Why are the three forms of misery scorching me? If I do not know the answer to these questions, how will I achieve my eternal welfare?

Now listen to what Śrīman Mahāprabhu said in reply:

jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya – kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’
kṛṣṇera ‘taṭasthā-śakti’ ‘bhedābheda-prakāśa’

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 20.108)

It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa because he is the marginal energy of Kṛṣṇa and a manifestation simultaneously one with and different from the Lord.*

kṛṣṇa bhuli’ sei jīva anādi-bahirmukha
ataeva māyā tāre deya saṁsāra-duḥkha

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 20. 117)

Forgetting Kṛṣṇa, the living entity has been attracted by the external feature from time immemorial. Therefore the illusory energy [māyā] gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence.*

sādhu-śāstra-kṛpāya yadi kṛṣṇonmukha haya
sei jīva nistare, māyā tāhāre chāḍaya

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 20. 120)

If the conditioned soul becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious by the mercy of saintly persons who voluntarily preach scriptural injunctions and help him to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, the conditioned soul is liberated from the clutches of māyā, who gives him up.*

tāte kṛṣṇa bhaje, kare gurura sevana
māyā-jāla chuṭe, pāya kṛṣṇera caraṇa

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 20.25)

If the conditioned soul engages in the service of the Lord and simultaneously carries out the orders of his spiritual master and serves him, he can get out of the clutches of māyā and become eligible for shelter at Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.*

* Translations marked with an asterisk are by Śrila A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, copyright Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT).

The constitutional nature of the jīva, or living being, is that of a servant of the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the eternal master of the living being. Only service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the living being’s eternal dharma. We are not the body; we are dehi, the embodied principal, the atomic conscious soul. This is the verdict of the scriptures.

Yet, having forgotten these facts, we consider the body and mind to be our self. From that point alone, all of our difficulties and confusion arise. Next we consider the country of our body’s birth to be ‘my country’, and the lineage of our body’s birth to be ‘my family’. We then identify ourselves as a brāhmaṇakṣatriyavaiśyaśūdramleccha, man, woman and so forth.

Again, with reference to the gradual change in the condition of the body, we consider ourselves to be a child, youthful or old. Identifying myself with my body, I also maintain the ego of being Indian, Bengali or British, or I consider myself Hindu, Muslim, Marwari, Punjabi or Bihari etc. And with regard to āśrama, we consider ourselves a brahmacarī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha or sannyāsī. You see, it is only when we are subject to these designations that we imagine, fabricate or otherwise allow a variety of dharmas apart from our own true dharma to make their entrance.

The Supreme Lord is the speaker of the Gītā. He has said that the soul is eternal and unchangeable, while the body is temporary and prone to growth and deterioration. Those who consider that the unchangeable soul also undergoes changes like birth and death as the body does are foolish. Therefore, the term sarva dharma denotes all such designated dharmas that have originated because of identifying the body or mind to be oneself. In other words, these include dharma based on one’s varṇa – brāhmaṇakṣatriyavaiśyaśūdra or even antyaja (outcaste) and so forth; dharma based on one’s āśrama – brahmacarī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha or sannyāsadharma based on worldly sense gratification or renouncing it; dharma related to the next world; and in fact all dharmas existing within this universe composed of fourteen planetary systems, apart from kṛṣṇa-seva or kṛṣṇa-āśraya.

The most benevolent Supreme Lord has mercifully told us that one should abandon the temporary dharma of the body and mind. Not only is that dharma to be given up (tyāga), but it is to be thoroughly abandoned (parityāga). In other words, forgetting even a memory of your body and mind, relinquish your material identity and engage in the eternal dharma of the eternal soul, namely service to the Supreme Soul, Bhagavān.

But this simple truth cannot be suddenly accepted by the illusioned souls, and the evidence is the very next statement the Lord makes: “ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi”. The jīva is lamenting that if he gives up all temporary dharmas related to the material body and mind and accepts his eternal dharma, he will incur sin. That material aspect [the body] will desert us, leave us, and perish despite our wishes, yet, due to past material attachments or due to delusion, we think that deserting the temporary dharmas related to that perishable body shall be sinful.

Alas, Alas! In neglecting his eternal dharma the conditioned soul incurs the greatest sin and the biggest offence, yet he is indifferent toward that. He considers temporary dharma to be eternal and is worried about the sins incurred by abandoning it. Not only does he consider it sinful, he is mournful. Therefore the Lord says mā śucaḥ – do not mourn.

Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa personally came and gave us so much instruction about bhagavad-bhajana, but do we listen to His words? Do we follow His instructions and directions? If we do not listen to the instructions of Bhagavān; if we do not follow the scriptures and instead just nurture our own whims; if we consider our true duties to be optional duties and our optional duties to be obligatory; if we dishonour the statements of sādhu and guru and follow our own whims by fabricating our dharma ourselves, then who is to blame?

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


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


Rays of The Harmonist On-line, Year-5, Issue 7 “Līlā is Beyond the Material Mind and Senses” by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available.
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