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Nitya-dharma O Itihasa
Eternal Religion and History
A doubt arose in the mind of Shri Harihara Bhattacarya, a teacher who lived in Agradvipa. He discussed it with some people, but his doubt would not go away. It troubled his mind more and more. One day, when he was in the village of Arkatila, he asked Shri Caturbhuja Nyayaratna, "O saintly Bhattacarya, please tell me: How old is the Vaishnava religion?" harihara Bhattacarya is an initiated Vaishnava and he worships Lord Krishna in his home. Nyayaratna Mahashaya has pursued twenty years of laborious study. He was not interested in any religion. He did not like talking about religion. Only when Goddess Durga was worshiped would he show a slight religious sentiment. Harihara's question made him think, "This Harihara must be a supporter of Vaishnavism. He could get me in some trouble. It is best to keep trouble away." Thinking in this way, Nyayaratna Mahashaya said, “What kind of question is this today? You have read many books. You even read the Muktipada. Look, in the who of nyaya-shastra there is no mention of the Vaishnava religion. Why do you annoy me with this question?
Harihara said, "O Bhatöacarya Mahashaya, I come from a Vaishnava family and I am an initiated Vaishnava. I never had any doubts about the Vaishnava religion. You know Tarka-cudamani of Vikramapura. Wishing to uproot the Vaishnava religion, he preaches against it in many places in this country and others also. In this way he has earned a lot of money. In a gathering of mostly Durga-worshipers he said the Vaishnava religion is modern in its origins and has no substance or reality. He said only low-class people call themselves Vaishnavas, and upper-class people have no respect for the Vaishnava religion. When I heard this pandita's conclusion at first I was pained at heart, but then, as I thought it over, I could see that before Prabhu Chaitanyadeva there was no Vaishnavism in Bengal. At that time almost everyone performed worship by chanting Durga-mantras. Some few of us worshiped by chanting Vaishnava mantras, but all of those Vaishnavas wanted in the end to attain impersonal liberation and become Brahman. All those Vaishnavas were pancopasakas. However, after Prabhu Chaitanyadeva Vaishnavism assumed a new form. Now Vaishnavas cannot bear to hear the words "mukti" and “brahman". What is their understanding of devotional service? I do not have the power to say. There is a saying "The followers of a one-eyed guru will be led astray". I see these Vaishnavas are like that. My question is: "Did this kind of Vaishnavism exist before, or was it only invented after the time of Chaitanyadeva?"
Nyayaratna Mahasaya could see that Harihara's mentality was unusual. In other words, Harihara was not an orthodox Vaishnava. When this thought entered his mind, his face blossomed with happiness. He said, "Harihara, you are a good scholar of nyaya-shastra. I agree with your idea. Nowadays a new kind of Vaishnavism has come. I am afraid to say anything against it. It is the Kali-yuga! We should be a little careful. Many rich and respectable gentlemen have accepted Chaitanya's philosophy. They have no faith in us. They think we are their enemies. I think that in a few days our business will collapse. The Telis, Tamlis, and Suvarna-vaniks all have taken to talking about the scriptures. They have brought great trouble to us. Look, for a long time the brahmanas had so arranged things that no other caste could read the scriptures. Even the kayasthas, who we next below the brahmanas, could not chant the sacred syllable Om. All followed what we said. But nowadays all these Vaishnavas are discussing the spiritual truth. They have completely defeated us. Since the time of Nimai Pandita the Brahmana Religion has practically disappeared. O Harihara, Tarka-cudamani spoke the truth. Considering what they have seen or heard, others may say what they like about him. I say he has spoken well. When I hear the words of these Vaishnava fools, my whole body burns with anger. They even say that Shankaracarya's books are false, and his words are all maya. They say that Lord Vishnu ordered him to speak a pack of lies. An then on top of that they say the Vaishnava religion had no beginning. The Vaishnava religion is barely a hundred years old! And now it has no beginning. As the saying goes:
udor pindi budhor ghade
"The fools find an innocent man, make him into a scapegoat, and attack him again and again."
Let them say what they like. Navadvipa was as good in the past as it is bad in the present. Nowadays a few Vaishnavas who live at Baragachi in Navadvipa see the ideas of the entire world as foolish. Some two or three scholars amongst them have turned the whole country upside-down. The ideas that castes are rigidly fixed, that the whole world is an illusion, and that one should worship Goddess Durga have all been crushed by them. Look. Nowadays there are not even many shraddha ceremonies. What will happen to the professional brahmanas?
Then Harihara said, "O Bhaööacarya Mahashaya, is there no remedy? In Mayapura there are still five or six big, big brahmana scholars. Then on the other side of the Ganges there are many scholars of Smriti and Nyaya. Why do they not join forces and attack Gadigacha?
Nyayaratna said, "Yes! If they band together, the brahmana scholars can do it! Of course the brahmana scholars tend to fight among themselves. They like to fight and they pretend that fighting among themselves is part of the job of being a scholar. I heard that some followers of Krishna-cudamani went to Gadigacha for a debate and came back defeated. Now they won't even come out of their classrooms. Some have said that."
Harihara said, "O Bhaööacarya Mahashaya, You are our teacher. You are the teacher of many great scholars. By studying your commentaries on nyaya-shastra, many have learned the art of tricking others by juggling words. Please go and defeat the Vaishnava scholars once and for all. The Vaishnava religion is a modern concoction. It is not the teaching of the Vedas. Please go and prove these truths. Then our pancopasana worship, which is the teaching of all the previous authorities, will be saved."
In Caturbhuja Nyayaratna's mind there was one fear. He was afraid that he would meet the same fate as Krishna-cudamani and others who had already been defeated by the Vaishnavas. He said, "Harihara, I will go there is disguise. You go there also. Pose as a scholar, and kindle the fire of debate in Gadigacha." Harihara said, "I must obey your order. Calling myself `Mahadeva', on Monday I will cross the Ganges."
Monday came. Accompanied by Shri Caturbhuja Nyayaratna of Arkaöila, the three scholars Harihara, Kamalakanta, and Sadashiva crossed the Ganges. After a little more than ten hours of traveling along the Ganges, they finally arrived at Shri Pradyumna-kunja. Again and again calling out “Haribol! Haribol!", like a small contingent of Durvasa Munis, they entered the grove of madhavi vines. Advaita dasa came out, greeted them, gave them sitting-places, and asked, “What order would you like to give to me?" Harihara said, "We have come to discuss some things with the Vaishnavas." Advaita dasa replied, "the Vaishnavas of this place do not engage in debates. But of you sincerely have some questions, then that is all right. The other day some scholars came, asked some questions, stirred up a great debate, and were left unhappy at the end. I will ask the saintly paramahamsa babaji, and then I will give you his answer. After speaking these words, he entered the cottage of the paramahamsa babaji.
After a moment, Advaita dasa returned among them and began to arrange sitting places for everyone. Entering the beautiful grove, the saintly paramahamsa babaji offered dandavat obeisances first to the tulasi plant and then to the brahmana guests. He asked them, "O saintly ones, what order would you like to give to me?"
Then the Nyayaratna said, "I have two questions to ask. Please answer them. Hearing this, the saintly paramahamsa babaji called for saintly Shri Vaishnava dasa babaji. When the Vaishnavas were all seated comfortably, Nyayaratna Mahashaya asked, "First consider, and then speak: Is the Vaishnava religion ancient or modern?"
Following the saintly paramahamsa babaji's wish, Vaishnava dasa spoke. He said, "The Vaishnava religion is eternal. It always existed."
Nyayaratna: As I see it, there are two kinds of Vaishnava religion. In one kind of Vaishnava religion it is accepted that the Supreme is the formless Brahman. However, no one can actually worship something that is formless. Therefore one may imagine that the Supreme has a form, and by worshiping that imagined form, one gradually becomes pure in heart. When one becomes thus pure in heart, knowledge of the formless Brahman naturally arises within him. Thus, by worshiping the imaginary forms of Radha-Krishna, Rama, or Nrisimha, one eventually attains knowledge of Brahman. They who accept this philosophy, worship the Deity of Vishnu, and chant Vishnu-mantras, consider themselves Vaishnavas and count themselves among the pancopasakas. Another kind of Vaishnava religion affirms that Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama, or Lord Krishna have real forms that are eternal. Then, by worshiping these forms and chanting Their mantras, the devotee attains eternal knowledge of Them, and Their mercy also. This Shankara is in error, and his idea that the Supreme is formless is a pack of lies. Of these two kinds of Vaishnava religion, which is eternal? Which of them always existed?
Vaishnava dasa: The second one you mentioned is the real Vaishnava. It is eternal. The first one is Vaishnava religion in name only. It is the enemy of the true Vaishnava religion. It is not eternal. It is only a collection of lies.
Nyayaratna: I can understand that in your opinion the only true Vaishnava religion is the philosophy of Chaitanyadeva. Thus the Vaishnava religion does not mean only the worship of Radha-Krishna, Rama, and Nrisimha, it means worshiping Radha-Krishna and the other Deities according to the principles taught by Chaitanya. Very good. However, how can you say that this kind of Vaishnava religion is eternal?
Vaishnava dasa: The four Vedas teach this kind of Vaishnava religion. All the smriti-shastras teach this kind of Vaishnava religion. All the Vedic histories (itihasas) sing the glories of this kind of Vaishnava religion.
Nyayaratna: Chaitanyadeva was born not even 150 years ago. From what I can see He is the first teacher of this kind of religion. If this is so, how can this kind of religion be eternal?
Vaishnava dasa: As long as any souls ever existed, this kind of Vaishnava philosophy existed also. The time when the individual souls first came into existence cannot be calculated according to material time. Actually, there never was a time when the individual souls first came into existence. As the individual souls are thus beginningless, so the Vaishnava religion is also beginningless. Brahma was the first individual soul to take birth in this universe. As soon as Brahma was manifested, the words of the Vedas, which are the root of the Vaishnava religion, were also manifested. This is recorded in the four essential verses of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.9.33-36). This is also described in these words of Mundaka Upanishad (1.1.1):
brahma devanam prathamam sambabhuva
vishvasya karta bhuvanasya gopta
sa brahma-vidyam sarva-vidya-pratishöham
atharvaya jyeshöha-putraya praha
"Brahma, who is the first demigod, the creator of the universe, and the protector of the worlds, spoke knowledge of the Supreme, the first of all kinds of knowledge, to his eldest son, Atharva."
This knowledge of the Supreme is also taught in these words of the Rig Veda (1.22.20):
om tad vishnoh paramam padam
sada pashyanti surayah
diviva cakshur atatam
"The lotus feet of Lord Vishnu are the supreme objective of all the demigods. These lotus feet of the Lord are as enlightening as the sun in the sky."*
In the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (5.4) it is said:
evam sa devo bhagavan varenyo
yoni-svabhavan adhitishöhaty ekah
"The glorious Supreme Personality of Godhead alone rules all creatures."
In the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.2) it is said:
satyam jnanam anantam brahma. yo veda nihitam guhayam parame vyoman. so 'shnute sarvan kaman saha brahmana vipashcita.
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is real, eternal, limitless, and all-knowing. One who understands the Supreme Lord residing in his heart goes to the spiritual world. There He associates with the all-knowing Supreme Lord. There all his desires are fulfilled."
Nyayaratna: You say that the Rig Veda verse "tad vishnoh paramam padam" describes your kind of Vaishnava religion and not the Vaishnava religion that follows the mayavada theory of impersonalism. How can you claim that?
Vaishnava dasa: The Vaishnava religion that is a part of impersonalism refuses to affirm that service to Lord Vishnu is eternal. That religion claims that by attaining spiritual knowledge a person himself becomes the Supreme. However, in the Kaöha Upanishad (1.2.23) it is said:
nayam atma pravacanena labhyo
na medhaya na bahuna shrutena
yam evaisha vrinute tena labhyas
tasyaisha atma vivrinute tanum svam
"The Supreme Lord is not attained by expert explanations, by vast intelligence, nor even by much hearing. He is attained only by one who He Himself chooses. To such a person He manifests His own form."*
Service to the Lord and surrender to the Lord are the only true religion. By following that religion one attains the Lord's mercy, and only then is one able to see the Lord's eternal form. By cultivating impersonal speculation one will not attain that form of the Lord. By understanding these clear and unequivocal words of the Vedas, one can see that the pure Vaishnava religion has its roots in the Vedas. The Vaishnava religion that Shriman Mahaprabhu taught is the same religion that is taught in the Vedas. Of this there is no doubt.
Nyayaratna: Does any Vedic passage affirm this idea that the worship of Krishna, and not impersonal knowledge, is the highest attainment?
Vaishnava dasa: In the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.7.1) it is said:
raso vai sah
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the reservoir of transcendental mellows."*
In the Chandogya Upanishad (8.13.1) it is said:
shyamac chavalam prapadye shavalac chyamam prapadye
"To attain Lord Krishna, I surrender to Shri Radha. To attain Shri Radha, I surrender to Lord Krishna."
I can quote many Vedic passages proving that devotional service to Lord Krishna is the highest attainment.
Nyayaratna: Is the name "Krishna" found in the Vedas?
Vaishnava dasa: Is not the word "shyama" a name of Lord Krishna? In the Rig Veda (1.22.164) it is said:
apashyam gopam anipadyamanam
"Then I saw a cowherd boy who will never die."
This is only one of many Vedic passages that describe Lord Krishna, the son of a gopa.
Nyayaratna: These are all strained and twisted interpretations of the Vedic passages.
Vaishnava dasa: If one studies the Vedas thoroughly, he will see that these are the right interpretations. We should understand the Vedas according to the explanations given by the ancient sages.
Nyayaratna: Now please narrate the history of the Vaishnava religion.
Vaishnava dasa: I have already said that when the first individual soul came into existence, the Vaishnava religion came into existence with him. Therefore the demigod Brahma is the first Vaishnava. Lord Shiva is also a Vaishnava. The original prajapatis are all Vaishnavas. Brahma's mind-born son Narada Gosvami is also a Vaishnava. can you not see that the Vaishnava religion was present at the moment the material universe was created? The truth is that not everyone is beyond the influence of the material modes. Whoever is genuinely free of the material modes is a genuine Vaishnava. The Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Puranas are all histories of the Vedic civilization. You have already seen that the Vaishnava religion was present at the moment the material universe was created. When the scriptures describe the different demigods, human beings, and demons, there are descriptions of Prahlada, Dhruva, and other Vaishnavas from the very beginning. The Vedic histories have only recorded the names of some of the most famous. There is no saying how many hundreds of other great Vaishnavas there were at the time of Prahlada and Dhruva. Dhruva, Manu's sons, and Prahlada are all grandsons of Prajapati Kashyapa. Therefore they lived at the very beginning of the universe. Of this there is no doubt. In the Vedic histories it is seen that the Vaishnava religion was present at the very beginning of time. The kings of the Candra-vamsha and Surya-vamsha, as well as the great munis and rishis, were all sincerely devoted to Lord Vishnu. These things are written in the descriptions of the three yugas: Satya, Treta, and Dvapara. In the Kali-yuga Shri Ramanuja, Shri Madhvacarya, and Shri Vishnu Svami in the south and Shri Nimbarka Svami in the west brought many thousands to the pure Vaishnava religion. By there mercy perhaps half the people of Bharata-varsha crossed the ocean of maya and found shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. In Bengal you may see Lord Shacinandana, who is the master of our hearts. How many fallen souls did He deliver? When you look at all these great souls, you do not see the glory of the Vaishnava religion!
Nyayaratna: Yes. But what kind of Vaishnavas are Prahlada and the others? What do you say?
Vaishnava dasa: One must study the scriptures thoroughly. Rejecting the impersonalist theory that Shanda and Amarka taught him, Prahlada instead made the holy names of Lord Hari the be-all-and-end-all of his life. Therefore Prahlada was a pure devotee. Of this there is no doubt. The truth is that without careful and impartial investigation, one cannot understand the true meaning of the scriptures.
Nyayaratna: If this is true, that the Vaishnava religion existed from time immemorial, then what new thing did Chaitanya Mahaprabhu teach, that He should be especially honored?
Vaishnava dasa: The Vaishnava religion is like a lotus flower. It blossoms slowly. First it is a bud. Then it is partly blossomed. Only slowly does it become like a fully-blossomed flower. At the time of the demigod Brahma, the impersonalist theory, the practice of devotional service, and the knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as described in the four essential verse of Shrimad-Bhagavatam were new sprouts just beginning to grow in the hearts of the living entities. At the time of Prahlada and the others the sprout had grown to become a bud. That you can see. At the time of Vyasa Muni that bud slowly opened, and at the time of the great Vaishnava acaryas it became a flower. When Shriman Mahaprabhu came to this world that flower of love became fully blossomed and spread its sweet fragrance to everyone. Shriman Mahaprabhu revealed the most confidential secret of the Vaishnava religion: the pure love attained by chanting the Lord's holy names. In this way he gave the greatest good fortune to the living entities in the material world. The chanting of the holy names of the Lord is such a valuable treasure. Who else but Lord Chaitanya revealed the truth of this? Although this truth was certainly described in the scriptures, it had not been revealed to the people in general. Ah, before Lord Chaitanya had the treasure house of the nectar of love of God ever been opened in this way?
Nyayaratna: Well, if the chanting of the holy names is so sweet, why do the learned panditas not like it?
Vaishnava dasa: In Kali-yuga the word “pandita" no longer means what it once did. In the scriptures the word "panda" is defined as "brilliant intelligence", and therefore a person who has brilliant intelligence is called a "pandita". Nowadays anyone who can spout meaningless jargon from the nyaya-shastra or interpret the smriti-shastra in a way to please the people in general is called a "pandita". Are such "panditas" able to understand and or to teach the truth of religion and the true meaning of the scriptures? Can anyone attain through the meaningless jargon of the nyaya-shastra the spiritual truth, which is to be attained by impartial and careful study of all the scriptures? In truth only persons expert at cheating themselves and others are called pandita in the Kali-yuga. These so-called panditas carry on great stormy debates over earthen pots and scraps of cloth. What is reality, what is the relationship between the individual souls and the Supreme, what the real spiritual need of all living entities, and how can that need be fulfilled, these panditas will never have a stormy debate to settle these things. Only when one understands the truths of these things will one be able to know the answer to the question: What is the value of the loving chanting of Lord Hari's holy names?
Nyayaratna: Well, I'll certainly agree that there are hardly any good panditas nowadays. Still, why is it that the great brahmanas born in exalted families refuse to accept your Vaishnava religion? The brahmana caste is in the mode of goodness. Brahmanas are naturally on the right path and naturally attracted to the highest religious principles. Why, then, are the brahmanas so ferociously opposed to the Vaishnava religion?
Vaishnava dasa: Since you have asked this question, it is right that I give the proper reply. Still, Vaishnavas do not like to criticize others. Look, if you will not feel pain and anger in your heart, and if you desire to know what is the real truth, I can answer your question.
Nyayaratna: Do it. I have studied the scriptures. I am in favor of peacefulness, self-control, and tolerance. Your words will not be intolerable for me. Please speak straight. I accept what is good and true.
Vaishnava dasa: Look, Shri Ramanuja, Madhva, Vishnu Svami, and Nimbarka were all brahmanas. They had thousands and thousands of brahmana disciples. In our Bengal our Mahaprabhu was a vaidika brahmana. Our Nityananda Prabhu was a radhiya brahmana. Our Advaita Prabhu was a rajendra brahmana. Our gosvamis and mahantas were mostly brahmanas. Thousands and thousands of great souls who were the tilaka markings of great brahmana families took shelter of the Vaishnava religion and preached the pure Vaishnava religion to the people of the world. How can you say that exalted brahmanas do not honor the Vaishnava religion? This we know: All the brahmanas who honor the Vaishnava religion are are exalted brahmanas. Only because of bad families, bad association, or bad education do some brahmanas become enemies of the Vaishnava religion. They do not become enemies because their brahminical principles are so great and exalted. They become enemies because they are degraded and unfortunate. The scriptures declare that in Kali-yuga there number of true brahmanas is very few. These few brahmanas become Vaishnavas. When he accepts the Vaishnava gayatri, which is the mother of all the Vedas, a brahmana becomes an initiated Vaishnava. However, pushed by the faults of Kali-yuga, such a brahmana may then accept another, a non-Vedic initiation. In this way he loses his status as a Vaishnava. Simply because you see they are few in number, please do not come to the wrong conclusion about the Vaishnava brahmanas.
Nyayaratna: Why do many low-class people embrace the Vaishnava religion?
Vaishnava dasa: There is no doubt of that. Many low-class people are naturally very humble, and for this reason the Vaishnavas consider them good candidates for their mercy. No one can become a Vaishnava without first receiving the mercy of the Vaishnavas. Persons who are intoxicated with pride of caste, pride of wealth, or other kinds of pride cannot be humble. For them it is very difficult to attain the mercy of the Vaishnavas.
Nyayaratna: I don't like to know any more about it. I can see that eventually you will quote some hard words from the scriptures. It gives my heart great pain to hear these words, words like these of the Varaha Purana:
rakshasah kalim ashritya
"In the Kali-yuga demons take birth in the families of the brahmanas."
I don't like to talk about these things. Now please say who you have no respect for our Shri Shankara Svami, who is a shoreless ocean of spiritual knowledge?
Vaishnava dasa: Why do you say that? We say that Shri Shankara Svami is an incarnation of Lord Shiva Himself. Shriman Mahaprabhu taught us to honor him with the title Acarya. The only thing is we do not accept his mayavada philosophy. The mayavada philosophy is not the religion taught in the Vedas. Actually, it is covered Buddhism. In order to give the demons a stable life, by the Supreme Lord's order the acarya distorted the true meaning of the Vedas, Vedanta, and Bhagavad-gita, and taught the advaita-vada, the philosophy of an impersonal God. Is the acarya at fault for that? Do people criticize him? Buddha was an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. He preached a philosophy opposed to the Vedas. Do the followers of the Vedas criticize him? If someone says, "It is not good for the Supreme Lord and the demigod Shiva to act in that way", then I reply: Why not? They are never cruel or unjust. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the protector of the universe, and His assistant Lord Shiva are both all-knowing and the givers of all good. They are never cruel or unjust. Their actions have a deep purpose the small individual souls have no power to understand. Therefore They should not be criticized. Because they are not intelligent enough to understand the purpose of the Lord, people may criticize Him, saying "It is not good for the Supreme Lord to act in this way. He should have acted in that way." Intelligent people never talk like that. Why was the impersonalist philosophy needed then to control the demonic people? Only the all-powerful Lord knows. Why is there a need to create the various life-forms and then destroy them at the end? We have not the power to know. These are the pastimes of the Lord. Persons who are devoted to the Lord feel bliss to hear of His pastimes. They are not eager to say the Lord acted wrongly or to question the virtue of the Lord's actions.
Nyayaratna: Good. But why do you say that the mayavada philosophy is against the teachings of the Vedas and the Vedanta-sutra?
Vaishnava dasa: If you carefully consider the Vedas and the Vedanta-sutra, then please tell me which mantras and which sutras support the mayavada conclusion? I will show the proper interpretation of all those mantras and sutras. It may seem that some Vedic mantras show a dim reflection of the mayavada philosophy. However, when we look at what precedes and follows those mantras, in a moment the mayavada interpretation flees far away.
Nyayaratna: My brother, I never studied the Upanishads and the Vedanta-sutra. I can discuss anything about the nyaya-shastra. In that debate I can turn a clay pot into a piece of cloth and a piece of cloth into a clay pot. A read as little little of the Gita, but I did not really enter into it. Here I must stop. Well, I would like to as one more thing. You are a great pandita, so you can give a good answer. Why do the Vaishnavas have faith only in the prasadam remnants of Lord Vishnu and not in the remnants of the demigods and demigoddesses?
Vaishnava dasa: I am not a pandita. I am a great fool. If I can speak nicely that is only because of the mercy of my paramahamsa gurudeva. Everyone should know that. The ocean of the scriptures has no shore. No one can study all the scriptures. My gurudeva churned the ocean of the scriptures and gave me the cream of their final conclusions. In know that what he teaches is the final conclusion of all the scriptures. The answer to your question is this: The Vaishnavas do not disrespect the prasadam remnants of the demigods and demigoddesses. Shri Krishna is the only Supreme God. The other demigods and demigoddesses are His obedient devotees. The Vaishnavas respect the prasadam remnants left by the devotees of the Lord. They do not disrespect them. By accepting the prasadam remnants left by the devotees, one attains pure devotion to the Lord. The dust of the devotees' feet, the nectar water that has washed the devotees' feet, and the nectar food that has touched the devotees' lips, these three are all very wonderful and delightful. They should certainly be accepted. Here is the truth: If an impersonalist worships a demigod and offers food and other things to him, the demigod will not accept the worship, the food, or any other offering, because the person making the offering is contaminated by the impersonalist philosophy. There is abundant proof of that is in the scriptures. If you like, I can quote. The worshipers of the demigods are mostly impersonalists. The demigod-prasadam they offer destroys devotional service and creates an offense before Bhakti-devi, the goddess of devotion. If a pure Vaishnava offers the prasadam tasted by Lord Krishna to a demigod or a demigoddess, that demigod or demigoddess happily accepts that prasadam and dances with joy. If a Vaishnava then takes that prashadam, he becomes filled with happiness. Look, the commands given by the scriptures are most important. It is written in the yoga-shastra that a person practicing yoga should not accept the prasadam of any demigod. This not not mean that a person practicing yoga should disrespect the prasadam remnants offered to the demigods. It merely means that renouncing these remnants is helpful for yoga meditation. In the same way, if a person is engaged in devotional service accepts prasadam remnants offered to any but the Lord He worships, the devotee cannot attain unalloyed devotion to his Lord. This does not mean that he disrespects the prasadam remnants offered to the demigods. Please know, then, that this is ordered by the scriptures and it is meant only to attain a particular goal.
Nyayaratna: Good. I accept that answer. Why do you reject the animal sacrifices prescribed in the scriptures?
Vaishnava dasa: the scriptures do not teach that one should kill animals. The scriptures declare:
ma himsyat sarvani bhutani
"Don't do violence to any creature."
With these words the Vedas prohibit violence to animals. As long as he is in the grip of the modes of passion and ignorance, a man will yearn to associate with women, eat meat, and drink liquor. He does not wait to hear the Vedas command him before he does these things. The purpose of the Vedas is this: As long as a man is not situated in the mode of goodness, a man will not be able to renounce killing animals, drinking liquor, and yearning for the touch of a woman. It is the curb these propensities that the scriptures prescribe association with a woman in marriage, killing animals in sacrifice, and drinking liquor at certain ceremonies. In these ways a man's indulgence in these things is curtailed, and at the end he becomes able to renounce them completely. That is the purpose of the Vedas. The Vedas do not really teach that one should kill animals. That is described in these words of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.11):
nitya hi jantor na hi tatra codana
vyavasthitis teshu vivaha-yajna-
sura-grahair ashu nivrittir ishöa
"In this material world the conditioned soul is always inclined to sex, meat-eating, and intoxication. Therefore religious scriptures never actually encourage these activities. Although the scriptural injunctions provide for sex through sacred marriage, for meat-eating through sacrificial offerings, and for intoxication thorough the acceptance of ritual cups of wine, such ceremonies are meant for the ultimate purpose of renunciation."***
Therefore the Vaishnavas do not protest if men in the modes of passion and ignorance kill animals in these circumstances. However, men in the mode of goodness should not perform such activities. To be violent to others is the way of the animals. Shri Narada Muni describes the way of the animals in these words (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.47):
phalguni tatra mahatam
jivo jivasya jivanam
"Those who are devoid of hands are prey for those who have hands. Those devoid of legs are prey for the four-legged. The weak are the sustenance of the strong, and the general rule holds that one living being is food for another."*
Manu also explains (Manu-samhita 5.56):
pravrittir esha bhutanam
nivrittis tu maha-phala
"Everyone in material life is attracted to furthering the way of attachment (pravritti-marga), but the greatest treasure is to be gained by following the path of detachment (nivritti-marga)."*
Nyayaratna: Good. Why do the Vaishnavas object to performance of shraddha and other rituals to repay the debts one owes to his ancestors?
Vaishnava dasa: If men who follow the karma-kanda rituals of the Vedas perform the shraddha ceremony, the Vaishnavas have no objection. However, the scriptures do say this (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.5.51):
na kinkaro nayam rini na rajan
sarvatmana yah sharanam sharanyam
gato mukundam parihritya kartam
"Anyone who takes 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."*
The conclusion, then, is that devotees who have surrendered to the Lord do not need to perform karma-kanda shraddha ceremonies to repay the debts they owe to their ancestors. They worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, offer the Lord's prasadam to their ancestors, and then honor that prasadam with their family. That is the shraddha ritual they perform.
Nyayaratna: When is one qualified to act in that way?
Vaishnava dasa: On the day when one has faith in the descriptions of Lord Hari and the holy name of Lord Hari one is counted as a Vaishnava. This is described by the Supreme Lord Himself in these words (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.20.9):
tavat karmani kurvita
na nirvidyeta yavata
mat-katha shravanadau va
shraddha yavan na jayate
"As long as one is not displeased by fruitive activity and as long has one has no faith in hearing about Me, one has to follow the rituals of the Vedas."
Nyayaratna: I am very pleased. When I see your scholarship and sharp intelligence, I have faith in the Vaishnavas. I feel happiness in my heart. Harihara, why should we argue with these people? These people are very great scholars. They are very expert in understanding the scriptures. Whatever we may say to keep our business prosperous, Nimai Pandita is the greatest philosopher and Vaishnava who ever took birth in the land of Bengal. Of this there is no doubt. Now let us cross the Ganges. The day is almost ended. Calling out "Haribol! Haribol!", Nyayaratna and his companions departed. Singing "Jaya Shacinananda!", the Vaishnavas danced.