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Nitya-dharma O Jati-varnadi-bheda
Eternal Religion and the Differences of Caste
Devidasa Vidyaratna was a teacher. For many days he had complete faith that the brahmanas were the best of all castes. He thought, "None but the brahmanas could understand the spiritual goal of life. Without first taking birth in a brahmana family no one can attain liberation. It is by birth that one becomes a brahmana." When the heard the conversation the Vaishnavas had with Canda Kazi's descendent, he became very disgusted. He could not enter into an understanding of the truths explained by the saintly kazi. In his mind he thought, “The Yavana caste certainly acts strangely. No one can understand the meaning of what they say. Ah well, father could read Persian and Arabic. He has spent many days studying religion. But why does he respect the Yavanas so? In that assembly why did Vaishnava dasa and the paramahamsa babaji show so much respect to a Yavana, whose contaminating touch makes one take a bath?"
That night he said, "Sh_ambhu, with the fire of logic I will burn the philosophy of the offenders into ashes. It was in Navadvipa that Sarvabhauma and Shiromani discussed the nyaya-sastra. It was in Navadvipa that Raghunatha churned the twenty-eight truths from the smriti-shastras. How can Hindus and Yavanas mingle together in this same Navadvipa? Perhaps the teachers of Navadvipa do not understand how they should act. In one or two days this Vidyaratna will do something to set this situation right."
Nine hours had passed. Covered by the malice of clouds, the sun had not yet been able to glance upon the earth. At dawn it rained with thudding sounds of "dipdip". During the twelfth half-hour Devi and Shambhu ate kichari. The Vaishnavas were delayed in their madhukari begging for alms. By the time the third three-hour watch had passed all the Vaishnavas had honored prasadam. Now they stayed in one part of the malati and madhavi vine terrace and chanted the holy names on their beads. The paramahamsa babaji, Vaishnava dasa, pandita Ananta dasa, who had just come from Nrisimha-pall\i, Lahir\i Mahashaya, and Yadava dasa from Kuliya were happily chanting the holy names on their tulas\i beads. At that time Vidyaratna Mahashaya, Caturbhuja Padaratna from Samudragara, Cintamani Nyayaratna from Varanasi, Kalidasa Vasaspati from Purvasthali, and the famous pandita Krishna Cudamani all came there. The Vaishnavas very respectfully offered sitting places to their brahmana pandita guests. The paramahamsa babaji said, "It is said that a day overcast with clouds is a bad day indeed. However, for us it has become a good day, for many learned panditas who live in holy places have mercifully placed the dust of their feet in my cottage. Because they were naturally humbler than a blade of grass, the Vaishnavas, saying, "We offer our respectful obeisances to the brahmanas", bowed down to offer their respects. Thinking themselves very learned and important, the brahmanas responded by offering blessings. Vidyaratna had invited them there for a great debate. Because they were all younger than him, the brahmanas bowed down before Lahiri Mahashaya. Because he now understood the real truth, Lahiri Mahashaya at once reciprocated by bowing down before the brahmanas.
Among these panditas, Krishna-cudamani was the most eloquent. In Varanasi, Mithila, and many other places he had defeated many panditas with the great power of his logic. He was short, splendidly dark, and grave. His eyes glistened like two stars. It was he who began the discussion with the Vaishnavas.
He said, "Saying amongst ourselves, `Today we shall see the Vaishnavas', we have now come here. We do not think everything you do is very good, but still we think your single-pointed devotional service is very good indeed. The Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself has said (Bhagavad-gita 9.39):
api cet su-duracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag-vyavasito hi sah
"Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated."*
"We offer our respectful obeisances to these words of Bhagavad-gita. Therefore I have come here to see many saintly persons. However, we have another purpose also. It is this: On the pretext of devotional service you associate with Yavanas. I want to talk with you about that. One of you expert in debate should now please step forward."
Hearing Cudamani's words, the Vaishnavas became unhappy. The saintly paramahamsa babaji said, "I am a fool. What do I know of debates? As great saints have acted in a saintly way, so we also try to act. You please repeat the teachings of the scriptures and we will listen in silence."
Cudamani said, "What kind of talk is this? If the Hindus do not understand the scriptures, then the whole world will perish. You will act in a way that violates the scriptures and then you will claim you are following the great saints. What is this? Of what saints do you speak? If they are persons who follow the scriptures and teach the message of the scriptures, then they are saints indeed. But if the people follow anyone and everyone, calling them all great saints, and If they defend their actions by quoting the words `mahajano yena gatah sa pantha' (One should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate *), then how can there be any auspiciousness in this world?"
Hearing Cudamani's words, the Vaishnavas assembled in one of the cottages to decide what should be done. They came to this conclusion: When great saints are criticized, the Vaishnavas should, if they are able, defend them in debate. The paramahamsa babaji did not participate in this discussion. Although the pandita Ananta dasa Babaji had seen the farther shore of the nyaya-shastra, everyone decided that Vaishnava dasa should argue in the debate. Everyone could understand that Devidasa Vidyaratna was the real cause of all this trouble. Staying among them, Lahiri Mahashaya openly said, "Devi is very proud. His mind became agitated when he saw us associating with the saintly kazi. That is why he has brought all these panditas." Taking the dust of the paramahamsa babaji's feet, Vaishnava dasa said, "I carry the Vaishnavas' command upon my head. Today all my scholarship will be successful."
By then all the clouds had gone. A sitting place was arranged in the grove of malati and madhavi vines. on one side were the brahmana panditas and on the other were all the Vaishnavas. All the Vaishnava panditas from Shri Godruma and Madhyadvipa came. Many brahmanas and students from nearby also joined the meeting. It was not a small meeting. One one side were a hundred brahmana panditas, and on the other were two hundred Vaishnavas. Ordered by the Vaishnavas, Vaishnava dasa Babaji peacefully sat in front. Then something wonderful happened. When they saw it, the Vaishnavas happily shouted out the holy name of Lord Hari. The wonderful event was this: a cluster of malati flowers spontaneously fell on Vaishnava dasa's head. The Vaishnavas said, "This is a sign of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy."
On the other side Krishna-cudamani turned up his nose and said, "You may think that, but flowers will not do. The tree is known by its fruits."
Without showing any pride, Vaishnava dasa declared, “Today's meeting in Navadvipa is just like a meeting in Varanasi. This is a source of great joy. Although I live in Bengal, I stayed for a long time in Varanasi. There I studied and I also spoke in many meetings. Therefore I am not accustomed to speak in Bengali. I wish that for today's meeting the questions and answers shall be in Sanskrit. Although Cudamani had labored greatly in his scripture study, aside from memorizing some verses he could not speak Sanskrit. Taken aback by Vaishnava dasa's proposal, he said, "Why? For a meeting in Bengal it is best to speak the Bengali language. I am not like the panditas in the western provinces. I cannot speak Sanskrit. Seeing this, everyone could understand the Cudamani was becoming afraid to debate with Vaishnava dasa. Speaking together with one voice, everyone requested Vaishnava dasa Babaji to speak in Bengali, and he agreed.
To start the debate, Cudamani asked, "Is caste eternal? Are the Yavanas and the Hindus different castes? Does a Hindu fall down by associating with Yavanas?"
Vaishnava dasa answered, "In the nyaya-shastra it is said that caste is eternal. However, the true difference is not seen among human beings born in different countries in different situations. The real differences are birth as a cow, or a goat, or a human being. These are real differences."
Then Cudamani said, "Yes. What you say is true. Still, are the Hindus and Yavanas in different castes?"
Vaishnava dasa replied, "Yes. In one sense there is a difference of caste, but that caste distinction is not eternal. The human race is one. Differences of language, country, garments, caste, and the like are only imaginary differences.
Cudamani: Are human beings different according to the differences of their birth? If this is not so then is the difference between a Hindu and a Yavana only the difference of their clothing and other external things?
Vaishnava dasa: According to his past karma, the soul accepts a higher or a lower birth. The differences of caste are considered according to how human beings are qualified to perform different kinds of work. The four castes are brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, and shudra. All others are outcastes.
Cudamani: Are the Yavanas not outcastes?
Vaishnava dasa: Yes. In the conclusion of the scriptures they are outcastes. They are outside the four castes.
Cudamani: If this is so, then how can a Yavana become a Vaishnava, and how can a pious Vaishnava associate with a Yavana?
Vaishnava dasa: One who engages in pure devotional service is a Vaishnava. Simply by being human one is qualified to be a Vaishnava. Because they have taken a low birth, the Yavanas may not be qualified to perform the duties of the different castes. Nevertheless, they are perfectly qualified to engage in all the activities of devotional service. One who does not understand the subtle differences of the karma-kanda, jnana-kanda, and bhakti-kanda parts of the Vedas cannot be said to be truly learned in the scriptures.
Cudamani: Good. By acting rightly one becomes pure in heart. When the heart is purified, one is qualified to understand transcendental knowledge. Among they who have attained transcendental knowledge some are impersonalists and some are Vaishnavas, who believe is spiritual variety. In the beginning of spiritual life one must perform pious deeds (karma). If one's pious deeds have attained their completion, one cannot become a Vaishnava. However, the Muslims are not qualified to perform pious deeds. Therefore, how can they ever become qualified to engage in devotional service?
Vaishnava dasa: Even outcastes can become qualified to engage in devotional service. This accepted by all the scriptures. In the Bhagavad-gita (9.32) it is written:
mam hi partha vyapashritya
ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaishyas tatha shudras
te 'pi yanti param gatim
"O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birthwomen, vaishyas (merchants), as well as shudras (workers) approach the supreme destination."*
Here the word "ashraya" means "engage in devotional service". Also, in the Kashi-khanda it is said:
brahmanah kshatriyo vaishyah
shudro yad ivetarah
"Either a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra, or outcaste, a person is most exalted if he engages in devotional service to Lord Vishnu."
In the Narada Purana it is also said:
shvapaco 'pi mahi-pala
yatish ca shvapacadhikah
"O king, a dogeater who is devoted to Lord Vishnu is better than a brahmana. A sannyasi who is not devoted to Lord Vishnu is also inferior to such a dogeater devotee."
Cudamani: There are many scripture quotes like that. How should these quotes be understood? That we must see. How can the defect that is attained by birth be removed by any means other than another birth?
Vaishnava dasa: The defect of a low birth comes from prarabdha-karma (past karma that has begun to bear fruit). When one chants the holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, those karmic reactions are thrown far away. In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (6.16.44) it is said:
yan-nama sakric chravanat
pukkasho 'pi vimucyate samsarat
"Merely by hearing the holy name of Your Lordship only once, even candalas, men of the lowest class, are freed from all material contamination."*
It is also said (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 6.2.46):
natah param karma-nibandha-krintanam
na yat punah karmasu sajjate mano
rajas-tamobhyam kalilam tato 'nyatha
"Therefore one who desires freedom from material bondage should adopt the process of chanting and glorifying the name, fame, form and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, at whose feet all the holy places stand. One cannot derive the proper benefit from other methods, such as pious atonement, speculative knowledge, and meditation in mystic yoga, because even after following such methods one takes to fruitive activities again, unable to control his mind, which is contaminated by the base qualities of nature, namely passion and ignorance."*
It is also said (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 3.33.7):
aho bata shvapaco 'pi gariyan
yaj-jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam
tepus tapas te juhuvur sasnur arya
brahmanucur nama grinanti ye te
"Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name! Even if born in the families of dogeaters, such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire-sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans. To be chanting the holy name of Your Lordship, they must have bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas, and fulfilled everything required."*
Cudamani: Why is it, then, that an outcaste who chants the holy name of Lord Hari is not qualified to perform yajnas and other rituals?
Vaishnava dasa: To perform yajnas and other rituals one needs to take birth in a brahmana's home. A person who takes birth in a brahmana's home is not qualified to perform Vedic rituals until after he has received the sacred thread, so an outcaste who has become purified by chanting Lord Hari's holy name but who has not taken birth in a brahmana's home cannot perform yajnas and other rituals. However, the various activities of devotional service are immeasurably better than the performance of Vedic yajnas.
Cudamani: What kind of conclusion is that? That a person not qualified for an ordinary thing can be qualified for an exalted thing! What is the clear proof for that?
Vaishnava dasa: Human activities are of two kinds: 1. material and 2. spiritual. Even after becoming qualified, one may not necessarily be able to perform certain material activities. For example, a person born in a Yavana family may become purified and, spiritually speaking, may become a genuine brahmana. Still, according to the material conception, he is still not qualified to marry a brahmana's daughter.
Cudamani: Why not? What is wrong with that?
Vaishnava dasa: It is wrong to violate social custom. They who are proud of their material activities do not break social custom, and they who are qualified to make spiritual advancement do not break social custom either.
Cudamani: How does one become qualified to perform material activities? How does one become qualified to perform devotional service?
Vaishnava dasa: One's nature, birth, and other things qualify one to engage in material activities. Faith in the truth qualifies one to perform devotional service.
Cudamani: Without overwhelming me with Vedanta vocabulary, please clearly tell me: What are the natures needed to perform the different kinds of duties?
Vaishnava dasa: Some qualities in a brahmana's nature are: 1. peacefulness, 2. self-control, 3. austerity, 4. purity, 5. satisfaction, 6. tolerance, 7. honesty, 8. devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. 9. mercy, and 10. truthfulness. Some of the qualities in a kshatriya's nature are: 1. power, 2. strength, 3. determination, 4. heroism, 5. tolerance, 6. generosity, 7. perseverance, 8. gravity, 9. service to the brahmanas, and 10. leadership. Some of the qualities in a vaishya's nature are: 1. religiousness, 2. charity, 3. faith, 4. humbleness, and 5. eagerness to become wealthy. Some of the qualities in a shudra's nature are: 1. service to the brahmanas, cows, and demigods, and 2. being satisfied with whatever is one's situation in life. Some of the qualities in an outcaste's nature are: 1. impurity, 2. untruthfulness, 3. theft, 4. atheism, 5. senseless quarreling, 6. lust, 7. anger, and 8. desire for material sense gratification. The scriptures teach that the different castes are determined by seeing these qualities. To determine the castes by birth alone is the materialistic practice of modern times. A person's natural inclinations and natural ability to learn different skills are to some extent determined by birth. Thus one's nature makes him qualified to perform specific duties. The nature of many people is determined by their birth. From childhood they manifest certain specific tendencies. In this way it is seen that one's nature is determined by his birth. However, birth is not the only factor determining one's nature and one's fitness to perform certain kinds of work. There are many other factors also. For this reason the scriptures affirm that in determining a person's fitness for a certain kind of work, one should examine his nature and qualities.
Cudamani: What did you mean when you said the words “faith in the truth"?
Vaishnava dasa: When a person has in his heart sincere faith and trust in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that is called faith. When a person is materialistic, has an impure heart, in his heart has a false conception of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and is selfish, proud, and eager for fame, his faith is called "insincere". Some saintly persons say that “sincere faith" means "faith that follows the scriptures' teachings". This kind of sincere faith makes one qualified to engage in devotional service..
Cudamani: Various persons may possess this "faith that follows the scripture's teachings", but they are not necessarily all exalted great souls. Are such persons qualified to engage in devotional service?
Vaishnava dasa: A person's nature makes him qualified to perform specific duties, but it does not necessarily qualify him to engage in devotional service. Please look at the explanation written in this page of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.27-30, and 32-33):
veda duhkhatmakan kaman
parityage 'py anishvarah
tato bhajeta mam pritah
jushamanash ca tan kaman
duhkhodarkamsh ca garhayan
"having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.***
bhajato masakrin muneh
kama hridayya nashyanti
sarve mayi hridi sthite
"When an intelligent person engages constantly in worshiping Me through loving devotional service as described by Me, his heart becomes firmly situated in Me. Thus all material desires within the heart are destroyed.***
kshiyante casya karmani
mayi drishte 'khilatmani
"The knot in the heart is pierced, all misgivings are cut to pieces, and the chain of fruitive actions is terminated when I am seen as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.*
yat karmabhir yat tapasa
jnana-vairagyatash ca yat
shreyobhir itarair api
mad-bhakto labhate 'njasa
kathancid yadi vanchati
"Everything that can be achieved by fruitive activities, penance, knowledge, detachment, mystic yoga, charity, religious duties, and all other means of perfecting life is easily achieved by My devotee through loving service unto Me. If somehow or other My devotee desires promotion to heaven, liberation, or residence in My abode, he easily achieves such benedictions."***
In this way faith in devotional service develops.
Cudamani: What if I have no respect for Shrimad-Bhagavatam?
Vaishnava dasa: Shrimad-Bhagavatam teaches the conclusion oF all the scriptures. The scriptures are one. If you do not respect Shrimad-Bhagavatam, then you insult all the other scriptures. I do not need to show evidence from many scriptures. Does everyone accept Bhagavad-gita? Think about that. When you first spoke from your mouth came a verse from Bhagavad-gita, a verse that contains the teachings of all the scriptures. In the Gita (9.30-32) it is said:
api cet su-duracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah
"Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.*
kshipram bhavati dharmatma
na me bhaktah pranashyati
"He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.*
mam hi partha vyapashritya
ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaishyas tatha shudras
te 'pi yanti param gatim
"O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birthwomen, vaishyas (merchants), as well as shudras (workers) approach the supreme destination."*
These verses mean that a person who has faith in Me alone (ananya-bhak) and who engages in the activities of devotional service, which begin with hearing and chanting Lord Hari's holy names and the descriptions of Lord Hari, renounces all impious deeds, which are naturally sources of misery. He renounces materialistic activities and he is considered saintly. In this way he follows the glorious spiritual path. One path is the path of karma-kanda, which begins with the duties of varnashrama. A second path is the path of jnana-kanda, which begins with speculative knowledge and renunciation. The third path is to stay among the devotees and have faith in the holy name of Lord Hari and the descriptions of Lord Hari. Sometimes these three paths are considered yogas. In this way they are called karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, and bhakti-yoga. Some people practice these different yogas. Thus they are called karma-yogi or jnana-yogi. Among all these yogis, the bhakti-yogi is the best, for in bhakti-yoga one attains limitless auspiciousness. At the end of the first six-chapter section of Bhagavad-gita (6.47) one may see the following conclusion:
yoginam api sarvesham
shraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah
"And of all yogis, he who abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all."*
One must properly understand the meaning of Bhagavad-gita 9.31. This verse means that a person why faithfully engages in devotional service quickly casts far away all faults in his character and activities. A person who engages in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes pious, for the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Himself the root of all piety. The Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself is conquered by devotional service. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead stays in a person's heart, the bondage of maya is at once thrown far away. Such a person need not adopt any other process to become free from maya. Whether he performs material pious deeds or not, a devotee's heart is naturally filled with piety and saintliness. Lust is then thrown far away, and in its stead peacefulness enters his heart. The Supreme Lord Himself promises: "My devotee will never perish.* The karmi or jnani may fall into bad company, but My sincere devotee will never fall into bad company, for he always has Me as his companion. Therefore he will never fall down. Whether born in a sinful family or a brahmana family, a devotee always has the supreme goal of life in the palm of his hand."
Cudamani: Look, my scriptures says the qualification that comes from birth is the best. I was born in a brahmana's home. By chanting the Gayatri mantra and performing other like duties I will gradually attain transcendental knowledge and at the end I must attain liberation. How does faith arise? I do not know. I see that the Gita and Bhagavatam teach that faith leads to devotional service. Please explain what the soul must do to attain that faith.
Vaishnava dasa: Faith is part of the soul's eternal nature. The duties of varnashrama and other like duties arise when the soul's temporary nature is manifested. That is the conclusion of all the scriptures. In the Chandogya Upanishad (7.19.1) it is said:
yada vai shraddadhati atha manute, nashraddadhan manute, shraddadhad eva manute, shraddhatveva vijijnasitavyeti shraddham bhagavo vijijnasa iti.
" `A person who has faith can understand. A person who has no faith cannot understand. A person who has faith can understand. Therefore one should ask about faith.' `O master, I wish to know about faith'."
Some philosophers define the word "faith" as “trust in the words of the Vedas and the spiritual master". That is not a wrong definition. However, it is not very clear. In my sampradaya "faith" is defined in these words (Amnaya-sutra 57):
shraddha tv anyopaya-varjam bhakty-unmukhi citta-vritti-visheshah
"Faith is a specific activity performed in the heart. It makes one desire to engage in devotional service. It is different from the other means of spiritual advancement."
By associating with devotees and repeatedly hearing from them, a person becomes convinced in his heart that ordinary pious deeds (karma), impersonal speculation (jnana), and the gymnastics of yoga will not help him reach the eternal destination, and that destination cannot be attained by any means other than sincerely taking shelter of Lord Hari's feet. When one thinks in this way he naturally attains faith in the words of the Vedas and the spiritual master. The nature of this faith is described in these words (Amnaya-sutra 58):
sa ca sharanapatti-lakshana
"Faith is characterized by taking shelter of the Lord and surrendering unto Him."
Thus it is seen that taking shelter of the Lord and surrendering unto Him is the external symptom of faith. This surrender and taking shelter are described in these words (Shri Hari-bhakti-vilasa 11.417):
goptritve varanam tatha
"The six divisions of surrender are the acceptance of those things favorable to devotional service, the rejection of unfavorable things, the conviction that Krishna will give protection, the acceptance of the Lord as one's guardian or master, full self-surrender, and humility."*
Thus one makes the following vow: "I will do whatever is favorable for pure devotional service, and I will reject whatever is not favorable for it. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is my protector. By being active in impersonal speculation (jnana), yoga, and other like activities, I cannot attain anything of value. I cannot protect myself. I will serve the Lord as far as I am able, and He will protect me. In this way I will be protected. Who am I? I am His property. Whatever He wishes, that I will do. In this way I will offer myself to Him. I own nothing. I am poor and lowly." In this way one understands his lowly position. When this vow, along with trust, confidence that the Lord will give protection, complete self-surrender, and humility are manifested in the heart, that is called “faith". When this faith is manifested in the heart one is qualified to engage in devotional service. This faith is the first step to becoming pure and eternally liberated. This faith is part of the soul's eternal nature. All spiritual paths that differ from this faith are temporary in their nature.
Cudamani: I understand that much. But how is this faith attained? You have not told me that. If faith is created by pious deeds, then my argument is stronger, for one who does not perform the pious duties and rituals of varnashrama cannot attain faith. The Yavanas do not perform these pious varnashrama duties, so how can they become qualified to engage in devotional service?
Vaishnava dasa: It is true that faith is created by pious deeds, for the Narada Purana declares:
bhaktis tu bhagavad-bhakta-
sat-sangah prapyate pumbhih
"Devotional service is attained by associating with devotees. The association of devotees is attained by past pious deeds."
Pious deeds are of two kinds: 1. eternal, and 2. temporary. The pious deeds that bring association with devotees and devotional service are called eternal pious deeds. The pious deeds that bring material sense gratification and impersonal liberation are called temporary pious deeds. The pious deeds that bring eternal results are called eternal pious deeds. The pious deeds that bring temporary results are called temporary pious deeds. All kinds of material sense gratification are clearly temporary in their nature. They are not eternal. many think that impersonal liberation is eternal, but such persons do not understand the real nature of impersonal liberation. The individual soul is pure, eternal, and unchanging. The individual soul imprisoned in the material world of illusions is in his temporary nature. When his prison shackles are cut and he is released, that moment is called "liberation". The act of becoming liberated from the prison occurs in a single moment. Therefore the act of becoming liberated is not in itself eternal. There is the moment of liberation, and that moment comes to an end. When the soul's temporary nature is destroyed, the result is liberation. When liberation does not occur, then the temporary state is manifested. Attraction to Lord Hari's feet never comes to an end. That attraction is part of the soul's eternal nature. No impartial person will claim that these aspects of the soul's nature are temporary in nature. So-called devotional service that ends when liberation is attained is temporary in nature. That so-called devotion is actually a specific kind of material activity. However, the devotional service that exists before, during, and after liberation is eternal. It is the eternal nature and duty of the soul. Liberation is merely a less-important by-product of that devotional service. In the Mundaka Upanishad (1.2.12) it is said:
parikshya lokan karma-citan brahmano
nirveda-mayan nasty akritah kritena
tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
samit-panih shrotriyam brahma-nishtham
"Seeing the true nature of the higher worlds attained by pious karma, a brahmana does not desire them. To learn transcendental subject matter, one must approach the spiritual master. In doing so he should carry fuel to burn in sacrifice. The symptom of such a spiritual master is that he is expert in understanding the Vedic conclusion, and therefore he constantly engages in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."*
Pious fruitive work (karma), impersonal speculation (jnana), and yoga are all temporary pious deeds. Association with devotees and the performance of activities that lead to devotional service are eternal pious deeds. A person who for many previous births has performed such eternal pious deeds attains faith. A person who performs temporary pious deeds may attain many different results, but faith in pure devotional service is not one of them.
Cudamani: Please clearly describe association with devotees and the performance of activities that lead to devotional service. What kind of pious deeds are these?
Vaishnava dasa: Conversing with a pure devotee, serving him, and hearing his explanations, all these I call association with devotees. Chanting the holy names in towns and cities in the company of other devotees, and other like activities, are all activities of devotional service. Giving charity and performing yoga, when connected to devotional service, are activities that lead to devotional service. In the scriptures it is said that cleaning the temple of Lord Hari, offering a lamp to tulasi-devi, fasting on ekadashi, and other like activities, are activities of devotional service. Even if they are performed without pure faith, or even if they are performed accidentally, these pious activities still increase one's devotion for the Lord. When these pious deeds gradually become powerful, after many births they lead to pure faith in the association of devotees and the performance of pure devotional service. The word "vastu-shakti" means that every thing has a certain innate power. The activities of devotional service have the power to increase one's love and devotion for the Lord. Even if they are performed without faith, or even if they are performed with contempt, they still bring good results, what to speak of when they are performed with faith. In the Prabhasa-khanda it is said:
madhura-madhuram etan mangalam mangalanam
sakrid api parigitam shraddhaya helaya va
bhrigu-vara nara-matram tarayet krishna-nama
"Krishna's name is the sweetest of sweet things, the most auspicious of auspicious things, the transcendental fruit of the vine of all Vedic literature. O best of the Bhrigus, chanted even once, either with faith or contempt, it delivers the chanter."*
Thus thee pious deeds that increase one's devotion for the Lord are all eternal pious deeds. As these pious deeds gradually become powerful, they lead to faith in the association of devotees and the performance of pure devotional service. Because of his past temporary misdeeds a person may take birth in a Yavana's home, and because of past eternal pious deeds he may also attain faith in pure devotional service. What is surprising about that?
Cudamani: I say that if a person has performed even a small number of the pious deeds that lead to devotional service, then his other deeds must all be pious deeds also. One who is born as a Yavana cannot possibly have performed only pious deeds, and therefore it is not possible that in the past he performed the pious deeds that lead to devotional service.
Vaishnava dasa: One should not have such a belief. Eternal pious deeds and temporary pious deeds are independent of each other. One does not need the other to exist. It is said that a hunter who was filled with many sins and misdeeds by accident fasted and kept an all-night vigil on a day sacred to Lord Shiva, and because of performing this eternal pious deed he attained devotion to Lord Hari. It is said (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.13.16), "vaishnavanam yatha shambhuh" (a great Vaishnava like Lord Shiva). Because of these words I accept that Lord Shiva is supremely worshipable, and a great Vaishnava also. Therefore by observing his holy day one can certainly attain devotion to Lord Hari.
Cudamani: Then you say it is possible to perform eternal pious deeds accidentally?
Vaishnava dasa: All is an accident. Even the path of karma is like that. It was by accident that the individual soul first fell into the cycle of karma. What was that chance accident? the followers of karma-mimamsa claim that karma has no beginning, but the truth is that there is a root from which karma has grown. In the individual soul's aversion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the accident that is the root of karma. As that is believed to be an accident, so eternal pious deeds may also be believed to be chance accidents. In the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (4.6-7) it is said:
samane vrikshe purusho nimagno
'nishaya shocati muhyamanah
jushtam yada pashyati anyam isham
` asya mahimanam iti vita-shokah
"Although the two birds are on the same tree, the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness as the enjoyer of the fruits of the tree. But if in some way or other he turns his face to his friend who is the Lord, and knows His glories, at once the suffering bird becomes free of all anxieties."*
In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.51.53 and 3.25.22) it is said:
bhavapavargo bhramato yada bhavej
janasya tarhy acyuta sat-samagamah
sat-sangamo yarhi tadaiva sad-gatau
paravareshe tvayi jayate ratih
"O my Lord! O infallible Supreme Person! When a person wandering throughout the universes becomes eligible for liberation from material existence, he gets an opportunity to associate with devotees. When he associates with devotees, his attraction for You is awakened. You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the highest goal of the supreme devotees and the Lord of the universe."*
satam prasangan mama virya-samvido
taj-joshanad ashv apavarga-vartmani
shraddha ratir bhaktir anukramishyati
"The spiritually powerful message of Godhead can be properly discussed only in the society of devotees, and it is greatly pleasing to hear in that association. If one hears from devotees, the way of transcendental experience quickly opens, and gradually one attains firm faith that in due course develops into attraction and devotion."*
Cudamani: In your opinion is there no difference between a Hindu and a Yavana?
Vaishnava dasa: There are two kinds of difference: 1. spiritual, and 2. material. Spiritually, Hindus and Yavanas are not different. However, materially there is a difference.
Cudamani: Why do you speak with the pompous words of the Vedanta? What is the material difference between the Hindus and Yavanas?
Vaishnava dasa: I speak of material social customs. According to the material idea, a Yavana is untouchable. Thus, in the materialists' idea, one should neither touch nor associate with a Yavana. Thus, a Hindu touched by a Yavana must at once bathe with water. Also, a Hindu should not accept food or other things from a Yavana. Because it is attained by committing sinful deeds, a Yavana's body is horrible and should be avoided. Therefore it is untouchable.
Cudamani: If this is so, then how can the Hindus and Yavanas be the same spiritually? Please clearly explain.
Vaishnava dasa: The scriptures declare:
bhrigu-vara nara-matram tarayet krishna-nama
"O best of the Bhrigus, the holy name of Lord Krishna delivers the chanter."*
These words mean that the Yavanas and everyone else can attain the supreme spiritual goal of life by chanting the holy name of Lord Krishna. In this way the Hindus and Yavanas may become equals. A human being who does not perform eternal pious deeds like chanting Lord Krishna's name is declared by the scriptures to be "dvi-pada-pashu" (an animal pretending to be a human being). This is because such a person has no faith in the holy name of Lord Krishna. Although such a person may have taken birth as a human being, he is not really human. In truth he is an animal. The Mahabharata explains:
vishvaso naiva jayate
"O king, a person whose past pious deeds are small cannot have faith in Lord Govinda, the remnants of food offered to Him, His holy name, or His devotees."
Eternal pious deeds, which purify the soul, are called “great pious deeds". Temporary pious deeds, which are performed without spiritual faith, are called "small pious deeds". The remnants of food offered to Lord Krishna, Lord Krishna, Lord Krishna's holy name, and the pure Vaishnavahthese four are spiritual. They reveal the spiritual truth.
Cudamani (with a smile): What kind of talk is this? This is just the Vaishnavas' fanatic dogma. How can rice, dal, and curry be spiritual? There is nothing that you will not claim.
Vaishnava dasa: Do what you like, but please do not criticize the Vaishnavas. That is my request. In a debate, only the various arguments should be considered. Why do you need to verbally attack the Vaishnavas? The remnants of foods offered to the Lord are beyond the touch of the material world. One should not eat foods that are not thus offered to the Lord, for eating the remnants of food offered to the Lord illumines the way to the spiritual world and drives away all that is foolish and material. Therefore Shri Ishopanishad (Mantra 1) explains:
ishavasyam idam sarvam
yat kinca jagatyam jagat
tena tyaktena bhunjita
ma gridhah kasyasvid dhanam
"Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong."*
Whatever exists in the material universe has a relationship with the potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A person who sees that everything has a relationship with the Lord's potency will not attempt to enjoy the things of this external material world. If a spiritually conscious soul accepts only what he must to maintain his material body in this world, and if he understands that everything is the Supreme Personality of Godhead's mercy, then he will not fall down. That is the way a person eager to attain the spiritual world will act. Therefore the remnants of food offered to Lord Krishna are called “maha-prasada" (great mercy). Still, you are not attracted to these spiritual thingsThat is your misfortune.
Cudamani: Let's change the subject. Let's consider ordinary material things: How should one behave with Yavanas?
Vaishnava dasa: As long as a person is a Yavana, we should ignore him. However, if by performing eternal pious deeds, the Yavana becomes a Vaishnava, then I will not use the word “Yavana" to refer to him. The scriptures declare (Padma Purana and Itihasa-samuccaya):
shudram va bhagavad-bhaktam
nishadam shvapacam tatha
sa yati narakam dhruvam
"He goes to hell who thinks in terms of his birth and caste, and who thus sees a Vaishnava as a shudra, a barbarian, or an outcaste."
na me priyash catur-vedi
mad-bhaktah shvapacah priyah
tasmai deyam tato grahyam
sa ca pujyo yatha hy aham
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: A scholar learned in the four Vedas is not truly dear to Me. An outcaste who has become My devotee is truly dear to Me. To him gifts should be given. From him blessings should be accepted. He should be worshiped as much as I."
Cudamani: I understand. If this is so, then why cannot a Vaishnava householder marry his daughter to a Yavana Vaishnava, or why cannot he himself marry the daughter of a Yavana Vaishnava?
Vaishnava dasa: In ordinary material understanding, when a person is born in a Yavana family he remains a Yavana until his death. However, in the spiritual understanding, when he engages in devotional service he is a Yavana no longer. Ten kinds of ordinary social rites are described in the Smriti-shastra. Marriage is one of them. If a householder Vaishnava is a Hindu, then he has a status within the four castes and it is proper that he should marry within his own caste, for in ordinary material dealings it is best to accept the temporary duties assigned to the four castes. One does not become a Vaishnava merely by rejecting the duties of the four castes. A true Vaishnava who do whatever is favorable for devotional service. If a person becomes spiritually advanced, and thus qualified to ignore or renounce the duties of the four castes, then he may do so. Then he may renounce all duties of the four castes. If the duties of the four castes are not favorable for one's devotional service, then they may be easily rejected. If association with the Yavanas is not favorable for devotional service, then a faithful Yavana Vaishnava should reject their association. What is the difference between a Hindu Vaishnava who properly rejects the duties of the four castes and a Yavana Vaishnava who rejects association with Yavanas? Both have rejected what is material and inferior. Spiritually they are brothers. However, this may not be true for a householder Vaishnava. Even though his associates and duties may not always be favorable for his advancement in devotional service, he should not renounce them prematurely. He may renounce them only when he is properly qualified. However, when his attachment to devotional service becomes very strong, he will naturally renounce unfavorable association and duties. In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.11.32) the Supreme Personality of Godhead explains:
ajnayaivam gunan doshan
mayadishtan api svakan
dharman santyajya yah sarvan
mam bhajet sa ca sattamah
"Understanding these virtues and faults I have described, a sincere devotee renounces all ordinary material duties and worships Me alone. Such a devotee is the best of all."
In the concluding statements of Bhagavad-gita (18.66) the Supreme Personality of Godhead declares:
mam ekam sharanam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
mokshayishyami ma shucah
"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."*
In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (4.29.54) it is said:
sa jahati matim loke
vede ca parinishthitam
"When a person is fully engaged in devotional service, he is favored by the Lord, who bestows His causeless mercy. At such a time, the awakened devotee gives up all material activities and ritualistic performances mentioned in the Vedas."*
Cudamani: If a Yavana becomes a sincere Vaishnava, can you take food, drink, and other things with him?
Vaishnava dasa: Sannyasi Vaishnavas may take maha-prasada with them. Householder Vaishnavas who are materialistic may not be so inclined. However, there is no rule forbidding one from even taking the remnants of food left by any other Vaishnavas. Indeed, one should take their remnants.
Cudamani: Why is it, then, that in Vaishnava temples Yavana Vaishnavas are not allowed to touch the Deities?
Vaishnava dasa: It is an offense to call a Vaishnava born in a Yavana family a "Yavana Vaishnava". Simply by being a Vaishnava, he is qualified to serve Lord Krishna. If a householder Vaishnava engaged in serving the Deity of the Lord is, in the opinion of materialistic persons, outside the caste-rules of varnashrama-dharma, the Vaishnava is at fault only from the point of view of persons eager to follow material customs. Still, a sannyasi Vaishnava should not worship the Deity, for if he worships the Deity then his status as a person beyond the caste-system becomes ruined. Instead, in his heart he should worship Lord Krishna, the beloved of Shri Radha.
Cudamani: I understand. Now please tell what you think about the brahmanas.
Vaishnava dasa: Brahmanas are of two kinds: 1. brahmanas by nature, and 2. brahmanas only by birth. They who are brahmanas by nature are mostly Vaishnavas. Serious thinkers from every philosophical camp will honor such a brahmana. They who are brahmanas by birth are honored because of ordinary social custom. That the Vaishnavas should be honored as the genuine brahmanas is confirmed by the following words of scripture (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.10):
viprad dvi-shad-guna-yutad aravinda-nabha-
padaravinda-vimukhat shvapacam varishtham
pranam punati sa kulam na tu bhurimanah
"If a brahmana has all twelve of the brahminical qualifications (as they are stated in the book called Sanat-sujata) but is not a devotee and is averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, he is certainly lower than a devotee who is a dogeater but who has dedicated everythingmind, words, activities, wealth, and life to the Supreme Lord. Such a devotee is better than such a brahmana because the devotee can purify his whole family, whereas the so-called brahmana in a position of false prestige cannot purify even himself.*
Cudamani: The shudras are not allowed to study the Vedas. If a shudra becomes a Vaishnava would he not then allowed to study the Vedas?
Vaishnava dasa: Regardless of the caste in which he was born, a pure Vaishnava becomes a brahmana according to spiritual calculations. The Vedas are divided into two parts: 1. the Veda describing ordinary rituals and duties, and 2. the Veda describing the spiritual truth. They who are brahmanas because of social custom are allowed to study the Veda describing ordinary rituals and duties, and they who are brahmanas according to spiritual calculations are allowed to study the Veda that describes the spiritual truth. Regardless of the caste in which he was born, a pure Vaishnava is perfectly qualified to study and teach the Veda that describes the spiritual truth. This is described in the following words of Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad (4.4.21):
tam eva dhiro vijnaya
prajnam kurvita brahmanah
"A wise brahmana should study the part of the Veda that describes the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
It is also said (Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 3.8.10):
yo va etad aksharam gargy aviditvasmal lokat praiti sa kripanah
"He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization."*
yo va etad aksharam gargy viditvasmal lokat praiti sa brahmanah
"He is a brahmana who does solve the problems of life as a human and who quits this world knowing the truth of the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead."
They who are brahmanas because of social custom are described in these words of Manu-samhita (2.168):
yo 'nadhitya dvijo vedam
anyatra kurute shramam
sa jivann eva shudratvam
ashu gacchati sanvayah
"A brahmana who does not study the Vedic literatures, and who instead laboriously studies many other books about material things becomes at once, in this life, and along with his entire family, a shudra."
The qualification of a person entitled to study the Veda that describes the spiritual truth is stated in these words (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6.23):
yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
"Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed."*
The word "para bhakti" here means "pure devotional service". I cannot say more on this subject. Please understand it as far as you are able. The summary conclusion of all this is: A person who has faith in pure devotional service is qualified to study the part of the Veda describing spiritual truth, and a person who has attained pure devotional service is qualified to teach the part of the Veda describing spiritual truth.
Cudamani: Is your conclusion, then, that the part of the Vedas describing spiritual truth teaches only the Vaishnava religion and does not teach any other religion?
Vaishnava dasa: There is only one religion. There is no such thing as two religions. That one religion is called "the eternal religion" or "the Vaishnava religion". Other religions are temporary. They serve as steps leading up to the Vaishnava religion. In the Eleventh Canto (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.14.3) the Supreme Personality of Godhead explains:
kalena nashta pralaye
mayadau brahmane prokta
dharmo yasyam mad-atmakah
"By the influence of time, the transcendental sound of Vedic knowledge was lost at the time of annihilation. Therefore, when the subsequent creation took place, I spoke the Vedic knowledge to Brahma because I Myself am the religious principles enunciated in the Vedas."***
The Katha Upanishad (1.2.15 and 1.3.9) explains:
sarve veda yat padam amananti. . .tat te padam sangrahena bravimi.
"All the Vedas describe the abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. . . Now I will briefly describe that abode to you."
tad vishnoh paramam padam
"The realm of Lord Vishnu is the supreme spiritual abode."
When the discussion had reached this point the faces of Devi Vidyaratna and his associates had become pale and withered. The great pandita teachers were completely demoralized. It was now five o'clock. Everyone said: "Let us end the meeting now." Everyone agreed, and the meeting ended. With one voice the brahmana panditas praised the learning of Vaishnava dasa. Chanting the holy names of Lord Hari as they went, the Vaishnavas returned to their homes.