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Chapter 5 - Worshiping the Demigods as Independent of Krishna
jaya gadadhara-prana jahnava-jivana
jaya sitanatha jaya gaura-bhakta-gana
Haridasa spoke with folded hands, "Now hear about the second offense, O Lord of the universe.
First he clarified the position of Vishnu. “Vishnu is the supreme principle, not subject to the duality of the material world. He is a form full of consciousness and knowledge, existing eternally beyond the modes of material nature, although being the absolute controller of the material world. Krishna in Goloka is the original and supreme Vishnu form, being ornamented with sixty-four transcendental qualities to enhance His blissful activities by which He performs His activities. The purusha-avataras and other plenary avataras all possess these sixty qualities in order to carry out their function.
"Krishna expands as two types of conscious particles. The first is the ordinary jiva, who has fifty qualities to some degree. The second are the demigods, who have the same fifty qualities but to a greater degree. In addition, Siva possesses five more qualities. Vishnu has all these qualities plus five more which are not found in other living entities. In this way we can see that Vishnu or Narayana, with sixty qualities, is the Lord, and Siva and the demigods are His servants. Greater than the ordinary jivas are the demigods and Siva, and greater than Siva is Vishnu, who is the Lord of the jivas and the Lord of the demigods. Therefore, whoever considers Vishnu on the same level as the demigods is very ignorant.
"Some people claim that the Brahman without qualities takes on qualities when it expands as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. However, the conclusion of scripture is that Narayana is supreme, and is the cause of Brahma and Siva. Whoever rejects Vishnu as the supreme controller and takes to worship of demigods, falls into the world of illusion.
"Other people claim that since Vishnu is all pervading throughout the universe and is present in the demigods as well, one can worship Vishnu by worshiping all the demigods. But this is not the ruling in the scriptures. Rather, this type of activity is forbidden. By worshiping Vishnu all other worship is perfected. Just as by giving water to the root of a tree the branches become satisfied; by worshiping Vishnu exclusively, all worship is covered. This is the Vedic conclusion, but unfortunately, the fools reject this precept. Under the influence of mayavadi philosophy, the living entities of Kali-yuga put Vishnu on the same level as the demigods. In truth, however, the demigods give only limited result, whereas worship of Vishnu yields all results. If the materialists can understand this truth, they will take to Vishnu worship and achieve all results.
"How should a householder in the varnasrama system act? Generally he should give up worrying about inferior obligations and simply worship Krishna. In other words, in all the samskaras from insemination to funeral rites, Krishna should be worshiped, using appropriate mantras from the Vedas. One should worship the Vaishnavas and Vishnu directly and worship the forefathers by giving them prasada from Vishnu. To directly worship the demigods as the mayavadis do will only shorten one's life. To think that the demigods are independent of Vishnu is an offense. Since the demigods take their existence from Vishnu, in them one cannot find full perfection. Even the controlling powers of Brahma, Ganesa and Surya come from Krishna. They do not have independent power. Therefore the grihastha Vaishnava should recognize one supreme Lord Vishnu, and regard the demigods as His dependent energies. Thus the grihastha, though following the rules and customs prescribed in his caste, will give up all those rules which include demigod worship, aimed at sense gratification, and hold firmly to the path of bhakti, worshiping Him alone in all cases where worship is prescribed.
"In this way the grihastha, with his mind fixed on devotion to Krishna, will perform the samskaras of his caste, satisfy the ancestors by Vishnu prasada offerings, and offer oblations to the demigods by recognizing them as the devotees of Krishna, and then taking prasada himself. He knows that by worshiping Krishna and the Vaishnava all results are attained. Thus he always chants the holy name, being careful to avoid offenses such as the second aparadha.
"The question may arise why one should follow the varnasrama system at all. The answer is that everyone who has taken a human birth must follow this system. By this scientific arrangement of society, the general masses of people can attain to their full capacity according to their individual nature and gradually attain devotion to Krishna. Those outside the varnasrama system should be made to give up all bad habits and begin practicing as sudras. This must be the path for civilized society to carry on life.
"The worship of Krishna is an essential part of the varnasrama system. If the four varnas carry out life according to the rules of their particular caste but do not worship Krishna, then they simply go to hell. Particularly the grihastha must follow the rules of his varna in performing his worldly activities of raising family and relating with the rest of society, but at the same time, according to his means, he must worship Krishna. And he must respect and follow these rules as long as he has not come to the platform where the rules hamper his progress in worshiping Krishna. This is the platform technically known as bhava. In that state the jiva develops sadhana bhakti, in which the inspiration to perform devotional activities comes directly from the taste experienced by the pure jiva. This goal will eventually be achieved by the grihastha Vaishnava who accepts Vishnu as supreme.
"There is one other offense derived from not accepting Vishnu as the supreme, one without a second, or advaya-tattva. Being the advaya-tattva, Vishnu, by His inconceivable energies, possesses inherently name, form and qualities which cannot be considered separate from Him. To consider the name, etc. as different from the Lord is to consider the Lord and the name on a material level. This concept of duality is offensive. At the stage of namabhasa one may hold this conception unconsciously from lack of knowledge or faith, but it is impossible to hold this conception at the stage of prema. This anartha can be removed by the mercy of the bona fide guru who will guide the practitioner in sadhana bhakti so that the suddha-nama, the pure name, is revealed.
"By material speculation one can bring about this concept of duality in the Lord, and it can become a serious offense which is difficult to remove. Thus, in the case of the mayavadis, holding to this concept is an aparadha. The mayavadis claim that the impersonal Brahman is the supreme truth, without variety, character or energies, without form or beauty, without change or activity, simply pure existence. For them, the name and form of Vishnu are creations of maya, the material energy of illusion. When a person can overcome illusion, then Vishnu simply merges into the impersonal Brahman, losing individual identity. This is all simply bad logic, based on atheism. To claim that the Supreme Truth is without all inconceivable transcendental energies, or is unable to possess character, is madness. There may be some confusion of what to call the Supreme Truth—Brahman or Vishnu—but in either case, the highest realization must be God with energies and personality. That is the Vedic conclusion.
"Actually Vishnu has both features in Himself: nirvisesha and savisesha, without variety and with variety. This is possible by the inconceivable power of God, the Supreme Powerful. All opposites are assimilated without difficulty. By this inconceivable power the Supreme One can exist with variety, beauty and lila.
“Of course, the jiva, being naturally of small intelligence as a particle of God, cannot fully understand the nature of the Lord's inconceivable power. In the attempt to establish a concept of the Supreme Truth by his own intelligence, the jiva takes shelter of material logic and accepts the secondary feature of the Lord, or impersonal Brahman, which is a state of unity and peace, as the supreme. By rejecting the lotus feet of Vishnu, who is worshiped by the higher beings or demigods, and by then being bound up in a state of Brahman, he cannot distinguish what is good or bad for his own welfare.
"But a person who can understand that the Absolute Truth can exist with form and variety in a pure transcendental state, can properly see that Vishnu, His name and qualities are all one and inseparable from Him. This concept of Krishna with personality is actual knowledge. With this understanding one can take to chanting the holy name, knowing that it is Krishna Himself.
Thus one must avoid the offense of thinking materially that Vishnu and His name, form, etc. are different, and of thinking that other living entities, such as the demigods, have an existence separate from Vishnu.
"To summarize, whoever is solely devoted to Krishna simply worships Krishna and gives up all other worship. He does not criticize the demigods or the scriptures which support the worship of the demigods, but respects the demigods as the servants of Krishna. Some scriptures may establish demigods as supreme to establish belief in different categories of human beings, in order to raise them through regulation to the point of coming to faith in Krishna and bhakti. The true Vaishnava will see the function of the demigods and their respective scriptures in proper perspective. Criticism of Krishna's servants, the demigods, is also offensive.
"Since it is obligatory for the householder to worship the demigods according to his caste, he will worship the demigods and forefathers by offering them the remnants from their Lord, Krishna. Similarly, when the devotee sees the murti of a demigod, he will pay respects to the demigod, seeing the demigod as a Vaishnava. However the devotee will not accept the prasada remnants of an offering that a mayavadi has made to Vishnu. Because the mayavadi's chanting and worship are both offensive, the Lord never accepts his offering. Also to accept offerings made directly to the demigods is an offense to Vishnu and obstructs the path of pure devotional service. But by worshiping Krishna, the real devotee will give the demigods the Lord's prasada out of respect. Such worship, and receiving such prasada, is not offensive. In this way, the devotee avoids the second offense in chanting the name, and by continuing this process correctly, he achieves love of God.
"If by accident, one should happen to turn from accepting Vishnu as supreme, one should be repentent and take shelter of Vishnu and be careful not to commit the offense again. By remembering Krishna, by remembering His name and chanting His name, the offense will disappear. According to the Vedic literature, there is no prayascitta (reformatory process or atonement) more effective than this. This is because the Lord is an ocean of mercy and an ocean of forgiveness. Similarly, the devotee also forgives past faults."
Haridasa concluded, "One should avoid association with those who worship demigods as supreme and rather worship the Vaishnavas, who take Krishna as the supreme. In this way, one can avoid the second offense."
For one who performs his devotions at the feet of Haridasa, the touchstone of the holy name, the name becomes his very life and soul.