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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Compiled and Imp Scriptures > Jaiva Dharma > 11. Nitya-Dharma & Idolatry



C H A P T E R 11

Nitya-Dharma & Idolatry


On the western bank of the Bhagirathi, in the Koladvipa district

of Navadvipa, there is a famous village named Kuliya

Paharpura. At the time of Shriman Mahaprabhu, a highly respected

and influential Vaishnava named Shri Madhava dasa Cattopadhyaya

(also known as Chakauri Cattopadhyaya) lived in that village.

Chakauri Cattopadhyaya had a son named Shrila Vamsi-vadanananda

Thakura. By the mercy of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Vamsivadanananda

had tremendous power and authority. Everyone

addressed him as Vamsi-vadanananda Prabhu, because they regarded

him as an incarnation of Krishna's flute. He was renowned as

a special recipient of Shri Vishnupriya's mercy.


After Shri Priyaji's disappearance, Vamsi Prabhu transferred the

Deity whom she had worshiped from Shridhama-Mayapura to Kuliya

Paharpura, and his descendants carried out the service of this Deity

for some time after that. However, when his descendants obtained

the mercy of Shri Jahnava Mata, and moved from Kuliya Paharpura

to Shripat Baghanapara, the worship of the Deity was continued in

Kuliya-grama by the sevaites from Malancha.


Kuliya-grama is situated on the opposite side of the Ganga from

Pracina (old) Navadvipa, and at that time included many small

settlements, among which Cinadanga and a few others were quite

famous. Once, a devotee merchant in Cinadanga arranged a

spiritual festival in the temple of Kuliya Paharpura and issued

invitations to many brahmana-panditas and all the Vaishnavas

within the thirty-two square mile circumference of Navadvipa. On

the day of the festival, the Vaishnavas came from all directions, each

accompanied by their own entourage. Shri Ananta dasa came from

Shri Nrsimha-palli; Goracanda dasa Babaji came from Shri Mayapura;

Shri Narayana dasa Babaji came from Shri Bilva-puskarini; the

renowned Narahari dasa came from Shri Modadruma; Shri

Paramahamsa Babaji and Shri Vaishnava dasa came from Shri

Godruma; and Shri Shachinandana€````@P@``€``PP@P€°`° `@```š`@°°`°°  @@P` ` P@ °P`0@````@`` P`€@ `P€PP```@`PP`°°°Ppppppp p````@@@@€p€€€€€€€pppp````````` P````    ```````€````````_›8œȰ_Ȱ_粜娈粜が粞〼粞 dasa came from Shri Samudragarh.


The Vaishnavas' foreheads were decorated with vertical tilaka

markings (urddhva-pundra), indicating that their bodies were

temples of Shri Hari. On their necks they wore tulasi-malas, and

their limbs looked splendid, being stamped with the names of Shri

Gaura-Nityananda. Some held hari-nama-malas in their hands; and

others loudly performed sankirtana of the maha-mantra, Hare Krishna,

Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama

Rama, Hare Hare, to the accompaniment of mrdanga and karatalas;

and some danced continuously as they moved along chanting, shrikrishna-

chaitanya prabhu nityananda shri-advaita gadadhara shrivasadigaura-



In the bodies of many of the Vaishnavas were seen the external

manifestations of ecstasy, such as torrents of tears and hairs standing

on end. While weeping some called out fervently, "O Gaura-

Kisora! When will You grant me a vision of Your eternal pastimes

in Navadvipa?" There were many groups of Vaishnavas who sang shrinama

with the accompaniment of mrdanga and other instruments

as they walked. The women of Kuliya, who were also bhaktas of Shri

Gauranga, became astonished to see these spiritual emotions, and

praised the spiritual good fortune of the Vaishnavas.


Proceeding in this way, the Vaishnavas arrived at the natyamandira

(dancing mandira) directly adjacent to the Deities' altar.

This was where Shriman Mahaprabhu would dance and perform

sankirtana. The merchant who was sponsoring the festival greeted

all of them. As a symbol of submission, he wore cloth around his

neck, and he fell at the Vaishnavas feet expressing sentiments of

great humility. When all the Vaishnavas were seated in the natyamandira,

the temple sevaites brought prasadam flower garlands and

placed them around their necks. The poetic slokas of Shri Chaitanyamangala

were then melodiously chanted, and upon hearing the

ambrosial lila of Shri Chaitanyadeva, these Vaishnavas began to

manifest various types of sattvika-bhavas.


While they were thus absorbed in premananda, the doorkeeper

entered and addressed the authorities of the temple: "The chief

Mullah of Satsaika Paragana is sitting outside the assembly hall

with his associates and followers. He requests to have a discussion

with some of the Vaishnava panditas." The temple authorities in

turn informed the exalted pandita-babajis that the Mullah had

arrived, and desired to speak with them. As soon as the Vaishnavas

received this news, due to a break in the flow of transcendental

rasa, the mood of their assembly became overcast with dejection.


Krishna dasa Babaji Mahasaya of Shri Madhyadvipa inquired from

the temple authorities, "What is the Mullah Sahib's intention?"

Knowing the Mullah's purpose, they replied, "The Mullah Sahib

wants to discuss some spiritual matters with the Vaishnava panditas."

They added that the Mullah was the foremost amongst Muslim

scholars, and was highly respected by the Emperor of Delhi.

Although always devoted to the promotion of his own religion,

he was not in the least inimical or belligerent toward other

religions. The Temple authorities humbly requested that one or

two Vaishnava panditas should come forward and discuss the sastra

with him to display the pre-eminence of the sacred vaishnavadharma.


Some of the Vaishnavas felt inspired to speak with the Mullah

Sahib, seeing an opportunity to propound vaishnava-dharma. In the

end, they decided amongst themselves that Goracanda dasa

Pandita Babaji of Shri Mayapura, Vaishnava dasa Pandita Babaji of

Shri Godruma, Premadasa Babaji of Jahnu-nagara, and Kali-pavana

dasa Babaji of Campahatta should discourse with the Mullah

Sahib. All the other Vaishnavas could also go to witness their

discussion when the recitation of Shri Chaitanya-mangala was

completed. Hearing this decision, the four babajis loudly exclaimed,

"Jaya Nityananda!" and followed the mahanta into the large

courtyard outside the temple.


The Mullah and his company were seated in the courtyard under

the pleasant and cooling shade of a large banyan tree. When they

saw the Vaishnavas approaching, the Mullah and his party stood

up cordially to receive them. Knowing all jivas as servants of Krishna,

the Vaishnavas in turn offered dandavat to Shri Vasudeva situated

in the heart of the Mullah and his associates, and then took their

respective seats. The setting was extraordinary to behold. On one

side sat fifty well-dressed Muslim scholars with white beards, with

their majestic, decorated stallions tethered behind them. On the

other side, four Vaishnavas of divine appearance sat in a humble

mood. With great anticipation, many Hindus, came and sat behind

them. Many others gathered there as well, taking seats nearby.


Pandita Goracanda was the first to speak. He inquired, "O great

souls, why have you summoned such insignificant people as



Mullah Badrud-Din Sahib humbly replied, "Salam! We desire

to ask a few questions."


Pandita Goracanda said, "What knowledge might we have that

can possibly answer your erudite questions?"


Badr ud-Din Sahib came a little closer and said, "Brothers, the

devas and devis have been worshiped in Hindu society since ancient

times. Now, we see in our Qur'an-sharif that Allah is one,

not two, and that He has no form. It is an offense to make an image

of Him and worship it. I have a doubt about this issue, and I have

consulted many brahmana-panditas in the hope of resolving it.

Those panditas replied that Allah is actually formless, however,

one cannot possibly conceive of that which has no form. Therefore,

one should first make an imaginary form of Allah, and meditate

upon Him by worshipping that form.


"However, I am not satisfied with this answer because creating

an imaginary form of Allah is the work of Satan. It is known as

'but', and it is completely forbidden to worship it. Far from pleasing

Allah, such worship only makes one subject to His punishment.

We have heard that your original preceptor, Shri Chaitanyadeva,

corrected all the faults in Hindu dharma, yet His sampradaya also

makes provision for worshiping material forms. We want to know

why you Vaishnavas have not given up the worship of material forms,

although you are expert in the decisions of the sastra."


The Vaishnava panditas were inwardly amused at the Mullah's

question. Outwardly, they declared, "Pandita Goracanda Mahasaya,

kindly give a suitable reply to the Mullah's question."

Pandita Goracanda said graciously, "As you order," and proceeded

to answer the question.


Goracanda: He whom you refer to as Allah, we call Bhagavan. The

Supreme Lord is one, but He is known by different names in the

Qur'an, the Puranas, and in different countries and languages. The

prime consideration is that the name which expresses all of the

Supreme Lord's characteristics should be given prominence. For

this reason we have greater esteem for the name Bhagavan than

the names Allah, brahma, and Paramatma. The word Allah refers

to that Being who has no superior, but we do not consider that

greatness or supremacy is the highest characteristic of the Lord.

Rather, the characteristic which evokes the highest degree of

wonder (camatkarita) and sweetness (madhuri) is worthy of the

utmost regard.


Something that is exceedingly great inspires one type of wonder,

but minuteness is a counterpart to greatness, and it inspires

another type of wonder. Hence, the name Allah does not express

the highest limit of wonder because it expresses greatness but not

minuteness. On the other hand, the word Bhagavan implies every

type of wonder imaginable.


The first characteristic of Bhagavan is complete aisvarya (opulence),

which refers to the ultimate limit of greatness and minuteness.

The second characteristic is that He is the most powerful,

because He possesses all saktis (sarva-saktimatta). That which is

beyond the reach of human intellect is governed by Isvara's acintyasakti

(inconceivable potency), by which He simultaneously

possesses form, and is formless. If one thinks that Isvara cannot

have a form, one rejects His acintya-sakti, by which Bhagavan

manifests His eternal form and pastimes before His bhaktas. Allah,

brahma, or Paramatma are nirakara (formless), so they do not have

any special wonderful characteristics.


The third characteristic of Bhagavan is that He is always

mangalamaya, auspicious, and yasa-purna, all-famous. Therefore,

His pastimes are full of nectar. His fourth characteristic is that He

possesses all beauty (saundarya), and all living beings who are

endowed with transcendental vision see Him as the most beautiful

person. Bhagavan's fifth characteristic is that He has limitless

knowledge (asesa-jnana). This means He is pure, complete, omniscient,

and transcendental to mundane matter. His form is the very

embodiment of consciousness and is beyond all material elements

(bhuta). His sixth characteristic is that, even though He is the

master and controller of all jivas, He is unattached (nirlepa) and

independent (svatantra). These are Bhagavan's six primary characteristics.


Bhagavan has two manifestations: His feature of aisvarya (majesty)

and His feature of madhurya (sweetness). His madhurya

manifestation is the supreme friend for the jivas, and it is that

personality, known as Krishna or Chaitanya, who is the Lord of our

hearts. You have said that worshiping some imaginary form of the

Lord is worship of material forms, but-parast [Arabic] or bhuta-puja

[Sanskrit], and we also agree with that. The dharma of the

Vaishnavas is to worship the fully conscious, eternal Deity form of

Bhagavan. Therefore, idolatry (but-parast) is not part of the

Vaishnava doctrine.


One should clearly understand that the Vaishnavas' worship of

the Deity is not idolatry. One cannot prohibit Deity worship

simply because some books forbid idolatry; everything depends on

the quality of faith in the worshiper's heart. The more one's heart

can transcend the influence of matter, the more competent one

will be to worship the pure form of the Deity. You are the Mullah

Sahib, the chief of Muslim scholars, and your heart may be free

from the influence of matter, but what about those of your disciples

who are not so learned? Are their hearts free from all thoughts of



The more one is absorbed in thoughts of matter, the more he

will be implicated in the worship of matter. Although he may claim

that the Lord is formless, his heart is still filled with thoughts of

matter. It is very difficult for the general mass of people to worship

the pure form of the Deity, for such worship is strictly a matter of

personal qualification. In other words, only one who has been

elevated beyond the influence of matter can transcend thoughts

of material form. I sincerely request you to consider this subject



Mullah: I have considered your statement carefully. You say that

Bhagavan refers to six astonishing attributes of the Supreme, and

I have concluded that the Qur'an-sharif describes the same six

qualities in relationship to the word Allah. There is no point

arguing over the meaning of the word Allah; Allah is Bhagavan.


Goracanda: Very good. If that is so, you must accept the beauty

and opulence of the Supreme Being. It is then admitted that He

possesses a splendid form in the spiritual world, which is distinct

from the world of mundane matter. This is our divine Deity form.


Mullah: In our Qur'an it is written that the Supreme Entity has a

divine all-conscious form, so we are compelled to accept this fact.

However, any image of that spiritual form is material; that is what

we call but. The worship of but is not the worship of the Supreme

Being. Please tell me your viewpoint on this.


Goracanda: In the Vaishnava sastras there is a provision for worshiping

the divine spiritual Deity form of Bhagavan. For the

elevated class of devotees no prescription has been given to worship

material objects composed of earth, water, fire, or other

elements. It is said in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.84.13):


yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke

sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih

yat tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij

janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah


One who considers this corpse-like body, comprised of the

three elements vata, pita, and kapha, to be his real self; who

regards his wife, children, and others as his very own; who

considers mundane forms made of earth, stone, or wood to

be worshipable; and who regards mere water to be a place

of pilgrimage - but who does not consider the bhagavadbhaktas

to be more dear than his very self, to be his very

own, to be worshipable, and to be places of pilgrimage; such

a person, though human, is no better than an ass among



It is said in the Gita (9.25):


bhutani yanti bhutejya


Those who worship matter go to the realms of matter.


We see from these and many other conclusive statements that

there is no basis in sastra for the worship of dead matter. There is

an important point to consider in this. Human beings have different

degrees of qualification according to their knowledge and

samskara. Only those who can understand pure spiritual existence

are competent to worship the pure spiritual form of the Deity.

One's understanding is proportionate to one's development in this



Those whose spiritual qualification is extremely low cannot understand

the pure, spiritual state of existence. Even when such

people meditate on the Lord within their minds, the form that

they imagine is material, and meditating on a material form within

the mind is the same as constructing a form of physical elements,

and regarding it as the Lord's form. That is why it is beneficial for

a person on this level of eligibility to worship the Deity. Factually

speaking, it would be most inauspicious for the general class of

people if there were no worship of Deities. When ordinary jivas

become inclined toward the service of the Lord, they become despondent

if they cannot see the Deity form of the Lord before

them. In religions where there is no worship of the Deity, members

who are on a low level of spiritual qualification are highly materialistic

and oblivious to Isvara, or in a state of distraction.

Therefore, worship of the Deity is the foundation of religion for

all humanity.


The form of Paramesvara is revealed to the mahajanas through

their trance of unalloyed jnana-yoga, and they meditate on that

pure, transcendental form in their hearts, which are purified by

bhakti. When the bhakta's heart is revealed to the world after his

continuous meditation, the image of the Lord's transcendental

form is fashioned in this mundane world. The divine form of the

Lord, having been reflected in this way by the mahajanas, has

become the form of the Deity.


The Deity form is always chinmaya (spiritual and conscious) for

those who are on the highest platform of eligibility. Those on

the intermediate level see the Deity as endowed with perception

and awareness (manomaya). This means that the intermediate

devotee has faith that the Deity is conscious of his thoughts and

prayers, and accepts his mood of worship. However, the intermediate

devotee, unlike the advanced devotee, does not directly

perceive the Deity as the spiritual all-conscious form of Bhagavan.

Those on the lowest level initially see the Deity as material

(jadamaya), but in time, the Deity reveals His pure spiritual form

to the intelligence purified by spiritual love. Consequently, the

Deity form of Bhagavan is suitable to be worshipped and served by

all classes of devotees. It is unnecessary to worship an imaginary

form, but it is highly beneficial to worship Bhagavan's eternal

Deity form.


The Vaishnava sampradayas give this provision for people on

these three levels of eligibility to worship the Deity. There is no

fault in this, for it is the only arrangement by which the jivas can

gradually attain auspiciousness. This is confirmed in Shrimad-

Bhagavatam (11.14.26):


yatha yathatma parimrjyate 'sau


tatha tatha pasyati vastu suksmam

caksur yathaivanjana-samprayuktam


O Uddhava, as the eyes that are treated with therapeutic

ointment can see very minute objects, similarly, when the

heart is cleansed of material contamination by hearing and

reciting the narrations of My supremely pure activities, it

can see My subtle transcendental form, which is beyond

the purview of matter.


The jivatma is covered by the material mind, and in this state

he cannot know himself or render service to Paramatma. However,

by performing sadhana-bhakti - which consists of hearing,

chanting, and other devotional practices - the atma gradually

develops spiritual power. As that power increases, material bondage

slackens, and the more material bondage is relaxed, the more

the soul's own natural function comes into ascendancy. Thus, one

gradually attains direct perception of the self and Isvara and

engages directly in spiritual activities.


Some people think one should endeavor to realize the Absolute

Truth by rejecting all that is not truth. This is known as the

cultivation of dry knowledge. What power does a conditioned soul

have to renounce objects that are not inherently real? Can a prisoner

who is confined to a cell liberate himself simply by desiring

to do so? His objective should be to eradicate the offense that has

placed him in bondage. The jivatma's principal defect is that he

has forgotten that he is an eternal servant of Bhagavan, and that

is why he is bound by maya and forced to suffer material happiness,

distress and repeated birth and death in this world.


Although a person may initially be busy in sense gratification,

if for some reason or another his mind becomes a little inclined

towards Isvara, and he regularly takes darsana of the Deity and

hears lila-katha, his original nature of being the eternal servant of

Krishna will be strengthened. The more strength this inherent

nature develops, the more competent he becomes to perceive spirit

directly. The only hope of spiritual progress for those who are the

least spiritually qualified is to serve the Deity and to hear and

chant about the Lord. That is why the mahajanas have established

service to the Deity.


Mullah: Isn't meditating on a form of the Lord within one's mind

superior to imagining a form with the help of the material



Goracanda: They are one and the same. The mind follows matter,

and whatever it thinks of is also material. We may say that brahma

is all-pervading, but how can our minds actually conceive of this?

We will be forced to think of it in terms of the all-pervasiveness of

the sky. How can the mind go beyond this consideration? Our

conception of brahma is therefore constrained by the limitation

of material space.


If one says, "I am meditating on brahma," the experience of brahma

will be limited by material time, for it fades when one's meditation

is concluded. How can the mind's meditation grasp an object that

is above matter when it is conditioned by time and space, which

are material phenomena? One may reject the idea that the form of

the Deity can consist of material elements such as earth and water,

and one can imagine that Isvara is situated in the directions or

space, but still, this is all bhuta-puja, the worship of matter.

No material object can support one's attainment of the transcendental

goal. The only thing that facilitates this is the awakening

of the inclination towards Isvara. This inclination is

inherent within the jivatma, and is gradually strengthened and

converted into bhakti when one utters the name of God, recites

His pastimes, and receives inspiration from beholding the Deity

(shri vigraha). The Lord's spiritual form can be experienced only by

pure bhakti, not by jnana and karma.


Mullah: Matter is distinct from God. I think that it is better not

to worship material objects, because it is said that Satan introduced

the worship of matter to keep the living entities bound in

the material world.


Goracanda: Isvara is one without a second, and He has no rival.

Everything in this world is created by Him and is under His control.

Therefore, He can be satisfied with any object when it is used in

His worship. There is no object in this world one can worship that

can arouse His malice, for He is all-auspicious. Even if a person

such as Satan exists, he is no more than a special jiva under the

control of God, and has no power to do anything that is opposed

to God's will. However, in my opinion, it is not possible for such a

monstrous living entity to exist. No activity can take place that is

contrary to the will of Isvara, nor is any living entity independent

of the Lord.


You may ask, "What is the origin of sin?" My answer is as follows.

Vidya (knowledge) is the understanding that the jivas are servants

of Bhagavan, and avidya (ignorance) is forgetfulness of this. All

jivas who, for whatever reason, take shelter of avidya sow the seed

of all sins in their hearts. In the hearts of those jivas who are eternal

associates of Bhagavan, there is no seed of sin. One should understand

this truth of avidya carefully, instead of imagining an extraordinary

myth about Satan. It means that it is not an offense

to worship the Lord in material elements. Worship of the Deity is

most essential for those of low spiritual eligibility, and it is

particularly auspicious for people of high spiritual eligibility. In

our opinion it is mere dogma to think that the worship of the Deity

is not good. There is no logic or evidence from sastra to support

this position.


Mullah: The inclination toward God cannot be stimulated by worship

of the Deity, because the mind of one who performs such

worship always remains confined to the properties of matter.

Goracanda: We can understand the defect in your theory by studying

the ancient historical accounts of those who became great

devotees. Many people began to worship the Deity while they were

neophytes, but as their devotional mood developed through the

association of pure devotees, their realization of the transcendental

and conscious nature of the Deity also increased, and eventually

they became immersed in the ocean of prema.


The irrevocable conclusion is that sat-sanga is the root of all

spiritual advancement. When one associates with bhaktas of

Bhagavan who are fully situated in divine consciousness, one awakens

transcendental affection toward Bhagavan. The more this

transcendental affection increases, the more the material idea of

the Deity vanishes and through great good fortune this divine

consciousness gradually unfolds. In contrast, the advocates of nonAryan

religions generally oppose Deity worship, but just consider

- how many of them have attained spiritual realization (chinmayabhava)?

They waste their time in useless arguments and malice.

When have they experienced true devotion to Bhagavan?


Mullah: There is no fault if one performs internal bhajana of God

in a mood of love, and externally engages in the worship of the

Deity. However, how can it be worship of God to worship a dog, a

cat, a serpent, or a debauchee? Our revered prophet, Paigambara

Sahib, has vehemently condemned such worship of material objects.


Goracanda: All human beings are grateful to God. No matter how

many sins they commit, occasionally they become aware that God

is the supreme entity, and when they are endowed with this belief,

they bow down before the extraordinary things of this world. When

ignorant people are inspired by their gratitude to God, they

naturally offer respect to the sun, a river, a mountain, or to

enormous animals. They express their hearts before such things

and display submission to them. Granted, there is a vast difference

between this type of worship of material objects, and

transcendental affection toward the Lord (chinmaya bhagavadbhakti).

Still, when such ignorant people adopt a mood of gratitude

to God and reverence toward material objects, it gradually

produces a positive effect. Therefore, if one examines the situation

logically, one cannot ascribe any fault to them.


Meditation on the formless, all-pervading feature of the Lord

and offering namaz or other types of prayers to an impersonal

aspect of the Lord are also devoid of pure transcendent love, so

how are these methods any different from the worship of a cat, for

example? We consider that it is essential to arouse bhava towards

Bhagavan by any means possible. The door leading to gradual

elevation is firmly shut if people on any level of worship are

ridiculed or condemned. Those who fall under the spell of

dogmatism, and thereby become sectarian, lack the qualities of

generosity and munificence. That is why they ridicule and condemn

others who do not worship in the same way as they do. This is a

great mistake on their part.


Mullah: Then must we conclude that everything is God, and that

to worship anything at all is worship of God? That would mean

that worship of sinful objects or the sinful tendency is also worship

of God. Do all these different types of worship please God?


Goracanda: We do not say that everything is God. On the contrary,

God is distinct from all these things. God creates and controls

everything, and everything has a relationship with Him. The

thread of that relationship runs through everything, and that is

why one may inquire about the presence of God in all things. As

one inquires into the presence of God in all things, one can

gradually taste or experience the supreme transcendental and

conscious entity. This is expressed in the sutra, jijnasaasvadanavadhi:

"Inquiry leads to experience."


You are all learned panditas. If you kindly consider this matter

in a generous mood, you will understand. We Vaishnavas are

completely disinterested in material things and we do not want

to enter into long drawn-out arguments. If you kindly permit us,

we shall now go to hear the sublime musical narration of Shri



It was not evident what conclusion the Mullah Sahib reached

as a result of this discussion. After a short silence he said, "I have

been pleased to hear your point of view. On another day I will

return and inquire further. Now it is late and I wish to return

home." He and his party then mounted their horses, and departed

for Satsaika Paragana.


The babajis loudly uttered the name of Shri Hari with great delight

and entered the temple to hear the recitation of Shri Chaitanyamangala.