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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`@ `PPP```@`PP`°°°Ppppppp p````@@@@ppppp````````` P```` ```````````````_8Ȱ_Ȱ_娜粜娈粜が粞〼粞ぜ粞 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
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
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
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
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-
yatha yathatma parimrjyate 'sau
tatha tatha pasyati vastu suksmam
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
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.
THUS ENDS THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER OF JAIVA-DHARMA,
"NITYA-DHARMA & IDOLATRY"