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Shri Sanmodana Bhashyam
I begin Shri Sanmodana Bhashyam, a commentary on the Shikshashtaka verses by Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, at first offering my humble obeisances to the Lord, who is eternally manifest with His eternal associates, the Panca-tattva.
The path of devotional service is the highest perfection of life, and it is sought after in all Vedic literatures. Applying his superior intelligence to researching the Vedas thoroughly several times, Lord Brahma ascertained that the best method of self-realization is the awakening of one's loving attachment to Lord Hari, the Supreme Lord within everyone's heart.
This philosophical conclusion thus unequivocally establishes the supremacy of devotional service over fruitive activities, speculative knowledge, or any other process. Pure devotional love of Godhead is unattainable without great faith and intense eagerness to relish the nectarean pastimes of the Supreme Lord, and without a deep understanding of the esoteric truths of the scriptures. And even when profound faith is present, it is impossible to discuss the transcendental topics of the Supreme Lord, without the association of saintly persons, because this activity is integral to the hearing and chanting process of devotional service.
The Shrimad-Bhagavatam confirms this as follows:
“It is only in the association of My pure devotees that
discussions about My transcendental glory become spiritually potent and arouse
loving devotional mellows within the inner core of one's heart.”
Statements as these extol the virtues of saintly association because the Lord's holy name, form, qualities and activities are perfectly glorified in righteous company. Lord Chaitanya's in His teachings, foremostly discusses these glories. In the fourth line of the present shloka, for example, the word 'param' indicates the process of chanting Krishna's holy name, which is naturally all-purifying, and so is the highest form of benediction. Through all the different stages of spiritual progress beginning with 'sraddha' or faith, 'sadhu sanga' (saintly association) 'bhajan-kriya' (practical devotional service), etc. chanting maintains it's preeminence. However, chanting in a pure and devotional mood is never to be confused with cheap sentimentality or pseudo-devotional chanting.
In these Shikshashtaka verses, Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has explained in His own words the principles of sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana, or our eternal relationship with God, the means by which we can revive it, and the nature of this relationship as the ultimate goal and necessity for every living being. This commentary, then, will briefly discuss these philosophical conclusions. Lord Chaitanya, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is lovingly served by the pure Vaishnava devotees, Himself declares: “let the congregational chanting of the holy name be especially glorified.”
Therefore, please hear how the chanting of the holy name is always victorious even in the mundane world which is created by the external energy of the Lord. Scripture emphasizes the absolute oneness of the Supreme Truth. We read in the Sruti-sdstra: “Only that One non-dual substance(the supreme Godhead) existed before creation." And in another place: “other than (He) the one non-dual brahman, no variegatedness exists." These statements establish what is essentially the all-pervading, impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth. However, the statement “everything is brahman" actually emphasizes the principle that the eternal and supreme Absolute Truth is personal and differentiated.
How is this? In the simultaneity of differentiated personalism and undifferentiated impersonalism, it is the personal feature which is prominently perceptible whereas impersonalism is imperciptible due to it being non-differentiated. (The study of epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, reveals the fact that without differentiation perception is impossible. Will an observer in a completely dark room at midnight be able to see a black cat walk across the room? Of course not; our senses and mind distinguish one object from another by differentiating of their attributes. Similarly, since the infinite brahman is totally undifferentiated, merging with brahman means to lose any possibility of perceving it, and by applying the same logic, likewise it is with consciousness denotes the presence of the soul in the body, the kaivalya (impersonal liberation) of the impersonalists is equivalent to spiritual suicide. -Ed.)
Therefore, the personal feature of the Absolute Truth predominates. Our guru on such scriptural conclusions, Shrila Jiva Gosvami, states that the one Absolute Truth eternally exists in four features: His original transcendental form, His external and all-pervasive potency, the living entities, and as the sum total of all existence.
This is analogous to the four features of the sun: the sun-god himself, (Surya) the sun disk, the sunshine, and the reflections of the sun's rays on other surfaces. The point here is that God alone is the Supreme Absolute Truth, shaktiman, the only source of all potencies or energies. Although Shripad Sankaracarya's commentary on the Brahma-sutra does argue the essential oneness of the energetic source, shaktiman, and energy, shakti, the Vedas conclude [Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.8]:
“That Supreme Absolute Truth manifests Himself in a variety of
forms. His potencies are multifarious.”
This proves that the inconceivable Absolute Truth performs actions that appear paradoxical and contradictory. Hence, the essential and eternal difference between energy and the energetic source is also an unavoidable conclusion, a conclusive principle that cannot be successfully challenged by arguments from the philosophical school of monism, or kevala-advaita-vada.
The Absolute Potent, or the Supreme Truth, manifests Himself in three categories: as His internal potency, as His marginal potency, and as His external potency. Through the agency of His internal spiritual potency, He manifests the fall absolute nature or infinite transcendental realm; and as the possessor of all energetic expansions, He exists there eternally as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To facilitate the enacting of personal pastimes, His internal potency manifests the spiritual Vaikuntha planets. The marginal potency, or the eternal living entity, who is like a ray of the sun-an infinitessimal spark-is part and parcel of the Absolute Truth and thus non-different from Him. But the external energy, or maya, is only the reflection of this eternal spiritual realm, and acts as the backdrop for the different mundane situations to which the conditioned souls become attracted.
In this way the living entity, or marginal energy, and Vaikuntha, or the transcendence, are simultaneously different and non-different from the Supreme Lord. As long as the jiva takes full shelter of the Supreme Lord he remains a resident of the spiritual planets, but when he forgets the innate spiritual knowledge about the Lord he is placed outside the transcendental realm. The jiva is compared to a ray of the sun, but under the cloud of maya, or the illusory energy, his conditioned state is an unconstitutional and hence unnatural term of existence. The jiva exists to support and participate in the Supreme Lord's transcendental pastimes, but his marginal nature makes him vulnerable and can bring him under maya's spell, to suffer the pangs of repeated birth and death. But as soon as the individual spiritual spark awakens to realise his original self, the dark mist of ignorance, or maya, dissipate, and the long suffering of repeated birth and death at last comes to a halt. He regains his true spiritual identity.
The pure association of saintly persons acts miraculously on jiva. He develops taste and interest for scriptural knowledge as well as attraction for the all-attractive Supreme Lord Himself. Thus situated in his original constitutional position, the awakened soul becomes eligible to enter into loving conjugal exchanges with the Lord. It is sincere faith that leads one to find real saintly association and thence to the shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, from whom he hears the true imports of the revealed scriptures. After submissive hearing, the process of chanting begins, and gradually, as his original nature becomes dominant, the spiritualized jiva triumphs over the illusory energy, maya. This briefly is the sublime effect of chanting the Lord's holy name; for chanting alone cleanses the heart (ceto-darpana-marjanam) and eventually brings seven types of perfections to the jiva.
iiiiThe verse begining with ceto-darpana-marjanam describes the original transcendental nature of the jéva. As Shréla Jéva Gosvamé has explained, the jéva is a part and parcel of the Supreme Absolute Truth who is the Supreme Energetic, the total aggregate of all jévas “ Like a ray of the sun, the jéva is of the same spiritual nature as the Supreme, but infinitesimal in size. Shréla Baladeva Vidyabhusana has analyzed Godhead as the infinite Supreme Lord, and the jéva as His infinitesimal part. All the transcendental qualities are eternally present in perfect fullness in the Supreme Lord. His pure ego is manifest as both the Absolute knowledge and the knower. Similarly, the jéva is also in possession of transcendental knowledge and pure ego (though in partial degree). This is logical because qualities such as heat and light present in the sun are also present in the sun's rays.
Of the two, then, the Supreme Lord is fully independent, possessing and embodying all transcendental qualities. He is the origin of everything, and He only partially enters into material nature and controls it. It is He alone who creates and maintains the material world. The reservoir of all spiritual bliss, He is ever relishing His own spiritual Self, and distributing the nectar of pure love of Godbead by means of His pure devotional service. Indeed, He encourages all living entities to taste that sweet nectar. The innumerable living entities go through, varied stages of existence, now eternally conditioned, now eternally liberated. When the jéva rejects the Supreme Lord he becomes forever ensnared in matter. But again aspiring for His shelter, the curtain of maya that separates the jéva from his eternal transcendental identity is forever removed, and he is immediately restored to his original pure self.
It is therefore clear that the jéva is infinitesimal, possessing; a transcendental nature of pure ego, pure soul, and pure form. But when he turns away from God and contemplates enjoying material energy, his pure nature becomes contaminatd by nescience. It is for this reason that the soul has been compared to a mirror. Just as it is impossible to see one's face in a dusty mirror, it is similarly impossible to see the real self the mirror of consciousness if it is covered by the dust of ignorance. When if one begins to render loving devotionl service particulary hearing and chanting the sacred names and pastimes of the Supreme Lord Shré Krishna directly under the control of His hladini (spiritual pleasure) potency, material contamination or nescience is completely eradicated. The jéva's pure consciousness,: which is a function of his pure ego manifests itself and he sees the Supreme Lord, jéva prakrti (nature), kala(time), and karma(action and reaction), all five fundamental principles of existence reflected on the mirror of his pure ego with absolute clarity. So in the mirror of his pure consciouisness he sees the reflection of his original identity without any distortion. This helps him to know his true religion and inherent nature as an eternal servant of the Lord. When one becomes really expert in serving the Lord, then his propensity to enjoy material life is converted into a loving devotional mood of service.
The purport of the word bhava is that jéva is being subjected to take repeated births in this world, a continuous cycle of birth and death called maha-davagni, or blazing fire, a raging conflagration that cannot be extinguished by any means other than the congregational chanting of Krishna's holy name. A question may arise at this point: when one is enlightened about his sva-dharma, or eternal intrinsic nature and duty, does he then cease to chant Krishna's holy name? The answer is no, this never occurs. Chanting God's name is the soul's sva-dharma. The phase sreyah-kairava-candrika-vitaranam, which describes the holy name, specifically conveys the sense eternal activity of the spirit soul in his original spiritual condition.
The jévas who are enslaved by maya prefer to remain in that condition to enjoy material life, and that desire literally binds them to the cycle of birth and death. This is the root cause of their threefold miseries. But the spirit soul reaps the greatest benefit when he becomes disgusted with material enjoyment, and re-dedicates his time and energy to Lord Krishna's loving service. This benediction is compared with the flowering of a cluster of pristine white lotuses. For just as the moon's soothing rays cause the white lotuses to blossom, the rays of the mellow taste of chanting the holy name resuscitate the languishing petals of the lotus of benediction for the jéva. According to the adage, “Devotion gives birth to devotion", one must follow the principles of elementary bhakti, i.e. repeatedly hearing and chanting until the first light of pure devotion begins to dawn in the heart of the sincere and faithful jéva. The comparison of congregational chanting with the moon is quite appropriate here: the closed lotus flower touched by the moon's rays awakens to full blush, and similarly the holy name spreads the rays of bhava, or spontaneous attraction for the Supreme Lord. It is the essence of hladini, which impregnates the jéva's heart. Rati, or erotic spiritual love, then lights up his consciousness, bestowing the highest benediction. This is what is meant by the “waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities".
A pertinent query at this juncture would be: at what stage does a person who has attained the level of pure devotion acquire his pure spiritual identity-his sva-dharma? Lord Chaitanya replies by saying vidya-vadhu-jivanam, “the life of all transcendental knowledge". The Supreme Lord's shakti has two aspects: vidya, or knowledge, and avidya, or ignorance. Yogamaya, Shré Krishna's svarupa-shakti or internal spiritual potency, is called vidya whereas His external energy mahamaya is avidya. And it is this latter that creates the material universe and covers the soul's svarupa. When the first rays of pure devotion finally appear on the horizon of the sadhaka's heart by his sincerely following the process of bearing and chanting, then gradually bhakti-devi, or the goddess of pure devotional process, the eradicator of all unwanted material desires detrimental to the Lord's service, eclipses the avidya potency. By suffusing the soul with spiritual knowledge, She destroys both the gross and subtle coverings of the soul. Simultaneously, the jéva's original spiritual form becomes manifest, to the extent that he receives the form of a gopi, for example, if his spiritual proclivity is steeped in the conjugal mood. Thus it stands proven that Krishna's name is the life and soul of all transcendental knowledge, vidya-vadhu-jivanam. Svarupa-shakti has therefore often been described as Krishna's wife. The Sanskrit word vadhu means wife.
The gross and subtle material bodies of the jéva being completely destroyed, the infinitesimal soul regains his original pristine purity. Although the jéva is anu, or minutely small, his spiritual happiness is not minute. To remove this misapprehension, Lord Chaitanya adds anandambudhivardhanam, “an ever-increasing ocean of bliss". In other words, the holy name of the Lord endlessly expands the piritual bliss inherent to the soul, by leaps and bounds. He thus becomes eternally fixed in one of the spiritual mellows, namely dasya, sakhya, vatsalaya, or madhurya (servitorship, friendship, parenthood and conjugal love) Established in his eternal spiritual mellow, he begins to relish limitless nectar at every stage of his transcendental relationship and exchanges of extraordinary loving emotions with the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord Krishna's enchanting beauty, His divine qualities and His sublime pastimes are ever-ecstatic and eternal. Inebriated with divine prema, the pure jéva continuously drinks that sweet nectar, but still the Lord's captivating beauty remains ever-fresh and ambrosial, relished in endlessly unique and novel ways.
In this stage one final question. may still arise: is this happiness self-motivated, and thus contrary to the principles of pure spiritual love? If so, how can the jéva's happiness be called unalloyed and spiritual? To allay any such confusion or doubt, Lord Chaitanya uses the expression sarvatma-snapanam: the bliss of Krshria consciousness is completely pure, wholly free from any desire for self-satisfaction. That is to say, in the natural course of pure devotional service, one attains the form of a maidservant of Shrématé Radharané, who embodies the zenith of mahabhava, or unsurpassable heights of exultations; and in Her service the jéva participates in conjugal pastimes with the Lord and experiences unlimited ecstatic bliss. This sublime mood is therefore untainted by even the slightest tinge of selfish lust or self-indulgent craving. This phrase also indicates that neither the contamination of sayujya-mukti, i.e. the desire to merge with the Lord, nor the impurity of selfgratification, can contaminate the heart of the jéva in this state of perfect bliss.
May the chanting of the holy name of Krishna be ever-victorious, for it is adorned with seven transcendental qualities, It is the embodiment of eternality, it is knowledge, and it is the highest bliss, steeped in the wonderful and variegated amorous pastimes of Shré-Shré Radha-Krishna.
Supporting passages are also found in Shré Chaitanya-caritamrita [Antya-lila 20.11, 13 and 14]:
“Simply by chanting the holy name of Lord Krishna one can be freed from all undesirable habits. This is the means by which one awakens his good fortune and initiates the flow of the waves of love for Krishna.”
“By performing congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra one can destroy the sinful condition of material existence, purify his unclean heart, and awaken all the varieties of devotional service.”
“The result of chanting is that one awakens his love for Krishna and transcendental bliss. Ultimately, one attains the association of Krishna and engages in His devotional service, as if immersing himself in a great mean of love.”