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Interview: Professor Suthers
Of Ohio State University January, 1929
Professor Suthers: Did the worshippers of Krishna ever encourage the obscenity of the engravings we see on many Hindu Temples?
Saraswati Thakur: Those who are actual worshippers of Krishna do not promote obscenity. All decency and morality emanate from the lotus feet of Krishna. The highest sense of morality of the soul, in its pure unadulterated condition, is manifested as love towards the Supreme Soul.The culmination of this pure love is found only in the devotees of Krishna. The highest morality taught by the noble Jesus, does not even come near the principles of amorous love enshrined in the devotees of Krishna.
Professor Suthers: Your Holiness seems to have taken a biased view in saying that the good moral precepts of Christ come nowhere near the morality of amorous love of the devotees of Krishna.
Saraswati Thakur: Certainly not. In fact, we claim to be greater, and better Christians than Westerners. Our judgement is not restricted to secular morality. The morality of spiritual love transcends supranatural morality, which again surpasses secular morality. If Christian morality can be nourished with amorous love for Divinity, then it may be perfected. To a pure soul, one who has transcended mundane morality, and entered the plane of divine love, secular morality is dwarfed in comparison.But he feels no apathy or attachment to mundane morality. On the other hand, morality waits like a maidservant to assist spiritual morality in the service of the Lord of Transcendental Love.
At the same time we should understand that the character of one culturing spiritual love is never devoid of morality. One hostile to morality of fallen from it can never be a spiritual man. In the blazing core of the teaching of Shri Chaitanya Deva’s ideal—debauchery is not devotion. The evidence is abundant when reflecting on the character of Shri Chaitanya Deva and his followers. Secular moralists concerned with worldly enjoyment, or its renunciation, are unable to grasp in their tiny brains that the pinnacle of morality is realized in the Amorous Sports of Krishna. And it has been adored and glorified by the highest realized souls who are the intimate followers of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, namely Shri Rupa Goswami and his associates and followers.
Professor Suthers: How can your statements be reconciled with the descriptions that are found about Krishna’s amorous sports?
Saraswati Thakur: Krishna’s Amorous Sports are not temporal, lustful sports of dramatic heroes and heroines like Romeo and Juliette, or even that of ideal spouses. The lust of this world is a mental passion. But lust as it exists in the transcendental region of Krishna, has a different form. Here, lust is always goaded by the enemy, one of the six passions; whereas in the transcendental region of Krishna, the loveliness of the spiritual body of Krishna ever drives a lust for Krishna, which takes form as sublimated love, or the desire to gratify the immaculate senses of Krishna. The conductor of worldly lust is the enemy (passion), and the conductor of love is Krishna. It is the Amorous Sports of Krishna that are appropriate; but there is no such consistency in the lust born of the body and mind of the Jiva (creature). Krishna’s Amorous Sports should not be considered indecent, because it is Krishna who is the only unrivaled enjoyer, the Embodiment of the Real Truth and the Spiritual Despot.
Professor Suthers: What other conception can be better than the Fatherhood of Godhead? It is only Jesus who has taught us to call God as “Father”. No other feeling can there be better in the religious world than the love that arises in the mind when God is called “O God, Thous art the Great Father.”
Saraswati Thakur: Yes, it is true that the Fatherhood of God is a special feature of Christianity. Why in Christianity alone, the Parenthood of God is found in some Indian religious conceptions too. But if we consider with a scrutinizing scientific analysis, we can find that this Parenthood has been attributed to God from the inductive point of view, i.e. out of gratitude to God whose kindly presence we admit on the analogy of the worldly father or from some desire to get some worldly benefit from Him. There is only to be traced the attitude of gratefulness of a being or that of an indifferent spirit of his, when the different religions of India too call Him as the “Creator”, “Sustainer of the Universe”, “Protector of the World”, “Controller of the Universe”, “Great Father”’ etc., from the angle of vision of the attributes of Nature on the one hand, or Brahman, etc., from the angle contrary thereto, on the other. And so such conceptions are only indirect or secondary instead of being the principal or chief ones. But in the indirect conception there is no attachment or love. This point has to be understood carefully.
Though there is no connection between the attributes of Nature and the Names of God like “Narayan”, “Vasudeva”, “Hrishikesh”, etc., as prevalent in the Vaishnava Philosophy, yet they are indicative of His Majesty. There is a spirit of regard and reverence behind these. But where there is no such restriction of reverence, rather where, in spite of some reference to His Supreme Majesty, there is a want of the rise of such reverential spirit, the innate loving spirit remains steady and does not become slackened. The conception of Sonship of God has its basis on the feeling of such sweetness of the highest Love.
Vasudeva and Devaki were told by Krishna: “I reveal My Majesty before you that you may know Me to be God; or else you would have known Me as a human being.” God told Arjuna too: “Just see My Majestic Form.” Vasudeva told Krishna: “You are not our son, but the Over-Lord of Divine Spirit and nature.” Arjuna in the Gita asked pardon of Krishna for having called Him as his Friend, etc. In both these examples God’s Majesty has been indicated. But such was not the conception of Nanda and the ladies of Braja. They regarded even that God as their Son and Lover, as the case might be, whose Lotus Feet are adored by all the scriptures, by deities like Brahma, Shiva, etc., men, gandharvas, etc., and worshiped with low salutations. Nanda, Yashoda, etc. did not look upon Krishna as the Supreme Father or the Highest God. If a person becomes the overlord or the wealthiest millionaire of the world, his parents do not stand like other people before him with folded palms in awe and reverence, offering prayers and expressing gratitude, nor do his friends hesitate to be jocular as ever in his presence, nor does his wife deal with him with special veneration like the other people of the outside world and stay at a respectable distance. When the cowherd boys, His friends, reported to mother Yashoda, that He had put some earth into His Mouth, she rebuked him. She could not do so if she had the idea that Krishna, the Supreme Father, was the object of her reprimand. She was able to regard the Highest Entity as her own object of so close and affectionate love that due to the depth of that love she could chide or even beat Him and think of the Sole Maintainer of all maintainers as worth maintenance and nourishment at her hands. This is not intelligible to the mere theorists of gratefulness who are foreigners to affectionate love towards God. When chidden by His mother, Krishna, afraid as it were, of her, opened His Mouth to prove His innocence; and she saw the limitless universe within It. Yet her feeling towards Him as her son was not removed, such was the depth of her affectionate love for God.
Professor Suthers: So far it has been the effusion of emotionality only. Please convince me rationally how the conception of God’s Sonship is superior to His Fatherhood.
Saraswati Thakur: It appears as if you were either inattentive for a while, or unable to closely follow me. I was all this time giving you scientific reasonings. In the Vaishnava Philosophy there is no place for material emotion of any kind. The ephemeral emotionality relating to matter is no devotion: it is only the property of the mind. Our conception is that of the property of the soul. I was so long adducing reasons and examples to convince you how the natural love of the soul for God reached its climax in the conception of His sonship as the Son of Shri Nanda. You will not be able to easily get that idea with the help of reasoning only. You should not think of material emotionality when the actual example is given. With innumerable reasonings I shall show you that the conception of the Fatherhood of God emanates only from a sense of gratefulness. Fatherhood has been attributed to God more or less in accordance with such conceptions as God has created us, He has been sustaining us with the various gifts of nature, and for these He is Father and we should be paying Him reverential homage on that account.
Professor Suthers: Our Jesus Christ has called God as Father not exactly on these grounds; Jesus introduced himself as God’s son for something else.
Saraswati Thakur: Yes, about Jesus’ sonhood you say: “The Son is the complete revelation of the Father whose nature he shares, and of whose powers he is the sole heir, the only begotten son, and he is in absolute dependence on the Father. “My Father and I are one. My Father worketh hitherto and I work.” The son can do nothing except what he seeth the Father do. As son, he knows the Father; as God, he can speak for God. As wholly dependent on the Father, and wholly obedient to His will, the message is true.”
Now the ideal regard based on the sense of gratitude of the son to the Supreme Father is not absent because of the conception of Jesus’ sonhood of God on account of his being His heir in respect of His nature, power and attributes. I think that you conceive of God as the Supreme Father in imitation of Christ, His son, and read hymns to Him with various praises indicative of gratefulness. In our Gaudiya Philosophy there is no sense of gratitude or any other cause at the root of the love or attachment towards God. Where there is some cause, the Gaudiya Philosophy does not call such love causeless or motiveless. The attribution of Parenthood to God must have some cause behind it. Him or her whom we call father or mother and who are adorable, we cannot worship when, averse to God, we stay in the mother’s womb; even after being born we cannot do so in our infancy or childhood. Rather we being their indulged pets treat them as our servants. There is no devotional piety during those periods when instead of worshipping them, we demand and accept service from them. It is no mean outrage on such adorable parents to convert them to servants. This is the effect of our desires. Thus we see that human or other beings do not acquire fitness for serving parents from the very beginning. Though with the growth of intelligence we show some efforts to serve them, generally this has its origin in a retributive sense of gratitude or dutifulness in return for the benefit received from them. Often we show such efforts in order to inherit the property earned by them with labor and left behind by them. Under the circumstances it is the sense of gratitude or obedience to established order originating from motives, that is at the root of the conception of parenthood; there is absolute want in it of causeless or motiveless love.
The offering of service to the master in consideration that if the money paid by him as wages is not discharged, there will be sin committed—amounts to trafficking. The service of God or attribution of Parenthood to Him or calling Him as the Sustainer, Protector, Savior, Affectionate, Gracious, etc., arising out of the sense of awe, hope, dutifulness or gratitude,—all these originate from some motive or cause and as such, are far from His service and worship arising from the natural love of the soul towards Him.
Professor Suthers: I have just listened to many subtle truths in the science and philosophy of religion. Please let me have a conception of these intricate matters.
Saraswati Thakur: The essential principle of Vaishnavism is that, how-so-ever great a scholar and intellectual giant a man may be, he will not be able to appreciate even the easiest points of the Vaishnava philosophy, until and unless he has entirely surrendered himself to an Acharya whose character is the embodiment of the Vaishnava Philosophy. You must have heard about the Indian scripture named “Gita”, which has been translated into different languages in the civilized world. There is a shloka in it which says that the Vaishnava Philosophy is understandable only with unconditional surrender, honest inquiry, and serving temper. It is only to such an approach the professors of Vaishnava Philosophy with these three as the preceptorial fee, that they may give instructions about the correct philosophical truths. These professors are never to be tempted by any type of worldly fees.
Professor Suthers: The Gita has admitted the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul. What does your Vaishnava Philosophy say about this?
Saraswati Thakur: The “Gita” is not separate from the Vaishnava Philosophy. The Shrimad Bhagavatam fully reveals the true import of this doctrine, viz. that of changes of births for the soul. Christianity has disregarded the principle of change of births on the alleged ground that if it is accepted, men will not restrain their sinful propensities, rather they will indulge in vices at their sweet will in their present life, on the expectation that they will be able to make good their sins, guilts, and wrong doing of this life in the course of the following ones. But the Shrimad Bhagavatam has crowned the principle with its true significance by means of a much fuller scientific and philosophical meaning, by instructing the urgent necessity for ardently taking up and culturing devotion to God even while the human form of life, not easily available in the after-lives, is at our disposal, without spending a single moment thereof in other useless pursuits. If we do not accept the doctrine of transmigration of the soul and adopt the instruction of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, we shall not be able to get over the all-devouring disaster of regarding matter as the sole object of our concern, which has kept its mouth wide open.
Though most of the Christians do not admit transmigration, yet many of the intellectual giants of the Christian world have shown several instances of their acceptance of the doctrine. Even in the Bible in St, John 9.1.2, we find, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, “Master, who has committed the sin? This man or his parents, that he was born blind from his birth?” It is seen that even some Christian Fathers clearly gave instructions about transmigration. Origen said: “Is it not more in conformity with reason that every soul for certain mysterious reasons is introduced into a body and introduced according to its deserts and former actions.?” And Goethe says, “I am sure that I, such as you see me here, have lived a thousand times and I have to come again another thousand times.”
What the Greeks called metempsychosis and is called transmigration in the English language was at one time, more or less, admitted in ancient Greece, Egypt, and many places in the west. Some say that the apostles of Christ the Great, failing to reconcile their previous and subsequent conclusions with the doctrine of transmigration, were compelled to discard it. Yet no rationalist among the Christians has been able to refute the doctrine on the basis of sound reasoning; on the other hand, most of them have had to admit it even. Heredotus, Pindar, Plato etc. have all accepted it. Huxley, the illustrious scientist of the nineteenth century, has written in his religious work, Evolution and Ethics: “None but very hasty thinkers will reject it on the ground of inherent absurdity, like the doctrine of evolution itself, viz., that of transmigration which has its root in the world of reality and it may claim such support as the great argument of “Analogy” is capable of supplying.”
Professor Lutoloski has said, “I cannot give up my conviction of a previous existence before my birth, and I have the certainty to be born again after my death, until I have assimilated all human experiences, having been many times male and female, wealthy and poor, free and enslaved, generally having experienced all conditions of human existence.” But such transmigration theories of the empiricists of the west or those of the western philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries like Franciscus Mercurius Helmont, Leichtenbourg, Lessing, Herder, Schopenhauer, etc. or of Jalaluddin Rumi of the Sufi sect of Persia, or of the Theosophists, or of the Indian Nyaya Philosophy under the aphorism: “From the desire for the mother’s breast milk due to the habit of the previous life,” or of the Buddhistic doctrine of annihilation in matter—these are assailable by various hostile reasonings and, having their origin in inductive concepts are incomplete and imperfect. But the conclusion in this respect of the Shrimad Bhagavatam is fully flawless and significant. The Vaishnava Philosophy having shown the royal road to the acquirement of the highest blessedness even in the present life, there is no need for waiting for future lives. As such, the Vaishnava Philosophy is thoroughly aloof from all wrangling full of useless riddles over the doctrine of transmigration.
Professor Suthers: I am able to feel the super-excellence of the Vaishnava Philosophy among the Indian Philosophies. But to my mind the acceptance of idolatry in the Vaishnava Philosophy like the other Indian philosophies seems to be a stigma in it.
Saraswati Thakur: Idolatry has never been accepted in the Vaishnava philosophy: on the other hand, it has been more or less accepted in the other philosophies, at least mentally, if not in so many words. In the very word “Bhagavan” (God) have accumulated all the excellences that there are in the human and suprahuman conceptions. The existence of Majesty, viz. the furthermost limits of both vastness and minuteness, is a characteristic of God. The second characteristic is His Omnipotence. If one understands the word “omnipotence” to mean what is conceivable by the human intellect or what is possible for man, one is wrong. God is Omnipotent, because what is impossible according to the human intellect is within the ambit of the inscrutable power of God. Due to His inscrutable power, He is simultaneously both with and without Form. It will be the denial of His inscrutable power, if you say that He cannot have His form, or He has not His Eternal Form, only having a Form for the time being, none in the end. By dint of his inscrutable power, He is with His Eternal Sportive Form before a liberated soul conversant with the service of His potencies. Contemplation only on formlessness is rather unnatural and devoid of differential excellence. God is always All-Good, All-Glory, and All-Beauty. His Beauty is visible only to the transcendental eye. God is the Transcendental Reality, Pure, Full and Sentient in essence and Sentient Essence in His Form.
It is true that God has no material body, but He has His sat (eternal) Chit (All-Sentient) Ananda (All-Blissful) Transcendental Body visible only to the eye that is clear (devoid of matter). To the material eye, God is Formless, but to the transcendental eye He is with His Body of Chit or All-Sentience. The Murtis (forms of body) prepared and worshiped by those who have not seen this Chit-Body of God with their true and eternal eye cleansed with the collyrium of the love of God are of course idols and all the worshippers of those idols must be idolaters. The worship of murtis of God prepared from imagination may be called idolatry. Suppose I, who have not seen Jacob make a murti of his out of imagination, this murti is not the replica of his form. Besides, if Jacob is a creature of this world, whose body, mind, and soul are different from one another, his photograph being only the replica of his material body is different from his eternal and intrinsically true form. But God with his sat-chit-ananda Body is not such a thing; His body and Soul are not different from each other; nor are His Name and Soul, His Figure and Soul, His Attribute and Figure. His Attribute and Soul, His Sport and Soul, His Sport and Figure, His Sport and Attribute, different. If a pure entity or unmixed soul sees that eternal Form of God and receives It in his own pure receptacle and then places this Transcendental Form in the world from his heart as illumine the intrinsically and essentially true Form of God, that never deserves to be called an idol. Just as even by coming down to this phenomenal world, God remains untouched by the influence of maya by dint of His inscrutable power, so does His true Form too, as revealed to the unmixed entity of His devotee, remain above it, even though brought down here, For this reason the Vaishnava Philosophy terms Shri Murti as His “Archavatara” (Worshippable Descent).
The conception of God without Form in contradistinction to His Essential Form is as calamitous as is the falsely imagined Form of God for one competent to see His True Form. Such insignificant processes occur before attaining to the Real Entity and do only grope in the darkness. The Shri Vigraha of the Vaishnava Philosophy cannot but be the direct indication of the Essential Form of God. By way of an imperfect comparison it may be said to be the proxy of the essential Form of God which is beyond the cognizance of the material eye, just as there are, in art and science, crude representations of invisible matter.
How can those, that have not in their heart love of God which is the true function of the soul and is the science of the true knowledge of realities, think of the Shri Murtis (Shri Vigraha) as other than idols? The deliberations of the Vaishnava Philosophy are very fine. These have shown by true scientific analysis that they are all, more or less, idolaters who declare themselves as partisans either of the doctrine of no Form of God or that of His material Form. Just as those who attribute Godship to matter and worship it like the fire worshippers among the uncivilized people or the worshippers of the planets, such as Jupiter, Saturn, etc. of Greece, are crude idolaters, in a similar manner the others, who declare everything beyond matter as formless, and become exponents of the doctrine of non-distinction, are equal or even greater idolaters. The Henotheists or worshippers of one of the Vedic deities or the worshippers of the five deities (called panchopasakas) worship many icons, considering them as God. According to them, God has no sat-chit-ananda-vigraha, and as without some form there can be no subject for contemplation, to make it easy to meditate on Him, some form has got to be imagined. They are all idolaters. So also is the conduct of some of the Yogis and others to be regarded as idolatry, who, for purifying their heart or improving the function of the mind, imagine a God and perform practices of contemplation, etc., of some imaginary form of His. Those who consider jivas as God are the most blasphemous idolaters, because to imagine any worldly thing or form as God is idolatry.
There is a world of difference between the worship of Shri Murtis as ordained by the Vaishnava Philosophy and the doctrines of God with Form and without Form of other thinkers. Mahaprabhu Shri Chaitanya Deva has refuted all sorts of idolatry and instructed the service of the Archavatars of the All-merciful God of Inconceivable Potency.
Professor Suthers: I am truly astonished to hear from your Holiness these mysteries of the Vaishnava Philosophy and their scientific analysis with the most reasonable arguments. I never knew that Vaishnava Philosophy provides such excellent solutions, corroboration and elucidation to the problems we in the west perceive in Indian Philosophy.
Saraswati Thakur: The Vaishnava Philosophy speaks about true wisdom. True wisdom is not subject to an attack from any rival camp like the changeable and fluctuating knowledge of the empiricists; this is the special feature of Vaishnava Philosophy. The philosophies that have been, are being will be built on the foundation of empiricism will be enlarged and altered and ultimately abandoned along with the increase and decrease of experience. Before the civilization five-thousand years old, the three-thousand year old civilization is imperfect; and the seven-thousand year old one is more enlarged; and in ten thousand years it will be still further changed and enlarged. The Vaishnava Philosophy built, as it is, upon the strong unalterable foundation, of true and perfect wisdom is not fit for change and reformation through scuffling and disputes like a football being kicked to and fro.
The Shrimad Bhagavatam which is the essence of all the Vedas and Vedantas speaks of the real Truth. This scripture describes something which is beyond the regions of human civilization and all the rules and regulations of society, and speaks about the attainment of another spiritual body by the soul. Some empiricists of the inductive school do not recognize this change of body for the soul. There are others who try to prove such a change by various mundane reasonings. Some of them cite the example of the tendency of the newborn monkey to grasp the branch of a tree, or that of a newborn rhinoceros to fly away from the mother, considering which they say, every one must have to admit the previous life of the creatures and cannot disbelieve the transmigration of the souls. As a baby rhinoceros is born, it runs away from the mother lest the mother should lick its skin. Her tongue is so sharp that the bark of a tree licked by her is removed. The baby comes to the mother only when its hide gets hardened in the course of a few days. Seeing these, the empiricists realize that this habit of the baby rhinoceros is indicative of its previous birth.
The Vedic scriptures, however, have given a scrutinizing analysis of the mutual difference of the soul, the mind and the body as the atomic sentience, pseudo-sentience, and matter. The soul (atma) is the owner of the body and the mind. These two are the properties of the soul which again is the property of the Suprasoul (paramatma). The Suprasoul is the causal sentience and the soul (jivatma) is the effectual sentience. The soul has two bodies or distinguishing properties; one is the subtle one or mind and the other the crude one i.e., material body. The outer body is the aggregate of atoms of the five elements of matter; the inner or mental body is the conductor of the outer body. The soul in its conditioned or bound state is connected with foreign properties through the mind. The soul is now asleep and inattentive to the service of the SupraSoul. Seeing the owner asleep, the subordinate workers, mind and body, are busy about their mean self-interest, instead of looking after the interest of their owner. All the universe, animate and inanimate, is included within the SupraSoul; in reality every creation is animate. Our scriptures have proved this since time immemorial. Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose has proved, even by the inductive process, before the empiric school, that there exists animation [spirit, consciousness] even within the grass shrubs, creepers, etc..
Professor Suthers: I shall some time soon see Dr. Bose. Is the conception of our difference from the Supra-Soul born of our ignorance?
Saraswati Thakur: We shall consider how in our conditioned state we have been enveloped by the two distinguishing properties, and how again we shall be liberated therefrom. These two are non-souls. Even in this conditioned state we are animate, not sentient. The non-souls, viz. the body and the mind, are connected with the outer and mental worlds. We have yet to attain to what is beyond the body and the mind. By “jiva” is meant “soul”, “mind” and “body”. According to Shri Ramanujacharya the Supra-Soul is indeed on Sentient Body. He has two bodies; in His mental body there is the aggregate of jivas; the outer Body is the material world. The different parts of the mental Body of the Supra-Soul are the jivatmas or atomic sentience. When the jivatama or atomic sentience feels himself as a protege of the Full Sentience or Supra-Soul and becomes steady in His eternal service, his nescience or ignorance becomes extinct. It is this contact through service between the Supra-Sentience and the atomic sentience as the Asylum and the dependent respectively that amounts to the absence of the material conception of differentiation.
In the all-world philosophical conception, the Sonship to Nanda of the Plenary Gad as found in the Vaishnava Philosophy is entirely a novelty. there is no such highest conception about Godship, so nice in every respect, in any other philosophy. The other philosophies can conceive of only the Fatherhood of Godhead. But the excellence of the Sonhood of Godhead in which has been manifest the climax of love of God, has not found place in the brain of any other philosopher.