Over the ages, countless goldsmiths had lived in the ancient mercantile town of Saptagrama, on the bank of the Sarasvati River. By Sri Nityananda Prabhu’s mercy, since the time of Sri Uddharana Datta, these merchants had become addicted to harinama- sankirtana. One of them, however, was a very miserly person named Candidasa, who used to abstain from hari-kirtana with the townspeople because he was afraid of having to spend money for sponsoring festivals. Candidasa had managed to accumulate a good deal of wealth through stingy dealings. His wife, Damayanti, had adopted the same mood and did not extend even the least hospitality to Vaisnavas or other guests. This merchant couple in their youth, had given birth to four sons and two daughters. Their daughters had both married, and a vast inheritance was reserved for their sons.
If saintly people never visit a house, the children in it are less likely to become kind and compassionate. As the sons grew up, they became increasingly selfish, and began to wish that their parents would die so that they could have their inheritance. The merchant couple became extremely unhappy. One by one, the sons were married. As their wives grew older, they imbibed their husbands’ natures and also began to wish that their parents-in-law would die. After some time, the sons became proficient in business and began to oversee the buying and selling very expertly. Dividing up most of their father’s wealth, they set up their own businesses.
One day, Candidasa called everyone to his side and said, “Listen! I have lived a frugal existence since childhood, and as a result, I have managed to set aside a great fortune for all of you. I have never eaten fine food or dressed in luxurious clothes, and your mother has also lived in a similar manner. It is your duty to care for us now that we are growing old, but we have become increasingly distressed recently, because we have begun to feel that you are neglecting us. I still have some hidden wealth, and I will give it to whichever of my sons will be good enough to take care of us.”
Candidasa’s sons and daughters-in-law heard his words silently, and then went off to a separate place to conspire among themselves. They concluded, “It will be best to send Mother and Father away, and then take possession of their hidden wealth and divide it amongst ourselves, for there is really no telling to whom the old man will give it unjustly.” All of them were sure that the wealth was buried in their father’s bedroom.
One morning at dawn, Candidasa‘s eldest son, Haricarana, went to his father, and with feigned humility said, “Dear Father, you and Mother should go and take darsana of Sri Navadvipa-dhama at least once, so that your human life will become successful. I have heard
that no other holy place is as beneficial in this age of Kali as Sri Navadvipa-dhama. It will not be troublesome or expensive for you to go there, and if you are unable to walk, we can hire you a boat to take you upstream for a nominal fee. There is also a Vaisnavi who would be happy to accompany you there.”
When Candidasa informed Damayanti about their son’s proposal, she became very happy. Both of them concluded, “Our children have become thoughtful and courteous since our talk that day. We are strong enough to walk, so let us make the pilgrimage to Sridhama-Navadvipa via Kalna and Santipura.”
Having selected an auspicious day, the couple set out on their pilgrimage, taking the Vaisnavi with them. The next day, after walking a good distance, they arrived at Ambika-Kalna. There they cooked for themselves in a shop, and sat down to eat. While they were taking their meal, a resident of Saptagrama who knew them approached and informed them, “Your sons have broken the lock to your room and have taken all your possessions. They will not allow you to re-enter the house. They have also found your hidden wealth and have divided it among themselves.”
When Candidasa and Damayanti received this news, they were stricken with grief over the loss of their wealth. They were unable to eat a single morsel, and spent the entire day crying incessant tears. After some time, the Vaisnavi attendant tried to console them, saying, “Don’t be attached to your home. Come! You can take up the life of Vaisnava ascetics. Build a simple asrama where Vaisnavas can gather and live. The children for whom you have sacrificed everything have become your enemies, so there is no need to return home. Let us go to Navadvipa and remain there. You can maintain yourselves by accepting alms. That will be a much better life.”
When Damayanti and Candidasa thought of the behavior of their sons and daughters-in-law, they said again and again, “It would be better for us to die than to return home.” In the end, they stayed for a few days at the home of a Vaisnava in the village of Ambika, after which they went to see Santipura, and finally arrived in Sri Navadvipa-dhama. They stayed in Sri Mayapura for a few days with a merchant relative, and began to tour the seven localities of Navadvipa on the bank of the Ganga, as well as the seven localities of Kuliya-grama on the other side of the river. After a few days, however, their attachment for their sons and daughters-in-law resurfaced.
Candidasa said to his wife, “Come, let us return home to Saptagrama. After all, they are our sons, aren’t they? Won’t they show us even a little affection?”
Their Vaisnavi attendant said emphatically, “Have you no dignity? This time, they will take your life!”
When the old couple heard this, they saw the truth in her words, and became apprehensive. “O respected Vaisnavi,” they said, “you may return to your own place. We have enough discrimination now. We will maintain our existence by begging, approach a qualified
person for instruction, and engage in bhagavad-bhajana.”
The Vaisnavi attendant left, and the merchant couple, having now given up all hope of returning to their former home in Saptagrama, began to build a new home in the area of Kuliya-grama, where Chakauri Cattopadhyaya had lived. Taking contributions and instruction from many gracious and well-mannered people, they built a cottage and began to live there permanently. Kuliyagrama is known as the holy place where offenses are eradicated, and the longstanding belief was that all of one’s previous offenses would be dispelled if one lived there.
One day Candidasa said, “O mother of Hari, don’t speak about our children any more; don’t even think of them. We took birth in a merchant family because of many previous offenses, and due to our defective birth we became misers and never rendered any service to guests or to Vaisnavas. Now if we obtain any wealth here, we will certainly use it to serve guests, so that we may attain auspiciousness in our next life. I have been thinking of opening a grocery shop. I will beg some money from a few gentlemen and begin this work.”
Within a short time, Candidasa opened a small store and managed to make some profit every day. The couple began to serve one guest daily, in addition to feeding themselves, and thus their life passed much more pleasantly than before.
Candidasa had previously been educated, and now he sat in his shop and read Gunaraja Khana’s Sri Krsna Vijaya whenever he found time. He ran his shop honestly and served guests hospitably. Five or six months passed in this manner, and when the people of Kuliya came to know of Candidasa’s previous history, they began to develop faith in him.
In this village lived a grhastha-brahmana named Yadava dasa, who lectured every day on Sri Caitanya-mangala. Candidasa occasionally went to hear those lectures, and when he and Damayanti saw that Yadava dasa and his wife were always engaged in serving the Vaisnavas, they also became inspired to do the same.
One day, Candidasa inquired from Yadava dasa, “What is this material existence?”
Yadava dasa said, “Many learned Vaisnavas live on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi in Sri Godrumadvipa. Come, let us go there and inquire from them. I also go there from time to time and receive many instructions. At present, the Vaisnava scholars of Sri Godruma are more expert than the brahmana scholars in the conclusions of the sastras. Some days ago, Sri Vaisnava dasa Babaji defeated the brahmana-panditas of the area in a debate. A deep question like yours can be resolved most satisfactorily there.”
Yadava dasa and Candidasa prepared to cross the Ganga in the afternoon. Damayanti now regularly served pure Vaisnavas, and the miserliness in her heart had become negligible. “I will go with you to Sri Godruma,” she said.
“The Vaisnavas there are not grhasthas,” said Yadava dasa. “They have adopted a life of strict renunciation and are detached from all relations with women. I am concerned that if you come along with us they will be displeased.”
Damayanti replied, “I will offer dandavat-pranama to them from a distance, and I will not enter their grove. I am an old lady. They will never become angry with me.”
Yadava dasa agreed, but cautioned, “It is not the custom for ladies to go there. Anyway, we can take you there to sit in a nearby place, and we will bring you back with us when we return.”
By late afternoon the three of them crossed the Ganga and reached Pradyumna-kunja. Damayanti offered prostrated dandavatpranama at the door of the kunja, and sat nearby under an old banyan tree. Yadava dasa and Candidasa entered the kunja, and with great devotion offered dandavat-pranama to the assembly of Vaisnavas who were seated in the malati-madhavi bower.
Paramahamsa Babaji was seated in the midst of the assembly, surrounded by Sri Vaisnava dasa, Lahiri Mahasaya, Ananta dasa Babaji and many others. Candidasa sat close to Yadava dasa.
Ananta dasa Babaji looked at Yadava dasa and asked, “Who is this new man?”
Yadava dasa narrated the whole story of Candidasa. Ananta dasa Babaji smiled and said, “Yes, this is what is known as material existence. One who knows material existence is actually wise, and those who fall into the cycle of material existence are pitiable.”
Candidasa’s mind was gradually becoming purified, for when one performs nitya-sukrti – such as hosting Vaisnavas, and reading and hearing Vaisnava sastras – he certainly attains auspiciousness, and very easily developes sraddha in ananya-bhakti (exclusive devotion). When he heard Sri Ananta dasa Babaji’s words, Candidasa said with a softened heart, “My humble prayer is that you will be merciful to me, and clearly explain what is this material existence.”
Ananta dasa Babaji said, “Your question is very deep, and I desire that Sri Paramahamsa Babaji Mahasaya or Sri Vaisnava dasa Babaji Mahasaya should answer it.”
Paramahamsa Babaji said, “Sri Ananta dasa Babaji Mahasaya is suitably qualified to answer a question of such gravity. Today we will all listen to his instructions.”
Ananta dasa: When I receive your order, I must certainly say whatever I know. I shall begin by remembering the lotus feet of my Gurudeva, Sri Pradyumna Brahmacari, a confidential associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The jivas exist in two states: the liberated state (mukta-dasa) and the state of material bondage (samsara-baddha-dasa). Those jivas who are pure bhaktas of Sri Krsna and who have never been bound by maya, or who were liberated from material existence by the mercy of Krsna, are known as mukta-jivas. The liberated state of existence is known as mukta-dasa. The baddha-jivas, on the other hand, are those who are oblivious to Sri Krsna and have fallen into the clutches of maya since time without beginning. Their conditioned state of existence is known as samsara-baddha-dasa. The jivas who are liberated from maya are cinmaya, fully spiritual, and their very life is service to Krsna (krsna-dasya). They do not reside in this material world, but in one of the pure spiritual worlds such as Goloka, Vaikuntha, or Vrndavana. There are innumerable jivas who are liberated from maya.
The jivas who are bound by maya are also innumerable. Due to their krsna-vimukhata, defect of alienation from Krsna, Krsna’s shadow potency, known as chaya-sakti or maya, binds the jiva with her three-stranded ropes consisting of the three qualities of material nature, namely sattva-guna (goodness), rajo-guna (passion) and tamo-guna (ignorance). The conditioned souls appear in a variety of states of existence, according to the influence of the various gradations
of these gunas. Just consider the varieties in the jivas’ bodies, moods, appearance, natures, living conditions, and movements.
When the jiva enters material existence, he takes on a new type of egoism. In the pure state of existence, the jiva has the egoism of being a servant of Krsna, but in the conditioned state, many different types of egoism arise, making the living entity think, “I am a human being,” “I am a devata,” “I am an animal,” “I am a king,” “I am a brahmana,” “I am an outcaste,” “I am diseased,” “I am hungry,” “I am dishonored,” “I am charitable,” “I am a husband,” “I am a wife,”
“I am a father,” “I am a son,” “I am an enemy,” “I am a friend,” “I am a scholar,” “I am handsome,” “I am wealthy,” “I am poor,” “I am happy,” “I am sad,” “I am strong,” and “I am weak.” These attitudes are known as ahamta, which literally means the sense of ‘I-ness’, or false egoism.
Besides this ahamta, another function known as mamata (‘possessiveness’ or the sense of ‘my-ness’) enters the nature of the jiva. This is exemplified in attitudes such as: “This is my house,” “These are my possessions,” “This is my wealth,” “This is my body,” “These are my children,” “This is my wife,” “This is my husband,” “This is my father,” “This is my mother,” “This is my caste,” “This is my race,” “This is my strength,” “This is my beauty,” “This is my quality,” “This is my learning,” “This is my renunciation,” “This is my knowledge,” “This is my wisdom,” “This is my work,” “This is my property,” and “These are my servants and dependants.” The colossal affair that brings the conceptions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ into play is known as samsara (material existence).
Yadava dasa: The conceptions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are active in the conditioned state, but do they also exist in the liberated state?
Ananta dasa: They do, but in the liberated state they are spiritual and free from all defect. In the liberated state in the spiritual world, the jiva becomes acquainted with his pure nature, exactly as it was created by Bhagavan. In that spiritual abode there are many different types of real egoism, each with its own characteristic sense of ‘I,’ so there are also many types of cid-rasa, transcendental exchanges of sentiments. All the different cinmayaupakaranas, spiritual paraphernalia, which form the constitutional ingredients of rasa, come under the heading of ‘mine.’
Yadava dasa: Then what is the defect in the different conceptions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ that exist in the conditioned state?
Ananta dasa: The defect is that in the pure state, the conceptions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are real, whereas in material existence they are all imaginary, or imposed upon the living entity. That means that these conceptions are not actually aspects of the jiva, but are all false identities and relationships. Consequently, all varieties of material identification in mundane existence are impermanent and unreal, and only cause momentary happiness and distress.
Yadava dasa: Is this deceptive material existence false?
Ananta dasa: No, this deceptive world is not false; it is a reality, by Krsna’s will. It is the jiva’s conception of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ when he enters the material world that is false. Those who believe that this world is false are Mayavadis, advocates of the theory of illusion. Such people are offenders.
Yadava dasa: Why have we fallen into this illusory relationship?
Ananta dasa: Bhagavan is the complete spiritual entity (purna-cidvastu), and the jivas are particles of spirit (cit-kana). The jiva‘s first location is on the boundary line between the material and spiritual worlds. The jivas who do not forget their relationship with Krsna are empowered with cit-sakti, and are drawn from that position into the spiritual realm, where they become His eternal associates and begin to relish the bliss of His service.
Those jivas who turn away from Krsna desire to enjoy maya, and maya attracts them towards her by her potency. From that moment, our material state of existence comes into being and our true spiritual identity disappears. We therefore think, “I am the enjoyer of maya”. This false egoism covers us with many varieties of false identities.
Yadava dasa: Why is it that our true identity does not become manifest despite significant endeavor?
Ananta dasa: There are two types of endeavor: appropriate and inappropriate. Appropriate endeavors will certainly dissipate false egoism, but how can inappropriate endeavors do so?
Yadava dasa: What are inappropriate endeavors?
Ananta dasa: Some people think that their hearts will be purified if they follow karma-kanda, and that they will be liberated from maya when they practice brahma-jnana. This type of endeavor is inappropriate. Others think that by practicing astanga-yoga, they will enter a trance of samadhi-yoga and attain perfection. This is another inappropriate endeavor; there are many other types as well.
Yadava dasa: Why are these endeavors inappropriate?
Ananta dasa: These methods are unsuitable because practicing them creates many obstacles that impede the attainment of one’s desired goal. In addition, there is only a meager possibility of attaining that goal. The point is that our material existence has come about because of an offense, and unless we obtain the mercy of the person whom we offended, we will not gain release from our material condition and attain our pure, spiritual condition.
Yadava dasa: What are appropriate endeavors?
Ananta dasa: Sadhu-sanga (association of devotees) and prapatti (surrender) are proper means. We find the following statement about sadhu-sanga in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.30):
ata atyantikam ksemam prcchamo bhavato ‘naghah
samsare ‘smin ksanardho ‘pi sat-sangah sevadhir nrnam
O sinless one, we are inquiring from you about the supreme benefit.
In this material world, even half a moment’s associationwith a
suddha-bhakta is the greatest wealth for human beings.
If one asks how jivas who have fallen into this material existence can attain their supreme benefit, I will reply that it can be obtained by having sat-sanga, even for half a moment.
Prapatti is described in Gita (7.14) as follows:
daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te
This divine potency of Mine, known as daivi-maya, consists of the
three modes of nature – sattva, rajas and tamas. Human beings cannot
cross over this maya by their own efforts, and therefore it is very difficult
to overcome. Only those who surrender unto Me can cross beyond this
potency of Mine.
Candidasa: O great soul, I cannot understand your explanation very well. I have understood that we were pure entities, and that due to our forgetfulness of Krsna we have fallen into the hands of maya, and are bound in this world. If we obtain Krsna’s mercy, we can be delivered again; otherwise we will remain in the same condition.
Ananta dasa: Yes, for now it is sufficient for you to believe this much. Yadava dasa Mahasaya clearly understands all these truths. Gradually you will come to understand these things from him. Sri Jagadananda, has written a beautiful description of the variegated conditions of the jivas in his book Sri Prema-vivarta (6.1-13).
cit-kana – jiva, krsna – cinmaya bhaskara
nitya krsne dekhi – krsne karena adara
krsna-bahirmukha hana bhoga-vancha kare
nikata-stha maya tare japatiya dhare
The jiva is an infinitesimal particle of spiritual consciousness, like an atomic
particle of light emanating from the sun. Sri is the complete spiritual consciousness,
the transcendental sun. As long as jivas focus their attention on Krsna, they maintain
reverence for Him. However, when they turn their attention away from Krsna, they desire material enjoyment. Krsna’s deluding potency, maya, who is standing near them, then binds them in her embrace.1
pisaci paile jena mati-cchana haya
maya-grasta jivera haya se bhava udaya
The dharma of the jiva who has turned away from Krsna becomes covered, just as a person’s intelligence becomes covered when he is haunted by a witch.
1 There are two types of entities: cetana, animate, and jada, inanimate. Animate entities are those that have desire and the power to experience, and inanimate entities are those that do not. There are also two types of animate entities: those who possess full consciousness (purna-cetana) and those who possess minute consciousness (ksudra-cetana). Bhagavan possesses full consciousness, and in His original feature He is Krsna. This is declared in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28) by the statement, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: “Krsna is the original Bhagavan.” The jives possess minute consciousness. They are His separated parts, known as vibhinnamsa-tattva, and they are innumerable. The sastras have compared the mutual relationship between Sri Krsna and the jivas to the relationship that exists between the sun and the infinitesimal glittering particles of light present in the sun’s rays. Bhagavan Sri Krsna is the spiritual sun and the jivas are infinitesimal particles of spirit. The dharma or sva-bhava of the infinitesimal jivas is to serve Krsna. When the jivas are formed, their dharma is born simultaneously, just as in fire the power to burn is always present. As the existence of fire cannot be accepted without burning power, the essence of the individual soul’s identity as a jiva is not established without service to Krsna. A vastu (substance) cannot exist independently of its dharma (natural characteristic function), and neither can a function
exist independently of its substance. Nonetheless, a substance and its function can become perverted. The inherent function of the jiva is certainly to serve Krsna, but when the jiva is indifferent to Krsna, and covets different types of sensual enjoyment, Bhagavan’s external potency (bahiranga-sakti or maya), which is situated nearby, seizes him and binds him in her web.
ami siddha krsna-dasa, ei katha bhule
mayara naphara hana cira-dina bule
He forgets Bhagavan’s identity, and his own identity as a servant of Hari.
Becoming a slave of maya, he wanders hereand there for a long time in
this bewildering material existence.
kabhu raja, kabhu praja, kabhu vipra, sudra
kabhu duhkhi, kabhu sukhi, kabhu kita ksudra
Sometimes he is a king and sometimes a subject, sometimes a brahmana
and sometimes a sudra. Sometimes he is happy and sometimes distressed,
and sometimes he is a tiny insect.
kabhu svarge, kabhu martye, narake va kabhu
kabhu deva, kabhu daitya, kabhu dasa, prabhu
Sometimes he is in heaven, sometimes on earth, and sometimes in hell.
Sometimes he is a deva and sometimes a demon. Sometimes he is a
servant and sometimes a master.
ei-rupe samsara bhramite kona jana
sadhu-sange nija-tattva avagata hana
As he is wandering like this throughout material existence, if by some
great fortune he happens to obtain the association of pure bhaktas, he
comes to know of his own identity, and his life thus becomes meaningful.
nija-tattva jani ara samsara na caya
kena va bhajinu maya kare haya haya
By his association with those bhaktas, he understands his true identity
and becomes indifferent to material enjoyment. Grieving bitterly for his
predicament, he laments, “Alas! Alas! Why did I serve maya for so long?”
kande bole, ohe krsna! ami tava dasa
tomara carana chadi’ haila sarva-nasa
He cries profusely, and prays at the lotus feet of Bhagavan. “O Krsna!
I am Your eternal servant, but I have been ruined because I disregarded
the service of Your feet. Who knows how long I have been wandering
aimlessly as the slave of maya?
kakuti kariya krsne dake eka-bara
krpa kari krsna tare chadana samsara
“O Patita-pavana! O Dina-natha! Please protect this destitute soul. Deliver
me from Your maya and engage me in Your service.” Sri Krsna is an ocean
of mercy, and when He hears the jiva cry out in such desperation even once,
He quickly transports him across this insurmountable material energy.
mayake pichane rakhi’ krsna-pane caya
bhajite bhajite krsna-pada-padma paya
krsna tare dena nija-cic-chaktira bala
maya akarsana chade haiya durbala
Krsna empowers the jiva with His cit-sakti, so that maya’s power to
attract the soul gradually wanes. The jiva then turns his back on maya
and desires to attain Krsna. He worships Krsna again and again, and finally
becomes competent to attain His lotus feet.
‘sadhu-sange krsna-nama’–ei-matra cai
samsara jinite ara kona vastu nai
Therefore, the only infallible method to cross this insurmountable
material existence is to chant krsna-nama in the association of bhaktas.
Yadava dasa: Babaji Mahasaya, the sadhus of whom you are speaking are also present in this world, and they are also oppressed by the miseries of material existence, so how can they deliver other jivas?
Ananta dasa: It is a fact that sadhus also live in this world, but there is a significant difference between the earthly life of sadhus, and that of the jivas who are bewildered by maya. Although the earthly lives of both appear to be the same from the outside, internally there is a vast difference. Moreover, the association of sadhus is very rare, because even though sadhus are always present, the common man cannot recognize them.
There are two categories of jivas who have fallen into the clutches of maya. Some are completely absorbed in insignificant worldly pleasures and have tremendous regard for this material world; whereas others are dissatisfied with the insignificant pleasures of maya and employ finer discrimination in the hope of attaining a superior quality of happiness. Consequently, the people of this world may be roughly divided into two groups: those who lack the power to distinguish between spirit and matter, and those who possess such spiritual insight.
Some people refer to those who have no such insight as material sense enjoyers, and to those who have insight as mumuksus, those who seek liberation. When I use the word mumuksu here, I am not referring to nirbheda-brahma jnanis, those who seek the nirvisesa-brahma through the process of monistic knowledge. Those who are exasperated with the miseries of material existence, and seek their true spiritual identity are known as mumuksus in the Vedic sastras. The word mumuksa literally means ‘the desire for mukti (liberation)’. When a mumuksu gives up this desire for liberation and engages in worshiping Bhagavan, his bhajana is known as suddha-bhakti. The sastras do not order one to give up mukti. Rather, when a person who desires liberation gains knowledge of the truth of Krsna and the jivas, he is liberated at once. This is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.14.3-5) as follows:
rajobhih sama-sankhyatah parthivair iha jantavah
tesam ye kecanehante sreyo vai manujadayah
The jivas of this world are as innumerable as particles ofdust. Among all
these living entities, very few attain higherlife forms, such as those of the
human beings, devas, and Gandharvas, and very few of those adopt higher
prayo mumuksavas tesam kecanaiva dvijottama
mumuksunam sahasresu kascin mucyeta sidhyati
O best of the brahmanas, amongst those who adopt higher religious principles,
very few strive for liberation, and out of many thousands who strive for liberation,
one may actually attain the perfected or liberated state.
muktanam api siddhanam narayana-parayanah
su-durlabhah prasantatma kotisv api maha-mune
O great sage, among many millions of such liberated and perfected souls, a
devotee who is fully peaceful and exclusively devoted to Sri Narayana is
Bhaktas of Krsna are even more rare than those of Narayana, for they have surpassed the desire for liberation and are already situated in the liberated state. They remain in this world as long as the body endures, but their earthly existence is categorically different from that of the materialists. The bhaktas of Krsna live in this world in two conditions (as householders or as renunciants).
Yadava dasa: The Bhagavatam slokas which you just quoted refer to four categories of people who possess spiritual insight. Out of these four, which type of association is considered sadhu-sanga?
Ananta dasa: There are four categories of people who possess spiritual insight: viveki, those who are conscientious; mumuksu, those who desire liberation; mukta, those who are liberated; and the
bhakta. Amongst these, the association of vivekis and mumuksus is beneficial for visayis, gross materialists. Muktas are either liberated individuals with an insatiable thirst for transcendental rasa, or impersonalists who pride themselves on being liberated. Only association with the first type of muktas is beneficial. Nirbheda Mayavadis are offenders, and association with them is forbidden for all. Such people have been condemned in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32):
ye ‘nye ‘ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ‘nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah
O lotus-eyed Lord, those who do not take shelter of Yourlotus feet vainly
consider themselves to be liberated. Theirintelligence is impure because
they are devoid of affection and devotion for You, and in reality they are
baddha-jivas. Even though such people attain the platform of liberation
by undergoing severe austerities and spiritual practices, they fall from that
position due to neglecting Your lotus feet.
The fourth category of discriminating souls, the bhaktas, are attracted either to Bhagavan’s opulent and majestic feature (aisvarya) or to His sweet and intimate feature (madhurya). The
association of Bhagavan’s bhaktas is beneficial in all respects. Particularly if one takes shelter of those bhaktas who are immersed in His sweetness, visuddha-bhakti-rasa, the transcendental mellows of bhakti, will manifest in one’s heart.
Yadava dasa: You have explained that bhaktas live in two conditions. Kindly explain this clearly so that people like myself, who have limited intelligence, may understand easily.
Ananta dasa: Bhaktas are either grhastha-bhaktas, householders, or tyagi-bhaktas, those who have renounced household life.
Yadava dasa: Please describe the nature of the grhastha-bhaktas’ relationship with this world.
Ananta dasa: One does not become a grhastha simply by building a house and living in it. The word grha in grhastha refers to the household that one establishes by accepting a suitable wife in
marriage, according to Vedic rules and regulations. A bhakta who resides in such a condition and practices bhakti is known as a grhastha-bhakta.
The jiva who is bound by maya sees form and color through the eyes; he hears sound through the ears; he smells fragrance through the nose; he touches with the skin; and he tastes with the tongue. The jiva enters the material world through these five senses, and becomes attached to it. The more attached he is to gross matter, the more distant he is from his Prananatha (the Lord of his life) Sri Krsna, and his condition is called bahirmukha-samsara, consciousness
directed outwards towards mundane existence. Those who are intoxicated with this mundane existence are known are visayis, those who are attached to worldly sense objects.
When bhaktas live as grhasthas, they are not like the visayis, who merely seek to gratify their senses. A householder’s dharma-patni (wife, who is one’s partner in realizing nitya-dharma) is a dasi, or maidservant of Krsna, and so are his sons and daughters. The eyes of all the family members are satisfied to behold the form of the Deity and objects related to Krsna; their ears become fully satisfied to hear hari-katha and narrations of the lives of great sadhus; their noses experience satisfaction by smelling the aroma of tulasi and the other fragrant objects offered to the lotus feet of Sri Krsna; their tongues taste the nectar of krsna-nama, and the remnants of food offered to Krsna; their skin feels delight through touching the limbs of Sri Hari’s bhaktas; their hopes, activities, desires, hospitality to guests, and service to the Deity are all subordinate to their service to Krsna. Indeed, their entire life is a great festival consisting of krsna-nama, mercy to jivas, and service to Vaisnavas.
Only grhastha-bhaktas can possess material objects and utilize them without becoming attached to them. It is most appropriate for jivas in the age of Kali to become grhastha Vaisnavas, for then there is no fear of falling down.2
Bhakti can also be developed fully from this position. Many grhastha Vaisnavas are gurus who are well versed in the fundamental truths of the sastra. If the children of such saintly
2 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has stated that in the age of Kali it is recommended that all jivas become grhastha Vaisnavas, for in this there is no fear of falling down. The meaning of this statement is that it is the duty of all human beings to live in an unfallen condition and engage in the service of Visnu and
Vaisnavas. However, it is not the intention of the author to instruct that everyone must be a grhastha, or that in the age of Kali no one should accept any asrama other than the grhastha-asrama. Those who are heavily influenced by the material qualities of passion and ignorance, who are excessively attached to material sense enjoyment, and who have a strong inclination toward the path of fruitive action (pravrtti-marga) are recommended to accept marriage and follow the grhastha-dharma in order to counteract these tendencies. On the other hand, those whose nature is of the quality of goodness and purity, and who follow the path of detachment (nivrtti-marga) should not marry and thus become fallen.
– footnote continued on page 168
Vaisnavas are also pure Vaisnavas (Gosvamis), they too are counted as grhastha-bhaktas. This is why the association of grhastha-bhaktas is particularly beneficial for the jivas.
Yadava dasa: Grhastha Vaisnavas are obliged to remain under the jurisdiction of smarta-brahmanas, otherwise they will have to suffer much harassment in society. Under such circumstances, how can they practice suddha-bhakti?
Ananta dasa: Grhastha Vaisnavas are certainly obliged to carry out social conventions, such as getting their sons and daughters married, performing ceremonial functions for deceased forefathers, and other similar responsibilities. However, they should not engage in kamya-karma, ritualistic activities meant only to fulfill material ambitions.
When it comes to maintaining one’s livelihood, everyone – even one who calls himself nirapeksa (devoid of all needs) – depends upon other people or things. All embodied beings have needs; they depend on medicine when they become ill, on foodstuffs when they are hungry, on clothing to dispel the cold, and on a house for protection from excessive heat or rain. Nirapeksa really means to reduce one’s necessities as far as possible, for no one can be absolutely independent as long as he has a material body. Still, it is best to be as free as possible from material dependency, for that is more conducive to advancement in bhakti.
All the activities that I mentioned before become free from defect only when one links them with Krsna. For example, one should not enter marriage with a desire to beget children, or to worship the forefathers and Prajapatis. It is favorable to bhakti to think, “I am only accepting this maidservant of Krsna so that we can assist each other in Krsna’s service and establish Krsna-centered family life together.” Whatever one’s materially attached relatives or family priest may say, ultimately one reaps the fruit of one’s own determination.
On the occasion of the sraddha ceremony, one should first offer the forefathers the remnants of food that has been offered to Sri Krsna, and then feed the brahmanas and Vaisnavas. If grhastha Vaisnavas observe the sraddha ceremony in this way, it is favorable for their bhakti.
All the smarta rituals are karma, unless and until one combines them with bhakti. If one carries out the karma which one is enjoined to perform by the Vedas in pursuance of suddha-bhakti, that karma is not unfavorable to bhakti. One should perform ordinary activities in a renounced spirit and without attachment for the result, and one should perform spiritual activities in the association of bhaktas; then there will be no fault.
Consider for a moment that most of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s associates were grhastha-bhaktas, and so were many rajarsis (saintly kings) and devarsis (great sages) from ancient times. Dhruva, Prahlada, and the Pandavas were all grhastha-bhaktas. You should know that grhastha-bhaktas are also highly respected in the world.
Yadava dasa: If grhastha-bhaktas are so highly respected and dear to everyone, why do some of them renounce household life?
Ananta dasa: Some grhastha-bhaktas are eligible to renounce their household life, but such Vaisnavas are very few in this world, and their association is rare.
Yadava dasa: Kindly explain how one becomes eligible to renounce household life.
Ananta dasa: Human beings have two tendencies: bahirmukhapravrtti, the outward tendency; and antarmukha-pavrtti, the inward tendency. The Vedas refer to these two tendencies as being focused outwards towards the external world and focused inwards towards the soul.
When the pure spiritual soul forgets his true identity, he falsely identifies the mind as the self, although the mind is really only a part of the subtle material body. Having identified with the mind in this way, the soul takes assistance from the doorways of the senses, and becomes attracted to the external sense objects. This is the outward tendency. The inward tendency
is exhibited when the stream of consciousness reverts from gross matter back into the mind, and from there to the soul proper.
One whose tendency is predominantly outward must conduct all external tendencies offenselessly with Krsna at the center, through the strength of sadhu-sanga. If one takes shelter of krsnabhakti, these outward tendencies are quickly curtailed and converted to the inward tendency. When the direction of one’s tendency is completely inward, the eligibility to renounce household
life is born, but if one gives up household life before this stage is reached, there is a significant danger of falling down again. The grhastha-asrama is a special school where the jivas may receive instructions regarding atma-tattva, spiritual truth, and be given the opportunity to develop their realization of such matters. They may leave the school when their education is complete.
Yadava dasa: What are the symptoms of a bhakta who is eligible to give up household life?
Ananta dasa: He should be free from the desire to associate with the opposite sex; he should have unrestricted mercy toward all living entities; he should be completely indifferent towards endeavors to accumulate wealth, and he should strive only in times of need to acquire food and clothing suitable for maintaining himself. He should have unconditional love for Sri Krsna; should shun the association of materialists; and should be free from attachment and aversion in life and death. Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.45) describes these symptoms as follows:
sarva-bhutesu yah pasyed bhagavad-bhavam atmanah
bhutani bhagavaty atmany esa bhagavatottamah
One who sees his own mood of attraction for Sri Krsnacandra, the Soul of all
souls, in all jivas, and who also sees all living entities residing within the shelter
of Sri Krsna, is an uttama-bhagavata.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.22), Bhagavan Kapiladeva describes the primary characteristics of sadhus:
mayy ananyena bhavena bhaktim kurvanti ye drdham
mat-krte tyakta-karmanas tyakta-svajana-bandhavah
Those who worship no one but Me, and who thereforeengage in firm and
exclusive devotion unto Me, give up everything for My sake, including all
duties prescribed in varnasrama-dharma and all relationships with their wives,
children, friends, and relatives.
It is also stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.55):
visrjati hrdayam na yasya saksaddharir
avasabhihito ‘py aghaugha-nasah
sa bhavati bhagavata-pradhana uktah
If one utters, even without intent, sri-hari-nama in an offenseless mood,
at once heaps of sins accumulated through many lifetimes, are destroyed.
Such a person thereby binds Sri Hari’s lotus feet within his heart with ropes
of love and is considered the best of bhaktas.
When these symptoms are manifest in a grhastha-bhakta, he is no longer suited for engagement in karma, and he therefore renounces household life. Such nirapeksa-bhaktas (renunciants) are rare, and one should consider himself extremely fortunate to attain their association.
Yadava dasa: These days, young men often renounce household life and adopt the dress of the renounced order. They establish a place for sadhus to congregate, and begin to worship the Deity of the Lord. After some time, they fall into association with women again, but do not give up chanting hari-nama. They maintain their hermitage by collecting alms from many places. Are such men tyagis or grhastha-bhaktas?
Ananta dasa: Your question raises several issues at once, but I will answer them one by one. First of all, eligibility to renounce household life has nothing to do with youth or old age. Some grhasthabhaktas are qualified by the samskaras acquired in this life and previous lives to give up household life even while they are young. For example, Sukadeva’s previous samskaras enabled him to renounce household life from the moment of birth. One should only see that this eligibility is not artificial. If real detachment awakens, then youth is not an impediment.
Yadava dasa: What is real renunciation and what is false renunciation?
Ananta dasa: Real renunciation is so firm that it can never be broken at any time. False renunciation arises from deception, dishonesty, and the desire for prestige. Some people make a false show of renunciation to gain the respect that is offered to nirapeksa-bhaktas who have given up household life, but such false detachment is futile and completely inauspicious. As soon as such a person leaves home, the symptoms of his eligibility for detachment disappear, and depravity sets in.
Yadava dasa: Does a bhakta who has given up household life need to adopt the external dress of a renunciant?
Ananta dasa: Nirapeksa-akincana-bhaktas who have firmly renounced the spirit of enjoyment purify the entire world, whether they live in the forest or remain at home. Some of them accept a
loincloth and worn and torn clothes as external signs to identify them as members of the renounced order. At the time of accepting this attire, they strengthen their resolve by taking a firm vow in the presence of other Vaisnavas who are in the renounced order. This is called entrance into the renounced order, or the acceptance of appropriate garments for renunciation. If you refer to this as bheka-grahana or vesa-grahana, the acceptance of the dress of renunciation, then what is the harm?
Yadava dasa: What is the purpose of being identified by the signs of the renounced order?
Ananta dasa: It is very helpful to be identified as a member of the renounced order. A renunciant’s family members will no longer maintain a relationship with him, and will easily give him up. He will no longer desire to enter his house, and a natural detachment will awaken in his heart, with a consequent fear of materialistic society. It is beneficial for some bhaktas to accept the outward signs of renunciation, though this may not be necessary if detachment from household life is fully matured. It is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.29.46): sa jahati matim loke vede ca parinisthitam, “A bhakta who has received the mercy of Bhagavan gives up attachment for all worldly activities, and for all ritualistic duties prescribed in the Vedas.”
There is no injunction for such bhaktas to accept the outward dress of renunciation. It is necessary only as long as there is some dependence on public consideration.
Yadava dasa: From whom should one accept the renounced order?
Ananta dasa: One should accept the renounced order from a Vaisnava who is situated in the renounced order. Grhastha-bhaktas have no experience of the behavior of renounced bhaktas, so they should not initiate anyone into the renounced order. The following statement of the Brahma-vaivarta Purana confirms this:
apariksyopadistam yat loka-nasaya tad bhavet
One brings ruination to the world if he instructs others in religious principles that he himself does not follow.
Yadava dasa: What criteria should a guru use to offer initiation into the renounced order?
Ananta dasa: The guru must first consider wether or not the disciple is qualified. He should see if the grhastha-bhakta, on the strength of krsna-bhakti, has acquired a spiritual temperament characterized by qualities such as full control of the mind and senses. Has the hankering for wealth and the satisfaction of the tongue been uprooted or not? The guru should keep the disciple with him for some time in order to examine him thoroughly, and he may initiate him into the renounced order when he finds that he is a suitable candidate. Under no circumstances should he offer initiation prior to this. If the guru offers initiation to a person who is unqualified, he will certainly fall down himself.
Yadava dasa: Now I see that it is no light matter to accept the renounced order; it is a serious undertaking. Unqualified gurus are turning this practice into a common affair. It has only just begun, and there is no telling where it will end.
Ananta dasa: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu severely punished Chota Haridasa for a completely insignificant fault, just to protect the sanctity of the renounced order. The followers of our Lord should always remember the punishment of Chota Haridasa.
Yadava dasa: Is it proper to construct a monastery and establish the worship of a Deity after one has entered the renounced order?
Ananta dasa: No. A qualified disciple who has entered the renounced order should maintain his existence by begging every day. He should not involve himself in constructing a monastery or in
other grand enterprises. He can live anywhere, either in a secluded hut or in the temple of a householder. He should remain aloof from all affairs that require money, and he should constantly chant sri-hari-nama without offense.
Yadava dasa: What do you call renunciants who set up a monastery and then live like householders?
Ananta dasa: They may be called vantasi (those who eat their own vomit).
Yadava dasa: Then are they no longer to be considered Vaisnavas?
Ananta dasa: What benefit is there in their association when their behavior is contrary to sastra and vaisnava-dharma? They have given up pure bhakti, and have adopted a hypocritical lifestyle. What relationship could a Vaisnava have with such people?
Yadava dasa: How can one say that they have given up Vaisnavism, as long as they don’t give up the chanting of hari-nama?
Ananta dasa: Hari-nama and nama-aparadha are two different things. Pure hari-nama is quite distinct from offensive chanting that only has the external appearance of hari-nama. It is an offense to commit sins on the strength of chanting sri-nama. If one chants sri-nama and at the same time commits sinful activities, thinking that the power of sri-nama will exempt him from sinful reactions, he is committing nama-aparadha. This is not suddha-hari-nama, and one should flee far away from such offensive chanting.
Yadava dasa: Then is the domestic life of such people not to be considered Krsna-centered?
“Never,” Ananta dasa firmly said. “There is no room for hypocrisy in a Krsna-centered domestic life. There can only be complete honesty and simplicity, with no trace of offense.”
Yadava dasa: Is such a person inferior to a grhastha-bhakta?
Ananta dasa: He is not even a devotee, so there is no question of comparing him with any bhakta.
Yadava dasa: How may he be rectified?
Ananta dasa: He will be counted amongst the bhaktas again when he gives up all these offenses, constantly chants sri-nama, and sheds tears of repentance.
Yadava dasa: Babaji Mahasaya, grhastha-bhaktas are situated under the rules and regulations of varnasrama-dharma. If a grhastha is excluded from varnasrama-dharma, is he not barred from becoming a Vaisnava?
Ananta dasa: Ah! Vaisnava-dharma is very liberal. All jivas have the right to vaisnava-dharma; that is why it is also known as jaivadharma. Even outcastes can take up vaisnava-dharma and live as grhasthas, although they are not part of varnasrama. Moreover, people who have accepted sannyasa within varnasrama, and have then fallen from their position, may later adopt pure bhakti by the influence of sadhu-sanga. Such people can become grhastha-bhaktas, although they are also outside the jurisdiction of varnasrama regulations. There are others who abandon varnasrama-dharma due to their misdeeds. If they and their children take shelter of suddha-bhakti by the influence of sadhu-sanga, they may become grhastha-bhaktas, although they are also outside varnasrama. So we see that there are two kinds of grhastha-bhaktas: one who is part of varnasrama and one who is excluded from varnasrama.
Yadava dasa: Which is superior of these two?
Ananta dasa: Whoever has the most bhakti is superior. If neither has any bhakti, then the person who is following varnasrama is superior from the vyavaharika, or relative, point of view, because at least he has some religious principles, whereas the other is an outcaste with no religious principles. However, from the paramarthika, or absolute, spiritual perspective, both of them are
fallen because they have no bhakti.
Yadava dasa: Does a grhastha have the right to wear the garments of a mendicant while he is still a householder?
Ananta dasa: No. If he does, he is guilty on two counts: he cheats himself and he cheats the world. If a grhastha adopts the dress of a mendicant, he simply affronts and ridicules genuine mendicants who wear the dress of the renounced order.
Yadava dasa: Babaji Mahasaya, do the sastras describe any system for accepting the renounced order?
Ananta dasa: It is not clearly described. People of all castes can become Vaisnavas, but according to sastra, only those who are twice born can accept sannyasa. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.35), Narada describes the separate characteristics of each of the different varnas, and then concludes with this statement:
yasya yal-laksanam proktam pumso varnabhivyanjakam
yad anyatrapi drsyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiset
A person should be considered to belong to the varna whose characteristics
he possesses, even if he has appeared in a different caste.
The practice of offering sannyasa to men who, although born of other castes, possess the symptoms of brahmanas, is occurring on the basis of this verdict of the sastras. If a man born of a different caste truly possesses the symptoms of a brahmana and is given sannyasa, then it must be avowed that this system is approved by sastra.
This verdict of the sastras supports the practice of offering sannyasa to men who possess brahminical symptoms, even though they are born of other castes, but it only applies to paramarthika affairs, and not to vyavaharika affairs.
Yadava dasa: Brother Candidasa, do you have the answer to your question?
Candidasa: Today I have been blessed. Of all the instructions that have flowed from the mouth of the most revered Babaji Mahasaya, these are the points I have been able to assimilate. The jiva is an eternal servant of Krsna, but he forgets this and takes on a material body. Influenced by the qualities of material nature, he derives happiness and distress from material objects. For the privilege of enjoying the fruits of his material activities, he must wear a garland of birth, old age, and death.
The jiva sometimes takes birth in a high position and sometimes in a low position, and he is led into innumerable circumstances by his repeated change of identity. Hunger and thirst spur him to action in a body that may perish at any instant. He is bereft of the necessities of this world, and is cast into unlimited varieties of suffering. Many diseases and ailments appear, which torment his body. In his home, he quarrels with his wife and children, and sometimes he goes to the extent of committing suicide. His greed to accumulate wealth drives him to commit many sins. He is punished by the government, insulted by others, and thus he suffers untold bodily afflictions.
He is constantly aggrieved by separation from family members, loss of wealth, theft by robbers, and countless other causes of suffering. When a person becomes old, his relatives do not take care of him, and this causes him great distress. His withered body is ravaged by mucus, rheumatism and a barrage of other pains, and is simply a source of misery. After death, he enters another womb and suffers intolerable pain. Yet despite all this, as long as the body remains, his discrimination is overpowered by lust, anger, greed, illusion, pride, and envy. This is samsara.
I now understand the meaning of the word samsara. I repeatedly offer dandavat-pranama to Babaji Mahasaya. The Vaisnavas are gurus for the entire world. Today, by the mercy of the Vaisnavas, I have acquired real knowledge of this material world.
When the Vaisnavas present had heard Ananta dasa Babaji Mahasaya’s profound instructions, they all loudly exclaimed, “Sadhu! Sadhu!” By this time, many Vaisnavas had assembled there, and they began to sing a bhajana that Lahiri Mahasaya had composed.
e ghora samsare, padiya manava, na paya duhkhera sesa
sadhu-sanga kori’, hari bhaje yadi, tabe anta haya klesa
The jiva who has fallen into this dreadful material existence finds no end to his distress, but his troubles come to an end when he is graced by the association of sadhus and then takes to the worship of Sri Hari.
visaya-anale, jvaliche hrdaya, anale bade anala
aparadha chadi’ laya krsna-nama, anale padaye jala
The raging fire of sensual desires scorches his heart, and when he tries to satisfy those desires, the fire simply flares up with greater intensity. However, relinquishing offenses
and chanting sri-krsna-nama acts like a cooling shower of rain, which extinguishes this blazing fire.
nitai-caitanya-carana-kamale, asraya laila yei
kalidasa bole, jivane marane, amara asraya sei
Kalidasa says, “He who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of Caitanya-Nitai
is my refuge in life and in death.”
As the kirtana was going on, Candidasa danced in great ecstasy. He took the dust of the feet of the babajis upon his head, and began to roll on the ground, weeping in intense joy. Everyone declared, “Candidasa is extremely fortunate!”
After some time, Yadava dasa said, “Let us go, Candidasa; we need to go to the other side of the river.”
Candidasa replied, smiling, “If you take me across (the river of material existance), I will go.”
The two of them offered dandavat-pranama to Pradyumna-kunja and departed. As they came out of the kunja, they saw Damayanti offering repeated obeisances, and saying, “Alas! Why did I take birth as a woman? If I had taken birth as a man, I could easily have entered this kunja, taken darsana of the great souls, and become purified by taking their foot dust on my head. May I simply become the servitor of the Vaisnavas of Sri Navadvipa birth after birth, and spend my days in their service.”
Yadava dasa said, “Ah! This Godruma-dhama is a perfectly sacred place. Simply by coming here, one obtains suddha-bhakti. Godruma is a cowherd village, the place where Sacinandana, the Lord of our life, enacts His divine pastimes. In his heart Sri Prabodhananda Sarasvati realized this truth and prayed in the following words:
avisya sanklisyate re vimudhah
hathena sarvam parihrtya gaude
sri-godrume parna-kutim kurudhvam
Sri Navadvipa-sataka (36)
“O fools, although you have taken shelter of worldly society and the Vedas,
and adopted many social and religious duties, you remain miserable. Now
give up these dubious paths, and quickly build yourself a leaf-hut in Sri Godruma.”
In this way, exchanging hari-katha, the three crossed the Ganga and arrived in Kuliya-grama. Thence forward, both Candidasa and his wife Damayanti displayed a wonderful Vaisnava demeanor. Untouched by the world of maya they became adorned with the qualities of vaisnava-seva, constantly chanting krsna-nama, and showing mercy to all jivas. Blessed are the merchant couple! Blessed is the mercy of the Vaisnavas! Blessed is Sri Navadvipa-bhumi!
THUS ENDS THE SEVENTH CHAPTER OF JAIVA-DHARMA,
“NITYA-DHARMA & MATERIAL EXISTENCE”
J A I VA - D H A R M A CHAPTER 7 168
– continuation of footnote 2 (from page 155):
In the Visnu Purana (3.8.9) we find the following statement regarding asrama:
varnasramacaravata purusena parah puman
visnur aradhyate pantha nanyat tat-tosa-karanam
Sri Visnu is worshiped only by carrying out one’s prescribed duties in varnasrama.
There is no other way to please Him.
In this sloka, the word asrama refers not only to the grhasthaasrama,
but to all four asramas. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.17.14) there
is the following statement regarding asrama:
grhasramo janghanato brahmacaryam hrdo mama
vaksah-sthalad vane vasah sannyasah sirasi sthitah
The grhastha-asrama has sprung from the thighs of My universal form, the
brahmacari-asrama from My heart, the vanaprasthaasrama from My chest,
and the sannyasa-asrama from My head.
These are the four asramas described in the sastra. One of the characteristics of a Vaisnava is engaging in the worship of Sri Visnu while remaining in the asrama for which he is eligible. At present there is no shortage of examples of this. In this very book, the characters, Prema dasa, Vaisnava dasa, Ananta dasa, and many other qualified instructors are sannyasis, brahmacaris, or grha-tyagis.
Another point is that not all the followers of the author, Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura, are grhastha-bhaktas. Some of them are brahmacaris and some have given up household life, and are situated in the highest order, sannyasa, and are thus fit to instruct the world. In the third chapter, sannyasa is referred to as the topmost asrama. This same conclusion is expressed in Srimad-Bhagavatam
(11.17.15), the crest-jewel of all sastras:
varnanam asramanams ca janma-bhumy-anusarinih
asan prakrtayo nrnam nicair nicottamottamah
The varnas and asramas of humanity are possessed of higher and lower natures in
accordance with the higher and lower places on Sri Bhagavan’s universal body from
which they appeared.
The conclusion of this statement is that sannyasa is the highest of the four asramas, and grhastha is the lowest. The brahmacari- asrama is situated above the grhastha-asrama, and the vanaprasthaasrama
is situated above the brahmacari-asrama. These asramas are related to the acquired tendency arising from one’s temporary nature.
Like varnas, asramas are also divided according to nature, tendency, and work. Men of lower nature, who are inclined to engage in fruitive action, are compelled to become grhasthas. Naisthikabrahmacaris, those who adopt a life-long vow of celibacy, are the wealth of Sri Krsna’s heart. Vanaprastha renunciants have appeared from Krsna’s chest, and sannyasis, who are the reservoirs of
auspicious qualities, have arisen from His head. The brahmacaris, vanaprasthas, and sannyasis are therefore all superior to the grhasthas, but one remains ineligible to enter into these three superior
asramas as long as a taste for the path of renunciation is not awakened in the heart. In the Manu-samhita (5.56) it is said:
na mamsa-bhaksane dose na madye na ca maithune
pravrttir esa bhutanam nivrttis tu mahaphalah
Human beings are naturally inclined to the pleasures of meat eating, intoxication,
and sexual indulgence, but abstinence from such activities yields highly beneficial
This is corroborated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.11):
loke vyavayamisa-madya-seva nitya hi jantor na hi tatra codana
vyavasthitis tesu vivaha-yajna-sura-grahair asu nivrttir ista
In this world it is observed that people have a natural tendency toward sexual enjoyment,
meat-eating, and intoxication. Sastra cannot sanction engagement in such activities, but
special provisions have been given whereby some association with the opposite sex is
permitted through marriage; some eating of flesh is permitted through performance of
sacrifice; and the drinking of wine is permitted in the ritual known as sautramani-yajna.
The purpose of such injunctions is to restrain the licentious tendencies of the general populace
and to establish them in moral conduct.
The intrinsic purpose of the Vedas in making such provisions is to draw people away from such activities altogether.
In many other sastras the superiority of the path of renunciation has been delineated. At the end of the tenth chapter of this book, Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura has cited the above-mentioned Bhagavatam sloka, and drawn the following conclusion: “It is not the purpose of sastra to encourage the killing of animals. The Vedas state, ma himsyat sarvani bhutani: “Do not harm any living entity.’ This statement forbids violence to animals. However, as long as a person’s nature is strongly influenced by passion and ignorance,
he will have a natural inclination toward sexual enjoyment, meat eating, and intoxication. Such a person does not await the sanction of the Vedas to engage in such activities. The intent of the Vedas is to provide a means whereby human beings who have not adopted the quality of goodness – and thus renounced the tendency for violence, sexual enjoyment, and intoxication – can curb such tendencies and satisfy these demands through the agency of religion.“
People who are conducted by these lower tendencies may associate with the opposite sex through religious marriage; they may kill animals only through certain prescribed methods of sacrifice; and they may take intoxication only on certain occasions, and by following certain procedures. By following these methods their tendency toward these activities will wane and they will gradually give them up.”
Therefore, the grhastha-asrama is necessary in Kali-yuga in order to draw people away from the path of fruitive action and toward the path of renunciation. It was never the intention of the author to suggest that those who are eligible for the highest order of life should become grhasthas. Later in this same chapter, Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura has expressed the purpose of marriage in the following words:
“One should not enter marriage for the purpose of begetting children or to worship the forefathers. Rather, one should think, ‘I accept this maidservant of Krsna so that we may be able to assist each other in the service of Krsna.’ This attitude is favorable to bhakti.”
Consequently, those who marry without a desire for children can actually be true grhastha Vaisnavas. When a man truly regards his wife as a maidservant of Krsna, there is no scope for regarding
her as an object of his own pleasure; instead his mood will be one of adoration. It is a fact that there are statements that sanction the desire for children, such as putrarthe kriyate bharya: “A wife is accepted for the purpose of having children,” but the implication here is that one should desire to beget servants of Krsna, and not ordinary mundane children.
The word putra (son) is derived from the word put, which refers to a particular hellish planet, and tra is derived from the verbal root meaning ‘to deliver’. Thus the traditional significance of the word putra is to beget a son who can deliver one from hell by offering oblations after one’s demise. However, there is no possibility that Vaisnavas who regularly chant sri-hari-nama will go to the hell known as put. Therefore they do not desire putras, but servants of Krsna.
Generally, a man who is bound by material conditioning, and who pursues the path of fruitive action, indulges in sexual intercourse with a woman in order to satisfy his lusty propensities. Children are born only as a by-product of that desire. This is the reason why people these days are generally of a lustful nature. As it is commonly said, atmavat jayate putrah: “A son takes after his father.”
Although the grhastha-asrama is the lowest of the four asramas, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has recommended it with a desire to benefit everyone in the world. His recommendation is especially directed toward people whose mentality is similar to that of Candidasa and Damayanti. Actually, great souls who naturally follow the path of detachment by the influence of the sukrti they have acquired in previous lives will never become entangled in domestic life by accepting marriage. Such elevated people still have the opportunity to fall, but where is the question of falling for people who are already fallen?
If a naisthika-brahmacari or a sannyasi were to misunderstand the underlying meaning of the above-mentioned instruction, and on the basis of those words were to give up their brahmacarya or
sannyasa and, in contravention to sastra, marry one of their disciples, a god-sister, or some other woman, or were to advise another brahmacari or sannyasi to do so, then such a pitiable, base, and atheistic person would indeed be rare in the history of the world.
A second point is that it is highly disgraceful for unqualified people to adopt the dress of brahmacaris, tyagis, or sannyasis, to imitate their behavior, and to consider themselves equal to great personalities situated in those asramas. Such people are like Srgala Vasudeva, the jackal who impersonated Sri Krsna, and whose narration has been described in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Harivamsa, Caitanya-Bhagavata, and other sastras. People who are situated in a lower stage, and who are attached to the path of fruitive action, should first curb the deplorable tendency towards lust by becoming lawfully married according to religious principles. The purpose of the sastra is to guide all living beings toward the path of detachment.
The Brahma-vaivarta Purana (Krsna-khanda 115.112-113) states:
asvamedham gavalambham sannyasam palapaitrkam
devarena sutotpattim kalau panca vivarjayet
In Kali-yuga five activities are forbidden: the offering of a horse in sacrifice,
the offering of a cow in sacrifice, the acceptance of sannyasa, offering flesh
to the forefathers, and begetting children through a husband’s brother.
Some people try to establish on the basis of this sloka that the acceptance of sannyasa is forbidden in Kali-yuga. However, this sloka has a hidden intention. The purpose of this sloka is not to forbid
sannyasa altogether. Indeed, many great personalities who appeared in Kali-yuga were tyagis or sannyasis, including Sri Ramanuja, Sri Madhva, Sri Visnu-svami, and other acaryas who were well acquainted
with all the sastras, as well as the crown jewels of all acaryas, the Six Gosvamis, who were bhaktas of Sri Gaura.
The pure succession of sannyasa is continuing, even today. The injunction against accepting sannyasa in Kali-yuga actually means that it is improper to accept the ekadanda-sannyasa that evolved
from the unauthorized line of thought propagated by Acarya Sankara, and which is expressed in maxims such as so ‘ham (I am that brahma) and aham brahmasmi (I am brahma). It is this type of
sannyasa that has been forbidden.
Tridanda-sannyasa is the real, perpetual sannyasa, and it is applicable at all times. Sometimes tridanda-sannyasa externally appears in the form of ekadanda-sannyasa. Ekadanda-sannyasis of this
type, who are actually great souls, accept the eternality of tridandasannyasa that symbolizes the three features of sevya (the object of service), sevaka (the servitor), and seva (service). Such people
consider the ekadanda-sannyasa propagated by Sankara to be completely unauthorized and not supported by sastra. It is therefore proven, even on the basis of the Brahma-vaivarta Purana sloka cited by smarta acaryas, that it is logical for sadhakas who are pursuing the nivrtti-marga to accept sannyasa.