We are fortunate to come together and discuss Vedic culture and religion. This culture is based on the Vedas, the Upanisads, Puranas, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vedanta Sutra and Srimad-Bhagavatam. All these texts of ancient India are very helpful for everyone in the world. They were not written for any particular sector of society, such as the Hindus, Muslims, Christians or any other group. But it seems that the writings of the Vedas are for a particular sect-those who observe Hindu dharma. It seems like that because of our lack of vision or understanding. The ancient texts have been explained by great teachers at various times, but the explanations that they have given have been mainly for the general mass of people who are not very spiritually evolved. Therefore, they do not express very deeply the meaning of the Vedic conception of dharma and religious life.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explained that the main enemy of truth is sectarianism. It is the bad habit of the living entities to break into many groups and factions according to race, beliefs, countries and so on. Even when all devotees come together-we are all Vaisnavas-and yet we make so many factions. This is the tendency of the conditioned soul. It will have to be overcome if one wants to rise to the highest platform. All human beings are in one family, but factions arise due to three standards. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura described these as alocaka gata, alocana gata and aloca gata.
The first one is alocaka gata. This means visible standards. When we look at someone, we are very concerned about the way that they appear. The Hindus shave off their beard and grow a moustache, and the Muslims grow the beard and shave off the moustache-the exact opposite. The Christian monks grow their hair around the edge and shave off the central portion, and the Vaisnavas shave off all their hair and leave the tuft at the back. So from the visible point of view it seems that everything is different. The Vaisnavas grow one sikha on the back of the head, and the Jews grow two sikhas in front of their ears. In this way the various peoples are trying to follow religious life but visibly they have many different conventions.
In this category of alocaka gata we can include tilaka, saffron cloth, carrying a danda, wearing a sari and all of these things. Alocaka gata means visible standards by which a particular society can be identified. And where there is difference between the visible standards, then those who are very neophyte feel some distance. They don't feel brotherhood with those persons who have a different appearance.
The second category of standard is called alocana gata. This means practical standards. For example, in one person's religion you have to take off your hat when you go into the church. And if you enter the Sikha temple, you have to put on a hat. This is a practice. In some religions they say, "Now we will pray. Everyone stand up." And in other religions, "Now we will pray. Everyone get down." Some religions prescribe performing fire yajnas and chanting mantras. Other groups may sing hymns or sing and dance. Thus, we see that different religions have different types of standards of practice.
The third category is called aloca gata. This means conceptual standards. There is not any difference in the way that they appear, there is not any difference in the way that they behave, but it is their tendency to engage in philosophical discussions. People will discuss with each other about heaven and hell, about what happened before they were born and about what will happen after death. Also in the category of aloca gata is the conception that some people ascribe personality to the Absolute Truth and some people ascribe impersonality.
So these are three types of standards by which a particular social or religious community can be identified. There is no problem in having different types of dress, practice and conceptions in different places of the world at different times.
All the living entities are divided into three categories according to their eligibility for understanding spiritual life. The first category is called kanistha-adhikari, the neophyte. What is the symptom of the neophyte? Mahaprabhu explained: yahara komala-sraddha, se 'kanistha' jana. The meaning is whose faith is soft or weak, and can change. His faith is pliable. But Mahaprabhu did not mention anything about logic, reason and sastra. By neglecting to mention this Mahaprabhu is indicating that the neophyte, the person whose spiritual consciousness is just beginning, is unable to think independently. He will hear from others and pick something and follow, but he has no independent power of reasoning. Therefore, his spiritual life is bound to be based entirely on sraddha only, on faith. He accepts some doctrine and if you ask him why, he doesn't even want to talk to you about it. "My father and his father did this, so that's what I do." "Some artist or singer I like does this so I also do it." He has no power of independent reasoning to go deeply into his own belief. He is dependent fully on sraddha. This faith is soft; it can easily be shaken. Because of that, he has fear of people who have a different belief.
In this initial stage the kanistha will be afraid of others who look differently, who act differently and who think differently. And not only that, when he follows his set of beliefs, he likes it very much and becomes attached to it. He becomes so attached that he looks down on others who have a different set of beliefs, different appearance and different practices. It may come to the point where he is so proud of his own culture, though he cannot understand it, and he looks down on other cultures so much that he questions whether others are human beings or not. It will come to that stage, and leads to ethnic cleansing, where one race tries to kill off another race completely. We have seen this in Nazi Germany and in the Russian Revolution. This is not confined to religion. We are speaking about appearance, activity and belief right across the board, on all levels of human thought and endeavor. So this is the nature and the danger of those who are in the initial stage, kanistha.
The next stage is called madhyama. The madhyama is a human being whose power of intelligence and philosophical discretion has developed, but it is not developed to the point where he can make a perfect union between his faith and his rationale. He has some good ideas but he cannot perfectly connect rationale with faith. This was described by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
sastra-yukti nahi jane drdha, sraddhavanThat person is very fortunate who is a madhyama-adhikari, who has very strong faith. His faith does not shake any more. If he meets someone, he will not be afraid of them if they have different appearance, different activities and different beliefs, because his faith is strong now. But sastra-yukti nahi jane-Mahaprabhu said that his understanding of the sastra and his logic and reason is good but not perfect. Thus he has not been able to make the very immaculate connection between his faith and his rationale.
'madhyama-adhikari' sei maha-bhagyavan
The nature of the madhyama-adhikari is if he sees that someone is different in their appearance or behavior, he is not fazed by this; it does not concern him. But he has a very big problem with aloca gata, with conceptual differences. He cannot reconcile them. So although the madhyama-adhikari is peaceful and respects others even if they look or act differently, he gets into some quarrels because he cannot reconcile the differences in doctrine, in conception.
The third category is uttama-adhikari. He is paramahamsa, like a swan. The swan can separate milk from water. And the swan always lives in a beautiful place, where there is fresh water and flowers and very beautiful vegetation. This is the nature of the swan. It discriminates and never goes to a dirty place. The uttama-adhikari has succeeded in making the connection between belief and rationale, between sastra and logic. He can reconcile everything. He never engages in futile arguments with anyone, because he has understood the essence of life. He realizes that the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot be understood by reason and arguments but only by surrender and by devotion. By surrender the consciousness of anyone-whether they are kanistha, madhyama or uttama-can rise to the platform of samadhi, trance. In the stage of trance the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, automatically manifests Himself to that person. It doesn't matter what culture or what country they are from or what their beliefs are. But that person who has the courage to step beyond the border of argument and simply surrender his heart to God can directly realize the truth in samadhi.
Wherever the uttama-adhikari may go in the world, if he sees another person who is surrendered to God and has some realization, then freely and openly without any hesitation he will accept that person as his brother, though he may look and act differently. He realizes the oneness of all humanity and how each individual is attempting to make progress in his personal evolution. The Vedas describe the personal evolution of the living entity. The Hindus do Pancopasana-worship of Durga, Surya Deva (the sun god), Ganesa, Siva and Visnu (including His origin, Krsna, and expansions, avataras). Among the many types of worship described in the Vedas we find that the puja of these five devatas is prominent. Many people think they should do puja to all of them, because actually if you worship all of them, you cannot lose. It is like playing roulette-if you put a chip on so many squares, you are bound to win something eventually. Once I went to the house of a Hindu gentleman with some devotees. I saw that on his altar everyone was there-all the demigods, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Sai Baba, even Margaret Thatcher. At that time she was the prime minister of England. I looked at the altar and I said, "Oh, so many personalities!" He answered, "Yes, I am taking no chances." What is this? This is only called confusion. Oh yes, Confucius was there also.
You cannot understand what stage a person is in only by looking at these things. It is a question of consciousness. We wonder why is it that Vedic culture includes worship of Pancopasana-Durga, Surya Deva, Ganesa, Siva and finally Visnu? What is the reason? Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explained: don't think that this type of worship given in the Vedas is a sectarian idea for Hindus. Rather, the great sages in ancient times, like Vyasadeva, meditated upon the human condition and tried to write something that was helpful for all walks of life, to gradually elevate the living entities to the highest understanding and highest realization of the Absolute Truth. Therefore they recommended these different types of puja. This Pancopasana is not exclusive to Hinduism, but everyone, without exception, is doing this Pancopasana. How is this so? It is not easy to understand.
How can we reconcile all the religious beliefs of the world? It has been explained in the Vedas. First of all, the living entity who has taken birth as a human being is very inquisitive. He tries to find out about the world around him. The world is made of material energy only-so many sense objects that you can see, touch, taste, smell and hear. The human being is inquisitive and tries to gather so many experiences to understand the world. The person whose consciousness is on that level is called a shakta, because his life, his consciousness, is about the discovery of this external energy or shakti. That energy is under the direction of Durga. So these people are called the practitioners of Durga puja. Is this confined to India? No. This is a stage of consciousness of all human beings. They have to go through that stage.
When the consciousness of the shakta begins to develop a little more, then he realizes that superior to dull matter is energy, heat. Actually, all matter is composed of energy. Energy is the origin of that which seems to be inert matter, and energy is stored inside. He tries to understand what is the energy of action or karma-this energy is heat, which comes from the sun. Therefore we see today that everything is going on how? In civilizations which are apparently more advanced, everything is going on by electronics-all communication, all information. Electricity and nuclear energy are also heat. Those whose consciousness is absorbed in this level-that is, they are obsessed with the worship of the energy of action-are sauras, or those who perform surya puja, the worshipers of the sun god. This is a stage of consciousness of every entity. It is not Hinduism. This is the gradual evolution of the living beings.
Those who have advanced a little further will realize that the gross elements that we can perceive are dead, and even heat, the energy of action by which many things are performed, is also inert. They conclude that consciousness is superior. Thus they rise to the next level in their personal evolution. They understand that there is such a thing as consciousness, which is not material. It is anti-material and it cannot be produced by any reactions. The mundane scientists think that the body is made of matter and that the brain contains so many chemicals, and by electronic reactions in the brain consciousness comes about. They equate all existence with matter and energy. They have no idea about spirit. Such persons are called Shaktas or Sauras.
Those, on the other hand, who understand that spirit is distinct from matter have risen to the next level. But when the living entity begins to develop an appreciation for consciousness, still his conception of consciousness is polluted. Therefore, he may come up with an idea of animal consciousness or human consciousness; Christians will have one type of consciousness and Hindus another. Why? Because he has not understood that consciousness in its pure state is nirguna. It is not touched by any material element.
An appreciation of consciousness comes but it is mixed with some material conceptions Such a person has not understood what is pure consciousness. Therefore he is called the worshiper of Ganesa, because Ganesa is half-human and half-animal. He has the head of an elephant and the body of a human being. Those in that stage are called followers of Ganapatya dharma. This involves the appreciation of spiritual consciousness which is not completely free from the material mixture, misra-sattva (mixed existence or consciousness).
If the living entity will progress a little further, he realizes that consciousness is totally distinct from matter. Therefore, he will strive to worship that consciousness itself as the ultimate reality, which is totally divorced from matter. So when he negates the qualities of the material energy in order to search for and to worship pure consciousness as the ultimate reality, he chants "Sivo ham" and becomes the worshiper of Lord Siva. That is called Siva puja and he is called a Saivite. Really, a Saivite is not a person who says "I am a Saivite" and wears three lines of tilaka on his forehead. To be a Saivite is the stage in the development of the jiva when he considers that the world is temporary or false and that the ultimate reality is consciousness itself, and "I am that consciousness. I have to search for my self, which is fully transcendental to all material phenomena, and my consciousness is the one consciousness. He believes that the individual consciousness also is the one consciousness which is the supreme truth and he worships that. That is Saiva dharma or Siva puja. Buddhists and Jains, who consider consciousness divorced from any material quality to be the ultimate reality, are also included in this category.
When the living entity develops further, then he thinks that his consciousness, no matter how much it is freed from the material energy, is not the ultimate truth. He realizes that there is a supreme consciousness above the individual consciousness. Those who have this conception, thinking that there is a supreme being, are called Vaisnavas. This is the fifth aspect in Pancopasana, the worship of Visnu.
So we see that this Pancopasana is not Hinduism, but rather it is a description of the evolution of every single living entity in the whole world. Any living entity, whoever you see, will be in one of these five stages. Don't think that just because someone wears tilaka or neckbeads or anything like this is necessarily a Vaisnava. If their consciousness is absorbed in gross matter, then they are actually doing Durga puja, because that is where their dedication lies. Those who are always in electronics and computers and such things are doing Surya puja.
The consciousness of the Vaisnava is dedicated to the supreme consciousness. Therefore he is called Vaisnava. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has included Christians and also Muslims in the category of Vaisnava because they never think that "my soul is God". They think that God is God and "I am His servant"-to varying degrees. But their dharma may be mixed. Why? Because practically we will see that their dedication may be towards the external energy or mixed consciousness. In this way we see that there are five distinct categories but practically in the world any particular individual may be transiting through mixtures of various stages.
We want to come to the platform of suddha Vaisnava dharma-compete dedication to the supreme consciousness, or Visnu-tattva, Krsna. Those who are really paramahamsa are never concerned with the external appearance, practices and conceptions of the individual, rather they see in what direction one's dedication is going. In this way the pure Vaisnavas have no sectarian mood. They do not belong to any cult.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu preached the philosophy of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the very beginning of Bhagavatam it is stated: janmady asya yatah. "I meditate on that from which everything has come." This is not any sectarian idea. My process of worshiping is: dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra paramo nirmatsaranam satam. "This Bhagavatam kicks out all kinds of cheating dharma." That means dharma which has self-motivation in it. Pure Vaisnava dharma is "paramo nirmatsaranam satam vedyam", understandable by only by those persons who are completely non-envious (paramo nirmatsaranam). Vaisnavas do not envy or disrespect any other living entity in the world-such persons can enter into Bhagavat dharma, the teachings of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to give this. He wandered here and there and met with Muslims. Like a brother He spoke with the Chand Kazi, who became a pure Vaisnava. In Jaiva Dharma we can read how his descendents repeated Mahaprabhu's explanation of Islam to the Chand Kazi. It is so broad and accommodating.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also met with Mayavadis. They are actually Saivites, following Siva dharma. They think that consciousness itself is the supreme truth. If we meet with a Mayavadi, we will become angry with him, thinking that he is Vaisnava aparadhi. But when Mahaprabhu met with the Mayavadis, what did He do? Very humbly He sat down in the place where they wash their feet outside their pandal. Prakasananda Sarasvati saw Him and asked, "Why is this young sannyasi upset? Why don't You come inside?" Mahaprabhu answered, "I am not qualified to sit with you. I am a low-class sannyasi." "No, no. You have also taken sannyasa in our line of Sankaracarya, so You should come and sit with us." Prakasananda Sarasvati lifted Him up by the hand and brought Him inside.
Mahaprabhu was very humble and respectful to them. Why? Mahaprabhu has no envy for anyone. He never thinks anyone is bad. He sees that everyone is gradually making progress. He sees that someone is only confused and has not evolved fully and wonders, "How can I help that person? Now he is in Siva dharma. He is thinking that consciousness itself is the ultimate reality. Okay, he may evolve."
Because Prakasananda Sarasvati served Mahaprabhu by picking Him up the hand, he made so much sukrti. Thus he was able to understand Mahaprabhu's explanation of the supreme consciousness. Then Prakasananda Sarasvati and his 60,000 sannyasa disciples all rose to the level of Vaisnava dharma. Mahaprabhu did the same with Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. He was very humble and listened to his explanation of Advaita-Vedanta for seven days and nights without saying anything. At the end He said, "If you will permit Me, I will say something." Then He completely changed the heart of Sauvabhauma Bhattacarya.
Mahaprabhu went to South India. There the Vaisnavas wear a different type of tilaka. Their appearance, their rituals and their ideas are also different. They think that Visnu is supreme and that Krsna is His expansion. Their aloca gata is upside down compared to Gaudiya Vaisnavism. But Mahaprabhu did not mind and He was living with them and cultivating friendship with them. When they became very attached to Him, He began to laugh and joke with them, and by joking He introduced a higher conception and changed their beliefs.
So this is called Bhagavat dharma. The philosophy of Srimad-Bhagavatam is wholistic. It is not exclusive; it is inclusive. The Bhagavatam reaches out to everyone and includes everyone, inviting them to give up their envy for each other. When we have no envy for each other, then we can hear patiently about the absolute truth, the supreme consciousness, without wasting any time arguing with each other. We can simply open our hearts and invite the truth to reveal Himself to us-this is called pracodayat. This is Bhagavat dharma-pracodayat. "There are millions of ideas and I am confused. I cannot unravel them. Please be kind to me and manifest Yourself in my heart."
Bhagavatam is called the commentary on the Gayatri mantra, because the Gayatri instructs us not to argue with our brothers and sisters. Open your heart and invite the truth to reveal Himself. In Garuda Purana it is stated: Artho 'yam brahma-sutranam. "Bhagavatam is the explanation of Vedanta." Bharatartha-vinirnayah: "it ascertains the exact purpose of the Mahabharata, which is the Gita." And Krsna said in Gita: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. "Don't argue over different dharmas. Just surrender to Me. I will take care of you and fulfill your desire. I will reveal to you all the things that you want to know." So the Bhagavatam has ascertained the purpose of Mahabharata. Artho 'yam brahma-sutranam bharatartha-vinirnayah gayatri-bhasya-rupo 'sau: this Bhagavat dharma is the commentary on Gayatri.
How is Bhagavatam the commentary? Just see what is there in Gayatri. There are some characteristics-dhimahi. The first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam states:
janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah svarat tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye muhyanti yat surayah tejo-vari-mrdam yatha vinimayo yatra tri-sargo 'mrsa dhamna svena sada nirasta-kuhakam satyam param dhimahi
The Gayatri mantra has some laksanas, some symptoms. The first one is dhimahi-I meditate on parama satya, the supreme truth. There are two other symptoms in the mantra. In Brahma Gayatri "om bhur bhuvah" refers to the various planetary systems. In other words, I am meditating on that Supreme Truth which is the substratum, or the basis, of all existence. It pervades all existence in the lower, middle and higher planetary systems. Krsna said in Gita: mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya. "There is no truth superior to Me." But mayi sarvam idam protam sutre mani-gana iva. "Hey Krsna, where are You?" Krsna said, "Everything is resting on Me as pearls are strung on a thread." In a pearl necklace the pearls cannot be held together unless there is a thread going through them.
So in this world-bhu bhuva sva-what is holding all the planetary systems together? Don't doubt it. Krsna-the Supreme Personality, the supreme consciousness-is inside everything. Bhagavatam begins like that also-janmady asya yato. I am meditating on that truth which is janmady asya yato, the origin of the creation, maintenance and destruction. In other words, everything is emanating from Him. Everything is maintained by Him, everything is destroyed by Him. Everything exists in Him. Everything emanated from Him and everything will enter back within Him. That is the meaning of om bhu bhuvah sva and janmady asya yato. This is the laksana of the Gayatri mantra.
In Gayatri mantra it is stated "pracodayat". You cannot know the truth. The truth will reveal itself to you. So Bhagavatam begins: janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah svarat tene brahma hrda ya adi. Here the phrase "tene brahma hrda ya adi" means pracodayat. Why? That Supreme Truth first imparted the knowledge of the Vedas into the heart of Brahma. Tene means he imparted, brahma means the Vedas, hrda ya adi-kavaye means into the heart of the original poet-catur-mukha Brahma. So tene brahma hrda ya adi expresses pracodayat. The Supreme Truth Himself manifests Himself in the heart of the devotee who is dhimahi, meditating upon Him, as Lord Brahma was at the beginning of creation. And when Brahma meditated on the supreme consciousness, referred to here as abhijnah (meaning the all-knowing, all-conscious person), the supreme consciousness manifested within his individual consciousness. Then Brahma realized that the Supreme Truth is the foundation of all reality.
This has been stated by Krsna in Gita:
yo mam pasyati sarvatra"I am never lost to one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, and he is never lost to Me." This is not a question of jnana, knowledge. This is a description of prema. The Brahma Gayatri mantra, the Srimad-Bhagavatam and this statement of Gita are simply giving a description of prema. Prema means you surrender your life to a person who fills your consciousness from top to bottom. Everywhere you look you see him.
sarvam ca mayi pasyati
tasyaham na pranasyami
sa ca me na pranasyati
We see this prema in Srimati Radharani-everywhere She looks She sees Krsna. And in fact one of Her names is Krsna Mayi.
krsna-mayi--krsna yara bhitare bahireKrsna-Mayi means whose inside and outside is only Krsna. Wherever Radharani's eyes fall, She sees Krsna there. When She sees the dark clouds in the sky, She can turn Her face away as if it is Krsna. Krsna has gone to meet with Candravali and Radharani is thinking, "If I see Him, I will not speak with Him." And when She sees black clouds in the sky, She sees Krsna there and turns Her face away. Her own braid, which is black, falls upon Her shoulder, and She thinks it looks like Krsna's arm around Her shoulder. She pushes it off and says, "Don't touch Me." Sometimes, if She is in a mood to love Krsna, She looks at a tamala tree, which is a little blackish, and says, "Oh, look! Krsna has come." Closing Her eyes, She embraces the tree and thinks, "Now My life is successful." This is the meaning of Gayatri; this is the meaning of Bhagavatam. This is not knowledge. It is only pure love.
yanha yanha netra pade tanha krsna sphure
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explained, "O my dear brothers and sisters and all human beings of the world, kindly give up your envy for each other and simply surrender to God. Take shelter and pray and He will manifest His truth in your heart." What is that truth, that goal? Prema, pure transcendental love. This is the real meaning of Bhagavat dharma. Mahaprabhu was not the leader of a Bengali religious sect. He was preaching Bhagavat dharma, sanatana dharma, for the paramahamsas who can extract the essence of all reality and see the oneness and brotherhood of all men. Out of compassion, without envy or fear of anyone, such paramahamsas share the love of Radha and Krsna with everyone.
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