IBSA (ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Sadhana Asrama), Govardhana, India
6 January 2004
The Govardhana Sila of Lord Caitanya
mukunda murdhna pranipatya yace
bhavantam ekantam iyantam artham
bhave bhave me 'stu bhavat-prasadat
O Lord Mukunda! I bow down my head to Your Lordship and respectfully ask You to fulfill this one desire of mine: that in each of my future births I will, by Your Lordship's mercy, always remember and never forget Your lotus feet.
What the Upanisads Teach
Brahman is Not a Demigod
Adhyaya II of Brhadaranyaka Upanisad begins with a discussion between a brahmana named Gargya Drpta-Balaki and the King of Kasi, Ajatasatru. The brahmana proposes to give the ksatriya a lesson on Brahman. However, it turns out that the king is the truly Brahman-realized soul. Gargya argues that the person in the sun is Brahman; the king refutes him, concluding, "I venerate him only as the most eminent of all beings. " In the same way, the two converse about the personalities of the moon, lightning, outer space, wind, fire, water, a mirror, the sound of walking, the four quarters, the shadow, and the individual atma. In each case the king proves to the brahmana that Brahman is different. In the end Gargya requests that Ajatasatru accept him as his disciple; politely the king points out that it is not traditional for a ksatriya to be guru of a brahmana. Still, Ajatasatru agrees to reveal the secret of Brahman. He says:
sa yatha unanabhih tantuna uccaret yatha agneh ksudra visphulinagh vyuccaranti evam eva asmat atmanah sarve pranah sarve lokah sarve devah sarvani bhutani vyuccaranti tasyopanisad satyasya satyam iti prana vai satyam tesam esa satyam
As a spider sends forth its thread, as tiny sparks spring forth from a fire, so indeed from the atman [which means Paramatma, as the individual atma was earlier rejected by Ajatasatru as Brahman] comes forth all pranas [which means jivas], all worlds (sarve lokah), all demigods (sarve devah), and all living entities (sarvani bhutani). The secret name of that Paramatma is satyasya satyam (the Truth of truths). Truth means the jivas (i. e. the pranas). The Truth of that truth is Paramatma.
It is clear that all jivas, all devas and all living entities are emanations of Brahman but are yet different from Brahman.
In adhyaya III, Chapter 6 of the same upanisad, Gargi, a female Vedic sage of acute intelligence asks Yajnavalkya Muni that if the element earth is woven from the element water, then what is water woven from. [Here Acarya Madhva comments that the elements and lokas (worlds) that Gargi asks about in this passage are designations of the devatas that control them. ] Yajnavalkya replies that water is woven from air. Gargi then wants to know what air is woven from. "From the worlds in the antariksa or outer space" [meaning such subtle worlds as those on which the yaksas and raksasas dwell]. She asks out of what are the antariksalokas woven; he answers "From the gandharvalokas. " In this way their talk progresses through the worlds of the sun, moon, stars, demigods, the worlds of Indra and the worlds Prajapati (catur-mukha Brahma). All these, concludes Yajnavalkya, are woven from the worlds of Brahman.
In the ninth chapter of the same adhyaya, Vidagdha Sakalya asks Yajnavalkya how many gods there are. The initial answer is three hundred and three, and three thousand and three. But upon further questioning Yajnavalkya asserts there is only one God; the others of various numbers (thirty-three, three, two, one and a half) are powers of the one God. This one God is Brahman.
Adhyaya VII of Chandogya Upanisad relates a discussion between Narada and Sanat Kumara. Narada informs Sanatkumara that he has studied
the four Vedas
the histories, which comprise the fifth Veda
the ancestral rites
the art of locating treasures
the knowledge of the demigods
the knowledge of ritual
the knowledge of ghostly entities
the knowledge of government
the knowledge of heavenly bodies
the knowledge of the celestial serpents.
But Narada concludes that he is still suffering due to ignorance.
Sanat Kumara proposes a series of meditations by which Narada will come to know Brahman. The first meditation is upon nama--the names that Narada studied in all those scriptures he mentioned. From nama he should rise to meditation upon vak, speech; then to manas, mind; then sankalpa, will; citta, consciousness; dhyana, deep contemplation; vijnana, realization; bala, strength; anna, food; apa, water; tejas, fire; akasa, ether; smara, memory; asa, hope; and finally prana, the life of the individual self. According to Madhvacarya, all these represent various devatas. Sanat Kumara connects each of them to a particular success in karma and jnana. The last, prana, he says, makes a man an ativadi, one with great power of speech. Then Sanat Kumar raises the question of the appropriate subject that an ativadi should speak about: esa tu va ativadati yah satyena ativadati:
But in reality one is an ativadi who speaks Satya greatly.
Narada declares that he would like to become that kind of ativadi.
Sanat Kumar replies that Narada should meditate upon Satya. But to meditate upon Satya, he must gain realization of Satya. And for that he must be constantly mindful of Satya. To be constantly mindful of Satya he must have faith in Satya. To have faith in Satya he must be firmly fixed in Satya. To be firmly fixed in Satya he must perform his prescribed duties nicely. To perform his duties nicely he should know what real bliss is (sukham tu eva vijijnasitavyam).
Sukha (bliss) is bhuma (the Greatest), says Sanat Kumar:
yo vai bhuma tat sukham
bhuma tu eva vijinasitavya iti
Bhuma, that which is infinitely great and possesses infinite attributes, is bliss. There is no bliss in anything small or trivial. One must desire to know bhuma.
Satya--the Supreme Truth--is a name of Krsna. His nature is infinitely blissful. The successes offered by various devatas are limited and trivial; hence there is no bliss in them. The devatas cannot be equated with the absolutely blissful Truth, the Supreme Brahman, Sri Krsna.
param brahma param dhama
pavitram paramam bhavan
purusam sasvatam divyam
adi-devam ajam vibhum ahus tvam rsayah sarve
devarsir naradas tatha
asito devalo vyasah
svayam caiva bravisi me
Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala and Vyasa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me. [Bg 10. 12-13]
That the bliss of Brahman extends beyond that of the devatas is confirmed in the Brahmavalli of the Taittirya Upanisad, which has been discussed before in this series. The Brahmavalli begins with this Vedic quotation:
The fear of it makes the wind blow. The fear of it makes the sun rise. The fear of it makes them run-- fire and moon, and death, the fifth.
Wind, sun, fire, moon and death--these five are great Vedic demigods who perform their duties out of fear of the Supreme Brahman. Thus do the Upanisads distinguish between the Supreme Lord and His powerful servants who manage material phenomena.
From several other of the fourteen upanisads under discussion, further proofs could be offered. But the case is established beyond reasonable argument just from the Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya and Taittirya Upanisads.
To be continued, starting with The Jivatama.
|Krsna Balarama Mandir at night|