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By Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

January, 1929

Published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)

Part I

Q: -- What is Vedantism?

A: -- One-sided and biased critics may understand absolute monism by the term Indian Vedantism, but those who are impartial and who judge things from all angles of vision, find the transcendental personality of God-head as the settled conclusion of the Vedantic doctrine. The theory of non-distinction has been wrongly preached as propounded in the Vedanta, before a world which is averse to God, being disguised with the imperfect, partial and distorted conception of the Vedanta Philosophy of India which is the universal reality. In reality the doctrine of personality of God-head is the proper conclusion of the Vedanta and that is the true interpretation of the Vedanta by the unbiased learned scholars.

The unique and genuine interpretation of the Vedanta, as contained in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, points at the true Vedantic doctrine. Shri Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedanta-sutras, has himself as commentator elucidated the true meaning of the Sutras or aphorisms compiled by him, in the Shrimad Bhagavatam which reveals their intrinsic import which equalises all sides, reconciles all diversities and is beyond all sectarian conflicts created by various professors of empiric knowledge, who give different shapes to the Vedanta in their laboratories of mental researches. It is only they that secure the true Vedantic principles from the Shrimad Bhagavatam who can save themselves from the danger of falling into the ditches of various imaginary principles and wrong sectarianism.

To be brief, the difference between the followers of Mayavada, or absolute-monism and the Vaishnava Vedantics is that the former have a bias for the idea of Nirvisesha or non-distinction, whereas the latter accept the eternality of Personal God-head. The monists are atheists in disguise; on the other hand the Vaishnavas are sincere theists; the former are followers of the method of induction i.e. the process of reasoning from particular data to a general one, and the latter are followers of the deductive method of reasoning by which we arrive at the necessary consequences of admitted or established premises; i.e. a monist is inimical towards self-surrender to God, while a Vaishnava is inclined towards it. Most of the intelligentsia of the present day India are empiricists and as such, more or less, supporters of the Mayavada of the monists. Acharya Shankara has extensively propagated this Mayavada by dint of his exceeding intelligence and thus been able to captivate men's minds.

The supporters of Savisesha-vada, the doctrine of eternity of personal Godhead, are known as Vaishnavas or theists. We shall call any persons of any country and any era as Vaishnavas or theists to the same extent that this Saviseshavada is found in them. We think that the noble Jesus propagated Saviseshavada, as Acharyas Shri Visnuswami, Shri Ramanuja, Shri Madhva, Shri Nimbarka, etc., did in India. The Saviseshavada as propagated by all the teachers of the world, more or less, found perfection in the preachings of the different Indian Acharyas, which have attained the climax of mutual reconciliation of all souls of pure knowledge distinct from matter. This Savisesha is the conclusion of Mahaprabhu Shri Krishna Chaitanya Dev, Who, though God Himself, played the part of a Supra-human Professor of the University of Nadia.

Q: -- Did the worshippers of Krishna encourage the obscenity of the engravings on many Hindu Temples?

A: -- Those who are actual worshippers of Krishna are never in favour of indecencies. All decency and morality only are entirely confined to the Lotus-Feet of Shri Krishna. The highest sense of morality of the unadulterated soul consists in its love towards the Over-soul. And the culmination of this pure love is found only in the devotees of Krishna. The best of the moral rules as preached by the noble Jesus, do not come anywhere near the principle of the Amorous Love of the devotees of Krishna, for service thereof.

Q: -- Your Holiness seems to have taken a biased view in saying that the good moral precepts of Christ come nowhere near "the morality" of amorous love of the devotees of Krishna".

A: -- Certainly not. We claim to be greater and better Christians than Westerners. Our judgment is not restricted only to secular morality. The morality of the object of spiritual love transcends the supra-natural morality, which again surpasses secular morality. If Christian morality is perfected thereby, then it may be said to receive proper nourishment. To a pure soul that remains situated on that transcendentally moral plane of love, the secular moralities appear reduced to the smallness of pygmies. But there is not found any feeling of apathy, nor attachment towards these secular moralities. On the other hand all moralities wait like maids behind the spiritual moralities to become glorified, being permitted to serve the Lord of transcendental Love. The character of a culturist of spiritual love is never devoid of morality. One hostile to morality or fallen from it can never be a spiritual man. In the blaze of the teaching of Shri Chaitanya Deva's ideal, it has been propagated that dissoluteness is not devotion. Its palpable evidence is found when we reflect on the character of Shri Chaitanya Deva or the followers at His heel. The people of the realm of the secular morality concerned with the worldly enjoyments and their renunciation will not be able to grasp in their tiniest brains how fostered by the climax of morality and how adored in the highest degree by all the morality of the universe are the Amorous Sports of Krishna so much glorified by the noble clan of such high personages of strictly continent character as the devotees of Shri Chaitanya Deva like Shri Rupa, Shri Sanatana, Shri Raghunatha Dasa, Shri Raghun tha [sic] Bhatta, Shri Gopal Bhatta, etc.

Q: -- How can your Holiness's statements be reconciled with the descriptions that are found about Krishna's amorous sports?

A: -- Krishna's Amorous Sports are not temporal like the lustful sports of dramatic heroes and heroines like Romeo-Juliet or even ideal spouses. Lust as prevalent in this world is only a mental passion; but the lust of the transcendental region of Krishna has its own form. Here lust is always goaded by the enemy (one of the six passions); where in the transcendenral [sic] region of Krishna, the loveliness of the spiritual Body of Krishna ever drives the Lust for Krishna, which takes form as sublimated love or the desire to gratify the immaculate senses of Krishna. The conductor of the worldly lust is the enemy (passion), and the conductor of love is Krishna. It is amorous Sports of Krishna that have appropriateness; but there is no such consistency in the lust born of the body and mind of jiva (creature). Krishna's Amorous Sports are not to be called indecency, because it is Krishna Who is the only one unrivalled Enjoyer, Embodiment of the Real Truth and the Spiritual Despot.

Q: -- I cannot fully appreciate this; please let me understand a little more clearly.

A: -- Suppose there are some angles, two right angles, four right angles, etc. There is the contracted character of a corner in the acute, obtuse or right angle. But in the two right angles called the straight angle, even though called an angle, there is no contractedness or want of straightness, as is the case with angles in general. Such is the case with the Autocrat Krishna. There is no want or contractedness or despicable character or indecency in the Perfect Entity Krishna, like the circle of 360 degrees, though the communities of enjoyers or renouncers, championing morality or immorality, may, due to the meagreness of their intellect, wrongly regard the lustfulness of Krishna, the result of His depotism which is only His, as vulgar like that of common men and other creatures.

Q: -- In the scriptures of India, adorable Deities have been represented as creatures of the lower creation like fish, tortoise, boar, etc. Is this approved by the sense of decency of civilised humanity? Some again are in favour of supporting such representations as allegorical symbols.

A: -- Imagination does not find a place in Vaishnava Philosophy. In it or in the Shrimad Bhagavatam which is the highest scripture for all men in the universe has been described the topmost ontology about God, million times better than what the most civilised races of humanity five thousands years old, nay, as old as several millions of eras, can conceive of even in imagination. The eternal transcendental forms of God that descend or are manifested according to the gradual evolution of the aptitude for offering service by the totally purified soul quite aloof from the regions of the body and mind, when man becomes the worshipper of the ultimate Reality at the loftiest stage of civilisation, are never the idols of imagination or allegories like unreal things manufactured in the mental factory of man or like the imaginary animal deities of the barbarians such as the tiger-god, serpent-god, horse-god, etc. The worship of the Vishnu Incarnations, like Fish, Turtle, etc., is not fabrication of imagination like that of one of the five deities of the Henotheists formed out of imagination, based on the coinage of set speeches like the imaginary conception of the forms of Brahman (as in the Panchadasi of the monistic school). The Henotheists do not admit the Transcendental Personality of Godhead. The sects of figurative allegorists like the Theosophists are not real theists, cherishing, as they do, doubt against the Personality of God and for that reason they want to curtail god's Omni-potentiality and his Transcendental Names, Appearances, Attributes, Sports by means of allegorical description. The Vaishnava philosophy or that of the ever-existent religion of India has never supported the atheistic doctrines of such professors of imaginary forms of Brahman, or figurative allegorists. It is about the doctrine of pure and real Avatara-vada (cult of Incarnation) that the philosophy of the ever-existing Indian religion has said. As the pure and real doctrine of Avataras of Fish, Turtle, etc. of the Vaishnavas is not a kind of imagination of the barbarian taste, nor the idolatry of the Mayavadins on the basis of their aphorism of forms of Brahman, imagined for the convenience of practicants, nor the allegorical description of the psychists, so it is not the Anthropomorphism (i.e. representation of the deity as having human forms), as devised by the so-called civilised section of the people, nor Therianthropism (i.e. representation of one's tutelary deity in a combined man-and-beast form), nor even Apotheosis (i.e. elevating man to the dignity of deities). These are respective types of the idolatry of the menatal speculationists of the inductive school. In imitation of Mayavada, the evil fruit of the Indian civilisation, Anthropomorphsim was invented in Greece and Rome and Therianthropism in Egypt, etc. When the new doctrines got access in those countries along with the commodities produced by the Indian civilization which were based on the imagination of the anthrophysites like the Indian Mayavadins who exalted man or beasts to the status of God with the attribution of divinity to them calling jivas and the poor as 'Narayana' with gratification of the senses in the back ground, then the mental speculations of those respective countries adopted the cheap vitiated Indian dogmas and, labeling new names on them, passed these doctrinal commodities into the forum of religious tenets. But the true Vaishnava philosophy of India never indulged in any such doctrine based on imagination. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has refuted all such imaginative doctrines or idolatries and rejected both Anthropomorphism and Therianthropism. He vouchsafed the Shastric teaching, viz., that he must be a heretic and sinner who looks upon God Narayana as equal to deities like Brahma, etc.

Anthropomorphism i.e., representation of the Deity with human form and attributes, resembles the tenet of the Bauls of Bengal attributing divinity to the head of their sect, professing, as they do, though wrongly, to have perceptorially descended from Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Such tenets are the mental imaginations of atheists like the Bouddhas and of the Bauls as above, running contrary to the teachings of Shri Buddha-Vishnu and Shri Chaitanya-Vishnu respectively. The Mayavadi sect too has adopted similar principles. The really scientific philosophy of the Shrimad Bhagavatam and the preachings of Shri Chaitanya Deva have, of course, accepted the human body [1] as the Divine Manifestation; but that human body is not the creation of anthropomorphism, nor of the Baul doctrine, but it is the eternal, transcendental Sachidananda Body, the Cause of all causes, the highest Sportive Entity. When the human soul can acquire the wealth of all the sciences in perfection, then only is opened the door of the foremost mystery of true science. According to the Vaishnava Philosophy, the Sportive Manifestation of God is of two kinds. One kind is the creation of the material and spiritual universe and its systematization with inviolable rules. The school of intelligent empiricists can to a certain extent experience this type of God's Sportive Manifestation. The second kind is the Descent of God's Transcendental Sport in this created universe. It is the jivas who are the attendants in His Sports. They become attached to matter having deviated from their own essential nature as the result of their desire for enjoyment.

But when again the soul of a jiva, gains true wisdom of the transcendental region of God at the feet of a representative of His, i.e., a true devotee His, he begins to get back his pure essential nature gradually unfolded, and God's Transcendental Eternal Forms appear as the objects of his worship according to the comprehension of His service in the graded evolution of acceptance of His protection, self-surrender or theism. So in such a case there remains no room, even in the slightest degree, for any form of imaginative doctrines of the so-called civilised or uncivilised human minds, whether apotheosistic, anthropomorphic, henotheistic, theosophic, theriomorphic or therianthropic. The real, eternal and transcendental Divine Forms reveal themselves to the pure souls according to the nature of their serving mood in the evolutionary growth there. The only cause of these Divine Descents is the intense Mercy of God towards jivas. In Europe the theories of physical evolution of Darwin and Lamarck have been considered. But it is in the Vaishnava Philosophy alone that we see the fully scientific and real conception of each eternal and transcendental Divine Form for worship by the freed souls according to their evolutionary growth of serving mood.

We can notice the different stages of animal life from the invertebrates to the fully grown human beings. These stages have been classified by the Indian sages of a scientific outlook in ten orders, viz, (1) the invertebrate, (2) testaceous or shelly, (3) vertebrate, (4) erectly vertebrate (as in the combined form of man and beast), (5) mannikin, (6) barbaric, (7) civilised, (8) wise, (9) ultra-wise and (10) destructive. These are the historical stages of jivas. According to the gradation of these stages as indications of evolution of the serving mood of the jiva soul, there are manifested the ten Incarnations of God, viz., Matsya (fish), Kurma (Turtle), Varaha (Boar), Nrishmha (Man-Lion), Vamana (Dwarf), Parasu-rama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki, as worshippable Deities with eternal transcendental Names, Forms, Attributes and Sports. Those who have acquired a true knowledge about Incarnations with a thorough culture thereof, will be able, with the grace of the philosophers trained in the school of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, to appreciate the ontology of Shri Krishna, specially the intense sweetness of His Sports at Braja (i.e. Vrindavana and the neighbourhood.)

Q: -- I have just listened to many subtle truths in the science and philosophy of religion. Please let me have a conception of these intricate matters.

A: -- The essential principle of Vaishnavism is that, how-so-ever great a scholar and intellectual giant a man may be, he will not be able to appreciate even the easiest points of the Vaishnava philosophy, until and unless he has entirely surrendered himself to an Acharya whose character is the embodiment of the Vaishnava Philosophy. You must have heard about the Indian scripture named "Gita", which has been translated into different languages in the civilised world. There is a Shloka in it [2] which says that the Vaishnava Philosophy is understandable only with unconditional surrender, honest enquiry and serving temper. It is only to such an approach the professors of Vaishnava Philosophy with these three as the preceptorial fee, that they give instructions about the correct philosophical truths. These professors are never to be tempted by any type of worldly fees.

Q: -- The Gita has admitted the doctrine of the Transmigration of the soul. What does your Vaishnava Philosophy say about this?

A: -- The "Gita' is not separate from the Vaishnava Philosophy. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam has been fully revealed the true import of the doctrine, viz., that of changes of births for the soul. Christianity has disregarded the principle of change of births on the alleged ground that if it is accepted, men will not restrain their sinful propensities, rather they will indulge in vices at their sweet will in their present life, on the expectation that they will be able to make good their sins, guilts, and wrong going of this life in the course of the following ones. But the Shrimad Bhagavatam has crowned the principle with its true significance, by means of a much fuller scientific and philosophical meaning, by giving the instruction about the urgent necessity for ardently taking up and culturing devotion to God even while the human life, not easily available in the after-lives, is at our disposal, without spending a single moment thereof in other useless pursuits. If we do not accept the doctrine of transmigration of the soul and adopt the instruction of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, we shall not be able to get over the all-devouring disaster of regarding matter as the sole object of our concern, which has kept its mouth wide open.

Though most of the Christians do not admit transmigration, yet many instellectual glants [sic] of the Christian world have shown several instances of their acceptance of the doctrine. Even in the Bible [3] we find "And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, -- 'Master, who had commited the sin? This man or his parents, that he was born blind?" It is seen that even some Christian Fathers clearly gave instructions about transmigration. Origen said: "Is it not more in conformity with reason that every soul for certain mysterious reasons is introduced into a body and introduced according to its deserts and former actions?" [4] "I am sure that I, such as you see me here, have lived a thousand times and I have to come again another thousand times" says Goethe.

What the Greeks called "Metempsychosis' or what is "Transmigration' in the English language, was at one time, more or less, admitted in ancient Greece, Egypt and many places in the west. Some say that the apostles of Christ the Great, failing to reconcile their previous and subsequent conclusions with the doctrine of Transmigration, were compelled to discard it. Yet no rationalist among the Christians has been able to refute the doctrine on the basis of sound reasoning; on the other hand, most of them have had to admit it even. Heredotus, Pindar, Plato etc., have all accepted it. Huxley, the illustrious scientist of the nineteenth century, has written in his religious work, 'Evolution and Ethics': "None but very hasty thinkers will reject it on the ground of inherent absurdity, like the doctrine of evolution itself, viz., that of transmigration which has its root in the world of reality and it may claim such support as the great argument of 'Analogy' is capable of supplying."

Professor Lutoloski has said, "I cannot give up my conviction of a previous existence on earth before my birth, and I have the certainty to be born again after my death, until I have assimilated all human experiences, having been many times male and female, wealthy and poor, free and enslaved, generally having experienced all conditions of human existence." But such transmigration theories of the empiricists of the west or those of the western philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries like Franciscus Mercurius Helmont, Leichtenburg, Lessing, Herder, Schopenhauer, etc., or of Jallaluddin Rumi of the Sufi sect of Persia, or of the Theosophists, or of the Indian Nyaya Philosophy under the aphorism: "From the desire for the mother's breast-milk due to the habit of the previous life," or of the Buddhistic doctrine of annihilation in matter - these are assailable by various hostile reasonings and, having their origin in inductive concepts are incomplete and imperfect. But the conclusion in this respect of the Shrimad Bhagavatam is fully flawless and significant. The Vaishnava Philosophy having shown the royal road to the acquirement of the highest blessedness even in the present life, there is no need for waiting for future lives. As such, the Vaishnava Philosophy is thoroughly aloof from all wrangling full of useless riddles over the doctrine of transmigration.

Q: -- I am able to feel the super-excellence of the Vaishnava Philosophy among the Indian Philosophies. But to my mind the acceptance of idolatry in the Vaishnava Philosophy like the other Indian philosophies seems to be a stigma in it.

A: -- Idolatry has never been accepted in the Vaishnava Philosophy: on the other hand, it has been more or less accepted in the other philosophies, at least mentally, if not in so many words. In the very word 'Bhagavan' (God) have accumulated all the excellences that are there in the human and supra-human conceptions. The existence of Majesty, viz. the furthermost limits of both vastness and minuteness, is a characteristic of God. The second characteristic is His Omnipotence. If one understands the word 'omnipotence' to mean what is conceivable by the human intellect or what is possible for man, one is wrong. God is Omnipotent, because what is impossible according to the human intellect is within the ambit of the inscrutable power of God. Due to His inscrutable power, He is simultaneously both with and without Form. It will be the denial of His inscrutable power, if you say that He cannot have His Form, or He has not His Eternal Form, only having a Form for the time being, none in the end. By dint of His inscrutable power, He is with His Eternal Sportive Form before a liberated soul conversant with the service of His Potencies. Contemplation only on formlessness is rather unnatural and devoid of differential excellence. God is always All-Good, All-Glory and All-Beauty. His Beauty is visible only to the transcendental eye. God is the Transcendental Reality, Pure, Full and Sentient in essence and Sentient Essence is His Form.

It is true that God has no material body, but He has His Sat (Eternal) Chit (All-Sentient) Ananda (All-Blissful) Transcendental Body visible only to the eye that is clear (devoid of matter). To the material eye, God is Formless, but to the transcendental eye He is with His Body of Chit or All-Sentience. The Moortis (forms of body) prepared and worshipped by those who have not seen this Chit-Body of God with their true and eternal eye cleansed with the collyrium of the love of God are of course idols and all the worshippers of those idols must be idolaters. The worship of mooortis of God prepared from imagination may be called idolatry. Suppose I, who have not seen Jacob, make a Moorti of his [sic] out of imagination, this Moorti is not the replica of his form. Besides, if Jacob is a creature of this world, whose body, mind and soul are different from one another, his photograph being only the replica of his material body is different from his eternal and intrinsically true form. But God with His Sat-chit-ananda Body is not such a thing; His Body and Soul are not different from each other; nor are His Name and Soul, His Figure and Soul, His Attribute and Figure, His Attribute and Soul, His Sport and Soul, His Sport and Figure, His Sport and Attribute, different. If a pure entity or unmixed soul sees that Eternal Form of God and receives It in his own pure receptacle and then places this Transcendental Form in the world from his heart as illuming the intrinsically and essentially true Form of God, that never deserves to be called an idol. Just as even by coming down to this phenomenal world, God remains untouched by the influence of maya, by dint of His inscrutable power, so does His true Form, too, as revealed to the unmixed entity of His devotee, remain above it, even though brought down here. For this reason the Vaishnava Philosophy terms Shri-Moorti as His 'Archavatara' (Worshippable Descent).

The conception of God without Form in contradistinction to His Essential Form is as calamitous as is the falsely imagined Form of God for one competent to see His True Form. Such insignificant processes occur before attaining to the Real Entity and do only grope in the darkness. The Shri-Vigraha of the Vaishanva Philosophy cannot but be the direct indication of the Essential Form of God. By way of an imperfect comparison it may be said to be the proxy of the essential Form of God which is beyond the cognisance of the material eye, just as there are, in art and science, crude representations of invisible matter.

How can those, that have not in their heart love of God which is the true function of the soul and is the science of the true knowledge of realities, think of the Shri-Moortis (Shri Vigrahas) as other than idols? The deliberations of the Vaishnava Philosophy are very fine. These have shown by true scientific analysis that they are all, more or less, idolaters who declare themselves as partisans either of the doctrine of no Form of God or that of His material Form. Just as those who attribute God-ship to matter and worship it like the fire worshippers among the uncivilised people or the worshippers of the planets, such as Jupiter, Saturn, etc., of Greece, are crude idolaters, in a similar manner the others, who declare everything beyond matter as formless, and become exponents of the doctrine of non-distinction, are equal or even greater idolaters.

The Henotheists or worshippers of one of the Vedic deities or the worshippers of the five deities (called Panchopasakas) worship imaginary icons, considering them as God. According to them, God has no Sat-Chit-Anand-Vigraha, and as without some form there can be no subject for contemplation, to make it easy to meditate on Him, some form has got to be imagined. They are all idolaters. So also is the conduct of some of the Yogis and others to be regarded as idolatry, who, for purifying their heart or improving the functions of the mind, imagine a God and perform practices of contemplation, etc., of some imaginary form of His. Those who consider jivas as God are the most blasphemous idolaters, because to imagine any worldly thing or form as God is idolatry.

[End of Part I]


[1] Bh. 111.2.12

[2] Vide IV, 34

[3] St. John, 9.1-2

[4] Origin contra celscea, I. Xxxii.