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By Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati

Published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)


There is a function which is called 'Upanayana' (bringing near). We come to learn from the words of the shruti that the birth of man is three fold, viz., (1) seminal birth (2) by Gayatri, (3) by initiation. The seminal birth comes first in order of time, from the mother's womb. Then comes the second birth on the attainment of purification by the Gayatri-mantram. The next birth is brought about on receiving Spiritual enlightenment (diksha). We obtain a body from the mother's womb by vital fluid from the father. This is our first birth. The body that we get by this process is one kind of body. The second kind of body is that which is born by the union of the Acharya as father and Gayatri as mother at the time of our investiture with the Holy thread. Then the Acharya-father binds us with the thread of Sacrifice for the purpose of introducing us to the study of the Vedas by means of the Mantras, 'I will lead thee into the presence of the Veda etc.' The birth to which we are thereby subjected in the home of the Acharya is our second birth.

The ceremony of tying the Sacrificial thread does not import that thereby the physical body may be preserved but that the Veda or true knowledge may be gained by its means. Our third birth takes place on the occasion of the ceremony of imparting spiritual enlightenment by initiation into performance of worship (Yajna). This is spiritual birth proper by attainment of the ceremony of imparting enlightenment is performance of Divine worship, Yajna or Upasana, which latter means 'to live in close proximity', this being the etymological meaning of the word. The performance of Yajna or Upasana is the function that has to be practised subsequent to receiving spiritual enlightenment (diksha). The function which we perform on appearing in the presence of the Holy Form of real knowledge (Veda) is termed Upasana. The Person in Whose presence we dwell on gaining access to His proximity is the Object of Upasana. He is the Veda-Person, Lord of Yajna, Vishnu. The function for the performance of which we dwell with Him is Upasana or worship which is also Yajna or sacrifice. The prescribed method of Yajna is different for the different Cycles (Yugas). For the Satya-Yuga - when virtue was fully prevalent - the method prescribed was that of meditation (dhyana). In the Treta-Age - when the prevalence of virtue had decreased by one quarter - the Yajna took the form of sacrifice by fire (Makha). In the Dwapara-Age when dharma had decreased by one half it took the form of ministering to the person of Godhead as a servant attends to his master's needs (paricharya). In the Kali-Yuga, when virtue has gone under to the proportion of three quarters, the Yajna has the form of preaching or Kirtana. In this Iron Age virtue is totally on its last legs and in consequence the other methods have no chance of success.

The code of scriptural regulations known as the Veda has come down to this world as Shruti (that which has been heard) from preaching (Kirtana) as its source. The present is the Age of controversy (Kali-kala). In this Age whatever proposition may happen to be put forward, it forthwith provokes active discussion of its pros and cons and raises a storm of reasoned opposition. The chanting or preaching of the Name and Glory of Hari is the only Scriptural method (Shrautapantha). That absolutely consistent expounder of the Shruti, Shrimat Purnaprajna Madhavacharya, in his commentary on the Mundakopanishad quotes the following words of the Narayana Samhita: -- "In the Dwapara-Age Vishnu was worshipped by all people by the method laid down in the Pancharatra (division of the Scriptures treating of their rationale). In the present controversial Age (Kali Yuga) the Supreme Lord Hari is worshipped by means of His Name alone.

It is needful to consider about the Object of our worship. If we obtain access to the presence (upasana) of any inanimate object or happen to be situated in its vicinity we are thereby induced to put it to some use or in other words, we attempt to extract some service to ourselves from it. But the entity that happens to be self-conscious is necessarily also a free agent. If I make the attempt to get upon his shoulders he is apt to offer his opposition to such activity. We have no power at all whereby we can put to our own service One Who is fully free. On the contrary it is we who find ourselves irressistibly [sic] put to His own service. The current Utilitarian theory is always busy to find a use for every thing: for the natural current of the flowing river, the free air of the atmosphere, for the falls of the Niagara. But we cannot employ any self-conscious entity, -- least of all, the fully Self-conscious and fully free Entity - in the same way in our service. He never submits to us.

During our sojourn in this world the consideration that other objects may serve our pleasure, that we may become the worshipped, has come to prevail. Is the show of service that we display in the garb of worshippers towards other entities of this world, possessed of a mixed quality or of unalloyed purity? The generations of the Rishis practised sacrifices, (Yajnas, dhyanas) etc. They never entertained the judgment that they are eligible to receive the service of others. They offered their services to their Devatas. In the portions of the Veda treating of worship (upasana) we find them making use of the following mantras (which saves us from thraldom to the mind) in their hymn of praise of the gods: --

"Thou, fire (i.e. Vishnu), may Thou lead us unto the treasure of the supreme Truth (paramartha) by the good path. Bright One, may Thou lead us in unison with the movement of the whole cosmos and by the method of the knowledge fully directed to Thyself. May Thou destroy all our sins in the forms of nescience and insincerity. We bow to Thee time and again." They praise the gods by means of this and other similar hymns. They consider these hymns as the constituent limbs of the acts of upasana (lit, abiding in the presence of the object of worship). The proof of these statements has been most clearly preserved in the oldest Vedic history. The Rishis did not regard themselves as objects of worship. They were worshippers of the Devatas. This disposes of the allegation that the process which bears the name of upasana is a comparatively modern innovation. The method that is approved by the school of pure knowledge or exclusive Monism is that the proper object of life is to merge in the Brahman. It is found to be the historical fact that in times long before the origin of the method of the desire for service, upasana was the only spiritual impulse which existed among all people while their disposition regained its natural, primitive simplicity. Now-a-days in this Age which is so inordinately fond of discordant controversy (Kali-Yuga), the opinion which is opposed to history has become fashionable, that is the form of upasana, is of recent origin. Such a view is altogether erroneous. Wheresoever the function of the consciousness has been found to exist the tradition of upasana is also seen to have prevailed from the very beginning of history. Brahman or the Entity of real knowledge (Veda) the real Truth, first manifested Himself in the heart of Brahma, the first progenitor of all animate beings of this world.

The Rishis and the Devatas are offsprings of Brahma. The Devatas possess the quality of self-effulgence in a boundless measure. It is for this reason that the Rishis served the Devatas with infinite devotion. This relationship of the worshipper with the worshipped must have always subsisted between the Rishis and the Devatas.

We also notice that in the first dawn of our consciousness as well as in the beginning of our cultured state or intellectualism, service or upasana was the universal natural impulse. In the subsequent periods if we carefully consider the diverse forms of religion also in the pre-historic Ages, we find that the impulse of service is always spontaneous in human nature. It is in the present Age of Discord that there has arisen such an amount of disputation on this subject. The reason is that we are now-a-days unhesitatingly occupied in the engrossing task of trying to lord it over one another. The Utilitarian theory has undergone its due expansion and is aspiring to yoke everything into our so-called service. We spare no manner of close endeavour (upasana) - every one of us does it to the best of his power - to become the recipients of service (upasana). This familiar process known as barter made its appearance with the beginning of civilization. If I perform some service for another he pays me its value. Men are thus placed towards one another in the relation of servant and master. In this world we possess different sense organs to the number of eleven for doing service viz., the eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin, speech, hand, anus, leg, generative organ and mind. By means of these instruments we adjust our respective occupations towards one another. One thus becomes the master of another who in his turn becomes the servant or subordinate. One occupies a high, the other a low, position. One is engaged in rendering obedient service to another.

Every human being - all animate, all conscious and non-conscions [sic] entities - are thus located in the system of the threefold relationship of worshipper, worship and object of worship. Each entity is related to another as servant or master. Wherever we find more than one or many entities, each of them is seen to be engaged in ministering to the wants of another. We observe this process called upasana in constant operation in both animate and inanimate worlds and yet we are anxious to establish the view that the Reality is absolutely devoid of all distinctive features and to congratulate ourselves on possessing sound judgment and wonderful power of argument, by which we are enabled to reach such a grand conclusion. If the knowledge that is devoid of all distinctive features be the object of my worship, the endeavour which I put forward for the purpose of serving such object is itself the process of my specific kind of worship.

The person who is engaged in the quest of the Undifferentiated Brahman says that at the point where the three separate lines of consideration of knower, object of knowledge and knowledge merge into one indivisible activity of cognition, the logical limit of the cognitive process itself is reached. 'Let the diversity end. One in observing another is showing himself to his observer. Let the functions of both cease.' Such a consummation is called the desirable state of non-activity. If the observer of the light and the process of observing the light could be extinguished it is supposed that such an event could free us from the necessity of worship (upasana), rescue us from the grip of the process of the triple texture. We are in the midst of, we are engaged in the performance of, certain forms of activity. If this process is destroyed we are disposed to imagine that the principle of activity itself is thereby eliminated.

We are located on the marginal line forming the boundary between that perishable world and the realm of the Absolute (Vaikuntha). All speculations involving any reference to the phenomenal world will cease if we could reach the marginal line. So long as we happen to be engaged in the quest of the principle of non-cognition we are led to think that we might escape the clutches of our evil lot on the cessation of the separate existence of object of knowledge, act of knowledge and knower. The goal to which such a proposition leads is devoid of both categories, there being no reference either to the phenomenal world or to the realm of the Absolute in such a goal. The composite position of knower, knowledge and object of knowledge is evolved from the marginal power. It forms one of the perishable divisions of the Reality. In the marginal position we engage in diverse activities and are enabled thereby to experience the existence of the worshipper, worshipped and act of worship. All of these are also not one but many. In common parlance we say that one cannot serve many masters. When we try to serve the entities of this world we find ourselves committed by such endeavours to the slavery of lust, anger, greed, infatuation, vanity, malice etc. If the object of worship, the act of worship and the worshipper merge into one category a condition of intense maliciousness is found to prevail as the sequel of such consummation which exists only in one's imagination.

Those who possess sound judgment declare that the activity of service has prevailed at all periods in the history of the world. Every object is always found to be closely bound to every other object by the relationship of servant and master. If any entity adopts on its own account the role of master it thereby falls into the evil condition of such activity.

Should we be worshippers of worshipped? There is a certain sect which is called "Baul" or insane. The Baul says, "I am enjoyer. This home is for my enjoyment. This tenement is meant to serve myself".


There are two kinds of Bauls, householder Bauls and recluse Bauls. A number of Bauls renounce the world. They, however, put on the garb of Krishna for the exclusive purpose of enjoying the world. They intend to become Krishna in right earnest. Their point of view is that all other persons should place themselves body and soul at their entire disposal.

Shri Gaursundar does not endorse the validity of such opinions. He says that the undifferentiated monistic view cannot be considered as the real meaning of the Vedanta or of the Veda. He says that there are found three kinds of propositions in the Veda viz. those regarding the nature of relationship, those regarding the practice of relationship and those regarding the object of such endeavour. These different groups cannot be made to lose their distinctive specification. Mahaprabhu tells us of the process of the evolution of power. He does not advocate any process of mere confusion on one thing for another (Vivarta) as the explanation of the principle of evil.

The good old Vaishnava Acharyapada Shri Madhava says, "Vishnu Himself is the Ultimate Real Substantive Entity". The seeker of the undifferentiated Brahman maintains that the featureless Great One (Brahman) is the ultimate Principal. But this last is a proposition that can be put forward only by those who are themselves in the conditioned state. In the state of freedom such consideration automatically ceases to be entertained. The Entity Who is the source of everything, is Vishnu. We also notice that the formula (Mantram) saves us from the plight of mental speculation, that we have to utter it at all times, and that in the pure state as well as in the state of defilement, in all conditions, he who recollects the Possessor of the Lotus Eyes (Vishnu) is pure both internally and externally.

One is higher than another in proportion as his conduct is more in conformity with the requirements of the spiritual standard. The Brahmana is the highest of all the Varnas for the reason that he has learnt to behave properly from the Acharya i.e. one who practices the function of the soul and establishes others in the same. The Kshatriyas (military class) are the protectors of mundane society. They devote themselves exclusively to politics. Those who have similarly to busy themselves very much about knowledge of Brahman and worship of Godhead, have also very little time to spare for other kinds of activities.

The life of the Brahmana is that of the beggar. It is the duty of society to serve and to help those whose sole profession is to cultivate the knowledge of the Brahman. The Brahmanas also should obtain what they require by the method of begging. If there is left any surplus on their hands over and above what they require for their own daily use they should give it away to others as free gift. They must not accumulate anything as provision for the future.

In many places, as for instance in the Government census operations, the whole body of destitute beggars have been put into one class with the Sadhus. If the ordinary beggar who is in want of necessaries be regarded as identical with the Tridandi or Sadhu Bhikshu of the Bhagavata it amounts to a political or social travesty of truth.

The vagrancy act is not applicable to the bonafide itinerant preacher viz., the Tridandi Bhikshu. If the seeker of the knowledge of Brahman has to find much time for getting his food and clothing, the margin of time left to him for finding the knowledge of Brahman is unduly curtailed. It is for this reason that Manu has said that the whole world belongs to the Barhmanas [sic] who are its real proprietors. This is perfectly true. Those who worship Godhead accept what they require at any time by the method of meeting only the requirement of the moment. They entertain no anxiety with regard to worldly needs. The society is under obligation to provide them with neither more nor less than what is necessary for their cultivation of the knowledge of Brahman. The society which does not place itself under the guidance of those who possess the knowledge of Brahman will sink down to the uttermost depths of degeneration.

The Brahmana, the Kshatriya and the Vaisya are the proper objects of worship of the Sudra. If in this world any one is disposed to entertain any principle of superiority he must go by this rule. He who does not seek for the Entity Who is the object of quest of the Brahmana, is landed into the thousand and one futile topics of this world, that are absolutely different from the quest of the Brahman.

"The four Varnas with Ashramas sprang from the Face, the Hands, the Thighs, and the Feet of the Supreme Purusha (Indweller). He who does not serve or fails to render due respect to the Purusha Who is the Lord Himself and the source of all souls loses and falls from his possession."

The Face of the Purusha is the highest of all His Limbs, His Hands are next below His Face in the order of excellence. His Thighs are lower than His Hands and His Feet are lower still. In other words, there is gradation of descent from the higher to the lower, from the Face to the lower portions of the Form of the Purusha. In like manner the Brahmana is the best of all; the Kshatriya is next lower; the Vaishya is lower than the Kshatriya; and the Sudra is the lowest of all. The face is the best of all limbs. In the face are placed the brain, the seat of intelligence, and the mouth, the seat of speech, (Kirtan). That Brahmana who devotes all this time to the chanting of the Name of the best of Purushas viz., Vishnu, the source from Whom he has sprung, alone is properly a Vaishnava. The head performs the function of judging and deciding. The Brahmana who is the brain of the society controls all activities of the hands and thighs of the social body. It is the brain, the Brahmana, who tells the feet in what manner they should move. He tells them where to go and where not to go. It is the Brahmana who tells them to walk on the plane of Krishna in the eternal realm. "It is the function of the house-holder, the husband to betake himself to his wife at the due season. But My worship is obligatory on all."

If the community of the recluse Bauls proclaims, "We will indulge in the unchecked gratification of our senses by putting on the garb of Krishna," or if the Baul who is addicted to domesticity thinks, "I will enjoy the pleasures of my home", it may be asked how long it would be possible for a servant who belongs to this external word, by his own admission to continue in such service. If the Brahmana does not serve the Supreme Lord Who is the source of all souls, if he does not serve Him Whose eternal servant he is by his proper nature, he gradually sinks lower in the scale of his function, suffering successive degradation in the respective conditions of Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudra, Antyaja Mleccha and others.

There is a certain class of persons who are devoid of ordinary common sense who say, "The function of the servant of this world is the worst of all. We have, therefore, no intention of practicing any similar function in the next worlds. We intend to be master, to be objects of worship." As if the transcendental realm is full of unwholesomeness and is tortured by the triple quality as is the case with this world! If one is ignorant of the true meaning of "Vaikuntha" one is liable to fall into this kind of poverty of judgment. He is apt to attribute and imagine the existence of the unwholesomeness of the perverted reflected image even in the undisturbed substantive entity itself. Into that realm where there is no principle of limitation, no question of evil, where there is only unmixed good, it is not our duty to carry from here anything that is productive of evil. The sun is a luminous self-revealing entity. It is not necessary to carry any lamp to the sun.

There is a popular tale to illustrate such misconceptions. A certain Boatman was troubled by the idea that the operation of pulling at the cord for towing his boat was a miserable job involving great hardships, inasmuch as it required him to trudge painfully along most uneven ground over thorn and brambles which ofter [sic] stuck into the bare soles of his feet. Therefore, if he could manage to get rich somehow he would be in a position to tug at his cord by bestriding quilts and mattresses which he would take care to spread over either bank of the river. The boat-man of the story was so foolish that he intended to carry all the miserable pursuits of his poverty-stricken state into the condition of affluence. The consideration that if he could get rich it might not be necessary for him to tug at the cord at all would not penetrate his foolish pate. Those persons who are bent on journeying to the transcendental realm laden with all the superstitions and material judgments of this world, who are anxious to transport their sense-ridden logic to the transcendental realm, who choose to imagine that in the realm that lies beyond this world there can be any scope for the unavoidable slave mentality of this world or any form of service which is in any way characterised by the factors of the unwholesomeness of this world, are indeed as stuipid [sic] as the foolish boat-man of the story. The function of the servant that prevails in the realm of the Absolute, the servitude of the soul in the state of freedom from the fetters of material bondage, is the natural condition of the soul i.e., perfect subordination to his own proper nature (Swadhinata). By such servitude even unconquerable Godhead himself is subdued - the supreme Lord of all Lords becomes our own.

A narrative in the Upanishads runs as follows: Once upon a time Indra on behalf of the devatas and Virochana on that of the asuras, repaired to Brahma for the purpose of learning about the nature of the self. Virochana was led by observation of the reflected image to suppose that his external gross body was the soul. Indra without being in a hurry like Virochana, set patiently about the quest of the words of Brahma. His patience was rewarded by making him acquainted with the real nature of the eternal entity viz., the soul who transcends the physical body and mind. The madness of those who direct their intellectual expedition to the external cases, is what is called asura judgment. The war between the devatas and the asuras is going on at all times. By the mode of worshipping (upasana), of devotion (bhakti) the suras were enabled to realise Vishnu as the Best of all entities. When the evil propensity of transgressing against Vishnu made its appearance the non-daiva mode of judgment engulfed the faculty of pure consciousness of the soul (jiva). When man becomes excessively addicted to the needs of the non-self he sets himself against the worship of Vishnu. Then man falls even lower than the status of the devatas. The devatas also offer opposition to the worship of Vishnu. They are apt to think that the asuras are their rivals to frustrate their own attempt of becoming Vishnu. The denizens of the realms of Satya, Mahas, Jana and Tapas are higher in the scale of creation than the devatas who are addicted to the pleasures of the realm of Svah, for the reason that the residents of those higher realms belong to the community who have renounced the pleasures of the flesh.

According to the judgment of ordinary people Vishnu is only one of the devatas and the other devatas do not derive their powers from Vishnu. If Vishnu is regarded as only one among the devatas such a view gives rise to the cult of the plurality of gods, or polytheism, henotheism (panchopasana) and pseudo-latitudinarianism in effect propose nothing short of ultimate and complete merging in the One viz., the Brahman, of becoming indistinguishable from the Brahman, by breaking all devatas. Persons who are so disposed have a conviction, which they have had prior to the commencement of the process of worship, that the Object of their worship is devoid of all distinctive status of His Own. In other words they seek to prove that there is no need of worshipping Godhead at all. Let us, these creeds say in effect, by way of sheer hypocrisy insincerely admit, for the time being, a process of temporary worship and the temporary objects of our worship. They are led to judge in this manner by their previous bitter experience of this world, in order to escape the bad consequence of committing themselves for good to any position which is likely to undergo change in the future. Shrimad Bhagavatam has the following shloka which inculcates the method of being saved from such difficulty: 'Constant and unforgetful devotion to the lotus Feet of Krishna diminishes all evil and fosters our good in the shape of purification of the ego, attachment to the Supreme Soul and Knowledge attended with distinctive realisation of the Truth and consequent aversion to the phenomenal and the transitory'.

To be subject to lust, anger, greed, infatuation, vanity and malice is to be in the evil condition. To be opposed to Krishna and His devotees is to lapse into evil. By attaining to the constant recollection of Krishna alone is it possible to be delivered from evil. If the spark of fire of the recollection of Krishna once flashes on the track of memory, or in other words, if the realisation that I am the eternal servant of Krishna, is once aroused, it sets on fire the whole refuse-heap of evils and burns them to ashes.

If one says even once, 'Krishna, I am Thine', "Krishna delivers him from the bondage of the limiting Energy (maya). If a person chants the Kirthana of Hari in every way it is only then that he can cease to seek honour for himself, can render due honour to every one and be humbler than the blade of grass. In the verse regarding 'Humility greater than that of the blade of grass' the word 'constantly' means undiverted chanting of Hari without offering any opportunity to the operation of lust, anger, etc. A person who is subject to lust, anger, etc., does not possess the utmost humility which is greater than that of the blade of grass and even if he has a taste for limited material enjoyment he is never humbler than a blade of grass. Utmost humility, greater than that of the blade of grass, is the characteristic only of him who is unceasingly given to the quest of Krishna i.e., addicted to the uninterrupted and mellowing process of the agony of loving separation from Krishna.

'By constant listening to and reciting the deeds of Krishna with faith and reverence Godhead enters the heart in no very long time.' The empiric truth available in this world has a certain characteristic of relativity. The truth that manifests itself in the relative function is not the unalloyed Truth. The service of the Supreme Soul is not service of matter. Krishna alone is the Object of our constant supreme service. Perform always the chant of Krishna; of His quality, of the distinctive personality of His servitors, of His Pastime. The lotus feet of Shri Gurudeva, who advises us to do so, alone should be the constant object of our worship in every way. He is the eternal associated counterpart of Godhead. Vaishnavas who serve Shri Guru are objects of our worship.