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Thakur Bhaktivinoda

A Garland of Vaishnava Truths

Srila Sac-cid-ananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura published the book Vaishnava-Siddhanta-Mala in the year 1892 from Calcutta, West Bengal, India.

The Thakura cited the famous verse "Sri Madhvah praha vishnum paratamam akhila amnaya-vedyam ca visvam" on the cover of his book.

This famous verse appears in the Prameya-Ratnavali of Sripada Baladeva Vidyabhusana (Prameya-Ratnavali 1.8). This verse is a summary description of the ten fundamental truths of Vaishnavism as enunciated by Sripada Madhvacarya, the founder of the Brahma-Madhva-sampradaya.

This theological treatise of the Thakura presents the fundamental truths of Gaudiya Vaisnavism in a clear, concise format of questions and answers. This book was originally published as a philosophical introduction to the five sections of a book describing the method of spreading the Nama Hatta program or the market place of the Holy name of Krsna. We invite the readers to carefully read the Thakura's masterful and elegant presentation and appreciate the depth of His devotion and preaching spirit.

Translated from the original Bengali by Dasaratha Suta dasa
Copyright (c) 1994, Nectar Books



Q. What command has the supremely worshipable Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu given to us?

A. His order is this: that we very carefully observe the nine instructions of truth that Sri Madhvacarya has given us through the guru-parampara (disciplic succession).

Q. Who forms the guru-parampara?

A. The adi-guru (original guru) of all the spiritual masters in the disciplic succession is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Showing His great mercy, He gave instructions in the truth to Lord Brahma, the adi-kavi (original poet). These truths were in turn taught by Brahma to Sri Narada, by Narada to Vyasa, and successively from Vyasa to Sri Madhvacarya. Such instructions received through this disciplic succession are called Guru-Parampara-Upadesa.

Q. What are the names of these nine instructions given by Sri Madhvacarya?

A. Their names are thus:

1) Bhagavan alone is the Supreme truth, one without a second.
2) He is the object of knowledge in all the Vedas.
3) The universe is real [satya].
4) Differences [between Isvara, jiva and matter] are real.
5) Jiva souls are the servants of Lord Hari.
6) All souls are different according to their different situations.
7) Liberation [moksa] is the name of attainment of Bhagavan's feet.
8) Bhagavan's pure worship [amala bhajana] is the only way to attain liberation.
9) Pratyaksa [direct perception], anumana [logic], and sabda [spiritual sound] are the three types of evidence.


Q. Who is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead?

A. Bhagavan is the one Who expands all jivas and all matter by His own inconceivable energy (acintya-sakti), and then enters into these creations as the Supreme Lord (Isvara-svarupa). He also transcends all souls and matter as the impersonal Brahman effulgence (brahma-svarupa), which is far beyond all imagination; and moreover, it is He who manifests His divine potency (para-sakti) to reveal His form of eternity, knowledge and bliss (sac-cid-ananda svarupa), thereby becoming the object of devotion for all souls.

Q. What are the different types of the Lord's potencies?

A. We are unable to fully describe the Lord's potencies. The reason for this is His saktis have no boundaries, whereas we have boundaries; therefore, His energies are called para-sakti. These saktis are completely imperceptible to us, but on the other side of the matter, in the divine realm of His para-sakti, all things are accomplished effortlessly. Thus the para-sakti simultaneously conducts the opposing affairs of spirit and matter automatically.

Q. Then is Bhagavan subordinate to the sakti?

A. It is not that Bhagavan is one thing and the sakti is another, just as the burning power of the fire is inseparable from the fire, similarly Bhagavan's sakti is inseparable from Bhagavan.

Q. If Bhagavan is the one and only Supreme truth then why did Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu give His followers instructions about devotional service to Sri Krsna (Krsna Bhakti)?

A. Bhagavan has six eternal qualities He possesses all wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. Different forms of the Lord (Bhagavad-svarupa) manifest according to whether certain of these qualities are being expressed to greater or lesser degrees. For example, when His wealth feature is foremost, then He manifests as Narayana, the Lord of Vaikuntha; when His beauty and sweetness predominate, then He manifests as Vrindavana-Candra Sri Krsna. Therefore, only Sri Krsna is the topmost supreme manifestation of Bhagavan.

Q. How many types of forms does the Lord have?

A. All of His forms are fully conscious, supremely beautiful, overflowing with divine bliss, all attractive, vibrantly active, and perceivable by pure love. According to the different natures of different souls, the Lord's eternal form manifests in an infinite number of ways. Thus, according to these differences in the Lord's manifestation, different natured souls are eternally attached to Him in their own original forms. Only the form of Sri Krsna is the eternal blissful svarupa.

Q. What is Sri Krsna's lila?

A. Among the limitless variegated realms of the entire spiritual world, the most supremely charming portion is called Sri-Vrndavana. There, Sac-Cid-Ananda Sri Krsna is present in the form of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna for the purpose of performing eternal pastimes. When souls manifest their own form of divine bliss, then they live in Vrindavana in the mood of Sri Radhika's girlfriends (since She is the personification of supreme bliss), and thus they attain the qualification for participation in Sri Krsna's eternal pastimes.

Q. What are the obstacles to the attainment of Sri Krsna lila?

A. There are two types of obstacles:

1) material consciousness (jada-buddhi) and
2) beyond the conception of material consciousness, there is impersonal consciousness (nirvisesa-buddhi).

Q. What is material consciousness?

A. Material consciousness is an awareness that is limited to material time, place, objects, aspirations, thoughts and activities. According to material consciousness, one sees the realm of Vrindavana dhama to be a material place. Time is divided into three parts: past, present and future. Objects refer to all perishable things. Aspiration refers to the hopes for impermanent happiness, such as attaining the heavenly planets, etc. In this condition, the soul can think only in material thoughts. Such a soul imagines the following temporary activities to be worthwhile:

the culture of civilization
moral ethics
scientific learning
industrial development
and the increase of domestic prosperity.

Q. What is impersonal consciousness?

A. First, the principle in the material world which separates all things is called visesa (distinction based upon material quality). By merely renouncing material thinking, one only gives up the conception of material distinction, and thereby one's consciousness falls into the realm of nirvisesa (non-distinction). In this condition, one is unable to perceive the differences between material objects, since the self is situated in nirvana or merging with the impersonal abode of Brahman. This state is not a happy one at all; being bereft of the natural bliss of the eternally conscious soul, the prema or ecstatic love for the Lord remains concealed. The eternal pastimes of Sri Krsna are certainly beyond matter; indeed, they are endowed with cin-maya-visesa, or divinely conscious distinction.

Q. If Sri Krsna's pastimes are beyond matter, then how does He enact His lila in the material world at the end of the Dvapara-Yuga?

A. Sri Krsna-Lila is certainly transcendental to matter, but by the power of His inconceivable potency (acintya-sakti) He manifests His sports within the material sphere. Even though manifested there, Sri Krsna's pastimes never blend with matter or become subject to the rules of matter. These pastimes of Sri Krsna have two phases: 1) Prakata (manifest in the material world), 2) Aprakata (manifest only in the spiritual world beyond matter) and both conditions are visuddha-cinmaya, or pervaded with the purest divine consciousness. His pastimes are performed only in the most purely sacred realm of Vaikuntha, and they are centered in the forest of Sri Vrindavana. Their manifestation in the material world and in the hearts of jivas is only due to His acintya-sakti as well as His causeless mercy. Even when Krsna's lila is performed in the world of matter, the conditioned souls who partake of the material consciousness (jada-buddhi) are unfortunately cheated; their contact with matter makes them see the lila with faulty vision. Whoever becomes freed from jada-buddhi, just like the two rascals Jagai and Madhai did during the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then they will also be able to understand these truths. Becoming relieved of faulty material vision, such fortunate souls are then attracted to the Lord's pastimes. As long as the jivas cannot understand Sri Krsna-Tattva (the truth about the Lord), then they cannot taste rasa or divine relishable mellows.

Q. These truths of Sri Krsna-tattva are the religious principles of the Vaishnava-dharma. What about people who are involved with other types of religion?

A. Different religions have different instructions for the worship of either Isvara (the personal God), Paramatma (the localized supersoul in the heart) or Brahma (His all-pervading impersonality) but all three of these types of religions are ultimately pointing in the direction of Krsna-Tattva. After the jivas evolve upwards through their various courses of development, they eventually will attain Krsna Bhakti in the end. Even though they attain the incompleteness of their various religious paths, Sri Krsna Bhakti is still available to them. The awareness of the supreme nature of Sri Krsna-tattva is the ultimate knowledge inherent within each and every living entity.


Q. How can one know the truth of the Lord (Bhagavat-tattva)?

A. This can be known by the soul's knowledge of the self-evident truth (svatah-siddha-jnana).

Q. What is self-evident truth?

A. There are two types of knowledge (jnana):

1) self-evident(svatah-siddha),and
2) that which depends on the senses (indriya-paratantra).

Self-evident knowledge is the natural truth that is inherently a feature of the pure spirit soul's original form. It is eternal, just as the totality of the divinely conscious realm is also eternal. This self-evident knowledge is called veda or amnaya. This veda, in the form of pure knowledge (siddha-jnana-rupa) has incarnated in the material world in the shape of Rk, Sama, Yajuh and Atharva, along with the conditioned souls (baddhadivas); this alone is the self-evident knowledge (svatah-siddha-jnana). Whatever knowledge that ordinary souls can gather through the use of their material senses is only the second type of knowledge, or indriya-paratantra (dependent on the senses).

Q. Can anyone know the Bhagavat-tattva (the truth of the Lord) by indriya-paratantra-jnana (sensual knowledge)?

A. No. Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is beyond the scope of all the material senses. For this reason, He is known as Adhoksaja. The senses, as well as all the material conceptions gathered from the sense perceptions, always remain very far away from the Bhagavat-tattva, the truth of the Lord.

Q. If Bhagavan is attainable through self-evident knowledge (svatah-siddha-jnana), then we should be able to attain Him by whatever svatah-siddha-jnana that we presently have. What then is the need to study the Vedic scriptures?

A. The Veda is present in every pure spirit soul's existence in the form of svatah-siddha-jnana. According to the different levels of different souls in the materially conditioned state, this Veda will spontaneously manifest itself to one person, or may remain veiled to someone else. Therefore, to help reawaken the forgetful conditioned souls to the eternally self-evident truths, the Veda has also incarnated in the form of written books which may be studied, recited and heard.

Q. We have heard that Bhagavan is perceivable only through bhakti (devotional service). If this is true, then how can we say that He is perceivable by jnana, even svatah-siddha-jnana?

A. That which is called svatah-siddha-jnana is another name for bhakti. When speaking of topics related to the supreme truth (para-tattva), some call it jnana and some call it bhakti.

Q. Then why is jnana condemned in the devotional scriptures (bhakti-sastras)?

A. The devotional scriptures express a great reverence for svatah-siddha-jnana; indeed, they state that other than this purely self-evident spiritual knowledge, there is no auspicious welfare. The types of jnana that are condemned in the bhakti sastras are:

1) indriya-paratantra-jnana (knowledge based on sense perception) and
2) nirvisesa-jnana (impersonal non-distinct knowledge), the latter of which is merely an absence of the former.

Q. All the Vedic scriptures speak of

1) karma (fruitive activities),
2) jnana (speculative knowledge) and
3) bhakti (devotional service).

By which of these can the Bhagavat-tattva (the truth of the Lord) be known?

A. By examining the statements of all the Vedas collectively, it is seen that they are all in complete agreement that other than Bhagavan, there is nothing but nothing else worth knowing. All the karma (fruitive activities) mentioned in the Vedas ultimately lead to Bhagavan. When jnana (speculative knowledge) fructifies into its pure condition, then one gives up all dualities that arise from both visesa-jnana and nirvisesa-jnana, one then aims for Bhagavan. The process of Bhakti (devotional service ) naturally cultivates a direct relationship with Bhagavan; therefore the Lord can be known by all the Vedas.


Q. Some people say, "This universe is false it is only made of maya." Is this true?

A. This universe is real, but it is temporary and perishable. The two characteristics 'real' and 'eternal' have separate meanings. The material universe is not eternal, because eventually it will be destroyed according to the Lord's desire. But it is a factual reality, not false. Whenever the scriptures say that this universe is false, it is to be understood that this statement merely refers to its temporary, perishable nature.

Q. What is Maya?

A. Bhagavan's divine potency (para-sakti) is composed of an infinite variety of energies. Among all of these, we know about three in particular: the principles of

I) cit (consciousness),
2) jiva (spirit soul) and
3) maya (material illusion).

From His cit potency, the Lord issues forth the manifestation of His own forms and pastimes (bhagavat-tattva-prakasa); from His jiva potency, He issues forth a limitless number of tiny atomic particles of consciousness; from His maya potency, He issues forth the manifestation of this material universe. Whatever is produced from the maya potency is perishable, but for the duration of its manifestation, it is real.


Q. Whenever both Bhagavan and the jivas are spoken of as being conscious (caitanya), then is the difference between the two real or imaginary?

A. No. Bhagavan's consciousness is all pervading (vibhu-caitanya), and the jiva's consciousness is infinitesimal (anu-caitanya). This difference between the two is not imaginary, but factual. Bhagavan is the Lord of His own maya-sakti, whereas the jivas are subordinate to maya-sakti.

Q. How many types of bheda (difference) are there?

A. There are two types of Bheda: vyavaharika (relating to behavior) and tattvika (relating to truth).

Q. What is vyahavarika-bheda?

A. This is illustrated in the difference between a clay pot and a piece of cloth. They seem to be different things, but they both originated from the same thing the soil of the earth. In the original condition as soil, there is no difference between the two things (the pot and the cloth). This type of difference is called vyavaharika-bheda .

Q. What is tattvika-bheda?

A. This is when one thing is different from another thing in its function as well as in its original cause. This type of difference is called tattvika-bheda.

Q. Is the difference between the jiva and Bhagavan vyavaharika or tattvika?

A. Tattvika.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because in no condition whatsoever can the jiva become Bhagavan.

[Ed. Note: This document is incomplete from this point. We hope to restore it to completion in near future.]