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
Translated from the original Bengali by Dasaratha Suta dasa
Copyright (c) 1994, Nectar Books
(NINE TRUTHS OF EVIDENCE)
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
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
8) Bhagavan's pure worship [amala bhajana] is the only way to
9) Pratyaksa [direct perception], anumana [logic], and sabda
[spiritual sound] are the three types of evidence.
BHAGAVAN ALONE IS THE SUPREME TRUTH
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
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
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
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.
HE IS KNOWABLE BY ALL THE VEDAS
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
Q. What is self-evident truth?
A. There are two types of knowledge (jnana):
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
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
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
1) indriya-paratantra-jnana (knowledge based on sense
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.
THE UNIVERSE IS REAL
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.
DIFFERENCE (BHEDA) 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
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?
Q. Why is that?
A. Because in no condition whatsoever can the jiva become
[Ed. Note: This document is incomplete from this point. We hope to restore it to completion in near future.]