CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Māyāvādī Philosophers are Converted
In this way Lord Caitanya condemned attempts at indirect interpretation of the Vedānta-sūtra, and all the sannyāsīs present were struck with wonder by His explanation. After hearing the direct interpretation, one of the sannyāsīs immediately declared, “O Śrīpāda Caitanya, whatever You have explained in Your condemnation of the indirect interpretation of oṁkāra is most useful. Only a fortunate person can accept Your interpretation as the right one. Actually, every one of us now knows that the interpretations given by Śaṅkara are all artiﬁcial and imaginary, but because we belong to Śaṅkarācārya’s sect, we take it for granted that his interpretation is the right one. We shall be very glad to hear You further explain the Vedānta-sūtra by direct interpretation.”
Being so requested, Lord Caitanya explained each and every verse of Vedānta-sūtra according to the direct interpretation. He also explained the word Brahman, indicating that Brahman means the greatest, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Brahman indicates that the greatest is full with six opulences; the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the reservoir of all wealth, all fame, all strength, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation. When Lord Kṛṣṇa was present personally on earth, He exhibited these six opulences in full. No one was richer than Lord Kṛṣṇa, no one was more learned than Him, no one more beautiful, no one stronger, no one more famous and no one more renounced. Therefore the Supreme Personality of Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Brahman. This is conﬁrmed by Arjuna in Bhagavad-gītā (10.12): paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma, “You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode.” Therefore Brahman indicates the greatest, and the greatest is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. He is the shelter of the Absolute Truth (para-tattva) because He is paraṁ brahma. There is nothing material in His opulences and exhibitions of wealth, fame, strength, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. All the Vedic verses and hymns indicate that everything about Him is spiritual and transcendental. Wherever the word Brahman appears in the Vedas, it should be understood that Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is indicated. An intelligent person at once replaces the word Brahman with the name Kṛṣṇa.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is transcendental to the material modes of nature, but He is fully qualiﬁed with transcendental attributes. To accept the Supreme as impersonal is to deny the manifestation of His spiritual energies. When someone simply accepts the impersonal exhibition of spiritual energy to the exclusion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he does not accept the Absolute Truth in full. To accept the Supreme in full is to accept spiritual variegatedness, which is transcendental to the material modes of nature. By failing to indicate the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the impersonalists are left with an incomplete conception.
The approved method for understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is the path of devotional service, and this is conﬁrmed in every Vedic scripture. Devotional service of the Lord begins by hearing about Him. There are nine different methods in devotional service, of which hearing is the chief. Hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping - all these are used in the process of attaining the highest perfection by understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This process by which the Supreme Personality of Godhead is understood is known as abhidheya, practice of devotional service within conditional life.
It is experienced in practice that when one takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he does not like to deviate into another form of consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is development of love for Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and this is the ﬁfth dimensional interest of the human being. When one actually takes to this process of transcendental service, he relishes his relationship with Kṛṣṇa directly. When there is reciprocation of transcendental dealings with Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa gradually becomes a personal associate of the devotee. Then the devotee eternally enjoys blissful life. For this reason, it is the purpose of the Vedānta-sūtra to reestablish the living entity’s lost relationship with the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa and to enable him to execute devotional service and ultimately achieve the highest goal of life, love of Godhead. This is the real purpose of Vedānta-sūtra.
After Lord Caitanya explained the Vedānta-sūtra by directly interpreting the verses, the chief disciple of Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī stood up in the assembly and began to praise Lord Caitanya as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa. He not only very much appreciated the explanation of Vedānta-sūtra by Lord Caitanya, but he stated publicly that the direct explanation of the Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtra “is so pleasing that we forget ourselves and forget that we belong to the Māyāvāda sect.” Thus it is herein admitted that Śaṅkarācārya’s explanations of the Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtra are all imaginary. We may sometimes accept such imaginary explanations for the sake of sectarian feuds, but actually such explanations do not satisfy us. It is not that one becomes free from material entanglements simply by accepting the order of sannyāsa. Yet if we actually understand the explanations given by Lord Caitanya, we will be helped. For instance, when Lord Caitanya explains the meaning of harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam, everyone is pleased, for it is a fact that there is no alternative to devotional service. Without devotional service no one can attain liberation from the material clutches. Especially in this age, one can achieve the highest liberation simply by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.4) it is stated that when a person abandons the path of devotional service and simply labors for knowledge, he has no proﬁt other than the trouble he takes to understand the difference between matter and spirit. It is useless labor to try to get grains from empty husks. Thus it is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32) that a person who gives up the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Lord and superﬁcially considers himself liberated never attains to liberation. With great labor, austerity and penance, he may be elevated to the liberated platform, but for want of shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, he falls down again into material contamination.
The Supreme Brahman cannot be accepted as impersonal, otherwise the six opulences, which belong to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, cannot be attributed to Brahman. All the Vedas and Purāṇas afﬁrm that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of spiritual energies, but foolish people simply reject this and deride His activities. They misinterpret the transcendental body of Kṛṣṇa to be a creation of material nature, and this is considered to be the greatest offense and greatest sin. One should simply accept the words of Lord Caitanya as He spoke them before Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī and the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs.
The individual personality of the Supreme Absolute Truth is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.9.3-4): “O Supreme Lord, the transcendental form that I am seeing is the embodiment of transcendental pleasure. It is eternal and devoid of the contamination of the material modes. It is the greatest manifestation of the Absolute Truth, and it is full of effulgence. O soul of everyone, You are the creator of this cosmic manifestation and all the material elements. I surrender unto You in Your transcendental form, O Kṛṣṇa! O most auspicious universe! You advent Yourself in Your original personal form in order to be worshiped by us, and we perceive You either by meditation or by direct worship. Foolish people contaminated by material nature do not give much importance to Your transcendental form, and consequently they glide down to hell.”
This is also conﬁrmed in Bhagavad-gītā (9.11):
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.”
That such foolish and demoniac persons go to the hellish planets is also conﬁrmed in Bhagavad-gītā (16.19):
tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu
“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.”
The doctrine of by-products, pariṇāma-vāda, is asserted from the very beginning of Vedānta-sūtra, but Śaṅkarācārya has superﬁcially tried to hide it and establish the doctrine of transformation, vivarta-vāda. He also has the audacity to say that Vyāsa is mistaken. All Vedic literatures, including the Purāṇas, conﬁrm that the Supreme Lord is the center of all spiritual energy and variegatedness. The Māyāvādī philosopher, puffed-up and incompetent, cannot understand variegatedness in spiritual energy. He consequently falsely believes that spiritual variegatedness is no different from material variegatedness. Deluded by this false belief, the Māyāvādīs deride the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such foolish persons, unable to understand the spiritual activities of the Supreme Lord, consider Kṛṣṇa to be a product of this material nature. This is the greatest offense any human being can commit. Lord Caitanya therefore establishes that Kṛṣṇa is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha, the form of eternity, knowledge and bliss, and that He is always engaged in His transcendental pastimes in which there is all spiritual variegatedness.
The student of Prakāśānanda summarized the explanations of Lord Caitanya and concluded: “We have practically given up the path of spiritual realization. We simply engage in nonsensical talk. Māyāvādī philosophers who are serious about attaining benediction should engage in the devotional service of Kṛṣṇa, but instead they take pleasure in useless argument only. We hereby admit that the explanation of Śaṅkarācārya hides the actual import of Vedic literature. Only the explanation given by Caitanya is acceptable. All other interpretations are useless.”
After thus explaining his position, the chief student of Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī began to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. When Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī saw this, he also admitted the fault of Śaṅkarācārya and said, “Because Śaṅkarācārya wanted to establish the doctrine of monism, he had no alternative but to interpret the Vedānta-sūtra in a different way. Once one accepts the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the doctrine of monism cannot be established. Therefore by mundane scholarship Śaṅkarācārya has tried to obscure the actual meaning of the Vedānta-sūtra. Not only has Śaṅkarācārya done this, but all authors who attempt to give their own views, of necessity, misinterpret Vedānta-sūtra.”
Thus Lord Caitanya gave the direct meaning of Vedānta-sūtra. No Vedic scripture should be used for indirect speculation. In addition to Śaṅkarācārya, other materialistic philosophers like Kapila, Gautama, Aṣṭāvakra and Patañjali have put forward philosophical speculation in various ways. Indeed, the philosopher Jaimini and his followers, who are all more or less logicians, have abandoned the real meaning of the Vedas (devotional service) and have tried to establish the Absolute Truth as subject to the material world. It is their opinion that if there is a God, He will be pleased with man and give man all desired results if man simply performs his material activities nicely. Similarly, the atheist Kapila tried to establish that there is no God who created the material world. Kapila has even tried to establish that a combination of material elements caused creation. Similarly, Gautama and Kaṇāda have given stress to this theory that the creation resulted from a fortunate combination of material elements, and they have tried to establish that atomic energy is the origin of creation. Similarly, impersonalists and monists like Aṣṭāvakra have tried to establish the impersonal effulgence (brahma-jyotir) as the Supreme. And Patañjali, one of the greatest authorities on the yoga system, has tried to conceive an imaginary form of the Supreme Lord.
In summary it should be understood that all these materialistic philosophers have tried to avoid the Supreme Personality of Godhead by putting forward their own mentally concocted philosophies. However, Vyāsadeva, the great sage and incarnation of Godhead, has thoroughly studied all these philosophical speculations and in answer has compiled the Vedānta-sūtra, which establishes the relationship between the living entity and the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the importance of devotional service in ultimately achieving love of Godhead. The verse janmādy asya yataḥ, which appears in the very beginning of Vedānta-sūtra, is explained in Vyāsadeva’s Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Vyāsadeva establishes from the very beginning that the supreme source of everything is a cognizant, transcendental person.
The impersonalist tries to explain that the impersonal effulgence of the Supreme Lord (brahma-jyotir) is beyond these material modes of nature, but at the same time he tries to establish that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is contaminated by the modes of material nature. The Vedānta-sūtra asserts that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not only transcendental to the material modes of nature but that He also has innumerable transcendental qualities and energies. All these various speculative philosophers are one in denying the existence of the Supreme Lord Viṣṇu, and they are very much enthused to propagate their own theories and be recognized by the people. Unfortunate people become enamored of these atheistic philosophers and consequently can never understand the real nature of the Absolute Truth. It is far better to follow in the footsteps of great souls (mahājanas). According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, there are twelve mahājanas, or great souls, and these are: (1) Brahmā, (2) Lord Śiva, (3) Nārada, (4) Vaivasvata Manu, (5) Kapila (not the atheist, but the original Kapila), (6) the Kumāras, (7) Prahlāda, (8) Bhīṣma, (9) Janaka, (10) Bali, (11) Śukadeva Gosvāmī and (12) Yamarāja. According to the Mahābhārata, there is no point in arguing about the Absolute Truth because there are so many different Vedic scriptures and philosophical understandings that no one philosopher can agree with another. Since everyone is trying to present his own point of view and reject others, it is very difﬁcult to understand the necessity for religious principles. Therefore it is better to follow in the footsteps of the great mahājanas, great souls; then one can achieve the desired success. Lord Caitanya’s teachings are just like nectar, and they hold whatever is needed. The best way is to take to this path and follow it.