Monday, August 3, 2020

Sankaradeva’s Religion: Where Knowledge and Devotion Goes Hand in Hand

The primary impression in the popular mind of the word “devotee” is a highly sentimental one. It is no doubt of someone who has surrendered all his powers of intellect—discriminative etc.—at the feet of his Lord and has given primacy to the feelings of his heart. If not of total surrender, the picture is one of a definite subordination of the intellect.

It is pretty interesting to observe how the Eka Sarana religion of Sankaradeva demolishes this stereotype. It may be argued that every religion of love and devotion has some knowledge component built into it but, perhaps in no other religion is the entire apparatus of devotion designed to sharpen discrimination and foster an understanding of the nature of entities as in the Eka Sarana faith of Sankaradeva. This is without doubt because of its base in the Bhagavata which has a conception of pure devotion that demands not the subordination of one’s intellect but, rather, the purification of it. The bhakti that is recommended here is not blind faith but a kind of Vedantic bhakti that is not only rooted in a solid understanding of the tattvas, the ontological categories, but also one that continually reaffirms and reinforces this knowledge by incorporating chunks of this philosophy into the literature of devotion.

Due to this plan of the Bhagavatic authors, the various songs and prayers, verses and translations[H1]  which form the huge corpus of the literature of Sankaradeva’s religion, all incorporate passages that are philosophical in character and which surely call for application of mind on the part of the devotee and the utilization of his intellectual powers—thinking hard, reasoning, etc. Bhakti here becomes also a (congenial) atmosphere for reflection and pondering on knotty problems. For beginners, it provides new knowledge.

The epistemic ideal of the religion of Sankaradeva is the supremely conscious personality—Krsna, who is the supreme object of all knowledge. Therefore understanding his nature and also the nature of the entities subservient to him must necessarily be an integral part of the experience of devotion.

 [H1]the various means through which bhakti is operationalized have knowledge elements fed into them.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Q&A on the Philosophy of Sankaradeva

1.   What, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of Sankaradeva?
The embodied personality (jiva) is in the same ontological category as God who is the supreme spiritual personality (purusa). Primal matter (prakrti) is actuated for creation by the Lord.

2.   What is the name given to the philosophy of Sankaradeva?
The philosophy of Sankaradeva may be referred to as “Mahapurusism” due to its emphasis on the supreme purusa as the controller of both purusa and prakrti.

3.   On what book, primarily, is the philosophy of Sankaradeva based?
Sankaradeva’s philosophy is the same as the philosophy of Mahapurusism that is contained in the Bhagavata Purana.

4.   Is the creation unreal according to Sankaradeva?
If, by “unreal,” “figment of imagination” is meant, then it is not so in Sankaradeva. The creation (jagat) is very much real. It is unreal only in the sense of “unconscious.”

5.   What is the relationship between God and the world in the philosophy of Sankaradeva?
God (Krsna), in Sankaradeva’s philosophy, is completely spiritual and conscious (caitanya). The “world” or the “creation,” which is completely unconscious and insentient (jada), is evolved by God out of prakrti, the purely unconscious primordial material substance.

6.   What is the relationship between God and the individual soul in the philosophy of Sankaradeva?
The individual soul (purusa, jiva) is considered to be a minuscule portion (amsa) of God. But this does not mean literally an amsa. The meaning is that the individual souls fall into the same ontological—purely conscious, eternal, non-evolving—category as God; however, their consciousness is minuscule compared to God who is the supremely conscious spiritual personality.

7.   Is God formless in the philosophy of Sankaradeva?
God is of most beautiful and most captivating transcendental form in Sankaradeva. This form of God is immaterial (aprakrta) and not limited by adjuncts (upadhi) in any way.

8.   Is God both conscious and unconscious in the philosophy of Sankaradeva?
God is only of the essential characteristic of pure consciousness in Sankaradeva.

9.   Is the creation different from God in the philosophy of Sankaradeva?
The creation is, in reality, different from God in the philosophy of Sankaradeva. God is the conscious creator; he evolves the unconscious creation out of prakrti. And the distinction between God and prakrti, being of fundamental character, persists eternally.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Is Krsna Saguna or Nirguna?

Whether or not Krsna is saguna or nirguna would depend on what one means by the term guna. Does guna mean simply “attribute” or (the more specific) “evolute of primal matter (prakrti)?” On that would depend the answer. In the Bhagavata, the term nirguna, as applied to the Lord, seems to refer to the more specific sense of the word guna. Therefore, in this sense, Krsna is nirguna. He is beyond the influence of the three gunas of primal matter. His body is not gunamaya, composed out of matter; it is purely spiritual in its nature; it is often termed brahmamaya. Also, unlike the jiva—who is, by the way, of the same essential nature as the Lord—there can be no material limitations (upadhi) associated with the Lord.
However, if we speak of nirguna holding in mind the sense of guna as mere “attribute” or “property,” then Krsna is saguna. There is, in this sense, no end to the gunas of Krsna. The Lord is of infinite glories and attributes.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Why is Radha not Worshiped in the Eka Sarana Faith of Sankaradeva: A Critical Difference between the Philosophies of Sankaradeva and Sri Caitanya

[This short post was, originally, written as a comment on the lecture SrimantaSankardeva and Sri Chaitanyadeva in the perspective of Bhakti Movement uploaded on YouTube by the Department of Bengali, ADP College, Nagaon, Assam.]

I have a take on the question of the relationship between the personalities of Radha and Krsna and the Samkhya entities of purusa and prakrti, which I would now like to articulate with your permission.
In my opinion, Radha and Krsna are the same purusa and prakrti of the Samkhya. Not exactly the same though; Radha is the personified form of mula-prakrti (primal matter) and Krsna is not just any purusa, but the parama purusa (God). Radha and Krsna are not historical personalities (though it might appear so to the masses not knowing the philosophy) but are primal matter and God respectively.
The difference between the Sankaradeva-ite and the Caitanya-ite schools is that between the poles. In the Sankaradeva-ite philosophy, the distinction between parama purusa and mula-prakrti is fundamental and persists eternally. God is God and matter is matter and never the twain shall meet. In the ultimate scheme of things, prakrti remains an entity eternally subservient to God (parama purusa), maintaining its own separate ontological existence. The merging of prakrti in God, etc. given in the Puranic texts such as the Bhagavata (in the chapters on the creation and dissolution of the material world) is only to be taken poetically as no real merging takes place.
Krsna, the supreme purusa, is of the essential nature of consciousness while prakrti is unconscious substance. Purusa, says the Samkhya, is conscious personality and prakrti, unconscious matter. These two fundamental entities can never be one. Therefore the difference persists eternally.
In the Caitanya-ite school, on the other hand, the distinction between parama purusa (Krsna) and mula-prakrti (Radha) is not fundamental and does not persist eternally. God is, in reality, both matter and God. From a certain portion of the supremely conscious purusa (God) emerges literally the unconscious material creation. It is this portion of Krsna that is Radha and the Lord engages in sportive activity, as it were, with “her,” his own portion.
Therefore, God, in the Caitanya-ite philosophy, is both consciousness and unconsciousness.
These fundamental differences in philosophy translate into critical differences in the theological field. In the Sankaradeva-ite theology, there is, as a result of the eternal difference between purusa and prakrti, a lot of importance placed on cultivating discrimination between "jada" (matter) and "caitanya" (conscious personality). There are many verses in Madhavadeva's Nama Ghosa that assert this critical difference. Only Hari (Krsna) is said to be caitanya; all other deities—products of matter—are jada. And it is in consequence of this primary philosophical distinction that in Sankaradeva's Eka Sarana faith, only Krsna is worshiped; and not Radha because that would mean worshiping prakrti, unconscious (jada) matter.
But in the Caitanya-ite theology, Radha and Krsna are both worshiped. Here, the worshiper would naturally be not much inclined to cultivate discrimination between jada and caitanya because, after all (here), Radha is only Krsna! God is both matter as well as God; therefore, worshiping mula-prakrti (Radha) along with the supreme purusa (Krsna) would not pose much of a hindrance to the worshiper in Caitanya’s school because, in the ultimate analysis, the two are literally one!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Determination of the Supreme Brahman the Especial Contribution of Sankaradeva

The especial contribution of Sankaradeva was the determination of the supreme brahman. Mankind’s search for the ultimate fount of consciousness has been an illusory one. Dark matter and dark energy, despite all their massive, overwhelming nature, falls in the category of dead substance. There is one word in the philosophy of Sankaradeva which captures within itself all the implications of dead substance; it is thus extremely profound in its meaning. This word is “jada” which could stand for unconscious, unfeeling, non-sentient, substance.

Sankaradeva had said that the gods and goddesses fall in the category of “jada;” they are unfeeling, non-perceiving (material) “personalities;” they appear to be conscious only due to the conscious influence of the supreme spiritual personality (the supreme brahman). They cannot talk, do, feel, etc. They cannot do any of these things but appear to do these only because they are animated by the conscious power of the supreme brahman. In other words, their consciousness is only of a procedural nature; it is not true, subjective consciousness.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

No Means apart from Bhakti for Purifying the Consciousness

According to the Bhagavata, for the purpose of purifying the consciousness, there is no means apart from devotion (bhakti):

p. 148

অল্প হাস্য কৰিয়া বোলন্ত ভগৱান .
শুনা প্ৰত্যুত্তৰ মাৱ হুয়া সাৱধান ..
যি যোগ কহিছো পূৰ্ব্বে ঋষি সমস্তত .
তাক আজি তযু আগে কৰিবো বেকত .. ১২৮৫ ..
সি যোগ অধীন চিত্ত সংযমৰ জ্ঞান .
চিত্তেসে জীৱৰ বন্ধ মোক্ষৰ নিদান ..
বিষয় আসক্ত ভৈলে আতি বদ্ধ হই .
মন শুদ্ধ হেতু ভক্তি বিনে আন নাই .. ১২৮৬ ..
ভক্তিসে কল্যাণ পথ কহিলো বুজাই .
ঈশ্বৰত চিত্ত দিলে মুকুত হোৱয় ..
মন শুদ্ধি আদি কৰি যতেক আছয় .
স‍ত্‍সঙ্গ সৱাৰে মূল জানিবা নিশ্চয় .. ১২৮৭ ..
জীৱৰ দুৰ্ভেদ্য পাশ সঙ্গক কহয় .
কিন্তু দুৰ্জ্জনৰ সঙ্গ এৰিবে লাগয় ..
সেই সঙ্গ নিতে যদি কৰয় সাধুত .
মোক্ষৰ দুৱাৰ তেৱে হোৱয় মুকুত .. ১২৮৮
আৰো মোৰ অখণ্ডিত বীৰ্য্য প্ৰকাশক .
কৰ্ণৰ মনৰ সদা আনন্দকাৰক .. ১২৯১ ..
হেন কথা উপজয় সাধুৰ সঙ্গত .
তাক যাৰা সাৱধানে শুনয় সতত ..
অল্পকালে ঈশ্বৰত তাৰাৰ নিশ্চয় .
শ্ৰদ্ধা ৰতি ভক্তি অনুক্ৰমে উপজয় .. ১২৯২ ..
ভক্তি ভৈলে পুৰুষৰ বৈৰাগ্য জন্ময় .

তেৱে এহি দেহে জীৱে মুকুতি পাৱয় ..

The Lord (in the form of Kapila) laughed a wee bit and said:
‘O my mother! Listen carefully to this answer of mine.
The path (yoga) which, formerly, I told to the sages,
that one I will reveal before you today. 1285
Subordinate to that path is the knowledge of (methods of) mind-control (citta sayama).
It is the only the mind-organ (citta) that is the primary-cause of the spiritual personality’s bondage and liberation.
When one becomes excessively attached (through the mind-organ) to the pleasure of the sense-objects (vi
aa), one then becomes extremely trapped.
For the purpose of purifying the consciousness, there is no means apart from pure devotion (bhakti). 1286
Bhakti alone is the (best) path of welfare, this I have told you, explaining.
When one directs one’s consciousness (citta) to the lord [withdrawing oneself from the mind-organ], one obtains liberation.
All those (means of directing one’s consciousness to the lord) beginning with mind-purification that exist,
know it for certain that associating with pure devotees (sa-t-sa
ga) is the root of them all. 1287

Although union with others is said to be a snare for the soul, most difficult to break—
and (surely) one must part ways with the vile—yet if one cultivates that association (sa
ga) regularly with the pure devotees (sādhu),
the door to salvation becomes free then. 1288
Further, all those tales which reveal my impartite valor and
which always provide joy (
ānanda) to the ears and the mind, 1291
to such tales (kathā) arising in the pure devotees’ midst,
the ones that always listen in rapt attention,
their faith (
śraddhā), fondness (rati) and devotion (bhakti), know it for certain,
in the Lord, in little time, arise in a chain. 1292
When devotion comes, disinclination (vairāgya) (for sense-objects) is born in the person.
And when this happens, the j
īva obtains liberation in this body itself.'

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Objective of the Purana: Awakening Discrimination of Supreme Purusa

The microcosm operates through a harmonious working of the three entities of kala (time) [Siva], manas (brain) [Brahma] and purusa (spiritual personality) [Visnu]. But, for such harmony to occur out of such disparate-natured entities, there must be some master-mind to ‘string together the trinity,’ as Madhavadeva says in the Nama Ghosa. That master-entity, the lord of all the controlling entities (devas), is the supreme purusa, Lord Krsna himself.
It is to arouse discrimination of supreme purusa alone that the (anatomical) narrative of the Puranas is formulated in the first place. The entire Purana—its every chapter and verse—is designed with this ultimate objective of awakening discrimination in the mind of the (intelligent) reader.
The Puranic narrative is thus a strategy to make the reader realize the sole entity of worship, the sole object of refuge. The intelligent reader will not fail to observe that, among all the entities, it is only Hari that is emerging as supreme; and he will understand that this only is the most powerful entity, worthy of sole-refuge. It is this conclusion that is directly expressed by Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva, in their own works, in the form of upadesas and in chapters such as “The Determination of the Supreme Entity Worthy of Adoration” (Bhakti Ratnakara).
The objective of the author of the Bhagavata—and this ought also to be the objective of the inquisitive and critical reader—is to determine the supreme entity among all the entities, who alone is eligible for worship. In the Bhagavata, the reader has to know this entity by reading intelligently through the passages and piercing the dialogic strategy with the power of his intellect. But in Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva, this meaning is directly expressed.

Sankaradeva’s Religion: Where Knowledge and Devotion Goes Hand in Hand

The primary impression in the popular mind of the word “devotee” is a highly sentimental one. It is no doubt of someone who has surrender...