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Beyond the Formless Philosophies

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by Jayadvaita dasa
(ISKCON New York)

Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead

Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead

Filling our eyes and minds, extending throughout the universe, form, in this material world, is everywhere. Even when invisible, all things have form. We cannot imagine a formless mountain, a formless child, a formless snowflake or even a formless atom because by nature a thing and its form are inseparable. But because matter always exists within a form, we sometimes wrongly assume that spirit itself must be formless. To attain perfection in spiritual life, one must overcome this misconception and realize the transcendental form of Krsna.

By mental speculation one concludes that because material forms are temporary, spirit, to be eternal, must be formless. This reasoning, however, is illogical, like the conditioned thinking of a cow in a barn. If a barn catches fire, the cows there will naturally be frightened, and it may be that whenever they see red in the future, they will fear another blaze. Similarly, we know that the forms of matter are doomed. Not to speak of our own bodily forms, enduring for a mere fifty or one hundred years, even the greatest forms, like the planets of our universe, are destined for dissolution. In the material world, form deteriorates and disappears, nothing escaping impermanence. But unfortunately, by the imperfect process of mental speculation, we assume that because the forms we know are material and temporary, this fleeting nature must apply to all form. This mode of thinking, which may be described charitably as imperfect and more accurately as immature or even childish, is accepted by three classes of thinkers: atheists, voidists, and impersonalists.

Materialism

Of these three, the atheists are the least intelligent. Arbitrarily, without substantial reasons, they hastily run to the indefensible conclusion that there cannot be anything beyond the endless combinations and permutations of the material energy. Scoffing at all conceptions of spiritual form, spiritual personality and even impersonal spiritual existence, they obstinately maintain that there is nothing beyond the elements of matter. This is because of their material consciousness. Their vision and intellect being dull, all they can see is dull matter. Beyond matter, the spiritual energy certainly exists, but because the atheist absorbs himself in the actions and reactions of matter, he is unable to perceive it. Spiritual energy, however, can be understood by any intelligent person by its symptom-consciousness.

With their limited knowledge, atheists can offer no suitable explanation for the existence of consciousness They sometimes try to explain that consciousness somehow or other springs spontaneously from a combination of material elements, but their explanation of how this occurs is inadequate.

In ancient times, of course, the doctrine of spontaneous generation, which maintains that a mere combination of material elements can produce living beings, was generally accepted. The ancient Greeks, for example, thought that living beings could be generated from mud and slime under the influence of heat. Even such a great philosopher as Aristotle believed that worms, larvae and fireflies developed from morning dew, decaying slime, mucus and so on, and that eels, crabs, fish, bedbugs, flies, moths, frogs, salamanders and mice originated in the same spontaneous manner. Variations of this thinking continued throughout the Middle Ages and even until modern times. Descartes and Newton accepted the theory of spontaneous generation without qualification, as did the prominent physician William Harvey (the discoverer of blood circulation) and most other leaders of the scientific community. After the invention of the microscope led to the discovery of microorganisms, many European scientists considered the existence of these tiny creatures to be further evidence of spontaneous generation, and it was generally accepted that living entities such as bacteria could be spontaneously produced from material elements until this was completely disproved in 1862 by a brilliant series of experiments performed before the French Academy by Louis Pasteur.

Yet although in modern times we chuckle at the idea that matter could spontaneously give birth to fish, eels, salamanders or bacteria, modern biological science, in a feeble attempt to show the material origin of consciousness, has put forward the theory that living entities such as viruses could be cooked up in nature or in a laboratory by a mixture of amino acids and other such chemicals. From the viewpoint of logic and evidence, of course, such theories are all hazy, insubstantial and unscientific, and from the viewpoint of ordinary common sense they are simply foolish. If living entities can be produced in a laboratory from a combination of elements, why don’t the material scientists stop boasting over their theories and produce practical results? Why don’t they brew up more scientists on their own level to assist in their research? Or why don’t they create even an ant? The fact is, of course, that try as they may to derive life from matter, they cannot create even an ant or a tiny germ.

When challenged with this inability, the foolish scientists heroically answer that they are “on the brink of discovery” or “just on the verge” of being able to create life, but it seems this is their permanent position. They always say, “We’re trying,” but these are the words of failures. Even the most dismal failure can claim to be “trying,” but this is merely euphemistic talk meant to cover his defeat. The correct explanation for this failure is given in Bhagavadgita: “Consciousness can neither be created nor destroyed.” Consciousness is not a material element or compound one can formulate in a laboratory. It is a spiritual element, and its qualities are completely different from those of matter. But because they cannot see it with their puny instruments, materialistic scientists arrogantly persist in denying the existence of the spiritual or conscious element, and yet they boastfully advertise their monopoly on biology—the so-called science of life although they have no good idea what life is or where it comes from. Such material scientists would make more progress if they studied the scientific explanations of the forms and properties of consciousness put forward in Vedic literatures such as Bhagavad-gita; yet despite the inadequacies and contradictions of their own theories, neither these nor other such atheists have the intelligence and humility to do so. In this way they limit their progress within the finite jurisdiction of the material energy and disqualify themselves from understanding the existence of transcendental form.

Voidism

Lord Buddha, sustainer of Krsna consciousness. He concocted voidism as a pretext for nonviolence.

Lord Buddha, sustainer of Krsna consciousness. He concocted voidism as a pretext for nonviolence.

Similarly disqualified are the voidists, of whom the followers of Buddhism are the most prominent. Although Buddhism, like ordinary atheism, denies the existence of a Supreme Person, it is to the credit of Buddhist philosophy that it recognizes the futility of material activities aimed at enjoyment in the temporary world of matter. According to the philosophy of Lord Buddha, the existence of the world and its individual living beings arises from a combination of material elements, and if one can realize the illusory nature of his own identity and the existence of the world, he can attain voidness, the ultimate reality, and thus achieve nirvana, or freedom from all material miseries.

The flaw in this philosophy is obvious: if everything is ultimately void, what is the source of our so-called illusory consciousness and the illusory material world? Even an illusion must have a source, but the Buddhist philosophers cannot explain how the countless varieties of illusion could spring from a source that is void. It might be said that this illusion arises from consciousness and that consciousness arises from matter, but, like the theories of the atheistic scientists, this would not explain how gross and lifeless material elements could generate living consciousness. Still, even if one were so rash as to accept that consciousness somehow spontaneously appeared from a combination of material elements, the voidist philosophy could not explain the source of these material elements. If everything is void, where has the matter come from? The Buddhist philosophy is void of an answer.

Considering the extensive inadequacies and inconsistencies of voidist philosophy, it is doubtful that voidism could have won widespread acceptance and respectability had it not been for the personal influence of Lord Buddha himself. Voidist philosophy existed, of course, before Buddha’s time, but by virtue of his personal life and teachings it gained such popular appeal that by the time of Emperor Asoka (273-232 B.C.) it was widely spread throughout India, Ceylon, Nepal and other neighboring Asian countries.

Curiously enough, how this came to be so was explained 2,500 years before the time of Lord Buddha in the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is respected by scholars as the mature explanation of the Vedanta philosophy. In the Bhagavatam, in a list of incarnations of the Personality of Godhead, a description of Lord Buddha appears. In the First Canto, Third Chapter, the Bhagavatam states:

tatah kalau sampravrtte
sammohaya sura-dvisam
buddho namnanjana-sutah
kikatesu bhavisyati

“In the beginning of the age of Kali, the Personality of Godhead will appear in the province of Gaya as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, to bewilder the demons who are always envious of the devotees of the Lord.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.3.24)

This verse indicates that Lord Buddha may properly be considered an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and it is significant to note that he is specifically mentioned by name and that his parentage, his mission and the province in which

he would appear are also specifically mentioned. This is the perfect nature of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Unlike the theoretical assertations of speculative scientists and philosophers, Srimad-Bhagavatam is free from the defects of irrelevancy, error, cheating and imperfection. As a revealed scripture received through an authoritative chain of disciplic succession, the Bhagavatam is able to transmit pure knowledge in an unadulterated form, and therefore it is quite possible for it to predict, with detailed accuracy, events that will occur in future history. The word bhavisyati (“will appear”) is significant, for it confirms that the event was to take place in the future.

Lord Buddha indeed appeared as the son of Anjana in the province of Gaya, 2,500 years after the Bhagavatam’s prediction, and his appearance is worthy of careful scrutiny. If Lord Buddha was an incarnation of the Personality of Godhead who came to bewilder the atheists, why did he deny the very existence of Godhead and instead proclaim an atheistic doctrine of voidism? The explanation for this apparent contradiction is to be found in the verses of Jayadeva Gosvami, a great spiritual master in the disciplic line. In a prayer praising ten prominent incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Jayadeva sings:

nindasi yajna-vidher ahaha sruti-jatam
sa-daya-hrdaya darsita-pasu-ghatam
kesava dhrta-buddha-sarira jaya jagadisa hare

“O my Lord, O Personality of Godhead, all glories unto You! You compassionately appeared in the form of Lord Buddha to condemn the animal sacrifices recommended in the Vedic literatures.”

At the time when Lord Buddha appeared, the people of India were mostly followers of the Vedic literatures, but unfortunately they had deviated from the central purpose of the Vedas. As stated in Bhagavad-gita, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: the purpose of all Vedic literatures is to lead one gradually to realization of Krsna. Materialistic scholars, however, not knowing the real purpose of the Vedas, mistakenly become preoccupied with the Vedic rituals and ceremonies and therefore mislead people in general, encouraging them in sacrifices aimed at material enjoyment instead of spiritual realization.

Among the sacrifices prescribed in the Vedas are animal sacrifices. In the course of Vedic rituals, an old bull would be killed upon the altar of sacrifice, and by the power of Vedic mantras it would then be given new life. The purpose of the sacrifice was not to kill the animal but to show the wonderful power of properly chanted Vedic mantras. The scriptures forbid such sacrifices in the present age of Kali, which has been current for the last five thousand years, because there are no qualified priests who can properly chant the mantras. At the time of Lord Buddha, however, the people in general, misled by an unscrupulous priestly class, were sacrificing animals without discrimination on the plea of Vedic rituals and then indulging in eating the flesh. The real goal of the Vedas was forgotten, and under the banner of Vedic religion, slaughterhouses appeared everywhere, catering to the unrestricted taste buds of the degraded and atheistic public.

Lord Buddha came to stop this hypocrisy, and therefore he superficially rejected the authority of the Vedas and established his own independent cult of ahimsa, or nonviolence. As long as one indulges in the killing of innocent animals, he cannot progress in spiritual realization. Therefore, to save the misled people from the vice of animal killing and save the poor animals from slaughter, Lord Buddha, in his compassion, knowing that the corrupted priestly class would try to defend animal slaughter with the Vedic rituals, repudiated the Vedas entirely and declared his own doctrine of nonviolence.

The Supreme Lord is supreme in everything, and therefore He is also the supreme cheater. By His own transcendental plan He appeared as Lord Buddha, rejected the Vedas, concocted the theory of voidism as a pretext for nonviolence, and instilled within his followers devotion to him. Thus although he outwardly rejected the Vedas and preached an atheistic doctrine, he is an incarnation of the Personality of Godhead Himself, the original propounder of the Vedic knowledge, and therefore cannot possibly be an atheist. By appearing in this disguise, however, he made the unfaithful atheists faithful to him. Thus he turned them toward the real goal of life.

The voidist philosophy of Lord Buddha actually has no validity, but it was introduced by the Personality of Godhead as an emergency measure. Those who sincerely devote themselves to Lord Buddha and strictly follow his principles of nonviolence will gradually get the opportunity for elevation in transcendental understanding. However, the modern pseudo-Buddhists who indulge in meat eating, illicit sex and other forms of gross sense gratification and yet hope to attain liberation from all miseries by repeating a mantra or meditating on voidness are only fooling themselves and others, and they are certainly wasting their time. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (16.19), they are destined to take birth among the lower species of life after their current lifetime of pseudomysticism.

For those whose real intent is to enjoy a life of sensory happiness in the material world, the philosophy of voidness is merely a convenient rationalization for undisciplined indulgence in materialistic activities. For them there is no question of genuine spiritual progress. But even those who sincerely attempt to attain freedom from material activities by achieving a state of voidness will ultimately find this impossible. There is no void anywhere within the creation. Therefore, the path of voidism is a spiritual dead end. Once having determined to give up material enjoyment, the frustrated voidist must ultimately turn to personalism to attain actual spiritual freedom. At that time he will have to abandon in its entirety the misconception of voidness. Thus voidism is merely a stumbling block on the path of spiritual realization because it hinders one from understanding the eternal existence of transcendental form. An intelligent person must therefore always

Impersonalism

The most prominent of the formless philosophies is that of impersonalism. Indeed, the influence of impersonalism in one form or another is so great that it may be said to contaminate all conditioned souls. In other words, impersonalism is an integral part of material consciousness.

Although the history of impersonalism is as old as that of the material world, the impersonalist philosophy has most ably been expressed and supported by Sripada Sankaracarya, the influential spiritual teacher who appeared in India in the 11th Century. Briefly summarized, the philosophy of Sankaracarya maintains that the material world is an illusion, whereas only Brahman, the Supreme Absolute, exists in truth. According to Sripada Sankaracarya, the Supreme Absolute Truth is formless, impersonal oneness, and the individual identity of the living being is an illusion; thus when one achieves the highest spiritual realization, he relinquishes his individual existence and merges with the supreme impersonal spirit.

In establishing his philosophical doctrine of impersonalism, Sripada Sankaracarya accepts the Vedic literatures as authoritative, and this acceptance indicates the underlying purpose of his teachings. When the Personality of Godhead appeared as Lord Buddha, he superficially rejected the Vedas to lead people in general to the religious principles of nonviolence. After the spread of Lord Buddha’s teachings, Sankaracarya sought to defeat the voidist teachings of Lord Buddha and reestablish the authority of the Vedic literature. Therefore, as Lord Buddha deliberately rejected the Vedas and introduced voidism to win adherents to his principles of nonviolence, similarly, to reestablish the authority of the Vedas, Sankaracarya deliberately taught his then-Buddhist followers the misleading philosophy of impersonalism. This is confirmed in both the Padma and Siva Puranas. Although superficially they may appear to be otherwise, both Lord Buddha and Sankaracarya were among the greatest of theists, for by their teachings they paved the way for the path of pure devotional service to be established later by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu through sankirtana, or the chanting of the holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The impersonal philosophy of Sankaracarya is akin to Buddhism, for both philosophies deny the Personality of Godhead. However, whereas Buddha maintained that beyond illusion there is only void, Sankaracarya accepted the Vedic principle that beyond matter there is an eternal spiritual existence. Sankaracarya, however, insisted that this spiritual existence is impersonal, although this is against the conclusion of all Vedic literatures. Thus Sankaracarya both accepted and rejected the Vedas simultaneously. Sripada Sankaracarya was a brilliant logician, grammarian and scholar, and thus by skillfully misinterpreting the Vedic verses in his own way, he successfully reestablished the authoritative status of the Vedic literature while simultaneously repudiating its ultimate conclusions.

As clearly stated in Bhagavad-gita, the purpose of all the Vedas is to understand Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Bg. 15.15). This is further confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam, the most authorized of the Vedanta-sutra commentaries: “In the revealed scriptures, the ultimate object of knowledge is Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead.” (Bhag. 1.2.28) All the Vedic literatures point to Lord Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, as the fountainhead of all existences. The impersonal philosophy is defective in the same way as voidism because it cannot explain how the many varieties of existence could spring from a source in which variety does not exist. The material cosmos is full of infinitely varied creations, and to maintain that they have all emanated from formless oneness is simply illogical. The original source must be a reservoir of transcendental varieties.

Impersonalist philosophers claim that the varieties of this material world are all false or illusory and that only the Supreme Absolute exists in reality. But if the Absolute is real, how can this world, being an emanation from the Absolute, be false? If the Absolute Truth is real, all emanations from the Absolute Truth must also be real. For example, if a tree has many fruits, can anyone sensibly say that the tree is real but the fruits are false? No. If the tree is real, the fruit must also be real. Therefore, this material world is not merely an illusion. It exists in fact. The illusion is that we accept this world to be a permanent home although in fact it is merely temporary.

It is said, “All that glitters is not gold.” Sometimes a seashell underwater appears to be gold though actually it is not. If one thinks an oyster shell to be gold, this is an illusion. But this does not mean that the oyster shell itself is an illusion nor that there is no such thing as real gold. The gold exists, and the oyster shell exists, but mistaking one for the other is illusion. Similarly, the conditioned souls are attracted to the glitter of temporary material enjoyment, as if it were permanent, due to illusion. In the material world, nothing is permanently enjoyable. Therefore anyone who tries to be permanently happy here is a fool and a rascal acting in gross illusion. This does not mean, however, that there is no such thing as real enjoyment. Real enjoyment is elsewhere, in the spiritual world.

It is stated in Bhagavad-gita that beyond this world in which we now live is an eternal spiritual world that is free from the miseries of birth, death, disease and old age. The limited and temporary varieties of this world are but a dim reflection of the unlimited, eternal varieties of that spiritual realm. That world is ananda-cinmaya-rasa; in other words, everything there is eternal, fully conscious and full of transcendental bliss. There is nothing like dead matter in the spiritual world. Everything there is a living principle.

Life in the material world is like diseased life. In a diseased condition, all of one’s activities are full of misery, and one cannot enjoy real pleasure as he does when healthy. Similarly, embodied life in the material world may be said to be a diseased state, and the symptoms of this material disease are birth, death, illness and old age. The impersonalist philosopher intelligently desires freedom from this miserable diseased condition, but unfortunately he does not know the proper cure, and therefore he desperately resorts to the drastic prescription of spiritual suicide.

There is a story that a young boy was once afflicted by a dangerously high fever, and his mother called in a doctor who immediately gave him a lethal injection of poison. The mother was struck with grief that her son was no longer breathing and his heart no longer beating, but the doctor was satisfied. “After all,” he pointed out, “his fever is now gone.” Thus the foolish doctor considered himself successful in treating the disease, although the patient had lost his life. Similarly, because the impersonalist does not know the proper means for restoring the afflicted conditioned soul to healthy life, he prescribes the cure that he merge with the Supreme and thus extinguish his individual existence. This is nothing more than spiritual suicide. It is true that this method can free the conditioned soul from all material distress, but it also robs him of the opportunity to enjoy eternal pleasure on the spiritual platform. A conditioned soul cannot become a liberated soul by extinguishing his individuality any more than a diseased man can become a healthy man by committing suicide.

Therefore, an intelligent person should never adopt the spiritually suicidal course of impersonalism. Rather, one should follow the process recommended by the Vedic literature for developing transcendental healthy life. As stated in Bhagavad-gita, mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah the spirit soul is eternally a tiny part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Gita confirms that the spirit soul is unchanging in its nature. Therefore, just as we are all persons in our present conditioned life in this world, we will remain eternally persons in the future, even after liberation. The essential difference, however, is that now we have forgotten our relationship with the Personality of Godhead and adopted false relationships pertaining to the temporary material body, and in our liberated state we revive our eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna. Real liberation, therefore, is to give up the false conception that our short life in this one body is all in all and is meant only for eating, drinking, merrymaking and enjoyment, and to realize that we are all eternally servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna.

Just as we are all persons, Krsna is also a person, but He is the Supreme Person. As stated in the Upanisads, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. There are innumerable eternal living entities, and they are all persons, but their origin is the one Supreme Person upon whom they eternally depend for their existence. When the Upanisads state that the Supreme Lord is formless, this indicates that He does not have a material form like ours, but the Vedic literatures never reject His superexcellent eternal form of knowledge and bliss. His form is made of spirit, not matter, and therefore His qualities, name and activities are spiritual and unlimited, not material and temporary.

The attempt to impose formlessness on the Supreme Absolute Truth is an unjustifiable and offensive attempt to bring Him down to our own mundane level. The impersonalists say, “If God had a form, He would have to be material,” but they are in no position to dictate what the Absolute Truth can or cannot do. He is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam as sva-rat, or fully independent, and therefore He is free from all mundane laws and can do whatever He pleases, regardless of the restrictions and limitations that mundane philosophers might like to impose upon Him. He is perfectly free to celebrate His eternal lordship in a transcendental form full of knowledge and bliss and to invite His sincere devotees to participate in His transcendental pastimes of love in eternal bodies similar to His.

This, in fact, is the reality of the spiritual world. The Supreme Personality of Godhead eternally exists in an all-attractive non-material form, and in the spiritual world created of His own transcendental energy, He enjoys reciprocating the loving sentiments of His eternal devotees in unlimited pleasure pastimes. The phrase “love of God” can have no meaning without personal existence. In a loving relationship, there must be a lover, a beloved and the reciprocation of their mutual affection. There is no question of loving anything impersonal or void.

Spiritual Personalism

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu (center), father of the sankirtana movement, celebrating the chanting of the holy name.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu (center), father of the sankirtana movement, celebrating the chanting of the holy name.

The Supreme Absolute Truth is Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and loving devotion to Sri Krsna exhibited in pure love is achieved through the congregational chanting of the holy name, which is the essence of all bliss. The name “Krsna” is referred to as holy because there is no difference between Krsna’s name and Lord Sri Krsna Himself. This is confirmed throughout the Vedic literature. By chanting the holy name Krsna one directly associates with Krsna, and by this supreme association one achieves the supreme perfection. As stated in the Narada-pancaratra, when one chants Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna, is dancing on his tongue with His supreme pleasure potency. Thus by chanting Hare Krsna one can immediately feel transcendental pleasure coming directly from the spiritual platform.

Bathing in an ocean of everincreasing transcendental pleasure by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, one feels refreshed, and his mind is cleansed of all material misconceptions and anxieties which obscure his true vision One who is serious and sincere in his search for the Absolute Truth will automatically find a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of the Supreme Lord, and by continued chanting of the holy name of the Lord under the direction of the bona fide spiritual master, one becomes increasingly enlightened in spiritual knowledge and thus realizes his pure and natural identity as an eternal servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Regularly chanting and hearing the name and glories of the Lord and rendering service unto a spiritual master who is a pure devotee of the Lord destroy all inauspicious material contamination within the heart of the spiritual candidate and thus establish his loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead as an irrevocable fact. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (18.55), only by such transcendental loving service can one understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is, and when fully conscious of the Supreme Lord in such devotion, one can enter the kingdom of God.

This practical program of devotional progress centered around the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is the authorized Vedic way to attain liberation and perfectional spiritual understanding. It has been especially recommended by Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the universal method of God realization in the present age. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the great teacher of devotional service who appeared in Mayapura, India, in the year 1486 and propagated sankirtana, or the congregational chanting of the holy name. Although the appearance and activities of Lord Caitanya are a matter of historical record, He is not one of the conditioned souls of mundane history. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata), the Supreme Lord descends to this world in every age to help the conditioned living beings come back home, back to Godhead. Lord Caitanya’s enlightened biographers have cited numerous authoritative references from Vedic literatures such as the Mahabharata, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Puranas, and Upanisads directly indicating that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, far from being a mundane personality, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, playing the role of His own devotee. The Srimad-Bhagavatam informs us:

krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam
sangopangastra-parsadam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair
yajanti hi su-medhasah

“In the age of Kali, intelligent persons worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly chants the name of Krsna. Although He is Krsna Himself, His bodily complexion is not blackish but golden. He is accompanied by His many associates and servitors.” (Bhag. 11.5.32) This quotation directly indicates Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who personally inaugurated the Hare Krsna sankirtana movement of chanting the names of the Supreme Lord and dancing in ecstasy. He and His personal associates spread this sublime process of chanting and dancing throughout the Indian subcontinent, and now this same process is spreading throughout the world by dint of the efforts of His sincere servitors.

Thus the same Srimad-Bhagavatam that forecast the appearance of Lord Buddha has also specifically predicted the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, whose mission, parentage and bodily features are also described in the Vayu Purana, Caitanya Upanisad, Ananta-samhita and other scriptures. It is therefore the duty of every intelligent person to follow the path of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by chanting the transcendental names of the Lord—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

One need not accept this method on the basis of sentimentality or blind faith. Great scholars in the line of disciplic succession from Lord Caitanya have elaborately and convincingly explained His sublime contribution of devotional service in terms of authoritative evidence and reasoning. It is therefore stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta: “If you are indeed interested in logic and argument, kindly apply them to the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If you do so, you will find it to be strikingly wonderful.”

The conceptions of impersonalism and voidism are manifestations of the darkest materialistic ignorance. As in the darkness of night one is unable to distinguish individual objects of vision, so in the darkness of impersonalism and voidism one is unable to distinguish either his own true identity or that of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This darkness, however, can at once be dispelled by the effulgence of the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Maya, or illusion, is always compared to darkness, and Krsna is like the self-effulgent sun. Wherever there is Krsna there can be no maya. It is the grace of Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu that He makes the association of Krsna easily available to all living entities in the form of the Hare Krsna mantra-Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chanting this maha-mantra can free one from all false conceptions, and thus one can enter the eternal reality of Krsna consciousness. The Caitanya-caritamrta therefore states: “Let us worship Lord Sri Caitanya. Through His mercy, even a child can cross the ocean of nescience, which abounds with the crocodiles of various erroneous doctrines, to arrive at the true conclusion.”

One may accept Lord Caitanya to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead or merely a great saintly teacher, but the Vedic literature emphatically declares to human society that if one at all desires spiritual success in the modern age of quarrel and disagreement (Kali-yuga), he must adopt the method taught by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu:

harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha

“Chant the holy name! Chant the holy name! Chant the holy name! In this Kali-yuga there is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way at all.” (Brhad-naradiya Purana) Following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya, the present-day Krsna consciousness movement is propagating the supreme science of love of Godhead, teaching who God is and how to love Him. Other religious and philosophical systems teach how to negate God, become God, forget God or derive some benefit from God as in an ordinary business relationship, but the Hare Krsna movement is teaching how to love God. While others deal with God as a “concept” and speculate about whether He factually exists, we appreciate Him as Krsna, the most attractive of all persons and the reservoir of transcendental qualities and pastimes, and we relish His personal association by chanting His names, speaking and hearing about His glories and serving Him in love.

Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham: “As one worships Me or surrenders unto Me, I reveal Myself accordingly.” (Bg. 4.11) Therefore, for those who wish to think of Krsna as the subject of a myth, legend, allegory or theory, His existence will remain mythological, legendary, allegorical or theoretical. Similarly, Krsna will permit those who wish to think of Him as impersonal, void or dead to do so. But those who wish to surrender to Krsna in love will be able to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face. To them He will reveal His beautiful threefold-bending form of Syamasundara, the all-attractive supreme enjoyer who eternally plays on His flute and revels in pastimes of love. Because their eyes are smeared with the ointment of pure love of Godhead, He will always be visible to them in their heart of hearts as Govinda, the reservoir of pleasure in His supreme transcendental form.

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