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In reference to your article “Spiritual Strategies for the Age of Iron” [by Ravindra-svarupa dasa, in BTG Vol. 15, No. 8]:
One must be happy to see the attempt to build a cogent case for spreading knowledge of the Lord. But it would have been more appreciated if some falsehoods had not been introduced to meet various aptitudes of people who may read the article.
Bhagavan Vyasa is Krsna Himself, and hence he is not “sent by” Krsna. I suggest that the learned author of the article read the Mahabharata-tatparya-nirnaya of Acarya Sri Madhva, who happily is in the same disciplic succession as the devotees of the Hare Krsna movement, and be benefited by a study of his works. Vyasa did not “master all the knowledge of the Vedic culture.” He is verily its director and is aware of that knowledge at all times. Narada is the son of Brahma, while Bhagavan Vedavyasa is Visnu Himself. Hence, Bhagavan Vedavyasa has nothing to learn from Narada.
None can circumvent the Vedic dharma and reach the highest goal. Devotion to the Lord helps one to observe the Vedic dharma willingly. Vedic dharmas do not become obsolete at any time, for the Vedas are eternal and the dharmas prescribed by it are also eternal.
There is no authority to say that Caitanya is Krsna Himself! Srimad-Bhagavatam is clear that the Lord takes avatara [incarnates] only in three yugas. Hence, the Bhagavatam itself is verily the spiritual form of Lord Sri Krsna in this Age of Kali. Caitanya is doubtlessly a great devotee of Lord Sri Krsna.
If the author would only read the Mahabharata-tatparya-nirnaya and Bhagavata-tatparya-nirnaya of Acarya Sri Madhva, the true position of the scriptures on these points will be clear to him.
Yours in the service of the Lord,
K. Raghupathi Rao
I am glad that you have so carefully read my article and that you appreciate our attempt to spread knowledge of Krsna all over the world.
It is true that Srila Vedavyasa, being directly empowered with all Vedic knowledge, did not have to learn either from guru or from scripture. But Srimad-Bhagavatam specifically describes Vedavyasa as kala, an empowered plenary portion of the Lord. This is technically called a saktyavesa-avatara. So it is not incorrect to refer to him as “sent by the Lord.” Moreover, he accepted Narada Muni as guru just to teach by his own example the necessity of accepting a spiritual master; for the same reason, Sri Krsna Himself became the disciple of Sandipani Muni. These are divine pastimes, and they are not unimportant. I have described them as they are given in Srimad-Bhagavatam.
I do not find support in the scriptures for the idea, implied in your letter, that the value of devotion to God lies in its helping one willingly observe the Vedic dharmas. On the contrary, we should observe Vedic dharmas only to bring us to the level of devotional service. Service to Krsna is not a means to something else; it is the goal of all the Vedas. As stated in Bhagavad-gita (15.15), vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: all the Vedas are just meant for knowing Krsna.
When one has attained the devotional service of Krsna, one may give up all other dharmas. This is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.11.32):
ajnayaivam gunan dosan
mayadistan api svakan
dharman santyajya yah sarvan
mam bhajeta sa tu sattamah
“Occupational duties, dharmas, are described in the religious scriptures. If one analyzes them, he can fully understand their qualities and their faults and then give them up completely to render service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A person who does so is considered a first-class man.”
Similarly, in Bhagavad-gita (18.66) Sri Krsna orders:
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
“Abandon all varieties of dharma and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” Krsna here promises that we need not fear we will incur some sin by giving up prescribed dharmas, for He will protect us. And one who practices Krsna consciousness need not follow any other Vedic practice, since “all purposes served by the small pond can at once be served by the great reservoirs of water” (Bg. 2.46).
Even those who were born outside of Vedic culture and had no chance to undergo the standard purificatory procedures (samskaras), to observe the various injunctions of varnasrama-dharma, or to practice penances, austerities, and sacrifices prescribed for spiritual elevation can still come to devotional service. If they do, they must be considered to have sufficiently performed all such practices. As clearly stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.33.6-7), even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances, or even remembers Him. Persons who chant the Lord’s holy name are considered to have executed all kinds of austerities and sacrifices, bathed at all holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas, achieved all the good manners of the Aryans, and fulfilled everything required.
Vedic dharmas, such as the varnasrama-dharma, may be helpful to devotional service, and therefore they should be instituted wherever possible. Yet one may come to devotional service without going through such dharmas, which are unnecessary after one has attained it. For devotional service is the goal of all dharmas. On these points the scriptures are quite clear.
Even though the Vedas are eternal, different practices are prescribed for different times. Thus the Visnu Purana (6.2.17) says:
dhyayan krte yajan yajnais
tretayam dvapare ‘rcayan
yad apnoti tad apnoti
kalau sankirtya kesavam
“Whatever one may achieve by meditation in Satya-yuga, by performance of sacrifice in Treta-yuga, or by the worship of Krsna’s lotus feet in Dvapara-yuga one may also obtain in the Age of Kali simply by chanting and glorifying Lord Krsna.” The same text appears in the Padma Purana and the Brhan-naradiya Purana, and one very similar in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.52). For that reason, various Vedic practices become nonfunctional, obsolete in a relative sense. This is confirmed by Acarya Sri Madhva, who, in his commentary on the Mundaka Upanisad, quotes the Narayana-samhita:
dvapariyair janair visnuh
pancaratrais ca kevalam
kalau tu nama-matrena
pujyate bhagavan harih
“In the Dvapara-yuga people should worship Lord Visnu only by the regulative principles of the Narada-pancaratra and other such authorized books. In the Age of Kali, however, people should simply chant the holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
Thus it is well established that in our age there is no means of deliverance except the chanting of the holy names of the Lord.
It is not true that the Lord descends only in three ages. At the name-giving ceremony of Lord Krsna, Gargamuni specifically says (Bhag. 10.8.13) that in the four different yugas the Lord descends as the yuga-avatara in four different bodily colors—white, red, black, and yellow—to teach the yuga-dharma, the path for each age. The Lord is indeed, as you say, called “tri-yuga,” one who appears in three ages, but this is explained by Prahlada Maharaja (Bhag. 7.9.38). He is known as tri-yuga because in the Kali-yuga He is covered; that is, He does not assert Himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The white, red, and black incarnations appeared in previous ages. So from these verses we see that the Lord descends in Kali-yuga in a yellowish color, as the yuga-avatara to spread the yuga-dharma of the chanting of the Lord’s glories. These are all features of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who was covered in that He came as the Lord’s devotee, and not as the Lord Himself.
Great authorities such as Srila Rupa Gosvami, Sri Sanatana Gosvami, and Sri Jiva Gosvami have all accepted Sri Caitanya as Krsna Himself. This is not asserted whimsically or out of sentiment. An incarnation of God is known because the scriptures describe His personal features and His activities. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Karabhajana Muni (one of the nine Yogendras) explains all about the different yuga-avataras to Maharaja Nimi, and he describes the yuga-avatara for the present age as follows:
yajanti hi su-medhasah
This means that in the Kali-yuga the Lord teaches the yuga-dharma of sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy name. He is accompanied by His associates. Krsna-varnam means both that He is Krsna Himself and that He is repeating the syllables krs-na. Yet His radiance or luster (tvisa) is not black (akrsna); that is, it is golden.
There are many other scriptural texts that clearly describe Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. For example, from the Vayu Purana: kalau sankirtanarambhe bhavisyami saci-sutah. “In the Age of Kali when the sankirtana movement is inaugurated, I shall descend as the son of Saci-devi.” And from the Brahma-yamala:
mayayam ca bhavisyami
“Sometimes I personally appear on the surface of the world in the garb of a devotee. Specifically, I appear in the Kali-yuga to start the sankirtana movement.” There are similar statements in the Krsna-yamala and the Ananta-samhita.
So there is no lack of authority for saying that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna Himself, descended in the Kali-yuga to teach the world the process of salvation through the chanting of the holy names. I simply ask you to read Sri Caitanya-caritamrta by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, which has been translated into English from the Bengali, with purports, by Srila Prabhupada. No one who reads this book can doubt the true position of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, by whose grace the sankirtana-yajna is now performed all over the world, delivering even the most fallen in the present Age of Kali.