[This article also appeared as the first part of the article “Theosophy ends in Vaishnavism” published in Back to Godhead Parts I-IV in 1944]
The summary of a lecture delivered at the opening session of the Fifty-Sixth Annual convention of the Theosophical Society in America, held on July 25th, 1943 was handed over to me by a well wisher friend in a pamphlet under the heading of “The Theosophist as the Ideal Citizen in War and in Peace.” By perusal of the pamphlet we could gather the following points which lead to the ideals and philosophy of the Vaishnavas.
The Theosophist believes in a Personalised Consciousness or a Directing Will behind the operation of the universal activity. This conclusion is quite logical as we can see in every field of our activities. We can observe that nothing in the world is possible to perform without a directing Will. Matter has no power to move without a touch of Free directing will and as such it is quite natural to think that the whole material nature, however big and consummative, is directed from behind, by a great Will which is termed differently by different speculationists.
But the Vaisnavas or the devotees of the Absolute Personality of Godhead, not only believe in a Personalised Consciousness in the process of the direction of the universal activities but also they actually accept Sree Krishna as the Absolute Person who is the root of all causes and all effects.
In this connection if we refer to such authentic literatures as Bhagwat Geeta, Brahmasamheeta etc., they may help us in approaching nearer to the Personalised Consciousness of the Absolute Personality of Godhead. The first stanza of the Fifth Chapter in Brahmasamheeta, affirms very emphatically that Lord Sree Krishna Who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the Origin of all and He has no other origin as He is the Prime cause of all causes.
His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada explains this stanza as follows:—
“Krishna is the exalted Supreme entity having His eternal name, eternal form, eternal attribution and eternal pastimes. The very name Krishna implies His love-attracting designation, expressing by His eternal nomenclature the Acme of entity. His eternal beautiful heavenly blue-tinged body glowing with intensity of ever existing Knowledge has a flute in both hands. As His inconceivable spiritual energy is all extending, still He maintains His all charming medium size by His qualifying spiritual instrumentals. His all accommodating supreme subjectivity is nicely manifested in His eternal Form. The concentrated all-time presence, uncovered knowledge and inebriating felicity have their beauty in Him. The mundane manifestive Portion of His Own Self is known as all-pervading Paramatma, Iswara (Superior Lord) or Vishnu (All-fostering). Hence it is evident that Krishna is Sole Supreme Godhead. His unrivalled or unique spiritual body of super-excellent charm is eternally unveiled with innumerable spiritual instrumentals (senses) and unreckonable attributes keeping their signifying location properly, adjusting at the same time by His inconceivable conciliative powers. This beautiful spiritual Figure is identical with Krishna and the Spiritual Entity of Krishna is identical with His own Figure.”
“The very intensity blended entity of eternal presence of felicitous cognition is the charming targeted holding or transcendental Icon. It follows that the conception of the indistinguishable formless magnitude (Brahman) which is an indolent, lax, presentment of cognitive bliss, is merely a penumbra of intensity blended glow of the three concomitants viz., the blissful, the substantive and the cognitive. This transcendental manifestive Icon of Krishna in His original face is primordial background of magnitudinal infinite Brahman and of the all pervasive Over-soul Krishna as truly visioned in His variegated pastimes, such as Owner of transcendental cows, Chief of cowherds, consort of milk maids, Ruler of the terrestrial Abode Goloka and Object of worship by transcendental residents of Goloka beauties, is Govinda. He is the root cause of all causes who are the predominating and predominated agents of the Universe. The glance of His projected fractional portion in the Sacred Originating water viz., the Personal Over-soul or Paramatma, gives rise to a secondary potency—nature who creates the mundane universe. This Over-soul’s intermediate energy brings forth the individual souls analogously to the emanated rays of the sun.”
The glance of His projected fractional portion as referred to above is confirmed in the 10th sloka of the ninth chapter of Bhagwat Geeta. The Personality of Godhead says, “Material Nature (Prakriti) under My surveillance, gives birth to everything moving or fixed (animate or inanimate) and by this process, O son of Kunti: the universe evolves.”
This glance, superintendence or surveillance, as we may prefer to call it by the Supreme Personality of Godhead is just like the superintendency of an executive head of a government who does everything as directing will but still one does not see him in every sphere of the governmental activities. Without him nothing can be done but on the face of the activity he seems to be absent as the performance is completed by another agent. Such is the relation of the Material Nature with the Absolute Personality of Godhead.
The Material Nature is called the ‘Mother Brahman’ i.e., She is impregnated with the seeds of creation by the Absolute Personality of Godhead as confirmed in the Bhagwat Geeta in the 14th chapter.
Sree Krishna says there “That the Material Nature which is called also ‘Mahat Brahma’ is my womb; therein I place the seeds or germs of creation from which comes the birth of all entities, O the son of Bharata.”
Under such Personalised Consciousness as the Theosophist believes in, it is natural to conclude that there is a great plan for the created universe.
The Vaisnavas accept this plan in a very simple way. The Supreme Personality of Godhead being the Absolute Enjoyer and Creator of everything that be, the plan is so made that everything in the creation is meant for the sense gratification of the Supreme Being. Any one that creates disturbance in this great Plan of the Supreme Being is considered by the Vaisnava as Aparadhi or Offender and there he concludes quite naturally that when an entity or Jiva soul forgets his ownself as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Being for adjustment of the Great Plan and considers himself as an enjoyer, he is at once caught hold of by the external potency of the Supreme Being which is termed as Maya, and begins his existence in the material Nature forgetting his real nature of Spirit. He drags on a conditional life under the modes of Nature, thereafter.
This Great Plan is explained in the Bhagwat Geeta [Bg. 18.65-66] in two ultimate slokas i.e., the 65th and the 66th slokas of the 18th Chapter which conclude the teachings of Bhagwat Geeta. The Personality of Godhead Sree Krishna says there that everyone should offer himself as the eternal transcendental servitor or devotee of Sree Krishna with heart and soul. He should not be like the “Karmayogi,” “Jnanyogi” or “Dhyanyogi” but should be “Bhaktayogi” pure and simple and in every sphere of his activity, he should only serve the purpose of the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to His Great Plan under the guidance of Him or His bonafide representative. This will gradually lead one to the position of eternal servitude of the Eternal Person and this advice was imparted to Sree Arjuna because he was Sree Krishna’s most bosom and dear friend.
Within this plan of action Arjuna was also advised to give up all other engagements and simply to follow the Personality of Godhead. In the beginning of the lessons of Geeta the Personality of Godhead explained to Arjuna as many different engagements as the duties of a renouncer, of a Sanyasin, of a Yogi, or a Jnanee, of a Karmee etc., and now he orders straightly to give all these engagements up and directly follow the wishes of the Personality of Godhead. In that way He assured Arjuna to protect him from all vices that may accrue for not having attempted to do all other duties and for that reason he has had to lament for nothing. By the performances of transcendental loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, the pure spiritual nature of every one and all becomes manifest. The performances of all so-called duties in this mundane world such as performances of religious duties, worldly duties, purificatory duties for higher state of life, acquisition of knowledge, meditation for controlling the senses and the mind, etc., are performed in order to rise from the conditional life of bodily and mental existence and in order to attain to the spiritual existence plain and simple; but when one transcends all such conditional state of life and rises high by the spiritual attraction of the All-blissful, Eternal Form of Sree Krishna, he has nothing to do and nothing to perform.
All activities of the material existence are targeted to some sort of ideal or plan. “The universe is never at any moment the result of a mere ‘fortuitous concourse of atoms,’ but on the other hand the result of the operations of Directing Will.” From this follows the logical conclusion that the Will operates according to a plan: In brief, a believer in Theosophy accepts as a fact that, “in and through all things, a Directing Will is at work, with a plan of Action from moment to moment towards a predominated end.” That is the version of the Theosophist in a different way as the Vaisnavite works. The predominated end is to serve the purpose of the Predominator Absolute.
In other words all our activities are targeted either to the end of some bodily purpose, or some mental purpose or some spiritual purpose. Activities to the end of some bodily and mental purposes have practically no permanent value having regard to the very end being transient and temporary and are therefore classified under two heads namely good or bad. But the activities towards spiritual end is called transcendental to all good and all bad purposes and as such activities may be divided into three departments for permanent and eternal existence. These three departments may be termed as attachment towards impersonal spiritual existence as opposed to variegated material existence, attachment to the All-pervasive Godhead or localised aspect of Paramatma the Super-soul or attachment to the Predominator Personality of Godhead in His All-blissful, Eternal and All-attractive Form. If we analyse all our activities in this world they can be grouped together under either of the above different headings, namely mundane or transcendental, temporary or permanent and all such activities attain some sort of atmosphere according to the plan or ideal of the performer. They are differently named under different headings and different plan but such activities as are targeted towards the transcendental sense gratification of the Predominator, Personality of Godhead Sree Krishna, are termed as unalloyed devotion. Such activities are devotional activities and they should never be misconceived as ordinary activities under the headings of bodily or mental plan of actions. These activities or the devotional activities are real activities towards the end of the Great Plan and they never disturb the adjustment of the Great Plan whereas all other activities may it be good or bad, are simply disturbing to the Great Plan of the Predominator and they should therefore be given up by one who desires to work according to the Plan.
In the ninth chapter (24th Sloka) the Personality of Godhead declares most emphatically that “I am the Enjoyer and Lord also of all sacrifices, but men do not know Me in truth and therefore they suffer.”
Whenever any activity is performed which does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Personality of Godhead or does not adjust the Great Plan of action is called a sin. When Sree Krishna wanted Moharaj Judhisthir to tell a straight lie to Dronacharya, Moharaj Judhisthir first declined to tell such a lie and then he told the truth in a round about way which apparently seemed to the ordinary men to be untruth in a round about way. But Moharaj Judhisthir himself told the truth as far as practicable. But the after result was that Judhisthir had to visit hell for the reason that he declined to tell a lie according to the Plan of Sree Krishna. Ordinary men understood that Judhisthir was compelled to visit hell because he told lie in a roundabout way, but savants could understand that he had to visit hell for the reason that he did decline to tell lie according to the order of Sree Krishna. The import of the story is that telling lie or telling truth does not matter if it can reconcile with the Predominated End. In ordinary life also we can judge a means by the result of its end. End justifies the means. If the end is to satisfy the Great Plan of the Predominator Absolute Personality of Godhead, it does not matter whether the means are right or wrong according to the poor judgment of imperfect judges. The Absolute Personality of Godhead being the Supreme Enjoyer He must be satisfied by all means that is the Great Plan according to the philosophy of the Vaisnavites.
Empiric Theosophist gives this Great Plan of the Absolute Person different names such as “the Plan of God, which is Evolution” the “Archetypal World” a “Power, not ourselves,” which makes for righteousness” and the Theosophist will argue “that in and through all things, from an electron to a star, from an amoeba to an angel, there is a pattern” and one who has discovered this pattern is called a Theosophist.
The Vaisnavite believes in the “Plan of God, which is Evolution” but not in the way as the Theosophist accepts. The Theosophist believes that “all things are moving to an ordered end, just as a lotus root buried in mud, will in the process of its ordered growth, inevitably produce the beautiful flower.” But the Vaisnavite will apply more reason to it than any other philosopher, and he will say that the process of ordered growth is also conditional. The seed or root of a lotus may be buried in mud but still the growth will be checked if proper help is not available from Nature or Prakriti. The condition is offered by the nature that makes the flower to grow or die in the bud. The Evolution is not steady from one stage to another but the same is also depended on the modes of the Material Nature and according to one’s modes of work. It should not be therefore concluded that once a Jiva-soul or spirit is embodied in a human form, he is no more changed to a tiger or an angel but according to the Vaisnavites the Evolution is so flexible that an Angel can become a tiger or a tiger can become an Angel at any moment according to the works of free will helped by the modes of Nature.
Every individual soul being part and parcel of the Super-soul has independence subordinate to the Absolute independence of the Predominator and this independence is never hampered by the Predominating independence of the Absolute Person. He is full in Himself and His independence is never conditional to the independence of the Jiva soul. According to Archetypal Plan the Vaisnavite believes that Man is made according to the Model of God Himself and therefore man is considered the highest being in the process of Evolution and he is actually so, as we can judge by the favourable circumstances.
A man’s height, his beauty in respect of colour and form, his intelligence and strength, his power of endurance and above all his psychic development clearly indicate that he is highest of all created beings. And for this the Vaisnavite affirms that embodiment of a Jiva soul as human being as the most coveted, rare form of life which is helpful for the spiritual salvation of the embodied and therefore the Vaisnavite concludes that this human form of life is much more important than the life of an angel and what to speak of other in lower animals.
But unfortunately very few men realise this importance of human life and most of them prefer to enjoy life to their best capacity under conditions offered by the Material nature. When a man realises that his human form of life has been awarded to him after crores and crores of births and deaths through many many species of embodiment by the process of Evolution and recognises “a Power, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness” and as such distinguishes the same with another power which makes for righteousness indirectly, then he tries to rise up to the unconditional complete free life and activity in the kingdom of Godhead and for this purpose he engages his life, money, intelligence and words for attainment of the highest form of spiritual existence.
In the above process of Self-realisation the Vaisnavite like the Theosophist not only realises that he is also in some measure the Good, the True and the Beautiful but also he constantly remembers that quantitatively his goodness, truthfulness and beauty are never comparable with those of the Predominator. As the Egyptian philosophers put it, “The Principle which gives life dwells in us, and without us, is undying and eternally beneficient, is not heard or seen, or smelt, but is perceived by the man who desires perception”; so the Vaisnavite also realises the same Principle both qualitatively and quantitatively. Qualitatively he makes no difference with the great Predominator but quantitatively he always maintains a difference between the Predominator and the Predominated.
Thus the Vaisnavite not only recognises “a Power not ourselves, which makes for righteousness” but also recognises the same in an indirect way and gives these different names such as Jogamaya and Mohamaya and the Jiva-souls who are under the control of either of the above Power or Energies, are called the Marginal Power. And above all these three Powers, puts the Powerful or the Predominator as the Absolute Personality of Godhead. The Philosophy of Kshetra and Kshetrajna as discussed in the Bhagwat Geeta is based on these three powers and above them the All-powerful Personality of Godhead Sree Krishna. Our essay on Godhead and His potentialities published in this leaflet tries to explain this subject more elaborately. The conclusion may be drawn like this that Godhead is the Whole thing and All-Powerful and the Powers may be grossly divided into three headings which are as above. The Vaisnavite like the Theosophist, believes himself as an unit in the same Whole under the subheading Marginal-Power.
The Theosophist’s delight in the feeling of a brotherhood of all living entities is the Vaisnavite’s highest plane of Vaisnavism called the stage of Mohabhagabat; but the process of realising that highest form of universal Brotherhood by the Vaisnavite is different from that of the Theosophist.
The Theosophist’s ideal of universal brotherhood is without a Central relationship whereas the Vaisnavite’s universal brotherhood is based on with a Central relation. The Theosophist puts his ideal of universal brotherhood as follows:—
“But to be brother to all that lives means to the Theosophist a responsibility to all that lives. Since the Theosophist is a human being his responsibility is towards all other beings like himself. The concept of a Universal Brotherhood of all Mankind passes from being a mere intellectual ideal into ever present, ever driving Reality.