|OUR ETERNAL CONSTITUTIONAL POSITION
AND THE MAHA-VISHNU ORIGINATION THEORY
STUDENT: "Origen considered that just as man's free will precipitated his fall, man's free will can also bring about salvation. Man can return to God by practicing material detachment."
" . . . the spark of soul originally comes from the spiritual world to the material world . . . there is a bona fide method for the attainment of spiritual perfection by the spiritual spark of soul, and, if he is properly guided, then he is very easily sent back home, back to Godhead, wherefrom he originally fell." - 1968 letter by Prabhupada to Canadian cardiologist Wilfred G. Bigelow, Author of Heart Surgeon Wants to Know What Soul Is in Montreal Gazette
Conventional wisdom holds that the deviations of the GBC combined with its lack of cooperation with the Gaudiya Math are responsible for stifling the Krishna consciousness movement as a united mission worldwide. There is, however, a deeper malignancy behind the current chaos. The almost imperceptible influence of mayavada is what has effectively undermined the eternal constitution of the Vedic and Vaishnava truths. This influence has permeated the hearts of many disciples of Prabhupada, especially after his disappearance, to distinct disadvantage.
Vedic wisdom culminates in Vaishnavism; this we all know and accept. As such, there is ultimately only Vaishnavism in hearing and reading Vedic literature. Throughout the Vedas we find terrestrial, universal, and eternal truths. These are all part of God's constitution governing the spiritual as well as the material creations. There is a hierarchy of importance to these laws. On rare occasions, some of these laws, like gravity, can be transcended. Others can never be overridden.
Aside from the direct manifestation of God Himself, the mahabhagavats represent the epitome of transcendental authority as per this constitution. Some Vaishnavas believe that His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada was in this category as a shaktyavesh-avatar. Others say they believe this about Prabhupada, but, in practical application, really do not. Still others openly reject this status of His Divine Grace. There is no possibility for compromise between and amongst the powerful men within these divisions. Invariably they will work at cross-purposes, even if it is against their will to do so.
In truth, Vaishnavism is the monopoly of the pure devotees like Srila Prabhupada, who are saksad-dhari whenever and wherever they speak. When they explain the Vedic truths, either verbally or in written form, their explanations are non-different from the center, non-different from Lord Krishna directly explaining His own constitutional law. Although the Vaishnava institution on earth is a pragmatic and revered mix of eternal law and established customs, such customs must always be subordinate to the transcendental pillars of Absolute Truth. These pillars are the tenets of Vaishnavism, not modern Indian culture. Even for the pure devotee, the actual center is shastra or scripture.
The pure devotee explains the shastra exactly as God wishes it to be explained and understood. A number of Srila Prabhupada's pet disciples followed him with diligence in the beginning, and, as a result, were graced to become stalwarts and very powerful men. They became wealthy, influential, and opportunistically captured slaves in the form of Prabhupada's weaker section of followers. Prabhupada eventually became little more than a figurehead in the eyes of these captured people. Due to bad association, along with too much personal wealth and misuse of power, this ruling class, over the course of time, began to explain things differently from Srila Prabhupada.
Although originally stern, renounced, and dedicated, these privileged men, despite close association with the shaktyavesh-avatar, lost the essence of the covenant he passed on to them. As a result, a significant section of the devotional world has been left in a constant state of strife, self-promotion, and competition for zones and offices. This has led to the general emasculation of the rank-and-file. Instead of remaining the hardy and productive section of advancing servants they once were, this class has turned into little more than a quasi-Vaishnava angry proletariat.
We all see these problems, but we do not all see the actual causes, what to speak of the solutions. Except material nature herself, who is powerful enough to prosecute such strong leaders? Even modest reforms--which can do very little--will be opposed every step of the way. Pride, power, and the pocketbook keep the post-holders always on top. As long as someone can be bribed, he will be. Before other protestors can be effective, they will be intimidated or tricked by various arts of deception. The men who wield these powers are expert in their application; much experience has fortified their confidence. A loose-knit confederation keeps the semblance of the status quo holding together.
In such a situation, mere reform is ludicrous. Indeed, those who believe that Srila Prabhupada was a reformer do not understand him rightly. Prabhupada was a radical and a revolutionary in the highest universal, spiritual, and devotional sense of these terms.
He was from what appeared to be a distinguished Hindu family heritage. On the material plane, he seemed to be educated according to the standards of his time, an honest, able, and likable follower of Gandhi, and a Bengali who followed the Indian culture. His ambitious Jhansi initiative didn't last long, and a number of other projects never really got going. Viewed in this superficial way, most of those belonging to his ethnicity and place of birth would naturally consider him a believer of their ethic, their standard, and their vision.
SRILA PRABHUPADA'S MISSION
Prabhupada, however, never accepted that outlook, just as he didn't accept the Weltanschauung of the West. He instead was the exponent of a divinely empowered scheme to cut through all the mayavada within modern Indian culture. Prabhupada's movement was a revolution, a rejection of what many Hindus consider sacrosanct.
Not accepting their belief structure, he used unconventional means to accomplish his purposes. His was a radical departure from other Hindu and even Vaishnava establishments of his time. His teachings and innovations were resisted, of course. Nevertheless, Srila Prabhupada's disciples accepted the constitution he gave them. It challenged not only the Western way but modern Indian culture (and other quasi-spiritual constitutions) as well.
There's no need to justify the innovative ways and means Prabhupada established. That would be a diversion and tangential. Those ways and means are less important than his revolutionary teachings. What needs to be emphasized is that Prabhupada was not above the law, his statements constituted the law. He was the embodiment of the constitutional law of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He re-established it, and those eternal Truths of Lord Sri Krishna have spread.
Srila Prabhupada's textbooks--and especially his purports to the verses contained therein--are that law and will remain so. These textbooks will eventually be accepted as the lawbooks of mankind for thousands of years. In due course, they will rise above unauthorized editing and changes now scarring and covering them. They will also transcend hodge-podge groups railing--in one form or another--against them. Because Lord Caitanya's movement is inevitable, their triumph is destined by Providence and cannot be stopped. There can be delay, though, as is now the case.
The acceptance of these lawbooks means the acceptance of their proper understanding. That understanding is not contained within the prism of modern Indian culture. There is no compromise whatsoever with mayavada (in any of its permutations) within Lord Krishna's constitutional arrangement. Any mayavada, however subtle, always entails a covering potency over Absolute Truth. That the constitutional reality can be covered to the eyes of conditioned souls is but one of its laws. This rule is particularly prominent in Kali yuga (and most especially at this time of technological fascination within that darkness).
Srila Prabhupada was unconventional. He did not hesitate to preach and reveal eternal truths even when they worked against precedent and dogma. He preached and acted in such a way as to stifle the power and influence of opposing cultures along with the philosophical and pseudo religious constitutions underpinning them. His legacy was established with support from his Western disciples, despite his insistence that they eschew any remnants of allegiance to Western philosophy and lifestyles. Whether done in a subtle style, or whether done in what would appear to be an inflammatory way, it has been implemented. It cannot be supplanted by any form of direct or covert mayavada (in the form of Eastern or Western culture).
Still, dogma does not release its grasp easily. Especially after Prabhupada's disappearance, there has been a powerful backlash by followers of previous ideas about the teachings of Lord Vishnu. Indeed, as aforementioned, many of Prabhupada's own disciples now adhere to a philosophy and culture different from his. One of the pillars of that other culture is its insistence that the living entity did not, by misuse of free will, originally fall from a personal relationship with the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world. This deeper malignancy is a chief cause of conflict. It produces clashes on grosser planes.
Lord Krishna has, throughout the world, established His constitutional law in the form of Prabhupada's writings, lectures, conversations, and letters. Rebellion against it has contributed to ushering in twenty-plus years of protracted offense, vilification, ostracism, etc. There has been heartbreaking molestation, murder, and psychic and physical suicide. Many devotees have been spiritually uprooted. Misunderstanding about the jiva's constitutional position has been instrumental in this upheaval.
This strife is not warning us that the unauthorized constitution should never have been challenged. We should not think that everything would be ideal if only Prabhupada had not been so revolutionary, especially in his teachings. The actual lesson to be learned is that his interpretation is directly Lord Krishna's interpretation, and, come what may in the short term, that's the constitution we should accept, spread, and follow.
In general, everyone knows that it is dangerous to defy precedent, whatever the cause. Sometime in the first half of the last century, Lord Krishna's constitution had been changed and, for all practical purposes, its essence had been dissipated. Artificial teachings and traditions were in widespread acceptance and institutionalized. Srila Prabhupada created a transcendental substitute, a positive alternative to these impositions. The real danger now is defying his teachings.
The constitutional position of the living entity, the jiva, is pre-eminent amongst his teachings. Mayavada teaches that the living entity has never had a personal relationship with the Supreme Lord. As such, it can justly be called impersonal. Mayavada has become accepted in modern Indian culture as conventional wisdom, and it has been around for a long time. It's nothing new. Whether in the form of claiming that the jiva is actually God or in the form of claiming that the jiva has never actually been with God in a personal relationship, it is all mayavada.
When we refer to modern Indian culture, we do not limit that to the information age or even to the industrial age. Modern Indian culture refers to the unauthorized innovations within that culture, mostly rooted in mayavada. These innovations are opposed to the pure Vedic truths and standards that reigned in antiquity. In one sense, all the groups following semi-mayavada, quasi-mayavada, or covert mayavada have been around for awhile. In terms of the real Vedic and Vaishnava culture, however, these innovations have a time frame that is recent or modern.
Because it defies the Vedic authority, mental speculation is a serious sin. Sin is of the nature of maha-maya, not yogamaya. The original relationship of the living entity with the Lord, as per Srila Prabhupada's statement on this subject, can be understood directly in accordance with authorized philosophical speculation (adhyatma-jnana-nityatvam).
A view promulgated in irreconcilable contradiction and opposition to his teachings is a challenge to him and is rooted in unauthorized mental speculation. This produces dogma, leads to pedantic preaching, creates vitiated precedents, and hardens into institutions comprised of vested interests. None of this is yogamaya.
Devotees of Srila Prabhupada need only turn to the opening pages of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, to the very introduction, in order to read about the origin of the jiva:
"Jiva is also described as sanatana, eternal, and the Lord is also described as sanatana in the Eleventh Chapter. We have an intimate relationship with the Lord . . . the whole purpose of Bhagavad-gita is to revive our sanatana occupation, or sanatana-dharma, which is the eternal occupation of the living entity . . . the Lord descends to reclaim all of these fallen, conditioned souls to call them back to the sanatana eternal sky so that the sanatana living entities may regain their eternal sanatana positions in eternal association with the Lord."
If you revive someone who has ceased breathing, that means he was once breathing. Similarly, if you revive an eternal occupation, that means it was once active. Is it logical to say that you are reviving something that has only been eternally dormant? If you reclaim something, you once claimed it. We see that the living entities have fallen from somewhere, and they are being called back to that place from which they have fallen.
If the living entities only had an original claim to being in the anaesthetized state within Maha Vishnu, is that what the Lord wants them to regain when He descends? Can the relationship of the living entity with Maha Vishnu--considering the state the soul is in at that time--be considered "intimate?" And, if he returns back to that state within Maha Vishnu, can that be called returning "back to the sanatana eternal sky?"
The introduction continues to expound upon these important themes:
"(Sanatana-dharma) is the eternal function of the eternal living entities in relationship with the eternal Supreme Lord . . . Sanatana-dharma is eternally integral with the living entity . . .there is no beginning to the history of sanatana-dharma, because it remains eternally with the living entities . . . the svarupa or constitutional position of the living entity is the rendering of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Are the living entities actually engaged in service while in the unconscious state within Maha Vishnu? Does anyone claim that the eternal svarupa of the jiva is constitutionally established in Maha Vishnu? If not, then his svarupa must be something previous to and higher than this. If service is integrally part of the living entity, how is it that such service is kept dormant within him until he is sent into the material world in order to activate it for the first time? This way of thinking produces subconscious resentment against God:
" . . . (A)lthough he is constitutionally eternal, blissful, and cognizant, due to the littleness of his existence, he forgets his constitutional position of service to the Lord and is thus entrapped by nescience. And, under the spell of ignorance, the living entity claims that the Lord is responsible for his conditional existence." - Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 5, verse 15, purport
When you forget something, such forgetfulness entails that you once previously were in touch with and conscious of it. Where is it indicated that the living entities have a particular relationship with Lord Vishnu when they are all within Him in the unconscious state? Those who advocate the Maha-Vishnu origination theory--a.k.a., "no-fall"--agree that devotional service is not performed in order to regain that state (within Maha-Vishnu). Nor do they say the consciousness of that state--if it can be called consciousness--is the perfection of the living entity's svarupa.
An individual's svarupa, in direct relationship with the Lord, is an elaborate subject. One of five primary mellows (rasas) constitutes the svarupa of the living being in his perfectional stage. These primary rasas are exchanged in Vaikuntha or Goloka, in the eternal spiritual sky. How can we regain that particular relationship if we have never had it? How can we reclaim it if we had never had an active claim to it? How can it be revived if it was never operational? How can we have forgotten it if we never once remembered relishing it? "No-fall" does not answer these questions clearly.
Srila Prabhupada discussed this topic in the very introduction of his basic textbook for devotees, his Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The original, constitutional position of the living entities was one of the dominant themes within that introduction. Prabhupada's movement is called Krishna consciousness: "As living spiritual soul, we are all originally Krishna conscious entities." This is the conclusive reality.
Mayavada consists of two words: maya (illusion) and vada (conclusion). The conclusion that the realm of Krishna has maya within it is called mayavada. In order to see how mayavada subtly contaminates the "no-fall" theory, some insight into classical mayavada epistemology (which is quasi-Vedic in nature) is required.
According to Shankaracharya, humans are fully engrossed in avidya on the earth plane. If they rise to the plane of heavenly delights, to demigod status, they are much more advanced in enjoyment facilities, power, and knowledge. Although they are less sinful on that plane, they are still situated in avidya nonetheless. Above heaven is the causal plane, the realm this system calls anandamaya. Although avidya is not present in this plane, there is still said to be illusion in it. Real liberation is not yet achieved at this stage according to Shankaracharya.
The system then postulates that the living entity must go higher and transcend the realm of anandamaya in order to reach qualitative oneness with Maha-Vishnu. Still, even this is not considered perfect liberation. That is attained if the living entity transcends Maha-Vishnu and merges into the brahmajyoti for complete liberation.
Devotees agree with this only up to the point of the heavenly realm; after that, there is no agreement whatsoever. As correctly interpreted by the Vaishnava acharyas, the Vedic understanding decries any conception that either Krishna or the spiritual world has even the slightest connection with mahamaya.
IT'S STILL THE SAME
"As confirmed in the Gita, the fragmental portions of the Supreme exist eternally (sanatana) and are called ksara; that is, they have a tendency to fall down into material nature. These fragmental portions are eternally so, and, even after liberation, the individual soul remains the same--fragmental. But once liberated, he lives an eternal life of bliss and knowledge with the Personality of Godhead." - Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 2, Verse 13, purport
Whenever bliss (ananda) is mentioned, that means the liberation being referenced is liberation in personal association with and relationship to the Supreme Lord. The liberation spoken of in this connection is not merging into the brahmajyoti or attainment of what is sometimes called kaivalya.
The living entity is fragmental both in his conditional existence, as well as in his fully liberated state. Part of this constitution is the above-mentioned tendency to fall down, his freedom to misuse free will and fall down. This remains with him in the spiritual sky, and, as such, the living entity is called tatastha-shakti. He has the free will to eternally choose on which side he wants to live. Even after liberation, his constitutional position remains the same:
"So, unless there is a possibility of misusing our free will, there is no question of freedom." - Dialectical Spiritualism, Critique of Descartes
When the followers of no-fall are confronted with the teaching that the jiva was originally in the spiritual world, they find it distasteful. They have the same reaction when told that the jiva can eternally either properly or improperly use his free will. They superficially think that this teaching is mayavada, because it apparently implicates the spiritual world with illusion--in the context of a conclusion (vada) that Krishna's world has illusion (maya).
This is a misunderstanding. Free will is intrinsic to the jiva anywhere, and he can eternally act upon it. His free will always is there with him. If he misuses it in the spiritual world, his connection to Maya takes place in another world. Immediately after misusing free will, he is thrown into a different place outside the spiritual world. Mahamaya is never in the spiritual world at any time..
Acceptance of no-fall entails the non-existence of free will when the living entity returns back home, back to Godhead. Free will has no meaning outside of the possibility of misusing it. Only if free will wasn't there could the living entity never fall from the spiritual world--the chief claim of no-fall theory. Spiritual freedom is attained and maintained by proper use of free will, i.e., it is a benefit bestowed by free will. Freedom to move anywhere within the spiritual sky and associate in any way he likes with the other liberated personalities there is not in and of itself the same thing as free will.
Animals and lower entities have free will covered. When they evolve to human form, it gradually again becomes uncovered. All living entities from that point onward have expanding free will. The point of mayavada within the no-fall philosophy is the conception that a full and complete free will in the spiritual world means that mahamaya must then be in the spiritual sky. In effect, this view entails that eternal free will is maya. Nevertheless, all jivas with developed consciousness have free will, and the living entities in the spiritual world have it to the greatest possible degree.
Insight is integral in order to understand Krishna consciousness. First, however, hearing and accepting the knowledge given by the pure devotee is required. The subtleties of a wrong philosophy of origination are not revealed to everyone. No-fall indirectly postulates that, if free will is in the spiritual world, then mahamaya must be there. It postulates the jivas to be eternally in a state of automatic devotional service--for the (so-called) first time--once established in a personal relationship with the Supreme Lord. In effect, it postulates the eradication of eternal free will from the jiva upon his return back to Godhead. That's a very attractive idea. So is the idea that you are God.
"Of course, everyone has a particular relationship with the Lord, and that relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. But, in the present status of our life, we have not only forgotten the Supreme Lord, but we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of many, many billions and trillions of living beings, has a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarupa. By the process of devotional service, one can revive that svarupa, and that stage is called svarupa-siddhi--perfection of one's constitutional position." -Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is
Although Maha-Visnu is always engaged in lila or pastime, His deep sleep primarily features a personal exchange with His consort, not with the living entities. Susupti is not the living entity's original, blissful consciousness. It is intellectually dishonest to claim that he most hankers after this. He actually hankers after a relationship with Krishna in full bliss and knowledge. During the living entity's time within Maha-Visnu, it is disingenuous to say--as he is just about to be sent forth into illusory identities and actions--that he is engaged in an active, blissful relationship with the Supreme Lord:
" . . . at that time, the conditioned souls are resting in the condition called susupti, which is exactly deep sleep without dream, or anesthetized state."
However, originally the jiva soul was engaged with Krishna in an original relationship from which he has fallen:
"We are all originally situated on the platform of Krishna consciousness in our eternal personal relationship of love of Krishna." - Letter of November 17, 1970
"He is fallen already from Vaikuntha planet. He is fallen in this material world, and he is again trying to make progress." -Srimad Bhagavatam lecture of June 15, 1972
" . . . After all, the living entity falls down from the spiritual world . . . There is possibility . . . even if you are in Vaikuntha, you will fall down--what to speak of this material world." - Lecture on Bhagavad-gita on July 4, 1974
" . . . we have also come down from Vaikuntha some millions and millions of years ago." - Lecture on Bhagavad-gita on August 6, 1973
There is this personal association with God in the spiritual sky previous to being packed up in susupti within Maha-Visnu. The origin of the jiva being the brahmajyoti is one myth. The origin of the jiva being Maha-Visnu is another:
"Formerly, we were with Krishna in His lila or sport, but this covering of Maya may be of very, very, very, very long duration . . . After millions and millions of years of keeping oneself away from the lila of the Lord, when one comes to Krishna consciousness, this period becomes insignificant, just like dreaming. Because he falls down from brahma sayujya, he thinks that may be his origin, but he does not remember that, before that even, he was with Krishna." - "The Origin of the Jiva" Australian conversation with Prabhupada
"We have come from the spiritual world into this material world. We have forgotten our Father. So we have to revive this relationship with our Father . . . God or Krishna." - Lecture on October 7, 1975
"But his relationship with Krishna is never lost. Simply it is forgotten by the influence of Maya, so it may be regained or revived by the process of hearing the Holy Name . . . " - Letter to Jagadisha das Adhikari on April 25, 1970
In conclusion, there is free will in the spiritual world. Living entities will have it there even in the personal association of God. They remain in the spiritual world by not misusing it. Unauthorized ideas about free will are being transmitted into the hearts of conditioned souls in this world, and mayavada is part of that package.
"So there is chance of falling down even from the personal association of God."?- Room conversation of September 9, 1973
STUDENT: "When the souls that were never conditioned at all . . . do they have independence?"
" . . . we may fall down from Vaikuntha at any moment . . . so even in the Vaikuntha, if I desire that 'Why shall I serve Krishna? Why not become Krishna?' I immediately fall down." - Lecture on Bhagavad-gita on July 4, 1974
Unauthorized, impersonal ideas about the origin of the living entity, about his original relationship with God, and about his eternal free will constitute a deep malignancy underlying the current chaos that devotees have been experiencing. The pernicious influence of mayavada has effectively undermined not only the constitution of the Vedic and Vaishnava truths, but Prabhupada's movement as well. These seeds have permeated the hearts and brains of many of his disciples, especially after his disappearance, to their great individual and collective disadvantage. If Prabhupada's disciples cease this rebellion and thoroughly reject these insidious misconceptions--these wrong philosophies and cultures foreign to their real selves--then the internecine strife will subside and dissipate.
"Actually, the living entity is originally the spiritual part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, but due to his rebellious nature, he is conditioned within material nature. It really does not matter how these living entities or superior entities of the Supreme Lord have come in contact with material nature. The Supreme Personality of Godhead knows, however, how and why this actually took place." - Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 13, Verse 20, purport
OM TAT SAT
Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust