No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Atmananda Dasa - August 19, 2013 1:29 am

This is a series of articles from Babaji Satyanarayana of the JIVA institute in Vindavana which was recently published on their website jiva.org. I have copied and pasted parts 1 though 9 here.

Continuation from Bhagavat Sandarbha, Anuccheda 51:

(3) No one falls down from that abode (tato’skhalanam). Śrī Kapiladeva says:

atho vibhūtiṁ mama māyayācitām
aiśvaryam aṣṭāṅgam anupravṛttam
śriyaṁ bhāgavatīṁ vāspṛhayanti bhadrāṁ
parasya me te’śnuvate tu loke

Thereafter, they do not hanker after any opulence stored for them by My māyā, nor for the eight ensuing yogic paranormal powers, nor even for the transcendental glory of God, and yet these benign gifts become effortlessly available to them in My supreme abode. (SB 3.25.37)

“Thereafter” (atho) means, “after the removal of ignorance.” “By My māyā” (mama māyayā) means, “by My mercy upon the devotee.” “Stored” (ācitām) means, made manifest or available for the sake of those devotees. “Opulence” (vibhūti) refers to paraphernalia appropriate for enjoyment, and aiśvarya, to the eight yogic paranormal powers (aṣṭāṅgaiśvaryam), such as aṇimā (atomization). These powers systematically ensue” (anupravṛttam), i.e., it is their very nature to be made available [as a consequence of pure devotion]. The devotees do not desire any of the above, nor even “the transcendental glory of God” (bhāgavatīṁ śriyaṁ), which here refers to the majesty known as sārṣṭi, or in other words, those divine opulences that are particular to the Lord Himself. The reason why they don’t desire any such opulence is that they yearn only to expand God’s own bliss through abandonment to all-consuming devotional love and service. Even though they have no desire for any of the above-stated gifts, they certainly enjoy (aśnuvate) them, meaning that they become fully available to them, in My supreme abode (loke) known as Vaikuṇṭha.

This shows the Lord’s special affection for His devotees, which is also exemplified in the benediction given to Sudāmā, the florist in Mathurā:

Sudāmā entreated the Lord that he may be blessed with unflinching devotion for Him, the Soul of all existence, with heart-felt friendship toward His devotees, and with the broadest and highest compassion for all living beings. The Lord not only granted Sudāmā all these, but also awarded him ever-increasing prosperity for his family [as well as strength, longevity, fame and beauty]. (SB 10.41.51-52)

Kapiladeva’s verse also shows the devotees’ disinterest in these opulences. The phrases, “after the removal of ignorance” (atho), and, “stored for them by My mercy” (mama māyayācitam), indicate that such opulences are in no way detrimental to them. Furthermore, by saying, “stored by My māyā” (māyayācitām), Kapiladeva indicates that all opulences, including those of the highest realms like Brahma-loka, are fully available to such devotees, as experiential possibilities, yet they make no use of them, considering them completely devoid of significance or substantiality and thus unsuitable for their use.

Śruti also states: “Just as the enjoyment earned by karma in this world perishes in due course, so does heavenly pleasure, attained by pious deeds.” (ChU 8.1.6) And thereafter, “Those who leave their bodies after continuous recognition of the Lord, and of the realities truly worthy of desire, can freely travel in all the worlds.”

Here a doubt is raised: If Vaikuṇṭha is just another planet (loka), undistinguished from other planets [like Siddha-loka, and so on.], then sooner or later the experiencer’s enjoyment [of this realm] will come to an end. In response, the following verse is spoken:

na karhicin mat-parāḥ śānta-rūpe
naṅkṣyanti no me’nimiṣo leḍhi hetiḥ
yeṣām ahaṁ priya ātmā sutaś ca
sakhā guruḥ suhṛdo daivam iṣṭam

In that abode of unalterable peace, are found only those who know themselves and feel themselves to belong to Me entirely. They will never meet with destruction; My unblinking wheel never devours those for whom I am the total Beloved, their very Self, son, friend, preceptor, relative, benefactor and worshipable Lord. (SB 3.25.38)

“Of unalterable peace” (śānta-rūpe) refers to the supreme abode, Vaikuṇṭha [mentioned in the previous verse], which is peaceful by nature, meaning that it is free from all change or alteration that could disrupt the continuity of peace. All those who reside there know themselves and feel themselves to belong to Me entirely (mat-parāḥ). They are never destroyed (no naṅkṣyanti), which means they are never bereft of the [aforementioned] experiential possibilities. “My unblinking wheel” (animiṣo me hetiḥ), i.e., My discus in the form of time, does not devour them (no leḍhi). As stated in the Śruti, “He does not return” (ChU 8.15.1). The Gītopaniṣad also declares:

O Arjuna, all planets up to the highest planet, Brahma-loka, are places of return, but one who attains to My abode never takes birth again. (Gītā 8.16)

In commenting on the name Parāyaṇa in his Sahasra-nāma-bhāṣya (75), Śaṅkarācārya writes, “That abode is supreme (param), or in other words, most excellent, from which there is no going (ayana), meaning, wherein there is no fear of return (punar-āvṛtti-śaṅkā-rahitam), and so it is called Parāyana. If the term appears in the masculine gender, then it should be taken as a bahuvrīhi compound, i.e., as an epithet of the Lord [rendering this sense, “the Lord, whose supreme abode is free from return”].

Freedom from the fear of fall or destruction is not the full extent of the devotees’ glories. Lord Kapila elucidates further in the second half of the verse: “those for whom I am the total Beloved, their very Self, son, friend, preceptor, relative, benefactor and worshipable Lord.” This means that for such devotees there is no Entity other than Me [the Lord], for whom their love exists. Alternatively, the statement can be taken as a reference to Goloka [instead of Vaikuṇṭha], because only there do the gopas, endowed with the full range of such attitudes, eternally reside.

Then again, the last two lines of the verse can be taken as a reply to the question, “What kind of people attain that abode after being freed from ignorance?” The idea is this: Some people, like the sages described in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa, desire Me as their beloved husband (priyaḥ), while others, like the four Kumāras, consider Me as “their very Self” (ātmā), i.e., directly as Brahman; yet others relate to Me in the other ways mentioned; only such persons [who know themselves as belonging to Me entirely, through any of these dispositions] can attain Vaikuṇṭha. The word suhṛdaḥ, “bosom friend,” is in the plural, because such friends are of various kinds.

Śrī Nārada speaks in a similar vein in the Fourth Canto:

Those established in unalterable peace, who are equanimous, pure and who please all other living beings, effortlessly go to that abode from which no one falls down (acyuta-padam), for they keep friendship with the dear devotees of the infallible Lord. (SB 4.12.37)

In this anuccheda, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī proves that no one falls to the material world from Vaikuṇṭha. In other words, Vaikuṇṭha is acyuta-padam, a place devoid of falldown. Anuccheda 49 established that Vaikuṇṭha is not attained by karma, since it is beyond time, which destroys everything achieved by karma. Time, however, does not influence the transcendental realm. Thus, Lord Kapiladeva instructs His mother—no’nimiṣo leḍhi hetiḥ. The wheel of time devours neither the devotees residing in Vaikuṇṭha, nor their opulences.

Time, however, does exist in Vaikuṇṭha, not as a material influence of mutation and destruction but as a transcendental potency fully under the

Lord’s control, providing unique moments for the unfolding of His pastimes. We saw in Anuccheda 7 Brahmā’s statement, from his personal experience, that “time has no control over Vaikuṇṭha” (na ca kāla-vikramaḥ, SB 2.9.10). This means that everything in Vaikuṇṭha is eternal. Anuccheda 35 explained this in respect to Lord Kṛṣṇa’s birth and other actions.

The Lord and His actions are eternal, which means that the devotees and their actions are also eternal, since they are related to the Lord. If we accept that a devotee falls from Vaikuṇṭha, we must assume he falls eternally, which means the falling never comes to an end. And if it does not come to an end, it means that he never reaches the material world. If a jīva can fall, then Vaikuṇṭha must be concluded to be like any other material place.

To refute this misconception, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī begins by categorically stating:

tato’skhalanam—There is no fall from Vaikuṇṭha. Since Jīva Prabhu is discussing the inherent nature of Vaikuṇṭha, it is understood he is not referring only to those devotees who go there from the material world. No śāstric evidence indicates that there is any distinction between the devotees who arrive in Vaikuṇṭha from the material world and those who have been there eternally. Vaikuṇṭha manifests its inherent nature uniformly to all the resident devotees. It is not that it is a place of anxiety for some and a place of peace for others. Therefore, Lord Kapila says śānta-rūpa—its nature is that of unalterable peace, without trace of any influence that could disrupt the continuity of such peace.

The verb naṅkṣyanti, “will meet with destruction,” is used in connection with the particle of negation, na karhicin, meaning “this will never occur.” This is highly significant. The residents of Vaikuṇṭha, without exception, never lose their opulence. Therefore, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī writes unequivocally—tad-vāsino lokāḥ kadācid api na naṅkṣyanti, bhogya-hīnā na bhavanti—the residents of Vaikuṇṭha are never destroyed, meaning they are never bereft of their opulence. This naturally means that no resident of Vaikuṇṭha falls to the material world.

Lord Kapila submits two reasons for this in the second verse cited: First, Time has no influence in Vaikuṇṭha. The second and more important reason is that all residents of Vaikuṇṭha have an eternal loving relationship with the Lord (sthāyi-bhāva). This relationship is not material and is never lost or covered. And beyond that, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says that the Lord has so much love for His devotees (vātsalya-viśeṣa) that He gives them all opulence even though they do not desire it. Hence, there is no possibility that anything could violate the will of the Lord to deprive the devotees of their opulence.

To dispel the doubt that spiritual opulence might cause the devotees to forget the Lord, as is the case with material opulence, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says, teṣām anartha-rūpatvam khaṇḍitam—these opulences are in no way detrimental to them. Section 18 explained that māyā acts by first concealing the awareness of the living being (jīva māyā), and then by alluring him through projection of the world appearance (guṇa-māyā). It is not possible for this to happen in Vaikuṇṭha, since māyā does not exist there—na yatra māyā (SB 2.9.10). Devotees are not hindered by ignorance in Vaikuṇṭha, and their opulence is a manifestation of the Lord’s mercy—māyayācitā (SB 3.25.37). Here māya means the mercy of the Lord, as stated in the Viśva-prakāśa dictionary—māyā dambhe kṛpāyāṁ ca— māyā can mean deceit or mercy.

The above verse therefore states na naṅkṣyanti, which indicates that transcendental opulences can never be destroyed. The Lord is eternal; as such, relationships established with Him are also eternal. It is clearly confirmed herein that relationships with Him cannot be destroyed, and thus it follows that opulences stemming from those relationships can also never be destroyed.

To clarify the topic further for those who cling still to doubt, let us assume that a devotee could somehow or other fall from Vaikuṇṭha. The obvious question that arises is, “How could such a thing occur?” One may say that transcendental events are causeless and thus there is no reason. But how can falling be considered transcendental? Transcendental action yields transcendental results, and falling into the material world cannot be considered transcendental. Hence, by the principle of phala-bala-kalpa-nyāya (understanding a cause by its results), it is concluded that such a fall can only be material. Thus, falling has a beginning and end, which characterizes it as a material occurrence; so again, it cannot be regarded as transcendental.

A question that naturally arises in this regard is, “How can a material event originate in the spiritual world?” It has been proven here in many places, specifically in Anucchedas 7 and 50, that Vaikuṇṭha is beyond the material world, free from the influence of time and from the guṇas of nature. In response, one may argue that the origin of this event is not material, but when the living being crosses the boundary, out of Vaikuṇṭha, the action becomes material. This is, of course, absurd.

Transcendental entities do not get converted from spiritual to material. Moreover, Vaikuṇṭha is unlimited—it has no bounds. It is anantam, as stated in the Bhāgavatam:

This abode is truth, consciousness, the unlimited, the indestructible spiritual effulgence that silent sages witness in their trance of spiritual absorption after the material qualities have been effaced. (SB 10.28.15)

Vaikuṇṭha is all-pervading, just like the Supreme Lord, who exists everywhere and never leaves His abode. This means that His abode exists everywhere. The material world cannot contain the extent of His being. Thus, the Śruti asks, “Where is the Lord situated?” and answers, “in His own glory,” meaning in His own abode (ChU 7.24.1).

Objection: But if Vaikuṇṭha is unlimited, how is it that we do not see it or exist in it? And why is it said that when a devotee is liberated, he leaves the material world and enters into the spiritual world?

Answer: We do not experience Vaikuṇṭha because our consciousness is absorbed in and identified with matter. Going to Vaikuṇṭha actually means becoming of the nature of Vaikuṇṭha (sat-cit-ānanda), or in other words, to exist exclusively in and for Kṛṣṇa, to be fully conscious of Him in every arising moment, to radiate His own potency of bliss in order to expand His personal bliss. A television has many channels, yet while tuned to a particular channel, we cannot see programs shown on other channels. Transmission waves of numerous channels are broadcast into the atmosphere and are received by the television; we then choose which one to view, and it appears on the screen. Similarly, there are basically two channels in existence, Vaikuṇṭha andmāyā, and a person views one or the other according to his or her particular state of consciousness.

Everything exists in the Lord and the Lord exists everywhere. The Lord is always situated in His own abode, and so His abode exists everywhere. since matter does not exist there.

If we accept that the jīva falls from Vaikuṇṭha, we must admit it is a material event from beginning to end. Although a material act cannot occur in Vaikuṇṭha, let us assume for the sake of argument that it could somehow happen. Falling can have either a material or a spiritual cause. Below are six conditions often thought to precede a falldown. Following the list, we will discuss each of the conditions in greater detail.

1. The jīva wishes to come to the material world, inspired by his free will;
2. He commits sin;
3. He is cursed by a devotee or the Lord;
4. He offends a devotee;
5. He offends the Lord; or
6. The Lord decides to make him fall, as He is free to do as He likes.

It is not possible for a devotee to fall from Vaikuṇṭha for any of these reasons. Here is why:

(1) The devotee’s very nature, svarūpa, is to be in undiminishing, unbreakable, all-consuming love for God, to long only for His bliss through naturally arising service in devotion. Such devotees do not desire material or spiritual opulence without devotional service, because, in fact, they desire nothing independent of the Lord. Their will, too, being of the same transcendental nature, exists simply for the pleasure of the Lord. This is the import of Lord Kapila’s statement, quoted above, “They do not hanker even for the transcendental glory of God” (śrīyaṁ bhāgavatiṁ vāspṛhayanti). Furthermore, spiritual opulences, and for that matter, even material opulences, are fully available to them as experiential possibilities at every moment, by the mercy of the Lord (mama māyayācitam, SB 3.25.37). So why yearn for that which eternally sits in the palm of one’s own hand?

Elsewhere, Lord Kapila states:

Without being assured of My service, a pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation, whether it be residence on the same planet with Me (sālokya), opulence equal to Mine (sārṣṭi), proximity to Me (sāmīpya), endowment with a form identical to Mine (sārūpya) or becoming one with Me (ekatvam), even though I may offer these to him. (SB 3.29.13)

Vinā mat-sevanam here means, “without My service.” This means that a devotee would accept one or more of these different types of liberation only if they prove conducive for his service to the Lord, but not for independent enjoyment. A devotee certainly has no desire to come to the material world. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says that devotees have no interest in material enjoyment because they consider it completely devoid of significance or substantiality—tasyātitucchatvena. Why should a discerning person abandon a touchstone to acquire a piece of glass (kāca-maṇi)? On the contrary, a devotee never conceives, even for a moment, of leaving Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. Everything else is simply of no interest. King Parīkṣit confirms this while speaking to his wisdom teacher:

A person whose heart has been washed clean never abandons Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. Like a traveler who has arrived home, he is relieved of all distress. (SB 2.8.6)

In Section 7 of Prīti-sandarbha, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī writes that one should not think that Jaya and Vijaya chose to become enemies of the Lord in order to quickly relieve themselves from the curse of the Kumāras—na ca tayor eva svāparādha-bhoga-śīghra-nistārārtham api tādṛśīcchā jāteti vācyam. Pure devotees of the Lord do not accept even sālokya-mukti if it is bereft of bhakti, and are prepared even to go to hell for the sake of bhakti. Indeed, Jaya and Vijaya’s only request was, “But we pray that Your compassion be invoked on seeing our penitence, so that as we descend ever downward, we will not be overtaken by the bewilderment that causes forgetfulness of the Lord” (SB 3.15.36).

Thus, for a Vaikuṇṭha resident to give up the Lord’s service and voluntarily come to the material world is highly illogical and against scriptural conclusions.

The Lord has endowed the devotees with freedom of will for the purpose of serving Him, not for leaving Him. Lord Kṛṣṇa says that everyone follows his own nature, and that it is very difficult to give it up (Gītā 3.33). This is also commonly experienced by everyone. So, if abandoning one’s acquired, and hence spurious, material nature is so difficult, how much more difficult would it be for a resident of Vaikuṇṭha to give up his eternal, and hence true, nature—the nature to love and serve the all-conscious, all-blissful, all-encompassing Being to whom we eternally belong! Just as fire cannot exist without heat, a pure devotee in Vaikuṇṭha cannot exist without service.

Freedom of will does not mean acting frivolously, nor does it imply having the power to manifest whatever it is one may desire (i.e., omnipotence). We have freedom of will, but even if we desire to do so, we haven’t the power or capacity to stand on our own shoulders. Moreover, the mere fact that drinking poison is within the range of decision making possibilities doesn’t mean that a person would likely choose to do so. How then would a Vaikuṇṭha resident choose something that is altogether outside their range of experience and interest?

(2) There is no possibility of committing sin in the spiritual world. Sin and piety exist only in the material world, both being products of the guṇas of nature. A devotee in the spiritual world is situated in his eternal inherent nature (svarūpa), free from material covering or ignorance—muktir hitvānyathā-rūpam svarūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ (SB 2.10.6). Mukti means to give up the subtle and gross bodies and become situated in one’s original nature. In Bhagavad Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa explains that all sins are burned in the fire of transcendental knowledge:

Even if you are the most sinful of all sinners, you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries in the boat of knowledge. As a blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all karma to ashes. (Gītā 4.36-37)
Some rare souls who are completely devoted to Lord Vāsudeva totally destroy all their sins by their exclusive devotion, just as the sun immediately dissipates fog with its rays. (SB 6.1.15)

This point was also described in Section 47 of Tattva-sandarbha, in regard to the explanation of Vyāsa’s trance:

By hearing this Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, one is blessed with devotion to Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Person. This devotion puts an end to all mourning, bewilderment and fear. (SB 1.7.7)

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s commentary on this verse explains that even the most subtle impressions of sin are destroyed. Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself instructed Śrī Uddhava in this same principle:

Uddhava, just as a blazing fire turns firewood into ashes, devotion to Me completely burns My devotees’ sins to ashes. (SB 11.14.19)

The word kṛtsnaśaḥ (completely) is important. It means that ignorance, which is the root cause of sin, is also completely destroyed along with the external effects of sin.

(3) There is no possibility that a devotee would curse another devotee in Vaikuṇṭha. A devotee never desires to harm anyone, what to speak of another devotee. Prahlāda Mahārāja says that a devotee is endowed with all auspicious qualities:

All the gods come and invest their qualities in one who is devoted to the Supreme Lord without independent interest or desire. On the other hand, where are the great virtues of a person not devoted to Lord Hari, whose desires lead him to wander about in the superficial and impermanent realm? (SB 5.18.12)

A devotee has no desire to harm even those who consider him their enemy. Prahlāda Mahārāja is the ideal example. He remained concerned about his father’s welfare even though the latter tortured and tried to kill him in various ways. Devotees are peaceful, tolerant, merciful and always disposed toward everyone’s welfare. Lord Kapila confirms this:

Those established in Truth are tolerant, merciful and friendly to all beings; their enemy is never even born, and so they are situated in unalterable peace. Such persons are jewels amongst the virtuous. (SB 3.25.21)

There are some stories in the Purāṇas wherein devotees curse each other, but this is just to set the scene for the unfolding of the līlā, and no truly inimical feelings are present. Even when devotees come to the material world as a result of a curse, they are not placed under the influence of the guṇas of material nature. They remain for the prescribed duration and assist in the Lord’sbhauma-līlā, or manifest pastimes on earth. Jaya and Vijaya’s descent to the earth was not the result of the curse of the Kumāras; it was impelled by the will of the Lord:

The Lord said to His attendants, Jaya and Vijaya, “Go, but fear not. May peace be with you. Though I am capable of stopping the brāhmaṇas’ curse, I do not wish to do so. In fact, I approve of it.” (SB 3.16.29)

Just as those who visit a prison do not become prisoners, so those devotees who are so-called “cursed” to come to this material world to assist the Lord in His līlā are not bound by the guṇas of nature. The associates of the Lord are almost as powerful as the Lord Himself, as stated in theBhāgavatam:

They saw Him with eyes resembling a pair of full-blown autumn lotuses, and surrounded by His sixteen associates, who appeared exactly like Him, only without the mark of Śrīvatsa and the Kaustubha jewel. (SB 6.9.29)

The word ātma-tulyaiḥ in this verse means that the Lord’s associates are just like His very own Self. This means that they too are merciful, just like Him, and thus they never desire to harm anyone.

No one can enter or remain in Vaikuṇṭha unless he has attained devotion for the Lord. Lord Ṛṣabhadeva confirms this:

When the living being is covered by tamo-guṇa, his mind is subject to result-oriented action. Therefore, the jīva cannot be released from attachment to the body until love dawns for Me, Lord Vāsudeva. (SB 5.5.6)

In the principal verse (SB 3.25.38) of this anuccheda, spoken by Lord Kapila, it is said that devotees have different relationships with the Lord. According to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, there are five basic rasas, or aesthetic experiences, that the Lord enjoys with His devotees. These varieties of aesthetic experience are rooted in, and arise out of, five foundational moods of loving devotion. Out of these five, the devotees immersed in peaceful devotion, or śānta-rasa, have the least intensity of love for the Lord. Nonetheless, they are completely devoid of material desires and have strong faith in Him. Śānta-bhaktas cannot be considered non-devotees, nor is there any possibility of their falling down.

In commenting on this verse (yeṣām ahaṁ priya ātmā sutaś ca sakhā guruḥ suhṛdo daivam iṣṭam), Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī says that those who consider the Lord as priya, or the beloved, refers to devotees in amorous devotion; similarly, those who consider Him as ātmā, the Self, refers to those in peaceful devotion; suta, or son, to those in parental devotion (vātsalya rasa); and sakhā, friend, to those in devotional friendship (sakhya-rasa). Those who consider Him as guru, in this case a respectful elder, refers to devotees with a specific type of respectful devotion (dāsya-rasa);suhṛda, bosom friend, to devotees in a specific type of devotional friendship (sakhya-rasa); and the words iṣṭam, the worshipful Deity, and daivam, the Lord, to those in different kinds of respectful devotion (dāsya-rasa).

The words śānta-rupe, the abode of unalterable peace, in the same verse, mean that Vaikuṇṭha is beyond the material guṇas (viśuddha-sattva.) Although Vaikuṇṭha is a place, its nature is identical to that of the Lord—eternal, conscious and blissful—and it is thus unlike any material place. The opulence of the devotees in Vaikuṇṭha never perishes. That is to say, they never descend to the material dimension. This is confirmed by hundreds of verses both in Śruti and Smṛti. The Chāndogya Upaniṣad states:

Drawing his senses within, he does not cause violence to any being, other than in circumstances of mortal danger where scripture may call for appropriate aggression. Remaining in this condition till the moment of death, he attains the spiritual abode. He does not return. He does not return. (ChU 8.15.1)

Śrīla Vyāsa Muni concludes the Vedānta-sūtra by repeating the words: “There is no return (from Vaikuṇṭha) because the scriptures declare this as truth” (anāvṛttiḥ sabdād anāvṛttih śabdāt, VS. 4.4.22).

Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, while commenting on this sūtra, confirms the same by quoting the following mantra from Chāndogya Upaniṣad:

He leads them to Brahman. This is the path of the godly (devas) that leads to the Lord. Those who walk on this path do not return to this human life. Surely they do not come back. (ChU 4.15.5)

Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa says that the Lord is determined not to abandon His devotees, and His devotees are equally determined to love Him. Thus, they can never leave Him. One should never doubt this.

While instructing Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja in the Āraṇya-dvādasī-vrata, Lord Kṛṣṇa says:

Therefore, they attain the auspicious and blissful abode of liberation. Having attained it, they neither lament for anything nor return to the cycle of birth and death. (Bhaviṣya-purāṇa, Uttara-parva 66.26)

In Bhagavad Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa says:

Not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire, such is My supreme abode, attaining which one never returns to this material world. (Gītā 15.6)

And there are many other such verses in the Gītā.

Despite the clarity of this evidence, one might claim that the above verses mean that those who reach Vaikuṇṭha from this material world never return, and that only those who have never been to this material world can fall down. In other words, those who achieve Vaikuṇṭha have experienced the miseries of the material world, but the nitya-siddhasare ignorant of these and are subject to falldown. The logic is that a person who has burned his tongue with hot milk is so careful that he even blows on buttermilk before drinking it.

This is an inconsistent argument. Before reaching Vaikuṇṭha, the devotee casts off his gross and subtle bodies. The experience of the material world remains in the subtle body, so the devotee does not carry it with him. In the material world we carry a stock of impressions in our subtle body, but how much of it do we remember? Indeed, we cannot recollect most of the things we have done even in this lifetime. How then is it to be expected that a liberated soul would remember the miseries of the material world? And why would he? What is the gain? Is the remembrance of past material miseries more captivating than the immediate and present ecstasy of service to the Lord? Whenever sustained joy fills a person’s life, memories of past pain or suffering fade into the background.

Moreover, even if the devotee, after attaining Vaikuṇṭha, wanted to recall his former material experience, he no longer has a subtle body in which all the impressions would be stored. Those memories are wiped clean without a trace. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.23), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī writes that bhakti destroys all varieties of karma.

It has been shown logically that falling from Vaikuṇṭha is not possible under any circumstances. Nor is there any scriptural evidence to support such an event. However, there are many scriptural texts to the effect that it is impossible to fall down from the spiritual world, regardless of whether one has resided there eternally or has attained it after many lifetimes in the mundane world.

Still, to address any possible remaining doubt, we ask, “Have the nitya-siddhas attained Vaikuṇṭha or not?” If the answer is in the affirmative, then they cannot fall down. If they have not, where are they? They must be in Vaikuṇṭha, otherwise they are not nitya-siddhas. So how is it that they exist in Vaikuṇṭha, but have not attained it? Or is it that they are not in Vaikuṇṭha? If yes, then there is no falldown; and if no, then there is no falldown.

The reason most verses dealing with this subject use verbs like “having attained,” or “after reaching,” is because these instructions are meant for the conditioned souls. The Lord has no need to say this to the nitya-siddhas. First, the nitya-siddhas are not in ignorance of this knowledge. Second, when something is denied, it indicates the possibility of opposite action. If the Lord were to tell a nitya-siddha, “You will never fall because you are my devotee,” this would imply the possibility of falldown, otherwise why the reassurance? But the Lord never says that one can fall from Vaikuṇṭha (nor do they have any experience of this), and thus there is no need to reassure the nitya-siddhas. But the Lord does assure the conditioned souls that His abode is distinct in nature—it is a place of no return. He does this because conditioned souls know from scriptures that one can and does fall from the heavenly planets.

Scriptures inform us about subjects that are unknown to us and which we are unable to know by ourselves—śāstro’jñāta-jñāpakaḥ. Scriptural instructions are meant for the conditioned souls. Perfected souls are called nirgrantha (SB 1.7.10) and dūre-yamā (SB 3.15.25), “beyond the rules and regulations of scripture.” Lord Kṛṣṇa says, “You will step beyond everything that has been heard or is to be heard” (Gītā 2.52). Pure devotees hear scriptures to relish the Lord’s pastimes, not to be given assurance that they will not fall. For them there is no difference between heaven and hell (SB 6.17.28).

Therefore, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says tato’skhalanam—Vaikuṇṭha is a place of no falldown. He did not say “a place of no return,” otherwise he could have said tato’nāvartanam. He knows very well the difference between the two statements. Vaikuṇṭha is called acyuta-padam (SB 4.12.37). This can either mean the place of Lord Acyuta, or the place from where no one falls. Acyuta is a name of the Lord which means, “one who never falls,” and also, “one whose devotees never fall” (na cyavati cyāvayati vā ity acyutaḥ). This is confirmed in Skanda Purāṇa:

His devotees do not fall down even during the great dissolution; therefore, He is supreme, imperishable and omnipresent in all the planetary systems. (SkandaP 4.20.10)

Thus, Kṛṣṇa’s abode is here referred to as acyuta-padam—the place of no falldown. Lord Kṛṣṇa says:

No effort on the yoga path is ever lost, nor can any obstacle ever hold one back forever. Just a little progress on this path can protect one from the greatest fear. (Gītā 2.40)

Another objection could be raised: Conditioned souls are called patita, or fallen, and this implies that previously they were not fallen. When we say, “This is a mashed potato,” it means that it was not mashed previously. So, although we are unable to understand how we fell, we must have, otherwise we would not be designated as “fallen.” The Supreme Lord, Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in the mood of a devotee, says that He has fallen into the ocean of birth and death—patitam maṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau (Śikṣāṣṭakam 4). If we have fallen, it must have been from Vaikuṇṭha, because every other place is already a fallen position.

The defect in this argument is the assumption that the fallen condition is preceded by a non-fallen state. If one’s falldown has no beginning (anādi-patita), then that person is also called patita, as there is no other word to describe such a state. The adjective anādi is not always used. An adjective distinguishes one object from others in the same class and identifies a specific quality belonging to a particular object. For example, when we say “red lotus,” we are specifying that this lotus is different from blue or yellow ones. Nevertheless, the red lotus is also a lotus, and can be referred to simply as such when there is no need to distinguish it from others. Similarly, whenpatita is used without the adjective anādi, it refers to all fallen living entities. Hell is a fallen place and there was never a time when it was not fallen. Calling it a fallen place does not imply that it was not previously fallen.

Patita is a past participle, which according to Pāṇini’s grammar is formed when the kta suffix is added to the root, pat (to fall). This suffix is called a niṣṭhā (Pāṇini1.1.26) and is applied in various ways, some of which are described below:

1. To indicate something done in the past—as in bhuktam (eaten), (Pāṇini 3.2.102).
2. Used actively, it indicates the beginning of an activity. For example, prakṛtaḥ kaṭaṁ devadattaḥ, “Devadatta begins to make the mat” (Pāṇini 3.2.102 vārtika 3).
3. The sense of present tense action applied to roots which end in a mute ñ, as well as to roots having the sense of desire, knowledge and worship (Pāṇini 3.2.187-88). E.g., rājñām iṣṭaṁ, “desirable by kings.”
4. As a verbal noun, such as hasitam, “laughter.” When used in this way, the word is always in the neuter gender (Pāṇini 3.3.114).
5. When the word ending in kta is used as a name, as in Devadatta, it carries the sense of a benediction (Pāṇini 3.3.174 and its Kāśikā-vṛtti).

The suffix kta, therefore, is not always used to indicate the past. When patita is used to indicate a conditioned soul, it means he or she is in an eternally fallen state. In commenting on Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 15.187, wherein he demonstrates the eternality of the Lord’s pastimes, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī explains the meaning of sannihita, which is also a past participle formed in the same way, by adding the suffix kta to the root dhā. He says that in that reference the kta suffix is used in the sense of the present tense, laṭ-pratyayavat kta-pratyayasya.

To substantiate his view, Jīva gives an example from the Śruti: ayam ātmāpahata-pāpmā, “The Lord is free from sins” (ChU 8.15.1). Apahata is formed with the kta suffix and when combined withpāpma, it literally means, “He has warded off or destroyed sins.” Does this mean that the Lord was previously sinful? No. Here the kta suffix signifies eternality, without any beginning. Thus, the statement means that the Lord is eternally free from sins.

The kta suffix has also been applied in the term pratilabdha, which was used to indicate eternality when the Lord spoke to the Kumāras:

On account of My service to you, the dust of My lotus feet has become so pure that it immediately destroys all sins, and I have acquired such a disposition that Lakṣmī Devī, for whose sidelong glance others observe all manner of rules and regulations, never abandons Me, though I am indifferent to her. (SB 3.16.7)

Here the Lord says, “I have acquired such a disposition” (pratilabdha-śīlam). This certainly does not imply that once upon a time He did not have such a disposition.

The word bhakta, a devotee or worshiper, is also formed by adding the kta suffix to the root bhaj, “to worship.” This word does not necessarily imply that the devotee it refers to was previously a non-devotee. Eternal associates of the Lord, like Nanda Mahārāja, are bhaktas. Does this mean they were non-devotees once upon a time? Therefore, it is incorrect to assume that the wordpatita (fallen) implies a previously liberated state.

The eternal associates of the Lord, such as Mother Yaśodā, are liberated souls, nitya-mukta.The word mukta is also formed with the kta suffix. However, it does not imply that all liberated souls were previously fallen. Similarly, patita (fallen) or baddha (bound), which are both past participles, may still indicate an eternal (i.e., beginningless) condition when used to describe the state of a jīvain the material world. It does not mean that those who are fallen were previously liberated.

Our disputant may set forth yet another objection: If this section is properly analyzed, we can conclude that it refers only to those devotees who reach Vaikuṇṭha from the material world. This can be ascertained by studying the six items that determine the import of a text, such as its opening and closing statements. These are described in the following verse:

The true import of a text can be decided by these six criteria: (1) that which is stated at the beginning and the end; (2) that which is repeated throughout the text; (3) that which is unique to it; (4) that which is stated to be the result; (5) that which is praised; and (6) that which is established by logical argument.

The disputant may argue that the opening verse, concluding verse and the Upaniṣad mantra quoted in the section currently under discussion, all refer to the jīva who attains Vaikuṇṭha from the material world.

Answer: This type of analysis is applied only when ambiguity exists about the subject of a book, chapter or essay. But such is not the case here. It is clearly evident that Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī is discussing the qualities of Vaikuṇṭha. He listed nine characteristics of Vaikuṇṭha in Section 49, and is now explaining them in detail. In this present section, he is arguing that one of Vaikuṇṭha’s divine characteristics and proofs of its transcendental nature is that no one falls from there (tato’skhalanam).

Moreover, even if one follows the method of analysis recommended above and concludes that the subject of the section is that those who attain Vaikuṇṭha from the material world never again fall, this does not prove that eternal associates fall. This section makes no such statements, directly or indirectly, and to form such a conclusion is highly improper. On the contrary, the second verse spoken by Lord Kapila (SB 3.25.38), clearly states that Kṛṣṇa’s devotees are never bereft of opulence. Jīva’s intention in quoting it is to say that they never fall.

Krishna, Balaram and gopas on Govardhan Hill / Vrindavan Art

Yet another objection may be raised: The cycle of creation and destruction of the material world is beginningless and has thus occurred innumerable times. During the maintenance period, somejīvas occasionally attain liberation. If living beings continue to exit the material world and no new souls enter by falling from Vaikuṇṭha, then the universe should have been empty by now. Thus, according to this reasoning, it would be logical to assume that an equal number of souls fall from Vaikuṇṭha to replace those who achieve liberation from the material world.

Answer: Such a concept results from ignorance of the unlimited nature of the Lord. There are unlimited material universes, and each contains unlimited living beings. Unlimited means that when some are removed, an unlimited number still remain. Even in mathematics, infinity minus infinity equals infinity. There are an infinite number of points existing in a line that extends from point A to point B. If this line is divided into two parts, say AC and CB, each line still contains an infinite number of points.

Moreover, the logic of the objection ultimately backfires. If nitya-siddhas fall to replace the jīvaswho achieve liberation, and those who go to Vaikuṇṭha from the material world never come back, then, as time is beginningless (anādi), by now all the nitya-siddhas would have fallen into the material world and returned to Vaikuṇṭha, and there would be no virgin nitya-siddhas left to fall. Thus, the material world would be empty. Obviously this imagined state is far from the truth, otherwise I would not be here writing this commentary.

The prayers of the personified Śrutis (SB 10.87.30) acknowledge that there are unlimited or countless living beings (aparimita). In commenting on this verse, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī quotes Vajra Mahārāja’s question to the sage Mārkaṇḍeya from the Viṣṇu-dharmottara Purāṇa (1.81.12):

O brāhmaṇa, because time has no beginning, therefore even if only one person achieved liberation in each of the bygone kalpas, wouldn’t the world be empty by now?

Mārkaṇḍeya’s answer is as follows:

When someone is liberated, the Supreme Lord, who possesses unlimited potency, brings forth (sargeṇa) another jīva and thus always keeps the world full. Those people who achievebrahma-loka become liberated along with Brahmā. Then in the next cycle of creation (mahā-kalpa), the Lord emits (sṛjyante) similar beings. Material nature and the living beings should be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the guṇas of matter are products of material nature.

Therefore, there is no need to assume that living beings fall from Vaikuṇṭha to replace the liberated souls. The important word in Markaṇḍeya’s reply is acintya-śakti, or inconceivable power. This has been discussed in greater detail in earlier sections of this book. Without accepting the existence of this astonishing potency of the Lord, one can never hope to understand Him in truth.

A doubt may be raised, however, in regard to Mārkaṇḍeya’s statement. Living beings are said to be beginningless (anādi). Why then does Mārkaṇḍeya say that the Lord brings forth (sargeṇa) other jīvas?

Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī answers that there are unlimited dormant living beings, which the Lord activates as He desires. This is what is meant by the term “brings forth” in the above verse. The word sarga, or creation, does not mean producing new living beings. This siddhānta is accepted by all Vaiṣṇavas.

Actually, the verb sṛjyante (He creates) is used here to mean “emits.” It comes from the root √sṛj visarge, which can be used to mean either “to create” or “to emit.” Since the first meaning would contradict many other statements asserting that the jīva is never created, we must take the second meaning here. Sṛjyante then means to release the jīva from the dormant state into the active condition.


Atmananda Dasa - August 22, 2013 1:18 am

Despite the clarity of this evidence, one might claim that the above verses mean that those who reach Vaikuṇṭha from this material world never return, and that only those who have never been to this material world can fall down. In other words, those who achieve Vaikuṇṭha have experienced the miseries of the material world, but the nitya-siddhasare ignorant of these and are subject to falldown. The logic is that a person who has burned his tongue with hot milk is so careful that he even blows on buttermilk before drinking it.

This is an inconsistent argument. Before reaching Vaikuṇṭha, the devotee casts off his gross and subtle bodies. The experience of the material world remains in the subtle body, so the devotee does not carry it with him. In the material world we carry a stock of impressions in our subtle body, but how much of it do we remember? Indeed, we cannot recollect most of the things we have done even in this lifetime. How then is it to be expected that a liberated soul would remember the miseries of the material world? And why would he? What is the gain? Is the remembrance of past material miseries more captivating than the immediate and present ecstasy of service to the Lord? Whenever sustained joy fills a person’s life, memories of past pain or suffering fade into the background.

Moreover, even if the devotee, after attaining Vaikuṇṭha, wanted to recall his former material experience, he no longer has a subtle body in which all the impressions would be stored. Those memories are wiped clean without a trace. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.23), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī writes that bhakti destroys all varieties of karma.

After discussing this with Dulal Chandra he raised the point that the residents of the spiritual world do have knowledge of the existence of the material world. I understand from the evidence quoted above that even though they have this knowledge, they have no actual experience of the material existence, even if they had come from there to Vaikuntha.

Citta Hari Dasa - August 26, 2013 1:57 pm

The standard argument given by those who believe the jiva falls is that "Prabhupada said it." If we argue that this contradicts Jiva Goswami they will say that he should be understood "through the lens of Prabhupada." They obviously think Prabhupada knows the siddhanta better than Sri Jiva. But do they really think that Prabhupada would be happy that they think this? I certainly don't.

Atmananda Dasa - August 28, 2013 8:26 pm

Prabhupada also states, "It is a fact, no one falls from Vaikuntha." in his commentary to Srimad Bhagavatam 7.1.35 This is exactly what Jiva Goswami says here, (3) No one falls down from that abode (tato’skhalanam).

Citta Hari Dasa - August 30, 2013 2:15 pm

And therein lies the bigger problem for those who choose the fall idea: when confronted with the fact that SP said both fall and no-fall the necessity to harmonize the two becomes obvious. The way some choose to "harmonize" it is to give SP some mythical, special position and effectively isolate him from the tradition he represented. They then go to great lengths to make this idea somehow work (like the "Krsna throws you a ball, while it's in the air to you you become envious of Krsna, you fall down for millions of births and eventually make it back to Goloka where you then catch the ball" story) while ignoring the logical and sastric impossibilities of it. The actual way of harmonizing it explains fall as a preaching strategy based on the Judeo-Christian background of Western practitioners while showing that SP did in fact teach Sri Jiva's siddhanta. Iskcon's approach leads to unsolvable philosophical problems while the other is free of such a burden.

Atmananda Dasa - September 2, 2013 1:08 am

Continuation of the commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa:

So the conclusion is that nobody, whether nitya-siddha or sādhana-siddha, ever falls from Vaikuṇṭha. The question that naturally follows is, “So then, where do we come from?” or, “How did we come to be in this bound condition?” The simple answer is that we are nitya-baddha(perpetually bound), which is to say that till now, and indefinitely onwards till the moment of liberation, we have always been bound by the material energy, due to ignorance of who we are and what God is. There was never a time when we were not involved with material nature. Material nature as well as the living beings are anādi, or beginningless, as Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Gītā:

Know that prakṛti, or the material energy, and puruṣa, or the conscious being, are both without beginning. Know, however, that the modifications and the guṇas are produced fromprakṛti. (Gītā 13.20)

The word “beginningless” (anādi) is very important in this verse. Not only are the living beings and material nature beginningless, but so also is their correlation. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura and Śrīpāda Baladeva Vidyābhuṣaṇa confirm this fact in their commentaries, tayoḥ saṁśleṣo’py anādir iti bhāvaḥ. More details on this subject will be presented in Paramātma-sandarbha.

Objection: But there are verses in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam which clearly state that the living being was with the Lord and then fell down, such as:

Do you remember your self from your previous state, when you were with your friend named “Unknown”? You left Me, seeking material acquisition, being attached to worldly sense pleasures. O noble one, you and I are two swans, two friends, who have been living together in the Mānasa Lake for many thousands of years (sahasra-parivatsarān) far from our original home. (SB 4.28.53-54)

First of all, there is no mention of falling down from Vaikuṇṭha in these verses. The commentaries of previous ācāryas clearly indicate that these verses refer to the jīva residing with Mahā Viṣṇu during the total annihilation. The words sahasra-parivatsarān (SB 4.24.54), “for a thousand cycles,” confirms this fact, since the period of annihilation is equal to a thousand cycles of the four yugas. “Giving up My company,” means taking birth in the next cycle of creation. Nārada Muni told the story of Purañjana to King Prācīnabarhi explicitly as an allegory, so it should not be taken literally. It is indirect expression (parokṣya), as stated by Nārada himself:

O King Barhiṣman! I have shown you these spiritual truths in an indirect manner, through allegory, because the Lord, the Source of the cosmos, is fond of indirect expression. (SB 4.28.65)

From the above, the words pārokṣyeṇa (in an indirect manner) and parokṣa-priyaḥ (fond of indirect expression) must be noted.

From the above analysis, based on the authority of śāstra, it is concluded without doubt that the living being does not fall from Vaikuṇṭha. Yet for the benefit of those who have not been exposed to the full breadth of the Bhāgavata’s view, as revealed to us by Jīva Gosvāmī, here is a fresh analysis of this topic from yet another angle.

In Tattva-sandarbha, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī accepted three pramāṇas, evidence or valid means of knowing, while establishing the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava epistemology. These are śabda (revealed sound), anumāna (inference), and pratyakṣa (direct perception). All evidence from śabda clearly indicates that the jīva does not fall. Pratyakṣa and anumāna shed no light on this topic. Pratyakṣa, or sense perception, has no validity in the ascertainment of transcendental matters, which by definition lie beyond the purview of the senses. Logic, on the other hand, which is part ofanumāna, can be used in analyzing scripture. Logic that conforms to śāstra is acceptable as a valid means of knowing.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, in defining the characteristics of an uttama adhikārī, writes:

One who is expert in logic, argument and the revealed scriptures, who has unflinching determination and firm faith in Kṛṣṇa, is the person most eligible to achieve bhakti:

śāstre yuktau ca nipuṇaḥ sarvathā dṛḍha-niścayaḥ
prauḍha-śraddho’dhikārī yaḥ sa bhaktāv uttamo mataḥ

(BRS 1.2.17)

Here, yukti means logic and argument. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī comments that the logic referred to here is that which conforms to scripture. To clarify, he quotes a verse from a Vaiṣṇava tantra:

Appropriate logic is that which is used to reach the proper conclusion on the strength of understanding prior and subsequent statements of śāstra. Dry logic [or in other words logic devoid of such truth-visioning] should be rejected.

Thus, logic and argument are not bereft of value. They can assist us to understand the conclusion of scriptures and to resolve apparent contradictions. It is not uncommon to find contradictory statements in scriptures. For example, the Vedas state, “One who observes the vow of cāturmāsyaattains imperishable merit.” Yet, in another place it is stated, “Just as the results of material action do not endure, so are the results attained in heaven by the performance of good deeds” (ChU 8.1.6).

Naturally, both statements cannot be absolute. In other words, the observation of cāturmāsya does not directly lead to imperishable merit, but only to the indirect possibility of such. So the statement is neither false nor true in its primary sense. A secondary meaning must be applied to one of the statements in order to reconcile them. By understanding the speaker’s intention, deliberating on the results of sakāma-karma, and studying the many statements indicating the temporary nature of heavenly existence, one can understand that the first statement is not absolute. It is meant to inspire those who are materially identified and attached to fruits to observe the religious ceremony of cāturmāsya. In the course of such religious observances, they may contact a living sage and be graced with pure knowledge, and thus attain liberation. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this principle in theGītā:

O chastiser of the enemy! Better than the sacrifice of material possessions is the sacrifice of knowledge. O Pārtha! All action attains completion in transcendental knowledge. (Gītā 4.33)

People in general are attached to the fruits of their actions. So, if scriptures were to categorically reject all karma and its fruit, and make allowance for pure devotion alone, the religiously inclined, yet materially driven, who cannot yet adhere to pure devotion, may lose faith even in karma-yoga.So, Lord Kṛṣṇa advises:

Do not unsettle the minds of the spiritually unaware who are attached to fruitive action. A person of wisdom, while attentively engaged in action, should engage the materially attached in all manner of action. (Gītā 3.26)

Teaching is an art. An expert teacher is one who educates in such a way that the students embrace the teaching as their own, without confusion or degradation. The conditioned souls, being unaware of any other reality, do not aspire to become free of the material world, but would rather be happy in this life, or at best, in some future heaven. Yet a compassionate teacher is moved to help relieve them of their material identification. Hence, there is an apparent clash of interest. To overcome this, the discerning teacher often has to devise a strategy, just as parents may conceal medicine within candy to induce their sick child to take it. In the Pūrva-mīmāṁsā, this is called parisaṅkhyā-vidhi, or using an injunction to accomplish something other than the apparent aim. Hence, it is not always easy to understand the intent of scriptures. The sage Āvirhotra confirms this:

Prescriptions, prohibitions and transgressions of prescribed duty are to be known from theVeda and not just through hearsay. Since the Veda is the direct revelation of God, even the devas are confused about these three types of actions. The Veda speaks indirectly. Its real import is to impel one to transcend karma and its fruits, but it prescribes karma for the ignorant, just as a child is tempted with sweets in order to make him take a bitter medicine. (SB 11.3.43-44)

Mere citing of references will not establish the truth conclusively. One has to analyze the scriptures thoroughly and objectively to understand the actual intent hidden within the hoards of recommendations for fruitive action, and to reconcile the various apparent contradictions. One must appropriately resolve all apparent contradictions by properly understanding the relative strength of various scriptural statements. Not all scriptural statements carry equal weight or authority; some can override others. For example, the famous statement, kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam, “Lord Kṛṣṇa, however, is Himself the complete personal nondual Absolute” (SB 1.3.28), is recognized as an “emperor statement,” or mahā-vākya. It overrules all other statements that describe Kṛṣṇa as an avatāra of someone else. This statement is not whimsically accepted to be of the highest authority, but is established as such in accordance with accepted rules of logic. This will be demonstrated in Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha.

Of the four chapters of Vedānta-sūtra, the first is called samanvayādhyāya, or the chapter on reconciliation, since the purpose is to reconcile the numerous apparent contradictions in the various Upaniṣaḍs. So, the tradition of using tarka, or appropriate logic, is well established, and Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has rightly accepted it as a means to establishing the śāstric conclusion. The point is that the conclusions reached must not contradict scripture.

One approach to analyzing a philosophical conclusion is by observing whether there is conformity between sādhu, śāstra and guru. Of these three, śāstra stands supreme. Indeed, without śāstrawe cannot even know the true characteristics of the other two. The degree of completion and truth-resonance, or the falsity, of any teaching, even those of various avatāras, can be assessed based on a thorough and cross-contextual visioning of all scripture. It is on the authority of śāstrathat the teachings of Lord Buddha, for example, are identified as pertaining strictly to non-theism, even though He is taken to be one of the avatāras of Viṣṇu (which is to say, almost with a tinge of irony, that Buddha is God teaching that there is no God). At the same time, however, we must not forget that śāstra is understood through the medium of guru and sādhu. This makes the process a little more complex than it may first appear. Without receiving instruction in an authorizedparamparā, one will easily get lost in the jungle of scripture.

We have seen the śāstric conclusions regarding the topic under discussion. These are accepted by all other Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas without any quibbling. Our stalwart ācāryas, like Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura and Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa confirm this view, and thus the sādhus are in agreement. On the other hand, we can find no scriptural statements and no commentary by a previous ācārya that describe a fall from the spiritual world. Asampradāya is based on the conclusions of prasthāna-trayī, or Śruti (Upaniṣads), Smṛti (Bhagavad Gītā) and Nyāya (Vedānta-sūtra). We see that the prasthāna-trayī does not support that the jīvacan fall from Vaikuṇṭha. In Vedic culture every authorized sampradāya establishes their siddhāntabased on prasthāna-trayī, and any conclusion inconsistent with this standard is considered to beapasiddhānta, or a faulty view.

Citta Hari Dasa - September 10, 2013 3:15 pm

I appreciate Satyanarayana's brahminical presentation--his clarity, logical progression of thought, and spiritual common sense in how to understand the sastra and its many ostensible contradictions. In particular the point that the sastra itself often uses apparently misleading statements to get materially attached people to do something that will ultimately be transcended needs to be understood by the proponents of the fall doctrine. They need also to understand that not only the sastra but the guru and sadhu do this as well. How could it be otherwise? As SN points out, teaching is an art, and it stands to reason that truth must be given in installments. When children ask where they came from sometimes they get the story of the stork dropping them down the chimney. While it's obviously a lie the parents know that the truth would simply not register in the child's mind. The guru's job is quite similar, and in fact far more subtle and difficult. That the Iskcon leaders who adhere to the jiva's fall reject the idea that Prabhupada would tell them a stork story reveals just how much they have to learn in terms of understanding how the sastra and the guru operate in real life. The guru can and does lie to us when it's in our best interest, and there is no fault in that on his or her part. There is relativity (e.g., the stork story) within the context of sastra's absolute purpose (getting materially conditioned souls to look beyond the only world they have ever known and to aspire for another kind of existence).