Sunday, October 23, 2011



(Discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, June 2011)

It is interesting to recapitulate the main events in the evolution of our present day Sampradaya (religion) leading to personal God, temple worship including pooja (worship) at home. Brahmanas, the portion of Vedas ordained rituals for the Vedic sacrifices which mainly centered round fire (in the form of Homa and Yajna) and no worship through the medium of idols (moorti upaasana) was in vogue. Samhita portion of the Vedas with its lofty ideals did not look upon with favor these rituals which sometimes included animal sacrifices and other perversions. The householders in their pursuit of Vaanaprastha, who became tired of such rituals retired to the forest as recluse (hermits) and they were responsible for the emergence of the 'Aranyaka' portion of the Vedas, which actually anticipated the Upanishads. The hermits had no use for the ritual of sacrifices, as they spent their time in meditation and spiritual speculation.


Protests against the unprincipled rituals gave rise to the new religions of Jainism and Buddhism, based on Ahimsa. The ritual of sacrifices was gradually given up as the movement against animal sacrifices was gradually increasing. Rituals connected with fire were restricted only to three occasions, viz. initiation ceremony, marriage and funeral and related ceremonial rites, which are still continuing.

It was during this period of conflict and dissensions that the six systems of philosophy called Darsanas developed. One of them called Meemaamsa still upheld the validity of the ritual of sacrifices, while Vedanta coming at the end, incorporated the teachings of the Upanishads. In between were the other four systems—Nyaaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya and Yoga. Side by side, the non-Vedic religions particularly Jainism and Buddhism also flourished. The spiritual atmosphere was, therefore filled with speculations on fundamentals of religion like the concept of personal God, impersonal God, Universal God, metaphysics of life after death, Atma, soul etc. In the context of the advance of new ideas, the Brahmanas and Meemaamsa receded into the background. In an effort to counter the heterodox Sampradaya (Tradition), the concept of personal God, which was in existence in the pre
-Vedic (before the existence of the Vedas was known) period was revived and some of the Vedic Gods were elevated to prime position. This movement received a boost from the Puraanas and Epics which were composed later although the events and stories contained in them took place in the distant past.

Bhagavad Geeta, which was also a product of this time, promoted strongly the concept of personal God. The idol worship appealed to the masses because the devotee could communicate with his personal God and enjoy his company whereas no such enjoyment can be derived from the abstract Vedanta which talks of universal Brahman. The rituals, therefore, shifted to the personal Gods in the form of temple worship and later on to homes too in the form of pooja, a non-Vedic ritual. In such a ritual worship the devotional hymns of the Rig Veda and Vedic mantras were freely used and became popular. In a way religion was made over to the masses. The saints and sages, who appeared during the first millennium, played a vital role in this transition. All these developments had only one aim, namely to restore a harmonious balance between material prosperity and spiritual uplift. Religion resulted in the cultivation of an intimate relationship with one's chosen ideal in the form of an idol or symbol.

The use of images also became a part of an artistic approach and rendering of human relationship to the Divine. For this sculpture was statue, painting used color surfaces, music used sound and poetry used verbal images. In proportion to the increase in population, the number of such idols and symbols too multiplied. The observance of religious practices is always to achieve a goal which may vary from leading a good virtuous life to ultimate salvation. From that angle, the devotee confirms his intimate relationship with a single deity, at the same time enjoying his religious freedom. The saints and sages have demonstrated this principle in ample measures, for example Thyagaraja, Aandal, Jayadeva and Meera. The saints have done a great service to humanity by spreading the religious faith based on devotion, i.e. God could be reached only by love. They composed devotional songs in local languages so that common man could understand and sing them in groups—that is how Bhajans started. They did not give importance to rituals nor did they teach pure Jnana which the ordinary man could not understand. They did not advocate asceticism and sanyasa—self mortification or irrational austerities. While the saints of rest of India worshipped Rama, Krishna, Siva and his sons, Devi etc. the saints of Maharashtra worshipped Vittal (Panduranga) an amalgam of Siva and Vishnu. They were called Varakaris. They gave more importance to Bhakti and less to Karma and Jnana. Jnana Marga as a path of god realization is very tough. Why should the spiritual seeker resort to it while Lord Krishna himself has recommended easier paths of Karma and Bhakti? The Lord Himself has not imposed upon us any one form of upaasana as seen in the Bhagavadgitaa:
"Yo yo yaam yaam tanum bhaktaaha sraddhayaarchitumichchati |
tasya tasyaa-archanam sraddhaam taameva vidadhaamyaham ||"
--meaning whatever form or deity a devotee with faith may wish to worship, I make his faith unswerving.
One cardinal approach repeatedly told in the Geeta is that all paths lead to the same goal and God accepts his devotee from whichever direction he is approached. Three such directions are Jnaana Yoga, KarmaYoga and Bhakti Yoga.
Jnaana Yoga or the Path of Knowledge or wisdom is a spiritual path following which the seeker discovers the Supreme Spirit within his own soul or Self. This is the Spiritual Enlightenment. The Self enjoys the experience of Divine Bliss from within called Brahma-samsparsam, in this very world as said in Purusha sookta, "Tamevam vidwaan amrita iha bhavati". But this is the most difficult approach. It needs long time self meditation in seclusion to receive Enlightenment.
Karma Yoga or the Path of Action is the means by which a house holder engaged in his day to day activities tries to harmonize such activities with spiritual evolution. His actions and discharge of duties are not quite different from normal person but it is the attitude that makes all the difference. He has a detached outlook to work which is called Nishkama Karma. A Karmayogi will not be prompted by or crave for any particular result of his choice or reward or whether what he does will bring him success or failure, gain or loss or pain or pleasure. This is called unattached action or Nishkaama Karma. Such selfless attitude will not give rise to desires which in turn inhibit frustration, anger, hatred, fear and jealousy (the six enemies are kaama, krodha, moha, Lobha, mada, matsarya). Such a person feels that his life and actions are meant to serve some design or purpose of God and so he feels that he is serving the purpose of God in every action of his. As a result all his actions become virtually a worship of God.
The third Yoga is the Bhaktiyoga or the Path of Devotion. It is the worship of one's personal God or Ishta Devata. Emotion of love in human beings is very powerful. Why not divert this from earthly pleasures to reach God, reach immortality, peace and permanent Bliss which is the purpose of human evolution. Sankara says human life is very difficult to achieve amongst living things and after achieving it why not make best use of it. Loving an object that pleases our senses is a natural phenomenon but directing that to an intangible invisible God is very difficult. Therefore the spiritual aspirant must train his mind to love God. This calls for devotion. Samaveda says: "Archata prarchata
narah | priyamedaso archato archantu putraka utah"—"Dear people with brilliant intellect worship God, worship again and again! May our offering also worship". The Geeta says: "Keep me in mind, worship me, love me, surrender to me, then you will be with me (9-34)"--"Manmanaa bhava madbhakto madyaajee maam namaskuru | maamevaishyaci yuktvaivam-aatmaanam mat-paraayanah ||".
Scriptures often mention that when one worships God, he should not pray for any material object or the fulfillment of worldly desires. The rationale behind this is that the unattached complete love towards God will be diluted and degraded to such levels that it is focused on desires only. Often the Phalasrutis (rewards for the benefit of chanting) in slokas (these may be later additions as they are not found in earlier Mantrapushpas of Upanishads) misguide the devotee too. God knows what to give and when to give. Why then ask for it? Puraanic stories sometimes tempt us too. We come across often such stories and instances where when one got more than one could have asked for it (as in the case of Kuchela from Krishna). It is best therefore, not to ask for petty things or boon from the Almighty when worshipping Him for his reward for a true devotee will always get things far beyond his expectations. Why then to limit oneself for a lesser one? Popular Vedic mantra says: "Viswaani deva satar duritaani paraasuva | yad bhadram tanna aasuva ||--Oh Resplendent Lord Sivitr! cause of this universe, do destroy all our sins. Grant us what is ultimately good. We do not know what is good for us. So we pray to the Lord to grant us that which will be for our good. It is Sreyas (Bliss) that is to be sought after and not Preyas (Happiness) as advised in Baghavadgeeta and Kathopanishad.
Religion which may be interpreted as Sampradaya in Sanskrit (as there is no equivalent word for religion in Sanskrit) got mixed up with superstition, irrational practices and other undesirable customs and traditions. Religious reformers have made their appearances periodically to rid the society of such evils and also show that service to humanity is also a kind of Bhakti. It has to be clearly understood that undesirable practices are not prescribed by religion. They have been developed as a faith for healing or curing physical or mental short-comings, a sort of self motivated worship. When the causes of disease were unknown, evil spirits, witchcraft, sorcery, black magic and others gained importance to cure them by acts imitating practices as in worship. A number of satanic deities have thus sprung up for such worships. This one can find almost in every religion. Unfortunately these have been cloaked as rituals to popularize them and confuse masses and so some hate the word ritual. It is not the word that is to be hated but all such practices which are ill conceived.
Hindu way of spiritual life goes to extremes—starting from plurality and ending in no God and materialism (Charvaaka Philosophy), consuming several courses and varieties of food (feasting) and going without food at all (fasting), surrounding oneself with all kinds of sounds but practicing silence, indulge in all activities but remain totally inactive. But these extremes enable the mind to adopt the ideal mean. All religions of the world too commend the ideal of the mean. Bhaktimaarga in due course popularized temple worship and rituals. We will talk about temple, temple worship and divine aspects of temples in our subsequent discourses.
Considerable assistance has been drawn from the following publications in preparing this discourse which is gratefully acknowledged:
  1. T. R. Viswanathan, Sanatana Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
  2. Swami Tejomayananda, Hindu Culture, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India
      3.  David Frawley, Hinduism, Voice of India, New Delhi.
      4.  D. S. Sharma, Primer of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
      5.  S. Balakrihnan, Sankara on Bhakti, Bharatiya Vidya Bhava, Mumbai, India.

Bhaktivedanta/Krishna consciousness  Doctrine on Bhakimarga
Jnaana Yoga or the path of wisdom is a spiritual path which leads to the discovery of the Supreme Being in his own soul or self. Karma Yoga is the Path of Action  and is the means by which a person engaged as a householder in a day to day worldly activities can harmonize such activities with spiritual advancement.  Bhakti Yoga is  the  Path of  Devotion to God and worship of one’s own personal God or Ishta Devata.  Krishna Consciousness Bhaktivedanta people say that this personal God is Srikrishna only.  
Sankara propounded the theory of Advaita based on the need of the  then hour “Brahmasatyam jaganmithya jeevo Brahmaiva na Paraah”--Ultimate Reality behind the entire Universe including the individual souls, is One Supreme Soul,  Parabrahman , all the rest being  His own Maayaa Shakti with names and forms.  This called for Jnaana Yoga for attaining Mukti. Towards this he realized spiritual fulfillment of Mukti cannot be attained without Bhakti, which according to him, is not mere spiritual knowledge of speculation but is the exhilarating experience of love when the mind is seasoned to submission to the lord.  The important thing here is the preparedness of the mind and not an ignorant or indifferent or casual mind.   He did not have much time left and it was   Ramanuja who  later came out with his elaborate philosophy of Vishishtaadvaita promoting a co-ordinated approach of Jnaana and Bhakti with proper Karma or action.   But today Bhaktivedanta or Krishna Consciousness Philosophers have come out with the magic formula of Bhaktimarga dhanvantari for all quoting elaborately  Bhagavad Gita  for their support.  Similarly they have come out with their own theory of Scinece of Incarnation projecting all avatars from Krishna avatar drawing puranic support  which says  Krishna is Purna Avatar. They have also ignored Rama Avatar which  Purnas say is also Purna Avatar though they use  combined   RamaKrishna Mantra  for Bhajans.   This Mantra they use is from Kalisantrapanopanishad the order being reversed form Rama to Krishna.  They have also attributed  ultra-wisdom to Buddha than Krishna in their theory drawing their support from Jayadeve who has included historic Buddha as an avatar which Vedanta Desika and other orthodox circles of Bhagavata  have rejected.
The Bhagavad Gita , an epitome of the Upanishads, has set out three main Yogas for Mukti,   namely  the JnaanaYoga,  the Karma Yoga and the Bhakti yoga and leaves the choice to the bent of mind, the temper and the capacity of the individual. It has also introduced the fourth Yoga called Raja   yoga which is a graded course of physical and mental exercises so as to achieve concentration and control of mind   but as ancillary to the other three which has spread like wild fire all over the world and is not confined to Hindus alone.   Thus Bhagavad Gita even felt some sort of mental preparedness and maturity as pre-requisite to follow any one of these three paths of liberation. Swami Vivekananda and other spiritual leaders were all favorites of Raja Yoga. Presently India has successfully marketed Raja Yoga for Universal practice of spiritualism.
Spiritual Knowledge or Jnaana about the soul and the Supreme soul cannot be acquired by mere learning.   Realizing the difficulty Dvaita  philosophy came with its dualism theory  and said we can only attain the status of  Salokya (Vicinity),    Sameepya (Nearness) or Sayujya (becoming a part--Uniting).  It   can be acquired only by sincere devotion to God and intuition  which can be facilitated by purity of mind, clarity of thought, meditation and prayers (Katopanishada). Faith and reverence are prerequisites.

Please find attached the concepts of Bhaktivedanta  Doctrine and Krishna Consciousness on  the   Bhaktimarga for Liberation (Bhakti for Mukti).


Posted by The Editor | Nov 11, 2013 |

In the Vedas there are three processes for elevating one to the platform of spiritual consciousness. These processes are called Karma, Jnana and Bhakti. Karma deals mainly with the field of ritualistic performances, and jnana deals with the field of speculative processes. In contrast, bhakti is distinct from both in that it is pure unalloyed love for the Supreme Lord with- out any tinge of fruitiness inclination or mental speculation. One who has taken to bhakti, the devotional service of the Lord, need have nothing to do with karma or jnana. Pure devotional service by definition is without any tinge of karma or jnana. There are many sinful reactions involved in karma-kanda activities; and in jnana-kanda, the path of philosophical development, the number of such sinful activities is less. However, in devotional service to the Lord, the path of bhakti, there is practically no chance of incurring sinful reactions.

Factually, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the original source of all self-realization. Consequently, the goal of all auspicious activities – karma, jnana, yoga and bhakti – is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Generally, people are working to get some desired result for sense gratification. Everyone is working to get some money, and money is used to satisfy the senses. This is called karma. But, out of many millions of such persons of  karma, or fruitiness workers, one may become a jnani, or a man of knowledge. When a man becomes frustrated by working hard and tasting all the results of karma, and when he is still not satisfied, then he comes to the platform of knowledge.
Knowledge is characterized by inquiry – “Who am I?  Why am I frustrated?  Why am I confused? What is my real position?” That is the platform of knowledge. Out of many thousands of such persons who have attained to this platform of knowledge, one who has actually understood what is the position of the living entities is called liberated, brahma-bhuta. And out of many thousands of such liberated persons, hardly one can understand who is Krishna.
Pure devotional activities are of one variety only. And how these devotional activities can be coordinated with our daily, active life has been explained in Bhagavad-Gita. Coordinating such devotional activities with our daily activities is technically known as karma-yoga. The same devotional activities when mixed with the culture of knowledge are technically called jnana-yoga. But when such devotional activities transcend the limits of all such work or mental knowledge, this state of affairs is called pure transcendental devotion, or bhakti-yoga.
Three paths are enunciated in the Gita: karma-yoga, jnana-yoga and bhakti-yoga. Those who are too addicted to fruitiness activities are advised to perform actions which will bring them to bhakti. Those who are addicted to the frustration of empiric philosophy are also advised to act in such a way that they will realize bhakti. Karma-yoga is different from ordinary karma, and jnana-yoga is different from ordinary jnana. Ultimately, as stated by the Lord in the Bhagavad-Gita,
bhaktya mam abhijanati: only through execution of devotional service can one understand Krishna.

It therefore follows that the culmination of all yogas lies in bhakti-yoga, the rendering of devotional service unto Krishna. Actually, all of the yogas delineated in Bhagavad-Gita end on this note, for Krishna is the ultimate destination of all the yoga systems. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization, Karma-yoga, without fruitiness no chance of incurring sinful reactions.

When karma-yoga increases in knowledge and renunciation, the stage is called jnana-yoga, or the yoga of knowledge. When jnana-yoga increases in meditation on the Supersoul by different physical processes, and the mind is on Him, it is called ashytanga-yoga. And, when one surpasses ashtanga-yoga and comes to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead,  Krishna, that is called bhakti-yoga, the culmination. Factually, bhakti-yoga is the ultimate goal, but to analyze bhakti-yoga minutely one has to understand the other processes. In the Chaitanya-caritamrita it is stated:
krishna-bhakti haya abhidheya-pradhana
bhakti-mukha-niriksaka karma-yoga-jnana
“Devotional service to Krishna is the chief function of the living entity. There are different methods for the liberation of the conditioned soul – karma, jnana, yoga and bhakti – but all are dependent on bhakti.”

The system of bhakti-yoga makes one eligible to enter Hari-dhama, the system of jnana-yoga makes one eligible to enter the impersonal Brahmajyoti, and the system of karma-yoga obliges one to remain in Devi-dhama and repeatedly be born and die, changing his material covering according to the standard of karma he performs. For those grossly engaged in identifying the body as the self, pious activity, or karma-yoga, is recommended. For those who identify the mind with the self, philosophical speculation, or jnana-yoga, is recommended. But devotees standing on the spiritual platform have no need of such material conceptions of adulterated devotion. By karma-yoga we attempt to get out of the gross body, and by jnana-yoga we attempt to get out of the subtle body, but by bhakti-yoga we can directly transcend both the subtle body (mind, intelligence and ego) and the gross material body.]

For any idea, program, plan or device, there is first of all the contemplation of the plan, and that is called bija, or the seed. The methods, rules and regulations by which one is perfectly trained in devotional service constitute the bhakti-lata-bija, or seed of devotional service. This bhakti-lata-bija is received from the spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. Other seeds are called anyabhilasa-bija, karma-bija and jnana-bija. If one is not fortunate enough to receive the bhakti-lata-bija from the spiritual master, he instead cultivates the seeds of karma-bija, jnana-bija, or political and social or philanthropic bija. However, bhakti-lata-bija is different from these other bijas. Bhakti-lata-bija can be received only through the mercy of the spiritual master. Therefore one has to satisfy the spiritual master to get bhakti-lata-bija (yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah). Bhakti-lata-bija is the origin of devotional service. Unless one satisfies the spiritual master, he gets the bija, or root cause, of karma, jnana and yoga without the benefit of devotional service. However, one who is faithful to his spiritual master gets the bhakti-lata-bija. This bhakti-lata-bija is received when one is initiated by the bona fide spiritual master.
By karma-misra-bhakti (bhakti mixed with fruitive inclination) one is elevated to the celestial kingdom, by jnana-misra-bhakti (bhakti mixed with mental speculation) one is able to merge in the Brahman effulgence, and by yoga-misra-bhakti (bhakti mixed with the desire for mystic perfections) one is able to realize the omnipotency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But pure bhakti does not depend on karma, jnana or yoga, for it simply consists of loving affairs. The liberation of the bhakta, therefore, which is called not just mukti but vimukti, surpasses the five other kinds of liberation – sayujya, sarupya, salokya, sarsti and samipya. A pure devotee always engages in pure service (
anukulyena krishnanu silanam bhaktir uttama). Taking birth in the upper planetary system as a demigod is a chance to become a further purified devotee and go back home, back to Godhead. Ultimately there is only one way to attain the true liberation known as vimukti, and that is by satisfying the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
jnana-karma-yoga-dharme nahe krishna vasa
krishna-vasa-hetu eka – prema-bhakti-rasa
“By following the Paths of speculative philosophical knowledge, fruitiness activity or mystic yoga to control the senses, one cannot satisfy Krishna, the Supreme Lord. Unalloyed devotional love for Krishna is the only cause for the Lord’s satisfaction.

Krishna is only interested in one’s devotion. As such He is not attracted by karmis, jnanis or yogis. Therefore Krishna advises in the Bhagavad-gita for everyone to take to bhakti and attain instant peace from the material world:
bhoktaram yajna tapasamsarva-loka mahesvaram
suhridam sarva bhutanam  jnatva mam shantim ricchati
“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all the planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.”
Why such a person attains peace from all miseries? If one understands
bhotaaram yajna tapasaam, that Krishna is the supreme enjoyer of everything, then naturally one will not try to enjoy the fruits of his work. Hence one will not attempt to be a karmi. If one understands sarva-loka maheshvaram, that the Lord is the supreme proprietor of everything, one will not foolishly think he himself could become the supreme proprietor, Absolute Truth. Hence he would never attempt to be a jnani. And if one knows suhridam sarva bhutaanaam, that the Lord is the supreme well-wisher of all living entities, then naturally one will not try to take the post of well-wishing friend by displaying some cheap siddhis to the ignorant. As such, one will not attempt to become a yogi. Thus one who knows Krishna, as explained by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita, will surrender to Krishna in full devotion, bhakti, and give up all futile endeavours for karma, jnana, and yoga.