Six Symptoms of Philosophy

Srimad Bhagavatam 10.87.27 - Six Symptoms of Philosophy (download mp3)
by Shyamananda Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty

SB 10.87.27
tava pari ye caranty akhila-sattva-niketataya
 ta uta padakramanty aviganayya siro nirrteh
parivayase pasun iva gira vibudhan api tams
 tvayi krta-sauhrdah khalu punanti na ye vimukhah

The devotees who worship You as the shelter of all beings disregard Death and place their feet on his head. But with the words of the Vedas You bind the nondevotees like animals, though they be vastly learned scholars. It is Your affectionate devotees who can purify themselves and others, not those who are inimical to You.

The personified Vedas have now set aside the erroneous philosophies of several contending schools: the asad-utpatti-vada of the Vaisesikas, who presume a material source of creation; the sad-vinasa-vada of the Naiyayikas, who would deprive the liberated soul of consciousness; the sagunatva-bheda-vada of the Sankhyas, who isolate the soul from all his apparent qualities; the vipana-vada of the Mimamsakas, who condemn the soul to eternal involvement in the mundane commerce of karma; and the vivarta-vada of the Mayavadis, who denigrate the soul’s real life in this world as a hallucination. Having rejected all these ideas, the personified Vedas now present the philosophy of devotional service, paricarya-vada.

The Vaisnavas who accept this philosophy teach that the jiva soul is an atomic particle of spiritual personality who possesses minute knowledge, is not independent and has no material qualities. Being minute, he is prone to come under the control of the material energy, where he suffers the pains of material life. He can end his suffering and regain the shelter of the Supreme Lord’s divine, internal energy only by rendering devotional service to the Lord, not by engaging in fruitive work, mental speculation or any other process.

As Lord Krsna says in His own words,

bhaktyaham ekaya grahyah
 sraddhayatma priyah satam
bhaktih punati man-nistha
 sva-pakan api sambhavat

“Only by practicing unalloyed devotional service with full faith in Me can one obtain Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I am naturally dear to My devotees, who take Me as the only goal of their loving service. By engaging in such pure devotional service, even the dog-eaters can purify themselves from the contamination of their low birth.” (Bhag. 11.14.21)

Devotees of the Personality of Godhead worship Him as the shelter (niketa) of everything that exists (akhila-sattva). Moreover, these Vaisnava devotees themselves can be called akhila-sattva-niketa in the sense that their abode and shelter is the philosophic truth of the reality (sattvam) of both the material and spiritual worlds. Thus Sripada Madhvacarya, in his Vedanta-sutra-bhasya, quotes the sruti-mantra: satyam hy evedam visvam asrjata. “He created this world as real.” And the Seventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.1.11) refers to the Supreme Lord as pradhana-pumbhyam naradeva satya-krt, “the creator of a real universe of matter and living entities.”

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura points out yet another, more confidential, meaning of akhila-sattva-niketa: that the Supreme Lord’s personal abodes are in no way khila, or imperfect, and so are called Vaikuntha, the realms free of anxiety and restriction. Vaisnavas whose devotional service the Lord has kindly accepted are so sure of His protection that they no longer fear death, which becomes for them just another easy step on the way back to their eternal home.

But are only devotees of the Supreme Lord eligible for liberation from the fear of death? Why are all other mystics and learned scholars disqualified? Here the srutis answer: “Anyone who is vimukha, who has not turned his face toward the Lord with hopeful expectation of His mercy, is bound up in illusion by the same words of the Vedas that enlighten the surrendered devotees.” The Vedas themselves warn, tasya vak-tantir namani damani; tasyedam vaca tantya namabhir damabhih sarvam sitam: “The threads of this transcendental sound form a string of sacred names, but also a set of binding ropes. With the rope of their injunctions, the Vedas tie up this entire world, leaving all beings fettered by false designations.”

The reality of the soul and Supersoul is aparoksa, perceivable, but only to one with transcendental vision. Philosophers whose hearts are impure mistakenly presume that this truth is instead paroksa, that it can only be speculated upon and never experienced directly. The knowledge of such thinkers may help them dispel certain doubts and misconceptions about the lesser aspects of reality, but it is useless for transcending material illusion and approaching the Absolute Truth. As a general rule, only the devotees who faithfully render loving service unto the Supreme Lord up to the point of complete purification receive His grace in the form of aparoksa-jñana, direct realization of His greatness and wonderful compassion. The Personality of Godhead is of course free to award His mercy even to the undeserving, as He does when He personally kills offensive demons, but He is much less inclined to bless Mayavadis and other atheistic philosophers.

One should not think, however, that the devotees of Visnu are ignorant because they may not be expert in philosophic analysis and argument. The soul’s perfect realization is to be gained not through his own efforts at mental speculation but by receiving the Lord’s favor. This we hear from Vedic authority (Katha Upanisad 2.2.23 and Mundaka Upanisad 3.2.3):

nayam atma pravacanena labhyo
 na medhaya na bahuna srutena
yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas
 tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam

“This Supreme Self cannot be reached by argumentation, or by applying one’s independent brain power, or by studying many scriptures. Rather, he alone can achieve the Self whom the Self chooses to favor. To that person the Self reveals His own true, personal form.”

Elsewhere the sruti describes the devotee’s success: dehante devah param brahma tarakam vyacaste. “At the end of this body’s life, the sanctified soul perceives the Supreme Lord just as clearly as if seeing the stars in the sky.” And in its last statement, the Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.23) offers this encouragement to aspiring Vaisnavas:

yasya deve para bhaktir
 yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
 prakasante mahatmanah

“Unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed.”

In this regard Srila Jiva Gosvami cites other verses of Sri Svetasvatara Upanisad (4.7-8 and 4.13):

justam yada pasyaty anyam isam
 asya mahimanam iti vita-sokah
rco ’ksare pare vyoman
 yasmin deva adhi visve niseduh
yas tam veda kim rca karisyati
 ya it tad vidus ta ime samasate

“The Supreme Lord is He who is referred to by the mantras of the Rg Veda, who resides in the topmost, eternal sky, and who elevates His saintly devotees to share that same position. One who has developed pure love for Him and realizes His uniqueness then appreciates His glories and is freed from sorrow. What further good can the Rg mantras bestow on one who knows that Supreme Lord? All who come to know Him achieve the supreme destination.”

yo vedanam adhipo
 yasmiḻ loka adhisritah
ya iso ’sya dvipadas catuspadas
 tasmai devaya havisa vidhema

“To Him who is the master of all the Vedas, in whom all planets rest, who is the Lord of all known creatures, both the two-legged and the four-legged — to Him, the Personality of Godhead, we offer our worship with oblations of ghee.”

Referring to those who desire liberation, Srila Sridhara Svami prays:

tapantu tapaih prapatantu parvatad
 atantu tirthani pathantu cagaman
yajantu yagair vivadantu vadair
 harim vina naiva mrtim taranti

“Let them suffer austerities, throw themselves from mountaintops, travel to holy places, study the scriptures, worship with fire sacrifices and argue various philosophies, but without Lord Hari they will never cross beyond death.”