Srila Sridhar Maharaj: It is not a question of creed or culture, but of awakenment of consciousness. There are so many conceptions of Godhead. In the human section there are so many different stages, beginning from the atheist. In the beginning the soul is covered by dense ignorance, with no conception of even one’s own self. Then, when his consciousness awakens further, he is able to discriminate, and through that he can give recognition to morality; but not yet to theism. In that stage he can see the interest of others to be like his own; so, morality comes.
When a person gets still higher awakenment he comes to find that between others, the environment, and himself, there is a connecting link, some common sub-stratum of consciousness, a common platform on which all are standing. And he will search: what is that? Why does it exist, what is it for? When he comes to investigate, gradually he comes to feel more the importance of that plane which is connecting himself, his neighbour and the environment, and which gives some affinity, some sympathy between them.
Searching further, he finds that such a unifying plane, in which he exists, which is both within him and without him, and which is permeating everything, is very captivating. He becomes charmed by its character; he is captured by its charm, its beauty. And now, the question arises about his own relationship with that plane. What is that relationship? How is it existing ? That thing which he feels such affinity with, is it only some subtle element like air, or ether, or is it something of higher order? Because he feels it within himself, in his heart, his mind and he feels more and more curiosity to know about it.
In this way, the God-conception comes within the soul. And as he searches, through the process of elimination his knowledge improves, his conception of God improves, and that is progress. ‘Progress’ means, to grow in conception, in knowledge; through this process, in every field, always man is progressing. Life itself is dynamic everything is progressing, it cannot remain in a static position. So, to search, and search further life means this, it cannot but be so. In science, for example, Newton gave some conception, and then so many others came and gave a higher conception, which was more graphic, more extensive; in this way the knowledge progresses.
And just as, in this world, the primary schools are filled with students, the colleges also, and the universities and post-graduate colleges as wellthere are so many students of different stages, everywhere, those in the primary stage, those in the middle stage and those in the highest stage so it is with the progress of the soul, in his conception of God. There are so many souls occupying different levels of awakement.
What is the test of Vedic knowledge? How far-reaching, how deep is your knowledge about the theistic world, about the revealed Truth? Vidyavatan bhagavate pariksara: the Bhagavat, Srimad Bhagavatam, is the test. It gives the standard against which all other conceptions must be measured. The standard is given there: the position of that central conception, central Truth.
That Truth what is its capacity, its utility, its superiority? Srimad Bhagavatam says:
vadanti tat tattva vidasThe central Truth is not Brahman; Brahman is the all-accomodating aspect of the environment. And Paramatma is the all-permeating aspect- Who is within everything, everywhere. And another aspect, is Bhagavan. ‘Bhagavan’ means He is bhagya, auspicious; He is full of opulence, aisvarya. So the first interpretation of ‘Bhagavan’ may be given as aisvaryaman: Who is the source of all power, the controller of all potency. But the Srimad Bhagavatam has shown Bhagavan in another, revolutionary aspect: it has taken the Centre from potency, from power, to love. It has shown it to be love. The Centre is love. Love is above power, it is existing in a deeper plane. Power is external, and love is more central, and higher.
tattvam yad jnanam advayam
bhagavan iti sabdyate
“The different learned transcendentalists know the Absolute Truth as one undivided spiritual substance beyond duality; but they realise It in three phases, as Brahman, Paramatma, and finally Bhagavan.”
‘Bhagavan’ means, bhajaniya-guna-visistha: He is of such substance that, whenever we come in connection with Him, we want to surrender to Him, to worship Him, to merge our interest in Him. We want to jump, to throw ourself to His feet. We will think: “That for which I have been searching, the Lord of my heart, I have got, here! I don’t want anything else.” Bhagavan is such: He excites eagerness, anxiety, to jump to His feet. He is all-attracting, therefore He is called Bhagavan.
His nature, His attractiveness is such, that the atmaramas, those who have no attraction for this mundane world, will also feel irresistably pulled towards Him. He has got such qualification, such quality: He attracts the soul to jump wholesale to Him, to His service. He will draw our surrender, wholesale surrender.
So, vidyavatan bhagavate pariksara, the Bhagavat is the test, it asks us: “How far are you advanced in your theistic life? Can you do this: wholesale surrender? Can you think of it, even? Can you think that by ‘dying’ you can live a proper life; that by dying as you are at present a wholesale dissolution you will gain yourself a new life? Are you bold enough for this?”
The characteristic of the highest Substance is not that He is Master of power, or all-knowing, with everything contained within Him, as if ‘floating in His belly’; nor that He is all-permeating, microscopic, existing in the smallest thing. All-permeating, all-pervading, or, all-accomodating- these are not the highest qualities of the Supreme Substance. The characteristic that He is the Controller of all power, He is controlling everything, that He is Narayana, is one conception. But Who attracts us unconditionally towards Himself, so we only want to fall at His feet. He is such Beauty, such Love that sort of conception is given by Srimad Bhagavatam, and that is highest of all, the highest conception against which all others must be measured. Have you got any clue of such quality, such characteristic of the Absolute as the Centre of love, from anywhere in the revealed scriptures?
Only Srimad Bhagavatam has given us the highest thing. That is the central world, the highest plane of existence we are called to live in. And Mahaprabhu came with that, He brought it to us freely. Not only are we fortunate to have the human form, but we have got such a great prospect of life as this.
But we should see: what type of existence are we presently engaged in? I can go down again, to be an insect, a beast, a tree. I am wandering in this vicious cycle of birth and death this is my position. One moment I am at the top of the cycle; the next moment I am lost, I am nowhere. This is action and reaction. It is all only action and reaction: now I am acting as master then the reaction will come as a demand for me to pay up my debt, and it will pull me down by my ear, just as the parent or schoolteacher punishes the misbehaving child. In this way we are moving in the material plane: higher and lower, up and down, continously. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:
abrahma-bhuvanal lokahHow are we to come out of this vicious cycle and attain the fulfilment of our life? Only they are our friends, who are carrying this information, this news to the public: that the Absolute Centre is Love. Who are on such an errand, they are our best friend. All other seeming friends should be dismissed, seen off. They should all be dismissed, if we are sincere. And now, this will be the form of our life, our progressive life: to move towards that Centre. And for that there must be elimination, and acceptance, new acceptance. In this way, leaving all other formalities, the inner spirit must make us mad to advance further and further towards Him.
punar avartino ‘rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“O Arjuna, from the highest planet in the material universe, that of Lord Brahma, down to the lowest, all are places of misery, because the residents of all these planes are under the law of repeated birth and death. But for one who attains My abode, O son of Kunti, there is no rebirth.”