Self-Realization and Parä-Bhakti in Sädhu-Saìga
by Çré Çrémad Bhaktivedänta Trivikrama Mahäräja
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There are two types of perceptions, real and unreal, and their results are opposite. The result of real perception is real, or true, and that of unreal perception is unreal, or false. To accept an entity in a manner that is opposite to its nature is indeed an unreal perception, and this consideration is applicable in every field of life. For example, by accepting a foolish person as a learned scholar, one will deceive oneself. Therefore, when considering, “who am I?” a person can have true perception only when he develops a real understanding of who he is. Claiming that which is mine as mine is genuine truth, but claiming that which is not mine as mine is not. A person may cultivate someone else’s field as his own, but only the owner of the field has the right to the cultivated product. That person’s labor and expense will all go in vain.
Besides human beings, no living entities have the capacity to deliberate on what is real and what is false. It is said that human beings are the topmost of all living entities, but, living entities who strongly identify with non-reality, even if they are humans, are degraded. Living beings other than humans cannot understand the difference between body and soul, and humans who do not understand this difference are considered animals. Those who remain engrossed only in the bodily activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending are counted in the category of animals, even if they have human bodies.
sämänyam etat paçubhir naräëäm
dharmo hi teñäm adhiko viçeño
dharmeëa hénäù paçubhiù samänäù
“Human beings are equal to animals in the matters of eating, sleeping, fearing and mating. The quality of religion is unique to human beings, and therefore, without religion, they are no better than animals.” (Hitopadeça 25)
Only the dharma (function) of the ätma is real, and that of the body is unreal. This indeed is the doctrine of sanätana-dharma. It is not an exaggeration to say that those nations in which bodily activities are prominent are dependent on non-reality. Their progress in the areas of eating, sleeping and so on should not be considered genuine. Such progress is false, and the people of those countries attain neither para çanti, transcendental peace,
nor supreme happiness. They attain the opposite.
As it is said in çästra:
duùkha-hatyai sukhäya ca
“Çré Prabuddha said, ‘Having accepted the roles of male
and female in human society, conditioned souls unite in
sexual relationships. Thus, they constantly make material
endeavors to eliminate their unhappiness and unlimitedly
increase their pleasure. But one should see that they
inevitably achieve exactly the opposite result. In other
words, their happiness inevitably vanishes, and as they
grow older their material discomfort increases.’” (SB 11. 3.18)
Collective efforts by nations for happiness and peace and individual efforts for sex pleasure give instead unhappiness and misery, not happiness and peace. This is because they are related to the body, which is unreal. They are not related to reality—the soul. Skyscrapers, valuable assets, a beloved wife, a son, and so on are all perishable, and one will certainly become disturbed by having affection and attachment towards them. The more something is endowed with worldly beauty and qualities, the more fearful one will be to lose it. This is a fact. The distress one feels upon losing something that is not very valuable is little. However, one becomes greatly distressed upon losing something ‘valuable’. The cause of distress is an attitude of possessiveness or myness, (mamatva buddhi) towards such perishable objects. A person does not get very disturbed at the death of someone else’s son because he does not have that feeling, i.e., mamatva buddhi towards him. However, that same person will surely become greatly distressed upon the death of his own son. Therefore, to have mamatva buddhi for perishable objects is the cause of distress. When a person becomes free from such mamatva, his sufferings are dispelled, and this is also stated in Çrémad-Bhagavatam (11. 3.19):
kä prétiù sädhitaiç calaiù
Wealth is a perpetual source of distress. It is most difficult to acquire, and it is virtual death for the soul. What satisfaction does one actually gain from his wealth? Similarly, how can a person gain ultimate or permanent happiness from one’s socalled home, children, relatives and domestic animals, which are all maintained by his hard-earned money?” To attain eternal peace, therefore, one must develop attachment for the Real Entity, ätma-vastu, and give up
attachment for unreal or illusory entities.
sa vai puàsäà paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokñaje
“The supreme occupation [dharma] for
all humanity is that by which men can
loving devotional service unto
the transcendent Lord. Such devotional
must be unmotivated
uninterrupted to completely satisfy
the self.” (SB 1. 2.6)
nityo nityänäà cetanaç cetanänäm
eko bahünäà yo vidadhäti kämän
“He is the one supreme eternal being
among all eternal beings, and the one
supreme conscious being among all conscious
beings. He alone is fulfilling the
desires of everyone.” (Katho Upaniñad
2.13) and (Çvetäçvatara Upaniñad 6.10)
When the jéva gives up endeavors to satisfy his body, and instead endeavors to satisfy his ätmä, he identifies with the ätmä. By being absorbed in the eternal entity he can attain real happiness. When the jéva gives up attachment to his body and stops making efforts to please his senses, he develops mamatva buddhi for paramätmä-vastu, the Supreme Reality. Then, because he has accepted the shelter of Truth, he is able to attain parä çänti, transcendental peace.
It is not possible to become attached to ätmä-vastu, however, by remaining in bad association (dusaìga), or by those who are fortunate enough to attain sat-saìga, saintly association, become eligible to develop attachment to the Transcendental Reality.
bhaktis tu bhagavad-bhakta-saìgena parijäyate
sat-saìgaù präpyate puàbhiù sukåtaiù pürva-saïcitaiù
“The inclination for bhakti is awakened
by association with Bhagavän’s
bhaktas. The jéva obtains the association
of çuddha-bhaktas by the accumulated
effect of spiritually pious activities
performed over many years.”
mahat-seväà dväram ähur vimuktes
tamo-dväraà yoñitäà saìgi-saìgam
mahäntas te sama-cittäù praçäntä
vimanyavaù suhådaù sädhavo ye
“One can attain the path of liberation from material bondage only by rendering
service to highly advanced spiritual personalities, the bhaktas. For those
who are not interested in such activities, who associate with people fond of
women and sex, the path to hell is wide open. The mahätmäs are equipoised.
They do not see any difference between one living entity and another. They are very peaceful and are fully engaged in devotional service. They are devoid of
anger, and they work for the benefit of everyone. They do not behave in any
abominable way. Such people are known as mahätmäs.” (SB 5. 5.2)
The jévas’ disposition is influenced by his association. Through asatsaìga he becomes attached to unreal objects and through sat-saìga alone he develops an inclination for the Real Entity. If from his birth a lion cub lives with a shepherd and his sheep, he learns to eat grass and ‘baa’ like a sheep. Similarly, The result of associating with a thief is that one becomes a thief, and, similarly, by associating with a sädhu one can become a sädhu. If a person lives with the misconception that the body is the soul, then, Only those who have accumulated sukåti become attracted to sädhus. For example, in a religious assembly, everyone hears the message of the sädhu. Even after hearing, however, those who are devoid of sukåticontinue to remain absorbed in their wife, children, etc. No change is seen in them. Only one or two persons, those who have accumulated sukåti, develop an eagerness to become closer to the sädhuand hear more hari-kathä—the kathä of ätmä-dharma. Therefore, sukåtialone is the basis of sädhu-saìga. because of living in the association or shelter of non-reality, he deviates from the path of truth. Bewildered by mäyä, the jéva forgets that he is an eternal entity and puts his faith in the perishable body as his svarüpa. He cannot break the spell of this illusion on his own. As an accumulated result of serving Hari, Guru and Vaiñëavas over many births, knowingly and unknowingly, he attains sädhu-saìga. And, it is only by sädhusaìga that he develops mamatva buddhi for the Transcendental Reality.
satäà prasaìgän mama vérya-saàvido
bhavanti håt-karëa-rasäyanäù kathäù
taj-joñaëäd äçv apavarga-vartmani
çraddhä ratir bhaktir anukramiñyati
“In the association of pure devotees, discussionof the pastimes and activities of
the Supreme Personality of Godhead isvery pleasing and satisfying to the ear
and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge,one gradually becomes advanced on
the path of liberation. Thereafter he isfreed, and his attraction becomes fixed.
At that time, real devotion and devotional service begin.” (SB 3. 25.25)
By living in sat-saìga, one develops faith (çraddha), and he gradually attains the stage of prema-bhakti. Baddha jévas (conditioned souls) inclined towards asat-saìga and endeavoring for bodily pleasure, remain uninterested in sädhu-saìga. Only those who have accumulated sukåti become attracted to sädhus. For example, in a religious assembly, everyone hears the message of the sädhu. Even after hearing, however, those who are devoid of sukåti continue to remain absorbed in their wife, children, etc. No change is seen in them. Only one or two persons, those who have accumulated sukåti, develop an eagerness to become closer to the sädhu and hear more hari-kathä—the kathä of ätmä-dharma. Therefore, sukåti alone is the basis of sädhu-saìga.
How can one accumulate this sukåti? Knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly, if a jéva performs any act of auspiciousness for the ätmä, that becomes his sukåti. For example, if one fasts on the day of Ekädaçé because food is unavailable, it becomes ‘unknowing’ sukåti—and will cause bhakti to appear in him. By donating anything to a sädhu, one attains the result of sukåti performed in knowledge.
Sukåti is also accumulated in living entities other than humans. A cow gives milk and her protector drinks the milk. One day a sädhu comes to his house and he offers that cow’s milk to this sädhu. By this, both the cow and her owner earn sukåti. Only those jévas who have earned a lot of sukåti develop çraddha in sädhus, and this çraddha is the root of premabhakti. When çraddha appears in the heart, one develops firm faith in the words of çästra and sädhu. At that time, a person gives up performing illusory activities and eagerly accepts the shelter of the Absolute Truth. A faith that “I am Kåñëa däsa” begins to develop, and a desire to serve Kåñëa under the guidance of sädhus appears in him. At that time he becomes intent upon giving up the service of nonreality or illusion, in the form of wife, son, and so on.
One who is devoid of sukåti cannot give up such attachments. However, one who is endowed with sukåti attains firm faith in statements such as ‘jévera svarüpa haya, kåñëera nitya-däsa’, the constitutional position of the jéva is that he is an eternal servant of Kåñëa. “Kåñëa bhakti karile sarva karma kåto haya—by rendering service to Kåñëa, service to everyone else is performed.”
Impelled by this faith, one attains the strength to give up his obligations to his mother, father, wife, son, daughter and other bodily relations. Thus, by sädhu-saìga alone, the jéva becomes established in reality or truth.
Thus, man develops préti for Bhagavän, the Absolute Reality, by sincerely hearing His topics in the association of sädhus. Only bhagavät-préti or prema is parama-dharma, the supreme occupation of the jéva, and it is his only parä çanti, supreme peace.
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