Monday, January 15, 2007

True Devotion - Name and Form

Hare Krishna Friends,

The following conversation between a Bhakta (B) and His Holiness Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami (H.H) is selected from the book “Dialogues with the Guru”. Mahasvami clearly brings out that God is beyond any particular name and form.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

B. May I ask one other question in relation to Bhakti?

H.H. Yes. What is it?

B. I have seen a number of bhaktas who lead earnest and pious lives, but at the same time indulge in recrimination and invective if any devata other than their own upasya devata happen to be praised within their hearing. Is such an attitude of intolerance consistent with true Bhakti?

H.H. No it is not. Such an attitude is not to be found in true bhaktas but only in those who have no proper understanding of the meaning of Bhakti or of the nature of the Lord to whom they profess to be devoted. The Highest Being, the Supreme Lord, the ruler of the universe, transcends all particular names and forms. Name and form are the attributes of the mute prakriti. God has no name or form of his own until you clothe him, howsoever slightly, in prakriti. This entire world of name and form is, as it were, only his feet, to adopt the words of the Purusha Sukta. We cannot have any direct relationship with the higher and larger portion of his divine personality. Only his feet are visible to us and we are asked to worship him only through service to his feet. It is our proper conduct, as laid down in the Shastras, with reference to the various portions of the universe (devils, pitris, men, animals, etc.), that goes by the name of Karma. This is the service of the feet. When, after steady and continued service at his feet, the Lord, satisfied with our devotion, chooses to raise us up to a height where from we can look directly upon his face, there will be time enough to learn whether His forehead bears the mark of the Gopichandana or is adorned with Bhasma. Situated as we are at present at the lowest rung of the ladder and even without a gleam of the glory of his feet, why should we choose to waste our time and energy in speculating and wrangling about the nature of his face? The true bhakta never does that. He is content to know the simple definition of the Lord that he is the Creator, the Sustainer and Dissolver of the universe. The name or form that you assign to the Lord is of no moment to him, for he knows that that name or form is not his essence, but is accepted or assumed only temporarily for the sake of a particular bhakta. The true bhakta is also content to know that the Vedas are his divine commands and that a strict performance of the duties enjoined by them is the only way of securing the grace of the Lord and, within the competence of man, the only way of serving him.

B. But is it not a fact that a Shiva bhakta claims that Shiva is the Creator, the Sustainer and the Dissolver the universe, and a Vishnu bhakta claims that same thing for Vishnu?

H.H. No doubt at first sight it may seem to be so. In the view of the Shiva bhakta his Lord Shiva is the only Creator, Sustainer and Dissolver of the universe. He does not grant that any other entity, Vishnu or another has the characteristics of being the Creator, Sustainer and Dissolver of the universe. He does not say that there is more than one entity which can claim those characteristics or that his Lord Sihva is supreme over all others. What he means and what he does believe is that the Lord Shiva is the only Creator, Sustainer and Dissolver of the universe. He does not postulate plurality of Gods, but emphatically says that there is but one god who is the Creator, Sustainer and Dissolver of the universe and that his name is Shiva.

B. Certainly it is so. But the Vishnu bhakta says the same thing of Vishnu. The devotee of Ganesha, Subrahmanya or Devi also says the same thing of his upasya. Which of these has to be taken as right? All of them surely cannot be right.

H.H. You agree with me that none of these bhaktas postulate plurality of Gods?

B. I do.

H.H. You agree with me that they all postulate the existence of only one God?

B. Certainly.

H.H. You also note that they all agree in the definition of that God as the Creator, the Sustainer and the Dissolver of the Universe?

B. Yes.

H.H. But they happen to differ as regards the name or the form to be attributed to that God?

B. Quite so.

H.H. This shows that their conception of God is not at all faulty.

B. Yes.

H.H. Suppose you have a grain of rice before you and you satisfy yourself that it has got all the characteristics which are particular to rice and that therefore it is rice; does it matter the least to you if a Tamilian gives it the name arisi, a Canarese calls it akki or a Sanskrit Pandit prefers to call it tandula

B. No, it does not matter.

H.H. Don't you then realize that all names are external to and not of the essence of things, though such names have great practical utility in the world of names and forms? Similarly, if the characteristics of being the Creator, Sustainer and Dissolver of the universe are there, what does it matter if he is called Shiva, Vishnu or Devi? The entity denoted is the same, though the names may differ. A Tamilian who does not know Canarese or Sanskrit will be vehement in saying that rice is called only as arisi and never as akki or tandula. He is quite correct so far as he goes, for no such names are to be found in the Tamil language with which alone he is familiar. As long as by a process of analysis, he does not learn to dissociate the name from the thing, the name is the thing for him; and if you deny that name, he will take it that you deny the thing itself. Only the bhakta will be quarrelsome who cannot dissociate a particular name or a particular form from his conception of God. He is correct so far as his mentality goes. But his bhakti is far below than real bhakti which realizes that God is above all names and above all forms, that particular names are but convenient denominations for trying to express the essentially inexpressible and that particular forms are only limited aspects of the essentially limitless God.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Hari Om,


Post a Comment

<< Home