The transcendental ecstatic attachment for Kṛṣṇa which results from perfectly understanding that Kṛṣṇa's person and name are identical is called bhāva. One who has attained bhāva is certainly not contaminated by material nature. He actually enjoys transcendental pleasure from bhāva, and when bhāva is intensified, it is called love of Godhead. Lord Caitanya told Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī that the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, called the mahā-mantra (great chanting), enables anyone who chants it to attain the stage of love of Godhead, or intensified bhāva. Such love of Godhead is the ultimate human necessity, for when one compares it with other necessities (namely religion, economic development, sense gratification and liberation), these other so-called necessities seem most insignificant. When one is absorbed in temporary designated existence, he hankers after sense gratification and liberation. However, love of Godhead is the eternal nature of the soul; it is unchangeable, beginningless and endless. Therefore temporary sense gratification or a desire for liberation cannot compare with the transcendental nature of love of God. Love of God is the fifth dimension in the human endeavor. Compared with the ocean of love of transcendental pleasure, the conception of impersonal Brahman is no more significant than a drop of water.
Lord Caitanya next explained that His spiritual master had confirmed the validity of His ecstasy which resulted from His chanting the holy name of God and also confirmed that the essence of all Vedic literature is the attainment of love of Godhead. Lord Caitanya's spiritual master had said that the Lord was fortunate enough to have attained love of Godhead. By attaining such transcendental love, one's heart becomes very anxious to attain direct contact with the Lord. Feeling such transcendental sentiment, one sometimes laughs and sometimes cries, sings and dances like a madman, and sometimes traverses hither and thither. In this way there are various ecstatic symptoms evinced: crying, changing bodily color, madness, bereavement, silence, pride, ecstasy and gentleness. Frequently the person in love with God dances, and such dancing places him in the ocean of the nectar of love of Kṛṣṇa.
Lord Caitanya said that His spiritual master told Him: "It is very good that You have attained such a perfectional stage of love of Godhead. Because of Your attainment, I am very much obliged to You." The father becomes more enlivened when he sees his son advance beyond himself. Similarly, the spiritual master takes more pleasure in seeing his disciple advance than in advancing himself. Thus Lord Caitanya's spiritual master blessed Him, telling Him to "dance, sing, propagate this saṅkīrtana movement, and by instructing people about Kṛṣṇa, try to deliver them from nescience." Lord Caitanya's spiritual master also taught Him the following verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 11.2.40):
- evaṁ-vrataḥ sva-priya-nāma-kīrtyā
- jātānurāgo druta-citta uccaiḥ
- hasaty atho roditi rauti gāyaty
- unmāda-van nṛtyati loka-bāhyaḥ
"A person who is constantly engaged in devotional service to Kṛṣṇa and who chants His holy name becomes so transcendentally attached to the chanting that his heart becomes softened without extraneous endeavor. When this happens, he exhibits transcendental ecstasies and sometimes laughs, sometimes cries, sings and dances—not exactly in an artistic way, but just like a madman."
Lord Caitanya further informed Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī: "Because I have full faith in My spiritual master's words, I am always engaged in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. I do not exactly know how I have become just like a madman, but I believe the name of Kṛṣṇa has induced Me. I realize that the transcendental pleasure derived from chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is just like an ocean. In comparison, all other pleasures, including the pleasure of impersonal realization, are like shallow water in channels."
It appears from the talks of Lord Caitanya that a person who cannot keep his faith in the words of the spiritual master and who acts independently cannot attain the desired success in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. In the Vedic literatures it is stated that the import of all transcendental literature is revealed to one who has unflinching faith in the Supreme Lord and his spiritual master. Lord Caitanya firmly believed in the statements of His spiritual master, and He never neglected the instructions of His spiritual master by stopping His saṅkīrtana movement. Thus the transcendental potency of the holy name encouraged Him more and more in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, the mahā-mantra.
Lord Caitanya immediately informed Prakāśānanda that in the modern age people in general are more or less bereft of all spiritual intellect. When such people come under the influence of Śaṅkarācārya's Māyāvādī (impersonalist) philosophy before beginning the most confidential Vedānta-sūtras, their natural tendency toward obedience to the Supreme is checked. The supreme source of everything is naturally respected by everyone, but this natural tendency is hampered when one takes to the impersonalist conceptions of Śaṅkara. Thus the spiritual master of Lord Caitanya suggested that it is better that one not study the Śārīraka-bhāṣya of Śaṅkarācārya, for it is very harmful to people in general. Indeed, the common man does not even have the intelligence to penetrate into the jugglery of words. He is better advised to chant the mahā-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. In this quarrelsome age of Kali there is no alternative for self-realization.
After hearing the arguments and talks of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, all the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs who were present became pacified and replied with sweet words: "Dear sir, what You have spoken is all true. A person who attains love of Godhead is certainly very fortunate, and undoubtedly You are very fortunate to have attained this stage. But what is the fault in Vedānta? It is the duty of a sannyāsī to read and understand Vedānta. Why do You not study it?"
According to Māyāvādī philosophers, Vedānta refers to the Śārīraka commentary of Śaṅkarācārya. When impersonal philosophers refer to Vedānta and the Upaniṣads, they are actually referring to the commentaries of Śaṅkarācārya, the greatest teacher of Māyāvādī philosophy. After Śaṅkarācārya came Sadānanda-yogī, who claimed that the Vedānta and Upaniṣads should be understood through the commentaries of Śaṅkarācārya. Factually, this is not so. There are many commentaries on Vedānta and the Upaniṣads made by the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, and these are preferred to those of Śaṅkarācārya. However, the Māyāvādī philosophers influenced by Śaṅkarācārya do not attribute any importance to the Vaiṣṇava understandings.
There are four different sects of Vaiṣṇava ācāryas—the Śuddhādvaita, Viśiṣṭādvaita, Dvaitādvaita and Acintya-bhedābheda. All the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas in these schools have written commentaries on the Vedānta-sūtra, but the Māyāvādī philosophers do not recognize them. The Māyāvādīs distinguish between Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa's body, and therefore they do not recognize the worship of Kṛṣṇa by the Vaiṣṇava philosophers. Thus when the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs asked Lord Caitanya why He did not study the Vedānta-sūtra, the Lord replied, "Dear sirs, you have asked why I do not study Vedānta, and in answer to this I would speak something, but I am afraid that you would be sorry to hear it."
"We shall be very much pleased to hear You," all the sannyāsīs replied. "You appear just like Nārāyaṇa, and Your speeches are so nice that we are taking great pleasure in them. We are very much obliged to see and hear You. Therefore we shall be very glad to hear patiently and accept whatever You say."
The Lord then began to speak on Vedānta philosophy as follows: Vedānta-sūtra is spoken by the Supreme Lord Himself. The Supreme Lord, in His incarnation as Vyāsadeva, has compiled this great philosophical treatise. Since Vyāsadeva is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, he cannot be likened to an ordinary person, who has the four defects which arise due to contact with material existence. The defects of a conditioned soul are: (1) he must commit mistakes; (2) he must be illusioned; (3) he must possess the tendency to cheat others; and (4) all his senses must be imperfect. We must understand that the incarnation of God is transcendental to all these defects. Thus whatever has been spoken and written by Vyāsadeva is considered to be perfect. The Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtra aim at the same goal: the Supreme Absolute Truth. When we accept the import of Vedānta-sūtra and the Upaniṣads directly as they are stated, we become glorified. The commentaries made by Śaṅkarācārya, however, are indirect and are very dangerous for the common man to read, for by understanding the import of the Upaniṣads in such an indirect, disruptive way, one practically bars himself from spiritual realization.
According to the Skanda and Vāyu Purāṇas, the word sūtra refers to a condensed work which carries meaning and import of immeasurable strength without mistake or fault. The word vedānta means "the end of Vedic knowledge." In other words, any book which deals with the subject matter indicated by all the Vedas is called Vedānta. For example, Bhagavad-gītā is Vedānta because in Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that the ultimate goal of all Vedic research is Kṛṣṇa. Thus Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which aim only at Kṛṣṇa, are to be understood to be Vedānta.
In transcendental realization there are three divisions of knowledge called prasthāna-traya. That department of knowledge which is proved by Vedic instruction (like the Upaniṣads) is called śruti-prasthāna. Authoritative books indicating the ultimate goal and written by liberated souls like Vyāsadeva (for example, Bhagavad-gītā, Mahābhārata and the Purāṇas, especially Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Mahā-Purāṇa) are called smṛti-prasthāna. From Vedic literatures we understand that the Vedas originated from the breathing of Nārāyaṇa. Vyāsadeva, who is an incarnation of the power of Nārāyaṇa, has compiled the Vedānta-sūtra (nyāya-prasthāna), but according to Śaṅkara's commentaries, Apāntaratamā Ṛṣi is also accredited with having compiled the codes of Vedānta-sūtra. According to Lord Caitanya, the codes of the Pañcarātra and the codes of Vedānta are one and the same. Since the Vedānta-sūtra is compiled by Vyāsadeva, it should be understood to be spoken by Nārāyaṇa Himself. From all descriptive literatures dealing with Vedānta-sūtra, it appears that there were many other ṛṣis contemporary with Vyāsadeva who also discussed Vedānta-sūtra. These sages were Ātreya, Āśmarathya, Auḍulomi, Kārṣṇājini, Kāśakṛtsna, Jaimini, Bādarī and other sages such as Pārāśarī and Karmandī.
Actually in the first two chapters of Vedānta-sūtra the relationship between the living entities and the Supreme Lord is explained, and in the Third Chapter the discharge of devotional service is explained. The Fourth Chapter deals with the relationship which results from discharging devotional service. The natural commentary on Vedānta-sūtra is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The great ācāryas of the four Vaiṣṇava communities (sampradāyas)—namely, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī and Nimbārka—have also written commentaries on Vedānta-sūtra by following the principles of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. At present the followers of all the ācāryas have written many books following the principles of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as the commentary on the Vedānta. Śaṅkara's commentary on Vedānta-sūtra, known as Śārīraka-bhāṣya, is very much adored by the impersonalist scholars, but commentaries written on the Vedānta written from the materialistic point of view are completely adverse to the transcendental service of the Lord. Consequently Lord Caitanya said that direct commentaries on the Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtra are glorious, but that anyone who follows the indirect path of Śaṅkarācārya's Śārīraka-bhāṣya is certainly doomed.
Lord Caitanya admitted that Śaṅkarācārya was an incarnation of Lord Śiva, and it is known that Lord Śiva is one of the greatest devotees (a mahājana) of the Bhāgavata school. There are twelve great authorities on devotional service, and Lord Śiva is one of them. Why, then, did he adopt the process of Māyāvādī philosophy? The answer is given in Padma Purāṇa, where Lord Śiva states:
- māyāvādam asac-chāstraṁ
- pracchannaṁ bauddham ucyate
- mayaiva kalpitaṁ devi
- kalau brāhmaṇa-rūpiṇā
"The Māyāvādī philosophy is veiled Buddhism." In other words, the voidist philosophy of Buddha is more or less repeated in the Māyāvādī philosophy of impersonalism, although the Māyāvādī philosophy claims to be directed by the Vedic conclusions. Lord Śiva, however, admits that this philosophy is manufactured by him in the age of Kali in order to mislead the atheists. "Actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead has His transcendental body," Lord Śiva states. "But I describe the Supreme as impersonal. I also explain the Vedānta-sūtra according to the same principles of Māyāvādī philosophy."
In the Śiva Purāṇa the Supreme Lord says:
- dvāparādau yuge bhūtvā
- kalayā mānuṣādiṣu
- svāgamaiḥ kalpitais tvaṁ ca
- janān mad-vimukhān kuru
"In the beginning of the Dvāpara-yuga, directed by My orders, many sages will bewilder the people in general by Māyāvādī philosophy." In the Padma Purāṇa Lord Śiva personally tells Bhāgavatīdevī:
- śṛṇu devi parakṣyāmi
- tāmasāni yathā-kramam
- yeṣāṁ śravaṇa-mātreṇa
- pātityaṁ jñāninām api
- apārthaṁ śruti-vākyānāṁ
- darśayaḻ loka-garhitam
- atra ca pratipādyate
- naiskarmyaṁ tatra cocyate
- parātma jīvayor aikyaṁ
- mayātra pratipādyate
"My dear Devī, sometimes I teach Māyāvādī philosophy for those who are engrossed in the mode of ignorance. But if a person in the mode of goodness happens to hear this Māyāvādī philosophy, he falls down, for when teaching Māyāvādī philosophy, I say that the living entity and the Supreme Lord are one and the same."
Sadānanda-yogī, one of the greatest Māyāvādī ācāryas, has written in his book, Vedānta-sāra: "The Absolute Truth of eternity, knowledge and bliss is Brahman. Ignorance and all products of ignorance are non-Brahman. All products of the three modes of material nature are covered by ignorance, and all are different from the supreme cause and effect. This ignorance is manifested in a collective and individual sense. Collective ignorance is called viśuddha-sattva-pradhāna. When that viśuddha-sattva-pradhāna is manifest within the ignorance of material nature, it is called the Lord, and the Lord manifests all kinds of ignorance. Therefore He is known as sarvajña." Thus according to Māyāvādī philosophy, the Lord is a product of this material nature, and the living entity is in the lowest stage of ignorance. That is the sum and substance of Māyāvādī philosophy.
If, however, we accept the import of the Upaniṣads directly, it is clear that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is a person with unlimited potency. For example, in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad it is stated that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the origin of everything and that He has multiple potencies. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is transcendental to the cosmic manifestation. He is the origin of all religion, the supreme deliverer and the possessor of all opulences. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is just like the sun, profusely distributes His energies while situated beyond the cloud of this material cosmic manifestation. He is the master of masters, and He is the Supreme of the supremes. He is known as the greatest Lord, the Personality of Godhead. His energies and potencies are multiple and variously distributed. It is also stated that Viṣṇu is the Supreme and that saintly persons are always anxious to see His lotus feet (Ṛg Veda 1.22.20). In the Aitareya Upaniṣad it is also stated that the cosmic manifestation came about when the Lord glanced over material nature (1.1.1-2). This is also verified by the Praśna Upaniṣad (6.3).
In the negative descriptions of the Lord which occur in Vedic literature (as in apāṇi-pādaḥ) there are indications that the Lord has no material body and no material form. However, He does have His spiritual transcendental body and His transcendental form. Because the Māyāvādī philosophers misunderstand His transcendental nature, they explain Him as impersonal. The Lord's name, form, quality, entourage and abode are all in the transcendental world. How can He be a transformation of this material nature? Everything connected with the Supreme Lord is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge.
In effect, Śaṅkarācārya preached Māyāvādī philosophy in order to bewilder a certain type of atheist. Actually he never considered the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, to be impersonal or to have no body or form. It is best for intelligent persons to avoid lectures on Māyāvādī philosophy. We should understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead Viṣṇu is not impersonal. He is a transcendental person, and the basic principle of the cosmic manifestation is His energy. Māyāvādī philosophy cannot trace the energy of the Supreme Lord, but all Vedic literatures give evidence of the Supreme Lord's various energetic manifestations. Viṣṇu is not a product of material nature, but material nature is a product of Viṣṇu's potency. The Māyāvādī philosophers understand Viṣṇu to be a product of material nature, but if Viṣṇu is a product of material nature, He can only be counted amongst the demigods. One who considers Viṣṇu to be a demigod is certainly mistaken and misled. How this is so is explained in Bhagavad-gītā: "Deluded by the three modes, the whole world does not know Me who am above the modes and inexhaustible. This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome, but those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it." (BG 7.13-14)