From the instructions of Lord Caitanya to Sanātana Gosvāmī we can understand the science of God as it relates to God's transcendental form, His opulences, and His devotional service. Indeed, everything is being explained to Sanātana Gosvāmī by the Lord Himself. At that time, Sanātana fell at the feet of the Lord and with great humility asked about his own real identity. "I am born of a lower family," Sanātana said. "My associations are all abominable, and I am fallen, the most wretched of mankind. I was suffering in the dark well of material enjoyment, and I never knew the actual goal of my life. Indeed, I do not even know what is beneficial for me. Although I am what is known in the world as a great learned man, I am in fact so much of a fool that I myself even think that I am learned. You have accepted me as Your servant, and You have delivered me from the entanglement of material life. Now please tell me what my duty is in this liberated state."
By this plea, we can understand that liberation is not the final word in perfection. There must be activities in liberation. Sanātana clearly says, "You have saved me from the material existence. Now, after liberation, what is my duty?" Sanātana further inquired, "Who am I? Why are the threefold miseries always giving me trouble? And finally, tell me how I can be relieved from this material entanglement? I do not know how to question You about the advancement of spiritual life, but I beg that You kindly, mercifully, let me know everything that I need know."
This is the process of accepting a spiritual master. One should approach a spiritual master, humbly submit to him and then inquire from him about one's spiritual progress.
The Lord was pleased by Sanātana's submissive behavior, and He replied, "You have already received benediction from Lord Kṛṣṇa, and therefore you know everything and are free from all the miseries of material existence." The Lord further pointed out that because Sanātana was in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he was naturally, by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, already conversant with everything. "Because you are a humble devotee," the Lord continued, "you are asking Me to confirm what you already know. This is very nice." These are the characteristics of a true devotee. In the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra it is said that one who is very serious about developing Kṛṣṇa consciousness has his desire to understand Kṛṣṇa fulfilled very soon by the grace of the Lord.
"You are a suitable person to protect the devotional service of the Lord," Caitanya Mahāprabhu continued. "Therefore it is My duty to instruct you in the science of God, and I will explain everything to you step by step."
It is the duty of a disciple approaching a spiritual master to inquire about his constitutional position. In conformity to that spiritual process, Sanātana has already asked, "What am I, and why am I suffering from the threefold miseries?" The threefold miseries are called adhyātmika, adhibhautika, and adhidaivika. The word adhyātmika refers to those miseries caused by the mind and body. Sometimes the living entity suffers bodily, and sometimes he is distressed mentally. Both are adhyātmika miseries. We experience these miseries even in the womb of our mother. As we well know, there are many types of miseries that take advantage of the delicate human body and give us pain. Miseries inflicted by other living entities are called adhibhautika. These living entities need not even be large, for there are many—such as bugs—that can make us miserable even while we are sleeping in bed. There are many insignificant living entities, like cockroaches, that sometimes give us pain, and there are also other living entities who are born on different kinds of planets and who give us miseries. As far as the adhidaivika miseries are concerned, these are natural disasters that originate with the demigods of the higher planets. For instance, we sometimes suffer from severe cold or hot weather, from a thunderbolt, or from earthquakes, tornadoes, droughts and many natural disasters. In any case, we are always suffering from either one or a combination of these three kinds of miseries.
Sanātana's inquiry was therefore an intelligent one. "What is the position of the living entities?" he asked. "Why are they always undergoing these three kinds of miseries?" Sanātana had admitted his weakness. Although he was known by the masses of people as a greatly learned man (and actually he was a highly learned Sanskrit scholar), and although he accepted this designation, he did not actually know what his constitutional position really was and just why he was subjected to the threefold miseries.
Approaching a spiritual master is not just a fashion but is a necessity for one who is seriously conscious of the material miseries and who wants to be free of them. It is the duty of such a person to approach a spiritual master. In this regard, we should note similar circumstances in Bhagavad-gītā. When Arjuna was perplexed by so many problems involving whether to fight or not, he accepted Lord Kṛṣṇa as his spiritual master. It was also a case of the supreme spiritual master instructing Arjuna about the constitutional position of the living entity.
In Bhagavad-gītā we are informed that the constitutional nature of the individual entity is spirit soul. He is not matter. As spirit soul, he is part and parcel of the supreme soul, the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. We also learn that it is the duty of the spirit soul to surrender, for only then can he be happy. The last instruction of Bhagavad-gītā is that the spirit soul surrender completely unto the supreme soul, Kṛṣṇa, and in that way realize happiness.
Here also, Lord Caitanya, answering the questions of Sanātana, repeats the same truth. There is a difference, however. Here Lord Caitanya does not give the information about the spirit soul that is already described in Bhagavad-gītā. Rather, He begins from the point where Kṛṣṇa ended His instruction. It is accepted by great devotees that Lord Caitanya is Kṛṣṇa Himself, and from this point of view He begins His instruction to Sanātana from the point where He ended His instructions to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gītā.
"Your constitutional position is that you are pure living soul," the Lord told Sanātana. "This material body cannot be identified with your real self; nor is your mind your real identity, nor your intelligence, nor false ego. Your identity is that of eternal servitor of the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa. Your position is that you're transcendental. The superior energy of Kṛṣṇa is spiritual in constitution, and the inferior external energy is material. Since you are between the material energy and the spiritual energy, your position is marginal. Belonging to the marginal potency of Kṛṣṇa, you are simultaneously one with and different from Kṛṣṇa. Because you are spirit, you are not different from Kṛṣṇa, and because you are only a minute particle of Kṛṣṇa, you are different from Him."
This simultaneous oneness and difference always exists in the relationship between the living entities and the Supreme Lord. From the marginal position of the living entities, this conception of "simultaneously one and different" can be understood. The living entity is just like a molecular particle of sunshine, whereas Kṛṣṇa may be compared to the blazing, shining sun itself. Lord Caitanya compared the living entities to blazing sparks from a fire and the Supreme Lord to the blazing fire of the sun. In this connection, the Lord cites a verse from Viṣṇu Purāṇa (1.22.52):
- jyotsnā vistāriṇī yathā
- parasya brahmaṇaḥ śaktis
- tathedam akhilaṁ jagat
"Everything that is manifested within this cosmic world is but the energy of the Supreme Lord. As fire emanating from one place diffuses its illumination and heat all around, so the Lord, although situated in one place in the spiritual world, manifests His different energies everywhere. Indeed, the whole cosmic creation is composed of different manifestations of His energy."
The energy of the Supreme Lord is transcendental and spiritual, and the living entities are part and parcel of that energy. There is another energy, however, called material energy, which is covered by the cloud of ignorance. This energy, which is material nature, is divided into three modes, or guṇas (goodness, passion and ignorance). Lord Caitanya quoted from Viṣṇu Purāṇa (1.3.2) to the effect that all inconceivable energies reside in the Supreme Personality of the Lord and that the whole cosmic manifestation acts due to the Lord's inconceivable energy.
The Lord also said that the living entities are known as kṣetrajña, or "knowers of the field of activities." In the Thirteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, the body is described as the field of activities, and the living entity as kṣetrajña, the knower of that field. Although the living entity is constitutionally conversant with spiritual energy, or has the potency to understand spiritual energy, he is covered by the material energy and consequently identifies the body with the self. This false identification is called "false ego." Deluded by this false ego, the bewildered living entity in material existence changes his different bodies and suffers various kinds of miseries. Knowledge of the living entity's true position is possessed to different extents by different types of living entities.
In other words, it is to be understood that the living entity is part and parcel of the spiritual energy of the Supreme Lord. Because the material energy is inferior, man has the ability to get uncovered from this material energy and utilize the spiritual energy. It is stated in Bhagavad-gītā that the superior energy is covered by the inferior energy. Due to this covering, the living entity is subjected to the miseries of the material world, and, in proportion to the different degrees of passion and ignorance, he suffers material miseries. Those who are a little enlightened suffer less, but on the whole everyone is subjected to material miseries due to being covered by the material energy.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu also quoted from the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā in which it is stated that earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and ego all combine together to form the inferior energy of the Supreme Lord. The superior energy, however, is the real identity of the living being, and it is because of that energy that the whole material world functions. The cosmic manifestation, which is made of material elements, has no power to act unless it is moved by the superior energy, the living entity. It can actually be said that the conditioned life of the living entity is due to forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Lord in the superior energy. When that relationship is forgotten, conditional life is the result. Only when man revives his real identity, that of eternal servitor to the Lord, does he become liberated.