Chapter 8 from the book, Going Beyond Vaikuṇṭha, 4th edition by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
It is written in some places that devotees don’t desire the mercy of the Lakṣmī who is the goddess of aiśvarya, opulence. We should understand that this does not refer to the Mahā-Lakṣmī of Nārāyaṇa in the spiritual world. That Lakṣmī is not cañcalā, restless, but she is steady and permanent, and in that form she is perpetually serving Nārāyaṇa.
Cañcalā Lakṣmī was born from the churning of the milk ocean. This Lakṣmī is the goddess who embodies all money and wealth, and devotees don’t desire her mercy. Even if she wants to serve devotees and fulfil their desires, they simply offer obeisances to her and leave. What to speak of older devotees, even new devotees are more dear than her to Bhagavān. Kṛṣṇa said:
na tathā me priyatama
ātma-yonir na śaṅkaraḥ
na ca saṅkarṣaṇo na śrīr
naivātmā ca yathā bhavān
My dear Uddhava, neither Brahmā, Śaṅkara, Saṅkarṣana, the goddess of fortune Lakṣmī, nor even My own self are as dear to Me as you are.
He has spoken this verse in relation to cañcalā Lakṣmī. If the Lakṣmī who is near Nārāyaṇa serving Him in Vaikuṇṭha were to hear this verse, what would she do? Therefore don’t take this verse to be in relation to her. This can be said for the Lakṣmī who appeared as the daughter of Bhṛgu. Only a Vaiṣṇava who has attentively heard from the guru-paramparā will understand statements like these from the scriptures. Others will certainly misunderstand. Some may say that in this verse Lakṣmī is another name of Rādhikā, but that would mean that another devotee would be greater than Rādhikā – Uddhava would be a greater devotee than Her. Uddhava desires to take the dust of the gopīs’ feet on his head, so to think that anyone is greater than Rādhikā, the very origin of all goddesses of fortune, would certainly be erroneous. In order to understand which Lakṣmī has been referred to in this verse requires some careful consideration. We must try to properly understand our siddhānta, and that can only be done by remaining in the association of Vaiṣṇavas.
This verse refers to the Lakṣmī that bestows mystic perfections, who gave opulence to Brahmā and the demigods, and who appeared from the churning of the ocean. What to speak of older devotees, even new devotees are superior to her. Devotees, liberated souls and those who desire liberation: these three types of people don’t worship that goddess of wealth, cañcalā Lakṣmī. This verse is not referring to the Lakṣmī who is constantly situated at Bhagavān’s chest, massaging His feet and serving Him. That Mahā-Lakṣmī is steady, not restless, and is very dear to Bhagavān. No devotee will ever be indifferent towards her. But if anyone aspires for the affectionate sidelong glance from the source of all incarnations, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and His dearest Śrīmatī Rādhikā, then they will simply respect this Mahā-Lakṣmī but not beg for her mercy. They will beg for mercy directly from Śrīmatī Rādhikā Herself.
This is not to be considered disrespect; there is no place for disrespecting any Vaiṣṇavas. A Vaiṣṇava who is rasika and tattvajña, conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa, should always be respected. But that doesn’t mean that the remainder of Vaiṣṇavas should be disrespected. That will be an offence, aparādha. But we should be especially careful to commit no offence at the feet of Kṛṣṇa’s exclusive rasika, tattvajña Vaiṣṇava, and with our hearts we will always aspire to serve him.
Suppose there is a festival going on and hundreds of devotees are there, including uttama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇavas, madhyama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇavas and kaniṣṭha-adhikārī Vaiṣṇavas. If amongst them there is an exclusive rāgānuga or even rūpānuga Vaiṣṇava, then we shall give more respect to him, but we will have to give it with cleverness. Otherwise ordinary people will think that they can be indifferent to kaniṣṭha-adhikārī and madhyama-adhikārī devotees. On three levels we shall accordingly offer respect, but with some cleverness. Appropriate respect must be shown to all, in gradation, just as Rūpa Gosvāmī has written:
kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta
dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam
śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-
The uttama Vaiṣṇava should be served with love. Being an exclusive devotee, he never criticises anyone. Whether he obtains happiness or unhappiness, he remains satisfied. He serves Kṛṣṇa exclusively by the topmost, radiant devotional mellow (ujjvalarasa), so towards him we will have a special sentiment, but we will not disrespect anyone. One devotee we will criticise, another we will disobey, another we will disrespect – saving ourselves from this mentality we should give appropriate respect to all, and serve the advanced rasika Vaiṣṇava with love.
Yogamāyā has so many forms, and we should never commit any offence to any of them. We should give them appropriate respect because they are the śakti of Bhagavān, but we should not perform any give-and-take transactions with them. This should be the only taking: “Please give your mercy to us so our enjoying spirit will go away.” Otherwise, this bartering mentality will lead us into material enjoyment. That should be our only prayer to them, and towards our most worshipful goddesses, the gopīs, we should have a mood of following and serving them.
In some places this potency of Bhagavān is known as mahāvibhūti, in some places as Yogamāyā, and in some places as ātmamāyā. In Bhagavad-gītā (4.6) we find the words sambhavāmy ātma-māyayā: “I incarnate by My internal energy.” What is the meaning of ātma-māyā? That potency of Bhagavān in His natural form. Where does this ātma-māyā come from? Who is its root? Śrīmatī Rādhikā. By the medium of this potency, sac-cid-ānanda, Bhagavān’s enjoyment takes place. This Yogamāyā potency is eternal (nitya), factual (satya), beginningless (anādi) and unlimited (ananta). She took birth along with Kṛṣṇa, so how can she be anādi, beginningless? Prior to her own birth, she arranged for Baladeva Prabhu to appear as the seventh child in the womb of Devakī and then she herself took birth from the womb of Yaśodā later. So because she performed some activity before taking birth, she is eternal, and is therefore known as Sanātanī.
This Yogamāyā is the one who increases bhajanānanda, the happiness experienced by Kṛṣṇa’s servants. This Yogamāyā, taking the essence of the hlādinī and saṁvit potencies together, takes a devotee progressively through the stages of śraddhā, bhāva, prema and all the way up to mahābhāva. As if feeding the devotees milk, she nurtures them in so many ways, and she arranges for a soul who has attained perfection in sādhana to appear in the womb of a gopī. The personification of that Yogamāyā, Paurṇamāsī, is the mother of Sāndīpani Muni and resides in Nandagrāma. In many ways she increases rasa, either by providing a stimulus, or by personally doing so as Paurṇamāsī. She increases Yaśodā’s vātsalya-rasa, she increases the cowherd boys’ sakhya-rasa, and she increases the dāsya-bhāva of those in that rasa. She enhances all of the rasas and nurtures all living entities. She is the mother of variegated bhajanānanda, and if one doesn’t take shelter of her, his bhakti cannot increase.
This Yogamāyā is the foundation of the Lord’s many kinds of incarnations. She makes all the arrangements in regard to Bhagavān’s dress, appearance, ornaments and pastimes. On one of the many occasions when Kṛṣṇa played the flute, the gopīs went into a state of bewilderment. Some were wearing ornaments in the wrong places, and others placed make-up in places where it should not have been applied. They were in varying awkward conditions. Who arranged all of this? Yogamāyā. Their state of disarray increased their beauty one million times. Yogamāyā was the cause of this. Suppose one gopī puts an ankle bracelet around her neck, and a necklace around her ankle. When she goes before Kṛṣṇa, He will see it and say, “Oh, you have arranged your ornaments so beautifully!” So tell me then: how much more valuable has it become? The cause is Yogamāyā.
This potency of the Lord is durvitarkyā: inconceivable. Through Yogamāyā, Kṛṣṇa performs pastimes with His devotees, there is His mugdhatā (being spellbound in emotion), the mugdhatā of Yaśodā and all varieties of pastimes. From the very beginning it is done by her for the pleasure of Bhagavān and His devotees. In another form called Mahāmāyā, the activities of the demons are facilitated and the jīvas are bound within material existence.
Vasudeva took Kṛṣṇa to Gokula and brought the girl Yogamāyā back from the bed of Yaśodā. As long as she was with Vasudeva, she remained as Yogamāyā; but when she arrived in the jail of Kaṁsa, and Kaṁsa lifted her up to kill her, then the activities of Mahāmāyā began, and Yogamāyā, in an invisible form, began her own activities. Exactly when she changed to her shadow form, no one knew. Seeing this, it must appear to most persons that they are one and the same potency, but they are not one. When she was placed in jail and Kaṁsa grabbed her, she became eight-armed Durgā. He became astonished and frightened, and said, “Oh, you are directly my worshipful goddess!” But ultimately, at what point she left her form as Yogamāyā, and how she did this and that – it is all durvitarkyā, inconceivable.
The potency of Bhagavān is eternal, factual, beginningless, unlimited and indescribable. It cannot be fully described in words and an ordinary man cannot portray its form. Only an elevated, liberated, great soul can describe a little of it. Otherwise it cannot be described at all.
We know that we are not the body. Hundreds of thousands of times we have spoken this fact to others, but then we perform some sensual activity and again we forget this. If for one second we forget that we are not this body, then all of our determination for spiritual advancement may vanish. It happened to such a great liberated personality as Nārada. In the Rāmāyaṇa it is said that he was the cause of the appearance of Rāmacandra.* Selfishness for one penny can drown us in mundane consciousness. We must remain strong in bhajana, and with great humility we should perform sādhana-bhajana. Only by the influence of this Yogamāyā – when this potency is transmitted into the heart of a living entity – will the sentiment of bhakti arise, and we will be able to properly engage in the limbs of devotion headed by hearing and chanting. How is it done? By the essence of the hlādinī and saṁvit potencies together this sentiment arises in the heart of a jīva. This is called viśuddha-sattva, and this is the activity of Yogamāyā. She performs unlimited types of service in Vaikuṇṭha, Dvārakā, Mathurā and finally in Vṛndāvana.
There are differences in bhakti, and also differences in rasa. What are the differences in bhakti? Sādhana-bhakti, bhāva-bhakti, vaidhī-bhakti, rāgānuga-bhakti, and within them also are niṣṭhā, ruci, āsakti, bhāva, and next, in nitya-siddha devotees or in sādhana-siddha devotees are sneha, māna, praṇaya, rāga, anurāga, bhāva and mahābhāva. This variegatedness is all arranged by Yogamāyā. Bhakti is one; bhakti is not two. It is one sentiment, even though externally we see that there are sixty-four kinds, or nine kinds, or five kinds, or three kinds. Rasa is also one. Rasa is not many, but according to the different fields of activity of sādhakas, it appears to be in different forms. Śṛṅgāra is one complete rasa, mādhurya-rasa. Manifest from that in sequence are vātsalya, sakhya and dāsya, and it appears in those forms. Bhagavān is one, not two, but according to the gradation of one’s devotion and the gradation of one’s knowledge, He appears as Brahman, Paramātmā, Bhagavān, Kṛṣṇa and so many other forms. The same moon, according to our angle of vision, appears as the lunar days of dvitīyā, trayodaśī, pañcamī and so on – the moon doesn’t change. It is the same moon; only our vision of it changes. Therefore sometimes it is amāvasyā, the new moon night, sometimes it is pūrṇimā, the full moon, and in precisely the same way, the same Bhagavān appears differently according to the gradation in a devotee’s sādhana. Similarly, Bhagavān’s potency is also seen according to the gradation in a devotee’s sādhana. All of this variegatedness is the arrangement of Yogamāyā, and therefore for Yogamāyā there are so many mantras:
vande sadā bhakti-vitāna-hetum
yasya manaḥ sarva-niṣevitāyāḥ
I offer obeisances to the lotus feet of Śrī Paurṇamāsī-devī, who is Bhagavān’s Yogamāyā potency. She expands pure prema-bhakti for the feet of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, and her mind is always immersed in the ocean of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.
patiṁ me kuru te namaḥ
[The gopīs worshipped Yogamāyā with this mantra:] O goddess Kātyāyanī, you are the great internal potency of Bhagavān, the possessor of all mystic power and the ultimate controller. Please make the son of Nanda our husband. We offer obeisances to you.
All of the variegatedness in Bhagavān’s pastimes is arranged by Yogamāyā. Although the influence of this potency is indescribable, it is known to pure devotees, and they can describe it. Just as the glories of Bhagavān are indescribable, the glories of this potency are also indescribable, but knowing something of it, Bhagavān’s pure devotees have described it. Śukadeva Gosvāmī, Vyāsa, Parāśara, Nārada, Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs, Jīva Gosvāmī – many ācāryas have described it.
sā parāparayoḥ śaktyoḥ
parā śaktir nigadyate
prabhoḥ svābhāvikī sā hi
khyātā prakṛtir ity api
Bhagavān’s potencies are classified either as superior or inferior. Yogamāyā is His superior, internal potency, and because she is Bhagavān’s natural potency, in some places she is known by the name Prakṛti.
This Yogamāyā and Mahāmāyā are called the parā, superior, and aparā, inferior, potencies, respectively. They are perceived as two forms. Actually they are one, but the original is parā, and its shadow is aparā. What is the meaning of “shadow”? That which is non-different from the original but does not perform the same functions, is called a shadow. But not like the shadow of a tree that performs no activity. Our shadow also performs no activity, but the shadow of Bhagavān’s potency is not inactive. In Goloka, Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa-līlā, Kṛṣṇa’s taking birth, devotees serving Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’s form, the gopīs’ forms, the trees and plants there – everything is manifest by the influence of Yogamāyā and is true and eternal. And what are the activities of the apara-śakti? In different places in nature, by the action of this potency, some things are unreal, and some things are temporary. Some things are satya, real, and some things are asatya, false. All the relationships that we create in this world are false, whereas all of the objects of this world are true, but temporary.
Shells from the ocean are real, and silver is also real, but the illusion of thinking the shells to be silver is asatya, unreal. These shells glitter just like silver, and both of these things are real. The seer is also real. Three things are real, but considering these shells to be silver is unreal. Or when there is a rope, a snake and a seer, these three things are also real, but the illusion of considering the rope to be a snake is unreal. At night, when we are walking along in the dark, we may step on a rope. Because it is a little stiff, it wraps around our foot and we cry out, “Snake! Snake!” Then with a lamp we take a look, and our fear disappears. We may have thought that a snake had bitten us and that we were going to die, but after some light comes, that illusion is dispelled.
All of us are undoubtedly real, but to take it that “I am this body” is an illusion. And to think that “all of these objects belong to me” is also an illusion. What is “mine”? “I belong to Kṛṣṇa, and I am His servant.” Up to this point our conception is real. We should consider all objects as instruments to be employed in the service of Bhagavān, but instead we think, “I am their master.” On account of this, so much quarrelling and fighting is going on. Sādhus generally consider that nothing belongs to them, but when the necessity for a certain object arises, even they claim ownership over it and fight amongst themselves.
Therefore, this māyā-śakti is very peculiar. This potency is one, but the external potency binds the jīva in an illusory conception of himself and his surroundings, whereas the internal potency, Yogamāyā, illuminates within the jīva the knowledge of things related to Bhagavān and bhakti. We may pray to Mahāmāyā, “Please be merciful to us. Now we are a little entrapped in your illusion, but we pray to you for bhakti to the feet of Kṛṣṇa.” This Mahāmāyā, Kāmākhyā-devī, honestly and affectionately gave Gopa-kumāra the gopāla-mantra. Although displaying the form of Mahāmāyā, she performed the function of Yogamāyā. This potency in the form of Yogamāyā acts to benefit devotees, but if someone honestly desires it, then even in the form of Mahāmāyā this potency will show mercy to devotees. Otherwise, Mahāmāyā cheats the conditioned soul. At first, which potency came to Haridāsa Ṭhākura in the form of a prostitute? Mahāmāyā. Next, after she became a devotee, her activities were those of Yogamāyā. In all of these things we should see the difference and non-difference according to the siddhānta given by Caitanya Mahāprabhu, acintya-bhedābheda.
The living entity has also been called para-śakti. Bhagavad-gītā (7.5) says:
apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which is the living entities who are exploiting the resources of the material, inferior nature.
How many prakṛti, or natures, does the Lord have? One. Bhagavān’s natural potency – svābhāvikī – means para-śakti. But by saying prakṛti, we understand it to refer to the inferior nature, which creates this temporary world composed of eight elements. By saying māyā we are referring to ātma-māyā, the internal potency, but people in general don’t know this, so the material world is usually known as māyā. The activities of the shadow potency Mahāmāyā are generally either false or temporary, whereas all the many activities of Yogamāyā are eternal.
Where does Mahāmāyā, the goddess who embodies this potency that makes the souls consider their bodies to be their actual selves, herself reside? Within the eighth material covering of the universe. Her complexion is very dark (śyāma); there, all is śyāma. In a very beautiful and attractive form she is situated there, and previously in that very place she met Gopa-kumāra. With some gifts to offer, she came before Gopa-kumāra and said, “Tell me what you desire. Do you desire bhakti? Then I will give you bhakti. Do you want the facility to enjoy material happiness? Then I will give you all material happiness. I can give you everything, including bhakti, because I am the sister of Bhagavān. I will give you whatever you desire.”
By her mercy, Gopa-kumāra emerged from there and again returned to the Earth planet. Otherwise it is not possible to come out from there. By our own effort it is not possible to overcome our illusion, and we just simply become more entrapped. Therefore we should depend fully on the grace of the Vaiṣṇavas, the spiritual master and Bhagavān, and we should not try on our own to escape this entrapment.
Next, Nārada told Gopa-kumāra, “Here in Vaikuṇṭha, you will see many different incarnations. One type is vyaṣṭi, and one is samaṣṭi.” Who is the samaṣṭi-avatāra? Kṛṣṇa Himself. As we are vyaṣṭi-jīvas, and the samaṣṭi-jīva is Hiraṇyagarbha Brahmā, there are so many expanded incarnations such as Kūrma, Varāha, Nṛsiṁha, Paraśurāma and Vāmana, but don’t consider Kṛṣṇa to be like Them. Kṛṣṇa is samaṣṭi – the seed, the root of all incarnations – and from this original seed, different forms come. From a mango seed, a nīma tree will not come, nor will bananas or guavas come from this mango seed. But Kṛṣṇa is such a seed that He is the seed of everything; such a very wonderful seed is Kṛṣṇa. Therefore He expands into all of the incarnations by His acintya-śakti. This is possible only for Kṛṣṇa and no one else. Nārāyaṇa may also have incarnations; for some purpose an incarnation may emerge from Him, but the special difference between Him and Kṛṣṇa is that even if Nārāyaṇa does assume an incarnation, He will not perform variegated pastimes. Kṛṣṇa is avatārī, the source of all incarnations, and when He personally descends, He performs unlimited variegated pastimes. Plus Kṛṣṇa possesses four extra special qualities of mādhurya that Nārāyaṇa does not.
Nārada is explaining all of this to Gopa-kumāra. “You desire to witness all of these pastimes, but how will you see them here?” Not aloud, but secretly Nārada is telling him. “Kṛṣṇa can do the work of the Vāmana incarnation. Alone, Kṛṣṇa can do the work of all the Viṣṇu incarnations, the manvantara incarnations, the śaktyāveśa-avatāras, the līlā-avatāras – anything that Nārāyaṇa does, Kṛṣṇa can do also. No one else can do all of this: it is a special quality of Kṛṣṇa.”
The word bhagavān means what? Bhaga means ‘opulences’ – six in all – and vān means ‘He who possesses them’. Many men of this world possess some opulence, but complete opulence is found only in Nārāyaṇa or in His incarnations. And where is opulence more complete? In Kṛṣṇa of Dvārakā and Mathurā. And where is opulence the most complete? In Vrajendra-nandana. There we find full wealth (aiśvarya), strength (vīrya), fame (yaśa), beauty (śrī), knowledge (jñāna) and renunciation (vairāgya).
vīryasya yaśasaḥ śriyaḥ
ṣaṇṇāṁ bhaga itīṅganā
Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.5.74)
All of these qualities are found in Nārāyaṇa and the incarnations also. Like aiśvarya – what is the opulence of Vāmanadeva? He appeared very small, but at the time of measuring the Earth, He immediately became wonderfully huge and in three steps covered the entire universe. This is aiśvarya. Rāmacandra, taking all of the monkeys and bears with Him, attacked Laṅkā and cut off Rāvaṇa’s head, but a new head emerged. Each time He cut off Rāvaṇa’s head, it would return. Finally He made a plan whereby cutting off Rāvaṇa’s ten heads, they would not return, and Rāvaṇa was killed. This is aiśvarya. Dvārakādhīśa Kṛṣṇa possesses so much opulence, and all of the other incarnations possess so much opulence, but Kṛṣṇa’s opulence is especially marvellous. As a small boy He was at the breast of Pūtanā, drinking and drinking, and no one knew what He was actually doing. He wouldn’t leave her breast, so they thought that maybe He was only playing. Then He sucked out her life. He was thinking, “I don’t like anyone to come to Vṛndāvana and then leave again. She has entered within the boundaries of Vraja, therefore I will not allow her to ever leave.”
This is aiśvarya, and it reaches its zenith in Kṛṣṇa. There is some renunciation (vairāgya) in Rāma: He left His kingdom, but He didn’t leave Sītā – He left together with her. Kṛṣṇa’s vairāgya is such that hundreds of thousands of gopīs were collected together at a very pure place, and a cool breeze was blowing; both kiśora and kiśorīs were there, but at once He disappeared. Kṛṣṇa had such a strong feeling of vairāgya that right before His eyes, fifty-six million members of the Yadu dynasty took canes and sticks and fought and killed one another – even His own son was finished and fell to the ground, yet Kṛṣṇa, neither smiling, nor worrying, nor saving anyone, just sat quietly with His legs crossed. Why? His vision was that all of this fighting and killing was just an indrajāla, a magical illusion. Therefore the pinnacle of all six opulences is found only in Kṛṣṇa. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.3.28) says:
ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ
kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
All of these incarnations are either plenary portions or parts of plenary portions of the puruṣa-avatāras, but Kṛṣṇa is Bhagavān Himself.
Nārada told Gopa-kumāra, “Svayam Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes are variegated, His affection is variegated, His prema is variegated, and His associates are variegated. Anyone who has had even half of a taste of this immense variegatedness by hearing about it simply cannot remain here in Vaikuṇṭha.”
* Once Nārada desired to marry a princess, and in order to be successful at her svayaṁvara, he prayed to Viṣṇu for a face as beautiful as his. But to protect the bhakti of his devotee, Viṣṇu instead gave Nārada the face of a monkey. Not understanding why everyone was ridiculing him at the svayaṁvara, Nārada was then told to go and look at his reflection in a pond. realising that Viṣṇu had deceived him, he cursed Viṣṇu that in His next life He would lose His wife, and that he would have to take the help of monkeys to get her back. Therefore Nārada is said to be the cause of the descent of Śrī Rāmacandra.
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