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Mayavadis, Brahmavadis, and Sayujya Mukti

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Mayavadis, Brahmavadis, and Sayujya Mukti


Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari


"Those who engage in sattviki-bhakti can attain sayujya mukti as long as

they do not offend Bhagavan. Sattviki-bhakti is mentioned in

Srimad-Bhagavatam: "The practice of devotion in the mode of goodness with

a desire to attain mukti is known as sattviki-bhakti."


Q. Do the paths of jnana (knowledge), yoga, and bhakti (devotion) all lead

to the same experience in transcendence?


A. Jnana (knowledge), yoga, and bhakti (devotion) are paths to God

realization, but they are three distinct paths. Do they all lead to the

same experience? No. They lead to distinct aspects of the life of the

Absolute--brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate. So says



Whereas bhakti leads to Bhagavan realization, jnana and yoga lead to

Brahman or Paramatma realization. Bhakti is never dependent on jnana or

yoga, but jnana and yoga are dependent on bhakti to deliver results.

Indeed, neither yoga or jnana are favorable to bhakti, but bhakti is what

infuses life into both jnana and yoga. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam,

jnanis or yogis who do not factor bhakti into their aspirations for mukti

will never attain it:


kevalena hi bhavena gopyo gavo naga mrgah ye 'nye mudha-dhiyo nagah

siddha mam iyur anjasa


yam na yogena sankhyena dana-vrata-tapo-'dhvaraih

vyakhya-svadhyaya-sannyasaih prapnuyad yatnavan api


"The inhabitants of Vrndavana, including the gopis, cows, unmoving

creatures such as the twin arjuna trees, animals, living entities with

stunted consciousness such as bushes and thickets, and snakes such as

Kaliya, all achieved the perfection of life by unalloyed love for me and

thus very easily achieved me. Even though one engages with great endeavor

in the mystic yoga system, philosophical speculation, charity, vows,

penances, ritualistic sacrifices, teaching of Vedic mantras to others,

personal study of the Vedas, or the renounced order of life, still one

cannot achieve me." (SB 11.12.8-9)


Srimad-Bhagavatam also says that practicing jnana without bhakti is like

beating an empty husk of rice. It will never give one mukti:


sreyah-srtim bhaktim udasya te vibhoklisyanti ye

kevala-bodha-labdhayetesam asau klesala eva sisyatenanyad yatha

sthula-tusavaghatinam (SB 10.14.4)


If the path of knowledge is mixed with bhakti, it can grant realization of

Brahma sayujya (merging in Brahman), and if the path of yoga is mixed with

bhakti, it can grant Isvara sayujya (merging in Paramatma).


Q. Ramanuja has glorified sayujya-mukti while rejecting the central

precepts of Advaita Vedanta, in which the jiva in sayujya is thought to

have become absolutely one with Brahman in all respects. Therefore, how

can merging into the effulgence of Krsna/Narayana be thought of as

undesirable, as it is sometimes portrayed in the Gaudiya tradition?


A. Gaudiya acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana writes that sayujya is the basis

of mukti. He also cites Narayana Upanisad (sayujyam gacchati), implying

that the mukta jiva (liberated soul) in sayujya participates in eternal

sport with Hari. The sruti says, dva suparna sayujya: "two in sayujya,"

indicating that sayujya can be understood to be the basis of all other

types of liberation--a sense of oneness or intimacy with God, as opposed

to merging in Brahman and being devoid of any sense of relationship with

Bhagavan. Following the above understanding, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in his

Tattva-sutra, has called the culture of gopi bhava (the love that the

gopis have for Krsna) "brahma sayujya sadhana."


However, Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja in Caitanya-caritamrta clearly

distinguishes sayujya-mukti from other types of liberation. Krsnadasa

Kaviraja Goswami describes sayujya as being outside the gates of

Vaikuntha, the transcendental world of Krsna/Narayana.


So there are different conceptions of sayujya. Ramanuja's conception of

sayujya is similar to that of Baladeva Vidyabhusana. While some Vaisnava

sampradayas do not recognize any form of liberation outside of Vaikuntha,

the Gaudiyas do recognize the possibility of losing one's sense of

individuality by merging into the effulgence of God--the

brahmajyoti/Brahman. Although they call this experience sayujya-mukti,

they consider it an undesirable form of partial liberation in which only

the lower half of the equation of liberation (deliverance from karma) is

realized. In this understanding of sayujya-mukti, there is little prospect

of realizing one's spiritual form (svarupa), which according to Vaisnavism

is the other half of the equation of liberation.


The Advaita Vedanta conception of sayujya-mukti, where the liberated jiva

is thought to become God in all respects by the mere cultivation of

knowledge is not acceptable to any Vaisnava sampradaya.


[Editor's note: Further information on the difference between Gaudiya

Vedanta and Advaita Vedanta can be found in these previous Sangas:


Moksa and Mayavada:



The Brahma-sutras of Badarayana:



Q. Some Vaisnava sects disagree with characterizing Brahman as the

effulgence of Krsna and being outside the gates of Vaikuntha. The Ramanuja

sampradaya insists that Brahman refers to Visnu, who is all-pervading, and

they can support their position from scripture. Furthermore, how can

Brahma sayujya be outside the gates of Vaikuntha when Brahman is

all-pervading? How can it be undesirable in any way?


A. Gaudiya Vedanta has much to say in support of the Bhagavatam's

explanation of the nondual Absolute (advaya-jnana tattva), in which

Brahman is equated with God's effulgence. Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja, our

revered sastra-acarya, has explained, tanhara angera suddha kirana-mandala

upanisat kahe tanre brahma sunirmal: "The Upanisads call the spotless

Brahman the effulgence of the Supreme Person." This is supported by Sri

Isopanisad, hiranmayena patrena satyasyapihitam mukham tat tvam pusann

apavrnu satya-dharmaya drstaye: O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives,

your real face is covered by your dazzling effulgence

(Brahman/hiranmayena). Kindly remove that covering and exhibit yourself to

your pure devotee."


Sri Brahma-samhita also confirms this:


yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda-koti- kotisv

asesa-vasudhadi-vibhuti-bhinnam tad brahma niskalam anantam

asesa-bhutam govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami


"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose effulgence is the source of

the nondifferentiated Brahman. Being differentiated from the glory of the

mundane universe, it appears as the indivisible, infinite, limitless

truth." (Bs. 5.40)


Some sects of Vaisnavism might not recognize the brahmajyoti as the

effulgence of Krsna, but we Gaudiyas follow Caitanya Mahaprabhu who

accepted this understanding as definitive. Mahaprabhu brought Sri

Brahma-samhita from South India, distributed it to his followers, and

accepted it as authoritative scriptural evidence. His opinion on this

issue is cited in Caitanya-caritamrta and other Gaudiya scriptures.


Yes, Brahman is all-pervading, but that does not mean that the material

world is "within the gates of Vaikuntha." Thus neither is the sayujya

mukta's status in the brahmajoyti. The point to remember is that Gaudiya

Vedanta teaches that one's svarupa (spiritual form) is not realized in

sayujya-mukti; therefore, Gaudiya acaryas describe such liberation as

undesirable. They tell us that we have a duty, an eternal function as

jivas (individual souls) in relation to God, the Supreme Soul. Caitanya

Mahaprabhu puts it like this, jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya-dasa: we

are the eternal servants of Krsna. A soul may give up the criminality of

exploitation (material desire), but if that soul does not take up eternal

service to Krsna, it could be compared to a citizen who refuses to do

civic duty. According to Vaisnavism, worse yet is a soul who fantasizes

that he can become God in all respects, which is the goal of Advaita



Q. Gaudiya acarya Prabodhananda Saraswati wrote, kaivalyam narakayate:

"Becoming one with the Supreme is as good as going to hell," but does a

Gaudiya Vaisnava really need to conceptualize sayujya-mukti in this way in

order to attain the Gaudiya ideal? Can one objectively even compare

sayujya-mukti to hell or is this just the subjective vision of the

Gaudiyas--another religious sentiment?


A. "Objectivity" is a loaded word, and it is questionable if anything

close to pure objectivity exists at all. That said, it is important to

note that bhakti is ultimately about cultivating love for one's Deity, and

love is a type of bias. Thus our acaryas have taught us how to think about

sayujya-mukti and all types of liberation for the sake of fueling our

bhajana. Indeed, their thoughts--their religious sentiment--on this issue

comes out of their own bhajana.


They often cite the following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam


salokya-sarsti-samipya- sarupyaikatvam apy uta diyamanam na grhnanti

vina mat-sevanam janah


"My devotees do not accept salokya, sarsti, sarupya, samipya, or

oneness with me (sayujya)--even if I offer these liberations--in

preference to serving me." (3.29.)


In this verse all kinds of liberation are rejected in the sense that they

are not to be desired. Rather service is our only concern. Caitanya

Mahaprabhu wrote, mama janmani janamanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki

tvayi: "Let me be born again and again as long as I can engage in

Bhagavad-bhakti." Although pure Vaisnavas do not desire any type of mukti,

our acaryas have singled out sayujya as being the least desirable because

there is no bhakti it. Moreover, it holds no experience whatsoever, for it

involves the object of experience (Brahman) and the experiencer (the soul)

becoming one in all respects. Unless there is an object to experience and

an experiencer, there cannot be any experience. Thus sayujya-mukti is

often compared to deep sleep.


Q. If one could separate Brahman realization (sayujya-mukti) from the

Advaita Vedanta of Sankara, could we as Gaudiya Vaisnavas find something

nice to say about it?


A. In the interest of pursuing the Gaudiya ideal, our acaryas have deemed

it appropriate to deprecate this kind of mukti because it leads to a

nondevotional state of eternal being. However, we Gaudiyas can speak of

sayujya in a positive light by explaining it, much as the Ramanujas have,

as being the sense of oneness with one's Deity that is central to bhakti.

Baladeva Vidyabhusana has done this in his Govinda Bhasya, as has Thakura



Gaudiya Vaisnavas are the most generous of all the Vaisnava sampradayas

toward the Adwaitins. For example, Ramanuja Vaisnavas are taught not to

even enter a Siva (Sankara) temple. Madhva Vaisnavas at one time were

taught to chant a mantra cursing Sankara when passing urine. Caitanya

Mahaprabhu, on the other hand, addressed him as "Acarya," Sankaracarya. By

citing the Puranas, he explained why Sankara taught what he did and gave

him a place beyond the material world (brahmajyoti), which can be attained

by jnanis with the help of sattviki-bhakti, a form of bhakti constituted

of sattva-guna. In this status jnanis can dream of being God forever but

we Gaudiya Vaisnavas have no interest in this fantasy.


Q. Do Gaudiyas really believe that a person who accepts the Mayavada

philosophy (Advaita Vedanta) in every respect can actually attain

sayujya-mukti? Other Vaisnava sampradayas don't.


A. Vaisnavas believe that those who are Mayavadis in the full sense of the

term are offensive to Bhagavan because they do not accept the eternality

of the form of the Lord. Thus either they have no devotion at all or they

engage in a meager form of sattviki-bhakti that they dispense with once

they attain their ideal (sayujya-mukti). According to the Bhagavatam, the

former go nowhere and gain only trouble for their efforts, and the latter

can possibly rise to the status of a jivan mukta, from which they will

fall down again. Bhagavatam describes them as vimukta maninah, thinking

they are liberated when their intelligence is not purified, avisuddha

buddhaya. By jnana they can remove all except their prarabdha (manifest)

karma. By devotion they can remove prarabdha and attain liberation. But

according to the Bhagavatam, if they remain offensive to the form of

Bhagavan, they will not achieve this result and they will fall from their

partial liberation (jivan mukti). That is to say they cannot attain videha

mukti, the full sense of sayujya.


Q. Is there a difference between a Brahmavadi and a Mayavadi?


A. Those who engage in sattviki-bhakti can attain mukti as long as they do

not offend Bhagavan. Sattviki-bhakti is mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam,

yajed yantavyam iti va prthag-bhavah sa sattvikah: "The practice of

devotion in the mode of goodness with a desire to attain mukti is known as

sattviki-bhakti." (SB 3.29.10) Such jnanis (Brahmavadis) can attain



Jnanis who through the association of a great devotee give up their desire

for liberation and make bhakti prominent over jnana in their practice can

attain devotional liberation in neutrality (santa-rasa). The four Kumaras

are examples of this. They are the true Brahmavadis, whereas those

attaining brahma-sayujya mentioned above are only remotely so.


Q. I believe the following verse clearly refers to Mayavadi philosophers

but can these verses in a lesser sense refer to perhaps

jnana-misra-bhakti? Also how is it possible to attain Brahman realization

with impure intelligence? And once attaining sayujya-mukti how can one

fall down, since the mukta has no material desires to make him fall? Where

would he fall to?


ye 'nye 'ravindaksa vimukta-maninas tvayy asta-bhavad

avisuddha-buddhayah aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah patanty adho



O lotus-eyed Lord! Those who proudly think that they are liberated but do

not render devotional service unto you certainly have impure intelligence.

Although they perform severe austerities and penance, and rise up to a

high spiritual position, they fall down again because they have no respect

for devotional service to your lotus feet. (SB 10.2.32-33/ Srila

Prabhupda's translation.)


A. Jnani jivan muktas are those who do not identify with the material

world but are still embodied waiting for their prarabdha karma to expire.

The Bhagavatam says that these jnanis can fall down from their so-called

liberation (vimukta maninah). But besides this, the verse you have cited

speaks of those who think they are liberated and do not render devotional

service. Their attainment, "a higher spiritual position," does not speak

explicitly sayujya-mukti. It is not possible to attain any kind of mukti

without bhakti. A sattviki form of bhakti helps jnanis attain the Gaudiya

understanding of sayujya.


The following two verses from Caitanya-caritamrta are each supported by

Krsnadasa Kaviraja with the Bhagavata verse you asked about.


'bhaktye jivan-mukta' gunakrsta hana krsna bhaje suska-jnane

jivan-mukta aparadhe adho maje


"Those who are liberated by devotional service become more and more

attracted by the transcendental qualities of Krsna. Thus they engage in

His service. Those who are liberated by the speculative process eventually

fall down again due to an offensive mentality." (Madhya 24.131)


jnani jivan-mukta-dasa painu kari' mane vastutah buddhi 'suddha' nahe

krsna-bhakti vine


"There are many philosophical speculators (jnanis) who consider themselves

liberated but their intelligence is not purified unless they engage in

Krsna's devotional service." (Madhya 22.30)


Note that the word "jivanmukta" appears in both of these verses, implying

that the Bhagavata verse under discussion refers to jnanis who have at

best attained jivan mukti. The Bhagavatam says that one can fall from that

position. However, it is doubtful that those referred to in these

Bhagavata verses have even attained this status, nor do the verses say

that they actually have. The doubt arises because the verses speak of

having no devotion. Again, without bhakti there is no liberation--no

sayujya-mukti, and arguably no attainment of jivan mukti in pursuit of



Jnana-misra-bhakti is a different thing. It is bhakti mixed with jnana,

not jnana mixed with bhakti. In jnana-misra-bhakti, bhakti is predominant.

This kind of bhakti is mixed with knowledge of the majesty of God and

leads to attaining Narayana in Vaikuntha or Krsna in Dvaraka.

Sattviki-bhakti, on the other hand, is a manifestation of bhakti in the

material mode of goodness (sattva-guna). She mercifully manifests in this

form to facilitate those desirous of merging with Brahman. It is this kind

of bhakti that Advaitins speak of as a means to an end (sayujya-mukti), in

which she (bhakti) vanishes.


I have never seen any verse that clearly supports the idea that one can

fall from sayujya-mukti although Srila Prabhupada often writes in such a

way as to imply that it is possible. Nonetheless, Srila Prabhupada's

emphasis is valid: impersonal liberation is undesirable. It amounts to

only one half of the equation of mukti and is thus incomplete. This does

seem to open the door to the remote possibility of changing one's status

in sayujya, either for the better or the worse, but I have not seen any

supporting sastra pramana (scriptural evidence) or interpretation of

sastra that would be universally acceptable.


Questions or comments may be submitted at the Q&A Forum

http://www.swami.org/sanga/ or email sangaeditor@swami.org.



Moderator: sangaeditor@swami.org

Tuesday May 4 2004, Vol. VI, No. 8

Readership: 11,797

Back issue archive: http://www.eScribe.com/religion/sanga

Sanga website: http://www.swami.org/sanga

Audarya Bookstore: http://www.swami.org/merchant.mv


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Why is the goddess shown boar faced? What is relation between tantricism , Buddhism and Saivism ? Please guide

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Of the same facts, like in Gayatri mantra, everybody chants this. But they understand it in different ways according to thier inclination and consciousness.


Depending on your level thats the way you know it. According to Vaishnavas the highest understanding is Gayatri Mantra describes the Vraja-lila.

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According to Vaishnavas and especially according to Gaudiya Vaishnavas!! This is important!! Don't forget to mention or understand that vaishnavas are not just about the gaudiyas of Bangals. There are the followers of Lord Rama!! And they are not strictly Gaudiyas!

Your highest understanding of the Gayatri is incomplete!

And I will tell you why!! You absolutely forget to mention and pray to the great sage of all times - Shri Vishwamitra!! He was no Gaudiya, nor a chaitanya devotee! HE was tantric and mantric and a complete yogi!!

He revealed Gayatri to this world from the centre of the Sun. Gayatri is light! gayatri is the spiritual light emenating fromthej heart of the sun that is able to burn all the sins and purify!! And Vishwamitra made gayatri appear in her Goddess form. This was the boon he gave to the world!

no chanting of Gayatri mantra is ever complete without the proper dhyana of Vishwamitra rishi. This is Vedic knowledge! This is Rishinyadinyasa!! That you do not follow! Gaudiya is good in theor own line of Bhakti, but it cannot represent the complete vedic culture. Need a counter point? Yes I know waht you use. It is - everything emanates from God and God is Krishna (Krsna) alone. So pray to him and forget the rest! Why read all these Vedas? Become a gopi! Yes that is also a way! Depends on your level and inclination.

So, as I said the highest level of Gayatri can come from the Rishi of teh mantra Gayatri - Vishwamitra. He was even the Guru of Krishna in his previous incarnation as Rama.


Om Namah Shivaya!!




Of the same facts, like in Gayatri mantra, everybody chants this. But they understand it in different ways according to thier inclination and consciousness.


Depending on your level thats the way you know it. According to Vaishnavas the highest understanding is Gayatri Mantra describes the Vraja-lila.

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