Doctrines of Sri Chaitanya IV

December 1929

The question that should naturally arise at this stage is, ‘Is it possible for the fleshy ear to receive the transcendental sound?’ To that the answer is in the affirmative; for the simple reason that the Absolute is self-communicative and requires no other co-operation for His appearance to the free consciousness of the individual soul than the latter’s unconditional wiling submission. Can He also communicate the willingness for such submission? He can, and as a matter of fact does, communicate by degrees the willingness for submission as the result of communion with Himself.

If we ask further, ‘Why does not the Absolute appear to the other senses at first?’ The answer is that He appears fully, or in other words to all the senses, by gradual stages. In the initial form He appears to the spiritual ear as transcendental sound. Thence He appears on the tongue, then to eye, then to all the spiritual senses, then as a person engaged in various activities and lastly in actual active relationship with the perceiving soul.

He appears to the ear in order to give Himself away. If He is received by the ear He becomes our own and begins to connect Himself with us. He now begins to speak with our tongue. He then sees with our eye. And so on. Of all the organs of sense appertaining to the fleshy house in which the individual soul happens to be confined in this world it is the tongue alone that can communicate any information regarding anything and that also only to the ear. This nature of the tenement of clay coincides with the order of appearance of the Absolute to the spiritual senses.

In the spiritual realm the senses are not hampered in their activities by any disruptive limitations. But in approaching the Absolute with his present defective senses the material mind has no option but to follow a procedure that is in accordance with the special nature of the sense-organs of the physical body. The transcendental sound is declared by the Scriptures to be the form in which the Absolute makes His appearance to fettered souls. The soul is then taught by the sound to serve the Absolute by his spiritual senses. The devotee is privileged to see, hear and touch the Absolute by his spiritual senses. In the Iron Age the Supreme Lord appears to mortals in the highest form of the holy Name on the tongue of His devotees. This is the special privilege of the Kali Age and the Divinely ordained spiritual method by which alone the absolute may be realised. It is the best of all methods and the one to which all the other methods described in the Shastras should lead. But the other shastric methods are impracticable in the Iron Age which is too much given to materialistic speculations. In every Age the Absolute appears in this world as the spoken word which is recorded in the revealed scriptures. But access to the spoken word is obtained in every Age by methods which are also laid down for the Age in question by the Word Himself. The most potent of these methods, viz. that of taking the Name of the Lord, is enjoined by the scriptures as the dispensation of the present Age. It is not a new path but the only path, being identical with the Goal Himself. The differences between the dispensations for the respective ages are only external. They are all essentially the same. In this case the inner significance is everything. The form spiritual is not external nor optional being identical with the principle underlying it, although to our limited understanding the different forms appear to be really different.

Our ear finds no apparent difference between the transcendental sound even when it actually makes its appearance and ordinary mundane sound. This is naturally so because the fleshy ear on its own initiative can recognise only mundane sound. The transcendental sound is appearing in this world without break or intermission but is imperceptible to the unsubmissive fleshy ear. It comes spontaneously within the ken of the spiritualised ear when it manifests itself on the tongue of sadhus, although the unsubmissive ear necessarily regards it as identical with ordinary sound. But if we seek with sincere faith the help of sadhus we are enabled by the grace of sadhus to realise the transcendental nature of the devotee and of everything that he does. Any relationship with a sadhu as sadhu tends to produce this result. Every one of us is potentially a sadhu that is the exclusive spiritual servant of the Supreme Lord. There is only one conduct for everybody. That conduct is to be learnt from one who knows it. By any other conduct we reap only ignorance. That is the sterile and negative alternative. That is the terrible logical punishment of dogmatic atheism.

By behaving towards a sadhu in a friendly way one is enabled by such connection to realise gradually the Absolute as well as his own distinctive position in the Absolute. This realisation revealing the imperative personal interest at stake inclines one to listen earnestly, that is with the view of actually carrying out the instructions of the devotee. This is the stage of sincere listening. Its substantive beginning is known as diksha (mistranslated as ‘initiation’) which means the whole of the above process leading to spiritual enlightenment and sin-less-ness. The apparently external ‘ceremony’ of formality, which is essential, consists in submitting to receive the holy Name and mantra, which are identical, in the form of the transcendental sound from the lips of the spiritual teacher.

The neophyte is responsible for the choice of the right spiritual preceptor. Everything else in the way of initiative rests with the preceptor, not only at the time of diksha but always. The act of willing submission to the Sad-guru (eternal superior) forms the first conscious experience and the eternal basis of the free spiritual life. The Sad-guru forms the eternal connecting link between the devotee and the Absolute. He is the sole support of his normal enlightened existence.

This enables us to obtain an idea of the real nature of the spiritual community. The spiritual community consists of the Sad-guru and his disciples. It implies an unbroken succession of spiritual preceptors. It implies identity of the spiritual function obtained by submission to the Sad-guru with that revealed in the holy scriptures. The Word which reveals Himself in the scriptures possesses the power of communicating the knowledge of Himself only in the form of the transcendental sound appearing on the tongue of the Sadguru to those who sincerely submit to receive Him from him. The scriptures are not automatically self-revealing. They are revealed by the devotees that is by the Sad-guru speaking through the devotees. True, the instructions which the devotees communicate are identical with those that are carefully and minutely recorded in the scriptures. But the Word appears in this world in His living and effective form as transcendental sound on the tongue of the Sad-guru. In the form of the written record the scripture is a sealed book to any except the devotee. The Sad-guru holds the key that admits the submissive disciple to the meaning of the scriptures by degrees. For this reason it is also impossible for one who does not want to realise the meaning of the scriptures by the method of willing and sincere submission to the Sad-guru, to understand that the instructions of the guru are identical with the written record of the scriptures. The Sad-guru alone can explain the shastras to sincere souls who submit to be enlightened.

It is only in this sense that the recorded word of the scriptures is the unconditional and only evidence of the Absolute available in this world. The evidence supplied by sensuous perception, inference, analogy and experience of past occurrences (historical evidence) are secondary and strictly subordinate to the evidence of the revealed scriptures.

The evidence of the scriptures are made accessible only by the grace of the Sad-guru and within the spiritual community formed by his disciples in the process of carrying out his instructions. The scriptural evidence in an un-alloyed form has been thus preserved in the Brahma community. There exist four truly spiritual communities in this Kali Age of which the Brahma community, named after its founder, is one. The Brahma community was recognised by Sri Chaitanya who received His diksha from the acharya of this community.

But Sri Chaitanya did not wholly accept the view of any of the four schools. He gave to the world His original theory of inconceivable simultaneous distinction and non-distinction as the relation between the individual soul and Sri Krishna, the Absolute Personality. Sri Chaitanya thereby perfected the philosophy and practice of Vaishnavism reconciling all differences that had up till then divided the four traditional schools. The philosophical system and practice of Sri Chaitanya which have produced quite a host of exponents occupying positions of admitted eminence as scholars and devotees, offer the most comprehensive, as well as rationalistic, treatment of the entire body of the scriptural literature of this country and by implication also of every other part of the world.

Sri Chaitanya accepted as the basis of His system the holy eternal Form, consisting of the principles of existence, cognition and joy, of the concrete-absolute Personal Godhead, Sri Krishna. The system of Sri Madhvacharya lays special emphasis on the holy Form of Sri Krishna. It is this consideration which lead Sri Chaitanya to prefer the Madhva School and acknowledge it as the basis of His own system. In as much as the Absolute by His very nature happens to be universal and indivisible. Thakur Bhaktivinode in expounding the principles of the Madhva-Gaudiya system, embodying the teachings and practice of Sri Chaitanya and His associates, has been led by sheer logical necessity to make the significant prediction that in the near future all atheistic schools will merge in the Brahma Sampradaya by accepting Sri Chaitanya’s exposition of the philosophy and practice of the eternal and universal function of the pure individual soul.

(To be continued)