Found in Sanga, Sanga 2004.

The Demons Within

September 23rd, 2004 | No Comments

Q. What can you tell me about Vyasadeva? Did he write all of the Vedas?

A. The life of Krishna Dvaipayana (Vyasa), the legendary editor of the Vedic scriptures, is recorded in the Mahabharata. He was the son of Satyavati, a fisherman’s daughter, and the sage Parasara. Later he fathered Dhrtarastra in the womb of his brother’s wife, as per the custom should one’s brother be impotent. He also fathered Sukadeva Goswami, the celebrated speaker of Srimad Bhagavatam.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Sri Krishna Dvaipayana became a “vyasa,” or compiler of scripture. The title Vyasadeva implies that he was specifically empowered for this undertaking and is thus considered an empowered incarnation (saktyavesa) of God’s knowledge potency (jnana-sakti). According to the tradition, he mystically remains alive today and resides in the Himalayas.

In his maturity he compiled Srimad Bhagavatam. This was his final work, one that arose out of his samadhi, or spiritual trance in meditation on Krishna lila, samadhinanusmara tad vicestitum. His trance, its significance, and the compilation of Srimad Bhagavatam arising from it are discussed at length in Sri Jiva Goswami’s Tattva-sandarbha.

[Swami B. V. Tripurari’s edition of Tattva-sandarbha is available for free download here.]

It is possible that over the ages various sages have added to the scriptural legacy of Vyasadeva, editing existing works and writing others, and in so doing they may have assigned his name to their work considering it to have been empowered by him. This is one way to harmonize academic dating of the scripture with the tradition’s sense that the entire scriptural corpus of Vedas, Itihasas, and Puranas were all written personally by Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasadeva.

Q. Krishna clearly says in the Bhagavad-gita to surrender to him. In this context, what specifically does surrender mean?

A. When at the Gita’s conclusion Bhagavan Sri Krishna tells us to surrender, he means that those in whom he has awakened faith should take refuge in him alone through devotion. Such surrendered souls do not take shelter of the path of action (karma yoga), knowledge (jnana yoga), mystic yoga, or any other means to salvation, nor do they take shelter in any other god or goddess.

Sri Krishna instructs us at the Gita’s conclusion that surrender is the very life of devotion. Without the spirit of surrender, bhakti is lifeless and mechanical. In the Gita Krishna first tells us to become his devotee (man mano bhava mad bhakta). Then he tells us about the altar on which the sacrifice of devotion is to be performed and ultimately the stage on which the drama of his lila of love is enacted (mam ekam saranam vraja). That altar and stage is saranam (surrender), both for the beginner and the adept, respectively. Surrender, or saranagati, is expressed sixfold as accepting that which is favorable to devotion, rejecting that which is unfavorable, considering Krishna as one’s protector, considering Krishna as one’s maintainer, embracing humility, and submitting oneself fully to Krishna.

These six expressions of surrender are supported by five underling mental conditions: pratijna, the promise that I that will do everything favorable and give up everything unfavorable; visvasa, confidence that Krishna will protect me and thus I do not need to look elsewhere for protection to any god or mortal; nirbharata, dependence on Krishna such that I rely on him for my maintenance (the application of this principle will be different for householders and monks); dainya, humility or foregoing the enjoying spirit; atma-nivedana, forgoing the spirit of independence and embracing the sense that one is owned heart and soul by Krishna. Of the six expressions of surrender, considering Krishna as one’s maintainer is the principal characteristic (svarupa laksana) of saranagati. The other five expressions are its marginal characteristics (tatastha laksana).

Q. Adwaita Acarya was a close associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and in many temples he is worshiped in Deity form along with Mahaprabhu. Srila Prabhupada depicted Adwaita Acarya with a beard even though his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, wrote that Adwaita Acarya did not have a beard when he appeared in Caitanya lila. Why then did Srila Prabhupada establish Deities of Adwaita Acarya with a beard?

A. Adwaita Acarya has five ages in his lila: kumara (childhood), pauganda (boyhood), kishore (adolescence), yauvana (youth), and varddhakya (old age). He was present for 50 years before Mahaprabhu’s appearance and 25 years after his disappearance. Altogether his manifest pastimes lasted for 125 years and as he was the senior most among the devotees, even Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed him respect.

In spite of his apparent age, Adwaita never suffered from symptoms of old age because like Caitanya Mahaprabhu he is God himself. Once, however, Mahaprabhu chastised Adwaita for ostensibly glorifying jnana over bhakti. During this lila, Adwaita’s wife, Sita Thakurani, appealed to Mahaprabhu to desist because her husband was an old man. (He was approximately 70 at that time.)

Adwaita Acarya was thus transcendentally youthful but old at the same time. In order to stress his seniority in Caitanya lila, some Gaudiya acaryas, including Srila Prabhupada, have depicted him as bearded. This, however, does not mean that they thought Advaita Acarya suffered from old age. In this particular case, what it does illustrate is that there are details and there are principles. Srila Prabhupada and his guru agreed on the essential principles of Krishna consciousness. That is what is important. Sometimes acaryas, even when one is the guru and the other the mature disciple, differ on details.

Q. In your article With the Help of the Demons, you wrote that Bhaktivinoda Thakura described the demons of Krishna’s Vraja-lila symbolically with each of the demons representing anarthas (impediments) that must be eliminated if one is to advance from devotional service in practice (sadhana-bhakti) to pure love of God (prema-bhakti). Could you tell me how different anarthas correspond with various demons in Krishna lila?

A. Krishna’s lilas of killing demons and chastising those who exhibited demoniac qualities have been interpreted differently by various acaryas. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s interpretation is novel and very helpful for the sadhaka (practitioner) who is serious about advancing in devotional life. In his Sri Caitanya Siksamrta he writes, “The devotee who worships the holy name should first petition the Lord for the strength to cast out all these unfavorable tendencies and should pray thus before Lord Hari on a daily basis. By doing this regularly, the devotee’s heart will eventually become purified. Sri Krishna has killed a number of demons, which may arise in the kingdom of the heart. In order to destroy these problems, a devotee must cry very humbly before the Lord and admit defeat. Then the Lord will nullify all contaminations.” Bhaktivinoda Thakura then gives the following analysis of Krishna’s pastimes of killing demons in relation to impediments on the path of bhakti:

Putana (the witch) represents the pseudo guru. Sakatasura (the cart demon) represents carrying the burden of a cartload of old and new bad habits, as well as lethargy and vanity. Trinavarta (the whirlwind demon) represents false pride, which comes from material scholarship and leads to adherence to bogus philosophies. Deliverance of Nalakuvara and Manigriva (breaking the twin arjuna trees) represents arrogant pride, which comes from puffed-up prestige and is rooted in a madness for wealth. Vatsasura (the calf demon) represents a childish mentality that gives rise to a type of greediness resulting in wicked mischievousness.

Bakasura (the stork demon) represents cunning duplicity and deceptive behavior. Aghasura (the snake demon) represents cruelty and violence. The Brahma-vimohana pastime (Lord Brahma steals the cowherd boys and calves) represents mundane activities and speculative scholasticism. Dhenukasura (the ass demon) represents gross materialistic intelligence, ignorance of spiritual knowledge. The Kaliya serpent represents brutality and treachery. Krishna’s pastime of extinguishing the forest fire represents inter-communal discord among Vaishnavas. Pralambasura represents lusty inclinations and desire for personal gain and honor. The second forest fire represents disturbance of religious principles and interference with religious people by those who are atheistic.

The pastime of the brahmanas performing sacrifice represents indifference toward Krishna caused by pride because of one’s status or caste in varnasrama society. Overcoming the pride of Indra represents demigod worship and the tendency to think, “I am Supreme.” The pastime of Nanda Maharaja being captured by Varuna represents thinking that spiritual life can be enhanced by intoxication. The pastime of Nanda Maharaja being swallowed by Vidyadhara (the snake) represents rescuing the truth of Krishna consciousness from being swallowed by impersonalist philosophers.

The conch shell demon and getting the jewel that was stolen by him represent acquiring name and fame and desire for sensuous enjoyment under the plea of devotion. Aristasura (the bull demon) represents pride arising from indulging in false religions that were created by cheaters. This causes neglect of devotional service. Kesi (the horse demon) represents the false pride of feeling that “I am a great devotee and spiritual master.” Vyomasura (the demon in the sky) represents associating with thieves and other rascals and with people who put themselves forward as avataras.

In considering these demons, the sadhaka should feel free to adjust the Thakura’s analysis in a dynamic way, making it applicable to one’s own life. For example, Putana is said to represent the false guru. This may not apply to a person who has a qualified guru, therefore that devotee may think of the slaying of Putana as overcoming hypocrisy, which could apply to any of us regardless of the qualifications of our guru. Thinking of Krishna slaying Putana, we should pray that the hypocrisy in our heart, which is masquerading as something else, be exposed to us as the ugly thing that it is.

One can study a particular lila in which Sri Krishna has killed a demon and find any number of undesirable qualities in that demon. Then one can think of that lila in relation to any of those demoniac qualities that one wants to overcome. Have firm faith that Krishna can remove these undesirable qualities from your heart. Krishna is nondifferent from his name so the power he exhibited in his lila of killing demons is present in the form of his name. Beg the divine name to exhibit this power in your heart by chanting and remembering how Krishna did this previously in his lila. Anyone who chants in this way will get strength and advance in devotion. Without desiring to overcome impediments while chanting, progress will be very slow. Sadly, we see this all too often. Despite chanting for years, many experience that their taste for chanting the name of Krishna has not increased.

These topics are important to discuss. We have come to Mahaprabhu and Sri Krishna Nama for a noble cause. This cause begins within each of us, first by being sincere and then by being careful not to cheat ourselves by being complacent about our own anarthas. There is so much wealth to be had in the jewel of the holy name—nama cintamani. By the grace of the holy name all anarthas can be removed, thus clearing one’s path to prema.

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