Q. Is a liberated devotee omniscient?
A. The omniscience of a liberated devotee is mentioned in Bhagavad-gita 15.19. Krishna describes this devotee as ‘sa sarva vid bhajante mam.’ He is sarva vit (all knowing) and thus he worships Krishna (bhajante mam).
“O descendant of Bharata, one who is undeluded knows me as the Supreme Person. He knows everything and thus worships me with his entire being.” Bg. 15.19
Baladeva comments that Krishna says in this verse, “One who knows me as I have described myself in the previous three verses, as the Supreme Person, is all-knowing (sarva-vit).” Visvanatha Cakravarti clearly explains that such souls are all-knowing in the sense that they know the actual meaning and tattva of all the scriptures. They are not omniscient in every respect. Baladeva Vidyabhusana says further that those who do not know Krishna in this way, even if they worship him, are not his devotees. And if they know everything else in the Vedas but do not understand this point they gain nothing.
Advaitin Madhusudana Saraswati comments that the undeluded are those who know that Krishna is not merely a human being. They know that he is the Supreme Person himself. Such undeluded persons are all-knowing (sarva-vit) because they know Krishna, who is all-pervasive and thus all-knowing.
The ninth Adhikarana of the fourth pada of the fourth adhyaya of Vedanta Sutra discusses the omniscience of the liberated soul over two sutras (15-16). There it is declared that the liberated soul is omniscient. However, the context reveals that this refers to one who has attained videha mukti, or liberation involving release from the body, as opposed to the condition of jivanmukti, in which one, while liberated, remains in this world pending final release. The liberated soul who has attained vastu siddhi and has thus gone ‘back to Godhead’ is all knowing through his aura. He can hear the prayers of his disciples even while absorbed in Krishna lila.
Q. In the last Sanga you wrote, ‘Over the last 500 years we have seen this happen in the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, and it may very well be time (referring to the guru disciple relationship) to adjust it once again.’ I am curious to know what you believe needs to be adjusted.
A. I think the exchange between guru and disciple should be more intimate with less aisvarya (awe and reverence). The servitude of the disciple should boarder friendship, as we find in Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Jaiva Dharma.
Q. You mean the standards of the past don’t apply anymore?
A. I mean that the form in which the guru disciple relationship expresses itself can and does change from time to time. For example, although in recent years opulent worship of the Guru came to be the standard in some well known institutions, that has not always been the standard in every Gaudiya institution. This standard may change in accordance with time and circumstances. The objective is to create an atmosphere in which the knowledge and love the guru represents is honored for the benefit of all concerned. There may be different ways to accomplish this.
Q. In the last Sanga you wrote about the importance of, “receiving the mantra from a realized person and culturing its essence under his or her guidance.” Are you a realized guru? My experience has made me wary of claims to esoteric exclusivity. What is it one gets from receiving the mantra from a realized guru that one wouldn’t get from reading about it in your literature?
A. If the mantra is given by a guru who has realized its import, the guru’s standing in divine faith – his experience – is shared with the disciple in seed form. When the guru imparts the mantra, he does not merely utter syllables into the disciple’s ear. He also conveys a subtle impression of his own experience. Regarding the literature, it is unanimous in its emphasis on hearing from a realized soul.
I am not sure your apprehension regarding claims of exclusivity is warranted. It may be more a reaction than anything else. Although I empathize with your fear of misrepresentation, I am confident that proper representation does exists. You ask if I fall into this category. Some people feel that way and I am reciprocating with them accordingly, others may not. I do not begrudge them but encourage them to look elsewhere. You are welcome to visit with me personally anytime here at Audarya and decide for yourself. If you are interested, let me know. Our staff will make the necessary arrangements.
Q. What are the differences between a sat, siksa and diksa guru?
A. A sat guru is a fully realized guru. This implies that there may be less than fully realized gurus who can also help us according to their developing realization. However, they should be advanced devotees who are progressing at such a rate that the seed for material life that remains in their heart has no opportunity to manifest. Others may have uprooted this seed altogether but have yet to fully manifest the fruits of love of God. Either of these two persons can be very helpful to us.
A sat guru is fully developed in terms of love of God and will be even more helpful. Any of these gurus can act as diksa or siksa gurus. The diksa guru gives initiation into the mantra, and the siksa guru gives instructions that water the seed of initiation. The diksa guru is usually also a siksa guru, but it may come to pass (especially after the passing of one’s diksa guru) that one finds another siksa guru as well. Generally the diksa guru is singular, whereas the siksa guru can be plural in number.
Q. Are you pro-ritvik? What is your position?
A. I do not agree with the present ‘ritvik’ position. I am in the Gaudiya guru parampara and I would like to continue it, not end it.
Q. How can it be said that Vaikuntha is ‘lower?’
A. Vaikuntha is lower only in the sense that it does not include the possibility of love in intimacy. Otherwise, all souls there are pure and surrendered to Narayana.
Q. Why is it said that Prahlad is in santa rasa if in the Bhagavatam he prays not to save himself but to save all the fools of this world?
A. Prahlada does not represent one who does active service in the nitya lila, as for instance Hanuman does, the example of dasya bhakti. Prahlada is an example of perfection through smaranam, in which he contemplates the form of the Lord but does not actively participate in his lila. However, it should be clear that santa rasa is an expression of bhakti rasa. Prahlada represents a Krishna dasa in santa rasa.
Q. Does the Gaudiya lineage accommodate spiritual plurality? Do you consider the writings of great mystics like Mirabai and Rumi to be valid experiences of transcendence?
A. Yes, I consider such experiences valid, although they do not correspond with the descriptions of spiritual love found in the Gaudiya tradition. I believe there is a real difference between the experience of Rumi and Mira and the experience of the Gaudiya saints. And this is not merely a difference of language. Reality, while uniform, is at the same time variegated. Thus there are various experiences of ultimate reality, all of which are valid yet at the same time different in some important sense.
Many insist that the plurality of spiritual paths and the experiences of saints that these paths arise from are only different ways of describing the same thing – oneness. But isn’t this doing away with plurality in the name of embracing it? If we acknowledge a gradation in transcendence and an ultimate reality or Godhead, which, while singular, is at the same time variegated, we arrive, I believe, at a greater sense of spiritual plurality.