Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. What is the essence or purpose of ‘sristi-lila,’ the creation? Why would God create such an imperfect world?

A. It is out of love for the jivas that God wills to become many (lokavat tu lila-kaivalyam, Vs. 2.1.33), and thus the jivas evolve from a plane of undifferentiated consciousness in which their individuality is dormant into an individual unit of will, a reflection (cid-abhasa) of God’s image with the stamp of his consciousness. From homogeneity, heterogeneity emerges. The jivas, units of will, meet material nature and express themselves in relation to her. This creates a problem for them, for these individual units of will, unlike their source, are weak in relation to material nature. Their likeness to God is qualitative, their difference quantitative. They cannot control material nature as God can.

To facilitate the jivas, God himself manifests within the world along with revealed knowledge in the form of scripture. With the help of this knowledge, the jivas can deal with material nature such that they ultimately rise above the gunas’ influence to know the love of God and share in that love with him. Although this is the plan of God, father of all souls, each soul, being an imprint of God, is constituted of will, and this will can be misused. Compared to material nature, the jiva is small. It can become overwhelmed by material nature’s influence. If the jiva does not take guidance from scripture, it is lost to bondage. As God is motivated from the start by love, the need for his intervention arises, and thus his descent as the avatara. To this end the Bhagavad-gita is spoken, that the jivas might know the love of their divine source.

The material predicament can be viewed as an unavoidable consequence of God’s love. The Paramatma who presides over material nature manifests the jivas out of love. The consequence of this act of love is the activation of the material nature and the gunas, which in turn driven by time (kala) provide a field of activity for the jivas. This field, however, is insufficient to fulfill the jivas’ search for love, nor are the jivas competent to deal with her influence alone, yet they are often unwilling to take help. To realize their potential for love, they must meet their maker. Helplessly searching the field, they cannot find themselves or their source. Bound by the three gunas, the jivas’ only hope lies in God’s act of salvation. [For past dicussions on this topic, see URL at the end of this article.]

Q. I am an organ donor. If I do this as an instrument of God, is there any karma involved?

A. Organ donating is not for one who wants to become free from the bondage of karma. We are all instruments in God’s hands in a general sense, but we want to become conscious instruments through which he brings about the salvation of others in love of God.

Q. You wrote earlier, ‘the servitude of the disciple should boarder friendship, as we find in Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Jaiva Dharma.’ If we approach the guru as a friend, doesn’t this make him an equal?

A. Pure friendship is exchanged between equals. The guru and disciple are not equals. Therefore the guru disciple relationship should be servitude mixed with friendship. We find this in Arjuna, Krishna’s friend/disciple of Bhagavad gita fame. Rupa Goswami advocates ‘visrambhena guru seva,’ affectionate service on the part of the disciple for the guru.

Q. How do we connect with spiritual love in this material world?

A. When we step back from the world and view it objectively, free from attachment to any aspect of it that might prejudice our understanding, it can be properly understood. If we then involve ourselves in the world with this understanding, we can realize love.

Q. Is there a Vaisnava ecology?

A. Yes, Vaisnavas should live in ways that are ecologically sound. This is common sense. Read my article entitled ‘Spirit of the Environment’ in my book ‘Ancient Wisdom’

Q. Can there be prema in the worship of Visnu and aiswarya in the worship of Krishna?

A. There are two kinds of love of God, prema mixed with knowledge (jnana-yukta), and exclusive (kevala) prema. Kevala prema refers only to love of Krishna in Vraja., whereas jnana-yukta prema refers to worship in love of Krishna as he appears outside of Vraja, as well as to love for Narayana, etc. Jnana-yukta prema is associated with knowledge of God’s greatness, and by its grace one can attain devotional liberation. Kevala prema is aroused by the sweetness (madhurya) of Krishna which veils knowledge of his Godhood.

Q. Bhumi is a goddess and the consort of Lord Varaha. Is she also an expansion of Srimati Radharani?

A. All sakti tattva are expansions of the svayam sakti, Sri Radha. Knowing this, we should worship her and thereby all other manifestations of sakti tattva. The earth, Bhumi, is certainly venerable, and provides support for us all. Regard for the earth, cows, trees (such as peepol), etc. is recommended in Bhaktirasamrita sindhu.

Q. Baladeva Vidyabhusana gave considerable importance to Madhvacarya’s ‘Nava Prameya.’ Bhaktivinoda Thakura reformulated them as Dasa Mula. Why nava (nine) and dasa (ten), respectively in the two versions? Why has our Western Gaudiya movement not focused greater attention on them?

A. As you point out, the importance of Prameya Ratnavali has been underscored by Thakura Bhaktivinoda, and it probably should get more attention from his modern day followers. His reformulation , however, is perhaps a bit more than that. It is distinctly Gaudiya, whereas Baladeva’s appears influenced by Madhva’s teaching with emphasis on the doctrine of visesa.

Many Gaudiya Vaisnavas outside the lineage of Bhaktivinoda Thakura play down Baladeva’s relationship with the sampradaya, if they admit it at all. They trace their lineage to one of Mahaprabhu’s associates, Nityananda, Advaita, Gadadhara, the Goswamis etc., without concern for being known as members of Madhva’s lineage. Understandably these Gaudiyas have no interest in Prameya Ratnavali. The important verse regarding the four sampradayas and the necessity of being connected with one of them cited by Baladeva in Prameya Ratnavali is not found in many editions of the Padma Purana. Thus many feel it can be dismissed.

Q. I came across a Bhagavatam purport where Prabhupada comments, “Isvara (the Supreme Lord), jiva (the living entity), prakriti (nature), eternal time and karma (activity) are all explained in the Bhagavad-gita. Out of these five, the Lord, the living entities, material nature and time are eternal. “ How do we understand material nature as being eternal?

A. What Prabhupada is referring to is the five truths that Baladeva Vidyabhusana speaks of in his Bhagavad-gita commentary. Of the five, four are eternal in that they have no beginning and no end. These four are God, the individual soul, time, and material nature (prakrti). Karma is not eternal. It has no beginning, but it can come to an end. Material nature is either manifest or unmanifest.

When it is manifest, its three constituents, sattva (intelligibility/clarity), rajas (movement/passion), and tamas (inertia/ignorance) are in an unbalanced state that manifests in both physical and psychic dimensions. When it is unmanifest, these three constituents are in a state of equilibrium. However, in either condition, manifest or unmanifest, material nature has no beginning and no end. It is one of the saktis of Godhead.

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