Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. In your October editorial you wrote the following: “Compassion for humanity is the shadow of spiritual compassion that one must pass through to enter the heart of God-conscious empathy.” Could you write more about this?
A. Thakura Bhaktivinoda says it like this:

sakale sammana korite sakati deho ‘natha yatayatha
tabe to’ gaibo hari nama suke aparadha ha’be hat

“O Lord! Give me the power to properly honor everyone equally, for then I will be able to chant the holy name happily, free from offense.”

Our perfection lies in chanting purely, free from offense, and this involves appropriately honoring all living beings. Others are not to be seen as objects of exploitation, which is the unfortunate result of material attachment. When we become materially attached to someone, we objectify him or her and deny them their own life in relation to God, making them objects of our sense indulgence. We are to see all living beings as manifestations of God—his sakti.

For the spiritual practitioner, true morality and compassion for others beyond convention is the result of seeing God in the world. The neophyte lacks strong moral fiber and compassion for others due to his underdeveloped realization of the all-encompassing nature of his object of love.

Q. Can books on morality or positive thinking be helpful to those who want to attain the ideal of bhakti?

A. Books discussing the value of moral life and good character can be helpful for those who come to bhakti without these things in place. Indeed, many of Prabhupada’s purports focus on these and other subjects that are not core Gaudiya material, but are foundational to spiritual life. Ultimately we must broaden our understanding of the object of our love such that it includes all things animate and inanimate, seeing them as Krishna’s energy. Then we will cease to exploit the world for the purpose of our senses and utilize instead everything in the service of Krishna. Thus the circle of moral life is included within the larger circle of spiritual experience.

Q. I would like to know where I could find the Govinda Bhasya commentary on the Brahma Sutras. I would like to read a proper commentary on the Brahma Sutras written by scholars of the Sri Chaitanya sampradaya.

A. In the Garuda Purana it is stated that the Bhagavata is the natural commentary on the sutras of Vyasa and the Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept it as such. Accordingly, Jiva Goswami has written a sixfold treatise on the Vedanta of the Bhagavatam known as Sat-sandarbha. The first part of this important treatise is called Tattva-sandarbha. This book is available from our website in a very readable English edition with elaborate commentary. There are a number of translations of Govinda Bhasya available in India but to date there is no English edition that has been rendered by a true practitioner of Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

Information on Tattva-sandarbha is available at

Q. How can we understand demonic persons and the good and evil things that happen in this world? In both cases, are we simply reaping the results of karma and or is Krishna doing these things directly?

A. Demoniac persons are those who are strongly influenced by the material influences of passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas). Their natures are detailed in chapter sixteen of the Bhagavad-gita. Both good and evil in the world are under the jurisdiction of karma. Krishna is not directly involved in the good and evil of the world. When he descends as the avatara, he comes out of love for his devotees, who suffer the pain of separation from him. A by-product of this mission is that the overly demoniac are vanquished and thereby liberated.

Q. Why do the six opulences of Bhagavan not include love?

A. The definition of God given by Parasara Muni in which he explains the word Bhagavan as he who possesses (van) all opulence (bhaga) is for the most part in reference to Narayana. The six opulences are wealth, strength, beauty, fame, knowledge, and renunciation. With regard to Krishna, as opposed to Narayana, the opulence of beauty also implies charm and affection.

Jiva Goswami has defined Bhagavan as bhajaniya-guna-visista, which Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja translates as “He whose nature is such that whoever comes in touch with him cannot resist feeling moved to worship and adore his charming personality.” This explanation is in line with that which is offered by Parasara Muni, but with emphasis on Krishna himself, as opposed to the general conception of Bhagavan as four-armed Narayana.

According to Jiva Goswami, the word Bhagavan is derived from ‘Bhagavavan.’ Sri Jiva says that the ‘a’ in the syllable ‘va’ is elided enabling the two ‘v’s’ to join and become a single letter. Thus Bhagavavan becomes Bhagavan and means he who possesses (van) bha, ga, and va. Bha represents bharta, which implies the power to nourish or maintain. Krishna possesses the power to maintain and nourish his devotees. Ga stands for gamayayita. It means he who has the power to grant love of God or bring God’s devotees to his abode. Va stands for the verb vas, which means to reside. Bhagavan is he in whom everything resides, and he who resides in the hearts of his devotees.

Krishna is not merely Bhagavan, he is svayam bhagavan. He possesses four qualities that even God (Narayana) does not possess. He plays a sweet flute (venu madhurya), he has a sweet form (rupa madhurya), he has sweet pastimes (lila madhurya), and he has intimate loving dealings with his devotees (prema madhurya).

Q. In a previous Sanga you said: “When an advanced devotee who is cultivating a particular relationship with Krishna purely chants the Lord’s names that are most dear to him, that chanting is relative to his particular relationship with Krishna.” Do you mean chanting something other than the Hare Krishna maha-mantra? I thought all you needed to attain perfection was the maha-mantra? Aren’t all the names of Krishna contained in the maha-mantra? What would be the need to chant anything else?

A. Yes, the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is perfect. As one advances, he or she will develop a particular taste and sentiment and chant with this in mind and heart. For example, one may develop spiritually in terms of gopi bhava and chant the mantra with this sentiment, understanding Rama to be a name for Krishna and Hare to be a name for Radha (the vocative of Hara/harana).

Another may develop the sentiment of a particular group of gopas (cowherd boys) who have no direct involvement in Krishna’s love affairs with the gopis and conceive of Rama in the mantra as Balarama and Hare as the vocative of Hari, a name for Krishna. The name Krishna can also mean different things to different devotees, such as Krishna of Dvaraka, Krishna of Vrindavana, etc. However, the maha-mantra consisting of three names—Krishna, Rama, and Hare—is not the only nama-mantra devotees chant. One may also chant other names of God relative to one’s particular type of love for God (bhava).

Q. In Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam (Life Nectar of Surrendered Souls) by Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami it is stated: “Some consider saranagati (surrender) to be that God consciousness which is realization of the one non-differentiated nature in all beings and objects, by seeing the Supreme Lord as the indwelling Supersoul of everything. However, such a conception falls within the category of calculative devotion (jnana-bhakti). It is not in the line of unadulterated pure devotion (suddha-bhakti)”

What is meant here by the term calculative devotion?

A. By “calculative devotion” Srila Sridhara Maharaja means devotion in which knowledge of the Godhood of Krishna is predominant. To the extent that one’s bhakti is colored by knowledge of Krishna’s supreme position, one serves him because he is God. Thus calculation is involved, whereas in general the Vrajavasis’ love is devoid of any such calculation. They love and serve Krishna not because he is God, but simply out of love for him—a love so strong that it obscures the fact that he is God.

The most complete sense of non-calculative devotion is embodied in the gopis. Whereas in Vraja, Yasoda, Sridama, and Raktaka, etc. love Krishna, their love is to some extent based on their relationship with him as mother, friend, and servant, respectively. Krishna is the son of Yasoda, and thus based on this relationship there is a good reason for her to love him, as there is for his friend Sridama and his servant Raktaka. Their love is called sambhandanuga/raganuga. The gopis on the other hand have no apparent relationship with him. Indeed, they belong to others. In Vraja there is no legitimate reason for them to love Krishna. Their love is causeless (ahaituky), and it will stop at nothing (apratihata), and this love fully satisfies Krishna (yayatma suprasidati). Their love is called kamanuga/raganuga, because it is based on desire (kama) alone rather than any acceptable relationship that would warrant their love.

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