In January 1949, Srila Guru Maharaja, Sri Dinartihara Brahmacari, Sri Sajjana-sevaka Brahmacari and Sri Gaura-narayana dasa Adhikari [the author] blessed the house of Hari-carana dasa Adhikari in Jukhiya in the district of Medinipura. They stayed there for some time and Srila Gurudeva gave philosophical lectures on sanatana-dharma, the eternal occupation of the soul, at religious assemblies in the nearby villages.
Early one morning during Srila Guru Maharaja’s sojourn in Jukhiya, Ksiroda-candra Bhuiyam, a retired judge from Mohati Grama, came for a visit. Srila Gurudeva was inside the house chanting harinama on his beads, while I [the author] was studying a book in the sweet rays of the winter sun on the veranda outside. Sri Ksiroda Babu, who was sitting on a mat nearby, asked, “What are you reading?”
I answered, “I am reading Hari-bhakti-vilasa.”
Ksiroda Babu inquired, “Who is the author?”
“Jagad-guru Srila Sanatana Gosvami.”
“Why are you not studying Sankara-bhasya by jagad-guru Sri Sankara Acarya?”
“Because Srila Sanatana Gosvami is much more authoritative than Sri Sankara Acarya.”
Ksiroda Babu exclaimed, “What did you say? The very recent Sanatana Gosvami is a greater authority than Acarya Sankara? Acarya Sankara is the direct incarnation of Sankara (Lord Siva). He is the author of the commentary on Brahma-sutra and he vanquished all the contemporary acaryas of India.”
I replied, “Without a doubt, Acarya Sankara is an avatara of devadhideva Sankara, who is one of the Supreme Lord’s gunavataras (an incarnation who embodies one of the characteristics of the Lord), and he is one of the vibhutis (opulences) of Bhagavan. According to the verse, vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.16), Sankara is the topmost Vaisnava and devotee of Bhagavan. Nonetheless, Sri Sanatana Gosvami is one of Svayam Bhagavan Sri Sacinandana’s most beloved associates, and he is also the dear-most Sri Lavanga Manjari of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. Therefore, Sanatana Gosvami’s superiority is self-evident.”
Sri Ksiroda Babu was somewhat taken aback by this answer. In the meantime, Acarya Kesari had heard the voices while he was chanting harinama inside the house and had listened attentively to the discussion. He quickly appeared on the scene, and a philosophical battle started between Ksiroda Babu and himself.
Ksiroda Babu asked, “Why don’t you have the brahmacaris study Sankara-bhasya of the Brahma-sutra?”
Gurudeva explained, “We have them study Sri-bhasya, Anu-bhasya, Govinda-bhasya and other commentaries of Vyasa’s Brahma-sutra, but not the commentary of Acarya Sankara.”
“Why not? You do not study Acarya Sankara’s commentary, even though he is an incarnation of Sankara?”
“Even though he is an incarnation of Sankara, the views in his commentary are completely fabricated. This false philosophy is in reality covered Buddhism only, and Sankara took shelter of it by the order of Bhagavan, in order to control the Buddhists who were opposed to the Vedas and the Supreme Lord. This is clearly mentioned in Padma Purana, mayavadam asat-sastram.”
“But don’t you accept the four maha-vakyas of the Vedas: aham brahmasmi, prajnanam brahma, tat tvam asi and ekam evadvitiyam, and the other clauses that Sankara has established?”
“It is not written in the Vedas or Upanisads that these four statements (vakyas) are maha-vakyas. If what you are claiming is true, then please support it with evidence.”
Ksiroda Babu was unable to answer, and sat quietly for some time.
Gurudeva went on, “The only maha-vakya in the Vedas is om ; all other clauses are secondary. Alternatively, you can say that all the clauses in the Vedas are maha-vakyas. Do you consider that the nirakara, nirvisesa, nirguna and niranjana brahma, which Sankara has established, is the same as savisesa, sarva-saktiman and ananda-maya brahma, the shelter of all transcendental qualities, established by Srila Vedavyasa?”
“Why not? All the eminent scholars of India corroborate the doctrine of Sankara.”
“Acarya Sri Ramanuja, Madhva Acarya, Nimbanditya, Visnusvami, Vallabha Acarya, Kumarila Bhatta and other learned persons have completely annihilated the doctrine of Sankara. The nirvisesa, nihsaktik, nirakara brahma can never be ananda-svarupa or ananda-maya. This philosophy is just a kind of hidden Buddhism.”
Ksiroda Babu said, “Your statement is thoroughly confusing. Acarya Sankara clearly established the doctrine, brahma satyam jaganmithya jiva brahmaiva na parah. Additionally, he uses the term ananda-svarupa to indicate brahma. When the jiva attains liberation from maya it becomes one with brahma and perceives ananda-svarupa brahma.”
Gurudeva explained further, “This siddhanta is only Acarya Sankara’s fabrication. It is against sastra. I can destroy Acarya Sankara’s bogus idea that brahma is ananda-svarupa, simply on the basis of its inference. Later on, I will demolish the statement that the jiva becomes brahma by merging into brahma and that the world is false. First, can you explain why you want to merge into the nirvisesa-brahma?”
“Because brahma is ananda-svarupa, the embodiment of bliss, so the jiva who merges into this brahma also becomes ananda-svarupa brahma.”
“I say that Acarya Sankara’s nirvisesa-brahma is an embodiment of stool. Do you have any objection to that? If a jiva is able to merge into ananda-svarupa brahma, then he cannot have a separate experience of it. So how, being brahma, is the jiva able to experience bliss, if by desiring to merge with nirvisesa-brahma it cannot be realized? It is only possible to experience bliss when one’s existence is separate from it. For example, anyone who tastes sugar is able to say that sugar is sweet. But if the person is turned into sugar, how can he experience his own sweetness? Similarly, how can anyone who is turned into stool experience his own bad smell? Therefore, it doesn’t make any difference whether you call nirvisesa-brahma the embodiment of bliss or the embodiment of stool. They are one and the same thing, because there is no separate taster.”
Ksiroda Babu became completely silent. He offered respects to Sri Gurudeva, lowered his head and returned to his home.
While we were staying with Srila Gurupada-padma, we observed him discussing siddhanta with prominent impersonalists (advaita-vadis) in this way. In the face of his deep personality, his brilliant language, his wealth of scriptural evidence and his strong arguments, all were humbled. We will present some of these doctrinal debates in the course of this book.
In the evening Srila Gurudeva gave a brilliant lecture on sanatana-dharma to a huge public audience nearby. For almost two-and-a-half hours, ten to fifteen thousand people sat quietly like wooden dolls, reverentially listening to his speech. The following is the essence of that lecture.
“According to the Vedas, Upanisads, Vedanta-sutra, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures, the root cause of creation and annihilation and the ultimate supreme Truth is Svayam Bhagavan. He is not subject to birth, death or destruction. He is the complete eternal Truth because He exists in the past, present and future. The meaning of the word sanatana (eternal) is sada (always) and tan (to continue), and refers to one who exists in the past, present and future. Thus the meaning of sanatana-dharma is the constitutional function of someone who is ever-existing. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.32) it is said:
aho bhagyam aho bhagyam
purnam brahma sanatanam
Oh, how greatly fortunate are Nanda Baba, Yasoda-maiya and all the other gopas and gopis of Vraja! There is factually no limit to their good fortune, because Sri Krsna, who is the abode of supreme bliss (paramananda), and the eternal and complete form of brahma, is their relative and friend.
“Here, Krsna is called the eternal, complete brahma. The jivatma is also acknowledged to be this eternal truth (sanatana-tattva) because the uncountable souls are eternal parts of the eternal supreme brahma Sri Krsna. Sri Krsna Himself calls them His eternal parts in Srimad Bhagavad-gita (15.7):
O Arjuna, I am Sarvesvara (the Lord of all). All jivas are My parts and they are eternal. Like the empty space inside a water pot, they are not fabricated or false. Due to being conditioned and opposed to Me, they are struggling intensely with the mind and the five senses in this material world.
“And also, nityah sarva-gatah sthanur acalo ’yam sanatanah (Bhagavad-gita 2.24). ‘This jivatma is changeless and immortal. It cannot be cut by any weapon, burnt by fire, moistened by water or dried by air. It is eternal, all-pervasive, unchanging, steadfast and ever-existing (sanatana).’
“Thus, according to the Vedic scriptures there are two sanatana-tattvas, or eternal principles: one is Svayam Bhagavan Sri Krsna, the undivided, complete sanatana-tattva ; and the other is the jiva, the divided and tiny sanatana-tattva. The nature of Sri Krsna, brhat-caitanya-svarupa (the embodiment of complete consciousness), is unchangeable, but if the jiva is opposed to Bhagavan, his pure nature can be covered due to his being eternal but atomic in size (anu-sanatana-tattva). But by nature, the jiva’s constitutional nature (dharma) is pure and eternal. Prema is the only sanatana-dharma of the jiva. The eternal, pure prema is service to Krsna; therefore the svarupa-dharma or sanatana-dharma of the jiva is service to Krsna.
“The pure sanatana-dharma of the conditioned living being is distorted by maya. In such circumstances, the living entity considers the dharma of the gross and the subtle body to be his dharma, because he only understands the gross and the subtle body. But the dharma of these two bodies is not sanatana-dharma, because it is perishable and prone to change. ‘I am Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist’ and ‘I am a brahmana or ksatriya’ are identifications of the gross body, so this gross dharma is not perpetual. Nowadays, pure sanatana-dharma is rarely preached due to a lack of pure understanding of the Absolute Truth. Actually the relationship of servant and master between the jiva and the Supreme Lord is eternal and ever-existing (sanatana). This relationship is what is known as sanatana-dharma. In different places in the scriptures sanatana-dharma is referred to as bhagavata-dharma or vaisnava-dharma.”
After this, Srila Gurudeva extensively preached pure sanatana-dharma, which is also known as pure bhakti-dharma. Accompanied by Sri Nagendra-govardhana Brahmacari and Sri Ganesa dasa, he preached in the towns of Kulabadi, Hamscauda, Pichlada, Jhinukkhali, Naraghata and Terapekhya. From there they travelled by boat with a party of devotees from Puri to Gadamathura Sector 7, Gadamathura Sector 5, 6 and 8, Aiplata Sector 1, Kedarpura, Aiplata Sector 2, Suryapura and various other places. He returned to the matha in Chunchura a month-and-a-half later.