In the first verse, ārādhyo bhagavān, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has explained in a highly condensed form the doctrine of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In this verse, sambandha-, abhidheya- and prayojana-tattva have been described in an exceedingly beautiful way in accordance with the siddhānta accepted by Śrī Gauḍīya gosvāmīs.
Vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam. This verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.11) describes the Supreme Absolute Truth (advaya-jñāna para-tattva), who, although non-dual, is realized in three aspects, which appear distinct from each other. These are brahma, Paramātmā and Bhagavān. The highest realization is Bhagavān, the Supreme Person who is the cause of all causes and the controller of all controllers. He is full in six opulences and is the origin of the universe, although He Himself has no origin. The imperfect vision of only the cit, or knowledge, feature of bhagavat-tattva has been called brahma realization. In the Upaniṣads this has been called nirviśeṣa-brahma, and it is the bodily lustre of Bhagavān. In yoga-śāstra, the partial realization of the sat and cit features of the omnipotent Supreme Truth has been called Paramātmā realization. Such realization is to know Viṣṇu, who measures the size of the thumb and who is situated splendidly within the heart of every jīva, as the witness or regulator of the fruits of action.
There are also two divisions of bhagavat-tattva, namely aiśvarya-pradhāna and mādhurya-pradhāna. Aiśvarya-pradhāna, the bhagavat-tattva that is complete in six opulences, reigns over Vaikuṇṭha in the spiritual sky in the form of Śrī Nārāyaṇa, eternally served by His associates headed by Lakṣmī. Mādhurya-pradhāna is Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is eternally present in Vraja, where He is served by the gopas and gopīs. He is especially endowed with the four types of sweetness, namely, His veṇu-mādhurī, rūpa-mādhurī, guṇa-mādhurī and līlā-mādhurī – His incomparably sweet flute, beauty, qualities and pastimes. Therefore, in the above verse, only Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara who resides in Vraja has been described as the most worshipful of all. Although brahma, Paramātmā and the whole multitude of incarnations are essentially one in principle, Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa alone is the ultimate aspect of the Supreme Truth because of His superiority in regard to śakti and His display of rasa.
The specific meaning of the phrase tad dhāma vṛndāvanam is that the sweet pastimes of Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara, who is the nectarean ocean of rasa, cannot possibly take place in Vaikuṇṭha, Sāketa (Ayodhya), Dvārakā, Mathurā or anywhere else other than in Vṛndāvana. Therefore Vraja-dhāma, being non-different from Kṛṣṇa, has been described as an equally worshipful principle. Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara is served in Vraja by His associates in dāsya-, sakhya- and vātsalya-rasa, but the sweet service of the vraja-ramaṇīs (gopīs), filled with the highest mellows of paramour love, is supreme. Among these gopīs in paramour love, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, the embodiment of mahābhāva and the crest jewel of Kṛṣṇa’s beloveds, is the best of all. Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa accepted Her sentiments and bodily complexion and appeared in this world as Śrī Gaurasundara to taste His own sweetness and to distribute nāma-prema throughout the universe. The conceptions of this very Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu have been described in a condensed form in the verse under discussion.
In the second verse, Śrī Gaura’s associate Śrīla Saccidānanda Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has extracted the essence of the conceptions of the Śrī Gauḍīya gosvāmīs and ācāryas, and has presented them as daśamūla-tattva. As if putting the ocean in a pot, he has filled this daśamūla-tattva with the concentrated essence of the cream of the Vedas, Upaniṣads, Vedānta-sūtra, Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the Gosvāmīs’ writings. Our most worshipful Śrīla Gurupāda-padma used to broadcast Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s daśamūla-tattva everywhere he went. We are therefore summarizing it here:
āmnāyaḥ prāha tattvaṁ harim iha paramaṁ sarva-śaktiṁ rasābdhiṁ
tad bhinnaṁśaṁś ca jīvān prakṛti-kavalitān tad-vimuktāṁś ca bhāvād
bhedābheda-prakāśaṁ sakalam api hareḥ sādhanaṁ śuddha-bhaktiṁ
sādhyaṁ tat-prītim evety upadiśati janān gauracandraḥ svayaṁ saḥ
The message of the Vedas received through guru-paramparā is called āmnāya. The Vedas and smṛti-śāstra (such as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam) which follow the Vedic version have been accepted as authoritative proof, as have different types of evidence such as direct perception, inasmuch as they confirm the Vedic version. From these sources of evidence, the following essential truths are established:
- Hari is the Supreme Truth,
- He is sarva-śaktimān, endowed with all potencies,
- He is akhila-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the ocean of all nectarean transcendental mellows,
- two kinds of jīvas, namely liberated and conditioned (mukta and baddha), are His separated expansions (vibhinnāṁśa-tattva),
- the conditioned souls are under the control of māyā,
- the mukta-jīvas are liberated from the influence of māyā,
- everything in existence, whether conscious or unconscious, is a manifestation of Śrī Hari and is simultaneously and inconceivably one with and different from Him,
- bhakti is the only sādhana, or means to attain the goal, and
- love for Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-prīti) is the only objective (sādhya).
Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given these teachings on the ten fundamental truths for the faithful living beings. Of these, the first is the principle of evidence, pramāṇa-tattva, and the remaining nine are prameya-tattva, the subject that is established by pramāṇa-tattva. The ten fundamental principles are analyzed here as follows:
When the Śrutis (Vedas), which are called brahma-vidyā, are received through the medium of hearing from the guru-paramparā coming from Lord Brahmā, the creator of the universe, who is the dear servant of Śrī Bhagavān, that knowledge is called āmnāya. The four Vedas, the Itihāsas (histories), the Purāṇas, Upaniṣads, ślokas, sūtras and anuvyākhyās (commentaries) – these are all included in āmnāya. Here we should understand Itihāsas to mean the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. The eighteen mahā-purāṇas, headed by Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, are indicated by the word ‘Purāṇa’. ‘Upaniṣad’ refers to the principal body of Upaniṣads such as Īśa, Kena and Kaṭha. Śloka refers to the collection of verses composed by the sages in metres such as anuṣṭup 1, and sūtra means the sūtras expressing the purpose of the Vedas written by the prominent tattva-ācāryas. Superior to the sūtra literatures are vyākhyā, or commentaries, and the other works written by those ācāryas. All these are identified by the term āmnāya. The principal meaning of the word āmnāya is Veda. The same idea has been expressed in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 7.132):
lakṣaṇā karile svataḥ-pramāṇatā-hāni
The self-evident Vedic literature is the topmost evidence of all, but if it is interpreted, its self-evident nature is forfeited.
The self-evident Veda is the crest jewel of evidence
The evidence of the Vedic literature (veda-pramāṇa) is also known as śruti-pramāṇa, or śabda-pramāṇa, the evidence of transcendental sound. Thus the Vedas, the Purāṇas, Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata, the Upaniṣads, Vedānta-sūtra and literature such as the commentaries written by Vaiṣṇava ācāryas are called āpta-vākya, or āmnāya-vākya. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī established beyond a doubt the authority of āpta-vākya or śabda-pramāṇa, and went on to prove the authority of the Purāṇas as well. He ultimately established that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the crest jewel of all sources of evidence. Using the same criteria by which he established Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam’s supreme authenticity, he has also validated the authoritative literatures revealed by Brahmā, Nārada, Vyāsa, Śukadeva, and after them in sequence Vijayadhvaja, Brahmaṇya Tīrtha, Vyāsatīrtha and so on, to tattva-guru Śrīman Madhvācārya.
From this it is clearly evident that the Brahma sampradāya is the guru-praṇālī, the paramparā, or spiritual hierarchy, of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, who have taken shelter of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Kavi Karṇapura Gosvāmī has established this very opinion in his Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā and Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī has described this guru-paramparā in his Saṁskāra-dīpikā. Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, the commentator on Vedānta-sūtra, has also accepted the same spiritual hierarchy. Our revered gurupāda-padma, Śrī Ācārya Kesarī, has supported this opinion with various logical arguments and scriptural evidence in all of his books, articles and especially in his essay entitled Acintya-bhedābheda-tattva. Śrīla Gurupāda-padma’s role in protecting his sampradāya is very significant at this present time.
The conclusions of ordinary human beings, being conditioned souls, are prone to four defects – bhrama, pramāda, vipralipsā and karaṇāpāṭava.
Even greatly learned personalities are unable to give up these faults when they reflect upon that which is transcendental, or beyond the jurisdiction of the senses, so their opinions are not flawless or reliable evidence. This means that the statements of the Vedas are the only authentic evidence regarding subject matters that are beyond the jurisdiction of material sense perception, because their origin is divine (apauruṣeya), and not human. Direct perception (pratyakṣa), hypothesis (anumāna), comparison (upamāna), history and other types of proof are useful when they are subordinate to the Vedic statements (śabda-pramāṇa). Then only can they help to a limited degree and be accepted as evidence; otherwise they cannot be accepted as evidence at all. However, the fully independent and omnipotent Supreme Lord Himself appears in the pure hearts of perfected sages and Vaiṣṇava ācāryas who are situated in the state of complete trance, and He manifests perfect knowledge in the form of Veda. Thus the authenticity of the self-manifest Veda, which is the embodiment of knowledge, is always spotless and reliable in all respects.
Only Kṛṣṇa is parama-tattva
Kṛṣṇa alone is Svayam Bhagavān, the Original Supreme Personality of Godhead, and He is the shelter of all. Śrī Kṛṣṇa alone has been called the pūrṇa-tattva or parama-tattva, the complete and topmost truth, throughout the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, Bhagavad-gītā, the Purāṇas headed by the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, and the Āgamas. He is also sarveśvareśvara, the Lord and controller of all other controlling agents. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrī Kṛṣṇa has been established as Svayam Bhagavān and advaya-jñāna para-tattva in the verses kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam (1.3.28) and vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam (1.2.11). Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the non-dual Supreme Absolute Truth, has three svarūpas, or features.
These are brahma, Paramātmā and Bhagavān. Only Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Svayam Bhagavān. His bodily lustre, the light emanating from His limbs, is called nirviśeṣa-brahma, the impersonal effulgence. Paramātmā is Bhagavān’s partial expansion who dwells within all jīvas in the form of the witness of their actions. Devotees of Bhagavān, who have taken shelter of pure bhakti-yoga and attained the darśana of Bhagavān, see His beautiful, fully transcendental form composed of eternity, knowledge and bliss.
santaḥ sadaiva hṛḍayeṣu vilokayanti
Saintly persons, whose eyes of devotion are smeared with the salve of prema, always behold Śrī Kṛṣṇa in their hearts.
Jñānīs see the Supreme Truth in the form of nirviśeṣa-brahma. Their eyes cannot see Bhagavān’s divine form because they are blinded by the dazzling effulgence of His limbs. Those who worship the Supreme Truth by taking shelter of the path of yoga realize Him in the form of Paramātmā. However, the devotees of Bhagavān see His sac-cid-ānanda form by the influence of bhakti. Vision of Bhagavān is the complete and perfect view, whereas the vision of brahma and Paramātmā is partial. The Vedas, Upaniṣads and Purāṇas prove that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Hari:
apaśyaṁ gopām anipadyamānamā
ca parā ca pathibhiś carantam
sa sadhrīcīḥ sa viṣūcīr vasāna
āvarīvarti bhuvaneṣv antaḥ
Ṛg Veda (188.8.131.52)
I saw a boy who appeared in the dynasty of cowherds and who is never annihilated. He wanders on many paths, sometimes close by and sometimes far away. Sometimes He is adorned with many-coloured garments and sometimes with garments of one colour. In this way He repeatedly exhibits His manifest and unmanifest pastimes.
śyāmāc chabalaṁ prapadye
śabalāc chayāmaṁ prapadye
Chāndogya Upaniṣad (8.13.1)
By service to Kṛṣṇa, one attains the transcendental abode of divine bliss, which is full of wonderful pleasure pastimes, and within that transcendental abode of wonders, one attains Kṛṣṇa.
The word śyāma means ‘by Kṛṣṇa’. The use of kṛṣṇa, or black, here conveys the conception of the para-tattva in its nirguṇa aspect, when it is without material qualities and can thus be represented as colourless. Conversely, the word śabala means gaura, which signifies that it is equipped with a myriad of colours, or the aggregate of all colours. In other words, the name of the para-tattva endowed with all transcendental qualities is ‘Gaura’. Therefore the confidential meaning of this mantra is that Gaura is attained by kṛṣṇa-bhajana, and Kṛṣṇa is attained by gaura-bhajana.
ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ
kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
All incarnations, beginning with Rāma and Nṛsiṁha, are the plenary portions (aṁśa) or portions of the plenary portions (kalā) of the Supreme Person Bhagavān. Only Kṛṣṇa, however, is the original Svayam Bhagavān.
mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat
kiñcid asti dhanañjaya
O Arjuna, there is nothing superior to Me.
eko vaśī sarvagaḥ kṛṣṇa īḍya
eko ’pi san bahudhā yo vibhāti
Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad (1.21)
The one controller of all, the all-pervading, unparalleled para-brahma Śrī Kṛṣṇa is worshipful for the demigods, humans and all living beings. Although He is one, He is manifest in many forms by the influence of His own inconceivable potency, and enjoys Himself by performing a variety of pastimes.
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ
I am the only subject to be known in all the Vedas.
Some people harbour the doubt that Kṛṣṇa’s name is not to be found anywhere in the Vedas, but this idea is not correct. It is only Śrī Kṛṣṇa who has been represented in the Vedas, in some places by the primary, or dictionary, usage (abhidā-vṛtti ); in others by secondary, or the figurative, sense (lakṣaṇā-vṛtti ); in some places by direct interpretation (anvaya); and in other places by indirect means of deliberation (vyatireka). We have already shown this by the śruti-mantras such as apaśyaṁ gopām anipadyamānamā and śyāmāc chabalam. In Ṛg Veda (184.108.40.206), Bhagavān’s pastimes have been described in this way:
tā vāṁ vāstūnyuśmasi gamadhyai yatra gāvo
atrāha tad urugāyasya vṛṣṇaḥ paramaṁ
padam avabhāti bhūri
I desire to attain Your (Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s) abodes, wherein the acclaimed kāmadhenus, wish-fulfilling cows, have excellent horns and are capable of bestowing my heart’s desired wealth. This supreme abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the fulfiller of the desires of His devotees, is illuminated to the fullest extent.
This Vedic mantra describes the charm and beauty of Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa and of His beloved cows. There are numerous places in the Vedas in which descriptions such as this are primary, i.e., according to standard dictionary usage. Elsewhere, Kṛṣṇa has been described taking the secondary sense, lakṣaṇā-vṛtti: ayam ātmā sarveṣāṁ bhūtānāṁ madhu … ayamātmā sarveṣāṁ adhipatiḥ sarveṣāṁ bhūtānāṁ rājā (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 2.5.14, 15). These mantras allude to Śrī Kṛṣṇa indirectly, saying that He is the honey, the master and the king of all states of existence. Here Kṛṣṇa is indicated by the word ātmā. This has also been stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.55): “kṛṣṇam enam avehi tvam ātmānam akhilātmanām – O King, know that Kṛṣṇa is the Soul of all souls.”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is para-brahma, ultimate bliss (paramānanda), the complete brahma and Svayam Bhagavān. This has been proclaimed clearly in verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam such as gūḍhaṁ paraṁ brahma manuṣya-liṅgam (7.10.48), yan-mitraṁ paramānandaṁ pūrṇaṁ brahma sanātanam (10.14.32) and kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam (1.3.28). Viṣṇu Purāṇa (4.11.4) has also determined that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is para-brahma by conclusive statements such as yatrāvatīrṇaṁ kṛṣṇākhyaṁ paraṁ brahma narākṛti. Similarly, in Bhagavad-gītā (14.27) we find, brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham. Our Gosvāmīs have given evidence from the śāstras supporting the conclusion that Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate aspect of para-tattva. He is the source of all incarnations and of all expansions such as Rāma and Nṛsiṁha, and He is also the basis of Paramātmā and brahma.