Relationship with the Supreme
Lord Caitanya rejected the statement cited by Rāmānanda Rāya from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa because the Lord wished to reject a class of philosophers known as Mīmāṁsakas. The followers of Karma-mīmāṁsā philosophy teach that God is subject to one’s work. Their conclusion is that if one works nicely God is bound to give good results. Thus from the statement of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa cited by Rāmānanda Rāya one might conclude that Viṣṇu, the Supreme Lord, has no independence but is bound to award a certain kind of result to the worker. Such a dependent God becomes subject to the worshiper, who accepts the Supreme Lord as both impersonal and personal, as he wishes. Actually, the Karma-mīmāṁsā philosophy stresses the impersonal feature of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Because Lord Caitanya did not like such impersonalism, He rejected it.
“Tell Me if you know something beyond this conception of the Supreme Absolute Truth,” Lord Caitanya said.
Rāmānanda Rāya understood the purpose of Lord Caitanya and, after stating that it is better to give Kṛṣṇa the results of fruitive activities, he quoted a verse from the Bhagavad-gītā (9.27):
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
“O son of Kuntī, whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you sacrifice, whatever you give away, and whatever austerity you undergo to achieve some goal, everything should be dedicated to My service.” There is a similar passage in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.36), which states that one should submit everything – all the results of the fruitive activities one performs with body, speech, mind, senses, intelligence, soul and modes of nature – to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa.
Lord Caitanya, however, also rejected this second statement, saying, “If you know of something higher, state it.”
Offering everything to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as enjoined by the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, is better than impersonally making the Supreme Lord subject to our work, but it is still short of surrendering to the Supreme Lord. A worker’s identification with material existence cannot be changed without proper guidance. Such fruitive activity will continue one’s material existence. A worker is simply instructed here to offer the results of his work to the Supreme Lord, but there is no information given to enable one to get out of the material entanglement. Therefore Lord Caitanya rejected his proposal.
After having his suggestions rejected twice, Rāmānanda proposed that one should forsake his occupational activities altogether and by such detachment rise to the transcendental plane. In other words, he recommended complete renunciation of worldly life. To support this proposal he cited evidence from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.11.32) wherein the Lord says, “In the scriptures I have described the ritualistic principles and the way one can become situated in devotional service by giving them up. That is the highest perfection of religion.” Rāmānanda also quoted Lord Kṛṣṇa’s similar statement in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.66):
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Give up all kinds of religiousness and just surrender unto Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I shall protect you from all sinful reactions, and you will have nothing to be aggrieved over.”
Lord Caitanya also rejected this third proposal from Rāmānanda Rāya, for He wanted to demonstrate that renunciation in itself is not sufficient. There must be positive engagement. Without positive engagement, the highest perfectional stage cannot be attained. Generally there are two kinds of philosophers in the renounced order of life. The goal of one is nirvāṇa, and the goal of the other is the impersonal Brahman effulgence. Such philosophers cannot imagine that they can reach beyond nirvāṇa and the Brahman effulgence to the Vaikuṇṭha planets of the spiritual sky. Because in simple renunciation there is no conception of spiritual planets and spiritual activities, Lord Caitanya rejected this third proposal.
Rāmānanda Rāya then cited more evidence from the Bhagavad-gītā (18.54):
na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām
“When by cultivation of knowledge a person realizes himself to be nondifferent from the Supreme Absolute Truth, he becomes joyful and is freed from all kinds of lamentation and material desires. At that time he perfects his Brahman realization by seeing everyone on the same spiritual level. Such Brahman realization can elevate one to the transcendental stage of devotional service.” Rāmānanda Rāya first suggested devotional service with renunciation of the fruits of one’s work, but here he suggests that devotional service with full knowledge and spiritual realization is superior.
Lord Caitanya, however, also rejected this proposal because simply by renouncing material results in Brahman realization one does not realize the spiritual world and spiritual activities. Although there is no material contamination when one attains the stage of Brahman realization, in that stage one is still not perfectly pure because there is no positive engagement in spiritual activity. Because it is still on the mental plane, it is external. The pure living entity is not liberated unless he is completely engaged in spiritual activity. As long as one is absorbed in impersonal thoughts or in thoughts of the void, one’s entrance into an eternal, blissful life of knowledge is not complete. When spiritual knowledge is not complete, one will be hindered in his attempt to cleanse the mind of all material variegatedness. Thus impersonalists are frustrated in their attempts to make the mind void by artificial meditation. It is very difficult to void the mind of all material conceptions. In the Bhagavad-gītā (12.5) it is stated that those who indulge in such impersonal meditation find it very difficult to make spiritual advancement. In addition, whatever state they do attain is not complete liberation. Therefore Lord Caitanya rejected it.
After his fourth proposal was rejected, Rāmānanda Rāya said that devotional service rendered without any attempt at mental speculation or cultivation of knowledge is the highest stage of perfection. To support this view he gave evidence from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.3), wherein Lord Brahmā tells the Supreme Personality of Godhead:
jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva
jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām
sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir
ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyām
“My dear Lord, one should give up monistic speculation and the cultivation of knowledge altogether. He should begin his spiritual life in devotional service by receiving information of Your activities from a realized devotee of the Lord. If one cultivates his spiritual life by adhering to these principles and keeping himself on the honest path in life, then although Your Lordship is never conquered, You become conquered by the devotee following such a process.”
When Rāmānanda Rāya presented this proposal, Lord Caitanya at once said, “Yes, this is right.” In other words, Lord Caitanya agreed that this process conforms to His mission. In this age there is no possibility of acquiring spiritual knowledge by discharging one’s duties in the varṇāśrama-dharma system, by devotional service mixed with fruitive activity, by renunciation or by devotional service mixed with the culture of knowledge. Because most people are fallen and because there is no time to elevate them by a gradual process, the best course, according to Lord Caitanya, is to let them remain in whatever condition they are in but to engage them in hearing of the activities of the Supreme Lord as those activities are explained in the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The transcendental messages of the scriptures should be heard from the lips of realized souls. In this way a person may continue to live in whatever condition he is in and still make spiritual progress. Thus one can surely advance and fully realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Although Lord Caitanya accepted these principles, He still requested Rāmānanda Rāya to further explain advanced devotional service. Thus Lord Caitanya gave Rāmānanda Rāya a chance to discuss gradual advancement from the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma (the four castes and the four orders of spiritual life), through the offering of the results of fruitive activity, and through the speculative discussion of spiritual knowledge. Lord Caitanya rejected all these because in the field of executing pure devotional service there is very little use for such principles. Without self-realization, such artificial methods of devotional service cannot be accepted as pure devotional service. Self-realized, pure devotional service is completely different from all other kinds of transcendental activity. The highest stage of transcendental activity is always free from all material desires, fruitive efforts and speculative attempts at knowledge. In the highest stage one concentrates on the simple, favorable execution of pure devotional service.
Rāmānanda Rāya could understand the motive of Lord Caitanya, and therefore he stated that attainment of pure love of Godhead is the highest perfectional stage. In the Padyāvalī there is a very nice verse which is said to be composed by Rāmānanda Rāya himself. The meaning of the verse is: “As long as there is hunger in the belly and one feels like eating and drinking, one can become happy by taking various eatables. Similarly, there may be much paraphernalia for worshiping the Supreme Lord, but only when that worship is mixed with pure love of Godhead does it become an actual source of transcendental happiness.” Another verse composed by Rāmānanda Rāya states, “Even after millions and millions of births of pious activities, one cannot achieve a sense of devotional service, but if somehow or other one desires to attain devotional service, the association of a pure devotee will make it possible. Thus from any available source one should try to acquire a strong desire to engage in devotional service.” In these two verses, Rāmānanda Rāya has described the regulative principles and developed love of Godhead, respectively. Lord Caitanya wanted to bring him to the stage of developed love of Godhead, and He wanted him to speak from that platform. Thus the discussion between Rāmānanda Rāya and Lord Caitanya will now proceed on the basis of love of Godhead.
If love of Godhead is elevated to personal affinity, it is called prema-bhakti. In the beginning of prema-bhakti a particular relationship between the Supreme Lord and the devotee is not established, but when prema-bhakti develops, a relationship with the Supreme Lord is manifested in different transcendental flavors. The first stage is servitude, wherein the Supreme Lord is accepted as the master and the devotee as His eternal servitor. When Lord Caitanya accepted this process, Rāmānanda Rāya described the relationship between the servitor and the master. He cited a verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (9.5.16) spoken by Durvāsā Muni, a great mystic yogī who considered himself very elevated and envied Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, who was known as the greatest devotee of the time. In an attempt to harass Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, Durvāsā Muni had met with a great catastrophe and been defeated by the Sudarśana cakra of the Lord. Durvāsā Muni admitted his fault and said, “For pure devotees who are always engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, whose very name is sufficient for liberation, nothing is considered impossible.”
In the Stotra-ratna (43), Yāmunācārya writes: “My Lord, those who keep themselves independent of Your service are helpless. They work on their own account and thus receive no support from superior authority. Therefore I long for the time when I shall engage fully in Your transcendental loving service without any desire for material satisfaction and without hovering on the mental plane. Only when I engage in such unalloyed devotional service will I enjoy actual spiritual life.”
Upon hearing this statement, the Lord requested Rāmānanda Rāya to go still further.