Published on February 16th, 2022 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada | Full size image14
Sankara, India’s Greatest Impersonalist Meditated on Lord Krishna
Srila Prabhupada chastises impersonalist yogis and swamis, the nominal followers of the ninth-century teacher Sankara, in this commentary on Sankara’s Meditation on the Bhagavad Gita: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Whereas Sankara, the greatest of the impersonalists, offers his due respects to Krishna and His book Bhagavad Gita, the foolish say that we need not surrender to the personal Krishna.
Through Thy eighteen chapters
Thou showerest upon man
The immortal nectar
Of the wisdom of the Absolute.
O blessed Gita,
By Thee, Lord Krsna Himself
Afterward, the ancient sage Vyasa
Included Thee in the Mahabharata.
O loving mother,
Destroyer of man’s rebirth
Into the darkness of this mortal world,
Upon Thee I meditate.
Salutations to thee, O Vyasa.
Thou art of mighty intellect,
And thine eyes
Are large as the petals
Of the full-blown lotus.
It was thou
Who brightened this lamp of wisdom,
Filling it with the oil
Of the Mahabharata.
Sripada Sankaracarya was an impersonalist from the materialistic point of view. But he never denied the spiritual form known as sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, or the eternal, all-blissful form of knowledge that existed before the material creation. When he spoke of Supreme Brahman as impersonal, he meant that the Lord’s sac-cid-ananda form was not to be confused with a material conception of personality. In the very beginning of his commentary on the Gita, he maintains that Narayana, the Supreme Lord, is transcendental to the material creation. The Lord existed before the creation as the transcendental personality, and He has nothing to do with material personality. Lord Krsna is the same Supreme Personality, and He has no connection with a material body. He descends in His spiritual, eternal form, but foolish people mistake His body to be like ours. Sankara’s preaching of impersonalism is especially meant for teaching foolish persons who consider Krsna to be an ordinary man composed of matter.
No one would care to read the Gita if it had been spoken by a material man, and certainly Vyasadeva would not have bothered to incorporate it into the history of the Mahabharata. According to the above verses, Mahabharata is the history of the ancient world, and Vyasadeva is the writer of this great epic. The Bhagavad-gita is identical with Krsna; and because Krsna is the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no difference between Krsna and His words. Therefore the Bhagavad-gita is as worshipable as Lord Krsna Himself, both being absolute. One who hears the Bhagavad-gita “as is” actually hears the words directly from the lotus lips of the Lord. But unfortunate persons say that the Gita is too antiquated for the modern man, who wants to find out God by speculation or meditation.
I salute Thee, O Krsna,
O Thou who art the refuge
Of ocean-born Laksmi
And all who take refuge
At Thy lotus feet.
Thou art indeed
The wish-fulfilling tree
For Thy devotee.
Thy one hand holds a staff
For driving cows,
And Thy other hand is raised–
The thumb touching the tip
Of Thy forefinger,
Indicating divine knowledge.
Salutations to Thee, O Supreme Lord,
For Thou art the milker
Of the ambrosia of the Gita.
Sripada Sankaracarya explicitly says, “You fools, just worship Govinda and that Bhagavad-gita spoken by Narayana Himself,” yet foolish people still conduct their research work to find out Narayana; consequently they are wretched, and they waste their time for nothing. Narayana is never wretched nor daridra; rather, He is worshiped by the goddess of fortune, Laksmi, as well as by all living entities. Sankara declared himself to be “Brahman,” but he admits Narayana, or Krsna, to be the Supreme Personality who is beyond the material creation. He offers his respects to Krsna as the Supreme Brahman, or Parabrahman, because He (Krsna) is worshipable by everyone. Only the fools and enemies of Krsna, who cannot understand what the Bhagavad-gita is (though they make commentaries on it), say, “It is not the personal Krsna to whom we have to surrender ourselves utterly, but the unborn, beginningless Eternal who speaks through Krsna.” Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Whereas Sankara, the greatest of the impersonalists, offers his due respects to Krsna and His book the Bhagavad-gita, the foolish say that “we need not surrender to the personal Krsna.” Such unenlightened people do not know that Krsna is absolute and that there is no difference between His inside and outside. The difference of inside and outside is experienced in the dual, material world. In the absolute world there is no such difference, because in the absolute everything is spiritual (sac-cid-ananda), and Narayana, or Krsna, belongs to the absolute world. In the absolute world there is only the factual personality, and there is no distinction between body and soul.
Are as a herd of cows,
Lord Krsna, son of a cowherd,
Is their milker,
Arjuna is the calf,
The supreme nectar of the Gita
Is the milk,
And the wise man
Of purified intellect
Is the drinker.
Unless one understands spiritual variegatedness, one cannot understand the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. In the Brahma-samhita it is said that Krsna’s name, form, quality, pastimes, entourage, and paraphernalia are all ananda-cinmaya-rasa–in short, everything of His transcendental association is of the same composition of spiritual bliss, knowledge, and eternity. There is no end to His name, form, etc., unlike in the material world, where all things have their end. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, only fools deride Him; whereas it is Sankara, the greatest impersonalist, who worships Him, His cows, and His pastimes as the son of Vasudeva and pleasure of Devaki.
Thou son of Vasudeva,
Destroyer of the demons Kamsa and Canura,
Thou supreme bliss of Mother Devaki,
O Thou, guru of the universe,
Teacher of the worlds,
Thee, O Krsna, I salute.
Sankara describes Him as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. Does he mean thereby that he is worshiping an ordinary, material man? He worships Krsna because he knows that Krsna’s birth and activities are all supernatural. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (4.9), Krsna’s birth and activities are mysterious and transcendental, and therefore only the devotees of Krsna can know them perfectly. Sankara was not such a fool that he would accept Krsna as an ordinary man and at the same time offer Him all devotional obeisances, knowing Him as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva. According to the Bhagavad-gita, only by knowing the transcendental birth and activities of Krsna can one attain liberation by acquiring a spiritual form like Krsna’s. There are five different kinds of liberation. One who merges into the spiritual auras of Krsna, known as the impersonal Brahman effulgence, does not fully develop his spiritual body. But one who fully develops his spiritual existence becomes an associate of Narayana or Krsna in different spiritual abodes. One who enters into the abode of Narayana develops a spiritual form exactly like Narayana’s (four-handed), and one who enters into the highest spiritual abode of Krsna, known as Goloka Vrndavana, develops a spiritual form of two hands like Krsna’s. Sankara, as an incarnation of Lord Siva, knows all these spiritual existences, but he did not disclose them to his then Buddhist followers because it was impossible for them to know about the spiritual world. Lord Buddha preached that void is the ultimate goal, so how could his followers understand spiritual variegatedness? Therefore Sankara said, brahma satyam jagan mithya, or, material variegatedness is false but spiritual variegatedness is fact. In the Padma Purana Lord Siva has admitted that he had to preach the philosophy of maya, or illusion, in the Kali-yuga as another edition of the “void” philosophy of Buddha. He had to do this by the order of the Lord for specific reasons. He disclosed his real mind, however, by recommending that people worship Krsna, for no one can be saved simply by mental speculations composed of word jugglery and grammatical maneuvers. Sankara further instructs:
bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
bhaja govindam mudha-mate
samprapte sannihite kale
na hi na hi raksati dukrn-karane
“You intellectual fools, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda. Your grammatical knowledge and word jugglery will not save you at the time of death.”
Of that terrifying river
Of the battlefield of Kuruksetra
Over which the Pandavas victoriously crossed,
Bhisma and Drona were as the high banks,
Jayadratha as the river’s water,
The King of Gandhara the blue water-lily,
Salya the shark, Krpa the current,
Karna the mighty waves,
Asvatthama and Vikarna the dread alligators,
And Duryodhana the very whirlpool–
But Thou, O Krsna, wast the ferryman!
May the spotless lotus of the Mahabharata
That grows on the waters
Of the words of Vyasa
And of which the Bhagavad-gita
Is the irresistibly sweet fragrance
And its tales of heroes
The full-blown petals
Fully opened by the talk of Lord Hari,
Who destroys the sins
And on which daily light
The nectar-seeking souls,
As so many bees
May this lotus of the Mahabharata
Bestow on us the highest good.
Salutations to Lord Krsna
The embodiment of supreme bliss,
By whose grace and compassion
The dumb become eloquent
And the lame scale mountains–
Him I salute!
Foolish followers of foolish speculators cannot understand the meaning of offering salutations to Lord Krsna, the embodiment of bliss. Sankara himself offered his salutations to Lord Krsna so that some of his intelligent followers might understand the real fact by the example set by their great master, Sankara, the incarnation of Lord Siva. But there are many obstinate followers of Sankara who refuse to offer their salutations to Lord Krsna and instead mislead innocent persons by injecting materialism into the Bhagavad-gita and confusing innocent readers by their commentaries, and consequently the readers never have the opportunity to become blessed by offering salutations to Lord Krsna, the cause of all causes. The greatest disservice to humanity is to keep mankind in darkness about the science of Krsna, or Krsna consciousness, by distorting the sense of the Gita.
Salutations to that supreme shining one
Whom the creator Brahma, Varuna,
Indra, Rudra, Marut, and all divine beings
Praise with hymns,
Whose glories are sung
By the verses of the Vedas,
Of whom the singers of Sama sing
And of whose glories the Upanisads
Proclaim in full choir,
Whom the yogis see
With their minds absorbed
In perfect meditation,
And of whom all the hosts
Of gods and demons
Know not the limitations.
To Him, the Supreme God, Krsna, be all salutations–
Him we salute! Him we salute! Him we salute!
By recitation of the ninth verse of his meditation, quoted from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sankara has indicated that Lord Krsna is worshipable by one and all, including himself. He gives hints to materialists, impersonalists, mental speculators, “void” philosophers, and all other candidates subjected to the punishment of material miseries–just offer salutations to Lord Krsna, who is worshiped by Brahma, Siva, Varuna, Indra, and all other demigods. He has not mentioned, however, the name of Visnu, because Visnu is identical with Krsna. The Vedas and the Upanisads are meant for understanding the process by which one can surrender unto Krsna. The yogis try to see Him (Krsna) within themselves by meditation. In other words, it is for all the demigods and demons who do not know where the ultimate end is that Sankara teaches, and he especially instructs the demons and the fools to offer salutations to Krsna and His words, the Bhagavad-gita, by following in his footsteps. Only by such acts will the demons be benefited, not by misleading their innocent followers by so-called mental speculations or show-bottle meditations. Sankara directly offers salutations to Krsna, as if to show the fools, who are searching after light, that here ls light like the sun. But the fallen demons are like owls that will not open their eyes on account of their fear of the sunlight itself. These owls will never open their eyes to see the sublime light of Krsna and His words the Bhagavad-gita. They will, however, comment on the Gita with their closed owl-eyes to mislead their unfortunate readers and followers. Sankara, however, discloses the light to his less intelligent followers and shows that the Bhagavad-gita and Krsna are the only source of light. This is all to teach the sincere seekers of truth to offer salutation to Lord Krsna and thus surrender unto Him without misgivings. That is the highest perfection of life, and that is the highest teaching of Sankara, the great learned scholar whose teachings drove the voidist philosophy of Buddha out of India, the land of knowledge. Om tat sat.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada