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Thread: Should we meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

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    Should we meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

    Namaste

    Should we meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

    Note:

    Recently here in the Hare Krishna forum a question was asked by Samraat Bhismadeva Maurya as to what is Brahman and whether the Lord Krishna is Brahman?
    The answer was that Lord Krishna is this Brahman or The Supreme. So the search for the Supreme Brahman precisely is The search for Sri Krishna.

    Now, the purpose of this thread is to further examine the question what is the goal which should be achieved in the spiritual life of a Vaishnava devotee? Should a Vaishnava devotee meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna? Is it the ultimate goal in the spiritual life to achieve impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

    There are many statements in the scriptures which lead to the notion that it is not the impersonal Brahman the ultimate goal but it is actually the Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna - who is the ultimate goal to be achieved and to be dedicated to in the spiritual life!

    Much could be said about Brahman but essentially Brahman has two different aspects or features:

    a) Personal aspect (deva, Bhagavan) in which He is manifested as the Supreme person of God. In this aspect Brahman has personal characteristics such as bodily shape (form) in the form of Lord Vishnu, Narayana, Krishna, Balarama, Rama, Nrisimha, Varaha, Matsya, Sankarshana, etc.

    b) Impersonal aspect in which Brahman is not manifested as a person of God, but as impersonal Brahman. In this aspect Brahman has no personal characteristics such as bodily shape (form) but is described as "light" or "glow" of Bahman, ie brahmajyoti (brahma - Brahman, jyoti - glow) which is explained in the Gaudiya vaishnava tradition to be Lord Krishna's bodily luster. There are statements in the scriptures to this effect.

    If you are interested to know more about the relationship that exists between impersonal Brahman and Lord Krishna who is the Personal Brahman then read the passage from the Bhagavad gita 12.1-8:

    Bg 12.1 Arjuna inquired: Which are considered to be more perfect, those who are always properly engaged in Your devotional service or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?

    Bg 12.2 The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect.

    Bg 12.3-4 But those who fully worship the unmanifested, that which lies beyond the perception of the senses, the all-pervading, inconceivable, unchanging, fixed and immovable – the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth – by controlling the various senses and being equally disposed to everyone, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all, at last achieve Me.

    Bg 12.5 For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.

    Bg 12.6-7 But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pṛthā – for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.

    Bg 12.8 Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.

    Carefully read these verses and note that here Lord Krishna makes the distinction between these two aspects of Brahman, and also He makes the distinction between two types of people who meditate on these two aspects of Brahman!

    While in verse 12.1 Arjuna asks teṣāṁ ke yoga-vittamāḥ "of them who is the most perfect in knowledge of yoga?" (teṣām -- of them; ke -- who; yoga-vit-tamāḥ -- the most perfect in knowledge of yoga), then immediately in verse 12.2 Lord Krishna says that devotees who meditate on Lord Krishna's personal form are considered to be most perfect: te me yukta-tamā matāḥ "are considered by Me to be most perfect" (te -- they; me -- by Me; yukta-tamāḥ -- most perfect in yoga; matāḥ -- are considered), ie they are more perfect than those who meditate on impersonal Brahman!

    Also note that He says in verse 12.5 that those who meditate on impersonal Brahman have great difficulty on the way and their advancement is very troublesome.
    Why would anyone want to choose a less perfect path, which is moreover the troublesome?

    Vaishnavas always choosing the more perfect path, in fact they have never been interested in meditation on impersonal Brahman.

    So, from the above Bhagavad gita 12.1-8 passage we see that Lord Krishna points to Himself as the Supreme Person to be the aim of our dedication in the spiritual life and not the impersonal Brahman!

    That's for starters. If there is a need we can substantiate this topic with additional examples from the scriptures.


    ----------
    PS. Bhagavad gita quotes see at BBT, vedabase


    regards
    Last edited by satay; 06 August 2014 at 12:22 PM.

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    Re: Should we meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

    Hari Bol!
    All glories to Sri Guru and Gaurnaga,

    Dandavats Brahma-Jijnasa,

    Thanks for re-opening the thread.

    But then in Bhagavad Gita 14.27

    brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham
    amṛtasyāvyayasya ca
    śāśvatasya ca dharmasya
    sukhasyaikāntikasya ca

    brahmaṇaḥ — of the impersonal brahmajyoti; hi — certainly; pratiṣṭhā — the rest; aham — I am; amṛtasya — of the immortal; avyayasya — of the imperishable; ca — also; śāśvatasya — of the eternal; ca — and; dharmasya — of the constitutional position; sukhasya — of happiness; aikāntikasya — ultimate; ca — also.

    And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.

    So by this, he is saying that the impersonal Brahman is the nature of ultimate happiness and it eternal :/
    But if so, then why do people fall down from the Brahma-Jyoti?

    Srila Prabhupada said that an impersonal Brahman effulgence (jyoti-spiritual light) is a fallen condition, so then does this not contradict with the shastra?
    "Hare Krisha Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare" ¬ The Glorious Mahamantra. Chant this 108 times a day and keep Samsara away

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    Re: Should we meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

    Deleted.
    Last edited by Viraja; 07 August 2014 at 07:24 PM.
    jai hanuman gyan gun sagar jai kapis tihu lok ujagar

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    Re: Should we meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

    Namaste
    Quote Originally Posted by Viraja View Post
    The renowned Saiva saint Arutperumjothi Ramalinga Vallalar who used to meditate just on light and who viewed that bhakti-marga on a brahman with gunas was not necessary ...
    Thanks for bringing this point. Yes indeed, there are yogis whose ultimate goal is not to focus on the Lord, the Supreme Person or Personal Brahman. They are interested in impersonal Brahman described as aguṇasya (no material qualities) or arūpataḥ (without forms), or "light", and this kind of worship is called nirguṇopāsana.
    However vaishnavas have never been interested in meditation on impersonal Brahman (nirguṇopāsana) for the reasons I explained above in post #1.

    There is an additional example that talks about this point from the Bhagavata Mahatmya section in the Padma Purana.
    http://ignca.nic.in/sanskrit/bhagavata_mahatmyam.pdf

    tvad-viyogena te bhaktāḥ kathaṁ sthāsyanti bhū-tale
    nirguṇopāsane kaṣṭam ataḥ kiṁcid vicāraya

    "To meditate on Your impersonal feature is very miserable" (Mahatmya 3.59)

    The Dictionary says kaṣṭam means "miserable,
    difficult, troublesome", but also "worst"!!!
    It perfectly matches with the above mentioned example from the Bhagavad gita 12.1-8 (I explained in post #1) because there says in verse 12.5 that those who meditate on impersonal Brahman have great difficulty on the way and their advancement is very troublesome:

    "For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied."

    It also perfectly matches with the Bhagavad gita 12.1-8 because, as I explained in post #1, Lord Krishna says that devotees who meditate on Lord Krishna's personal form are considered to be most perfect in yoga (te me yukta-tamā matāḥ), ie they are more perfect than those who meditate on impersonal Brahman! For this reason here Mahatmya 3.59 used the word kaṣṭam "worst": nirguṇopāsane kaṣṭam, because meditation on the impersonal Brahman (nirguṇopāsana) is the worst of the two possible types of meditation, namely meditation on impersonal Brahman and meditation on Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna.

    So we have nirguṇopāsane kaṣṭam ... "To meditate on Your impersonal feature (nirguṇopāsane) is very miserable (kaṣṭam), and is -- kaṣṭam -- the worst (of the two possible types of meditation)" (Mahatmya 3.59)


    regards

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    Re: Should we meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

    Namaste BJ ji,

    What a great reply you have given!

    I found this interesting piece of info regarding the same in the SriVaishnava sect's views on attaining mukthi through practice of Jnana-yoga. It states:

    Another point of difference is about the status of the Jivatma who attains Kaivalya. Those who have performed Jnana Yoga perceive and enjoy their own souls. This is called Kaivalya. Vadakalai school holds that Kaivalya is inferior to Paramapada or Moksha. It is not eternal; and the soul finally reaches Paramapada. So Kaivalya, according to the Vadakalai school, is situated outside Sri Vaikunta. The Tenkalai school also accepts that Kaivalya is inferior. But they state that these souls enjoy Kaivalya eternally in the Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta only, in the outer most parts.
    As you see in the above, it is said those who attain mukthi through jnana-yoga really attain a 'Kaivalya mukthi' which is not necessarily 'oneness with the lord'. You might know that the greater of the mukthis - Sayujyam says one will attain lord's abode and acquire a body similar to the lord and be one with the lord in his seva, perhaps akin to one of the 'nithyaSuris'.

    I welcome further clarification from the learned on the above aspects, I find this very interesting.

    Regards.
    jai hanuman gyan gun sagar jai kapis tihu lok ujagar

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    Re: Should we meditate on impersonal Brahman or Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna?

    Namaste Samraat Bhismadeva Maurya
    Quote Originally Posted by Samraat Bhismadeva Maurya View Post
    But then in Bhagavad Gita 14.27

    brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham
    amṛtasyāvyayasya ca
    śāśvatasya ca dharmasya
    sukhasyaikāntikasya ca

    brahmaṇaḥ — of the impersonal brahmajyoti; hi — certainly; pratiṣṭhā — the rest; aham — I am; amṛtasya — of the immortal; avyayasya — of the imperishable; ca — also; śāśvatasya — of the eternal; ca — and; dharmasya — of the constitutional position; sukhasya — of happiness; aikāntikasya — ultimate; ca — also.

    And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.

    So by this, he is saying that the impersonal Brahman is the nature of ultimate happiness and it eternal :/
    But if so, then why do people fall down from the Brahma-Jyoti?

    Srila Prabhupada said that an impersonal Brahman effulgence (jyoti-spiritual light) is a fallen condition, so then does this not contradict with the shastra?
    Not necessarily. See how other Vaishnava translators translated this verse:
    http://nitaaiveda.com/Shrimad_Bhagav...bhaga_Yoga.htm

    brahmano hi pratishthaham / amritasyavyayasya ca
    shashvatasya ca dharmasya / sukhasyaikantikasya ca

    aham---I (am); hi---certainly; pratishtha---the shelter; brahmanah---for that (same) nirvishesha-brahma; ca---and (the shelter); avyayasya---for everlasting; amritasya---immortality; ca---and; shashvatasya dharmasya---for the eternal dharma; ca--- and; sukhasya---for the happiness of prema; eka-antikasya--- which is achieved through one-pointed (exclusive) devotion to Me.

    "I alone am the basis of that nirvishesha-brahma and the sole refuge of everlasting immortality, eternal dharma and the transcendental bliss of prema arising from aikantika-bhakti."

    Good observation! I told you that one day you will be a great Vedantist.
    I'm not sure why Srila Prabhupada translated this verse so, it may be that verse may be translated thus. However, I find the above nitaaiveda.com's translation of this particular verse 14.27 better and more in harmony with the teachings of the Gaudiya vaishnavas. You know, when you are studying Bhagavad gita it is a good idea to read simultaneously at least two Vaishnava translations with a commentary. I recommend you to read Srila Prabhupada's and Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur's, see above link and also at http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/bhagavad-gita-14-27/

    So there is a difference in interpretation. While according to the Srila Prabhupada's translation it's impersonal Brahman "immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness", but according to above nitaaiveda.com's translation it's Lord Krishna the sole refuge of immortality, transcendental happiness, etc.

    There is another reason why it's not impersonal Brahman the "ultimate happiness", but it's the Personal Brahman - Lord Krishna - the ultimate goal to be achieved and to be dedicated to in the spiritual life, and thus it's He the "ultimate happiness".
    See, the reason is that Lord Krishna says in this verse "I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman". Thus it's Lord Krishna the ultimate and not the impersonal Brahman, for He is even the basis of the impersonal Brahman! From this we see the superiority of Lord Krishna to the impersonal Brahman.

    Shruti scriptures also confirm The Supreme Personality of Godhead is superior to the impersonal Brahman in the Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.2:

    divyo hy amūrtaḥ puruṣo ... hy akṣarāt parataḥ paraḥ

    "That heavenly Person (puruṣo) is without body, he is both without and within, not produced, without breath and without mind, pure, higher than the high Imperishable (akṣarāt)"

    This is the translation at http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe15/sbe15018.htm
    It is said in this verse "That heavenly Person is ... higher than the high Imperishable" where the Supreme Lord is the "Person" (puruṣo), and He is higher than impersonal Brahman called "Imperishable" (akṣarāt).
    It is interesting to note that Arjuna called impersonal Brahman by the word akṣaram in the Bhagavad gita 12.1 where he raised the question "Which are considered to be more perfect, those who are always properly engaged in Your devotional service or those who worship the impersonal Brahman (akṣaram), the unmanifested?".
    Then again in the Bhagavad gita 12.3-4 Lord Krishna used the word akṣaram to describe impersonal Brahman: ye tv akṣaram nirdeśyam
    avyaktaṁ paryupāsate sarvatra-gam acintyaṁ ca kūṭa-stham acalaṁ dhruvam ... "But those who fully worship the unmanifested, that which lies beyond the perception of the senses, the all-pervading, inconceivable, unchanging, fixed and immovable – the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth – by controlling the various senses ... ".
    So the word akṣara denotes impersonal Brahman in both, the Bhagavad gita 12.1-4 and also in the above verse Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.2.

    Thus from Shruti, Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.2, and Bhagavad gita 14.27 brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham "I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman" we learn that it's Lord Krishna superior to impersonal Brahman, and also we learn Lord Krishna is the ultimate and not the impersonal Brahman, for He is even the basis of the impersonal Brahman!
    Both of these verses Jiva Gosvami used in his Sandarbhas to explain the point.


    ----------
    PS. Bhagavad gita quotes see at BBT, vedabase


    regards

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