The following passage is the introduction to the Śrī Śrī Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam, by Swami B.R Sridhar. This is a quintessential work about the Vaisnava practice of “Saranagati” or Divine Surrender in complete humility. I consider this to be one of the most wonderful and concise explanation of Śrī Sāraswat Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava philosophy ever presented. Deep conceptual conclusions mined by sages and philopshical schools of the ages are strung in a garland
Because the soul is a particle of consciousness, it is endowed with free will. Eliminating free will, only gross matter remains. Without independence, the soul could not progress from bondage to liberation,and his ultimate salvation would have been impossible. But his spirit of exploitation is a foreign force, an intoxicant – a miscalculation that surrounds his independence.
Life’s objectives may be scientifically analyzed as threefold: exploitation, renunciation, and dedication. The most common tendency is in those engaged in exploiting other persons, species, or elements, for mundane sense enjoyment. They desire to materially elevate themselves in the present environment, and thus they are described as elevationists. A more sober class discover the severe equal and opposite reactions to worldly pursuits, and they engage in renunciation of the world, in search of an equilibrium comparable to a deep, dreamless slumber. By being unawake to the world, they hope to escape its concomitant reactions and sufferings.
Thus their goal is liberation, and they are known as salvationists or liberationists. But through the correct interpretation of the Revealed Scriptures by learned votaries such as Śrī SanātanaGoswāmī , Śrī Jiva Goswāmī , and Śrī Ramanuja, the devotees of divinity know the pursuits of both exploitation and renunciation as not only fruitless, but injurious to real progress.
The normal, wholesome, and happy plane is in the life of dedication. Without exploiting or borrowing anything from the environment, and without attempting to artificially renounce it, one who is sincere to dedicate himself naturally comes into contact with a higher and more subtle plane of life. By his readiness to give and serve, he will attain to a higher society and achieve an appropriate master.
The enjoying spirit forces one to be associated with a lower section to control and enjoy. And the renouncing spirit allures even the scholars with its ‘prestigious’ superiority over exploitation. Thus it is more dangerous, just as a half-truth is more dangerous than falsehood. As it is difficult to awaken someone from the deepest possible sleep, the liberationists may remain for incalculable time within their cell of non-differentiated liberation. But the higher existence will invite the service of one who desires to purely dedicate himself without remuneration.
A barren conception of mere ‘deathlessness’ cannot afford us any knowledge of a positive thing, but only freedom from the negative side. If immortality means ‘no influence of mortality,’ what, then, is its positive conception? What will be the nature, movement, and progress of that which is immortal? Without this understanding immortality is only an abstract idea. Because it does not appear to exhibit the symptoms of death, stone would be ‘more immortal’ than human beings, and conscious entities would be ‘mortal,’ forever denied immortality! What, then, is the positive conception of immortality? How are the immortal ‘immortal’? What is the positive reality in immortality? How can one become immortal? One must search out his intrinsic location in the universal order. It will not do to attempt to solve only the negative side of life which is full of suffering – birth, death, infirmity, and disease. We should know that there exists a conception of life worth living for. This positive side has been almost totally neglected in general religious views.
The ‘immortality’ professed by the schools of Buddha and Sankaracarya yields no positive life. Their goals are maha-nirvana and brahma-sayujya respectively. The Buddhist theory is that after liberation, nothing remains. They crave absolute extinction of material existence (prakrti-nirvana). And the Sankarite monist theory of liberation is to lose one’s individuality by ‘becoming one’ with the non-differentiated aspect of the Absolute. That is, they crave extinction in Brahman (brahma-nirvana). They postulate that when the triad of seer, seen, and seeing (drasta-drsya-darsana), or knower, knowable, and knowledge (jnata- jneya-jñāna) culminate at one point, the triad is destroyed (triputi-vinasa) and nothing remains.
Material action and reaction ceases in Viraja, the river of passivity, which is located at the uppermost edge of this illusory (mayika) world. And above Viraja is the destination of the Sankarites – the ‘abscissa’ stage or the non-differentiated plane of Brahman, called Brahmaloka, which is located at the lowest edge of the spiritual realm. Both are vague areas of ‚negative immortality.’ Brahmaloka is a marginal or ‘buffer’ state midway between the material and spiritual worlds. Composed of innumerable souls, it is an immortal plane devoid of specific variegatedness (nirvisesa). It possesses positivity only in the sense that it is a plane of existence, a background (kastha), but in itself it lacks positive development of variegated existence (kala) . The nature of the background is oneness, and development woven over it necessitates plurality or a differentiated nature (kala-kasthadi rupena parināma-pradayini – Candi, Markandeya Purana).
In the Bhagavad-gita (15.16), mutable (ksara) and immutable (aksara) existences are described, representing the personal and the impersonal, the development and the basis, or differentiated and non- differentiated conceptions of general existence. The mutable is represented by the multitude of embodied living beings, while the immutable aspect is the great expanse of the all-accommodating Absolute, the Brahman (8.3).
In the analysis of worldly action, the most subtle form of unfructified past action, prior to the present tendency (the seedling stage) to sin, has been defined (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Purva1.23) as unknowable, indistinct, and of untraceable origin (kuta). The immutable Brahman aspect of the Absolute is similarly defined as being one-dimensional – undetectable, unspecific, and of no definite color, sound, or taste; an unknown and unknowable ‘un-understandable’ stage of existence (kuta).
But the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, is above both the mutable and immutable existences, and thus His glories are sung throughout the Vedas and in the world as the Purusottama, the Supreme Personality ( Bhagavad-gita, 15.18). Śrī Sukadeva Goswāmī affirms that in the most remote and distant plane, Lord Kṛṣṇa is to be found: everywhere is He – the fountainhead of all conceptions (vidura-kasthaya, Bhāgavatam, 2.4.14). He cannot be eliminated.
Thus, the ‘immortality’ of the impersonalistic schools such as Buddhists, Sankarites, etc., offers no positive life. But in Vaiṣṇavism, immortality is positive, dynamic existence. Above the non-differentiated Brahman aspect of the Absolute, the transcendental, variegated existence begins in the first glimpse of the spiritual sky, the plane known as Paravyoma (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 19.153).
Situated there in the spiritual plane is the positive Kingdom of God: firstly Vaikuntha, then Ayodhya, Dvaraka, Maṭhura, and finally, above all, Goloka. Transcending the vague areas of ‘negative immortality’ that the impersonalists aspire for, the devotees – the Vaiṣṇavas – dedicate themselves to the life of eternal devotional service to the Supreme Lord of the transcendental realm (Bhagavad-gita, 18.54).
Although the soul can maladopt himself to a fallen state of existence in the planes of exploitation and renunciation, he is inherently adoptable to the positive life in the Kingdom of God. And fully blossomed, he reaches the realm of Goloka (svarupe sabara haya golokete sthiti – Śrī Śrī Krsnera Aṣṭottara-śata-nāma).
Śrī Prapanna-jīvanamrtam: amrta means ‘undying,’ or ‘nectar,’ and jīvana means ‘life.’ Positive immortality is possible only for the surrendered (prapannanam). All others are necessarily mortal. Only those who have wholly given themselves to the center are living in eternality. Surrender is fully established in its excellence and its constant position. Yet there is variegatedness within that constancy, in the form of progressive movement, or pastimes (vilāsa).
The Supreme Absolute Personality being infinitely superior to both the mutable “mortals’ and the immutable “immortal’ (negative) Brahman, only the svarupa-siddha souls – those who are perfectly established in their divine relationship with Him – are eternally freed from the disease of mutation and mortality ( svarupena-vyavasthitih Bhāgavatam, 2. 10.6).
With a broad vision, we must know ourselves as created of smaller stuff, and thus only with assistance from above can we improve our situation and achieve a position in the higher plane. A submissive, serving attitude is necessary in us.
If we submit, the universal dictatorial aspect of the Absolute will take us upward to a higher prospect. He is the autocrat, the absolute knowledge, the absolute good – everything about Him is absolute. Being in a vulnerable position as we experience in this world, why, then, should we not submit to Him?
The road to the sphere of transcendence (adhoksaja) is the deductive or descending method (avaroha-pantha). We can reach the absolute good, the absolute will, by His consent alone. Only by faith in absolute surrender is anyone allowed entry into that domain, never by ‚exploration,’ by ‚colonization,’ or by attempting to become a ‚monarch’ there.
No inductive or ascending method (aroha-pantha) such as renunciation or yoga, etc., can compel Him to accept us. Whosoever He chooses can alone reach Him (Svetasvataropanisad, 6.23). Although the highest point of the renunciates is desirelessness or freedom from possessiveness, the surrendered soul (saranagata) is naturally desireless ( akincana, Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 22.99). Detachment is only the negative side of surrender, and above selflessness, the devotee surrenders himself to the higher substance, and this is to be awake in another world, another plane of life. Such is the positive, Vaiṣṇava conception of life – to determine one’s real self beyond the jurisdiction of the world of misconception.
The nature of the progressive substance is eternal existence, knowledge, and beauty (sac-cid-ananda). The one harmonizing organic whole (advaya-jñāna-tattva) contains all similarities and differences,held inconceivably in the hand of the Absolute (acintya-bhedabheda- tattva). And there is no anarchy in the absolute power. Nonetheless, mercy is found to be above justice.
Above judiciousness, the supremeposition is held by love, sympathy, and beauty: ‘I am the absolute power, but I am friendly to you all. Knowing this, you need never fear (Bhagavad-gita, 5.29).’ This revelation relieves us of all apprehension we are not victims of a chaotic environment, but it is judicious, considerate – and the ultimate dispenser is our friend.
Śrī Jiva Goswāmī has stated that of the six symptoms of surrender, to embrace the guardianship of the Lord (goptrtve varanam) is central, since total surrender expresses the same ideal. The remaining five symptoms of accepting the favorable, rejecting the unfavorable, faith in the Lord’s protection, full self-surrender, and humility, are natural contributing associate-servitors to the ideal
(angangi-bhedena sad-vidha; tatra ‘goptrtve varanam’ evangi, saranagati-sabdenaikarthyat; anyani tv angani tat parikaratvat – Bhakti-sandarbha , 236).
Surrender is the foundation of the world of devotion. It is the very life and essence. One cannot enter into that domain without surrender. It must be present in every form of service, and to attempt divine service without it will be mere imitation or a lifeless formality. The entire gist of the Vedic instruction is to dedicate oneself to the service of the Lord. In his commentary of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrī Śrīdhara Swāmīpāda has stated that only if the practices of devotion are initially offered to the Supreme Lord can they be recognized as devotion.
To attempt to execute them and subsequently offer them cannot be pure devotion
(iti nava laksanani yasyah sa, adhitena ced bhagavati visnau bhaktih kriyate, sa carpitaiva sati yadi kriyeta, na tu krta sati pascad arpyeta)
Without surrender, the activity will be adulterated with exploitation, renunciation, artificial meditation (karma, jñāna ,yoga), and so on.
By constitution, the soul is the Lord’s servant, and the Lord has the right to make or mar, to do anything according to His sweet will. If accepting this truth we undertake the devotional practices such as hearing, chanting, remembering, and worshipping, only then will our activity be devotional. Only the activity of the self-dedicated soul can be devotion. Sincere prayer will help us to seek the help of the Lord, but, again, prayer in the spirit of surrender can alone reach Him (Śaraṇāgati, 1.5).
The path of devotion entails increasing our negative status to invite the positive to descend and embrace us: ‘I am very low, and You are so high. You can purify me, take me and utilize me for Your higher purpose. Be pleased. Otherwise I am helpless, neglected.’ It is impossible to take Him captive in the cage of our knowledge.
Only the way of devotion can help us. In every respect He is high, great, and infinite – and we are similarly small. His mercy – His sympathy, love, and grace, are the only medium through which we can come together. And good faith is autonomous in that sweet land which is so high that we will earnestly hope and pray for the association of the higher existence as His slave; and that also will be our happy prospect for the future.
Kṛṣṇa is not within our purview, and thus we are always recommended by Scriptures and saints to approach the bona fide Divine Master and Vaiṣṇavas. To satisfy the Supreme Lord, the criterion is to satisfy our Gurudeva: if Gurudeva is dissatisfied with us, the Lord is surely dissatisfied. An analogy has been cited in the Scriptures where the Lord is compared to the sun, the Guru to a pond, and the disciple to a lotus flower. If the pond withdraws, the very sun will scorch and dry up the lotus – and the lotus will be cheered by the sun as long as the water supports and surrounds it.
Yasya prasadad bhagavat prasado, yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto ‘pi, dhyayam stavams tasya yasas tri-sandhyam, vande guroh śrī-caranaravindam (Gurvastakam, 8):
‘I bow down to the lotus feet of Śrī Gurudeva. By his grace we achieve the grace of Kṛṣṇa; without his grace, we are lost. Therefore, at daybreak, noon, and evening, we meditate upon and sing the glories of Śrī Gurudeva, and pray for his mercy.’
The Vaiṣṇava Guru’s dealings with the disciple are all grace, and his grace is his will to extend his wealth to the disciple. His instruction is the medium of asserting his will, which is service for the satisfaction of the Lord. And by service, we invite his grace. By an earnest desire to serve, we draw his sympathy and his willing extension of goodwill to encourage us in our relationship with the supreme entity. Firstly, surrender: we must offer him exclusive respect (pranipata), otherwise we shall not allow ourselves to approach him. Secondly, we may make our sincere and substantial inquiry (pariprasna). In a surrendered spirit, we may hear our Divine Master’s messages which he delivers to us from his venerated seat, the Vyāsasana. In that conducive setting, the proper inspiration and dictation may fortuitously come down to us. And finally, to render service (sevāya) enables us to taste the essence (Bhagavad-gita, 4.34).
On the instruction of his Gurudeva Devarsi Narada, Vyāsadeva had to undergo a progressive development (Bhāgavatam, 1.5). Narada is established in non-calculative devotion (jñāna-sunya-bhakti, or jñāna- vimukta-bhakti-paramah ), and above Narada is Uddhava, who is established in exclusive divine love for Kṛṣṇa (premaika-nisthah). Until one reaches Goloka, where there is full-fledged Kṛṣṇa conception, all other stages may be changeable. There is no further change when one is firmly established in his serving relationship with the Original Lord (svayam-bhagavan), Kṛṣṇa. In the narrative of Brhad-Bhāgavatāmṛtam, Gopakumara passes through Vaikuntha, Ayodhya, Maṭhura, Dvaraka, and then he finally arrives in Vṛndāvana. There, his particular divine relationship with the Lord firmly culminates in friendship (sakhya-rasa).For him, the previous stages were passing, although for others a permanent relationship may occur in one of them. They are progressive stages of ‚ positive immortality.’
On the banks of the Godavari river, in progressively deeper anddeeper planes, the entirety of theological development was expressed in the conversation between Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Śrī Ramananda Raya. A positive hierarchy of divine relationships with the Lord exists in progressive stages for the various types of devotees ( karmibhyah … kah krti, Upadesamritam, 10), each type having its characteristic central relationship (vaikunthaj … viveki na kah, Upadesamritam, 9). In the divine realm, the depth and degree of surrender may also be measured according to the science of mellows (rasa-tattva): peacefulness, servitorship, friendship, parenthood, and consorthood (santa-, dasya-, sakhya-, vātsalya-and madhura-rasa) are the natural divisions, each consecutively of a finer layer. And higher than even the direct consorthood of the Godhead is the most elevated of the entire compass of devotional services – the divine service of the Supreme Predominated Moiety (Śrī Rādhā-dasya).
According to the intensity of surrender – to the point of no return – the quality of the magnitude of truth encountered may be measured. The inner sweetness of the truth and its infinite characteristic attracts the devotees’ hearts to the highest degree, so much that they never feel any satisfaction of achievement in what is actually the acme of their highest fortune. In Vaikuntha, only peacefulness and servitorship are present, with a hint of friendship. If we commit the offense of giving more attention to law than to love, we will be ‘cast down’ from Goloka to Vaikuntha: Goloka is the land of love, and there the inhabitants know nothing more. And by love is meant self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness for the service of Kṛṣṇa, without a care for one’s good or bad future – total risk in the extreme.
In his Bhakti-sandarbha, Śrī Jiva Goswāmī defines ‘Bhagavan,’ the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as more than ‘Lord Narayana of Vaikuntha, the most powerful in all phases.’ Above that, His existence, appearance, and nature attracts everyone to serve Him, love Him, and die for Him (bhajaniya-guna-visista) . His qualification is so beautiful. Thus, the highest conception of the Godhead is the Kṛṣṇa conception, and He can be known by the devotees in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Those who serve and worship the Supreme Lord according to the scriptural regulation and calculation belong to the category of Vaikuntha worship. In Vaikuntha, in the initial transcendental conscious conception (adhoksaja), the Godhead as Lord Narayana accepts reverential service in His Majestic Dignity. But the devotees of the highest order are exclusively surrendered to the service of Lord Kṛṣṇa with their innermost love and faith.
The Kṛṣṇa conception of Goloka Vṛndāvana is corroborated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is the greatest interpretation of the Vedic Scriptures. And Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is known to be Kṛṣṇa Himself, united with His highest potency, Śrī Rādhā. Mahāprabhu Śrī Caitanyadeva has clearly revealed that the genuine interpretation and purpose of all the Revealed Scriptures is to faithfully guide us to the highest goal: the domain of love and unconditional surrender unto the central power of truth, personified in Lord Kṛṣṇa as beauty and affection. Not power, but affection is the highest force to attract us all.
Consciously or unconsciously, the absolute position is held by love and affection, and love is superior to all power and knowledge. It is the real fulfillment of the inner heart. Our inner existence wants only love, beauty, and affection – neither knowledge nor power.
The finite cannot capture the infinite, but the infinite can make Himself known to the finite.
Consciously or unconsciously, the absolute position is held by love and affection, and love is superior to all power and knowledge. It is the real fulfillment of the inner heart. Our inner existence wants only love, beauty, and affection – neither knowledge nor power. The finite cannot capture the infinite, but the infinite can make Himself known to the finite.
And when the infinite appears as a member of the finite land, the highest gain of the finite is achieved. Kṛṣṇa carries His father’s shoes, and He cries when chastised by His mother. Through love, the Absolute comes down to the finite.
The infinite’s most intimate approach to the finite is found in Vṛndāvana. The infinite comes to embrace the finite in its fullest capacity (aprakrta), mixing with finite things so closely that people cannot perceive the Lord’s transcendental Godly character as the Divinity. We, the infinitesimal souls, can attain our greatest fortune when the infinite comes to us in His highest approach – as if He were one of us! His approach is so merciful, so great, so intimate, and so perfect.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is sweetness and magnanimity combined, openly announced that we are all natural slaves of the highest entity ( Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 20.108). But this is slavery to the great force of love and beauty. It is the greatest fortune to be utilized in any way by the absolute existence, knowledge, and beauty – to be in harmony with the highest center. No one is forced or barred but this is the soul’s intrinsic nature.
Faithfully in the Divine Succession from Nitya-lila-pravista Oṁ Viṣṇupādaa Paramahaṁsa Aṣṭottara-śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Goswāmī Prabhupāda, especially inspired by the divine message of Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s Śaraṇāgati, and attending the authentic Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava literatures such as Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa and Bhakti-sandarbha as well as the writings of other Authorized Divine Successions such as the Ramanuja Sampradaya – this Śrī Śrī Prapanna-jīvanamrtam has been compiled in order to supply the devotees’ spiritual sustenance and nourishment.
Surrender is the indispensable necessity in the life of a devotee, and Life-Nectar of the Surrendered Souls will sustain and fortify the surrendered souls as the nectar in their lives of Positive and Progressive Immortality.
~Swami B.R Sridhar.