From Love Universal to Bhakti Confidential – Gaudiya Vaishnavism Glories 2 – How Karma and Jnana Culminate in Bhakti
(Chaitanya Charitamrita class on Madhya 8.28 at ISKCON, Denver, USA)
Transcription of Summary
I will summarize:
The theme which I focussed on was how bhakti inverts the social hierarchy…. that normally the brahmanas… they are the guardians of religious truth and they consider everyone as the outsiders, but here Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramanada Roy are hugging each other and the brahmanas are outside. They can’t understand the mellows of spiritual emotion that they are relishing, and the Bhagavatam also talks time and time again through Vritrasur’s, Indra’s example, through Abarish Maharaja’s and Durvasamuni’s example, and through the Gopi’s example of how when somebody has bhakti, then even if socially they are considered lower the devotees become higher, and I talked about the conventional hierarchy that was there… Karma, jnana and bhakti, and this is not just within specific categories within the vedic literature… they are also universal human ways of thinking and acting.
So, Karma centres on the idea that by actions we will make this world a better place. So, karma focuses on hands doing practical actions. Jnana focuses on contemplation… ‘This world is a place of misery, I just have to go beyond this world.’ So, it is more function of the head… detach oneself… bhakti is a function of the heart where we redirect our heart towards the Lord, and we use our hands and our head in aiding that redirection, and I talked about how this mentality of karma and jnana is present in the world also.
Science although it involves much intellectual theorising and other things, still it is not jnana, it is karma because it is driven by the hope that scientific knowledge will give us technological power by which we make better in this world. So, however the technological power which promised a technological paradise as a replacement for this paradise offered by religion… that has not materialized. Life may have become comfortable, but people are comfortably miserable because the heart is dissatisfied. Just greater control and greater technology doesn’t bring satisfaction to the heart, and concurrent with this there has been jnana in the modern times also where there are existentialist and nihilist philosophers who just observe that this world is distressful and just become extremely pessimistic, extremely hopeless, and because of that hopelessness that dogma or philosophy… now philosophy has just stopped looking for truth in academic circles… just juggles with semantics now… semantics and symbols.
So, the defining difference between modern times and pre-modern times was… pre-modern times had an understanding that there is some world beyond this world, and that is our ultimate destination, but modern times have the idea that there is nothing beyond this world, and even in karma… the human heart is not satisfied with the prosaic reality of this world, and attraction to the paranormal is normal, and attraction to the supernatural is natural to the human heart, and that’s why those same people who reject as mythology the half-man, half-Lion manifestation of God… they delight in half-man, half-spider super human being or super being.
So, people… the compulsive, obsessive way that they get into entertainment, sports, video games, movies… that is because the human heart desperately longs for some reality better than the mundane reality. So, in the past religion was meant to direct our hope higher to a higher reality, but today technology directs it to an imaginary reality, and that doesn’t satisfy, that still keeps people frustrated.
So, karma which is divorced from the hope of a higher world simply leads to greater illusion and frustration and jnana too which is divorced from the higher world leads of course to just hopelessness, and bhakti involves not the rejection of karma and jnana but the harmonization in the pursuit of Krishna, in the attainment of God. So, in that I discussed how the devotees do activities and materialistic people do activities… kamis do activities, but the difference is… devotees also want to change things better so that we can serve Krishna better, but the devotee’s primary purpose in doing activity is not to get the change externally, it is by doing that service to get the change internally.
So, even if we do a service for many years and that service doesn’t lead to any result… in terms of externally some preaching happening… some projects improving, but internally we will go closer to Krishna through that service, and so the karma we do, but not with the motivation of karma, it is with the motivation of bhakti. Similarly, jnana… devotees also cultivate knowledge… the monist…their jnana is to realize one’s oneness with the absolute.
The bhaktas also use jnana to look beyond this world, but that is to understand one’s smallness in comparison with God’s greatness and thereby to absorb oneself ecstatically in God’s greatness. So, bhakti is the path of ecstatic inequality where the very smallness of the devotee in contrast with Krishna gives the devotee ecstasy by absorption in Krishna.
Thank You very much.
(End of transcription)
Transcribed by : Sadananda KP Das.