A reader requested that I explain verse 4.28.53 from the Bhāgavata which goes like this:
api smarasi cātmānam avijñāta-sakhaṁ sakhe
hitvā māṁ padam anvicchan bhauma-bhoga-rato gataḥ
This statement is claimed to mean that the jīva was with Bhagavān and then left Him because of material desires. As a result, the jīva fell from Vaikuṇṭha. We will examine this statement by examining Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī’s commentary line-by-line on it.
The context of the verse
This statement is made in a dialogue between a brāhmaṇa and the daughter of the king of Vidarbha as depicted in the story. The daughter’s husband has died, and distraught, she wishes to end her life. The brāhmaṇa who is questioning her is identified as Paramātmā previously, and the daughter of the king of Vidarbha is identified as a king previously and is meant to depict the jīva. The brāhmaṇa arrives and speaks the following. :
kā tvaṁ kasyāsi ko vāyaṁ śayāno yasya śocasi
jānāsi kiṁ sakhāyaṁ māṁ yenāgre vicacartha ha
The commentary of Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī is as follows-
viśvanāthaḥ : ko’yaṁ śayāna iti praśne mama śrī-gurur ayam iti | kathā-pakṣe—mama patir ayam iti cet, māṁ kiṁ jānāsīti ? nanu, tvam eva vipro mama ka ity ata āha—sakhāyam iti | kathaṁ tvayā saha mama sakhyam ity ata āha—yena mayā saha agre sṛṣṭeḥ pūrvaṁ vicacartha | mayy eva militvā mat-saṅgena sukham anubhūtavān tvam evāsīr ity arthaḥ
– To the question, “who is lying here”, [she answers:] “he is my guru”. Or if taken in the context of the story, [she answers] “he is my husband”. If she answers like this, [he asks], “do you recognize me”? [she answers] “You are just a brāhmaṇa, how are you related to me?” [he answers,] “friend”. “How can you be my friend?” “Previously, that is before the creation, you were my companion. Joining with me alone, because of my company, you experienced sukha or happiness. The meaning is that you were present by yourself. “
So the translation is simple:
The brāhmaṇa said, “Who are you? Whose wife are you? Who is this sleeping person here for whom you lament? Do you recognize me, who am your friend, with whom you experienced happiness (vicaratha) before the creation (agre)?
Note the following two points so far:
- This is a conversation between Paramātmā and the jīva
- The word ‘agre’ has been glossed as ‘sṛṣṭeḥ pūrvaṁ’ or ‘before the creation’ by Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī [which gives us a clue already, but let us continue on.]
Translation and commentary on 4.28.53
I will now translate Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī’s commentary line-by-line.
nanv ahaṁ kim api jānāmīti tatrāha—apīti
– But I do not recognize you at all!
yadyapi māṁ na jānāsi tad apy ātmānaṁ svam avijñāta-sakham avijñātaḥ kaścin me sakhāstīty evaṁ kiṁ smarasi ?
– Even if you cannot recognize me, are you able to remember that, “I (ātmānaṁ) had a certain unknown (avijñātaḥ) friend (sakham)”?
avijñātasya sakhāyam iti vā
– alternatively [avijñāta-sakhaṁ] means the friend of the unknown
sakhīty aprayujya sakhe iti puṁstva-nirdeśaḥ prāktana-puṁstvaṁ smārayan evam agre’pi |
The reason the word sakhi [feminine vocative singular] is not used but instead, sakhe [masculine vocative singular] is used is to remind her of her ancient masculinity, that is, she was masculine long ago [as the king].
tvam eva smāraya ced ata āha—hitveti | sṛṣṭy-ārambhe prācīna-karma-vaśād evety arthaḥ | padaṁ sthānam ||53||
Then why don’t you remind me? [He replies] “you gave [Me] up” at the beginning of the creation [agre] because of being under the control of ancient karma. The word ‘padam’ means ‘sthānam’ or ‘place’.
So now we put the translation together according to the commentary above:
O masculine friend, are you able to remember that, “I had a certain unknown friend” ? Leaving my place at the beginning of creation, because of being under the control of ancient karma, seeking [material things], you became attached to worldly sense pleasures.
The key words here are ‘at the beginning of creation’
Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī translated the word ‘agre’ as ‘sṛṣṭy-ārambhe’ meaning ‘at the beginning of creation’. Why does he give this particular meaning?
It is well known that creation has been going through cycles of creation and destruction from beginningless time. The jīvas are in deep sleep during the pralaya or destruction phase for a thousand yugas or one night of Brahmā (see 8.17 in the Bhagavad-Gītā for example). There is also mahā-pralaya, during which Brahmā also dies and all the universe is enfolded back into prakṛti. Śrī Jīva Goswami explains that after this pralaya, they lie dormant in the Paramātmā. He writes in Anuccheda 47 of the Paramātmā Sandarbha:
prakṛti-vikāra-pralayeṇa supta-vāsanatvāt śuddhās tāḥ paramātmani līnā jīvākhyāḥ śaktayaḥ sṛṣṭi-kāle vikāriṇīṁ prakṛtim āsṛjya kṣubhita-vāsanāḥ satyaḥ sopādhikāvasthāṁ prāpnuvantya eva vyuccarantīty arthaḥ |
“[During the period of dissolution,] the energies (śakti) called the jīvas, who are merged in Paramātmā, are said to be pure because their dispositions (vāsanās) are then dormant due to the dissolution of the modifications of prakṛti. At the time of creation, however, they are conjoined to prakṛti, which is undergoing modifications. Their dispositions being revived, they relapse into the conditioned state and spread forth [i.e., manifest in the world].”
Śrī Jīva Goswami is discussing those jīvas in the above statement who he identified previously in the Anuchheda as “anādita eva bhagavat-parāṅmukhaḥ” – beginninglessly turned away from Bhagavān.
Note that the jīvas are not able to think or know anything when in Paramātmā during mahā-pralaya, because their mind and body is merged into prakṛti at that time. But their karma in the form of vāsanās has not ended from the previous cycle of creations, and so they are compelled to take birth again at the end of mahā-pralaya when their vāsanās are revived (kṣubhita-vāsanāḥ). This is exactly what Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī refers to by his words prācīna-karma-vaśād – because of being under the control of ancient karmas. The creation will then end with another total dissolution when the jīvas will again become dormant.
So the verse 4.28.53 is simply referring to the time when the jīva was dormant in Paramātmā during the mahā-pralaya.
Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī confirms the mahā-pralaya interpretation in the next verse
But how do we know the maha-pralaya interpretation is correct? Because Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī says so in explaining the word sahasra-parivatsarān in the next verse, which is as follows,
haṁsāv ahaṁ ca tvaṁ cārya sakhāyau mānasāyanau
abhūtām antarā vaukaḥ sahasra-parivatsarān
O noble one, you and I are two swans, two friends, who have been living together in the Mānasa Lake for thousands of years (sahasra-parivatsarān) far from our original home. (SB 4.28.54)
Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī writes:
sahasra-parivatsarān mahā-pralayo yāvat
– sahasra-parivatsara, thousands of years, refers to the time-span of the mahā-pralaya [total dissolution of the world]
A simple solution to such questions is to simply turn to the commentary of Śrī Visvanatha Cakravartī. What does he say on this matter? I showed that he gives a crystal clear explanation of the verse. The jīvas were with Paramatma during the period of total dissolution from which they emerge upon a new creation. The verse has nothing to do whatsoever with a fall down from Vaikuṇṭha.
Furthermore, if such a fall happened, this was the perfect time to explain this concept but no, our ācāryas do not explain it as such. Clearly, anyone who supports such theories is opposed to the Caitanya paramparā and ought to be summarily rejected.
Whether one has the courage and the moral integrity to do so, even though the truth stares one in the face, is another question altogether.