We should understand that there are three planes of life: the plane of mundane enjoyment, the plane of renunciation, and the plane of dedication. The plane of enjoyment is where we are at present, more or less. Mundane enjoyment means exploitation; and without exploitation, none can exist in this plane.
अहस्तानि सहस्तानामपदानि चतुष्पदाम् ।
फल्गूनि तत्र महतां जीवो जीवस्य जीवनम् ॥
ahastāni sahastānām apadāni chatuṣ-padām
phalgūni tatra mahatāṁ jīvo jīvasya jīvanam
“Those with hands live off those that have none. Four-footed animals live on grass, creepers, etc., and the large live off the small.” Everything is full of life. Creepers, grass, and trees also have life, but without exploitation none can maintain their body in this plane.
This is the plane of exploitation, and, as Newton’s third law says, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. By exploitation one incurs some debt, and to clear that debt he will have to go down. In this way, there are so many jīvas or souls going up and down, up and down, due to action and reaction in the plane of exploitation. Society is trying to exploit to the utmost; everywhere there is the attempt to live at the cost of others. Without it, life is impossible because this is the plane of exploitation.
The Buddhists, the Jains, the followers of Śaṅkar, and so many others are trying to get out of this entanglement of exploitation and find a life where there is no exploitation, no action and reaction. To avoid action and reaction, they try to find a position of renunciation, and they come to a conception similar to dreamless sleep, that of samādhi: to withdraw completely from the objective world and remain in the subjective plane. Without allowing their feelings to move into the lower plane, they always keep a subjective position, and that is something like dreamless sleep.
The Vaishnava section—those who serve the Supreme Lord—are of the opinion that there is another world, the world of dedication. That dedication is just the opposite of exploitation. In the mundane plane, every unit wants to exploit the environment, whereas in the plane of dedication every unit wants to serve the environment; the real key to the life of that plane is to serve the Center. We are living in an organic whole, so every point must be true to the organic Center. The explanation is given in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (4.31.14) by the analogy of serving the root of a tree:
तृप्यन्ति तत्स्कन्धभुजोपशाखाः ।
तथैव सर्व्वार्हणमच्युतेज्या ॥
yathā taror mūla-niṣechanena
prāṇopahārāch cha yathendriyāṇāṁ
tathaiva sarvārhaṇam achyutejyā
In the Vedic literature also, we find it said, “Try to find the one by knowing whom everything is known.”
यस्मिन्विज्ञाते सर्व्वमिदं विज्ञातं भवति ।
यस्मिन्प्राप्ते सर्व्वमिदं प्राप्तं भवति ।
तद्विजिज्ञासस्व तदेव ब्रह्म ॥
yasmin vijñāte sarvam idaṁ vijñātaṁ bhavati
yasmin prāpte sarvam idaṁ prāptaṁ bhavati
tad vijijñāsasva tad eva brahma
There is a central point by knowing which everything is known, and by attaining which everything is attained. The long and short of the entire Vedic advice is to try to seek out that Center. In the beginning, some may think this to be a ludicrous claim. “By knowing one, everything is known, by getting one, everything is got—what is this? Only a madman can say such a thing!” So, an analogy is given in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: when you pour water onto the root of a tree, the whole tree is fed, and if you put food into the stomach, the whole body is fed; similarly, if you do service to the Center, everything is served. It is possible, and to do that means to enter the plane of dedication. Avoiding the plane of exploitation, and also that of renunciation, try to enter the plane of dedication. Your ātmā, your soul proper, is a member of that plane. That is the real world, whereas this is the perverted reflection.
The real world is where every unit is dedicating itself to the whole, represented by the Center, just as in a healthy body every atom will work for the welfare of the whole body. If an atom works for itself, it exploits to the extreme, and such local works for local interest are clearly bad. Every part of the body and every atom must work for the welfare of the whole system. There is a center, and by the guidance of that, it will work.
What is the position of the Centre? It is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gītā,
सर्व्वधर्म्मान् परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज ।
sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
Krishna explains His position: “Abandon all dharmas or duties and just surrender unto Me.”
Now I want to represent this conception from another standpoint. Hegel was a good German philosopher, and in his philosophy he has given a concept: the Absolute Truth, the Prime Cause of everything, must have two qualifications. What are they? It must be by itself and for itself.
Please try to pay attention. ‘By itself’ means that He is His own cause—nothing else created Him. If anything has created Him, that creator will have the primary importance. Therefore, to be the Absolute, He must be anādi, eternally existing and not created by anything. The Absolute must have this qualification.
The next qualification is that the Absolute Truth is ‘for itself’. He exists for His own satisfaction, not to satisfy any other. If His existence was for the purpose of satisfying any other entity, that would make Him secondary and He would not hold the prime position.
Therefore, the Absolute must have these two qualifications: He is His own cause, and He exists only to satisfy Himself, to fulfil His own purpose. The Absolute is by itself and for itself. If even a blade of grass moves, it moves to fulfil the purpose of the Absolute. Everything—every incident, and whatever happens—must have to be for His satisfaction. So the real current is His līlā, His Pastimes. We are guided by separate interest: family interest, country interest, social interest or humanitarianism, etc., but in the infinite consideration it is all only a tiny part, and we are all engaged in acting for such separate interest. There is a clash between innumerable separate interests, and so there is trouble. But we must leave all our so-called special interests, come out from misunderstanding, and try to attain the function of a unit active for the cause of the whole.
The conclusion of the Bhagavad-gītā given by Krishna is “Sarva-dharmān parityajya—give up all your duties which you think at present you have to discharge, and—Mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja—surrender to My feet.”
अहं त्वां सर्व्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः ।
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śuchaḥ
“I shall relieve you of all the troubles of which you can ever conceive.”
In other words, you must remember to be faithful to the Center. At present, all your respective duties are for local interest, but give up the local identification of your own interest and merge totally in the interest of the organic whole.
We see that if a police officer takes even three rupees for his own purpose, he is punished, but if he kills so many for the interest of the country, he is rewarded. Similarly, whatever is done for the satisfaction of the whole is good, but if you do anything for yourself or any local friend, you will have to be punished. In an industry, we have no right to take a bribe for our personal purpose, and at the same time we have no right to call a strike, to close down the labour force, for then the industry will be destroyed.
Neither exploitation nor renunciation will do. Exploitation is clearly bad, and because we have no right to go on strike, renunciation is also bad. In an organic whole, the common interest is that everyone must be dedicated to the Center, and to the Center means to the whole. When we put food into the stomach, the stomach will distribute it properly to every corner according to the necessity. That sort of life is Vaishnavism. There is an organic whole, and we are a part of that. We have our special duties in connection with the whole, and that is proper dedication to the whole. We are not to put food into the eye, the nose or the ear, or anywhere except the stomach. Only when the food is properly distributed will the whole organism be healthy. We are all parts of the whole universe, and our duty is to work for the whole, and that is devotion, dedication, surrender. And how are we to know about that? We will receive help from the revealed scriptures, and from the many saints and agents who are also coming from that plane to bring us into harmony.
The religion of highest harmony has been given by Mahāprabhu Śrī Chaitanyadev who explained devotion on the basis of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the book which is understood to be the real conclusion of all the revealed scriptures. In this way, He explained that energy or power is not the highest thing, but knowledge is above it. Knowledge can control power and give a beneficial result. But in a higher plane, even knowledge takes a lower position. Above knowledge is love and affection, and that is the highest. Neither knowledge nor power, but only affection can give us fulfilment of life.
Mercy is higher than justice. Justice only exists where there is the necessity for law and order, but in the realm of the Absolute Autocrat, who is the absolute good, there can be no question of any apprehension about Him. He is absolute good, and absolute good is absolute love and affection, and that is home! Back to God, back to home. What is home? It is where we find that we are in the midst of our well-wishers. Even if we do not care for our own benefit, there are so many who will take care of us—in fact the whole environment will take care of us—and that is home. That is the domain of the Absolute, and we can enter into His service, the highest position, and thereby see the affection, love, harmony, and beauty that exist there. All these qualities are similar, and they constitute the nature of the Prime Cause and Good, and we must go there.
Misusing our free will, we have somehow gone astray. But now we are being called, “Come home, back to God and back to home, the highest position, the land of love.” This is, in general and in short, the sum total of all I have said to you—this is the Krishna conception in the Bhagavad-gītā and in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and it is the conception that has been given by Śrī Chaitanyadev. This Śrī Chaitanya Sāraswat Maṭh and the whole of the Gauḍīya Mission is preaching only for that. “Go to the Centre, use your life for total dedication to the Centre, and the Centre is all above justice. It is all-merciful, affectionate, loving, and beautiful.”
This is a general background of Vaishnava religion, of Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and a brief overview of all conceptions of religion—that is, exploitation, renunciation, and dedication are the three planes of life, and the soul proper is a member of the land of dedication. All are dedicating units, but somehow, by misusing their partial free will, they have entered into the world of exploitation. Buddha, Jain, Pareśanāth, and others have helped those who want to withdraw from here to get out of the entanglement of exploitation—of action and reaction—by complete retirement. They have said that after retirement, the soul can live happily. Still, there may be the possibility of again becoming entangled in this trap. But where the really free souls live, all are dedicating units, and when we want to trace what is harmonising them and maintaining them in that plane, we shall see that all are working for the whole, and the whole is represented by the one Absolute Good. We have to see all these things, and for this the human birth is very valuable. In connection with the sādhus—the saints, the agents—we shall try our best to get out of this entanglement and enter into the land of love, dedication, and affection.
(excerpt from ‘Home Comfort’)