|Chapter 12||The Path of Devotion||Verse 5|
Rudra Vaisnava Sampradaya:
4 One may interject that if the followers of the abstract, impersonal and imperishable brahman also attain the Supreme Lord anyway then what is the superiority of personal loving devotion to Lord Krishna. Here the distinction is given that worshipping the abstract unmanifest, impersonal brahman is very difficult and requires excessive tribulation. This is because one who only contemplates something abstract and unmanifest can never envision what they are unable to perceive and thus the mind is not able to realise it and is only rarely achieved with great difficulty in a very complex way because for those identifying with the mind, body and senses, internal introspection which is required for atma-tattva or self-realisation is exceedingly difficult.
Brahma Vaisnava Sampradaya:
The original question at the commencement of this chapter was whether it was better to directly worship the Supreme Lord by bhakti or excluisve loving devotion or to worship the impersonal, unmanifest brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence. Herein Lord Krishna explains the difficulties of worshipping the impersonal, unmanifest brahman.
The path to reaching the unmanifest brahman is covered with difficulties. The word gati means the path or the way. The path adopted by the worshipers of the unmanifest brahman is very difficult. They must perform intense meditation, rigid restraint of the senses, compassion for all living entities, consistent purity in thought and actions, equanimity to the dualities such as censure and praise, joy and grief, pain and pleasure, etc; but to be successful it is essential that the grace of the Supreme Lord is betsowed. But without the grace of His sakti or spiritual feminine potency who is known as Sri Laxsmi and is represented by the unmanifest the grace of the Supreme Lord can not be possible and propitiation to her alone without Him displeases her and bequeaths no chance for realising the Supreme Lord and likewise no opportunity for moksa. This is true even if she is opulently worshipped. The worship of the unmanifest brahman does not focus on a personal form of the Supreme Lord possessing qulaities and attributes and by whose grace is required to receive the grace of Sri Laxsmi who in turn blesses the aspirant and bestows perception of the infinite unmanifest. This is why this path is so difficult. Yet and still if someone, somehow or other are graced by Sri Laxsmi due to association with or service to one of the Supreme Lords devotees, then facilitation to realisation of the Supreme Lord would immediately take effect and this is the most conducive means to achieve this. Thereafter those who exert effort in propitiating the unmanifest brahman will have the insight to properly propitiate the Supreme Lord as well and directly receive the desired result.
In the case of propitiating Sri Laxsmi, if there is any deficiency in the worship of her or defect in the aspirant such as rigid control of the senses, then she may not be pleased and will not bestow her grace. But regarding the Supreme Lord if anyone approaches Him directly through the spiritual master from one of the four authorised sampradaya's or lines of disciplic succession then He being pleased provides His devotees with all conveniences and assistance required by His own initiative for facilitating their advancement to Him. In all other cases and situations the difficulties are unrelenting and increase. This is evidenced here by the words kleso'dhikaratas tesam meaning for them tribulations are much more.
The Sama Veda states in the Madhuchucanda section: That those who have bhakti or exclusive loving devotion for Lord Krishna have control of the mind, restraint of the senses, purity of behaviour, equanimity towards all living entities, compassion and humility. To them alone is Sri Laksmi elevated position as the eternal sakti of Lord Krishna realised and not by others. Being thus realised Sri Laksmi will grace these devotees of Lord Krishna and the devotees of any of His avatars or incarnations and expansions by meticulously removing all obstacles on their path of bhakti for Lord Krishna. Subsequently their performance of bhakti quickly attains fruit and without any hindrances they quickly attain communion with Him and by His grace attain eternal association with Him in the immortal spiritual worlds.
Similarly the Sama Veda states in the Ayasya section: That it is beneficial to propitiate the Supreme Lord by propitiating the grace of Sri Laksmi which bestows the grace of the Supreme Lord as well. It is not sufficient to propitiate Sri Laxsmi separate from the Supreme Lord as then neither of them are pleased and it is by the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord only that she and every other living being becomes eternally pleased so the proper etiquette must be observed. Following the proper etiquette even if there was some defect or laxity in such propitiation one would not fail to achieve success because Lord Krishna is the sole giver of moksa or liberation from material existence and by performing actions for His satisfaction everything else because exalted which is not possible by the strictest worship of the impersonal, unmanifest, brahman.
The Moksa Dharma quotes a conversation between Lord Krishna and Sri Laksmi where she states: Those who are enthusiastic for moksa will be devoted to worship of the Supreme Lord and that she is always established in those who are devoted to the sanatan dharma or the perrennial principles of righteousness, devoted to atma tattva or realisation of the soul, to those who have perceived the brahman and to those who are truthful, humble and charitable.
Superior to prakiti the material substratum underlying physical existence is the brahman the spiritual substratum pervading all existence and superior to the brahman is atma tattva and superior to atma tattva is communion with the Supreme Lord Krishna Himself. The Agnivesya section has clarified the same stating: Without beginning and without end is the brahman etrnally existing and the Supreme Lord is superior to even the brahman. Vedavyasa the author of Brahma Sutra has explained there that knowledge of the Supreme Lord alone is the only way to achieve moksa.
Now begins the commentary.
Although Vedavyasa has established the truth concerning the position of prakriti in Mahabharata He has rejected the ideas given in the Sankhya philosophy that the existence of prakriti is independent and He has proven by Vedic statements that prakriti is totally dependent upon the Supreme Lord. Similarly the Saukarayani scripture states: The one with form Sri Laxsmi is dearmost to the transcendental Supreme Lord and the cause of the existence of the worlds. By propitiating Sri Laxsmi always in adjunct to the Supreme Lord she becomes very pleased and bestows opulence and grandeur upon the propitiator much more expediently than the Supreme Lord Himself who is not so inclined to give these things. In the subsidary section of the Rig Veda it states: Knowing Sri Laxsmi of golden hue with lotus flowers in hands as the Supreme diety presiding over material nature enveloping everything one should propitiate her as the sakti of the Supreme Lord. By doing so she will grant the sincere and knowledgeable aspirant splendour and wealth that would not to be given by the Supreme Lord Himself,
Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya:
Whosoever devotes themselves to contemplation of the atma will certainly prapnuvanti or attain the Supreme Lord which means that by realisation of the atma is essentially realising an essence of the Supreme Lord which is like unto His essence as paramatma the Supreme Soul within the etheric heart of all living entities. This is what is affirmed later in chapter 14, verse 2 with the words mama sadharmyam agatah meaning endowed with a form similar to the Supreme Lords. The Mundaka Upanisad III.I,II,III beginning niranjanah paramam samyam states: Absolved from all sins one achieves sublime similarity with the Supreme Lord. Also in Mundaka Upanisad I.I-V beginning atha para yaya tad aksharam adhigamyate which means: Now that the higher science by which the aksara can be reached. Parabrahma or the Supreme Lord Himself is also designated by the word aksara for He is the source of all beings. That the Supreme Lord is known as Parabrahma is confirmed as distinct from the atma will be explained later in chapter 15, verse 17. But those who minds are attracted to avyakta the unmanifest, impersonal brahman, their tribulations and difficulties are great. This includes those who meditate upon the atma as well for the meditation of controlling the mind to think of all activities in relation to one's individual atma without being able to imagine it in any way while performing physical and material activities is tantamount to great struggle and futile results.
It will be shown next how devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna are superior being better equipped by bhakti to attain communion with the Supreme Lord.
Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya:
It could be surmised that if the worshippers of the avyakta or the unmanifest impersonal brahman being the spiritual substratum pervading all creation are also able to reach the Supreme Lord then why are the worshippers of the Supreme Lord considered superior and in what way do they differ from the others? Lord Krishna explains that asakta or attachment to seeking brahman gives benefits only with great difficulty and trail and tribulation because it is exceedingly difficult to imagine what to focus upon when it can not be perceived by the mind and senses. Also for one who is in the bodily conception of life bewildered by the ego and deluded by thinking they are the physical body it is impossible to ever realise the brahman or achieve pure devotion to the atma or eternal soul.