Shankaracarya's Misinterpretation of Krsna's Personal Form

BY: SUN STAFF - 9.2 2023


"Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha constitute this second quadruple. They are purely transcendental."

"Purport: Sripada Sankaracarya has misleadingly explained the quadruple form (catur-vyuha) in his interpretation of the forty-second aphorism of Chapter Two of the second khanda of the Vedanta-sutra (utpatty-asambhavat). In verses 41 through 47 of this chapter of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami answers Sripada Sankaracarya's misleading objections to the personal feature of the Absolute Truth.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, is not like a material object that can be known by experimental knowledge or sense perception. In the Narada-pancaratra this fact has been explained by Narayana Himself to Lord Siva. But Sankaracarya, the incarnation of Siva, under the order of Narayana, his master, had to mislead the monists, who favor ultimate extinction. In the conditioned stage of existence, all living entities have four basic defects, of which one is the cheating propensity. Sankaracarya has carried this cheating propensity to the extreme to mislead the monists.

Actually, the quadruple forms explained in the Vedic literature cannot be understood by the speculation of a conditioned soul. The quadruple forms should therefore be accepted just as They are described. The authority of the Vedas is such that even if one does not understand something by his limited perception, he should accept the Vedic injunction and not create interpretations to suit his imperfect understanding. In his Sariraka-bhasya, however, Sankaracarya has increased the misunderstanding of the monists.

The quadruple forms have a spiritual existence that can be realized in vasudeva-sattva (suddha-sattva), or unqualified goodness, which accompanies complete absorption in the understanding of Vasudeva. The quadruple forms, who are full of the six opulences of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are the enjoyers of the internal potency. Thinking the absolute Personality of Godhead to be poverty-stricken or to have no potency--or, in other words, to be impotent--is simply rascaldom. This rascaldom is the profession of the conditioned soul, and it increases his bewilderment. One who cannot understand the distinctions between the spiritual world and the material world has no qualification to examine or know the situation of the transcendental quadruple forms. In his commentary on Vedanta-sutra 2.2.42-45, His Holiness Sripada Sankaracarya has made a futile attempt to nullify the existence of these quadruple forms in the spiritual world.

Sankaracarya says (sutra 42) that devotees think the Supreme Personality of Godhead Vasudeva, Sri Krsna, to be one, to be free from material qualities and to have a transcendental body full of bliss and eternal existence. He is the ultimate goal of the devotees, who believe that the Supreme Personality of Godhead expands Himself into four other eternal transcendental forms--Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. From Vasudeva, who is the primary expansion, come Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha in that order. Another name of Vasudeva is Paramatma, another name of Sankarsana is jiva (the living entity), another name of Pradyumna is mind, and another name of Aniruddha is ahankara (false ego). Among these expansions, Vasudeva is considered the origin of material nature. Therefore Sankaracarya says that Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha must be creations of that original cause.

Great souls assert that Narayana, who is known as Paramatma, the Supersoul, is beyond material nature, and this is in accordance with the statements of the Vedic literature. Mayavadis also agree that Narayana can expand Himself in various forms. Sankara says that he does not attempt to argue that portion of the devotees' understanding, but he must protest the idea that Sankarsana is produced from Vasudeva, Pradyumna is produced from Sankarsana, and Aniruddha is produced from Pradyumna, for if Sankarsana is understood to represent the living entities created from the body of Vasudeva, the living entities would have to be noneternal. The living entities are supposed to be freed from material contamination by engaging in prolonged temple worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, reading Vedic literature and performing yoga and pious activities to attain the Supreme Lord. But if the living entities had been created from material nature at a certain point, they would be noneternal and would have no chance to be liberated and associate with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When a cause is nullified, its results are nullified. In the second chapter of the Vedanta-sutra's second khanda, Acarya Vedavyasa has also refuted the conception that the living beings were ever born (natma sruter nityatvac ca tabhyah). Because there is no creation for the living entities, they must be eternal.

Sankaracarya says (sutra 43) that devotees think that Pradyumna, who is considered to represent the senses, has sprung from Sankarsana, who is considered to represent the living entities. But we cannot actually experience that a person can produce senses. Devotees also say that from Pradyumna has sprung Aniruddha, who is considered to represent the ego. But Sankaracarya says that unless the devotees can show how ego and the means of knowledge can generate from a person, such an explanation of the Vedanta-sutra cannot be accepted, for no other philosophers accept the sutras in that way.

Sankaracarya also says (sutra 44) that he cannot accept the devotees' idea that Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are equally as powerful as the absolute Personality of Godhead, full in the six opulences of knowledge, wealth, strength, fame, beauty and renunciation, and free from the flaw of generation at a certain point. Even if They are full expansions, the flaw of generation remains. Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, being distinct individual persons, cannot be one. Therefore if They are accepted as absolute, full and equal, there would have to be many Personalities of Godhead. But there is no need to accept that there are many Personalities of Godhead, because acceptance of one omnipotent God is sufficient for all purposes. The acceptance of more than one God is contradictory to the conclusion that Lord Vasudeva, the absolute Personality of Godhead, is one without a second. Even if we agree to accept that the quadruple forms of Godhead are all identical, we cannot avoid the incongruous flaw of noneternity. Unless we accept that there are some differences among the personalities, there is no meaning to the idea that Sankarsana is an expansion of Vasudeva, Pradyumna is an expansion of Sankarsana, and Aniruddha is an expansion of Pradyumna. There must be a distinction between cause and effect. For example, a pot is distinct from the earth from which it is made, and therefore we can ascertain that the earth is the cause and the pot is the effect. Without such distinctions, there is no meaning to cause and effect. Furthermore, the followers of the Pancaratric principles do not accept any differences in knowledge and qualities between Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. The devotees accept all these expansions to be one, but why should they restrict oneness to these quadruple expansions? Certainly we should not do so, for all living entities, from Brahma to the insignificant ant, are expansions of Vasudeva, as accepted in all the srutis and smrtis.

Sankaracarya also says (sutra 45) that the devotees who follow the Pancaratra state that God's qualities and God Himself, as the owner of the qualities, are the same. But how can the Bhagavata school state that the six opulences--wisdom, wealth, strength, fame, beauty and renunciation--are identical with Lord Vasudeva? This is impossible.

In his Laghu-bhagavatamrta (Purva 5.165-193), Srila Rupa Gosvami has refuted the charges directed against the devotees by Sripada Sankaracarya regarding their explanation of the quadruple forms Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. He says that these four expansions of Narayana are present in the spiritual sky, where They are famous as Mahavastha. Among Them, Vasudeva is worshiped within the heart by meditation because He is the predominating Deity of the heart, as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.3.23).

Sankarsana, the second expansion, is Vasudeva's personal expansion for pastimes, and since He is the reservoir of all living entities, He is sometimes called jiva. The beauty of Sankarsana is more than that of innumerable full moons radiating light beams. He is worshipable as the principle of ego. He has invested Anantadeva with all the potencies of sustenance. For the dissolution of the creation, He also exhibits Himself as the Supersoul in Rudra, irreligiosity, sarpa (the snake), antaka (death) and the demons.

Pradyumna, the third manifestation, appears from Sankarsana. Those who are especially intelligent worship this Pradyumna expansion of Sankarsana as the principle of the intelligence. The goddess of fortune always chants the glories of Pradyumna in the place known as Ilavrta-varsa, and she always serves Him with great devotion. His complexion appears sometimes golden and sometimes bluish like new monsoon clouds in the sky. He is the origin of the creation of the material world, and He has invested His creative principle in Cupid. It is by His direction only that all men and demigods and other living entities function with energy for regeneration.

Aniruddha, the fourth of the quadruple expansions, is worshiped by great sages and psychologists as the principle of the mind. His complexion is similar to the bluish hue of a blue cloud. He engages in the maintenance of the cosmic manifestation and is the Supersoul of Dharma (the deity of religiosity), the Manus (the progenitors of mankind) and the devatas (demigods). The Moksa-dharma Vedic scripture indicates that Pradyumna is the Deity of the total mind, whereas Aniruddha is the Deity of the total ego, but previous statements regarding the quadruple forms are confirmed in the Pancaratra tantras in all respects.

......How the Mayavadis have misrepresented the pancaratrika-vidhi will be shown below.

(1) In commenting on Vedanta-sutra 2.2.42, Sripada Sankaracarya has claimed that Sankarsana is a jiva, an ordinary living entity, but there is no evidence in any Vedic scripture that devotees of the Lord have ever said that Sankarsana is an ordinary living entity. He is an infallible plenary expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the Visnu category, and He is beyond the creation of material nature. He is the original source of the living entities. The Upanisads declare, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam: "He is the supreme living entity among all the living entities." Therefore He is vibhu-caitanya, the greatest. He is directly the cause of the cosmic manifestation and the infinitesimal living beings. He is the infinite living entity, and ordinary living entities are infinitesimal. Therefore He is never to be considered an ordinary living being, for that would be against the conclusion of the authorized scriptures. The living entities are also beyond the limitations of birth and death. This is the version of the Vedas, and it is accepted by those who follow scriptural injunctions and who have actually descended in the disciplic succession.

(2) In answer to Sankaracarya's commentary on Vedanta-sutra 2.2.43, it must be said that the original Visnu of all the Visnu categories, which are distributed in several ways, is Mula-sankarsana. Mula means "the original." Sankarsana is also Visnu, but from Him all other Visnus expand. This is confirmed in the Brahma-samhita, wherein it is said that just as a flame transferred from another flame acts like the original, so the Visnus who emanate from Mulasankarsana are as good as the original Visnu. One should worship that Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda, who thus expands Himself.

(3) In reply to the commentary of Sankaracarya on the forty-fourth aphorism, it may be said that no pure devotees strictly following the principles of Pancaratra will ever accept the statement that all the expansions of Visnu are different identities, for this idea is completely false. Even Sripada Sankaracarya, in his commentary on the forty-second aphorism, has accepted that the Personality of Godhead can automatically expand Himself variously. Therefore his commentary on the forty-second aphorism and his commentary on the forty-fourth aphorism are contradictory. It is a defect of Mayavada commentaries that they make one statement in one place and a contradictory statement in another place as a tactic to refute the Bhagavata school. Thus Mayavadi commentators do not even follow regulative principles. It should be noted that the Bhagavata school accepts the quadruple forms of Narayana, but that does not mean that it accepts many Gods. Devotees know perfectly well that the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is one without a second. They are never pantheists, worshipers of many Gods, for this is against the injunction of the Vedas. Devotees completely believe, with strong faith, that Narayana is transcendental and has inconceivable proprietorship of various transcendental potencies. We therefore recommend that scholars consult the Laghu-bhagavatamrta of Srila Rupa Gosvami, where these ideas are explicitly stated. Sripada Sankaracarya has tried to prove that Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha expand through cause and effect. He has compared Them with earth and earthen pots. That is completely ignorant, however, for there is no such thing as cause and effect in Their expansions (nanyad yat sad-asat-param). The Kurma Purana also confirms, deha-dehi-vibhedo 'yam nesvare vidyate kvacit: "There is no difference between body and soul in the Supreme Personality of Godhead." Cause and effect are material. For example, it is seen that a father's body is the cause of a son's body, but the soul is neither cause nor effect. On the spiritual platform there are none of the differences we find in cause and effect. Since all the forms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are spiritually supreme, They are equally controllers of material nature. Standing on the fourth dimension, They are predominating figures on the transcendental platform. There is no trace of material contamination in Their expansions because material laws cannot influence Them. There is no such rule as cause and effect outside of the material world. Therefore the understanding of cause and effect cannot approach the full, transcendental, complete expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedic literature proves this:

om purnam adah purnam idam
purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya
purnam evavasisyate

"The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete by itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance." (Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 5.1) It is most apparent that nondevotees violate the rules and regulations of devotional service to equate the whole cosmic manifestation, which is the external feature of Visnu, with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the controller of maya, or with His quadruple expansions. The equalization of maya and spirit, or maya and the Lord, is a sign of atheism. The cosmic creation, which manifests life in forms from Brahma to the ant, is the external feature of the Supreme Lord. It comprises one fourth of the Lord's energy, as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (ekamsena sthito jagat). The cosmic manifestation of the illusory energy is material nature, and everything within material nature is made of matter. Therefore, one should not try to compare the expansions of material nature to the catur-vyuha, the quadruple expansions of the Personality of Godhead, but unfortunately the Mayavadi school unreasonably attempts to do this.

(4) To answer Sankaracarya's commentary on Vedanta-sutra 2.2.45, the substance of the transcendental qualities and their spiritual nature is described in the Laghu-bhagavatamrta (Purva 5.208-214) as follows: "Some say that transcendence must be void of all qualities because qualities are manifested only in matter. According to them, all qualities are like temporary, flickering mirages. But this is not acceptable. Since the Supreme Personality of Godhead is absolute, His qualities are nondifferent from Him. His form, name, qualities and everything else pertaining to Him are as spiritual as He is. Every qualitative expansion of the absolute Personality of Godhead is identical with Him. Since the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, is the reservoir of all pleasure, all the transcendental qualities that expand from Him are also reservoirs of pleasure. This is confirmed in the scripture known as Brahma-tarka, which states that the Supreme Lord Hari is qualified by Himself, and therefore Visnu and His pure devotees and their transcendental qualities cannot be different from their persons. In the Visnu Purana Lord Visnu is worshiped in the following words: 'Let the Supreme Personality of Godhead be merciful toward us. His existence is never infected by material qualities.' In the same Visnu Purana it is also said that all the qualities attributed to the Supreme Lord, such as knowledge, opulence, beauty, strength and influence, are known to be nondifferent from Him. This is also confirmed in the Padma Purana, which explains that whenever the Supreme Lord is described as having no qualities, this should be understood to indicate that He is devoid of material qualities. In the First Chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.16.29) it is said: 'O Dharma, protector of religious principles, all noble and sublime qualities are eternally manifested in the person of Krsna, and devotees and transcendentalists who aspire to become faithful also desire to possess such transcendental qualities.' " It is therefore to be understood that Lord Sri Krsna, the transcendental form of absolute bliss, is the fountainhead of all pleasurable transcendental qualities and inconceivable potencies. In this connection we may recommend references to Srimad-Bhagavatam, Third Canto, Chapter Twenty-Six, verses 21, 25, 27 and 28.

Sripada Ramanujacarya has also refuted the arguments of Sankara in his own commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, which is known as the Sri-bhasya: "Sripada Sankaracarya has tried to equate the Pancaratras with the philosophy of the atheist Kapila, and thus he has tried to prove that the Pancaratras contradict the Vedic injunctions. The Pancaratras state that the personality of jiva called Sankarsana has emerged from Vasudeva, the supreme cause of all causes, that Pradyumna, the mind, has come from Sankarsana, and that Aniruddha, the ego, has come from Pradyumna. But one cannot say that the living entity (jiva) takes birth or is created, for such a statement is against the injunction of the Vedas. As stated in the Katha Upanisad (2.18), living entities, as individual spiritual souls, can have neither birth nor death. All Vedic literature declares that the living entities are eternal. Therefore when it is said that Sankarsana is jiva, this indicates that He is the predominating Deity of the living entities. Similarly, Pradyumna is the predominating Deity of the mind, and Aniruddha is the predominating Deity of the ego.

"It has been said that Pradyumna, the mind, was produced from Sankarsana. But if Sankarsana were a living entity, this could not be accepted, because a living entity cannot be the cause of the mind. The Vedic injunctions state that everything--including life, mind and the senses--comes from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is impossible for the mind to be produced by a living entity, for the Vedas state that everything comes from the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Lord.

"Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha have all the potent features of the absolute Personality of Godhead, according to the revealed scriptures, which contain undeniable facts that no one can refute. Therefore these quadruple forms are never to be considered ordinary living beings. Each of Them is a plenary expansion of the Absolute Godhead, and thus each is identical with the Supreme Lord in knowledge, opulence, energy, influence, prowess and potencies. The evidence of Pancaratra cannot be neglected. Only untrained persons who have not genuinely studied the Pancaratras think that the Pancaratras contradict the srutis regarding the birth or beginning of the living entity. In this connection, we must accept the verdict of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which says: 'The absolute Personality of Godhead, who is known as Vasudeva and who is very affectionate toward His surrendered devotees, expands Himself in quadruple forms who are subordinate to Him and at the same time identical with Him in all respects.' The Pauskara-samhita states: 'The scriptures that recommend that brahmanas worship the quadruple forms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are called agamas [authorized works of Vedic literature].' In all Vaisnava literature it is said that worshiping these quadruple forms is as good as worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead Vasudeva, who in His different expansions, complete in six opulences, can accept offerings from His devotees of the results of their prescribed duties. Worshiping the expansions for pastimes, such as Nrsimha, Rama, Sesa and Kurma, promotes one to the worship of the Sankarsana quadruple. From that position one is raised to the platform of worshiping Vasudeva, the Supreme Brahman. In the Pauskara-samhita it is said: 'If one fully worships according to the regulative principles, one can attain the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva.' It is to be accepted that Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are as good as Lord Vasudeva, for They all have inconceivable power and can accept transcendental forms like Vasudeva. Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are never born, but They can manifest Themselves in various incarnations before the eyes of pure devotees. This is the conclusion of all Vedic literature. That the Lord can manifest Himself before His devotees by His inconceivable power is not against the teaching of the Pancaratra. Since Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are actually the predominating Deities of all living entities, the total mind and the total ego, the descriptions of Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha as jiva, mind and ego are never contradictory to the statements of the scriptures. These names identify these Deities, just as the terms 'sky' and 'light' sometimes identify the Absolute Brahman.

"The scriptures completely deny the birth or production of the living entity. In the Parama-samhita it is described that material nature, which is used for others' purposes, is factually inert and always subject to transformation. The field of material nature is the arena of the activities of fruitive actors, and since the material field is externally related with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is also eternal. In every samhita, the jiva (living entity) has been accepted as eternal, and in the Pancaratra the birth of the jiva is completely denied. Anything that is produced must also be annihilated. Therefore if we accept the birth of the living entity, we also have to accept his annihilation. But since the Vedic literature says that the living entity is eternal, one should not think the living being to be produced at a certain time. In the beginning of the Parama-samhita it is definitely stated that the face of material nature is constantly changeable. Therefore 'beginning,' 'annihilation' and all such terms are applicable only in the material nature.

"Considering all these points, one should understand that Sankaracarya's statement that Sankarsana is born as a jiva is completely against the Vedic statements. His assertions are completely refuted by the above arguments. In this connection the commentary of Sridhara Svami on Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.1.34) is very helpful."

For a detailed refutation of Sankaracarya's arguments to prove Sankarsana an ordinary living being, one may refer to Srimat Sudarsanacarya's commentary on Sri-bhasya, which is known as the Sruta-prakasika."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi lila 5:41