By the tendency towards the Supreme Person, Bhagavan, fortunate jivas acquire a taste for the bhakti (loving devotional service) principle, which seeks to obtain service of the pure, personal form of Bhagavan, who possesses all qualities and attributes. Their activities, such as worshiping Bhagavan, are not parts of karma or jnana, but are components of pure bhakti. The vaisnava-dharma that conforms to this doctrine is pure vaisnava-dharma.
It is said in the Srimad- Bhagavatam (1.2.11):
“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan.”
The fundamental conclusions, which regard the Absolute Truth as Bhagavan, are the supreme truth, and are the basis of both brahma and Paramatma. It is this personal conception of the truth that is the pure conception of Sri Visnu. The jivas who pursue this principle are pure jivas, and their inclination is called bhakti. Devotion for Sri Hari (hari-bhakti) is celebrated by the names:
- Pure vaisnava-dharma, nitya-dharma, jaiva-dharma (the constitutional function of the jivas).
- Bhagavata-dharma (the religion of worshiping the Supreme Person).
- Paramartha-dharma (the religion that strives for the ultimate benefit).
- Para-dharma (the supreme function).
All types of dharma that arise from the tendencies toward brahma and Paramatma are naimittika, temporary and circumstantial, and not nitya, eternal. The cultivation of the all-pervading featureless brahman is motivated by a material purpose, and is therefore naimittika, not nitya. When a jiva is anxious to gain release from his bondage to matter, his state of imprisonment becomes the cause that impels him to adopt the naimittika-dharma of striving for the state in which all material qualities are extinguished. This striving is said to be circumstantial because it is motivated by a material cause, namely the state of material bondage. Therefore, the dharma of striving to attain brahma is not eternal.
The jivas who adopt the dharma of seeking Paramatma with a desire for the happiness of samadhi (meditation or deep trance upon the Paramatma) take shelter of naimittika-dharma motivated by the impetus for subtle material pleasure. Therefore, Paramatma dharma is also not eternal. Only unalloyed bhagavata-dharma is eternal.
Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Original Guru of the Entire World, has Explained That There are Three Fundamental Principles in Vaisnava-dharma:
- Sambandha-tattva, knowledge of one’s relationship with Bhagavan
- Abhidheya-tattva, knowledge of the means by which the ultimate goal is achieved
- Prayojana-tattva, knowledge of the ultimate goal of Krishna–prema, pure love of Krishna
A pure vaisnava is one who knows these three principles and acts in accordance with them.
The first principle, sambandha-tattva, includes three separate topics:
- The first topic is the material world, or the fundamental truth regarding the potency that creates bewilderment
- The second topic is the living beings (jivas), or the fundamental truth regarding the predominated entities
- The third topic is Bhagavan, or the fundamental truth regarding the predominating entity
Sri Bhagavan is one without a second, and endowed with all potencies. He is all-attractive, the exclusive abode of opulence, and sweetness, and is the sole shelter for all jivas. Although He is the only shelter of maya, and all the jivas, still He is aloof and independent, and exists in His own supreme, independent form, which is uncommonly and superlatively beautiful. The effulgence of His limbs, radiates to a great distance, manifesting as the nirvisesa-brahma, the all-pervading featureless brahman.
Through His divine potency known as aisi-sakti, He manifests the jivas and the material world, and then enters into that world as Paramatma, who is His partial expansion. This is the fundamental truth concerning Krishna, the supreme controller, or Paramatma, the indwelling Supersoul. In other words, the Lord expands Himself and resides with each soul in the material world.
In the Vaikuntha region of the spiritual sky, beyond this material universe, He manifests as Narayana, His feature of supreme opulence and majesty. In Goloka Vrndavana, which is beyond Vaikuntha, He manifests as Gopijana-vallabha Sri Krishna-candra, His feature of supreme sweetness. His various types of expansions, such as identical manifestations and pastime forms, are eternal and unlimited. Nothing and no one are equal to Him, what to speak of being superior to Him.
His identical manifestations and pastime forms are manifested by His superior potency known as para-sakti. This para-sakti displays its prowess (vikrama) in many different features, out of which only three are known to the jivas.
- The first is the internal potency, cid-vikrama, which arranges Sri Hari’s transcendental pastimes and everything related to them.
- The second is the marginal potency, jiva, or tatastha-vikrama, which manifests and sustains innumerable jivas.
- The third is the potency that creates bewilderment, maya-vikrama, which creates material time, material activities, and all the insubstantial objects of this world.
Sambandha-tattva is knowledge that comprises Krishna’s relationship with the jivas, the relationship of the jivas and of matter with Krishna; and the relationship of Krishna and of the jivas with matter. One who understands this sambandha-tattva completely is situated in sambandha-jnana, and one who does not have sambandha-jnana cannot become a pure Vaisnava by any means.