What is The Eternal & Constitutional Function of The Jiva/Soul?
Extracted From Jaiva-dharma, By Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur
Chapter “Two”
The Eternal Natural Position & Function of the Jiva/Soul
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Chapters 9 – 25 are Work In Progress

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Segment 16

Who was Sankaracarya?  In the Caitanya-caritamrta, one wll witness the super-excellence of the spotless Vaisnava-dharma, which Sri Caitanya has revealed.  at that time, around 500 Years ago, Sankaracarya’s monistic doctrine flooded India and became very prominent.  This doctrine has a contemptible nature.  The intense emotions, which were displayed by Sri Caitanya, is the highest state of concentrated Prema.  Is it different from the attainment of the perfection of absolute oneness that was taught by Sankaracarya?” 

The fact is that Sankaracarya is none other than Mahadeva-Sankara, or Lord Shiva.  You should always remember this.  Sankara is guru for the Vaisnavas, and for this reason, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu has referred to him as acarya (spiritual preceptor).  For his own part, Sri Sankara was a perfect Vaisnava. 

At the time Sri Sunkara’s appearance in India, there was a great need for a guna-avatara like him, an incarnation who presides over the qualities of material nature.  The study of the Vedic scriptures and the practice of varnasrama-dharma[1] had become practically extinct in India due to the influence of voidism; Buddhist philosophy.  This is an extreme form of skepticism, which denies all existence.  It is a doctrine holding that all values are baseless, and that nothing can be known or communicated.  Buddhists are pure atheist.  It rejects all distinctions in moral or religious value, and a willingness to reject all previous theories of morality or religious belief. 

This is intensely opposed to the personal conception of Bhagavan.  Although it partially accepts the principle of the living being’s identity as a conscious, spiritual soul, it is an extreme example of impermanent religion.  The brahmanas of that era, had abandoned the Vedic dharma, and had in effect all become Buddhists.  At that point, Sankaracarya appeared as an extremely powerful incarnation of Mahadeva (Shiva).  He re-established the credibility of the Vedic literatures, and converted the Buddhist doctrine of voidism into the brahmavada doctrine of just one featureless spiritual substance, brahma.  This feat of Sankaracarya is extraordinary, and India will remain ever indebted to Sri Sankaracarya for this tremendous contribution. 

All activities in this world fall into one of two categories: some are relative to a particular period, and some are applicable for all time.  The work of Sankaracarya was relative to a particular period, and bestowed tremendous benefit. 

 Sankaracarya laid the foundation upon which great spiritual preceptors such as Sri Ramanujacarya, erected the structure of pure vaisnava-dharma.  Consequently, Sankaracarya was a great friend and preceptor who pioneered vaisnava-dharma. 

Vaisnavas are now reaping the fruit of Sankaracarya’s philosophical precepts.  For the jivas who are bound by matter, there is a great need for knowledge of the soul’s entanglement in material nature, and of his relationship with Bhagavan.  Sankaracarya and the Vaisnavas both accept that the sentient living entities in this material world, are completely distinct and separate from their gross and subtle material bodies, which the jivas are spiritually existent, and that liberation entails giving up all connection with this material world.  Consequently, there is a great deal of agreement, between the doctrine of Sankara and that of the Vaisnava teachers, up to the point of liberation.  Sankara has even taught that the worship of Sri Krishna is the method by which one can purify the heart and attain liberation.  He has only remained silent regarding what extraordinary destination the jiva attains after liberation. 

Sankara knew perfectly well that if the jivas could be prompted to strive for liberation, through the worship of Krishna, they would gradually become attached to the pleasure of bhajana, and thus become pure devotees.  That is why he simply pointed out the path, and did not reveal further confidential secrets of vaisnava-dharma.  Those who have scrutinized the commentaries of Sankara, can understand his inner intention, but those who are only preoccupied with the external aspect of his teachings, remain far from the threshold of vaisnava-dharma. 

From one specific point of view, the perfected state of absolute oneness, seems identical to prema.  However, the narrow interpretation of absolute oneness, is certainly different from the meaning of prema

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Chapters 9 – 25 are Work In Progress


[1] Varnasrama-dharma—the system of four social and four spiritual orders established in the Vedic scriptures and discussed by Sri Kåñna in the Bhagavad-gita.

Varna—one of the four Vedic social-occupational divisions of society, distinguished by quality of work and situation with regard to the modes of nature (gunas); Brahmana-a member of the intellectual, priestly class; a person wise in Vedic knowledge, fixed in goodness and knowledgeable of Brahman, the Absolute Truth; One of the four orders of occupational life, brahmana, kñatriya, vaisya and sudra. The brahmanas are the intellectual class and their occupation is hearing Vedic literature, teaching Vedic literature, learning deity worship and teaching deity worship, receiving charity and giving charity. Brahmana; Kñatriya-third of the four orders of the varnasrama system. A warrior who is inclined to fight and lead others. The administrative or protective occupation according to the system of four social and spiritual orders. Kñatriya; Vaisya (Vaishyas)-member of the mercantile or agricultural class, according to the system of four social orders and four spiritual orders. Vaisya; Sudra-a member of the fourth social order, laborer class, in the traditional Vedic social system. He is meant to render service to the three higher classes, namely the brahmanas, the kñatriyas, and the vaisyas.

Asrama – (1) one of the four stages of life – student, married, retired, or renounced – in which one carries out corresponding socio-religious duties in the system known as varnasrama. (2) a hermitage, usually in the association of others, which is established to facilitate spiritual practices.

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