No One Falls From Vaikuṇṭha – Part 1 (Bhagavat Sandarbha, 51)

Srila Jiva Gosvami

Srila Jiva Gosvami

Continuation from Bhagavat Sandarbha, Anuccheda 51:

(3) No one falls down from that abode (tato’skhalanam). Śrī Kapiladeva says:

atho vibhūtiṁ mama māyayācitām
aiśvaryam aṣṭāṅgam anupravṛttam
śriyaṁ bhāgavatīṁ vāspṛhayanti bhadrāṁ
parasya me te’śnuvate tu loke

Thereafter, they do not hanker after any opulence stored for them by My māyā, nor for the eight ensuing yogic paranormal powers, nor even for the transcendental glory of God, and yet these benign gifts become effortlessly available to them in My supreme abode. (SB 3.25.37)

“Thereafter” (atho) means, “after the removal of ignorance.” “By My māyā” (mama māyayā) means, “by My mercy upon the devotee.” “Stored” (ācitām) means, made manifest or available for the sake of those devotees. “Opulence” (vibhūti) refers to paraphernalia appropriate for enjoyment, and aiśvarya, to the eight yogic paranormal powers (aṣṭāṅgaiśvaryam), such as aṇimā (atomization). These powers systematically ensue” (anupravṛttam), i.e., it is their very nature to be made available [as a consequence of pure devotion]. The devotees do not desire any of the above, nor even “the transcendental glory of God” (bhāgavatīṁ śriyaṁ), which here refers to the majesty known as sārṣṭi, or in other words, those divine opulences that are particular to the Lord Himself. The reason why they don’t desire any such opulence is that they yearn only to expand God’s own bliss through abandonment to all-consuming devotional love and service. Even though they have no desire for any of the above-stated gifts, they certainly enjoy (aśnuvate) them, meaning that they become fully available to them, in My supreme abode (loke) known as Vaikuṇṭha.

This shows the Lord’s special affection for His devotees, which is also exemplified in the benediction given to Sudāmā, the florist in Mathurā:

Sudāmā entreated the Lord that he may be blessed with unflinching devotion for Him, the Soul of all existence, with heart-felt friendship toward His devotees, and with the broadest and highest compassion for all living beings. The Lord not only granted Sudāmā all these, but also awarded him ever-increasing prosperity for his family [as well as strength, longevity, fame and beauty].  (SB 10.41.51-52)

Kapiladeva’s verse also shows the devotees’ disinterest in these opulences. The phrases, “after the removal of ignorance” (atho), and, “stored for them by My mercy” (mama māyayācitam), indicate that such opulences are in no way detrimental to them. Furthermore, by saying, “stored by My māyā” (māyayācitām), Kapiladeva indicates that all opulences, including those of the highest realms like Brahma-loka, are fully available to such devotees, as experiential possibilities, yet they make no use of them, considering them completely devoid of significance or substantiality and thus unsuitable for their use.

Śruti also states: “Just as the enjoyment earned by karma in this world perishes in due course, so does heavenly pleasure, attained by pious deeds.” (ChU 8.1.6)  And thereafter, “Those who leave their bodies after continuous recognition of the Lord, and of the realities truly worthy of desire, can freely travel in all the worlds.”

Here a doubt is raised: If Vaikuṇṭha is just another planet (loka), undistinguished from other planets [like Siddha-loka, and so on.], then sooner or later the experiencer’s enjoyment [of this realm] will come to an end. In response, the following verse is spoken:

na karhicin mat-parāḥ śānta-rūpe
naṅkṣyanti no me’nimiṣo leḍhi hetiḥ
yeṣām ahaṁ priya ātmā sutaś ca
sakhā guruḥ suhṛdo daivam iṣṭam

In that abode of unalterable peace, are found only those who know themselves and feel themselves to belong to Me entirely. They will never meet with destruction; My unblinking wheel never devours those for whom I am the total Beloved, their very Self, son, friend, preceptor, relative, benefactor and worshipable Lord. (SB 3.25.38)

“Of unalterable peace” (śānta-rūpe) refers to the supreme abode, Vaikuṇṭha [mentioned in the previous verse], which is peaceful by nature, meaning that it is free from all change or alteration that could disrupt the continuity of peace. All those who reside there know themselves and feel themselves to belong to Me entirely (mat-parāḥ). They are never destroyed (no naṅkṣyanti), which means they are never bereft of the [aforementioned] experiential possibilities. “My unblinking wheel” (animiṣo me hetiḥ), i.e., My discus in the form of time, does not devour them (no leḍhi). As stated in the Śruti, “He does not return” (ChU 8.15.1).  The Gītopaniṣad also declares:

O Arjuna, all planets up to the highest planet, Brahma-loka, are places of return, but one who attains to My abode never takes birth again. (Gītā 8.16)

In commenting on the name Parāyaṇa in his Sahasra-nāma-bhāṣya (75), Śaṅkarācārya writes, “That abode is supreme (param), or in other words, most excellent, from which there is no going (ayana), meaning, wherein there is no fear of return (punar-āvṛtti-śaṅkā-rahitam), and so it is called Parāyana. If the term appears in the masculine gender, then it should be taken as a bahuvrīhi compound, i.e., as an epithet of the Lord [rendering this sense, “the Lord, whose supreme abode is free from return”].

Freedom from the fear of fall or destruction is not the full extent of the devotees’ glories. Lord Kapila elucidates further in the second half of the verse: “those for whom I am the total Beloved, their very Self, son, friend, preceptor, relative, benefactor and worshipable Lord.” This means that for such devotees there is no Entity other than Me [the Lord], for whom their love exists. Alternatively, the statement can be taken as a reference to Goloka [instead of Vaikuṇṭha], because only there do the gopas, endowed with the full range of such attitudes, eternally reside.

Then again, the last two lines of the verse can be taken as a reply to the question, “What kind of people attain that abode after being freed from ignorance?” The idea is this: Some people, like the sages described in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa, desire Me as their beloved husband (priyaḥ), while others, like the four Kumāras, consider Me as “their very Self” (ātmā), i.e., directly as Brahman; yet others relate to Me in the other ways mentioned; only such persons [who know themselves as belonging to Me entirely, through any of these dispositions] can attain Vaikuṇṭha. The word suhṛdaḥ, “bosom friend,” is in the plural, because such friends are of various kinds.

Śrī Nārada speaks in a similar vein in the Fourth Canto:

Those established in unalterable peace, who are equanimous, pure and who please all other living beings, effortlessly go to that abode from which no one falls down (acyuta-padam), for they keep friendship with the dear devotees of the infallible Lord. (SB 4.12.37)