(2) Vaikuṇṭha is transcendental to the manifested cosmos (prapañcātītatvam). Rudra declares this truth to the Pracetas:
sva-dharma-niṣṭhaḥ śata-janmabhiḥ pumān
viriñcatām eti tataḥ paraṁ hi mām
avyākṛtaṁ bhāgavato’tha vaiṣṇavaṁ
padaṁ yathāhaṁ vibudhāḥ kalātyaye
A person scrupulously devoted to his occupational duty for one hundred births becomes eligible to occupy the post of Brahmā, and if he becomes yet more qualified, he can attain me (Lord Śiva). A worshiper of the complete Whole, Bhagavān, however, is immediately promoted to the abode of the Complete (vaiṣṇavaṁ padam), which is free of all divisions or modifications (avyākṛtam), just as the other gods and I go there after the destruction of our subtle bodies. (SB 4.24.29)
If one has a great deal more piety [than needed to attain the post of Brahmā], he attains my world. But a worshiper of the Complete Whole, Bhagavān, after giving up his body, attains the abode of the Complete, Lord Viṣṇu, which is known as Vaikuṇṭha. It is beyond the manifested cosmos and free from all modifications (avyākṛtam), such as those mentioned in the famous Śruti statement, “I shall bring into manifestation (vyākṛtam) the divisions or modifications of name and form” (ChU 6.3.2) .
Just as I, Rudra, exist as an office-bearer, so do other devas. At the end of our appointed duration, and when our subtle bodies are destroyed, we go to that place, in accordance with the principle stated in the Brahma-sūtra, “The office-holders remain in this world until their tenure is completed” (VS 3.3.33).
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī now explains that Vaikuṇṭha is beyond the visible or manifested world (prapañca), beyond even Lord Brahmā’s realm, Satyaloka, which is considered to be the topmost planet in the universe. From the verse quoted in this section, it is clear that Lord Rudra’s world is superior even to that of Brahmā, since more pious merit is required to reach it.
One can achieve the world of Brahmā by pious acts or by adherence to religious principles. If one has even greater piety, he can attain the realm of Rudra. In the previous anuccheda, Kṛṣṇa described to Uddhava the various destinations attained by the followers of varṇāśrama, belonging to different āśramas. To reach Vaikuṇṭha, however, one has to be free from both the gross and subtle bodies, which means Vaikuṇṭha lies beyond both gross and subtle dimensions.
To prove this, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī cites a verse spoken by Lord Rudra to the Pracetas in which Vaikuṇṭha is described as avyākṛtam, free from external divisions or modifications, or in other words, one, unmodified nondual Reality. The Chāndogya Upaniṣad uses the word vyākṛtam to mean “manifest from the state of non-manifestation,” or in other words, “a caused event”—I shall bring into manifestation (vyākṛtam) the divisions or modifications of name and form” (nāma-rūpe vyākaravāṇi, ChU 6.3.2). The subsequent Chāndogya mantra describes material objects produced by the three guṇas of nature, which have names and forms. Vaikuṇṭha is not a manifestation of the three guṇas, and is thus called avyākṛtam, not a caused event, not something brought into the state of manifestation, which is to say that it is eternally self-manifest. Jīva Gosvāmī gives the word, prapañcātītam, “beyond the visible or manifested cosmos,” as a synonym for avyākṛtam.
Vaiṣṇavaṁ padam means the abode of the Complete Whole, Lord Viṣṇu, known as Vaikuṇṭha. The presiding deities of universal affairs attain that abode after they complete their tenure and are free from the subtle body, kalātyaye. Kalā means the subtle body.
In his commentary on Vedānta-sūtra 3.3.33, Śrī Baladeva Vidyabhūṣana writes that the devas, like Brahmā, have burned their accumulated karma in the fire of transcendental knowledge, but some prārabdha-karma remains owing to their desire to assist the Lord in administering universal affairs. Brahmā becomes liberated at the end of his term. Other gods who are free from karma proceed to Brahmā’s planet after their tenure is over. They remain there until the end of Brahmā’s life, at which time they are liberated along with him. The Kūrma Purāṇa confirms this:
When Brahmā’s tenure is over and the great dissolution occurs, all perfected beings enter the abode of the Lord along with Brahmā. (KūrmaP 12.273)
This proves that Vaikuṇṭha is beyond Satyaloka and thus beyond the manifested cosmos. Incidentally, it should be noted that unlike devas or other pious beings who attain Brahmā’s post, a devotee fully established in the Lord’s internal potency and thus free from the guṇas does not have to wait until the end of Brahmā’s life span to enter into Vaikuṇṭha. After giving up the present body, he is immediately transferred to Vaikuṇṭha, having become one in nature and constitution with that transcendental realm.
In the next section, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī will show that no one ever falls from Vaikuṇṭha.
(From Bhagavat Sandarbha translated with commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa)