Bhakti Sandarbha 285 : The Gods Named in Āvaraṇa-pūjā are Bhagavān's Associates
|Radha Raman Ju's abhishek in 2011. Photo from Vrindavan Experience.|
Here we continue with the arcana path. This is an explanation of the rationale of Āvaraṇa-pūjā.
The Devas in Āvaraṇa-pūjā are Eternal Associates of Bhagavān
उपप्लवाच्च धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति नारदः॥
विवेकज्ञैरतः सर्वैर्लोकाचारो यथास्थितः।
आ देहपाताद्यत्नेन रक्षणीयः प्रयत्नतः॥ इति।
A similar statement about the significance of not abandoning Vedic karma is made by Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa in the Nārada-Pañcarātra at the beginning of His explanation of the śrāddha ceremony for the forefathers:
O Nārada, even a perfect being who does not first execute his socio-religious duties brings about a deterioration of religious principles through the disruption of social norms. Therefore, all discriminating human beings should carefully attend to social duties as long as the body remains, in such a way that these customs may be preserved.
एतेषां च द्विविधा कर्मव्यवस्था श्रीनारदपञ्चरात्रादौ अन्तर्यामिश्रीभगवद्दृष्ट्यैव सर्वाराधानं विहितम्। विष्णुयामलादौ तु—
विष्णोर्निवेदितान्नेन यष्टव्यं देवतान्तरम्॥
The ceremony of offering oblations of water to the forefathers should be performed only with water that has washed Bhagavān Viṣṇu's feet. All other deities should be propitiated only with food offered to Him.
Deities such as Gaṇeśa and Durgā, who are situated around the circumference of the sanctum sanctorum (in the āvaraṇa-pūjā), are eternal servants of Bhagavān in Vaikuṇṭha, like Viṣvaksena. Therefore, the Gaṇeśa and Durgā who are eternal servants of Bhagavān, are not the same Gaṇeśa and Durgā whose forms are products of matter [and whose worship is popular by people in general]. This can be understood from this statement in the second canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:
In Vaikuṇṭha there is no influence of passion, ignorance or goodness mixed with these two. There is no supremacy of time and no presence of māyā, so what to speak of other material influences. The attendants of Bhagavān Hari, who are revered by gods and demons alike, are present there. (SB 2.9.10)
Therefore, the Gaṇeśa and Durgā who are eternal servants of Bhagavān in Vaikuṇṭha, are manifestations of Bhagavān's internal potency. For this reason alone, in Śruti and Tantra, the specific manifestion of Bhagavān’s internal devotional potency called Durgā is described as the presiding deity even for the group of mantras beginning with the 18-syllable mantra, which embodies the very form of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa.
यथा नारदपञ्चरात्रे श्रुतिविद्यासंवादे—
ज्ञायतेऽत्यन्तदुःखेन सेयं प्रकृतिरात्मनः॥
दुर्गेति गीयते सद्भिरखण्डरसवल्लभा॥ इति।
This is brought out in a dialogue between Śruti and Vidyā from the Nārada-Pañcarātra:
The goddess of devotion, who is the personified potency of Bhagavān and who is the very wealth of service, worships her beloved Bhagavān. This potency who is dear to Bhagavān and ever enjoys rasa with Him. Being only understood with great difficulty, the saints therefore call Her Durgā. [The word durgā literally means difficult to approach.]
अत एव श्रीभगवदभेदेनोक्तं गौतमीयकल्पे—"यः कृष्णः सैव दुर्गा स्याद्या दुर्गा कृष्ण एव सः" इति। "त्वमेव परमेशानि अस्याधिष्ठातृदेवता" इत्यादिकं तु विराट्पुरुषमहापुरुषयोरिव केषांचिदभेदोपासनाविवक्षयैवोक्तम्।
Therefore, considering Durgā as non-different from Bhagavān, the Gautamīya Kalpa says: “Kṛṣṇa is none other than Durgā, and Durgā is none other than Kṛṣṇa.” But statements such as, “You are the supreme reigning Goddess, the presiding deity of this mantra,” are made by worshipers of Durgā who wish to express the oneness they perceive between the Goddess Durgā they worship in this world and the transcendent Durgā, who is an aspect of Bhagavān’s internal potency. The oneness between the material and spiritual Durgā can be compared to the oneness between Bhagavān’s form as the cosmos and His original form as the Supreme Person.
सा हि मायांशरूपा, तदधीने प्राकृतेऽस्मिन् लोके मन्त्ररक्षालक्षणसेवार्थं नियुक्ता चिच्छक्त्यात्मकदुर्गाया दासीयते, न तु सेवाधिष्ठात्री ।
In this material world, Durgā is a partial manifestation of the potency known as Māyā, and under her direction, Durgā is engaged in the service of protecting mantras. Thus she acts as a servant of the transcendent Durgā, who is an aspect of Bhagavān’s internal potency, and not as the presiding deity of service [which is itself at the root of the internal potency].
मायातीतवैकुण्ठावरणकथने पाद्मोत्तरखण्डे (प.पु. ६.२२८.६०, ६४-६६) —
ऐन्द्रपावक याम्यानि नैरृतं वारुणं तथा। वायव्यं सौम्यमैशानं सप्तमं मुनिभिः स्मृतम्॥
साध्या मरुद्गणाश्चैव विश्वेदेवास्तथैव च। नित्याः सर्वे परे धाम्नि ये चान्ये च दिवौकसः॥
ते वै प्राकृतलोकेऽस्मिन्ननित्यास्त्रिदशेश्वराः। ते ह नाकं महिमानः सचन्त इति वै श्रुतिः॥ इति।
The transcendent Durgā is referred to in the Padma Purāṇa (Uttara-khaṇḍa 228.60, 64,65, 66) in the description of the outward circumference of Vaikuṇṭha, which is beyond māyā:
Satya, Acyuta, Ananta, Durgā, Viṣvaksena, Gaṇeśa, Śaṅkhanidhi and Padmanidhi constitute the fourth circle surrounding Vaikuṇṭha. In the seventh circle, the guardians of the directions are situated in their respective posts: Indra in the east, Agni in the southeast, Yama in the south, Nairṛti in the southwest, Varuṇa in the west, Vāyu in the northwest, Soma in the north and Rudra in the northeast.
The Sādhyas, Maruts, Viśvadevas as well as all other gods in the transcendental abode are eternal and spiritual. But the gods who reside in the material heavenly planets are not eternal, as stated in the Vedic mantra: "The gods who live in heaven are ephemeral.”
Moreover, the gods who reside in Bhagavān’s abode His parts, as stated in the Trailokya-sammohana Tantra in the beginning of the enumeration of the gods referred to in the 18-syllabled mantra:
केवलं रूपभेदेन नामभेदः प्रकीर्तितः॥ इति।
Bhagavān Hari, who is the source of all the gods and who is dressed as a cowherd boy, exists in the form of all these gods. He is known by different names only because of variations in form.
Therefore, unalloyed devotees should not be perturbed by the fact that the gods in Bhagavān’s spiritual abode bear the same names as their counterparts in the material world. Rather, unalloyed devotees should honor them as eternal servants of Bhagavān in Vaikuṇṭha, like Viṣvaksena. This is understood from statements that emphasize the defect in failing to honor them, like these words of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa:
One who believes this corpse-like body, which is comprised of the three elements, mucus, bile, and air, to be one’s self; who thinks his wife, children, and others to be his very own; who regards earthen images as objects of worship; or who accepts the water of a river to be a place of pilgrimage, but who never considers those who have realized the Absolute to be as dear as the self, as intimate relations, as worshipable, or as purifying places of pilgrimage, is to be considered as an ass among animals. (SB 10.84.13)
And in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa (253.177):
One who does not worship the devotees of Bhagavān Govinda after worshiping Him is not known as a devotee; rather, he is simply a pretender.
अतस्तान् एवोद्दिश्याह (भा. ११.२७.२९)—
स्वे स्वे स्थाने त्वभिमुखान् पूजयेत् प्रोक्षणादिभिः॥
Therefore Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa spoke these words in specific reference to the gods, who are His eternal servants in His abode:
Situating Durgā, Vināyaka, Vyāsa, Viṣvaksena, one’s preceptor and the gods in their respective positions, one should worship them by offering water and other items. (SB 11.27.29)
पाद्मोत्तरखण्ड एव च (प.पु. ६.२५३.१०३-६) —
अर्चयित्वा जगद्वन्द्यं देवं नारायणं हरिम्। तदावरणसंस्थानं देवस्य परितोऽर्चयेत्॥
हरेर्भुक्तावशेषेण बलिं तेभ्यो विनिःक्षिपेत्। होमं चैव प्रकुर्वीत तच्छेषेणैव वैष्णवः॥ इत्यादि।
And again in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa (253.104b, 105-107a):
Therefore, one should give up the worship of gods not mentioned in the Vedas, and even the gods mentioned in the Vedas should not be worshiped as independent gods. After worshiping Bhagavān Hari, who is Nārāyaṇa, the worshipable deity of the universe, one should worship the gods situated all around Him. A Vaiṣṇava should offer them Bhagavān’s remnants and perform oblations to them using Bhagavān’s remnants.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī makes a pertinent remark about mixing of karma with arcanam. Usually karma involves worship of the devas and forefathers. On the path of bhakti only Bhagavān is worshipable. So how can someone else be worshiped? There are two prescribed ways for this. The first is that one worships the Paramātmā within the devas or forefathers. The second is that one worships the devas and forefathers as devotees of Bhagavān. This was also discussed earlier in Anuccheda 106.
Related with this subject of worship of devas Śrī Jīva explains that in Vaikuṇṭha also there are devas like Gaṇeśa and Durgā. But they are different from Gaṇeśa and Durgā of this world. They are devotees and eternal associates of Bhagavān. They are worshiped along with Bhagavān. They are called āvaraṇa-devatā, or gods who surround Bhagavān in the yoga-pīṭha or sanctum sanctorum.
Arcanam is a very elaborate procedure described in the Āgama literature. But in the path of rāga-bhakti, arcanam is based on love and not on sets of rules. This, however, does not mean that there are no rules. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī is explaining some the basic concepts, but the exact process must be learned from one’s guru. Even in a book like Hari-bhakti-vilāsa which is written for Vaiṣṇavas there are certain descriptions that are not be followed by a devotee of rāga-bhakti.
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Bhakti Sandarbha 284 : The Difference Between Mantra and Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 283 : Pāda-sevā (Concluded) and Arcanam
Bhakti Sandarbha 280-282 : Service to Bhagavān (Pāda-sevanam)
Bhakti Sandarbha 275-279 : Smaranam
Bhakti Sandarbha 273-274 : Conclusion of Kirtan Section
Bhakti Sandarbha 270-272 : Kīrtana in the Kaliyuga
Bhakti Sandarbha 266-269 : Rupa, Guna and Lila Kirtan, Glories of Kirtan
Bhakti Sandarbha 265 : Offenses to the Holy Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 263-264 : Kirtan of the Holy Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 260-262 : More Glories of Hearing the Bhagavatam