“One’s real dharma, or occupational duty, is explained by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Jivera ‘svarupa’ haya-krishnera ‘nitya-dasa’: [Cc. Madhya 20.108] every living being is an eternal servant of Krishna. That is one’s real occupational duty.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.51 Purport)
Friend1: You would acknowledge that Brahman gets mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita?
Friend2: What is there to acknowledge? Any person with a brain, who knows how to read, can see that the Supreme Personality of Godhead discusses the impersonal realization of the Absolute Truth many times during His famous conversation with the bow-warrior Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna is kind enough to ask which realization is superior, the impersonal or the personal.
Friend1: Okay, I just wanted to put that out there, since our discussions always focus on bhakti.
Friend2: The impersonal realization is not bhakti?
Friend1: I am not sure. I would not think so. You are not really serving anything. It is more of a personal achievement, like finishing a marathon or climbing a hill.
Friend2: There is appreciation for the Divine, in awe and reverence, but without a clear picture of what is being appreciated. You are correct, though. For bhakti there has to be two corresponding entities. There has to be a benefit to each side, as Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says.
Friend1: Brahman cannot be benefitted, because it is not really anything.
Friend2: Or it is everything, haha. Depends on how you look at it.
Friend1: Here is a question I received recently. What is wrong in merging into Brahman?
Friend2: Who says it is wrong?
Friend1: Well, if it were right we would be recommending the jnana path to people. We would be saying that the highest realization is to merge into the formless Absolute, to find a stateless existence, which is the original condition.
Friend2: Well, we disagree with that last claim. It is not the original condition. The tatastha-shakti, the marginal energy, is from where the living entities emerge, but time is actually infinite in both directions. There is always some kind of existence, as confirmed by Krishna to Arjuna.
न त्व् एवाहं जातु नासं
न त्वं नेमे जनाधिपाः
न चैव न भविष्यामः
सर्वे वयम् अतः परम्
na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ
na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)
This means that a person will continue to exist going forward, even if they should merge into Brahman. They are always Brahman, in fact. Conditioned life is simply forgetting one’s true nature.
Friend1: Remembering that nature would be life in liberation?
Friend2: The original condition. No more illusion. No more considering dichotomies. No more even worrying about Brahman and maya. We say that the original condition is sanantana-dharma, which is bhakti if you really think about it. One eternal being serving another eternal being. The service can be in a variety of ways, through different moods.
Friend1: Then why is there discussion of Brahman at all? Why mention it?
Friend2: Because it is an option for life outside of maya. Not every person prefers serving the Divine in the full manifestation, that of Bhagavan. They would rather remain without an existence, though that state cannot be maintained forever. The soul is full of ananda, and it will eventually seek a higher taste. That is why so many committed yogis and transcendentalists of the past went higher than Brahman.
Friend1: Such as?
Friend2: There is the case of King Janaka of Mithila. When he found a baby in the ground while setting up for a yajna one day, he felt tremendous affection immediately. That is not supposed to happen for a Brahman-realized soul. When he later met Rama and Lakshmana, personal incarnations of the Divine, the bliss was higher than Brahma-sukha. This can only occur when the interaction is not in maya.
Friend1: Would you say that merging into Brahman is unnatural?
Friend2: It does not correspond with the svarupa. This is the real form of the living entity, who is eternal. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that every person’s svarupa is Krishna-dasa, servant of the Supreme Lord. The truth can be seen right now; just look around. Even atheists are serving; they know only the shadow version of the spiritual world. They worship Krishna’s illusion, and there is a corresponding reward for such worship. The best reward is God’s personal association, which does not arrive through merging. There is another truth to consider.
Friend1: What is that?
Friend2: If Brahman were the highest concept, then Arjuna would not have proceeded in the Bharata War. After hearing Bhagavad-gita, he would have dropped his weapons and merged into Krishna’s body. Bhishmadeva later did something like this, but the merging was in bhakti, not Brahman. It was after acting according to duty and maintaining the proper consciousness. That life in liberation is steady; it is not simply an achievement that brings an end to things.
Bringing challenge to the table,
Questioning unnatural the label.
With merging into Brahman so,
But because somewhere higher to go.
Just a realization, a way to see,
Behind it a personal form to be.
Who Shri Krishna, as Bhagavan known,
Superiority of bhakti in Gita shown.