“Salokya means that after material liberation one is promoted to the planet where the Supreme Personality of Godhead resides. Samipya means remaining an associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sarupya means attaining a four-handed form exactly like that of the Lord. Sarshti means attaining opulences like those of the Supreme Lord, and sayujya means merging into the Brahman effulgence of the Lord. These are the five types of liberation.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 6.266 Purport)
Friend1: Don’t you get the feeling that devotees think they are better than everyone else?
Friend2: In what context?
Friend1: In terms of practicing spiritual life.
Friend2: I’m assuming you are referring to devotees in the Vedic tradition, which aligns with what is known as bhakti-yoga.
Friend1: Sure; devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.
Friend2: And then who is the “everyone else” you are using for comparison?
Friend1: People who follow spiritual life. They may not be avowed devotees of the Supreme Lord, but they are genuinely interested in pursuing higher goals.
Friend2: Paramartha instead of svartha.
Friend1: That is a good way to put it. They want to achieve long-term goals. They believe in the afterlife. They are interested to hear the difference between matter and spirit, how the individual transmigrates from one form to another, and what will happen in the future.
Friend2: Specifically in how to influence the destination. They are not necessarily afraid of being condemned to hell for not following a certain religion based on dogmatic insistence, but they know that there is some way to influence what will happen in the next life.
Friend1: That describes it perfectly. Don’t you get the air of superiority from the devotee side? That they think even the genuinely interested are still inferior?
Friend2: What makes you say that?
Friend1: All of the derogatory remarks about impersonalists. Such as that they are the worst sinners because they want to merge into the Brahman effulgence.
Friend2: How is that sinful? I don’t believe you are making an accurate depiction.
Friend1: Well, we do hear about how devotees would never want to merge into the transcendental body of the Supreme Lord.
Friend2: Why not?
Friend1: Because they consider it worse than death.
Friend2: Loss of identity. Almost a stateless existence. They would rather maintain their individuality and serve directly the person they separately identify as worshipable.
Friend1: Okay, that’s fine. Be happy in your choice. Why belittle others?
Friend2: Who is belittling them?
Friend1: The devotees.
Friend2: You are taking it that way, but I don’t believe that is the case. There are five kinds of liberation, or mukti. Each option is available. No one is restricted or prohibited. This is the amazing kindness of Bhagavan. He does describe how the impersonal path is more difficult, but He never belittles anyone for choosing that option.
क्लेशो ऽधिकतरस् तेषाम्
अव्यक्ता हि गतिर् दुःखं
kleśo ‘dhikataras teṣām
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ
“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)
Friend1: Right, and so people not interested in devotion to the manifest side might feel marginalized.
Friend2: But Krishna is simply telling the truth. Don’t you want Him to be honest?
Friend1: I don’t like criticizing people who are genuinely interested in advancing in spiritual life.
Friend2: It is not criticism. It is like being on a game-show, where you are offered a choice between two different curtains. Fortunately, the guru informs you what is behind each curtain. Make an informed decision. The devotees say that you will be happier in maintaining your individuality. They reject merge-liberation not because of a need to stand out, but because of a loss of opportunity.
Friend1: It is almost like they are children trying to show off how much they love their parents.
Friend2: And what is the other side doing? They are simply taking, enjoying for themselves. The parents here, Radha and Krishna, are so kind and loving that they do not discriminate. But wouldn’t you admit that the children that want to serve without motive and without interruption are superior?
Friend1: See. I got you to admit it. A superiority complex.
Friend2: Well, guilty as charged. Be thankful for people who give you the complete picture, who talk straight. They do not show false compassion by equating two things that are indeed not equal. Everyone follows the Supreme Lord in all respects, and the devotees look only for the opportunity that brings eternal living.
Rather not that option to choose,
Where identity to lose.
Agreed that liberation true,
And offered by Supreme too.
But merging to suicide compared,
At lost opportunity despair.
Acharya the choices revealing,
To devotees service appealing.