7 Juin 2022
Srila Prabhupada insists in the purport of this verse I am focusing on (5.18) to recall that "the devotee makes no distinction of caste or species" and that "such is the vision of the one who holds the true knowledge." The subject is intriguing, to say the least, since we know well that the Vaishnava doctrine is more personalistic than any current of thought and for nothing in the world would the devotee insinuate that a cow and a dog have the same biological or ontological status. The Vaishnava protects the cow, which he considers sacred. He doesn’t ignore, in doing so, that dogs have souls, just like cows.
What or who is Srila Prabhupada talking about exactly?
Who is the disciple who “makes no distinction”? To whom is it addressed and why does it stress the importance of this vision which is not displeasing to monists? What is even more intriguing to me is that I humbly ask these questions to many ancient devotees, gurus, sannyasis and prabhus, but none of them ever answer.
In any case, the problem has raged in scholarly circles for several centuries, until today, as to the origin of man and creation. Darwin stated the idea that no difference was prevailing between ape and man, the latter being an animal. Charles Darwin and Peter Singer, same fight: we are only matter and it is matter that produces consciousness. They are atheists; they do not believe in the individual and eternal soul. Prabhupāda fought like a lion to expose this imposture: nirvisesa-sunyavadi pascatya desa tarine; impersonalism and nihilism, so prevalent in the West.
The Vaishnavas must not ignore the distinctions if they do not see souls. This verse, vidya-vinaya-sampanne, aims at the great soul, the summit of yoga, union with God. A little later in this same chapter, concerning the liberated being, who has attained Brahman, tasmād brahmaṇi te sthitāḥ, Krishna explains the yogi becomes one with God and sees only Him. And no more distinction. Brahma-nirvanam, He says, liberation in the Supreme is a realization of the one who no longer discriminates (Bg. 5.24).
If ascetic idealism prevails in this chapter five, the fact remains that pragmatism -appropriate and devotional action- surpasses the renunciation of acts. Arjuna must act! He is a devotee of Krishna, his best friend, but he must arm himself with courage and lucidity and accept that they are two camps; the Kaurava, opposite, where some of them are dear to him, are the enemy. There is no doubt about Krishna’s intention and Arjuna’s duty. He must take again his Gandiva arc and very skillfully distinguish his priority opponents with the help of his own judgment: there, not everyone is equal and not everyone is nice because they are spiritual souls. The charioteer has a different status than the warrior he is transporting. Even the chariot and the horses are scrupulously considered when Arjuna adjusts the arrow.
Why did our renouncer visiting the Mirepoix center in France tell reporters he makes no distinction between Muslims and Hindus? The day he spoke these words, there were several Ukrainian refugees in the room, the Russians having attacked their country. Which responsible among the devotees of Krishna can declare without passing for a dreamer not to distinguish between Russian soldiers and Ukrainian soldiers, because they are spiritual souls? There are elements in this political conflict similar to Arjuna’s dilemma; Russian and Ukrainian soldiers can be Vaishnavas, of the same family, and fight between them. ■
See the article preceding this one: Seeing the soul and the mistake technically called rasābhāsa.