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The material world, called Jagata, by Vallabha, being God Himself in a limited form, is a theatre for another Lila of a higher order. After having created the world God generates from himself the Jivas, the souls. These participate in His being to a larger extent than Nature since they have in themselves two of His chief attributes, Sat and Chit, existence and consciousness. It is only the Ananda, Bliss that they are lacking. The jivas are not spoken of by Vallabha as effects. They are amshas, parts of God, and as such they are neither caused, nor created. They issue from Him spontaneously as sparks fly from fire, a metaphor given in the Upanishads. These should are always in God either implicitly or explicitly. They are from all eternity because it is said in the Vedas that before creation had taken place, God desired to be many. They are spiritual beings and as such are above time and space. A soul, however, is atomic in size and resides only in one part of the body, but it pervades the entire body by its intelligence just as a lamp, though confined only to a part of a room, illuminates the whole of it. The soul is minute in size when it lacks the Ananda, but when this latter manifests itself in it, it becomes all-pervading.
The souls are in a fallen state in as much as they do not possess the attribute of Ananda, which is the most important quality of God. Their separation from God created in them a forgetfulness of their original and true nature, because of which they get involved in what is called by Vallabha Samsara as distinguished from Jagata, the objective world. The Samsara, according to him, is a product of the soul's imagination and action, which play round its I-ness and Mine-ness. This is the true Maya, a creation of soul's selfishness. Because of its selfishness, the soul puts itself in wrong relations with other souls and with the material world. It creates a web of its own and tries to lose itself in it. This is an illusion, for the web has no reality. According to Vallabha, it is this Samsara, the world of false relations created by the soul, which alone is Maya. It rises because the soul, which is absolutely nothing apart from God, tries to set itself up as an independent reality in its own right. Thus the very self, which would be something apart from God, is illusory: its body is illusory, and its world also is illusory. All this is Samsara and it is very different from the world of Nature. The latter, known as
Jagata, is not illusory, but is real, nay, is God Himself in one form.
Evolution of Jeev Atmas-souls
It is not possible for the soul under the condition of its fall to know God of its own accord. This is why God Himself takes the lead in bringing it back to Himself. He does this at first by revealing His word in the Scriptures. There is a kind of evolution in this Self-revelation of God to the soul.
Its first step is the Karma-Kanda, the ritualistic works enjoined by the Scriptures. In the beginning the soul performs these duties in a partially selfish spirit. Its Sakama Karmas, i.e., works done with a desire to attain some reward for one's self, do not bring it real happiness.
It then learns to do these works in a Nishkama, i.e. unattached manner. This purifies it from its own selfishness and it becomes fitted to receive Jnana, knowledge. Attaining this it becomes united with and even absorbed in God in His Akshara form. This last is not, however, the supreme form of God.
This path of Karma-Kanda is extremely hard, even impossible to follow in the present Kali Yuga, the Dark Age. Because of this, God has shown out of His infinite mercy to the soul, a way much easier to follow. This way is, besides, such as leads us to Him in His fullness.
Types of Souls
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In order to understand the special teaching of Vallabha in this matter we must see what he had to say about the souls and how they advance in the path of God.
The human souls, according to him, are of three kinds, viz, Pusti souls, Maryada souls and Pravahika souls.
All these are different from one another in their origin nature and final end. They all issue or are generated from God with their differences, which are from the beginning and which remain to end,
The first kinds are the highest since they issue from the anandakava, the Bliss-body of God. These souls are the amsas of this body, God being the Amshi, the whole, thereof. Their nature is such that they ultimately reach the highest goal of life, which is to have communion and fellowship with Sri Krishna, the Supreme God, in His divine abode. It is not impossible for them to fall a prey to sin and Samsara, the world of I-ness and Mineness, but they have the divine seed, the bija, in them, which fructifies fully in the end. Being dependent wholly on the grace of God, they come to possess in course of time the truest of Bhakti, which is the means and the end in itself. These are in truth the souls of Grace.
The second kind of souls, i.e. The Maryada souls, is generated from the Vach, the word, of God. Their strength or weakness lies in this that they are governed wholly by Law as distinguished from Grace. They are also called Vedic souls, for they live and move and have their being in the revelation given in the Vedas. They delight in works prescribed by the Scriptures. They perform their ritualistic duties at first in an interested manner having in view some material good, whether in this world or in the next. They evolve from this state however, for they soon get dissatisfied by working in this manner, and begin to perform their ritualistic duties without any self-interest. This purifies their mind, and if they persist in this new path they might reach and be absorbed ultimately in the Akshara, which is a kind of vestibule to Gods' open abode. From here they may be translate higher into the Divine Household or the very heaven of God, but this needs a special grade. These souls are, however, essentially soul of Law.
The Pravahika souls rise from the manas, the mind, of God. They are souls neither of grace, not law, but of continuous motion or movement or drift which is the meaning of the term Pravaha. They live and move and have their being in their own self-will and in the world called Samsara or Maya, which is their own creation.
At the end of the cycle they are reabsorbed in Avidya which is nescience. These souls are also called asuri, demoniac, and are sub-divided further into two groups, Durjans, wicked ones, and Ajnas, ignorant ones. The first of these are fully devilish by their very nature, whereas the latter have become so in course of time owing to association etc. There is hope for these latter.
The division of souls in these three major classes is no arbitrary act on the part of Vallabha, but is based on the teaching of the Scriptures, especially the Bhagawad-Gita.
It is also worth noting that Vallabha seems to believe in election and predestination of souls to certain ends from the very start of their generation.
He says God made them such and it is not for us to find fault with Him for whatever He may do. He is fully independent to do what He wills with whatever is His. In regard to this matter he says just the thing said by St. Paul centuries before him. Besides, in the Lila or the Divine Drama played by God on the theatre of this world, there is room for both evil and good: in fact the latter would not be there but for the former.
These three kinds of souls are divided further into sub-division and cross -divisions among themselves. In order to find these one does not need to go far, since one meets them at every turn. To begin from the top, we come across souls which belong to the pure and unmixed state of grace called Shuddha Pusti. These are wholly dependent on the grace of God, reserving nothing of their own strength or power. They have no desire for anything that is not God, however much it may be prized by other people. Even heaven they care not for, nor are they unhappy if it pleased God to put them into hell. In all things God's good pleasure is their aim and even in the worst of miseries and sorrows their minds are perfectly at rest because they know that whatever happens is for the best. In God's good world nothing is amiss for them. Their love for God is altogether of the nishkama, disinterested kind and as such it is perfect.
Next to these are the souls which are in the state called Pusti-Pusti. They are different from the former in this that they do not give themselves up to God absolutely as the other do. Their life is full grace, it is true, but there is still something lacking, due to which they do not reach the highest goal of life according to Vallabha. They become all-knowing in the end.
Then come the souls which have in them the state of both Pusti and Maryada. These belong to the realm of both Grace and Law. They rely on both Bhakti and Karma, owing to which they fall short of the highest state. They come to know in course of time the attributes of God, but they do not enjoy His fellowship.
Then come the souls which belong to the Maryada-pusti class. They give up worldly activity and are devoted to Dhyana, contemplation of God. But since the grace of God is working in them, they have some elements of the highest Bhakti in them.
After these come the souls which belong to the Pusti-Pravaha class. Though the grace of God is working in them, they are given to religious works of all kinds such as pilgrimage etc.
Following these in the scale are those that belong to the Pravaha-Pusti class. They belong to the world even though they have come under the operation of God's active grace. Next to them comes the soul of the Maryada-Maryada class. They give themselves up to religious deeds in order to go to heaven. These are followed by the souls of the Maryada-Pravaha class. They perform religious deeds and works with a view to attain the good things of this world.
Then come the souls that belong to the Pravaha-Maryada state. They are engrossed in works of all kinds.
The last class is that of Pravaha-Pravaha soul, they live altogether outside the working of Grace and Law and are devilish, asuric, in their nature and activity.
Vallabha has given in this classification a description of the different kinds of souls as they are found in the world after they have come under the operation of Law or Grace or both, or have refused to come under the operation of any of these. In putting this description here we have anticipated much, which it now behoves us to see and understand.
The most important question that faces us now is to know how it is that these souls, which were originally divine, fell from their true nature. As we have said before, according to Vallabha all the souls are amsas, part of God, and they share with Him some of His great attributes especially the six ones known as aisvaruya, power and lordship; virya, prowess yasha good repute; sri, spendour: janana, knowledge : and vairagya, detachment.
With the disappearance of the ananda, joy of God, which is the first step in the generation of the soul those qualities also disappear. The souls fall thus from their original estate and they now seek the ananda they have lost.
They do this first in the outside world viz., Jagat, which though objectively real and divine, is seen wrongly by them because of their selfishness, and is, therefore, turned into Samsara. The evil or the beginning of sin lies thus is selfishness on the part of the Jivas, Ahamta and Mamata, I-ness and mine-ness, being the root cause thereof.
Hence everything goes wrong and they become more and more involved in this net of their own making. The souls stand in wrong relations with God with the consequence that they are false to themselves and to everything else. They live in a world of illusion created by their own selfishness, which is the only Maya that Vallabha knows of. This Maya however, is very real in comparison with that of Shankara, for it is not merely the produce of ignorance but of sin as well.
The separation of souls from God brings forgetfulness, vismriti of God on their part. This in its turn makes them self-centered, thinking and working only for themselves. As a result thereof they get bound all round in a system of false relations seeing everything awry and making the entire web of life worse by their selfish interference. These are the steps which, according to Vallabha, soul take in their fall. In the last analysis, it is a spiritual fall, for its root lies in selfishness, Ahamta and Mamta, I-ness and Mine-ness.
One may well ask the question as to why it is that God caused this separation of souls from Himself with all its consequences.
Vallabha gives a peculiar answer to this, viz., that it is God’s wish, His sovereign pleasure. It is an integral part of His divine lila. In this Vallabha differs from most of the Hindu teachers, who are afraid to attribute the origin of man’s fall and of moral and spiritual evil to God Himself in the last resort.
According to them it means some kind of moral responsibility for this evil on His part, which takes away to some extent His infinite glory. This is why they attribute it to the souls’ karmas etc. To Valabha, however, any other cause of this kind would itself be detraction from God’s absolute independence. Here he is certainly more consistent.
As to the purpose of God in manifesting such Lila, it is, according to Vallabha, no other than making the souls which have been thus separated from Him, experience again communion and fellowship with Him.
These latter become all the more valuable because of the previous separation. In this there is a kind of divine rhythm which goes on eternally. This rhythm remains even in the highest states which a soul might experience. As a matter of fact, the state of desolation or separation from God is even more important in the eyes of Vallabha and his followers than that of union with God. As it has been put by some of them, in desolation one finds God everywhere, whereas in union only in one place.
Since God has such a purpose in view, He does not leave the souls that have been separated from Him to their own devices. He wooes them by a series of successive steps or dispensations, bringing out thus the positive part of His Lila. He tries to win them gradually to Himself, thus setting right what has gone wrong.
-The first step in this process of return of the souls to God is taken by way of giving them the Scriptural Revelation. He grants them the Vedas which show to them some knowledge of His laws in order to teach them self-restraint. This is known as the Karma-Kanda, the dispensation of ritualistic duties and works.
-The souls follow this at first with a view to get happiness both in this world and in the next. Their Karmas are, therefore, Sakama, self-interested, though with this difference between their former state and the present one, viz., that in their pre-Vedic stage they did not follow any law but that of their own self-will. Their obedience to the Vedas, provided it is sincere, soon shows to them that it does not give them that happiness or joy, which they are seeking out of the very necessity of their nature.
-This leads them to perform their ritualistic and other duties in a Nishkama, disinterested manner, to follow the path of duty for the sake of duty alone. This teaches them real self-control, and if they persist in this path, with the help of the additional knowledge granted to them by the Revelation given in the Upanishads they reach the Akshara, which is the outer body of God. This is the highest point they can reach in this path.
These are the Maryada souls, whereas those who do not follow the law as revealed in the Vedas are Pravaha souls.
There is, however, a better way by far than this.
For one thing this path of Karma-Kand, is too long and tedious to follow and souls do not have always the necessary patience and perseverance to continue in it. Besides, the goal that is set before them in it is not the highest. Looking to the whole of history, it may be said that God gave this dispensation of the Vedic Law to prepare humanity, or at any rate, the people of India for something larger
and better that was soon to follow. In the words of St. Paul, the Law taught in the Vedas was a “school-master” to train humanity for the Way of Bhakti or Love.
We might add here that Vallabha looks upon Jnana Kanda, the Way of Knowledge, also more or less in the same manner as upon Karma Kanda. It is undoubtedly superior to the latter, and follows it naturally provided one has fulfilled one’s duties properly. With the disappearance of self-will and the attainment of self-control, comes the right understanding of the universe and of God also to some extent. But even this way does not lead to the final goal.
Its ultimate goal is Akshara in which the souls purified by action of the right kind and illumined by knowledge get absorbed.
Both these ways, though Scriptural, are, however, long and difficult and they fall far short of the Final Beatitude even at their best. Besides, the advent of the Kali Yuga, the Dark Age, makes it impossible for people to follow them.
Hence God found it proper to give another Dispensation, that of Bhakti, so that everyone might find it easier to come to Him.