Vrindavana Das wrote:
We know that the ultimate goal of life is to achieve the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Lord. The question is, how can we achieve this goal, and what is the correct method for doing so?
One cannot achieve Supreme Lord by knowledge of nirbheda-brahmānusandhāna (inquiry into non-differentiated Brahman) because these do not accept the Form of the Supreme Lord. This knowledge can, however, help one to put an end to the ignorance of material existence, and cross over the threefold qualities of māyā. Through the process of neti-neti (“not this, not that”), the jñānīs are able to leave aside the asat, or non-eternal, but the tendency for sat-vastu, the Supreme Lord, does not arise in them. Consider a person who has an attachment for sāttvika, rājsika and tāmasika objects of this world. Through some method, he is able to severe his attachment for these worldly objects, but he is still unable to develop the desire to achieve the ultimate goal – bhagavad-vastu or vaikuṇṭha-vastu. Such a person will never be able to enter Vaikuṇṭha, the transcendental abode, or to achieve the vaikuṇṭha-vastu, the Supreme Lord. Therefore, the Supreme Lord cannot be achieved by knowledge of nirbheda-brahmānusandhāna or nirākāra-nirviśeṣa-brahma.
How, then, will we be able to enter His transcendental abode of Vaikuṇṭha?
In the Kaṭha Upniṣad (1.2.23), it is said:
Nayamatma pravachanena labhyo Na medhayana bahunā śrutena Yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhya Stasyaisha atma vrunute tantram svām
One cannot understand the ātmā or the Parmātmā by lectures (pravachanena) or by argumentation. Even if one is very intelligent and his intellect is admired by big, world-famous barristers, still, he cannot know the Absolute Truth with his sharp intellect. In this connection, the above verse says, na medhayā labhya: “The Absolute Truth cannot be known by one’s intellect or brainpower.” Suppose, someone has studied and memorized the Vedas, Upniṣads, Rāmāyaṇa, all the tantra-śāstras, Mahābhārata, and other eternal scriptures. Asides from that, he has also memorized the Bible, Quran, Guru Grantha Sāhib, etc., as well as all the scriptures of Buddhists, Jains, and all other religions of the world. Can such a person know the Absolute Truth? The above verse says, na bahunā śrutena labhya: “One cannot know the Absolute Truth even by memorizing all the scriptures.” How, then can we know Him?
In response, the scriptures state that the foremost method of attaining the Supreme Lord and of entering into the kingdom of God is śarnāgati – unconditional surrender. Therefore we should try to surrender to unconditionally unto the Supreme Lord. There is no other method apart from this. The above verse says, yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhya: “Only one who is graced by the Supreme Lord can know Him.” Another meaning of this is that only one who surrenders unconditionally unto the Lord can know and attain the Supreme Lord.
I agree with you 100 per cent that the ultimate goal of life is to know the absolute truth, except to say that you must know that only one in 100 million plus is privileged enough to come to know the Supreme Lord. The one who has achieved this only knows how difficult the task is. The Bhagavad Gita makes this clear in Jnana and Vignana, Chapter 7, 3. This is because the Supreme Lord will not come to just anyone. He can only be realised when the Supreme has interevened in a life and then also through exceptional means involving great deal of suffering in search and a steadfast dedication and devotion to studies and truth. This is why the easier option of the Impersonal Brahman was created by the Supreme Lord Himself to enable people to get to the next best option, in my view.
Incidentally, I come from a village in Orissa called Baikuntapur. We prayed before eating with
Kama, krodha, lobha, moha binasijaye
Aham eb nanak prabhu saranagati, kara prasad guru deva Om.
So the word prabhu saranagati is in our Oriya teachings that we learnt for the village. I am from the Panigrahi family and I was destined to find the Supreme even without any knowldege of the scriptures. That is what I believe. So you are right.
Comment of 11 January 2012: This is how our delusions are self perpetuating. We must study these holy books and if we are lucky we will get to abandoning them.