The Lord agreed to take lessons from Bhaṭṭācārya on the Vedānta, and they sat together in the temple of Lord Jagannātha. The Bhaṭṭācārya went on speaking continually for seven days, and the Lord heard him with all attention and did not interrupt. The Lord's silence raised some doubts in Bhaṭṭācārya's heart, and he asked the Lord how it was that He did not ask anything or comment on his explanations of Vedānta.
The Lord posed Himself before the Bhaṭṭācārya as a foolish student and pretended that He heard the Vedānta from him because the Bhaṭṭācārya felt that this was the duty of a sannyāsī. But the Lord did not agree with his lectures. By this the Lord indicated that the so-called Vedāntists amongst the Śaṅkara-sampradāya, or any other sampradāya who do not follow the instructions of Śrīla Vyāsadeva, are mechanical students of the Vedānta. They are not fully aware of that great knowledge. The explanation of the Vedānta-sūtra is given by the author himself in the text of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. One who has no knowledge of the Bhāgavatam will hardly be able to know what the Vedānta says.
The Bhaṭṭācārya, being a vastly learned man, could follow the Lord's sarcastic remarks on the popular Vedāntist. He therefore asked Him why He did not ask about any point which He could not follow. The Bhaṭṭācārya could understand the purpose of His dead silence for the days He heard him. This showed clearly that the Lord had something else in mind; thus the Bhaṭṭācārya requested Him to disclose His mind.
Upon this, the Lord spoke as follows: "My dear sir, I can understand the meaning of the sūtras like janmādy asya yataḥ, śāstra-yonitvāt, and athāto brahma jijñāsā of the Vedānta-sūtra, but when you explain them in your own way it becomes difficult for Me to follow them. The purpose of the sūtras is already explained in them, but your explanations are covering them with something else. You do not purposely take the direct meaning of the sūtras but indirectly give your own interpretations."
The Lord thus attacked all Vedāntists who interpret the Vedānta-sūtra fashionably, according to their limited power of thinking, to serve their own purpose. Such indirect interpretations of the authentic literatures like the Vedānta-sūtra are hereby condemned by the Lord.
The Lord continued: "Śrīla Vyāsadeva has summarized the direct meanings of the mantras in the Upaniṣads in the Vedānta-sūtra. Unfortunately you do not take their direct meaning. You indirectly interpret them in a different way.
"The authority of the Vedas is unchallengeable and stands without any question of doubt. And whatever is stated in the Vedas must be accepted completely, otherwise one challenges the authority of the Vedas.
"The conchshell and cow dung are bone and stool of two living beings. But because they have been recommended by the Vedas as pure, people accept them as such because of the authority of the Vedas."
The idea is that one cannot set his imperfect reason above the authority of the Vedas. The orders of the Vedas must be obeyed as they stand, without any mundane reasoning. The so-called followers of the Vedic injunctions make their own interpretations of the Vedic injunctions, and thus they establish different parties and sects of the Vedic religion. Lord Buddha directly denied the authority of the Vedas, and he established his own religion. Only for this reason, the Buddhist religion was not accepted by the strict followers of the Vedas. But those who are so-called followers of the Vedas are more harmful than the Buddhists. The Buddhists have the courage to deny the Vedas directly, but the so-called followers of the Vedas have no courage to deny the Vedas, although indirectly they disobey all the injunctions of the Vedas. Lord Caitanya condemned this.
The examples given by the Lord of the conchshell and the cow dung are very much appropriate in this connection. If one argues that since cow dung is pure, the stool of a learned brāhmaṇa is still more pure, his argument will not be accepted. Cow dung is accepted, and the stool of a highly posted brāhmaṇa is rejected. The Lord continued:
"The Vedic injunctions are self-authorized, and if some mundane creature adjusts the interpretations of the Vedas, he defies their authority. It is foolish to think of oneself as more intelligent than Śrīla Vyāsadeva. He has already expressed himself in his sūtras, and there is no need of help from personalities of lesser importance. His work, the Vedānta-sūtra, is as dazzling as the midday sun, and when someone tries to give his own interpretations on the self-effulgent sunlike Vedānta-sūtra, he attempts to cover this sun with the cloud of his imagination.
"The Vedas and Purāṇas are one and the same in purpose. They ascertain the Absolute Truth, which is greater than everything else. The Absolute Truth is ultimately realized as the Absolute Personality of Godhead with absolute controlling power. As such, the Absolute Personality of Godhead must be completely full of opulence, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. Yet the transcendental Personality of Godhead is astonishingly ascertained as impersonal.
"The impersonal description of the Absolute Truth in the Vedas is given to nullify the mundane conception of the absolute whole. Personal features of the Lord are completely different from all kinds of mundane features. The living entities are all individual persons, and they are all parts and parcels of the supreme whole. If the parts and parcels are individual persons, the source of their emanation must not be impersonal. He is the Supreme Person amongst all the relative persons.
"The Vedas inform us that from Him (Brahman) everything emanates, and on Him everything rests. And after annihilation, everything merges in Him only. Therefore, He is the ultimate dative, causative and accommodating cause of all causes. And these causes cannot be attributed to an impersonal object.
"The Vedas inform us that He alone became many, and when He so desires He glances over material nature. Before He glanced over material nature there was no material cosmic creation. Therefore, His glance is not material. Material mind or senses were unborn when the Lord glanced over material nature. Thus evidence in the Vedas proves that beyond a doubt the Lord has transcendental eyes and a transcendental mind. They are not material. His impersonality therefore is a negation of His materiality, but not a denial of His transcendental personality.
"Brahman ultimately refers to the Personality of Godhead. Impersonal Brahman realization is just the negative conception of the mundane creations. Paramātmā is the localized aspect of Brahman within all kinds of material bodies. Ultimately the Supreme Brahman realization is the realization of the Personality of Godhead. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is that Supreme Personality of Godhead according to all evidence of the revealed scriptures. He is the ultimate source of viṣṇu-tattvas.
"The Purāṇas are also supplementary to the Vedas. The Vedic mantras are too difficult for an ordinary man. Women, śūdras and the so-called twice-born higher castes are unable to penetrate into the sense of the Vedas. And thus the Mahābhārata as well as the Purāṇas are made easy to explain the truths of the Vedas. In his prayers before the boy Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Brahmā said that there is no limit to the fortune of the residents of Vrajabhūmi headed by Śrī Nanda Mahārāja and Yaśodāmayī because the eternal Absolute Truth has become their intimate relative.
"The Vedic mantra maintains that the Absolute Truth has no legs and no hands and yet goes faster than all and accepts everything that is offered to Him in devotion. The latter statements definitely suggest the personal features of the Lord, although His hands and legs are distinguished from mundane hands and legs or other senses.
"Brahman, therefore, is never impersonal, but when such mantras are indirectly interpreted, it is wrongly thought that the Absolute Truth is impersonal. The Absolute Truth Personality of Godhead is full of all opulences, and therefore He has a transcendental form of full existence, knowledge and bliss. How then can one establish that the Absolute Truth is impersonal?
"Brahman, being full of opulences, is understood to have manifold energies, and all these energies are classified under three headings under the authority of Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.7.61), which says that the transcendental energies of Lord Viṣṇu are primarily three. whereas the material energy is an inferior one, which is sprouted out of ignorance.
"The energy of the living entities is technically called kṣetrajña energy. This kṣetrajña-śakti, although equal in quality with the Lord, becomes overpowered by material energy out of ignorance and thus suffers all sorts of material miseries. In other words, the living entities are located in the marginal energy between the superior (spiritual) and inferior (material) energies, and in proportion to the living being's contact with either the material or spiritual energies, the living entity is situated in proportionately higher and lower levels of existence.
"The Lord is beyond the inferior and marginal energies as above mentioned, and His spiritual energy is manifested in three different phases: as eternal existence, eternal bliss and eternal knowledge. As far as eternal existence is concerned, it is conducted by the sandhinī potency; similarly, bliss and knowledge are conducted by the hlādinī and saṁvit potencies respectively. As the supreme energetic Lord, He is the supreme controller of the spiritual, marginal and material energies. And all these different types of energies are connected with the Lord in eternal devotional service.
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is thus enjoying in His transcendental eternal form. Is it not astounding that one dares to call the Supreme Lord nonenergetic? The Lord is the controller of all energies, and the living entities are parts and parcels of one of the energies. Therefore there is a gulf of difference between the Lord and the living entities. How then can one say that the Lord and the living entities are one and the same? In the Bhagavad-gītā also the living entities are described as belonging to the superior energy of the Lord. According to the principles of intimate correlation between the energy and the energetic, both of them are nondifferent also. Therefore, the Lord and the living entities are nondifferent as the energy and the energetic.
"Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and ego are all inferior energies of the Lord, but the living entities are different from all as superior energy. This is the version of Bhagavad-gītā (7.4–5).
"The transcendental form of the Lord is eternally existent and full of transcendental bliss. How then can such a form be a product of the material mode of goodness? Anyone, therefore, who does not believe in the form of the Lord is certainly a faithless demon and as such is untouchable, a not to be seen persona non grata fit to be punished by the Plutonic king.
"The Buddhists are called atheists because they have no respect for the Vedas, but those who defy the Vedic conclusions, as above mentioned, under the pretense of being followers of the Vedas, are verily more dangerous than the Buddhists.
"Śrī Vyāsadeva very kindly compiled the Vedic knowledge in his Vedānta-sūtra, but if one hears the commentation of the Māyāvāda school (as represented by the Śaṅkara-sampradāya) certainly he will be misled on the path of spiritual realization.
"The theory of emanations is the beginning subject of the Vedānta-sūtra. All the cosmic manifestations are emanations from the Absolute Personality of Godhead by His inconceivable different energies. The example of the touchstone is applicable to the theory of emanation. The touchstone can convert an unlimited quantity of iron into gold, and still the touchstone remains as it is. Similarly, the Supreme Lord can produce all manifested worlds by His inconceivable energies, and yet He is full and unchanged. He is pūrṇa (complete), and although an unlimited number of pūrṇas emanate from Him, He is still pūrṇa.
"The theory of illusion of the Māyāvāda school is advocated on the ground that the theory of emanation will cause a transformation of the Absolute Truth. If that is the case, Vyāsadeva is wrong. To avoid this, they have skillfully brought in the theory of illusion. But the world or the cosmic creation is not false, as maintained by the Māyāvāda school. It simply has no permanent existence. A nonpermanent thing cannot be called false altogether. But the conception that the material body is the self is certainly wrong.
"Praṇava (oṁ), or the oṁkāra in the Vedas, is the primeval hymn. This transcendental sound is identical with the form of the Lord. All the Vedic hymns are based on this praṇava oṁkāra. Tat tvam asi is but a side word in the Vedic literatures, and therefore this word cannot be the primeval hymn of the Vedas. Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya has given more stress on the side word tat tvam asi than on the primeval principle oṁkāra."
The Lord thus spoke on the Vedānta-sūtra and defied all the propaganda of the Māyāvāda school.* The Bhaṭṭācārya tried to defend himself and his Māyāvāda school by jugglery of logic and grammar, but the Lord defeated him by His forceful arguments. He affirmed that we are all related with the Personality of Godhead eternally and that devotional service is our eternal function in exchanging the dealings of our relations. The result of such exchanges is to attain premā, or love of Godhead. When love of Godhead is attained, love for all other beings automatically follows because the Lord is the sum total of all living beings.
The Lord said that but for these three items—namely, eternal relation with God, exchange of dealings with Him and the attainment of love for Him—all that is instructed in the Vedas is superfluous and that any other explanation of the Vedas is concocted.
The Lord further added that the Māyāvāda philosophy taught by Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya is an imaginary explanation of the Vedas, but it had to be taught by him (Śaṅkarācārya) because he was ordered to teach it by the Personality of Godhead. In the Padma Purāṇa it is stated that the Personality of Godhead ordered His Lordship Śiva to deviate the human race from Him (the Personality of Godhead). The Personality of Godhead was to be so covered so that people would be encouraged to generate more and more population. His Lordship Śiva said to Devī: "In the Kali-yuga, I shall preach the Māyāvāda philosophy, which is nothing but clouded Buddhism, in the garb of a brāhmaṇa."
After hearing all these speeches of the Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Bhaṭṭācārya was struck with wonder and awe and regarded Him in dead silence. The Lord then encouraged him with assurance that there was no cause to wonder. "I say that devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead is the highest goal of human life." He then quoted the "ātmārāma" śloka from the Bhāgavatam (1.7.10), thus assuring him that even the liberated souls who are absorbed in the spirit and spiritual realization also take to the devotional service of the Lord Hari because the Personality of Godhead has such transcendental qualities that He attracts the heart of the liberated soul too.
Then the Bhaṭṭācārya desired to listen to the explanation of this śloka. The Lord first of all asked Bhaṭṭācārya to explain it, and after that He would explain it. The Bhaṭṭācārya then explained the śloka in a scholarly way with special reference to logic. He explained the śloka in nine different ways chiefly based on logic because he was the most renowned scholar of logic of the time.
The Lord, after hearing the Bhaṭṭācārya, thanked him for the scholarly presentation of the śloka, and then, at the request of the Bhaṭṭācārya, the Lord explained the śloka in sixty-four different ways without touching the nine explanations given by the Bhaṭṭācārya.
Thus after hearing the explanation of the ātmārāma śloka from the Lord, the Bhaṭṭācārya was convinced that such a scholarly presentation is impossible for an earthly creature.* Before this, Śrī Gopīnātha Ācārya had tried to convince him of the divinity of the Lord, but at the time he could not so accept Him. But the Bhaṭṭācārya was astounded by the Lord's exposition of the Vedānta-sūtra and explanations of the ātmārāma śloka, and thus he began to think that he had committed a great offense at the lotus feet of the Lord by not recognizing Him to be Kṛṣṇa Himself. He then surrendered unto Him, repenting for his past dealings with Him, and the Lord was kind enough to accept the Bhaṭṭācārya. Out of His causeless mercy, the Lord manifested before him first as four-handed Nārāyaṇa and then again as two-handed Lord Kṛṣṇa with a flute in His hand.