It is the Supreme Lord's special prerogative to descend to this material world and remain unaffected by it and detached from it. And like Him, His pure devotees also remain unattracted by the glare of the phenomenal world. As the Supreme Lord is eternal, liberated, and pure, so are His devotees, whatever situation they may be in. This can easily be understood through a simple example: technological advancement has added things like cinemas to the material attractions nature already has to offer, and yet, strangely, these illusory enticements have failed to attract genuine saints and hermits even to this day. And although we do see that some so-called modern saints and mendicants are addicted to cannabis and tobacco, even they are repulsed by many other modern sensual distractions. If the illusory material world holds little or no attraction for the Lord's devotees, how much less must the Lord Himself be attracted to it! Therefore, although out of ignorance one might claim that mere mortals are God, that does not change the reality—that man is always man and God is always God, and never otherwise.
Once one of the brahmacārīs of our āśrama met Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, who is a spiritualist of sorts and an erudite scholar. Dr. Radhakrishnan is the vice-president of India as I write this essay. On meeting him, our brahmacārī received from him a copy of his Bhagavad-gītā as a gift. Dr. Radhakrishnan had translated this Gītā into English and written a commentary on it, and it sold well in the market for ten rupees in those days (1954).
The brahmacārī read the book and came to us a little dissatisfied, though the book itself was deeply esoteric. The reason for his dissatisfaction was that Dr. Radhakrishnan's writing lacked spiritual insight: in many places he had mishandled and misinterpreted the text, and thus he had made his book unacceptable to spiritualists in the line of pure devotion. This is a perfect example of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam's statement (1.1.1) that "by Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion" (muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ). When the Lord so easily bewilders Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Lord Indra, and other great universal controllers, it is not at all surprising that Dr. Radhakrishnan is placed into illusion.
The brahmacārī was especially shocked and hurt by Dr. Radhakrishnan's misinterpretation of Text 34 of Chapter 9, which appears in his book on page 254. He came to us very depressed, wanting to discuss this passage. The following words were found in the book:
It is not the personal Kṛṣṇa to whom we have to give ourselves up utterly but the Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal who speaks through Kṛṣṇa.
We have not the slightest intention of confronting a world-famous philosopher like Dr. Radhakrishnan with arguments, yet on the brahmacārī's repeated request we have to scrutinize the text and point out the discrepancies. We have great respect for Dr. Radhakrishnan, not only because he is the vice-president of our country but also because of his scholarship and his position as an erudite master of Hindu philosophy. Furthermore, he is faithful to the brahminical tradition he hails from and is a follower of the Māyāvāda school. Going by the oft-quoted dictum that it is better to have a learned enemy than a foolish, I feel encouraged in this matter. An intelligent opponent will present reasonable rebuttals, but an ignorant friend may bring about disaster with his floundering. Therefore we feel no compunction about strongly arguing against the points Dr. Radhakrishnan makes in his Bhagavad-gītā commentary.
A well-known Bengali saying goes, "After reading the whole Rāmāyaṇa, you want to know whose father Sītā is?" This question is ludicrous, since Sītā is Lord Rāma's wife, and thus such a query will naturally invite quips and laughter. We find the same absurdity in Dr. Radhakrishnan's English commentary on the Gītā. He writes that we do not have to surrender to the person Kṛṣṇa but to "the Unborn, Beginningless, Eternal" within Kṛṣṇa. This implies that Lord Kṛṣṇa and His "inner self" are two separate identities. According to Dr. Radhakrishnan, since there is a difference between Kṛṣṇa's body and His soul, we must surrender to Kṛṣṇa's soul and not His body. This new discovery in the field of religious philosophy reminds us of the "paṇḍita" of the Rāmāyaṇa referred to above. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa's sole purpose in speaking the Bhagavad-gītā is to convince us to surrender to His lotus feet. Yet right at the outset Dr. Radhakrishnan is unwilling to accept this point. Lord Kṛṣṇa gives the central instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.66):
- sarva-dharmān parityajya
- mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
- ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
- mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
Lord Kṛṣṇa spoke these words to Arjuna so that he would surrender to Him. The Sanskrit word śaraṇam in this Gītā text means "surrender." On page 62 of his "Introductory Essay", Dr. Radhakrishnan has also discussed the idea of surrender in some detail. He writes,
"Prapatti (surrender) has the following accessories—good will to all (ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ); (ii) absence of ill will (prātikūlyasya varjanam); (iii) faith that the Lord will protect (rakṣiṣyatīti viśvāsaḥ); (iv) resort to Him as savior (gopṛtve varanam); (v) a sense of utter helplessness (kārpaṇyam); (vi) complete surrender (ātma-nikṣepaḥ)."