The philosophy propounded by the atheist Kapila is an analysis of the material elements and is very much appreciated by Western philosophers. The sāṅkhya-yoga explained by Lord Kapiladeva, the son of Devahūti, is practically unknown in the West. The sāṅkhya-yoga propounded herein is actually bhakti. It is stated here that the proper way to receive this knowledge is by disciplic succession, not by philosophical speculation. Speculation is an improper way to understand the Absolute Truth. Generally Western philosophers try to understand the Absolute Truth by the ascending process of mental speculation. This is the process of inductive logic. The other process is the descending process, and this is the paramparā process. By this method, knowledge descends from a higher source.
In Bhagavad-gītā, many yoga systems are explained, but the bhakti-yoga system is considered highest of all. Ultimately, all yogas end in bhakti-yoga. The ultimate conclusion of jñāna-yoga and haṭha-yoga is bhakti-yoga. In the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, the haṭha-yoga system of meditation is explained, and Arjuna, who was highly elevated, said that he could not concentrate his mind in this way. If the haṭha-yoga system was so difficult five thousand years ago for a person so elevated that he was Kṛṣṇa's friend, how is it possible today? Arjuna frankly said that this system of yoga was impossible to execute because the mind is as difficult to control as the wind.
The haṭha-yoga system is basically meant for those who are overly attached to the body; otherwise, the preferred yoga is sāṅkhya-yoga or bhakti-yoga. When Arjuna told Śrī Kṛṣṇa that the haṭha-yoga system was too difficult to execute, the Lord pacified him by saying that the first-class yogī is one "who is always thinking of Me." (BG 6.47) Arjuna did not know anything but Kṛṣṇa, and Arjuna requested that Kṛṣṇa be present on his side in the battle. When Duryodhana approached Kṛṣṇa with Arjuna and requested Him to take sides, Kṛṣṇa said, "I have eighteen military divisions. These divisions will take one side, and I personally will take another. However, I will not fight in this battle." At first Arjuna thought it wise to take the eighteen divisions with their many thousands of elephants and horses, but then he considered that if he simply had Kṛṣṇa on his side, that would be sufficient. He would not need ordinary soldiers. Duryodhana, on the other hand, decided to take Kṛṣṇa's soldiers. Thus in order to pacify Arjuna, Kṛṣṇa told him not to worry, although he could not execute the aṣṭāṅga-yoga system.
"The first-class yogī is he who always thinks of Me." One should always remember that Kṛṣṇa is within his heart and think of Him. This is the proper system of meditation. If we always chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, we will always remember Kṛṣṇa, and immediately the form of Kṛṣṇa will be awakened within our hearts. The process of always thinking of Kṛṣṇa is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The first-class yogī is he who is always conscious of Kṛṣṇa. One can be conscious of Kṛṣṇa by hearing about Him submissively.
We have to accept Kṛṣṇa through the disciplic succession. There are four sampradāyas, disciplic successions. One comes from Lord Brahmā (the Brahma-sampradāya), and another comes from Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, (the Śrī-sampradāya). There are also the Kumāra-sampradāya and the Rudra-sampradāya. At the present moment, the Brahmā sampradāya is represented by the Madhva-sampradāya, and we belong to the Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya. Our original sampradāya stems from Madhvācārya. In that sampradāya there was Mādhavendra Purī, and Mādhavendra Purī's disciple was Śrī Īśvara Purī. Śrī Īśvara Purī's disciple was Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Thus we are coming in the disciplic succession from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and therefore our sampradāya is called the Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya. It is not that we have manufactured a sampradāya; rather, our sampradāya stems from Lord Brahmā. There is also the Rāmānuja-sampradāya, which comes from the Śrī-sampradāya, and there is the Viṣṇu Svāmī-sampradāya, which comes from the Rudra-sampradāya. The Nimbāditya-sampradāya comes from the Kumāra-sampradāya. If we do not belong to any sampradāya, our conclusion is fruitless. It is not that one should think, "I am a big scholar, and I can interpret Bhagavad-gītā in my own way. All these sampradāyas are useless." We cannot manufacture our own comments. There are many commentaries made in this way, and they are all useless. They have no effect. We have to accept the philosophy as it was contemplated by Lord Brahmā, Nārada, Madhvācārya, Mādhavendra Purī and Īśvara Purī. These great ācāryas are beyond the imperfections of so-called scholars. Mundane scientists and philosophers use the words "perhaps" and "maybe" because they cannot arrive at a proper conclusion. They are simply speculating, and mental speculation cannot be perfect.
Bhakti-yoga is at the top of the stairs of all the yogas. The first step is karma-yoga, and then jñāna-yoga and dhyāna-yoga, but the ultimate is bhakti-yoga. Everyone is trying to reach the ultimate Absolute Truth, but the other yogas end in partial understanding. The understanding derived from bhakti-yoga is complete, and even if partially executed, it has potency. It is also recommended by the great mahājanas like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and Kapiladeva. Since the path of perfection is very difficult to understand, the śāstras recommend that we follow the mahājanas, who are thus described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.3.20):
- svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ
- kumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ
- prahlādo janako bhīṣmo
- balir vaiyāsakir vayam
Another name for Lord Brahmā is Svayambhū because he was born from a lotus flower emanating from the navel of Lord Viṣṇu. Since he was not born of a father and mother, he is therefore called Svayambhū. Nārada Muni is also a mahājana, and Śambhu is Lord Śiva. Kumāra refers to the four Kumāras - Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana and Sanat-kumāra. There are twelve authorities following the Sāṅkhya philosophy, or bhakti-yoga, and these include Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Kapiladeva, Manu, Bhīṣmadeva, Janaka Mahārāja, Śukadeva Gosvāmī and prahlāda Mahārāja. If we simply accept one of these mahājanas, we will be successful in understanding the Absolute Truth, but if we try to understand the Absolute Truth by logic and argument, we will ultimately be frustrated. One philosopher may be a better logician than another, and one philosophical argument may counteract another, but this process goes on and on. It is simply a useless waste of time. Even if we approach Vedic scriptures, there are difficulties. There are so many scriptures - Yajur Veda, Ṛg Veda, Sāma Veda, Atharva Veda, the Upaniṣads, the purāṇas, Brahma-sūtra, Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and so forth. Different people read them and arrive at different conclusions. There are also the Bible and the Koran. According to so many different men, there are so many interpretations. One philosopher defeats another philosopher on the basis of scripture. It is even stated that one cannot become a ṛṣi, a philosopher, unless one propounds a different system of philosophy. Nāsāv ṛṣir yasya mataṁ na bhinnam. Thus the truth of spiritual life is very complicated and difficult to understand. The conclusion is that one should follow one of these twelve mahājanas in order to be successful. Kṛṣṇa is the original mahājana, and He instructed Lord Brahmā. Lord Brahmā is also a mahājana. Actually, Kṛṣṇa instructed everyone in Bhagavad-gītā, and thus everyone has learned from Kṛṣṇa.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.1) it is also stated: tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye. Thus Kṛṣṇa gives His personal instructions just as Kapiladeva gave His personal instructions. There is no contradiction between Kṛṣṇa's philosophy in Bhagavad-gītā and Kapiladeva's philosophy. We need only receive the transcendental knowledge through the mahājanas, and the results will be beneficial. Kapiladeva explained this Sāṅkhya philosophy to His mother, and although He had a natural affection for His mother, we should not think that Devahūti was an ordinary woman. She was very submissive, and when Kapiladeva saw this, He became very compassionate. He saw that she was eager to know about the Absolute Truth, and He considered that, after all, He had received His body from her. Therefore He concluded that He should try to give her the ultimate conclusion of philosophical knowledge, which is this Sāṅkhya philosophy.