Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrī Īśopaniṣad 12
andhaḿ tamaḥ praviśanti
ye 'sambhūtim upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo
ya u sambhūtyām ratāḥ
andham — ignorance; tamaḥ — darkness; praviśanti — enter into; ye — those who; asambhūtim — demigods; upāsate — worship; tataḥ — than that; bhūyaḥ — still more; iva — like that; te — those; tamaḥ — darkness; ye — who; u — also; sambhūtyām — in the Absolute; ratāḥ — engaged.
Those who are engaged in the worship of demigods enter into the darkest region of ignorance, and still more so do the worshipers of the impersonal Absolute.
The Sanskrit word asambhūti refers to those who have no independent existence. Sambhūti is the Absolute Personality of Godhead, who is absolutely independent of everything. In the Bhagavad-gītā (10.2), the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, states:
na me viduḥ sura-gaṇā
prabhavaḿ na maharṣayaḥ
aham ādir hi devānāḿ
maharṣīṇāḿ ca sarvaśaḥ
"Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin or opulences, for in every respect I am the source of the demigods and sages." Thus Kṛṣṇa is the origin of the powers delegated to demigods, great sages and mystics. Although they are endowed with great powers, these powers are limited, and thus it is very difficult for them to know how Kṛṣṇa Himself appears by His own internal potency in the form of a man.
Many philosophers and great ṛṣis, or mystics, try to distinguish the Absolute from the relative by their tiny brain power. This can only help them reach the negative conception of the Absolute without realizing any positive trace of the Absolute. Definition of the Absolute by negation is not complete. Such negative definitions lead one to create a concept of one's own; thus one imagines that the Absolute must be formless and without qualities. Such negative qualities are simply the reversals of relative, material qualities and are therefore also relative. By conceiving of the Absolute in this way, one can at the utmost reach the impersonal effulgence of God, known as Brahman, but one cannot make further progress to Bhagavān, the Personality of Godhead.
Such mental speculators do not know that the Absolute Personality of Godhead is Kṛṣṇa, that the impersonal Brahman is the glaring effulgence of His transcendental body, or that the Paramātmā, the Supersoul, is His all-pervading plenary representation. Nor do they know that Kṛṣṇa has His eternal form with its transcendental qualities of eternal bliss and knowledge. The dependent demigods and great sages imperfectly consider Him to be a powerful demigod, and they consider the Brahman effulgence to be the Absolute Truth. But the devotees of Kṛṣṇa, by dint of their surrendering unto Him and their unalloyed devotion, can know that He is the Absolute Person and that everything emanates from Him. Such devotees continuously render loving service unto Kṛṣṇa, the fountainhead of everything.
In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.20, 23) it is said that only unintelligent, bewildered persons driven by a strong desire for sense gratification worship the demigods for the temporary relief of temporary problems. Since the living being is materially entangled, he has to be relieved from material bondage entirely to attain permanent relief on the spiritual plane, where eternal bliss, life and knowledge exist. Śrī Īśopaniṣad therefore instructs that we should not seek temporary relief of our difficulties by worshiping the dependent demigods, who can bestow only temporary benefit. Rather, we must worship the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, who is all-attractive and who can bestow upon us complete freedom from material bondage by taking us back home, back to Godhead.
It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.23) that the worshipers of the demigods can go to the planets of the demigods. The moon worshipers can go to the moon, the sun worshipers to the sun, etc. Modern scientists are now venturing to the moon with the help of rockets, but this is not really a new attempt. With their advanced consciousness, human beings are naturally inclined to travel in outer space and to reach other planets, either by spaceships, mystic powers or demigod worship. In the Vedic scriptures it is said that one can reach other planets by any one of these three ways, but the most common way is by worshiping the demigod presiding over a particular planet. In this way one can reach the moon planet, the sun planet and even Brahmaloka, the topmost planet in this universe. However, all planets in the material universe are temporary residences; the only permanent planets are the Vaikuṇṭhalokas. These are found in the spiritual sky, where the Personality of Godhead Himself predominates. As Lord Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.16):
punar āvartino 'rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
"From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains My abode, O son of Kuntī, never takes birth again."
Śrī Īśopaniṣad points out that one who worships the demigods and attains to their material planets still remains in the darkest region of the universe. The whole universe is covered by the gigantic material elements; it is just like a coconut covered by a shell and half-filled with water. Since its covering is airtight, the darkness within is dense, and therefore the sun and the moon are required for illumination. Outside the universe is the vast and unlimited brahmajyoti expansion, which is filled with Vaikuṇṭhalokas. The biggest and highest planet in the brahmajyoti is Kṛṣṇaloka, or Goloka Vṛndāvana, where the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, resides. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa never leaves Kṛṣṇaloka. Although He dwells there with His eternal associates, He is omnipresent throughout the complete material and spiritual cosmic manifestations. This fact has already been explained in Mantra Four. The Lord is present everywhere, just like the sun, yet He is situated in one place, just as the sun is situated in its own undeviating orbit.
The problems of life cannot be solved simply by going to the moon planet or to some other planet above or below it. Therefore Śrī Īśopaniṣad advises us not to bother with any destination within this dark material universe, but to try to get out of it and reach the effulgent kingdom of God. There are many pseudo worshipers who become religionists only for the sake of name and fame. Such pseudo religionists do not wish to get out of this universe and reach the spiritual sky. They only want to maintain the status quo in the material world under the garb of worshiping the Lord. The atheists and impersonalists lead such foolish pseudo religionists into the darkest regions by preaching the cult of atheism. The atheist directly denies the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the impersonalists support the atheists by stressing the impersonal aspect of the Supreme Lord. Thus far we have not come across any mantra in Śrī Īśopaniṣad in which the Supreme Personality of Godhead is denied. It is said that He can run faster than anyone. Those who are running after other planets are certainly persons, and if the Lord can run faster than all of them, how can He be impersonal? The impersonal conception of the Supreme Lord is another form of ignorance, arising from an imperfect conception of the Absolute Truth.
The ignorant pseudo religionists and the manufacturers of so-called incarnations who directly violate the Vedic injunctions are liable to enter into the darkest region of the universe because they mislead those who follow them. These impersonalists generally pose themselves as incarnations of God to foolish persons who have no knowledge of Vedic wisdom. If such foolish men have any knowledge at all, it is more dangerous in their hands than ignorance itself. Such impersonalists do not even worship the demigods according to the scriptural recommendations. In the scriptures there are recommendations for worshiping demigods under certain circumstances, but at the same time these scriptures state that there is normally no need for this. In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.23) it is clearly stated that the results derived from worshiping the demigods are not permanent. Since the entire material universe is impermanent, whatever is achieved within the darkness of material existence is also impermanent. The question is how to obtain real and permanent life.
The Lord states that as soon as one reaches Him by devotional service — which is the one and only way to approach the Personality of Godhead — one attains complete freedom from the bondage of birth and death. In other words, the path of salvation from the material clutches fully depends on the principles of knowledge and detachment gained from serving the Lord. The pseudo religionists have neither knowledge nor detachment from material affairs, for most of them want to live in the golden shackles of material bondage under the shadow of philanthropic activities disguised as religious principles. By a false display of religious sentiments, they present a show of devotional service while indulging in all sorts of immoral activities. In this way they pass as spiritual masters and devotees of God. Such violators of religious principles have no respect for the authoritative ācāryas, the holy teachers in the strict disciplic succession. They ignore the Vedic injunction ācāryopāsana — "One must worship the ācārya" — and Kṛṣṇa's statement in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.2) evaḿ paramparā-prāptam, "This supreme science of God is received through the disciplic succession." Instead, to mislead the people in general they themselves become so-called ācāryas, but they do not even follow the principles of the ācāryas.
These rogues are the most dangerous elements in human society. Because there is no religious government, they escape punishment by the law of the state. They cannot, however, escape the law of the Supreme, who has clearly declared in the Bhagavad-gītā that envious demons in the garb of religious propagandists shall be thrown into the darkest regions of hell (Bg. 16.19-20). Śrī Īśopaniṣad confirms that these pseudo religionists are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe after the completion of their spiritual master business, which they conduct simply for sense gratification.
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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness