Honest Enquiry vs. Propitiation of Curiosity
As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj
APRIL 14, 1935
Honest enquiry is one of the most essential criteria and beginning of spiritual life. 'Athatho Brahma Jijnasa' of the Brahma Sutra, 'Tasmad Gurung prapadyeta jijnasu Sreyamuttamam' of the Srimad Bhagabatam--the commentary of the Vedanta, "Tatbiddhi Pranipatena Pariprashnena Sebaya" of the Geeta and "Saddharma-spriha" of the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu--all these point to the necessity of honest enquiry or pariprasna at the commencement of spiritual life.
Honest enquiry is the first and foremost indication of the life of a beginner with devotional aptitude. He who is not actuated to the enquiry about Transcendence, is callous and stupefied in the matter of religion. Even the novice, in the domain of religion, becomes naturally anxious to obtain true knowledge of the spiritual Realm, as an inquisitive boy, curious to be conversant with the objects of his surrounding, puts hundreds of questions to his parents, guardians and other experienced persons at the dawn of his new life. It is a practice with a customer or a true recipient to provide himself with all necessary information with regard to the articles that he desires to have, prior to his purchase or reception. Likewise, those who, being tired of the worldly life, have felt the necessity of acquiring the knowledge of Transcendence, are actuated by the spirit of honest enquiry on the eve of launching into active spiritual existence.
But there exists a great gulf of difference between mere idle curiosity for receiving information regarding religion and the method of practising it, and the earnest aptitude of practising the same for true and sincere devotional life. In the language of the Sastras, the one mode is called "desire for the fulfilment of idle curiosity" and the other is called "the enquiring attitude or Pariprasna". The impetus of the propensity for fulfilling one's curiosity originates from the thirst after gratifying the senses, whereas the enquiring spirit is based on the stronghold of serving temperament. The enquiring attitude is the first step to the growth of the serving habit, whereas gratification of curiosity acts as a pander to minister to the passions from beginning to end. The former engenders the inclination for service which accelerates if regularly followed, and the latter degenerates into atheism by degrees. Curiosity is the offshoot of temporary influx or excitement of lust, while honest query or Pariprasna is the effective result of self-surrender and sincere submission with manifest indication of serving attitude. Persons, who are engaged in enlightening themselves with different solutions of theistic problems out of curiosity, often abandon the practice of enquiring after true and pure theism because of its ulterior failure in supplying the needs of satisfying their sensuous enterprise and endeavour to discover new principles for the fulfilment of the same. Lots of men approach a true devotee and genuine preceptor incognito with an apparently enquiring attitude, but after accumulating various information regarding the Transcendental realm when they are convinced that pure theism and unalloyed devotion, inculcated by the Bhagabatam, will never indulge them in satisfying their lust and will rather annihilate their innate tendency for virtue, wealth, desire and salvation, their wrong underlying motive stands exposed, in other words, they are compelled to remove the garb, that so long deceived others, of confusing honest enquiry with the attempt for satisfying curiosity which results from the centralisation of the desire for propitiating one's lust. Many a feeble hypocrite harbours such a bogus idea of satisfying their wrong curiosity under the apparent show of an enquiring spirit. The attempt to gratify curiosity by making a show of honest enquiry is shown by some for a moment, by others for a day, by some for a week or a month or for a year, or even for a Yuga or a still longer period or for the whole life.
On many occasions, the whole hearted attempt for appeasing the thirst of gratifying one's curiosity appears in the form of honest enquiry and leads men into offering services in different forms. Such outward show of offering service is mere hypocrisy and abetment for appropriating gold, damsel, worldly fame corresponding to their false display of enquiring practice. The great impulse generated by the supply of materials for the satisfaction of passionate desires and exploitation of good name, may often be erroneously mistaken by people at large for inquisitiveness and wonderful and untiring zeal for offering sincere service. But this hypocrisy is bound to be exposed later on when it is beyond one's power to ensconce the inner tendency when the keen desire for propitiating senses becomes tired and vexed without finding new supplies. Many people are seen to have submitted to the feet of a Spiritual Master after having raised various questions and controversies prior to initiation, so much so that they have shown uncommon zeal for queries and in rendering services in different directions, but being cut to the quick at the unchallengeable disposition and severity, according to their judgement, of the Bhagabatam, turn indifferent and ultimately take recourse to the principle of getting relieved by discarding forever the feet of the master.
How long can the supplies for satisfying the curiosities continue to overpower a person? Whenever anyone professes this to be his religion it wearies him after ministering to his passions for a time, and consequently he embraces another faith conducive to the enjoying practice, considering the previous one to be monotonous.
It is the special characteristic of the unalloyed doctrine of the Bhagabata that it never serves the will of any jiva or person. A man’s curiosity continues only so long as it has in its power to apply the exoteric principles of the Bhagawata for supplementing his sensuous activities. But when the unsealed doctrine of the Bhagawata exerts full influence over the hypocrisy of mankind, the latter are no longer candidates for accepting that unadulterated gift. Only those persons, with the performance of many good deeds to their account, that have got their function of the soul awakened, can remain really attached to the exuberant beauty of the Bhagawata. The pretext of enquiring in the mere attempt for satisfying one's mental curiosity on the part of those whose function of the soul has not been awakened and whose senses are not directed for rendering causeless service, never leads to any good result. They either turn opponents of the Bhagawat-faith by holding it to be stale and monotonous without finding eternally renovating tidings of service in it, or feel attracted to some other religion which, in their opinion, is conducive to the gratification of their senses. The mere attempt for listening and chanting withers and even ceases in no time if the enquiry is not followed by submission, or if the first manifestation of progressive tendency for service is not based on the strong desire for acquiring knowledge about the Absolute Truth by the method of sincere and complete self-surrender. If the soul is not stirred with the message of the Transcendental Realm, if he is not actuated to devote his entire energy in waking scale for every moment to the service of the Supreme Lord by communicating the various information about Transcendence, after the manner of the working of the electric current, he will undoubtedly be expelled from the spiritual platform, his activities concerning body and mind reigning supreme. Our soul or animation is a votary to the Ever-New. The service of a diverse character on the transcendental plane is the function of the soul. This function is visible in its perverted form in the reflected region of the material world. A man cannot stay long in the same mood. The distinction between the material world and the Transcendental Realm consists in this; that novelty in the material world is the source of base and limited ideas whereas that of Transcendence is an inexhaustible fountain of excellence. Inclination for something new in the material world acts as a phantom of a deer to delude man into satisfying his senses, while the hankering after novelty in the transcendental region is gratifying to the senses of the Super-natural Being and on this account it does not terminate when the transcendental realm tends to become comprehensible on getting rid of the veil of spiritual unconscientiousness. When we are freed from evils, we acquire competency for listening and chanting, which is void of monotony and rather ramifies into rendering services in a thousand ways. Therefore, those persons that have not been bereft of their evil propensities consider the teachings of Bhagawat as the conglomeration of speculations, as they are bound to be perplexed and consequently deceived and mortified before their liberation from all sorts of evils. This really indicates their lack of honest enquiry. The questions as advanced and the services as rendered by them, are not the queries incidental to submission. They are rather manipulation of the senses either for gratifying the curiosity or a display of perversity under pressure of desire. It should be taken as gospel truth that such persons only practise hypocrisy in submission, they only desire for satisfying lust in enquiry and have a deliberate sinister motive behind their mind in moving heaven and earth in rendering the show of services, in case they are not inspired with electric current of the renovating messages of Transcendence. They only undertake physical feats by reproducing hackneyed words, 'the body is nothing', 'mind is nothing' and so on, like parrots, which will soon be discontinued when their aural activity weakens and their voice grows hoarse. Those lip-deep words have not reached beyond their body and as they have not appeared of the tongue from the core of their hearts, they become more and more attracted to the body even by repeating the same. There can be no trace of the real message of Transcendence in their borrowed utterances, because there is not living connection with the inexhaustible source of Transcendence,--their ear-boring ceremony could not unseal the reservoir of the Transcendental Auditorium. They cannot comprehend the spirit of the message of transcendence. On the contrary, though they hear it over and over again, they only fall victims to the passions, misconceiving them to be the principles of satisfying their senses. It is for this reason that those genuine messages of transcendence bring no good to them and they in their turn retrace to the former position thinking lightly of the spiritual teachings of the Bhagawata, regarding devotional principle, practice and mode of rendering services--as but hackneyed deceptions. They become converts to the faith that permits them to satisfy this lust in different ways. This is inevitable as the Bhagawat would never indulge them in satiating their lust. But they try to maintain their show of piety by producing lame excuses of their monotony and worthlessness. In other words, they circulate that they are not to blame and that the fault lies in the principle.
There is a class of people possessed of a hobby of tasting different religions for ministering to their passions. They resort to the abode of every sect for several days being oppressed with a burning curiosity and make a show of accepting the principle of "Vaishnavism" in the congregation of devotees. They sometimes show the utmost promptness in offering services, and thereby for gathering materials that help to satisfy their passions. All religions can more or less be made to be cloak for the satiation of lust. But as the Bhagawata offers no such indulgence, their inner motive is fully exposed by the acid test of spiritual association and they are compelled to give up their guise within short time.
It then becomes evident to all that their precious enquiring attitude and rendering of services were the outcome of wrong curiosity and the excitement for the gratification of their sensuous passions.
Let all the pious beware! Let them neither enter the threshold of the temple of true devotees who are free from hypocrisy and malice by putting on the garbs of honest enquiry and service for the attempt of gratifying their wrong curiosities and sensuous desires, nor accept those to be their spiritual kith and kin who are guided by such mentality, because this will expedite one's ruin.
Let them try to learn how to submit and surrender. This self-surrender will serve them as a reservoir or basis wherein they will be in a position to preserve and retain the nectared utterances of a devotee. Then the stream of elixir rousing to service will be infused in them which, in the long run, will help them in reaching the generous feet of Lord Krishna. It is sheer hypocrisy to show the attitude of honesty enquiry after relinquishing the habit of submission and self surrender.
The attempt, too, for turning the enquiring spirit, void of serving tendency, into the instrument for showing mental feats by way of satisfying idle curiosities is deception to self as well as to others. Hence let the pious beware of such persons and their ways.