Causeless Mercy – A Conversation Amongst Sadhus


Rupa Vilasa das – There is a certain amount of mystery surrounding how a person comes to Krishna consciousness expressed in the following verses:

saàsära bhramite kona bhägye keha tare nadéra pravähe yena käñöha läge tére


saàsära bhramite—wandering throughout the universe; kona bhägye—by some good fortune; keha tare—someone crosses the ocean of nescience; nadéra pravähe—in the flow of the river; yena—just as; käñöha—wood; läge—sticks; tére—on the bank.


The conditioned souls are wandering throughout the different planets of the universe, entering various species of life. By good fortune one of these souls may somehow or other be delivered from the ocean of nescience, just as one of the many big logs in a flowing river may by chance reach the bank.


There are unlimited conditioned souls who are bereft of Lord Kåñëa’s service. Not knowing how to cross the ocean of nescience, they are scattered by the waves of time and tide. However, some are fortunate to contact devotees, and by this contact they are delivered from the ocean of nescience, just as a log floating down a river accidentally washes upon the bank.


maivaà mamädhamasyäpi syäd eväcyuta-darçanam hriyamäëaù käla-nadyä kvacit tarati kaçcana


—not; evam—thus; mama—of me; adhamasya—who is the most fallen; api—although; syät—there may be; eva—certainly; acyuta-darçanam—seeing of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; hriyamäëaù—being carried; käla-nadyä—by the stream of time; kvacit—sometimes; tarati—crosses over; kaçcana—someone.


Because I am so fallen, I shall never get a chance to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” This was my false apprehension. Rather, by chance a person as fallen as I am may get to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although one is being carried away by the waves of the river of time, one may eventually reach the shore.

Please note the language in these verses: “by chance,” “somehow or other,” “by some good fortune,” etc. It would appear that it is more or less by some kind of mysterious causeless mercy or fate that faith, opportunity or interest in bhakti arises.


Hridayananda das Goswami – Great citations. Very apropos.

1. Keep in mind that “somehow or other” in the first verse translates “kona bhagye” which does not literally mean “by chance.” Bhaga, or bhagya is a fortune that one earns.

2. In the 2nd verse, “by chance” is not in the Bengali.

3. The CC explicates the Gita, it does not refute it. And in the Gita, Krishna clearly says ye yatha mam…, and samo ‘ham sarva-bhutesu etc. So “somehow or other,” or “by chance” must lead back to the jiva’s merit and God’s fairness and mercy.

Vraja Kishora das – I agree completely. If the ultimate cause is attributed to something other than the individual’s freewill, then the contradiction arises that an entity receives a reward or punishment for an action initiated by a different entity. One has to minutely understand words like “bhagya” and (especially) “yadṛcchayā” to understand the causeless yet reasonable origin of bhakti. It depends upon freewill (which is causeless). Ultimately it depends upon the freewill of the recipient (otherwise the principle of justice and impartiality is breached).

Chapter One of Madhurya Kadambini analyzes this in detail. The Vaishnava acts as guru by giving the seed of shraddha, however, the individual must agree to accept the seed and tend its growth. Therefore ultimately, the deciding power is in the individual. The seed of shraddha is impartially available to all. The Vaishnava’s job as a preacher or guru is to encourage individuals to make the free choice to open their hearts and minds to that shraddha. The madhyama Vaishnava chooses wisely which individuals to encourage.

Rupa Vilasa das – Mercy is also often described as causeless. When Vasudeva Datta Thakura prays for the deliverance of all jivas in the universe, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu agrees. Were all the jivas in the universe deserving of such mercy? Krishna’s will is inscrutable. His mercy is not subject or bound to ordinary ideas of justice or fairness. He is svarat, independent. He can do as He likes. And whatever He does is not subject to our judgment. In the regular course of reciprocal dealings, Krishna may be seen as fair or not fair by the yardstick of our intellects, depending on our limited perception of what is fair or reasonable.

Hridayananda das Goswami – Interesting points. In reply:

1. “Causeless mercy” is not a literal translation of any Shastric term. It is rather, as I put it, a didactic redundancy. Mercy is often contrasted with justice, the idea being that mercy is, well, causeless, it’s just mercy. Still, the emphatic ‘causeless mercy’ leads devotees, not to speak of Calvinists etc, to presume that there is no ‘reason’ for the Lord’s giving mercy to a person. Krishna strongly denies this and claims that He is in fact equal to all.

2. The principle of a just God does not at all require that we grasp all that Krishna knows about the situation. We may see an apparently sinful person receive mercy, and we know nothing of that person’s merit. Still, the Gita teaches us that the merit is there. God knows about it, even if we don’t. The principle, as taught in the Gita, is unchanged.

3. Krishna is not subject to our judgement, but we may know Him by His own Self-description in the Gita. To claim that Krishna is as He describes Himself in the Gita is not to render a human judgement on God. Rather it is to faithfully hear and cherish Krishna’s own words. Krishna insists in the Gita that we must receive His words there with faith. And so I do that, concluding that He is just and equal to all.

Vraja Kishora das – I really applaud, albeit from my junior position, your reply. But I have one point of discussion. You say “causeless mercy” isn’t a shastric term. In Bhajana Lalasa of Bhaktivinode Thakurs Saranagati, the term appears in the second verse as ahaituki krpa.

BVT also utilized Haridas Ṭhākur to use the same term (ahaituki krpa) in Harinam Cintamani. (“Srila Haridasa continued, “O Lord, kindly shower upon me Your causeless mercy (ahaituki-krpa). I pray that You grant me entry into the realm of bhakti-rasa”)

In fact, Śrīla BVT uses the phrase often. Of course this is not “śāstra” strictly speaking, but it is very interesting to note. My understanding of the term is that freewill is ahaituki, it has no cause, it is “free” – it has no binding causality. It is Krishna’s freewill that the jīva should repair itself and look towards him in the center. And when it also becomes the jīvas freewill to do the same, (another causeless, ahaituki, act), then it will happen. Indeed God cannot make the jīva do anything against his will. He intentionally made the jīvas this way, it is not an indication of limitation on his power, it is the fullness of his power that he can create independent beings and observe their independence as sacred and inviolable.

Hridayananda das Goswami – I sincerely appreciate your intelligent, learned analysis of this topic. It is important, as you say, that the Acaryas, at least as far back as BVT, do use the term ahaituki krpa, “causeless mercy.” This fact led me to dig a little deeper into the term ‘ahaituki’, which as we know is an adjective meaning having no hetu or cause.

The word hetu often means ‘motive’, ie a mental cause, especially in the sense of selfish motive. We find this use of the word ‘hetu’ in the Gita 2.47, where Krishna says, literally, “Don’t be a person whose ‘hetu’, ‘motive’ is action’s fruit. Ma karma-phala-hetur bhur. The Gita again uses haituka to refer to ‘motive’ at 16.8: the Asuras see the world as ‘kama-haituka’, i.e. everyone here acts with a selfish motive. The Bhagavatam and CC mainly use the word a-haituki in the sense of ‘having no material motive’, especially in relation to bhakti. Thus we find the term ‘ahaituki bhakti’ at SBh 1.2.6, 3.29.12, 10.23.26, and in CC Adi 4.206, Madhya 19.172, Madhya 24.29, Madhya 24.146, Madhya 24.163,167, and Antya 20.29 which quotes Mahaprabhu’s Siksastaka — bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi. Also, SBh 5.18.9 gives us ‘ahaituki mati’, ‘causeless/unmotivated thinking of Krsna.’ Then we have the interesting statement in SBh 9.5.22 that Durvasa went to an ‘ahaituka-loka’ which Prabhupada translates as “a planet devoid of dry speculation.” Prabhupada here takes hetu as ‘cause’ in the sense of reasoning on causality, as in the Gita 13.5, where Krishna speaks of the brahma-sutras as ‘hetu-mat’, ‘possessing reasons’, i.e. analysis of causes. Similarly and negatively, in Bg 18.22, Krishna describes knowledge in ignorance, tamasa-jñana, as ahaitukam, being irrational, or having no good reason.

My conclusion: by introducing the term ahaituki krpa, “causeless mercy”, BVT and other Acaryas are completing, and making explicit, a theological circle implicit in Shastra, especially in the Bhagavatam 1.2.6-7. Here is my reasoning:

1. SBh 1.2.6 states that paro dharma, the highest dharma, is that which leads to ahaituki bhakti, devotion with no material motive.

2. The next verse, SBh 1.2.7, states that such bhakti-yoga quickly produces vairagya [detachment] and jñana [knowledge] which are also ahaituka.

3. Krishna teaches in the Gita that He gives knowledge. Thus with no material motive, Krishna mercifully awards us spiritual understanding which leads to real detachment, vairagya, as explained in the Gita 2.59.

Conclusion: When a devotee offers pure ahaituki bhakti to Krishna, Krishna, who is the Supreme Pure, [Bg 9.7, 10.12] then reciprocates with spiritual blessings, which also have no material motive. Thus Krsna bestows causeless mercy.

Thus “causeless mercy” does not indicate that Krishna treats souls unfairly, rewarding one and punish another for no reason. As we know, He explicit rejects this notion in the Gita. The Bhagavatam also emphatically rejects this idea of divine partiality, often in the context of battles between the Devas and Asuras. Krishna often intervenes on the side of the Devas, and the Bhagavatam repeatedly reminds us not to misunderstand such divine interventions as a sign of partiality in God. Krishna always has good reasons for what He does.

Rupa Vilasa das – This discussion is very interesting. Let me attempt to prolong it a little. Maharaja, you have referred to the term “causeless mercy” as a “didactic redundancy”. This may be so; however, we have to wonder why SP was so insistent on using it thousands of times in his writings. It seems that he wanted to emphasize that mercy was causeless in the sense of “no material cause” and in the sense that the Lord and the pure Vaisnavas do what they do out of pure love and compassion without any material motivation. In fact, you use the term “didactic redundancy” yourself repeatedly in your work on SB.

I don’t think you have really answered the point about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s response to Vasudeva Datta’s plea. Were all the souls in the universe deserving of being liberated? Did every single soul in the universe at that time deserve it or even desire it? Did Jagai and Madhai who had committed almost every imaginable sin deserve the mercy they received? Only in the sense that Nityananda had granted them His “causeless mercy” and out of love for Nityananda the Lord delivered them. Their merit was Nityananda’s “causeless mercy.” By the way, the expression “causeless mercy” comes up 2,346 times on the Vedabase!

Hridayananda das Goswami – We must keep the following in mind:

1. “Causeless mercy” is not a Shastric term. It is a logical principle that since our authority is Shastra, a non-Shastric term must receive a Shastric definition. Thus I accept the term of the Acaryas and I define it in a ways that agrees with Shastra.

2. In fact, all the souls of the universe were not immediately liberated by Vasudeva Datta. In Madhya 15.169, Mahaprabhu says to Vasudeva Datta that whoever he blesses becomes a devotee. Prabhupada translates “haila”, “becomes” as “immediately becomes.” This is ecstatic speech, but even Prabhupada begged many souls to become devotees that did not become devotees, at least not right away. In fact, it is a gradual process.

3. Prabhupada often told us in regard to the Gita’s “nimitta-matram bhava…” that “Krishna will save the world. Now if you like, you become the instrument and Krishna will give you the credit.” Similarly, Prabhupada quotes in a Gita purport: mukti-pradata sarvesam visnur eva na samsayah, “Only Vishnu gives liberation to all, without doubt.” Isvarah paramah Krsnah. Krsna saves the world but gives credit to His devotees. Krsna states that He personally killed all the warriors at Kuruksetra, but He is giving Arjuna the credit.

4. Krishna clearly states in the Gita that He reciprocates. Why would Nityananda create merit for some and not for others. This directly contradicts the Lord’s assurance in the Gita.

Conclusion: there is ecstatic speech, and there is underlying philosophical truth. To confuse them is to disregard Shastra, such as Gita and Bhagavatam, and postulate a God who lacks the moral qualification of a decent human parent: loving all the kids equally.

Rupa Vilasa das – In CC Antya 3.74 Haridasa Thakura states: “When Your devotee Vasudeva Datta submitted his plea at Your lotus feet for the deliverance of all living entities, You accepted that request.”

I don’t see how the above is against the principles of scripture, nor do I see that it is against scripture or merely to be viewed as ecstatic talk. A pure devotee desires the deliverance of all living beings (which is certainly not against scripture) Lord Krishna reciprocates by agreeing to the request. ye yatha mam prapadyante, etc. Where is the difficulty? We say “become clean.” It is understood to be a process. It may be ecstatic talk, but it is also factual talk.

And you also said: “Krishna clearly states in the Gita that He reciprocates. Why would Nityananda create merit for some and not for others. This directly contradicts the Lord’s assurance in the Gita.

Certainly, Lord Nityananda is merciful to all, devotees and demons alike. He created the merit of Jagai and Madhai by His merciful desire to deliver them and have Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accept them. If, out of love, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu or Lord Nityananda decides to liberate everyone in the universe to please a great soul like Vasudeva Datta, how is that against the principle of sastra? I don’t think it is.

Hridayananda das Goswami – The point is simple: Krsna declares that He does eventually save all souls, which is most reassuring. Krishna is equal to all. So once the universe fills up again with fallen souls, He will save all of them. And He will save all the souls in all the other trillions of universes.

Krishna reciprocates with His devotees, but not in a way that renders His other sacred teachings absurd. All the pure devotees that ever came to this universe, and all those that are here now, are oceans of mercy, and they all desire the liberation of all fallen souls. So why are we still suffering? Why is the world full of terribly suffering souls. Because it is a gradual process as Prabhupada often taught.

Fulfilling His pure devotee’s merciful wish, and maintaining fairness in the universe are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. I retain both facts, you seem to abolish one to exalt the other. Krishna does not simply suspend all fairness, everything He teaches in the Gita, because a pure devotee wants to save the fallen souls. The two realities exist together. One does not nullify the other.

Rupa Vilasa das – I am happier with this answer. However, I was not advocating Krishna’s suspending fairness. I was pointing out His independence and causeless mercy. What is not clear to me is that the exchange between Vasudeva Datta and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu sounds, by your analysis, to be pointless. Is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu simply reaffirming the status quo? I think He was offering more than that, but at least we agree that all the living beings will gradually be liberated in the course of time by the causeless mercy of the Lord.

Hridayananda das Goswami – I see the exchange between Vasudeva Datta and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as most glorious, on the highest spiritual plane. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arranged this discussion to reveal to the world the supremely exalted status of VD, and His own infinite love for His pure devotee.

Rupa Vilasa das – It was fun, and I am pleased to experience your brilliance and balance in representing the Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta. It is a pleasure to experience it, despite my attempting to thwart your arguments. I surrender to your conclusions.

Hridayananda das Goswami – Thanks for your kind words, and your friendship!