Where is Golok?
You would be curious to know about Golok? Why wouldn’t you? Heaven, hell, Brahma Lok and Vaikuntha are well described in Puranas. Fearing the Sudrashana chakra, Durvasa muni rushes to Brahma Lok, Shiva lok and Vaikuntha as stated in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Similarly, the Ramacharitmanas mentions Kakabhusundi’s travel to different abodes (लोक). Even the 4 Sanak kumaras had access to Vaikuntha where they cursed the 2 doorkeeper Jay and Vijay. Likewise, Not only seers and enlightened beings but demons like Hiranyakashipu and Bhasmasur entered these abodes, then where does Golok stand in its ranking? Such questions will naturally draw our mind.
Where did creation begin?
Many Acharyas have claimed Vaikuntha to be a fragment of Brahmalok, while other consider Saket and Golok as parts of Vaikuntha and Brahma Lok. But they did not realize the contradictions in this analysis.
There is a star by the name Prajapati. Just like Dhruvaloka (Star) lies in the Dhruva ambit. Similarly, we can connect star Prajapati (Creator) to Brahmalok as it concerns creation.
A German Philosopher had once said- God resides in Outer space. He presented some evidence proving the existence of aliens on our planet. But our Puranas have a complete different say on this. The Puranas state that creation first began in Brahmalok. Svayambuva Manu, his wife Shradda, the ten sons of Brahma: Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kritu, Bhrigu, Vashishta, Daksha, and Narada first appeared in Brahmalok. From Brahmalok, they appeared on earth time to time with their many sons including Kardama and Kashyapa. In this subject, remember, sun is the locus (centre) of the universe. In scientific terms, you can call one universe, a solar system. Science believes in uncountable stars but Puranas believe in multiverses, countless solar systems. These universes operate under the supervision of Maya.
पादोस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि |
The Shruti says- One step of the Supreme Being covers the entire gamut of material existence while three steps contain his divine, eternal abode. Countless universes operate under Maya’s supervision. Each universe possesses a separate Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for its creation, maintenance and destruction. This is clearly stated in the Puranas. Their abodes known as Brahmalok, Vaikuntha and Shivalok lie within the boundaries of this universe. The residents living in that universe have access limited to these realms, be it a Demon, Demigod, Rishi, or even Brahma. Scriptures like Gargasamhita, mention Brahma touring Saket and Golok. This description is situational meant to explain an esoteric concept. The instance isn’t literal. It is not an actual event. Why? Time, Place and circumstance are products of Maya (Illusion). Those who experience time and place are under Maya’s parentage. Outside the Mayic field, there is no trace of time and place. It just evaporates. All problems are due to interference of Maya. Therefore, each universe is assigned ruling deities to settle issues, just like- Sun exists in each universe, Shakti and Ganesh reside in their abodes. However, The Supreme Being’s eternal abode is beyond time and place, imperceptible and beyond the functioning of mind. The rules of the material world do not apply to the spiritual world. The spiritual world’s description resembles the mortal world for ordinary people to understand. Vaishnava saints and Scriptures place the Lord’s name, form, pastimes and abode par with the Lord. It is believed that when the Lord descends on earth, his eternal abode (धाम) manifests along with his pastimes. The manifestation site of Dham in the material world is known by its name. But, after the Lord’s departure, his eternal abode disappears along with him. For an advanced devotee, the Lord’s eternal abode appears along with His form and pastimes.
Comparison of Brahman with Eternal abode
As per Shankara Philosophy, Brahman is pure, unalloyed knowledge (चिन्मात्र). Brahman is formless, devoid of qualities, attributeless and subtle. The eternal abode of the Lord (धाम) is a non-different principle, but in dual form. It is full of Knowledge (चिद्घन), has form and qualities. Brahman is unalloyed knowledge (चिन्मात्र) while the Lord’s eternal abode is full of Knowledge (चिद्घन). Both principles are non-different, two sides of the same coin.
How Dham functions?
It is clear by now, that the eternal abode is one. Plurality arises due to time and place. Time and place have no entry in the spiritual world. Now, the second question- Why Vaikuntha, Shivalok etc abodes are given precedence over Golok and Saket. The eternal abode (धाम) functions on emotions. Just as one supreme principle multiplies into Durga, Kali, Shiva, Surya, Ganesh, Rama, Krishna and Narayana to please devotees of different emotional mindsets, His abodes being many are essentially one. This plurality arises due to difference in emotions of devotees. Being many, they are essentially one.
Experience in Vaikuntha
The Form principle, just like formless, is inexpressible.
देहेन्द्रियासुहीनानां वैकुण्ठपुरवासिनाम् |
The differentiation of body, senses and life force does not occur for denizens of Vaikuntha (वैकुंठवासी). Their form is the embodiment of knowledge. This description refers to Vaikuntha of this universe where the 2 doorkeepers Jay and Vijay were cursed. Vaikuntha’s description far exceeds this. There, Body, senses, life force, are all embodiments of bliss. A toy horse molded with sugar, its senses, organs, and form; are all sugar through and through. Can a description translate to its substantial experience? Similarly, the lord’s eternal abode cannot be expressed in linguistic terms.
रघुपति भगति वारि छालितचित, बिनु प्रयास ही सूझै |
तुलसिदास यह चिद्विलास जग, बूझत बूझत बूझै||
This world that appears material, isn’t material. It is the Lord’s amusement park. But, this riddle is too hard to decode. How can the reflection of the spiritual word be material? The material world is existential. Though the spiritual principle operates behind the material world, senses and their objects are given preference since there is direct experience. The Lord is Bliss personified. His associates carry the same excellent traits. This bliss when reflected in the material world, culminates as love. You see all excellent virtues in your loved one. But, Due to infusion of material element, love gets diluted. Otherwise-
प्रेम हरी कौ रूप है, सो हरि प्रेम स्वरूप |
Love is a form of Hari, while Hari is Love personified. The Lord (भगवान) is Sat-chit-ananda. The material world is the existential principle (सद्घन). The Supreme Being is Blissful principle (आनन्दघन), while his eternal abode is full of knowledge (चिद्घन).