Spiritual Vision

When Vyasadeva was following his son, Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, they came upon some damsels bathing in a pond, Sukadeva was also naked, yet the maidens did not cover themselves when he passed by. However, they did cover themselves when the fully-clad Vyasadeva approached. Astonished at the apparently inconsistent behavior of the young girls, Vyasadeva asked them to explain. “Your son is purified of all material contamination,” they said, “so when he looks at us he makes no distinction between male and female. But as a householder, you do make such distinctions. Therefore, while we feel no shame before your son, we must cover ourselves before you.

Srimad Bhagavatam
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabupada
Canto One, Chapter 4, Text 5

dṛṣṭvānuyāntam ṛṣim ātmajam apy anagnaṁ
devyo hriyā paridadhur na sutasya citram
tad vīkṣya pṛcchati munau jagadus tavāsti
strī-pum-bhidā na tu sutasya vivikta-dṛṣṭeḥ

dṛṣṭvā—by seeing; anuyāntam—following; ṛṣim—the sage; ātmajam—his son; api—in spite of; anagnam—not naked; devyaḥ—beautiful damsels; hriyā—out of shyness; paridadhuḥ—covered the body; na—not; sutasya—of the son; citram—astonishing; tat vīkṣya—by seeing that; pṛcchati—asking; munau—unto the muni (Vyāsa); jagaduḥ—replied; tava—your; asti—there are; strī-pum—male and female; bhidā—differences; na—not; tu—but; sutasya—of the son; vivikta—purified; dṛṣṭeḥ—of one who looks.

While Śrī Vyāsadeva was following his son, beautiful young damsels who were bathing naked covered their bodies with cloth, although Śrī Vyāsadeva himself was not naked. But they had not done so when his son had passed. The sage inquired about this, and the young ladies replied that his son was purified and when looking at them made no distinction between male and female. But the sage made such distinctions.

In the Bhagavad-gītā (5.18) it is said that a learned sage looks equally on a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a caṇḍāla (dog-eater), a dog or a cow due to his spiritual vision. Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī attained that stage. Thus he did not see a male or female; he saw all living entities in different dress. The ladies who were bathing could understand the mind of a man simply by studying his demeanor, just as by looking at a child one can understand how innocent he is. Śukadeva Gosvāmī was a young boy sixteen years old, and therefore all the parts of his body were developed. He was naked also, and so were the ladies. But because Śukadeva Gosvāmī was transcendental to sex relations, he appeared very innocent. The ladies, by their special qualifications, could sense this at once, and therefore they were not very concerned about him. But when his father passed, the ladies quickly dressed. The ladies were exactly like his children or grandchildren, yet they reacted to the presence of Vyāsadeva according to the social custom because Śrīla Vyāsadeva played the part of a householder. A householder has to distinguish between a male and female, otherwise he cannot be a householder. One should, therefore, attempt to know the distinction between spirit soul without any attachment for male and female. As long as such distinction is there, one should not try to become a sannyāsī like Śukadeva Gosvāmī. At least theoretically one must be convinced that a living entity is neither male nor female. The outward dress is made of matter by material nature to attract the opposite sex and thus keep one entangled in material existence. A liberated soul is above this perverted distinction. He does not distinguish between one living being and another. For him they are all one and the same spirit. The perfection of this spiritual vision is the liberated stage, and Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī attained that stage. Śrīla Vyāsadeva was also in the transcendental stage, but because he was in the householder’s life, he did not pretend to be a liberated soul, as a matter of custom.

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