Moksha / Liberation: What Is It? by Stephen Knapp

Moksha is also called mukti, which essentially means to attain freedom from any further forms of differentiated, temporal, and ordinary material existence in the mortal world. It also means, quite simply, becoming free from samsara, or the continued rounds of birth and death in the material realm, which is caused by the accumulation and continuation of karma. So it also means becoming free from karma. It is karma, no matter whether it is good or bad, which keeps us bound to material existence. So one of the main goals of human life is to attain freedom from this material existence, and enter the spiritual realm. That is moksha, liberation.

However, there are also different levels of moksha, which is also described as becoming free from the false identification of the body, or koshas, and freedom from maya, the illusory energy. This means that a person can attain one level of liberation simply by becoming free from the material conception of life, such as thinking you are the material body. This is one of the preliminary qualifications for entering the spiritual domain, which is considered by many to be the Brahman, the eternal, unlimited brahmajyoti, or great white light. However, there is more to it than this.

If a person can rise enough from the material conception of life and realize and experience their spiritual identity, and then act on the spiritual platform, one can be called a jivanmukta, or liberated soul. This is no easy position to reach, nor can many people be expected to attain it, at least in one lifetime. But it is not only possible, but it is expected and is called the perfection of human existence. Out of all that we may be able to accomplish in this life, the main thing is to become liberated and free from any further rounds of material existence. That is real freedom.

However, there are different kinds of liberation, which we will explain herein.

 

MOKSHA INTO THE NONDUAL BRAHMAN

First of all, one of the main premises of moksha, or liberation from material existence, is that after death a person who is eligible for liberation enters the spiritual world. The view of the spiritual world depends on the school of philosophical understanding. There are two main schools of thought consisting of the non-dual or advaita philosophical outlook, and then the dvaita or dualistic school.

In the advaita tradition, emphasis for liberation is especially put on the soul’s release from ignorance. This kind of ignorance is the misidentification of the living being as the impermanent material body, and to consider that this world is real, when actually it is temporary, like a dream. Rising above such ignorance with the means of spiritual knowledge and realization, the living entity can attain the perception of one’s real identity as the spirit soul or atman which is within but also beyond the material body. This is the ultimate reality, aham brahmasmi, or I am a spiritual being, which should be understood and realized. So, moksha is also the release from this ignorance and the realization of one’s true identity.

The advaita school accepts that the atman or soul, the Paramatma or Supersoul within, and the Brahman, or formless, all-pervasive spiritual force, are all one. So, this understanding of liberation means to merge into the eternal, impersonal Brahman. In the advaita tradition, one of the means to attain this is through Jnana Yoga. However, it is said that to attain this kind of liberation is not easy, even after years or even lifetimes of practice.

In this kind of liberation, having merged into the unlimited Brahman, one floats in the eternal impersonal Brahman or spiritual sky in what could be called a state of spiritual unconsciousness. It is ecstatic because there are no material pains or pleasures that are caused due to material contact through a physical body, nor is there any ignorance due to falsely identifying with the illusion. It is a constant and never-ending state of spiritual bliss, but without any activities or individual identity. It is something like being a spiritual drop in a spiritual ocean.

 

MOKSHA INTO VAIKUNTHA, THE SPIRITUAL PLANETS

In the dvaita or dualistic school of thought, there is a difference between the soul (jiva or atman), the Supersoul (Paramatma), and the Supreme Being (Bhagavan). They are not all one. They are considered the same in spiritual quality, but different in quantity or potency. God is omnipotent and infinite while the innumerable individual souls or atmans are infinitesimal and limited. Thus, they also keep their individuality. Because of these differences, each individual soul can also reach a different state of liberation, which we will discuss shortly.

Unity between the souls and the Supreme Being is not by merging one into the other, but is attained through devotional love, bhakti-yoga. Through bhakti-yoga, diving deep into love of God, one frees him or herself of all of one’s good and bad karma, spiritualizes one’s consciousness and becomes free from all illusion, and becomes united with God. In this way, the bhakta (devotee) can attain the abode of the Supreme Lord in a perfected state, but maintains his or her individual identity, with a spiritual form, personality, tastes, pastimes, and so on. Then they remain individuals but are one in quality and interest, which is to engage in spiritual loving pastimes with each other, centered around pleasing the Supreme Lord. This form of expression is the natural and constitutional position of the individual soul, and is the nectar for which they are always seeking. This is also reflected in the material worlds, where the individual living entities are always seeking or talking about loving exchanges. The difference is that in the material world they are seeking their own lusty pleasure, while in the spiritual world they are simply seeking how to give pleasure to God. But this pleasure given to God is reflected back to each individual soul from God and is felt as divine nectar, which supercedes many times over any such happiness found in the material world or connected with the material body.

Also in Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita philosophy, the goal of liberation as an eternal union with God can be reached by developing loving surrender to God, (Vishnu). This is especially attained through bhakti, loving surrender to the Divine.

Furthermore, in the dvaita view, the Brahman is considered the eternal, all-pervasive energy of God, or the infinite brahmajyoti or great white light, which is but the bodily rays or effulgence that expands from the Supreme Being. It is within this brahmajyoti or spiritual sky in which float the spiritual planets, called Vaikuntha planets, as well as the innumerable living souls that merge into and then float like spiritual atoms in the brahmajyoti or great Brahman. If they do not know of the spiritual planets within the Brahman, then they think that the Brahman, in and of itself, is the highest reality and all that is.

In this way, the spiritual world has a place for everyone, such as the Brahman into which merge those who view the ultimate reality or God with no form. Then deeper in the spiritual sky are the innumerable Vaikuntha planets which are inhabited by the different forms of Vishnu, who is worshiped by His devotees in a mood of awe and veneration. Then there is the central planet of Krishnaloka or Goloka Vrindavana. This is the topmost dwelling of Lord Krishna, shaped like a lotus flower, where upon each petal He exhibits different pastimes with those many devotees who are simply absorbed in spontaneous loving exchanges and activities.

Amongst this unlimited spiritual sky and all of these spiritual planets are the destinations of those devotees who become liberated. The impersonalists or advaitas merge into the Brahman, while the personalists or dvaitas enter into one of the spiritual planets to engage in spiritually devotional activities. The various destinations on these spiritual planets are described in this way:

It is explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.4.67), by Lord Vishnu to Durvasa Muni, “My pure devotees are always satisfied being engaged in devotional service, and therefore they do not aspire even after the five liberated stages, which are (1) to be one with Me [by merging with God or the Brahman], (2) to achieve residence on My planet, (3) to have My opulences, (4) to possess bodily features similar to Mine, and (5) to gain personal association with Me. So when they are not interested even in these liberated positions, you can know how little they care for material opulences or material liberation.”

As explained further by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, “From the above verse, there are five stages of liberation, which are (1) to become one with God [as in the advaita school], (2) to live on the same spiritual planet as the Lord, (3) to obtain the same bodily features as the Lord, (4) to have the same opulences as the Lord, and (5) to have constant association with the Lord. Out of these five liberated stages, the one which is known as sayujya, or to merge into the existence of the Lord, is the last to be accepted by a devotee. The other four liberations, although not desired by [advanced] devotees, still are not against the devotional ideals. Some of the liberated persons who have achieved these four stages of liberation may also develop affection for Krishna and be promoted to the Goloka Vrindavana planet in the spiritual sky. In other words, those who are already promoted to the Vaikuntha planets, and who possess the four kinds of liberation, may also sometimes develop affection for Krishna and become promoted to Krishnaloka [the highest of spiritual planets].

“So those who are in the four liberated stages may still be going through different stages of existence. In the beginning they may want the opulences of Krishna, but at the mature stage the dormant love for Krishna exhibited in Vrindavana become prominent in their hearts. As such, the pure devotees never accept the liberation of sayujya, to become one with the Supreme, though sometimes they may accept as favorable the other four liberated states.” (Nectar Of Devotion, p.45)

So herein we find the different types of liberation available to those who become aware of the spiritual planets, which float in the spiritual Brahman or brahmajyoti. You may be able to attain the same spiritual planet of the Lord, or live in similar opulences with a similar form, or even have constant association with Krishna or one of His expansions that exist on each of the Vaikuntha planets. The Vaikuntha planets hold an atmosphere of awe and veneration toward God, while in Krishnaloka, the residents have a spontaneous and natural love for God, which dominates all the pastimes there. So even those living on the Vaikuntha planets may also develop a natural, spontaneous love for God and then shift themselves from the Vaikuntha planets to Krishnaloka.

So how do we attain this kind of liberation? It is said that bhakti-yoga, the yoga of love and devotion, is the easiest and quickest way to attain such liberation because the end justifies the means, or the practice brings one to the same mood as you find in the spiritual planets.

The Padma Purana also states: “For any person who is chanting the holy name [of Krishna] either softly or loudly, the paths to liberation and even heavenly happiness are at once open.” (Nectar Of Devotion, p. 80)

However, entering deeply into the nectar of this mood of devotion for the Lord surpasses even the desire to attain liberation from material existence. It is not that we should give up the will to become free from material existence, but entering into this devotion is like attaining material liberation even in this very lifetime, no matter where we are. It is all a matter of consciousness.

This is explained further in the prayers by the wives of Kaliya in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.16.37): “Dear Lord, the dust of Your lotus feet is very wonderful. Any person who is fortunate enough to achieve this dust does not care for [residence on] heavenly planets, lordship over all the planetary systems, the mystic perfections of yoga, or even liberation from material existence. In other words, anyone who adores the dust of Your lotus feet does not care a fig for all other perfectional stages.”

Lord Krishna Himself provides further insight in this matter to Uddhava in the Srimad-Bhavatam (11.20.34): “My dear Uddhava, the devotees who have completely taken shelter of My service are so steadfast in devotional service that they have no other desire. Even if they are offered the four kinds of spiritual opulences [(1) to achieve residence on My planet, (2) to have My opulences, (3) to possess bodily features similar to Mine, and (4) to gain personal association with Me], they will refuse to accept them. So what to speak of their desiring anything within the material world.”

In a similar line of thinking, Lord Krishna also says in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.14.14): “My dear Uddhava, a person whose consciousness is completely absorbed in My thought and activities, does not aspire even to occupy the post of Lord Brahma, or the post of Indra, or the post of lordship over the planets, or the eight kinds of mystic perfections, or even liberation itself.”

So herein we see that liberation is practically automatic for a sincere devotee of the Lord, but the devotional consciousness supercedes the desire for liberation itself. In this way, such a devotee is already liberated though still living in this material world.

Lord Shiva also says something similar to Devi in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.10.6): “My dear Devi, the great brahmana sage Markandeya has attained unflinching faith and devotion unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such, he does not aspire for any benedictions, including liberation from the material world.”

Those who are impersonalists may be satisfied simply with the premise of becoming liberated from material existence, but without their individuality they have no chance of engaging in spiritual activities, or entering the transcendental bliss of hearing and chanting the glories or holy names of the Supreme Lord. (Nectar of Devotion, p.37) But those who are devotees of the Lord can automatically give up material life and also enjoy the transcendental bliss of hearing and chanting the wonderful activities of Lord Krishna. (Nectar of Devotion, p.41)

This is the difference, that by merging into the Brahman, one gives up their individuality for spiritual and devotional activities that are connected with God, Lord Krishna and His expansions, which is the nature of the spiritual planets within the Brahman. Thus, they do not experience the sweet nectar of such. Therefore, without the knowledge of such devotion that goes on within the atmosphere of the Vaikuntha planets and Krishnaloka, if there is a desire for activities in the souls who are merged into the Brahman, they must return to the material worlds to start again. Action or the need of expression is natural for us because it is the inherit nature of the soul itself. Even in the material world the saying is that “variety is the spice of life.” Variety means different types of activities. That is why everyone tries so hard for different types of self-expression, whether it be artistic, emotional, intellectual, etc., but love is the highest type of expression that brings happiness even in this material atmosphere. But the soul’s need to love and be loved, which is obvious even in the material worlds, is expressed to its fullest when it revives its connection with God and reaches the spiritual domain.

This is why devotees have no desire for the liberation of merging into the Brahman and losing their individuality, if it means that they will be forced to give up engaging in devotional service to God. As explained in the prayers of Maharaja Prithu in Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.20.24): “My dear Lord, if after taking liberation I have no chance of hearing the glories of Your Lordship, glories chanted by pure devotees from the core of their hearts in praise of Your lotus feet, and if I have no chance for this honey and transcendental bliss, then I shall never ask for liberation or this so-called spiritual emancipation. I shall simply always pray unto Your Lordship that you may give me millions of tongues and millions of ears, so that I can constantly chant and hear of Your transcendental glories.”

So, in conclusion, this is the devotional and loving nature of the soul, and this is fully manifested in the spiritual domain of Vaikuntha and Krishnaloka, or even in the consciousness of the mood of devotion to the Lord right here in this material world. This is the difference in the various types of moksha or liberation from material existence, and why devotees only wish for that liberation wherein they can continue and fully manifest their spiritual loving activities in connection with God, for this is all that can completely satisfy the soul.

Lord Balarama: Who is He, Compiled by Stephen Knapp

            Sometimes people ask who is Lord Balarama? And the answer is that He is the brother of Lord Krishna. However, He does many things besides that.
            How we understand this is to first recognize that, according to Vedic scripture such as the Srimad Bhagavata Purana, it is described that Lord Krishna is the primeval Lord, the original Personality of Godhead, so He can expand Himself into unlimited forms with all potencies. They are no different from Him, but may exhibit differences in form and function.
            He first expands Himself into Baladeva, or Balarama, who is considered Krishna’s second body and brother. Balarama assists in Lord Krishna’s innumerable spiritual pastimes in both the spiritual and materials realms.
            Lord Balarama is also Lord Sankarshana, the predominator of the creative energy. He creates and is also the shelter of the material and spiritual worlds. By the will of Krishna and the power of the spiritual energy, Lord Balarama creates the spiritual world, which consists of the planet Goloka Vrindavana [the supermost spiritual planet] and the Vaikuntha planets [in the spiritual sky]. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 20.255-6)
            Lord Balarama especially assists Lord Krishna in the creation of the material world. After Balarama has expanded Himself into Lord Maha-Sankarshana, He expands Himself into four different forms, including: 1) Karanadakashayi Vishnu [Maha-Vishnu], 2) Garbhodakashayi Vishnu [the Vishnu expansion in each universe], 3) Ksirodakashayi Vishnu [the Supersoul in each living being], and 4) Sesha, also called Seshanaga, who lies down and is the support and resting place for Lord Vishnu. These four plenary portions assist in the material cosmic manifestation. Sesha is Balarama’s form who assists in the Lord’s personal service. He is also called Ananta, meaning unlimited, because He assists the Lord in His unlimited variety of pastimes. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 5.4-6, 8-11).

* * *

            To explain more clearly, all expansions of the Lord begin with Sri Krishna. For His pastimes in one of the highest levels of the spiritual realm, called Dvaraka, Sri Krishna expands Himself into Balarama, who then expands Himself into Pradyumna and Aniruddha. These four expand into a second quadruple which is present in the unlimited Vaikuntha planets of the spiritual sky. The second quadruple is known as Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. They are changeless, transcendental expansions of the Supreme Lord, Krishna. In the second quadruple, Vasudeva is an expansion of Krishna, and Sankarshana is a representative of Balarama.
            In the Vaikuntha spiritual sky there is the pure, spiritual creative energy called Shuddha-satva that sustains all of the spiritual planets with the full opulences of knowledge, wealth, power, beauty, etc., all of which pervade the entire spiritual kingdom and are fully enjoyed by the residents there. This energy is but a display of the creative potencies of Balarama, Maha-Sankarshana. It is also this Sankarshana who is the original cause of the Causal Ocean (which takes shape as a cloud in a corner of the spiritual sky) where Karanodakashayi Vishnu (Maha-Vishnu) sleeps, while breathing out the seeds of the innumerable universes. [This is the start of the material creation. It is the Karana Ocean, also called the Causal Ocean, in which the material universes are manifest.] When the cosmic creation is annihilated, all of the materially conditioned, although indestructible, living entities merge back into the body of Maha-Vishnu where they rest until the time of the next creation. So Balarama as Sankarshana is the origin of Maha-Vishnu, from whom originates all of the potencies of the material manifestation. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 5.41 & purport).
            So, to summarize, for His spiritual pastimes in the Vaikuntha realm, Lord Krishna has four original expansions, namely Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. Maha-Vishnu is an expansion of Sankarshana; Garbhodakashayi Vishnu is an expansion of Pradyumna; and Ksirodakashayi Vishnu is an expansion of Aniruddha. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 2.56, purport.

* * *

            To begin explaining the purpose and function of these expansions, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.6.42) describes that, “Maha-Vishnu (Karanadakashayi Vishnu) is the first incarnation of the Supreme Lord in the process of creating the material worlds. He is the master of eternal time, space, cause and effects, mind, elements, material ego, the modes of nature, senses, the universal form of the Lord (Garbhodakashayi Vishnu) and the sum total of all living beings, both moving and nonmoving.”
            Then Maha-Vishnu lies down in the Viraja River, which is the border between the spiritual and material worlds. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 20.268-271)
            Lord Maha-Vishnu is the source of thousands of avataras in His thousands and thousands of subjective portions. He is also the creator of countless individual souls [that spread throughout the material creation]. He is also known by the name of Narayana, meaning the shelter of all the individual jiva souls. From Him springs forth the vast expanse of water known as the spiritual Causal Ocean [also known as the Karana Ocean, for which He is also called Karanadakashayi Vishnu]. Maha-Vishnu then reclines in the waters of the Causal Ocean in a state of divine sleep, called yoga-nidra. Thus, it is said that the universal creation is but the dream of Maha-Vishnu. (Brahma-samhita 5.11-12)
            Since the waters of the Causal Ocean or Karana Ocean come from the body of Maha-Vishnu, it is completely spiritual. The sacred Ganges River is but a drop from that ocean, which can purify the fallen souls [when they bathe in it]. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Adil-lila, 5.54)
            Lord Balarama also expands into the great serpent known as Ananta, or Seshanaga. He reposes on the Causal Ocean and serves as the couch upon whom Lord Maha-Vishnu reclines. (Brahma-samhita, 5.47) That Ananta-Sesha is the devotee incarnation of God who knows nothing but service to Lord Krishna. With His thousands of mouths, He always sings the endless glories of Lord Krishna. He also expands Himself to serve as Lord Krishna’s paraphernalia, including such items as the umbrella, slippers, bedding, pillow, garments, resting chair, residence, sacred gayatri thread, and throne in the pastimes of Lord Krishna. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 5.120-124)
            At the time of creation, after the Supreme has been sleeping for some time, the first emanation from the breathing of Lord Maha-Vishnu are the personified Vedas who serve Him by waking Him from His mystic sleep. They begin to enthusiastically sing His glories, pastimes and praises, just as a King is awoken in the morning by poets who recite his heroic deeds. (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 10.87.12-13)
            As one of the first expansions from Maha-Vishnu, this also shows the eternal and spiritual nature of the vibrational energy of the Vedic literature. They are not merely the writings of men, but they are spiritual vibrations that exist before, during and after the material creation, and which emanate from the Supreme Lord.
            Once the Lord is awoken, He casts His glance upon the material energy of maya. Then she becomes agitated. At that time the Lord injects [through His glance] the original seeds of all living entities. This glance is how the Supreme impregnates material nature with all the living entities. Thus, the Lord does not personally touch the material energy, but by His functional expansion He places the living entities into the material nature by His glance. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 20.272) This functional expansion of the Lord takes the form of Shiva. The glance of Maha-Vishnu is Shiva known as Shambhu. which we explain more fully elsewhere.
            After agitating the material nature into three qualities, which are the modes of nature in the form of goodness, passion and ignorance, they become active, and material nature begins to give birth to the total material energy known as the hiranya-mahat-tattva. This is the sum total of cosmic intelligence. Thus, material nature becomes agitated by the destinations of the conditioned souls as determined by the influence of these modes of nature. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.26.19) Simply by the glance of Maha-Vishnu consciousness is created, which is known as the mahat-tattva. The predominating Deity of the mahat-tattva is Lord Vasudeva, another expansion of Lord Krishna. This explains how the material energy is like the mother of the living beings while the Lord is the Supreme Father of everyone. Just as a woman cannot give birth without the contact of a man, or at least his seed, so material nature cannot create without the contact of the Supreme Being.
            So first, the total material energy is manifest, and from this arise the three types of egotism, which are the original sources of all the demigods [the minor controlling deities], the senses, and material elements. By combining the different elements, the Supreme Lord creates all of the unlimited universes. Once the material elements have been manifested, and the full potential for creating the universes has been established, the innumerable universes begin to emanate from the pores of the body of Maha-Vishnu, and from His exhalations. They appear just like atomic particles that float in sunshine and pass through a screen. Then when Maha-Vishnu finally inhales at the time of the universal annihilation, they return to His body. In this way, Maha-Vishnu is the Superself of all the universes. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 20.275-282)
            Brahma, all the demigods, and each universe remain alive for the duration of one of His exhalations. (Brahma-samhita 5.48) However, there is no limit to the exhalations of Maha-Vishnu. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 20.324)
             Once all of the universe are created, which are unlimited, Maha-Vishnu expands Himself into unlimited forms and each one enters each universe as Garbhodakashayi Vishnu. Once He is in each universe, He sees that there is no place to reside. Then, after some consideration, He fills half of the universe with water from His own perspiration. He then lays down on the water, again supported by the bed of Seshanaga [an expansion of Lord Balarama]. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 20.284-6)
            This Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, who is also known within the universe as Hiranyagarbha and Antaryami, the Supersoul, is glorified in the Vedic hymns. He is the master of each and every universe and shelter of the external or material energy. However, being transcendental, He is completely beyond the touch of the external [material] energy.
            Next is the third expansion of Vishnu, called Ksirodakashayi Vishnu, who is the incarnation of the quality of goodness. He is the universal form of the Lord and expands Himself as the Supersoul within every living entity. He is known as Ksirodakashayi Vishnu because He lies on the ocean of milk [ksira] on the island of Svetadvipa. These are the three expansions of Lord Vishnu who oversee and make the creation of the material world possible. (Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 20.292, 294-5)
            This also explains the part that is played by Lord Balarama in this process of material creation. However, after the material creation has been accomplished, then the nectar of the pastimes of Lord Krishna takes place at particular times in the material realm wherein Lord Balarama plays the part of His brother to exhibit so many escapades together in the area of Vrindavana, India. These may be pastimes of killing the demons that attack the residents of Vrindavana, or the fun of playing with the cowherd boys in the forests or in tending the cows. It is all recreation and spiritual enjoyment. These are described in the tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
            Various prayers, such as the Thousand Names of Lord Balarama, and others, such as the one below, further describe many of the characteristics of Lord Balarama, which can be found at http://www.stephen-knapp.com/thousand_names_of_lord_balarama.htm.

Sri Balabhadra-stava-räja
The King of Prayers to Lord Balaräma

Text 1
duryodhana uväca
stotram shri-baladevasya
     prädvipäka mahä-mune
vada mäm kripayä säkshät
     sarva-siddhi-pradäyakam

        Duryodhana said: O Prädvipäka, O great sage, please kindly tell me the prayer of Lord Balaräma, which grants all perfection.

Text 2
shri-prädvipäka uväca
stava-räjam tu rämasya
     vedavyäsa-kritam shubham
 sarva-siddhi-pradam räjan
     chrinu kaivalyadam nrinäm

        Shri Prädvipäka Muni said: O king, please hear the regal and beautiful prayer of Lord Balaräma, a prayer that brings liberation and all perfection.

Text 3
devädi-deva bhagavan
     käma-päla namo ‘stu te
namo ‘nantäya sheshäya
     säkshäd-rämäya te namah

         O master of the demigods, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, O fulfiller of desires, obeisances to You! O Lord Ananta Shesha, obeisances to You! O Lord Balaräma, obeisances to You!

Text 4
dharä-dharäya purnäya
     sva-dhämne sira-pänaye
sahasra-shirase nityam
     namah sankarshanäya te

        O Lord who maintains the earth, O glorious Lord, O perfect and complete Lord, O Lord who holds a plow in Your hand, O Lord who has a thousand heads, O Lord Sankarshana, eternal obeisances to You!

Text 5
revati-ramana tvam vai
     baladeväcyutägraja
haläyudha pralamba-ghna
     pähi mäm purushottama

       O husband of Revati, O Lord Balaräma, O elder brother of Lord Krishna, O Lord who holds a plow-weapon, O killer of Pralambäsura, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, please protect me!

Text 6
baläya balabhadräya
     tälänkäya namo namah
nilämbaräya gauräya
     rauhineyäya te namah

        O Lord Balaräma, who carries a palm-tree flag, obeisances to You! O son of Rohini, O fair-complexioned Lord dressed in blue garments, obeisances to You!

Text 7
dhenukärir mushtikärih
     kutärir balvaläntakah
rukmy-arih kupakarnärih
     kumbhandäris tvam eva hi

       You are the enemy of Dhenuka, the enemy of Mushtika, the enemy of Kuta, the killer of Balvala, the enemy of Rukmi, the enemy of Kupakarna, and the enemy of Kumbhanda.

Text 8
kälindi-bhedano ‘si tvam
     hastinäpura-karshakah
dvividärir yädavendro
     vraja-mandala-mandanah

        You are the Lord who broke the Yamuna’ and dragged Hastinäpura. You are the enemy of Dvivida. You are the king of the Yädavas. You are the ornament of Vraja’s circle.

Text 9
kamsa-bhrätri-prahantäsi
     tirtha-yäträ-karah prabhuh
duryodhana-guruh säkshät
     pähi pähi prabho tö atah

        You are the killer of Kamsa’s brothers. You are the supreme master, the Lord who went on pilgrimage, and Duryodhana’s guru. O master, please protect me! Please protect me!

Text 10
jaya jayäcyuta-deva parät para
     svayam ananta-dig-anta-gata-shruta
sura-munindra-phanindra-caräya te
     musaline baline haline namah

       O infallible Lord, greater than the greatest, O Lord whose glories are heard in all directions without limit, glory to You! Glory to You! O Lord served by the demigods, the kings of the sages, and the kings of the serpents, O powerful Lord who holds a plow and a club, obeisances to You!

Text 11
yah pathet satatam stavanam narah
     sa tu hareh paramam padam ävrajet
jagati sarva-balam to ari-mardanam
     bhavati tasya dhanam sva-janam dhanam

        A person who regularly recites this prayer attains Lord Hari’s transcendental abode. All the strength in the universe is his. He crushes his enemies. He attains great wealth and a great dynasty.

All my Books Are Now Available in India

Now all of my books, both the American versions, those published in India, and all of the Kindle E-book versions, are available at the Amazon.in website, available in rupees, at:

http://www.amazon.in/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/276-3108029-1774103?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Stephen+Knapp#/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Stephen+Knapp&rh=n%3A976389031%2Ck%3AStephen+Knapp

Click the link or paste it in your browser.

How I Started Writing (And What Became of It), by Stephen Knapp

            I am writing this because many times people ask me how I got into writing, especially after having written so many books and articles. So I have decided to give it a full explanation to reveal how it began, whether my writing be an artistic, intellectual or spiritual expression.
            To begin with, I had always liked writing. I wrote as a means of expression and documentation, and for sharing with others my thoughts, realizations and experiences. I wrote my first science fiction story in my first grade class. As I grew, I tended to be attracted to the arts far more than athletics, even though all my neighborhood friends always played sports. Later, I also wrote poetry. Then in my early twenties I kept a journal for several years, which, later on while reading it, served as an interesting reminder of all the foolish things I’ve tried through the years, and then I threw most of it away.
            I tried writing an adventure novel when I was a teenager when the James Bond series became popular. Needless to say, I never got past 20 pages. I had also taken an interest in music and seriously pursued that for 10 years, when I focused on guitar and especially bass guitar, becoming quite good at it, taking the bass into areas of being a lead instrument rather than merely a part of the rhythm section. This was back in the late 1960s and early 70s before many bass players tried to do that.
            I also took an interest in painting, doing graphic designs in the psychedelic and black light genres in the late 60s. That was fun at the time. Painting lead me into being interested in photography, which started as an artistic expression, later leading me into wedding photography and doing a few hundred weddings over several years. Then I started doing what I call cultural photojournalism, which I still do today when I travel to India, developing a collection of over 18,000 slides and images I’ve taken of Indian holy places, festivals, people, historical sites, etc.
            Only after I took to my spiritual pursuits and reading many books on Eastern philosophy in the early 1970s, especially those of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, did I start writing my own summaries and my own indexes to these books. Some of these were quite extensive and served as excellent reviews and study guides for later research when I needed them. This was long before they had such books on the Vedabase or computer, which made looking up topics much easier. In fact, to this day I still use those indexes that I wrote to look up the relevant references I need in my research for writing.
            Later, in the 1980s, I started to think that many other people, especially westerners like me, would also probably like to have access to this information, but without having to read 20 volumes of books in order to put it altogether and understand it properly. So I started thinking that writing some good, in-depth introductory literature might fill a need, especially at the time when many people were looking more deeply into Eastern philosophy to make sense of things or to add more meaning to their lives.

WHAT MOTIVATED ME TO WRITE
            One thing I saw early on was that bookstores had many metaphysical and new age and philosophical books, but many of these used no real basis of authority, were sometimes without references, and could also be merely someone’s ramblings and speculations that were misleading. And these were published books? My concern was how to get some authorized material out there that could lead people to real spirituality, and also to an accurate view of what is genuine Vedic philosophy.
            Another thing I saw was the genius of Srila Prabhupada who was practically the first to make standard Eastern texts and authorized translations, like the Bhagavad-gita and the more extensive Srimad-Bhagavatam as well as others, acceptable to the general marketplace by making them attractive, both through nice covers and beautiful interior illustrations on the topics described within. He was very particular about how the books were meant to be presented and formatted, and how the interior paintings were meant to look. These were actually able to be placed in some bookstores. Nonetheless, most of these books were still distributed hand-to-hand by the devotees to others. And the activities of selling these spiritual books through the devotees was quite lucrative. But it was not something that I could do very well. The temple president would force me to go out and try, but when I would return, I would have little to show for it.
            I was not very good at doing this sort of book distribution. I had no problem in talking to people who were already interested, but I was rather introverted and did not like approaching people who were strangers to me. I thought that there must be another way through which people would become attracted to this knowledge, a way in which the books would sell themselves, or a way wherein people would be interested to buy the books of their own accord. A way in which I, a shy person, could also participate in distributing this knowledge through books without having to go door-to-door or person to person. Nonetheless, many people appreciated the books that were sold by the devotees. And now there are ways of putting the books of Srila Prabhupada on book stands wherein they are attractive and easily purchased by customers. This is very important, but I also had some ideas. So, what to do?

THE TURNING POINT
            While living in the ashrama and serving in the Denver temple in 1975 and 76 as a manager and treasurer, I would get notices from the Los Angeles BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) that would include quotes by Srila Prabhupada wherein he would say that he expected his disciples to read all of his books, and then they should also write according to their own realizations. This stuck with me for a long time.
            In fact, I was addicted to his books. The very vibration that the books exuded kept me holding and reading them. I would go so far as to stay up late at night just to get the time to read these books. After everyone else went to sleep in the ashrama, I would light a candle and sit, using my trunk as a desk, and read and take notes. The temple president at the time got angry with me for spending all of my spare time reading. I remember he told me once that reading was for temple presidents and sannyasis, and everyone else should simply serve. I knew that was bhogus because of what I had already read from Srila Prabhupada books and the quotes I got from Los Angeles. However, I was not one to argue, at least back then, but I was also not one to give in to some poppycock. If I could not read these books, especially the new ones that were coming out, along with doing whatever other service I was scheduled to do in the temple, I would have easily left the temple and simply worked outside to feed my habit of reading his books. But I stayed in the ashrama, did my service and sadhana, and kept reading anyway.
            By 1984, I stopped writing my own reviews and indexes to the BBT books, except for any new ones that were published, and started thinking of how I could start writing my own books and articles to introduce this spiritual knowledge to others. By then I was located in Detroit, living in my own apartment, and where the temple did not have a newsletter to offer and send out to their congregation. Many temples did that, but we did not have one at the time. So I volunteered to make one, like a quarterly publication, a simple four page foldout. Even the temple president wanted to have such a newsletter. So I put a few things together, interviewed the temple president on his vision for the temple, made a prototype of the newsletter and about 20 copies to show people. Everyone liked it and agreed this should go forward. So I was set to go. But the temple treasurer at the time told me that, in spite of everyone else’s approval, he was not going to give any money for the project. In an extremely rude manner, he simply said, “Sri Nandanandana, I’m not giving you any money for this.” Then he laughed in my face and smirkingly said, “Good luck.”
            It was right then when I realized that if I was going to do any project that I thought was necessary and that I wanted to do to share in distributing this knowledge, even a simple quarterly newsletter, I should not expect any support from anyone. Certainly not even the temple. I was on my own and would have to do everything myself. (I did not know it at the time, but this was Krishna’s arrangement to direct me in a way to do something far bigger.) And so, even though I was disappointed, rather than getting mad or upset that someone was not supporting me and not allowing me to do this project, even when others thought it was a good idea, I merely thought of how to get around this problem, and then I made a plan.

NOT GIVING UP
            The first thing was to write something. At first I thought I would write a fiction novel that would incorporate the spiritual knowledge people should understand. I had a number of ideas, but the words simply were not coming to mind, and I couldn’t write anything.
            So I started to think about writing non-fiction, and then things simply exploded. I had too many things to say, too many ideas. Finally, I decided to write a home study course, which included a book on the main topics, a few tapes to listen to, a few additional transcripts of songs and things to read, and then a test, which when passed, a person would get a certificate of completion. So I started writing in my spare time. But how to finance this?
            Later, I made up a business plan calculating how much money may be needed and how much income I may get back and presented it to our local GBC or Iskcon authority. Again the response was nil. Nothing was said in return, either positive or negative. Later I learned that he was having his own problems and was soon gone from Iskcon anyway. So now what to do?
            So I again realized that though I knew I had a good idea and a vision of how to do it, no one else had the faith. So I would have to finance it myself. After that I got a regular job, at first as a security guard. This allowed me to do my service around the temple and then work in the evening. It also allowed me to read and study most of the time while at work. So in the morning I would write, and then I would work the evening shift and spend most of my time reading. This worked out great. And then the money I earned went towards publishing.
            I then learned all about the publishing business and how to form my own publishing company, which I did as The World Relief Network. When you are a small business, you need to sound like you are big, global even, so others will be more willing to work with you, or in this case order my books. Plus, I really was trying to relieve the world of its problems by spreading spiritual knowledge. So I registered the name, got my own ISBN numbers for my books and publishing company, and whatever else I needed, so when my first book came out, in 1986, which was “The Secret Teachings of the Vedas,” it was listed in Bowker’s “Books in Print” and other directories, along with my publishing company. I printed only 100 copies at the time, a simple edition which was in rather small print. Then I advertised the home study course in a few publications. It was fun when orders would come in, but to my surprise, most people would order only the book, and only a very few ordered the whole course. That was OK with me, but it was not what I expected.
            Then something happened that really surprised me. A large distributing company, Baker & Taylor, started ordering the book from me. They had obviously gotten orders for it, and they serviced both libraries and book stores. So this put everything into a different perspective. Then I realized that I needed to get more serious about this and do things more professionally.

UPGRADING THE BUSINESS
            By 1987 I had been to India and had taken lots of photos and gathered lots of information on the spiritual traditions on the holy places of India. So when I sold out of the first edition of my book, I re-edited it with a more readable interior, and professional cover with a color photograph, put in a travel section with 60 or more black and white photographs, and everything else that it needed. I then had 2000 copies printed. Then I re-marketed it under my legal name of Stephen Knapp rather than my spiritual name, which seemed a little difficult for most people to say. Gradually, things started to take off.
            I had divided the original manuscript into two parts. So, a few years later, the second part was made into my second book, “The Universal Path to Enlightenment,” which was a review of the basic spiritual paths and religions around the world, and the factors that were common to all of them that was also the essence of the Vedic path, concluding with the way to enlightenment in this age through chanting the holy names. Putting another travel section in it, I then published this as well. As sales picked up, I realized that this was becoming like a cottage industry.
            The only thing is that publishing is a fast way to make a slow buck. In other words, you have to invest a sizable amount of money, like $5000 at that time, for a good 2000 copies of the 300 page book, which gives you a good discount on the per-book-basis (costing roughly $3 or so per book), and able to still make a profit on each book sale, selling them for $14.95 retail, or $6.93 wholesale at a 55% discount to wholesalers, or a 40% discount to retailers, which is the industry standard. But the money trickles back in according to the number of sales, especially when you are catering to such a small niche market as Eastern spiritual philosophy. People are interested in this topic, but you have to reach the right people and let them know the book is available for them. And unless you are already a big name in the field, sales will take time.
            To do this I had to continue working a regular job to collect the funds, or even take loans from my father, in order to keep publishing more books. My father helped me a lot, several times, but I remember he once told me to stop writing books. He was always proud of my accomplishments, but never thought I would be anything but a starving artist, or in this case a starving author. But writing was now my mission–to spread this knowledge for the benefit of others, and I had too many book ideas to stop, and positive results were happening and I was getting good feedback from readers. Even other devotees were buying my books wholesale and having good luck at selling them to occult or new age bookstores.
            So then I kept writing and stopped telling my father about what I was doing. In fact, at times not many people around me knew what I was doing, except those who bought the books. I kept quiet about it but continued working at it, writing and publishing books as I could, depending on my time and finances. The topics were varied, some books took longer to do than others, but my list of books slowly grew. And some books sold better than others.

MY PURPOSE IN WRITING
            My purpose in writing books was never to be in competition with anyone, especially the books of my own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. That is why I do not promote my own books that much to those who are already in the temple ashrama or initiated in the movement. They should simply finish reading all of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
            My purpose was to make this information more marketable and package it in what I thought would make it even more acceptable in today’s market place, meaning bookstores and other outlets where people could be attracted to purchase the books of their own accord. Nowadays, the internet is becoming one of the most effective avenues of distribution available. So my thought was how could I, being merely one guy, develop the most effective plan possible to reach the widest number of people regardless of where they were in the world without much help, and without having to verbally repeat the same message time and time again, especially since my memory is not what I wish it was. Anyway, whether it was perfect or not, this is what I came up with.
            My target audience was those who did not have much exposure to the Vedic spiritual knowledge, or who were looking for something deeper than what they had, and present something in a way that would make them want to take a look at it and see what it had to offer. So, what I wanted to do was to make this deep and sophisticated philosophy easy to understand for westerners like me who wanted to deepen their own spiritual development. I was so glad I had discovered it. It had completely changed my life. So, I figured other people would be happy as well, if they could get an introductory book that they could easily understand, and did not overwhelm them with what could be too many strange words or concepts.
            By the year 2000, I had written several books that were well accepted and I started getting requests to speak at engagements or conferences. This was mostly by other Hindu organizations, not the Iskcon temples, which seemed odd at first. After all, I was a part of Iskcon, but it was other Hindus who appreciated my writing the most. This was not part of the plan. My plan was to write for westerners who were looking for a simplification of this knowledge so they could apply it to their lives. The point was, if they cannot understand it, they will not remember it. If they cannot remember it, they will never apply it to their lives. And if they cannot apply it to their lives, you have missed your purpose. That is why I never wrote using too much Sanskrit or words people cannot understand. Because if people do not comprehend it, or it goes over their heads, and then they get bored, they may put the book down because of that, in which case you never know when they may pick it up again. So you have to be careful of that. So my plan was to make the sophisticated philosophy simple so anyone could understand it. And to my surprise, there were many Indian Hindus who also liked my writing style.
            One of the reasons for that was that I was fairly nonsectarian in my writing. I did not emphasize the superiority of one Vedic path over another, but presented them as all part of a family, something for everyone, but used shastric or scriptural references to make my points and show what was most recommended, and how to apply it in life in a practical way. I simply showed what the Vedic spiritual knowledge could do, what it says, and what it has to offer, especially from my own point of view and the realizations and spiritual progress that I made with it, and why others should also be interested in it. Other people also seemed to like that style of presentation.
            By 2001, I did my first organized lecture tour of India, that time with Professor Subhash Kak. The whole trip was paid for and organized, and it was my first time speaking to full Indian audiences, the size of which averaged from 100 to 200. But it went very well. I got increasingly used to it and began speaking more boldly. You could always tell how well you did by how many people came up to speak with you after the talk. And many were interested to hear the words of a Westerner on the importance of Vedic culture and how it had affected my life, and how I got started through the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. At one point in Vishakhapatnam, I spoke especially strongly about the need to protect and preserve Vedic culture by clearly understanding it and following it. Afterwards a man came up to me and said, “When you were speaking I felt like you were the return of Vivekananda.” Of course, I’m not Vivekananda, but for an Indian Hindu to say that to a Westerner, it is an extremely high compliment.
Various lecture tours continued whenever I was in India. Then in 2009, I did a lecture tour through Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Goa, etc., where I did something like 90 lectures at 76 different institutions, all in 30 days, or about three lectures a day. At this point it has been a privilege to have given hundreds of lectures and talks at other temples, conferences, colleges, universities, Dharma summits, and Hindu youth camps, and more. All this was because of writing books and becoming known as an author and authority on topics regarding different aspects of the Vedic spiritual culture, and for being one who still strongly advises the need and ways to protect, preserve, promote, and to perpetuate the Vedic culture.

FINALLY REACHING MY GOAL
            The advantage of having written the books I’ve done is that I have since been to India 10 times to give lecture tours while having someone else pay my way and organize the events. It has opened many doors of opportunity for my own preaching work in ways I never expected. Even now I get invited to more conferences than I can attend, and I have met many other writers and authors who have also been working on spreading this knowledge in their own ways. I have also met many other spiritual authorities from various walks of life, many of whom have appreciated what I do, and I now get emails from people all over the world, some places rather remote and where I never would have gone personally, who express their gratitude for having come in contact with my books or the articles on my website, and to keep up the great work. These are all great to receive and for which I am most thankful.
            Presently, I have now completed 25 books, and a dozen free Ebooks, along with numerous articles on my website, to help people understand many different aspects of Vedic culture and its spiritual philosophy. I have over 5000 Facebook friends, a list of 1800 and growing followers, and other newslists with many people who stay in tune with the writing I do, and what I have to say. My websites (www.stephen-knapp.com or http://stephenknapp.info and http://stephenknapp.wordpress.com) also attract 4000 unique visitors everyday, and get from 15,000 to 20,000 hits a day. I’ve also put out a number of lecture and travel videos on the internet that have been much appreciated as well. Much to my surprise, it all keeps growing.
            My books are all available through Amazon.com and many other outlets, and they sell on a continual basis without much promotion, whether it is only several a week or over 50 a week. The books are also available in Kindle and other E-reader formats, which now sell more than my paperback books. And all of this happened simply because of my decision to make my own plan when I was not allowed to do a simple newsletter for the temple. But there are others who are also doing fantastic work to help spread this knowledge, too. I’m just glad to be a part of it.
            Thankfully, now I no longer need loans, nor do I need to work at outside jobs to get the money I need to keep publishing and writing my books as I did years ago. That is a blessing by itself. Now I can simply focus on my service to God, to humanity, and to Guru. Publishing has also gotten much simpler than before, and the outlets for books make it possible to reach greater numbers of people in more countries than ever before. So things have improved greatly.
            However, I need to remember that this was a slow process of reaching this stage, and has taken years of austerity and hard work. Yet, it is not like I can sit back and relax. I feel I still have more important books to write, and this takes more research, more writing, and more publishing. So I’m far from done yet, though I admit I’m fairly pleased with what I have accomplished so far, even without the support from anyone to help me do this, except my father who helped a lot at first, but later told me I should stop doing this. But my goal was to help as many people as possible and relieve the world as much as possible from the troubles that evolve from a lack of spiritual understanding. That was always my purpose to share what I’ve learned with those who may also be interested. It turned out that there were many more who were interested than I expected. That is a pleasant surprise. I may not be the most popular writer in the spiritual genre, and I certainly don’t plan to be, but I’m happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish, which is now more than I expected. It also gives me great pleasure to hear how my books have assisted various devotees early in their spiritual development. That is what I live for, to help in this way for everyone.
            Nonetheless, what has served me most, besides the encouragement from people who really appreciated and benefitted from my books, was the instructions from my own spiritual master to write according to my own realizations, along with the blessings from God to help me have the strength and perseverance to keep going, and the mantra “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” I never gave up, but continued to pursue what I thought was a necessary need in the world, to help spread genuine and deep spiritual knowledge and the means to follow the path by which anyone could attain their own spiritual realizations and direct perception of these spiritual truths.
            I still have more work to do, but I’m also happy that at this point I have set up things in a way wherein even if I died today, my work and books will continue to circulate and be available to those who are interested, and benefit those who are looking for this type of deep spiritual knowledge and insight. Who knows how many people I may continue to assist in the coming generations, people I will never know. I am very thankful for being able to help in such a way. Nothing means more to me than this.
            All glories to Guru and Gauranga!
            Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp)

Preservation, Protection, Promotion and Perpetuation of Vedic Culture, by Stephen Knapp

On of the primary needs for Vedic culture right now, especially in places like India, is the following formula of preservation, protection, promotion and perpetuation of its existence. I call these “the four pers”.

I have traveled all over India and have seen many situations where this formula is most needed. I have already written some reports on this, but let me explain a little more clearly the basics of this formula.

 

        PRESERVATION: is the first step. You have to work in ways to preserve the culture to make sure it will also be around over the long term so others can learn about it, take advantage of its wisdom, and even follow it for their own spiritual progress. This may include, but not limited to, such things as:

1. Preserve the great and ancient Vedic texts,

2. Preserve the main yoga systems, the dharmas that lead to God,

3. Preserve the temples and let them be freely maintained by those Hindus and devotees who are most sincere and qualified,

4. Distribute this literature for colleges, schools, personal homes, so it can spread,

5. Educate people in this knowledge, especially the youth so they are aware of it and know it,

6. Practice the traditions, such as the holidays and spiritual paths in everyday life.

 

        PROTECTION: is the next step. Even if you do what you can to preserve the tradition, it may also come under attack in many ways. So you have to help protect it by:

1. Overcoming negative impressions that people may try to use to unnecessarily criticize or demean it,

2. Be on guard for negative press in newspapers or television, and work to correct it,

3. Watch for the use of devious ways and false statements that are said to convert people from the Vedic path to some other religion,

4. Be careful even of politicians who have a disdain for God, or for the Vedic culture and who try to work against it or promote some other ideology or religion at the cost of the Vedic institutions.

 

        PROMOTION: this is important whether we like it or not. Many times Hindus or devotees feel there is no proselytizing in Vedic culture, so you have to be born into it or something like that, but there should be no process to convert others. However, in this day and age this is but a prescription for a slow extinction. Everyone and everything promotes what they have. Just like an author, he may have written the best book ever, but if no one knows about it, no one will buy it. Promotion of some form is a must. And the Vedic tradition is one of the most profound and dynamic cultures the world has ever seen. Therefore, there is a great need to let others know about it. This does not mean that you have to be in a conversion campaign, but you can certainly share what you know of it. Many people are looking for deeper levels of spirituality, but they do not know where to look, or they do not know the depth of what the Vedic path or its knowledge has to offer. Someone has to be willing to tell them. In fact, we all should be willing. Therefore:

1. Everyone can be a Vedic Ambassador to simply share with other seekers the ways the Vedic culture has helped them and what they have gotten out of it, the difference it has made in their life,

2. Promote it as a spiritual path that can help solve many of the world’s problems,

3. Distribute the simpler portions of the Vedic texts, such as Bhagavad-gita, or various forms of introductory literature that can introduce and easily explain what the Vedic path is so others can benefit from it,

4. Open the temple doors to all who want to come and investigate it or be a part of it so others can see what it is and how to get started,

5. Offer classes on yoga and Vedic philosophy for the same reason,

6. And hold programs wherein the youth can also be a part of it and practice it,

7. Arrange for radio or even cable TV programs so everyone can learn from it or stay connected.

 

        PERPETUATION: is why we do all of the above. How can we keep Vedic culture a flourishing and dynamic path? By doing all of the above, and providing the means to show people how to practice it. Without the preservation, protection, and promotion of Vedic culture, it cannot be perpetuated. This is where such things as the following can be helpful:

1. Establish and maintain temples that help uphold and show how to practice the Vedic traditions (I have written a whole book on what can be done through temples),

2. Hold classes and study groups, either at temples or at homes, wherein people get together to comfortably converse on various topics of the Vedic texts to help everyone understand it and how deep or practical it is, and then invite friends to join,

3. As mentioned above, spread this knowledge through book distribution, radio, and various other programs, so people can learn about it and utilize it in their lives,

4. Set yourself as an example for those who know you, but at least for your family and children so they begin to understand it, recognize its potential and practice it as well. If you take it seriously, it will leave positive impressions on others.

There are many other points that can be listed. I have already written detailed action plans that can be used to carry these ideas much further. But the main issue is that we have to work to keep the Vedic culture very much alive and available for everyone. It is what I call the “last bastion of deep spiritual truth.” If this should ever disappear, the world will never know what it has lost.

Some people may say that it is an eternal religion, Sanatana-dharma, so it will never fade away. But have they really read the Bhagavad-gita, wherein Lord Krishna explains that one of the reasons why He appeared was to re-establish the Vedic Dharma, which had become lost?

Lord Krishna says, “I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku. This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost. That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.” (Bg.4.1-3)

So, yes, it is eternal but can disappear from the face of the earth, and does at times. It is up to those of us who are serious and sincere to make sure that it can continue being a practical spiritual culture far into the future by applying the above mentioned “four pers.”

Time Line of Lord Krishna Supported by Science

(An Excerpt from “Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture”)

By Stephen Knapp

 

As devotees and followers of the Vedic path, we already accept the premise that Lord Krishna appeared 5,000 years ago and spoke the Bhagavad-gita in the Mahabharata war. But it is always nice when scholars, other researchers and science can add support to what we already propose. So let’s take a look at this.

One aspect that can show us the early nature of Vedic society, and with a little more reliability, is highlighting the time when Lord Krishna was present. This is another point that has generated many opinions, but is now much clearer than ever with more recent research and findings.

Astrophysicist Dr. Narahari Achar, a physicist from the University of Memphis, clearly showed with astronomical analysis that the Mahabharata war took place in 3067 BCE. Examining the Mahabharata, books 3, 5, and 18, his sky map software showed that all these descriptions converge in the year 3067. Achar also acknowledged that some 30 years earlier, in 1969, S. Raghavan had arrived at the same date.

In determining the date of the Mahabharata war at Kurukshetra, astronomical references in the epic can be used, of which there are more than one hundred and fifty. Most of these that pertain to the war, though there are many scattered throughout the texts, is in the Udyoga and Bhisma Parvas. Those in the Bhisma Parva are especially systematic and are also in accordance with the astrological omens described in the Atharva Veda and its Parishishtas, referring mostly to comets. When these are put together with the retrograde motion of Mars before reaching Jyestha, this leads to the unique date of 3067 BCE for the date of the war, which was previously proposed by Professor Raghavan. 1

This corroborates with the view that the age of Kali-yuga started in 3102 BCE, according to Dr. Achar. As stated in the Puranas, Kali-yuga had already begun, but its full influence was held back because of the presence of Lord Krishna. Then when Lord Krishna departed from this world, which is said to have occurred 35 years after the war of Kurukshetra in 3067, making it the year of 3032 BCE, then Kali-yuga began to show more of its effects. 2

In the time line for the passing away of Grandfather Bhisma, for example, it is said that Bhisma passed away on the Magha (January-February) shukla ashtami, after the winter solstice, which leads to the date of January 13, 3066 BCE for the winter solstice. 3

So, in considering the chronology according Professor Raghavan, we have:

Lord Krishna’s departure from Upaplavya nagara on the mission for peace–September 26, 3067 BCE

Krishna reaches Hastinapura–September 28, 3067 BCE

Lunar eclipse–September 29, 3067 BCE

Krishna rides with Karna–October 8, 3067 BCE

Solar eclipse–October 14, 3067 BCE

The war begins–November 22, 3067 BCE

Fourteenth day of the war, continued into the wee hours of the morning–December 8, 3067 BCE

Balarama returns–December 12, 3067 BCE

Winter solstice–January 13, 3066 BCE

Bhisma’s passing away–January 17, 3066 BCE 4

Departure of Lord Krishna– 3031 BCE.

About when Vedavyasa composed the main Vedic texts– 3000 BCE

About when the Sarasvati had dried up or disappeared–1900 BCE

The above accounts for 48 days from the time of Bhisma’s fall to the time of his passing. However, it is generally accepted that Grandfather Bhisma had 58 sleepless nights between the time of his fall and the time of his passing. Yet, if you count the 10 days that he lead the armies into war in which he may also have not been able to sleep, that would give the full 58 sleepless nights that are described.5

The famous astronomical text known as the Surya Siddhanta also states that the sun was 54 degrees away from the vernal equinox when Kali-yuga began on a new moon day, which corresponds to February 17/18, 3102 at Ujjain.

From the internal evidence in the Mahabharata text, the coronation of Maharaja Yudhisthir can be determined to be 36 years before the beginning of Kali-yuga, or about 3138 BCE. One scholar, Dr. Patnaik, had calculated the date of the starting of the Mahabharata war to be October 16, 3138 BCE from references available in the epic itself.

Of course, different scholars may arrive at variations in their calculations, and there have been a few different versions of the Mahabharata, and over the many centuries since it was written, additions and accretions are found. For example, verses 2.28.48-9 mention roma and antakhi in Sanskrit, which some scholars interpret to mean Rome and Antioch. This places these mentions not earlier than 300 BCE since Antioch was founded in 301. 6 However, this does not limit the age of the earlier form of the Mahabharata, which is known to have been written shortly after the war of Kurukshetra.

Nonetheless, as B. N. Narahari Achar explains, other scholars have proposed varying years for the Mahabharata war, from 3102 BCE to 3139 BCE. However, none of these dates can produce the astronomical configurations described in the Mahabharata.

Another point of consideration is that it is generally accepted by most Vedic scholars that the age of Kali-yuga began in February 17-18 of 3102 BCE, which also coincides with the astronomical configurations. This also is given credence from the Aryabhatta Tradition in which Aryabhatta, who lived 476-550 CE, explains that when he was 23 years old, 3600 years of Kali-yuga had elapsed. Aryabhatta, one of the great mathematicians and astronomers of India in the 5th century CE, examined the astronomical positions recorded in the Mahabharata. In his work, the Aryabhattiya, he calculated that the approximate date to be 3100 BCE, justifying the date of the Kurukshetra war to have been fought about 5000 years ago, as the tradition itself and most Hindus have always said.

This again identifies the year of 3102 BCE. However, the Mahabharata itself does not describe when Kali-yuga began. All it says is that the war took place some time during the interval of Dvapara and Kali-yugas, and it certainly took place before Lord Krishna left this world. But there is evidence that Kali-yuga had already begun before Lord Krishna disappeared.

In the Bhagavata Purana (1.15.36) it is explained, “When the Personality of Godhead Lord Krishna left this earthly planet in His selfsame form, from that very day Kali, who had appeared partially before, became fully manifest to create inauspicious conditions for those who are endowed with a poor fund of knowledge.”

Therefore, Kali-yuga had already appeared, but it was only due to the presence of Lord Krishna who was holding back its influence. But after He left this world, Kali’s full potency took effect, which is also stated in the Kali-raja Vrittanta. Thus, the war is most likely to have been in 3067 BCE and the beginning of Kali-yuga accepted as 3102 BCE.

Some people, such as Max Muller and others, have had trouble accepting this date as the time of the Mahabharata, because they felt that the descriptions of the planetary positions of the Saptarishis (Ursa Major) were not real. However, a similar description is also given in the second chapter of the twelfth canto of the Bhagavata Purana, which helps verify the time of the Mahabharata.

One particular point to consider is that it has been shown that the positions of the Saptarishis, as explained in the work of Anthony Aveni, noted author of The Empire of Time: Calendars, Clocks and Cultures, that in many cultures, even in Africa and American Indian cultures, it is believed that the entire solar system revolves through the galaxy of the Milky Way, around the brightest star of the Pleiades, in the Taurus constellation. These are known as the Seven Sisters or Krittikas in the Vedic tradition. The brightest star in the Pleiades is Alcyone, and the sun completes one revolution around this star in approximately 3000 years. This has made the Pleiades a sacred object in the sky in many cultures. But the point is that it is this periodic revolution that is why the Saptarishis repeat their positions described in the Bhagavata Purana every 2700 years. Thus, when calculations are based on the position of these stars, we have to realize that the Vedic texts, including the Ramayana and the descriptions therein, could be relating to time periods much earlier than we think.

Additional evidence that can help establish the time of Lord Krishna was in Mohenjodaro, where a tablet dated to 2600 BCE was found which depicts Lord Krishna in His childhood days. This shows that Lord Krishna was popular at least prior to this date. 7

We also have records from Greek travelers who came to India following Alexander’s invasion which have left references to Krishna. Authors like Pliny referred to Krishna as Heracles, based on Hari Krishna. They record that Heracles (Krishna) was held in special honor by the Sourseni tribe (Shuraseni, based on Shura the father of Vasudeva and grandfather of Lord Krishna) in such places as the major city of Methora (Mathura).

The Greek records go on to record that Heracles (Krishna) lived 138 generations before the time of Alexander and Sandrocottas, which was about 330 BCE. This then calculates, based on about 20 years per generation, to roughly 3090 BCE, which is about the right time considering 3102 BCE is the date when Kali-yuga began. Thus, Lord Krishna was a genuinely historical figure who lived about the time of 3200-3100 BCE, having lived to 125 years of age.

 

WHEN LORD KRISHNA LEFT THIS WORLD

The above information leads us to the approximate date when Lord Krishna left this world. As B. N. Narahari Achar again describes: “According to the epic Mahabharata, Krishna first appears [in the epic] at the time of Draupadi’s wedding, and His departure is exactly 36 years after the war. No information about His birth is available in the epic itself, although there is information about His departure. Krishna observes omens (Mahabharata 14.3.17), similar to the ones seen at the time of the war, now indicating the total destruction of the Yadavas. [Astrological] Simulations show that in the year 3031 BCE, thirty-six years later than 3067 BCE, there was an eclipse season with three eclipses. A lunar eclipse on 20 October was followed by an annular solar eclipse on 5 November, followed by a penumbral lunar eclipse on 19 November, within an interval of 14 days and at an aparvani time. Thus the date of departure of Lord Krishna is consistent with the popular tradition that He passed away 36 years after the war. The information about His birth can be gathered from the Harivamsha and the Bhagavata Purana…. It should be understood, however, that the date of His departure from this world is established on the information in the epic and on the basis of [astronomical] simulations, and it turns out to be 3031 BCE.” 8

 

MORE PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF LORD KRISHNA

Sometimes there are comments and even controversies amongst those who are less informed regarding whether Christianity or Vedic culture came first. Some people point out that the devotional elements within the Vedic tradition, especially in regard to the Bhakti movements, must have come from Christianity first and then appeared in the Vedic Vaishnava tradition, the followers of which exhibit much love and devotion to Lord Krishna and Vishnu and His other avataras. But this idea, that Vedic culture came from Christianity, which some Christian preachers in India still try to use in their attempts to convert people, could not be further from the truth. The fact is that there is archeological proof that the Vaishnava tradition of devotion to Lord Vishnu existed many years prior to the appearance of Christianity.

Not far from the Buddhist site of Sanchi in Central India, we take a 45-minute ride on the very bumpy road to Vidisha or Besnagar where we find the Heliodorus column, locally known as the Khamb Baba pillar. This was erected by Heliodorus, the Greek ambassador to India in 113 BCE. Heliodorus was sent to the court of King Bhagabhadra by Antialkidas, the Greek king of Taxila. The kingdom of Taxila was part of the Bactrian region in northwest India, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great in 325 BCE. By the time of Antialkidas, the area under Greek rule included what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Punjab.

Heliodorus writes on the stone pillar the time it was erected and the fact that he had converted to Vaishnavism, or the worship of Lord Vishnu. The inscription on the column, as published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, says:

“This Garuda column of Vasudeva (Vishnu), the god of gods, was erected here by Heliodorus, a worshiper of Vishnu, the son of Dion, and an inhabitant of Taxila, who came as Greek ambassador from the Great King Antialkidas to King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Savior, then reigning prosperously in the fourteenth year of his kingship. Three important precepts when practiced lead to heaven: self-restraint, charity, conscientiousness.”

This shows that Heliodorus had become a worshiper of Vishnu and was well versed in the texts and ways pertaining to this religion. It can only be guessed how many other Greeks became converted to Vaishnavism if such a notable ambassador did. This conclusively shows the Greek appreciation for India and its philosophy.

It was General Alexander Cunningham who was doing an archeological survey in 1877 who first took notice of the significance of the column. However, he did not attend to the inscription that was on it because it was covered with vermilion. This was because the pilgrims who worshiped had a custom to smear the column with vermilion.

It was only in January of 1901 when a Mr. Lake uncovered the paint from what he thought was some lettering. Once the ancient Brahmi text was translated, the historical significance of the column became ever more apparent.

The British Sanskritists, due to their superior views of themselves, had developed the idea that much of the Vedic traditions and legends of Lord Krishna had to have been incorporated from the Bible and the stories of Jesus. However, this Heliodorus column was the archeological discovery that proved to the disappointed British that knowledge of Krishna and the Vaishnava tradition predated Christianity by at least 200 years. The column indicated that the Indians did not adopt legends of Christ to put in their Puranas to be used for the stories of Krishna as the British had hypothesized since this gave proof that knowledge of Krishna predated Jesus by almost 200 years.

Another point to consider is that if a Greek official was so impressed with the philosophy of Vaishnavism that he converted to it in 200 BCE, then it means that Vaishnavism and the element of spiritual devotion to God, as found in the Bhakti tradition, had to have originated several hundred years if not several thousand years earlier in order for it to have developed to a stage wherein the Greeks were so much impressed by it. So this is a serious historical site to see.

The Heliodorus column also indicates that the Vedic tradition accepted converts at that time. Only after the difficulties between Hindus and Muslims was there a hesitancy on the part of Hindus to accept converts to the Vedic tradition. The Vedic religion saw itself as universal and welcomed all people into its embrace. As Raychaudhari writes: “The Beshnagar record testifies to the proselytizing zeal of the Bhagavatas [Vaishnavas] in the pre-Christian centuries, and shows that their religion was excellent enough to capture the hearts of cultured Greeks, and catholic enough to admit them into its fold.”

This evidence further shows that Greece was but a part of Vedic culture and repeated what it and its philosophers had learned from the Vedic sages rather than being a source of the higher levels of philosophy as some people think. Furthermore, this evidence bears witness to the fact that the Christian tradition and its main element of devotion or bhakti to God was found in Vedic culture long before it appeared within the confines of Christianity. In fact, much of the deeper spiritual philosophy in Christianity is but a repeat of what had been previously established and much more deeply developed in the older Vedic tradition. So to fathom the deeper aspects of the different levels of devotion to God, one can investigate the Vedic and Vaishnava tradition to learn the finer details.

Additional archeological finds include the Mora Well and Ghosundi Inscriptions, which tell us that the rich and complex Vaishnava conception of God and full expansions of the Godhead into the material universes were already well established in the first two centuries before Christ. Seven miles west of Mathura in the small and unimposing village of Mora, General Cunningham made another vital find regarding the historicity of Vaishnavism. In 1882, on the terrace of an ancient well, he discovered a large stone slab filled with inscriptions. Although more than half of the writing had already peeled away on the right side, the remainder was legible. It was transcribed, and a facsimile of the inscription was published in the Archaeological Survey of India’s Annual Report. The message was clear. Not only was Krishna worshiped in the centuries before Christ, but also His expansions or associates, especially “the five heroes of the Vrishni Clan.” Scholarly research makes evident that these five are Krishna (Vasudeva), Balarama (Sankarshana), Pradyumna, Samba, and Aniruddha.

This was the proof that the complex theology, metaphysics, and cosmology of Sanatana-dharma and Vaishnavism definitely existed in an advanced state centuries before Christ. The Mora Well inscription is an important archeological proof of this historical fact.

Furthermore, in the village of Ghosundi in the Chitor district of Rajasthan is found the Ghosundi Inscription, which largely duplicates the message of the Mora Well Inscription. Kaviraja Shyamala Dasa first brought this evidence to light in The Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society. Today, the inscription can be inspected in the Victoria Hall Museum in Udaipur.

The surviving part of this inscription relevant to this chapter reads as follows: “[this] railing of stone for the purposes of worship is [caused to be made] in the Narayana-compound, [dedicated] to the Blessed Ones [bhagavabhyam] Samkarshana and Vasudeva, the gods…”

The inscription is in a form of Sanskrit script called Northern Brahmi script, which dates the inscription as being from the second century BCE in either the late Maurya or early Sunga periods. An almost identical inscription also was uncovered nearby and is called the Hathi-vada Inscription. According to K. P. Jayaswal of the Archaeological Survey of India, these inscriptions demonstrate that not only the Kshatriyas but also the Brahmanas or priestly and intellectual class worshiped Krishna as the “Lord of all,” and, thus, Vaishnavism was entrenched in the entire Indian society.

The same point is made in the famous Nanaghat Cave Inscription in the state of Maharashtra, where Vasudeva and Sankarshana (or Krishna and Balarama) are included in an invocation of a Brahmana. On epigraphical grounds, this inscription is dated conclusively as coming from the second half of the first century BCE. Additionally, Raychaudhuri reports:

The Nanaghat Inscription shows further that the Bhagavata [Vaishnava] religion was no longer confined to Northern India, but had spread to the south and had captured the hearts of the sturdy people of Maharashtra. From Maharashtra it was destined to spread to the Tamil country and then flow back with renewed vigor to the remotest corners of the Hindu Vedic world.

There is also much numismatic evidence that corroborates the antiquity of Krishna. For instance, excavations at Al-Khanum, along the border of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, conducted by P. Bernard and a French archeological expedition, unearthed six rectangular bronze coins issued by the Indo-Greek ruler Agathocles (180?-?165 BCE). The coins had script written in both Greek and Brahmi and, most interestingly, show an image of Vishnu, or Vasudeva, carrying a Chakra and a pear-shaped vase, or conchshell, which are two of the four main sacred symbols of God in Vaishnavism.

 

DATE OF LORD RAMA

Another point we could discuss is the approximate date of Lord Rama. Lord Rama appeared in the Solar Dynasty, but even the time frame of His appearance may shed more light on the antiquity of Vedic culture. Naturally, scholars have different views on when He may have existed. Some say He was here a few thousand years before Lord Krishna. In fact, in an April 2011 edition of the Times of India, Saurabh Kwatra writes that using the zodiac and the recorded tithis, days marked according to the phases of the moon, he calculated that the birth of Lord Rama, as related in the Valmiki Ramayana, was December 4th, 7323 BCE. While using other forms of planetary computer software, others have come up with other dates.

Though these may be some of the more recent calculations, still the tradition places the era of Lord Rama much earlier than that. For example, the Vayu Purana (70.48) says:

tretayuge chaturvinshe ravanastapasah kshayat

I

ramam dasharathim prapya saganah kshayamlyavan

II

This relates that the misbehaving Ravana was killed with his kiths and kins in a war with Rama in the 24th Treta-yuga. We are presently in the 28th chaturyuga (cycle of 1000 yugas) of the Vaivasvat manvantara. Furthermore, this is corroborated by Rupa Goswami in his Laghu Bhagavatamrita that Rama appeared in the Treta-yuga of the 24th yuga cycle. There are 71 cycles of the four yugas in a manvantara period, which would mean the appearance of Lord Rama would be about 18 million years ago.

Another interesting point is that in the Suderkand section of the Valmiki Ramayana (5.4.27)elephants with four tusks are mentioned as standing at the gates of Ravana’s palace. Also in 5.27.12 an ogress named Trijata sees in her dream Lord Rama mounted on a great elephant with four tusks. The fact that they knew of elephants with four tusks is very intriguing since, scientifically speaking, a quick reference to the elephant with four tusks is called a Mastondontoidea, which is calculated to have evolved around 38 million years ago, and is suspected of becoming extinct around 15 million years ago. This would help verify the ancient date of Lord Rama to be around 18 million years ago. Interesting… isn’t it?

The more we look in the right places for the right evidence, the more we see that the Vedic tradition indeed holds the universal spiritual truths.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 203.

2. Nicholas Kazanas, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 53.

3. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 225.

4. Ibid., p. 231.

5. Ibid., p. 244.

6. Nicholas Kazanas, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmouth, USA, 2010, p. 53.

7. V. S. Agrawal, India in the Days of Panini, 1953.

8. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 246-7.

 

Were There Two Buddhas? by Stephen Knapp

I was asked to look into this a few years ago by someone who knew of my research abilities. But I have not been able to until now because of other priorities. But this topic has come up before, that actually there were two different Buddhas that played the part to establish Buddhism and its principles of ahimsa and nonviolence and its monist philosophy.

 

In the following material, we will look at the evidence that seems to indicate that there was first the Avatara Buddha, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu who appeared near 1800 BCE, and then there was another person who became known as Gautama called Buddha, born around 560 BCE.

1. The first Avatara Buddha established the philosophy of Ahimsa, nonviolence, and convinced those followers of Vedic customs who had become bent toward animal sacrifice to give up such rituals and simply follow him, and become kind to animals. Being an avatara of Vishnu, He did not establish any godless or monist philosophy.

2. The Avatara Buddha was also born of his mother Anjana in what became known as Bodhgaya.

3. The second Buddha known as Gautama, Siddhartha, or Shakyamuni – sage of the Shakyas – was born in Lumbini, now in Nepal, with Mayadevi as his mother. He is the one we often hear about, the prince who left home to do austerities to find enlightenment. He went to Bodhgaya to meditate because of its spiritual potency as the birthplace of the avatara Buddha. Then he became enlightened to the reasons for suffering in this world, and developed a godless way of becoming free from suffering. From that point he established the monist and godless philosophy of Buddhism, which became named after him.

Of course, the Theravadin texts refer to six preceding Buddhas (those who have awakened) as Vipasyin, Sikin, Krakuccanda, Konagamara, and Kashyapa, and Maitreya as the Buddha of the future. But we are not talking of any of these.

4. The reason why these two Buddhas became merged into one identity was partly because Adi Sankaracharya, in discussions with others, related them as one person and did not discriminate between the purpose of one or the other. Sankaracharya developed his own sunya philosophy, which was very much like the Buddhist philosophy, replacing the Buddhist nirvana with his Vedic Brahman, to defeat Buddhism and drive it out of India. He succeeded most effectively. At that time many were leaving Vedic culture altogether and converting to Buddhism. But with this new Mayavadha philosophy from Sankaracharya, Buddhism bowed and the conversions stopped, and Buddhism itself started to decline.

However, those important acharyas who followed Sankaracharya defeated his monist or impersonalist Mayavada philosophy and more clearly defined the Vedic view, such as:

Sri Vishnuswami with his Suddha-advaita-vada,

Ramanujacharya with his Vasistadvaita-vada,

Nimbarkacharya with his Dvaita-advaita-vada,

Madhvacharya with the Dvaita-vada,

Sri Chaitanya with his Acintaya-bheda-bheda-vada,

with further commentary and arguments against Sankaracharya’s impersonalist philosophy by Srila Baladevavidyabhushana and others.

Therefore, no matter how much some schools of thought have clung to the Mayavada philosophy of Sankaracharya, it has been defeated and dismissed many times over. Yet, Sankaracharaya played an important part in paving the way for protecting the Vedic culture by using his own imagined philosophy, based on his own interpretation of some of the Vedic stanzas, to defeat Buddhism at the time.

 

Much of the evidence that follows comes from a book called Beyond Nirvana: The Philosophy of Mayavadism: A Life History. This was written by Srila Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Gosvami Maharaja of the Gaudiya Math, the person who gave sannyasa initiation to His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. The book was later translated and published in English by Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, and published in 2003 in Mathura, India.

The whole book gives a lengthy dissertation on the development, history and present situation of the impersonalist point of view. Chapter Two especially focuses on the evidence for two Buddhas that had existed.

First, however, we should point out that there had always been a conflict in the dates of the Buddha’s birth. One birth is around 560 BCE, but when analyzing the records, there is evidence for a much earlier birth of Lord Buddha, of which I have written before as follows:

 

Reestablishing the Date of Lord Buddha

(Excerpt from Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence)

 

Most of us are taught that Buddha was born around 560 to 550 B.C. However, once we start doing some research, we find evidence that this date may be too late. Buddha may have been born much earlier.

For example, in Some Blunders of Indian Historical Research (p. 189), P. N. Oak explains that the Puranas provide a chronology of the Magadha rulers. During the time of the Mahabharata war, Somadhi (Marjari) was the ruler. He started a dynasty that included 22 kings that spread over 1006 years. They were followed by five rulers of the Pradyota dynasty that lasted over 138 years. Then for the next 360 years was the 10 rulers of the Shishunag family. Kshemajit (who ruled from 1892 to 1852 B.C.) was the fourth in the Shishunag dynasty, and was a contemporary of Lord Buddha’s father, Shuddhodana. It was during this period in which Buddha was born. It was during the reign of Bimbisara, the fifth Shishunag ruler (1852-1814 B.C.), when Prince Siddhartha became the enlightened Buddha. Then it was during the reign of King Ajatashatru (1814-1787 B.C.) when Buddha left this world. Thus, he was born in 1887 B.C., renounced the world in 1858 B.C., and died in 1807 B.C. according to this analysis.

Further evidence that helps corroborate this is provided in The Age of Buddha, Milinda and King Amtiyoka and Yuga Purana, by Pandit Kota Venkatachalam. He also describes that it is from the Puranas, especially the Bhagavata Purana and the Kaliyurajavruttanta, that need to be consulted for the description of the Magadha royal dynasties to determine the date of Lord Buddha. Buddha was the 23rd in the Ikshvaku lineage, and was a contemporary of Kshemajita, Bimbisara, and Ajatashatru, as described above. Buddha was 72 years old in 1814 B.C. when the coronation of Ajatashatru took place. Thus, the date of Buddha’s birth must have been near 1887 B.C., and his death in 1807 B.C. if he lived for 80 years.

Professor K. Srinivasaraghavan also relates in his book, Chronology of Ancient Bharat (Part Four, Chapter Two), that the time of Buddha should be about 1259 years after the Mahabharata war, which should make it around 1880 B.C. if the war was in 3138 B.C. Furthermore, astronomical calculations by astronomer Swami Sakhyananda indicates that the time of the Buddha was in the Kruttika period, between 2621-1661 B.C.

Therefore, the fact that Buddha lived much earlier than what modern history teaches us has a number of ramifications. First, the time of the Buddha’s existence is underestimated by about 1300 years. Secondly, this means that Buddhism was in existence in the second millennium B.C. Thirdly, we also know Buddha preached against the misused Vedic rituals of animal sacrifice. Such misuse or misinterpretation of something in a culture generally only happens after a long period of prominence. So the purer aspect of Vedic culture must have been around for many hundreds if not thousands of years before its tradition began to be misused. Therefore, this pushes the Vedic period to a much earlier time from that of Buddha than originally figured, and much earlier than many people have calculated. And lastly, everything else we have figured according to the time frame of the appearance of Buddha now has to be re-calculated. Again we find that history has to be adjusted away from the speculations of modern researchers, and that many of the advancements in society and philosophy, as outlined in the Vedic texts, had taken place much earlier than many people want to admit.

 

* * *

 

However, now with new evidence, we can begin to see that the above information may be quite right for the timing of the Buddha Avatara, but the later birth figure of 560 BCE may also be correct for the second Buddha. The first Buddha avatara established a form of Buddhism by revolting against those rituals that accepted animal sacrifice and emphasized the godly principles of ahimsa, nonviolence based on recognizing the Divine in all beings, and divinity of all souls, arousing compassion for all. The second Buddha styled what became Buddhism that was known for its monist or impersonalistic philosophy (that God, the Absoute Truth, is inert, nonactive, and without any characteristics) and that reaching the same inert and non-active state of nirvana is the goal for attaining freedom from all suffering.

To give further information in this regard, I will now simply include the second chapter of Beyond Nirvana: The Philosophy of Mayavadism: A Life History, as follows, with my own few comments in brackets:

 

Two Buddhas

Shakya Simha Puddha and the Vishnu Avatara Buddha

 

It may be observed in different places in the Puranas that Mayavadism had been referred to as Buddhism [or "covered Buddhism". It is this "covered Buddhism" that is described in the Puranas as being the major religion after 10,000 years of Kali-yuga have passed, and when the world will have forgotten all information about the personal form of God.]. It is therefore necessary in this context to briefly discuss Buddhism. Sri Buddha’s philosophy or views is Buddhism. Hence, it is imperative that readers become acquainted with scriptural facts about Lord Buddha, who is declared by scripture to be one of the ten incarnations (avataras) of the Supreme Lord, Sri Vishnu. This is described in Srila Jayadeva Gosvami’s composition “Gita Govinda“:

 

vedan uddharate jaganti vahate bhugolam udbibhrate

daityam darayate balim chalayate kshatra kshayam kurvate

paulastyam jayate halam kalayate karunyam atanvate

mlecchan murccayate dasaktikrite krishnaya tubhyam namaha

        “O Krishna, He who accept ten incarnations! I offer my obeisances unto You for saving the Vedic scriptures as Matsya-incarnation; You help up the universe as Kurma-incarnation, and lifted up the world as Varaha, the Boar incarnation; as Nrishimha You vanquished Hiranyakashipu; as Vamana You deceived Bali Maharaja; as Parashurama You exterminated the corrupt warrior class; as Rama You slew Ravana; as Balarama You took up the plough; as Buddha You bestowed compassion, and as Kalki You kill the Mlecchas.” 1

 

In his Dasa Avatara Stotram, Srila Jayadeva writes in the ninth verse:

 

nindasi yajna vidherahaha shrutijatam

sadaya hridaya darshita pashughatam

keshava dhrita bhuddha sharira

jaya jagadisha hare jaya jagadisha hare

        “O Lord of the universe, Keshava! You took the form of Lord Buddha Who is full of compassion and stopped the slaughter of animals which is strictly forbidden in the Vedas.”

 

If this Lord Buddha is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, then Sri Sankaracharya’s connection to Him requires further elaboration and analysis. It becomes imperative to research this matter if Sankaracharya’s philosophy is referred to as another presentation of Buddhism. Sri Sankaracharya’s assessment of Buddha seems opaque, for he would have us believe that Shakya Simha Buddha [the human] and the Lord Buddha [the avatara] that the Vaishnavas worship, are one and the same personality. However, this is far from the truth. Our revered gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, revealed that Shakya Simha Buddha was simply a highly intelligent mortal, a vastly learned person who had attained some inner realizations [his enlightement]. So by declaring Shakya Simha to be Lord Buddha or by equating him with Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, Sri Sankaracharya gives sufficient proof of the respect and dedication he quietly nurtured within him for Shakya Simha. The berating and admonishment he directed towards Shakya Simha is indeed only an “eye-wash” intended to hoodwink the public.

One may ask at this point, in which context did Sri Sankaracharya opine Shakya Simha Buddha (also known as Gautama Buddha [the human]) and Avatara Buddha to be the same personality? In response, I kindly request the learned readers to scrutinize Sri Sankaracharya’s commentaries. In his commentary to Brahma Sutra that I referred earlier, the word sugatena refers to Gautama Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana and Mayadevi, and not to the original Vishnu incarnation of Buddha [as the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes as the son of Anjana who appeared in the province of Gaya, or more specifically Bodhgaya]. While discussing Buddha’s philosophy, Sri Sankaracharya mentions his name in his commentary: sarvatha api anadarniya ayam sugata-samayah shreyaskamaih iti abhiprayaha. In this statement sugata again refers to Gautama Buddha, the son of Mayadevi [the person who appeared in the town now known as Lumbini in Nepal]. However, it is true that another name for Vishnu Avatara Buddha is Sugata, and thus Sankaracharya falsely interpolated Shakya Simha Buddha as if he were Vishnu Avatara Buddha. The use of the name Sugata-Buddha for Vishnu Avatara Buddha was already existing in Buddhist scriptures [so combing the two into one was not difficult]. This is substantiated in the book Amarakosha, an extremely ancient treatise written by the famous nihilist and atheist Amara Simha. It is believed that Amara Simha was born approximately 150 years prior to Sankaracharya’s birth. Amara Simha was the son of the brahmana Sabara Svami, who fathered a host of children with different mothers of different castes. The ancient verse about Amara Simha was well known in the learned circles of yore:

 

brahmanyam abhavad varaha mihiro jyotirvidam agranihi

raja bhartriharish cha vikramanripah kshatratratmajayam abhut

vaishyayam harichandra vaidya tilako jatash cha shankuh kriti

shudrayam amaraha shadeva shabara svami dvija sya atmajaha

        “Varaha Mihira, foremost among the greatest astrologers, was born from the womb of a brahmana lady. King Vikrama and King Bhartrihari were born from a kshatriya mother. From a vaishya mother were born Harichandra, a vaidya tilaka – an excellent Ayurveda physician and Shanku; and from a maidservant (shudra) mother was born Amara Simha. These six were fathered by the brahmana Shabara Svami.”

 

The Amarakosha Speaks of Two Buddhas

        Amara Simha was the author of many books on Buddhism. By coincidence all these books came into the possession of Sri Sankaracharya, who subsequently preserved only the Amarakosha and burnt all the others. The following verses about Buddha are found in the Amarakosha:

 

sarvajnah sugato buddho dharmarajas tathagataha

samanta bhadro bhagavan marajil lokajij jinaha

shadabhijno dashabalo dvayavadi vinayakaha

munindra shrighanah shasta munihi

        “All knowing, transcendental Buddha, king of righteousness, He who has come, beneficent, all encompassing Lord, conqueror of the god of love Mara, conqueror of worlds, He who controls his senses, protector of the six enemies, possessor of the ten powers, speaker of monism, foremost leader, lord of the ascetics, embodiment of splendour and teacher of the ascetics.”

 

The above verse contains eighteen names of Vishnu Avatara Buddha including the name Sugato, and the verse below contains the seven aliases of Shakya Simha Buddha [the human] without any mention of Sugato.

 

Shakyamunis tu yah sa shakyasimhah sarvarthasiddha shauddhodanish cha

gautamash charkabandhush cha mayadevi sutash cha saha

        “Teacher of the Shakyas, lion of the Shakyas, accomplisher of all goals, son of Shuddhodana, of Gautama’s line, friend of the entrapped ones, the son of Mayadevi.”

 

In these verses, starting with sarvajnah and finishing with munih are eighteen names addressing the original Vishnu incarnation Lord Buddha. The next seven names beginning with Shakya-munistu to Mayadevi-Sutascha refer to Shakya Simha Buddha. The Buddha referred to in the first eighteen names and the Buddha referred to in the later seven names are clearly not the same person. [This clearly indicates that knowledge of the two Buddhas was well known long ago.] In the commentary on Amarakosha by the learned Sri Raghunatha Cakravarti, he also divided the verses into two sections. To the eighteen names of Vishnu Avatara Buddha he writes the words “astadash buddha“, which clearly refers only to the Vishnu avatara. Next, on his commentary for the seven aliases of Shakya Simha he writes: “ete sapta shakya bangshabatirneh buddha muni bishete“, meaning “the next seven names starting from Shakya-munistu are aliases of Buddha-muni [the human] who was born into the Shakya dynasty.”

Thus from the above verses and their commentaries it is indeed transparent that Sugata Buddha [the avatara] and the atheist sage Gautama Buddha are not one and the same person. I take this opportunity to request the learned readers to refer to the Amarakosha published by the respected Mr. H. T. Colebrooke in 1807. 2 On pages 2 & 3 of this book the name ‘Buddha’ has been explained. The ‘Marginal Note’ on page 2 for the first eighteen names, states they are names of Ajina or Buddha and the ‘Marginal Note’ for the later seven states these are aliases of Shakya Simha Buddha. A further footnote is added to clarify the second Buddha, of the latter seven names – Footnote (b) “the founder of the religion named after him.”

Mr. Colebrooke lists in his preface the names of the many commentaries he used as references. Besides Raghunatha Cakravarti’s commentary, he took reference from twenty-five others. It can be said with certainty that the propagator of Bahyatmavada, Jnanatmavada and Sunyamavada, the three pillars of atheism, was Gautama Buddha or Shakya Simha Buddha. There is no evidence whatsoever that Sugata Buddha, Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, was in any way connected with atheism in any form. Shakya Simha or Siddhartha Buddha, received the name Gautama from his spiritual master Gautama Muni, who belonged to the Kapila dynasty. This is confirmed in the ancient Buddhist treatise Sundarananda Charita: “guru gotrad atah kautsaste bhavanti sma gautamah” – meaning “O Kautsa, because his teacher was Gautama, they became known from his family line.”

 

Other Buddhist Literatures Recording Two Buddhas

        Besides the Amarakosha, so highly favored by Sankaracharya, there are other famous Buddhist texts like Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Astasahastrika Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Sata-shastrika Prajna-Paramita Sutra, Lalita Vistara, etc. Proper scrutiny of these texts reveals the existence of three categories of Buddha, namely:

Human Buddhas: like Gautama, who came to be known as Buddha after enlightenment.

Bodhisattva Buddhas: Personalities like Samanta Bhadraka who were born enlightened.

Adi (original) Buddha: the omnipresent Vishnu Avatara incarnation of Lord Buddha.

The Amarakosha states that Lord Buddha, Sri Vishnu’s incarnation, is also known as Samanta Bhadra, whereas Gautama Buddha is a human being. Other than the eighteen names of the Vishnu Avatara Buddha mentioned in Amarakosha, many names of Lord Buddha are recorded in the above mentioned Buddhist texts. In Lalita Vistara, Chapter 21, page 178, it is described how Gautama Buddha meditated on the same spot as the predecessor Buddha:

 

cha dharanimunde purvabuddhasanasthaha

samartha dhanur grihitva shunya nairatmavanaiha

klesharipum nihatva drishtijalancha bhitva

shiva virajamashoham prapsyate bodhim agryam

        “The one seated on the hallowed earth of the previous Buddha’s birthplace is on the path of voidism and renunciation. With his weapon, the powerful bow, he vanquishes the enemies of distress and illusion. Thus with wisdom he will attain the auspicious state of grieflessness and worldly detachment.”

 

It is transparent from this verse that Gautama Buddha, realizing the spiritual potency of the previous Buddha’s birthplace, chose to perform meditation and austerities in that vicinity, under a pipal tree. The ancient and original name of this place was Kikata, but after Gautama attained enlightenment there, it came to be known as Buddha Gaya (Bodhi Gaya) [now Bodhgaya]. Even to the present day, the rituals of worship to the deity of Buddha at Bodhi Gaya are conducted by a sannyasi (renounced monk) of the Giri order, belonging to the Sri Sankaracharya sect. It is commonly accepted amongst those monks that Buddha-Gaya (Vishnu Avatara Buddha) was a predecessor of Gautama Buddha, who came later to the original Buddha’s birthplace to practice meditation. Shakya Simha Buddha chose this place to attain liberation, knowing it to be saturated with immense spiritual power.

        Lankavatara Sutra is a famous and authoritative Buddhist scripture. From the description of the Buddha, which is found in this book, it may be firmly concluded that he is not the more recent Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha. In the beginning of this book we find Ravana, King of Lanka, praying first to the original Vishnu incarnation Buddha and then to the successive [and in this case the] future Buddha. A part of this prayer is reproduced here:

 

lankavatara sutram vai purva buddha anuvarnitam

smarami purvakaih buddhair jina-putra puraskritaihi

sutram etan nigadyante bhagavan api bhashatam

bhavishyatyanagate kale buddha buddha-sutas cha ye

        “Ravana, the king of Lanka, at first recited in the Totaka metre, then sang the following – ‘I invoke in my memory the aphorisms known as Lankavatara-sutra, compiled and propagated by the previous Buddha (Vishnu’s incarnation). The son of Jina (Lord Buddha) presented this book. Lord Buddha and his sons, who will appear in the future, as well as Bhagavan, the Vishnu incarnation, will continue to instruct all from this book.’”

 

Anjana’s Son, Named Buddha, is Different from Shuddhodana’s Son

        Some people may consider that it is not Sankaracharya but the Vaishnavas who demonstrate a greater degree of respect and sincere reverence towards Buddha, therefore, it is they who should also be known as Buddhists. In this regard my personal view is, according to the Linga Purana, Bhavishya Purana, and the ninth of the ten Vishnu incarnations mentioned in the Varaha Purana, the Buddha described there is not the same personality as Gautama Buddha, [the person] who was the son of Shuddhodana. Vaishnavas never worship the nihilist and atheist (sunyavada) Buddha or Gautama Buddha, with this prayer from the Srimad-Bhagavatam 10/40/22:

 

namo buddhaya shuddhaya daitya-danava-mohine

        “O Supreme Lord Buddha! I offer my obeisance unto You, Who is faultless and have appeared to delude the demoniac and atheistic class of men.”

 

Earlier in the Srimad-Bhagavatam 1/3/24, Lord Buddha’s advent is described in the following manner:

 

tatah kalau sampravritte

sammohaya sura-dvisham

buddho namnanjana-sutaha

kikateshu bhavishyati

        “Then in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Buddha, son of Anjana, in the province of Gaya, just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist.”

 

The Buddha mentioned in this verse is Lord Buddha, son of Anjana; also known by some as Ajina’s son. Sri Sridhara Svami writes in his authoritative commentary to this verse:

 

buddha avartaramaha tata iti anjanasya sutaha

ajina suta it pathe ajino’ pi sa eva kikateshu madhye gaya-pradeshe

        “The words tatah kalau etc., describe Vishnu’s incarnation Buddha as the son of Anjana. Ajina in the word ajina sutaha actually means Anjana. Kikata is the name of the district of Gaya.”

 

The monists, either by mistake or some other reason, regard Sri Sridhara Svami as belonging to their sect and persuasion. Be as it may, his comments however on this matter can easily be accepted by the Mayavadis as true without hesitation. The following quote is from the Nrisimha Purana 36/29:

 

kalau prapte yatha buddho bhavannarayana – prabhuh

        “In Kali-yuga the Supreme Lord Narayana appears as Buddha.”

 

A fair estimate of Lord Buddha’s appearance can be made from this verse; that He lived approximately 3500 years ago, or by accurate astronomical and astrological calculation around 4000 years ago. Regarding the astrological facts at the time of His birth, the treatise Nirnaya-sindhu states in the second chapter:

 

jyaishtha shuka dvitiyayam buddha-janma bhavisyati

        “Lord Buddha will appear on the second day of the waxing moon, in the month of Jyaishtha.”

 

 

Elsewhere in this book is described the procedure for Lord Buddha’s worship:

 

pausha shuklasya saptamyam kuryat buddhasya pujaanam

        “Lord Buddha is especially worshipped in the seventh day of the waxing moon in the month of Pausha.”

The rituals, prayers and procedures for worship mentioned in these scriptures all clearly indicate that they are meant for Lord Vishnu’s ninth avatara incarnation. Lord Buddha also finds repeated mention in many authentic Vedic scriptures like the Vishnu Purana, Agni Purana, Vayu Purana, and Skanda Purana. The Buddha mentioned in the Devi Bhagavat, a more recent text, and in Shakti Pramoda, refers to Shakya Simha Buddha – not the Vishnu Avatara Buddha.

The truth remains that there are many different demigods and demigoddesses who are worshipped by their respective devotees, in the same way that Shakya Simha Buddha (who was an atheist) is worshipped or glorified by his followers. However, this is all completely separate and unrelated to the path of Sanatana-dharma, which is the eternal religion of man enunciated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

According to the German scholar Max Mueller, Shakya Simha Buddha was born in 477 BC in the Lumbini gardens, within the city of Kapilavastu. This ancient and at that time well-populated city in the Terai region of Nepal was well known. Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha’s father was known as Shuddhodana, while his mother was called Mayadevi, this is all accepted as historical fact. Although Anjana’s son and Shuddhodana’s son both share the name of Buddha, they are nevertheless two different personalities. One of them was born in Kikata – which is now famous as Bodhi-Gaya, while the second Buddha was born in Kapilavastu, Nepal. Thus, the birthplace, parents, and era of Vishnu Avatara Buddha and the birthplace, parents, era, etc., of Gautama Buddha are totally at variance.

We can therefore now observe that the famous personality generally referred to as Buddha is not the Vishnu incarnation, the original Lord Buddha and, hence, Sankaracharya’s views on this are completely unacceptable. It is not uncommon to find disagreements in matters of tradition and history, but in regards to important and significant issues an unbiased and objective discussion is imperative. Attracted by Buddha’s personality and fame, it is one thing to honor and respect him, but being impressed by his philosophy and teachings and reverentially surrendering to him is wholly another matter. Whatever the case may be, I am sure that the respected readers have grasped the crucial point that Buddha is not a single person, but at least two separate identities – Shakya Simha is not the same as Lord Buddha, Vishnu’s ninth incarnation. It is certainly undeniable that there are some similarities between these two Buddhas, yet it is incontestable that they are two different persons [with two different purposes].

Footnotes

1. Mleccha – derived from the Sanskrit root mlech meaning to utter indistinctly (Sanskrit) – a foreigner; non-Aryan; a man of an outcaste race; any non-Sanskrit speaking person who does not conform to the Vedic social and religious customs.

2. This book was published under the auspices of the Asiatic Society and can be referenced at it library. See www.indev.nic.in/asiatic/

 

END OF CHAPTER TWO – BEYOND NIRVANA

CONCLUSION

        Actually, there is much I like about Buddhism. I like its peaceful and gentle ways, the basis of its connection with all of life, but also its principle of detachment and renunciation as a means to enter higher forms of existence. I like some of the forms of meditation that it uses to gain more understanding and control of the mind. I like its mild form of determination to the principles and its goals.

However, from the above descriptions we can understand that the worship of the first Buddha, which at this point in time has practically been forgotten, is a means of definite spiritual progress through nonviolence, compassion for all and renunciation from the world for one’s self-interest. However, these days most of what is known of Buddhism is based on the monistic path as established by Shakya Simha Buddha, the second Buddha who was but a mortal who, with great intellectual ability, propounded a path that promised the end of suffering, and the eventual entrance into what is called nirvana. This goal of entering nirvana actually requires such a discipline that, in this day and age, it is practically impossible to achieve. This would also mean that, no matter how much one progresses along this path, the most one can attain, besides a more peaceful life which may be good enough for some people, are still future rounds of birth in this world. Praying to Shakya Simha or Gautama Buddha, or any of the other forms of which he may be depicted, still cannot offer any Divine assistance, since he is not really Divine. Nor does Buddhism really acknowledge God, either outside us or within. The soul is also not recognized. So, it is perfect for those who wish to follow a path that is basically atheistic in nature.

In this way, it is very similar to the philosophy that was established by Sankaracharya who proposed, through his own imaginative interpretation of some basic Sanskrit verses, that the Absolute Truth was impotent, inert, and without any characteristics. Like the Buddhist sunya or void, nirvana, or Great White Light, Sankaracharya also propounded a monistic Brahman that is the eternal and timeless void, nondual, an impersonal oneness, and great white light, the Brahman effulgence. You could say that it is merely an adaptation of the core concepts of Buddhism but with a Vedic slant. As Shakya Simha Buddha tried to nullify the sufferings of the world through voidism, Sankaracharya tried to do the same thing with his conception of impersonal Brahman. Sankaracharya says that Brahman is all that is eternal, while Shakya Simha proposed that the void is all that remains.

Students of Sankaracharya will accept him as a scholar of Vedanta and a great theist and will follow what appears to be his apparently theistic teachings, but in this way they actually become atheists by giving up the concept of God and any chance of establishing a relationship with the Supreme Being.

Sri Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasadeva, who compiled the major Vedic texts, has declared in his writings in the Puranas that the monistic, impersonal Mayavada philosophy is false and non-Vedic. The same would apply to what we presently know as Buddhism. You can find this in the Padma Purana 25/7:

 

mayavadam asacchastram pracchannam bauddham uchyate

        “The theory of Mayavadism is a concocted scripture and is known as a disguised Buddhism.”

 

Therefore, if we accept the traditional and major Vedic view, as found in all Vedic samhitas and original texts, it ultimately leads to the premise that God is personal, with personality and characteristics, active and eternal, though beyond our mental ability to comprehend, but with whom everyone has a relationship that only needs to be reawakened. The real Vedic tradition points to the ways in which we can grow beyond our limitations and realize by direct perception our natural spiritual identity and reawaken our eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Spirit. This is the direction and ultimate goal of all truly Vedic processes of spiritual development.

 

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